Posted on Apr 7, 2020
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Posted on Apr 7, 2020

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Reading time: 4 min
16km

Distance

6 hours

Time

1170m

Ascent

1492m

Highest point

7.5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Apr-May

Best season

Shokanbetsu-dake 暑寒別岳 (1492m) stands beside the wild and bleak coastline of the Japan Sea, and is subject to the full force of the savage winter winds. It therefore receives huge dumps of snow, which lingers long into spring making this the ideal time to explore its summit and upper slopes. It’s a long trek to the summit but on a fine day the big mountain atmosphere, far-reaching views across the ocean and the great skiing in the treeless upper bowl are more than ample reward.

We visited this route on Apr 22, 2012

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Shokanbetsu-dake lies on the Japan Sea coast a few hours drive north of Sapporo, and just south of the small town of Mashike 増毛. This spring ski touring route up Shokanbetsu-dake starts at the Shokanso Hut, here.

General notes

We’ve skied Shokanbetsu-dake multiple times. The featured image is from the first time Rick went, on a blustery spring day in 2012. Other photos on this post are from a 2016 trip. Rob most recently went in 2018. It’s a spring skiing staple! The road to the trailhead hut is usually opened in late April. Before this it will be necessary to park at the barrier across the road and skin or walk a few km up to the hut, adding an extra couple of hours to the day (see notes on that route here). Since use of the Shokanso trailhead hut is now restricted to when the road is open, the small fishing town of Mashike is the closest base for accommodation and supplies, and also boasts Japan’s most northerly sake brewery, Kunimare 国稀 (location, free brewery tours and tastings available).

Hut

Shokanso Hut (full details here)

Shokanso Hut (署寒荘, 295m) is a beautiful three-story hut nestled in the sheltered Ponshokanbetsu River valley about 15km south into the hills from Mashike Town on the Rumoi Coast of Hokkaido. In the spring to fall months, it is possible to drive directly to the hut. The summer trail up Mt. Shokanbetsu (署寒別岳, 1,492m) starts from the hut. In winter, the hut is currently designated as an emergency-only hut – no non-emergency stays are allowed as of 2018. The hut is available for general use from around April each year. As far as atmosphere and facilities go, we rate Shokanso Hut as one of the best in Hokkaido.

Route details

The lower sections of the route up to the prominent dome-shaped knob at 1076m are marked by red discs (numbered up to 100) on the trees, though it can be easy to miss them. From here on there are no more trees so no more markers. From the trailhead by the hut at 300m follow the red markers or make your own way on a rising traverse roughly southeast up to the ridge to gain it hopefully to the south of the minor bump at 593m. From here the broad ridge is long and mild angled up to the dome at 1076m. Take this on the skier’s left and continue traversing below the ridge before descending slightly to a col below the big open face below the summit ridge. In good conditions and with time to spare much fun could be had lapping this. Climb the 200m elevation of this slope to a shoulder, then continue along a flat ridge for another six hundred meters to the summit. On the descent take care in bad visibility not to be drawn onto the ridges or into the gullies diverging off northeast, if in doubt trend to the skier’s left.

Route Timing
Up | 4.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car: 

The route starts at the large car park below the Shokanso hut (here), which is at the end of a minor road (Local Route 546) running south for about 10km from Mashike.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Shokanbetsudake (暑寒別岳) – map no. NK-54-13-6-4
Official Topo Map 2: Shokansawa (暑寒沢) – map no. NK-54-13-6-3

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

Snow and route safety

The large upper bowl is north facing and according to the Yukiyama Guide tends to mostly avoid becoming too crusted and wind affected. In late spring conditions there may be holes or large cracks around the haimatsu dwarf pines on the final ridge. Even in spring the wind here can be fierce – if it is hard to make progress by the 1076m dome it will only be worse above so exercise good judgment. Much of the route is on a broad ridge with few features and without good navigation skills it would be easy to become disorientated in bad visibility. On the descent be sure to check your position to avoid straying off route.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shokanbetsu-dake
Onsen nearby

If heading to Sapporo on Route 231, the small and friendly Iwao Onsen (岩尾温泉, location, 500yen, open April till November) overlooking the sea about 15km south of Mashike is a good place to stop. If you’re in the area earlier than April, then the Hamamasu Onsen hotsprings (浜益温泉, location, 500yen) is a good alternative, a bit further south on Route 231 towards Sapporo. They’ve got a large outdoor bath area, as well as sauna and cold pool. There’s a restaurant attached for lunch meals. There’s often local produce for sale in the entrance area.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Yukiyama Gaido, 北海道雪山ガイド (Hokkaido Shimbunsha), p.302. The locals’ backcountry bible. This guide is updated every few years.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore areas north of Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those in northern Hokkaido, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 302 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

The mountains of Mashike do not permit easy access during mid-winter when severe seasonal winter winds blow off the Sea of Japan. Their pure white forms down to low elevation are an indication of the severe environmental conditions that will not let trees flourish. For the general ski mountaineer the time to enjoy the mountain is from mid April when the road to the Shokanso Hut is cleared. If you want to stand on the summit the route from Mashike is the shortest, but even then you will be forced to climb for many hours.

The first time I tried Shokanbetsu-dake was in my first season ski touring in Hokkaido, late in April with Leon. In those days you had to pick up the key to the hut in Mashike. Frustratingly the road had been cleared but not yet opened, so we had to skin up beside it to the hut. After a comfortable night, disturbed only by the pattering of the hut’s small furry permanent residents, we had set off early in calm conditions. But soon we could hear the wind above roaring like a jet engine, and as we made our way up the long ridge below the dome we began to feel its force. A couple of lads passed us on their way down, having decided to turn back. Below the dome, sandblasted by the coarse snow crystals being savagely stripped off the surface and barely able to stand, we did too.

Since that time I was determined to come back, so a few years later one Saturday night in early May found Jeff and I at the hut, having enjoyed a quiet but pleasant evening with friendly locals in a coffee shop and restaurant in Mashike. The weather was clear next morning and we made good progress up the ridge, but ominously the wind was getting stronger and I began to have visions of having to retreat again. We pressed on. At one point below the large bowl the ferocious wind ripped Jeff’s sunglasses from his face. All we could do was watch them sliding down the hill out of sight. The view of the wide untracked bowl ahead lifted our spirits with the anticipation of skiing it on the descent, so we headed on up and around the shoulder to battle the relentless wind to the summit.

Once there it was no place to linger despite the amazing views over the mountains to the south. Being battered by the full force of the wind it was difficult to communicate, let alone rip skins, so we retreated back down the flattish ridge with our skins still on till we found a more sheltered spot to transition near the shoulder. From here the skiing was a blast, linking fast turns down the wide open slope of the north facing bowl on good spring snow before traversing back across to the up track. The next section was flatter but had a good cornice that tempted Jeff’s inner ski bum; unable to resist he jumped it before I had a chance to set my camera to burst mode.

Another good downhill followed, then the longer flatter ridge, but the wind at our backs made it easy to keep the speed up and have some fun, flying past a group toiling up into the teeth of the gale. After dropping off the ridge to get back to the hut the weather became much calmer although the snow was decidedly patchy. At one point we had to take our skis off to bash through some bushes and over a stream before reaching the car park. Just down the road Jeff spied the yellow flowers of エゾリュウキンカ、a tasty wild mountain vegetable, and immediately pulled over to wade into the stream in bare feet to get some. Fried up with some dried tofu and sesame oil that night they provided a fitting end to a great day out.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Shokanbetsu-dake, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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