The previous day’s drama with the one pair of skis had not ended with those skis being found, so two of the troupe decided to head to the Pippu Ski Area, just up from the Rikugeian AirBnB. Haidee, Geraldine and I stuck to the plan, however, and headed east to Tenmaku-yama, with a warm, sunshine-day forecast.
We arrived at the trailhead at around 8:30am. There was one other car there, and soon another two pulled in to park. This was clearly a popular route. We kitted up and got going.
We were somewhat switched off, following the skin track in front of us along the forestry road. About 200m past where we’d planned to cross the creek, I noticed we’d gone too far. The skin track continued along the forestry road, but not knowing exactly where it was going, we decided to back-track a little, cross the creek, and ascend up the steep slope on the other side, as we’d planned.
Even at this relatively early hour, this eastern face was warming up fast. The snow was heavy. Despite this and the steep slope, however, the going was fast as we cut tight kick-turns up the slope to the top of the ridge.
From the top of the ridge, massive views opened up south towards the Kita-daisetsu mountain range. Niseikaushuppe-yama, Aibetsu-dake, and Antaroma-dake stood clear under patchy skies.
We were now on the mostly flat southern ridge, skinning through gorgeous old-growth forest. There were a few ups and downs along the way, and soon enough we were at the base of the final open slope below the summit.
We’d caught up with another party of two splitboarders, one skier, and one snowshoer with a snowboard strapped to her pack.
This season, Gerry had taken up skiing after spending a number of seasons carrying a snowboard into the backcountry. “I’m glad I’m not carrying a snowboard on my back anymore,” she mused.
From the rather flat, non-descript summit, we had full view of the Daisetsuzan range mountains. As we sat down, eating snacks and admiring the view, flurries of snow rolled in from the northwest. This hastened our resolve to get down the mountain sooner rather than later. I’d toyed with the idea of skiing the southwestern slope below the summit, but we decided against it. There was a strong wind blowing up from the valley – the snow appeared to be well wind affected and crusty. That would have to be left for another trip, in deeper winter with better, colder snow.
To the east was Chitokaniushi-yama, with its rounded summit standing white against a patchy blue sky.
We geared up for the downhill, and enjoyed some good turns on the south eastern slope below the summit. The snow was somewhat heavy – not quite perfect spring snow yet. In the distance, the Daisetsuzan mountains were calling my name…I resolved to make sure to visit some of these northern peaks in the coming weeks as access roads open up.
The return along the ridge involved less up and down than I remembered on the way up, so it was pretty easy going. The descent down the steep eastern side of the ridge near the high-tension powerlines was nice and steep, but the snow was deep, wet, and warm. We crossed back over to the forestry road and rode the rest of the way back to the level crossing, where we removed skis and walked the remaining 70m or so back to the car.
At the car, I made some calls to the Abashiri Development and Construction Department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Hokkaido Bureau (国土交通省北海道開発局網走開発建設部) to see if I could get in contact with someone about whether their road crews had picked up the skis we lost from our car’s ski rack yesterday. In the end, I called their weekend and disaster emergency number (0152－44－6171), as the other office numbers were all giving me automated messages that the office was closed for the weekend.
A sleepy security guard told me that it was the weekend, and there was no one about. After explaining to him our predicament, he gave me the after-hours number of the Kitami City branch. I called this number, and they gave me a number for the Engaru branch. I called that number, and got a salty, surly representative, clearly miffed that I’d called him on his day off. “You lost what? Where? You know this is my day off, right?”
He explained that he’d need to contact the road crew on patrol yesterday. “Give me 10 minutes,” he grumbled into the phone.
Ten minutes later, he called back, still grumpy, with the good news that the skis were, indeed, in the possession of the road crew. We then spent the next five minutes ascertaining exactly where I was, so that he could deliver them to me.
“I can come to you,” I insisted. But he insisted back that a staff member would come to us. “Just don’t go anywhere,” he said. “Stay where you are, and we’ll find you. Give us 1 hour, and we’ll find you.”
So we sat at the Tenmaku-yama trailhead for one hour, waiting. I had some sausages that needed cooking up, so I cooked some up for lunch.
Just over an hour after the call, sure enough a road-crew vehicle pulled up in a great hurry. A friendly worker jumped out, and pulled the skis out of the back of the truck. Haidee tried to give this saviour of a man a can of beer and pack of Kit-Kats as thanks, but he wouldn’t take them. He handed us the skis and took off again in a great rush.
We were very happy to have the skis back (as was the owner, who shall remain nameless), but unfortunately it appeared they’d been run over by a truck. The bindings were completely destroyed. The skis themselves seemed to be structurally sound though. Just some superficial scratches and divots on the underside.
So thus, we mostly happily ended a very eventful three-day weekend out spring skiing in northern Hokkaido!