Posted on Feb 28, 2020
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
52 2

Posted on Feb 28, 2020

Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
52 2
Reading time: 12 min
30km

Distance

11 hours

Time

1104m

Ascent

1558m

Highest point

7.5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

Teshio-dake (天塩岳, 1558m) is northern Hokkaido's highest mainland peak, with fantastic views south to the Daisetsuzan Range. In winter, most backcountry skiers approach from the east for a long daytrip. However, with a gorgeous hut on the western side of the mountain, Teshio-dake makes for an excellent overnight or multi-day destination. Here, we outline a winter variation on the classic New Route summer hiking trail (新道) from the Teshiodake Hutte to the summit via the emergency huts on the western ridge. Snow conditions can be variable in the area, with high winds often buffeting the upper slopes, but pick your aspect and the skiing can be great.

We visited this route on Feb 01, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Teshio-dake sits at the southern reaches of northern Hokkaido, here. As such, some might, at a stretch, describe Teshio-dake as an outlying peak in the northern Daisetsu Range. This winter route to Teshio-dake via the Teshio-dake Hutte starts at the far eastern end of Ponteshio Lake, here, about 9.5km west of the hut.

General notes

Teshio-dake is a tough nut to crack in winter regardless of whether one approaches it from the west via the hut, or from the east from Route 273. Our friend Yamano-makochan reported an 8.5 hour day trip there recently from the east (see the blog post here), so it’s not a mountain to be taken lightly. Given our proclivity towards a good winter mountain hut, however, a western approach via the massive Teshio-dake Hutte seems a no-brainer. Haul supplies into the hut on an improvised pulk (using a Homac snow sled), and it makes for a great base for a couple of nights.

  • Special Teshio-dake Hutte use notes: The Teshio-dake Hutte is unmanned in winter, all shut up with boards over the windows and doors (easily removed). For continued access for all to the hut during winter, it’s really important that users a) put window and door boards back after use, b) double-check windows and doors are closed tight before leaving, c) replace firewood with firewood stacked outside, d) pack out all garbage and foodstuffs and e) make sure the hut is swept out and immaculate before leaving. See the hut post for other details.
Hut

Teshio-dake Hütte (full details here)

The Teshiodake Hütte (天塩岳ヒュッテ) an imposing but comfortable hut at the Teshio-dake trailhead. This large two-story log-building hut is free to stay, it has no warden and can sleep 40. You need to take your own bedding, food and cooking equipment. There is a camping area with taps and a toilet immediately outside. In the summer the hut is accessible by car, but in winter, it is a 9km skin along a mostly flat road to get to the hut – a sled is recommended.

Teshiodake Emergency Hut (full details here)

The Teshiodake Emergency Hut (天塩岳避難小屋) is a basic A-frame hut high up on the approach ridge to Teshio-dake in northern central Hokkaido. It is a well-built hut, but very basic – no stove, water, or bedding.

Route details

This route is not marked. This route overview assumes you’re starting from the Teshio-dake Hutte, here. The hut is accessed via a 9km skin along a snowed-in road, from the eastern end of Ponshiri Lake, starting around here at the end of the snow clearing. This 9km skin took our team of four fit and strong skiers just over 3 hours breaking trail. From the hut, head southeast along the summer hiking trail (the Old Route 旧道). The trail is unmarked in winter. Temporary summer bridges across streams are removed for winter, so suitable snow-bridges will need to be found on the three crossings of the Teshio River (really a creek way up here). After about 1.5km, head south onto the Connecting Route (連絡道), and quickly gain the ridge. You’ll be on this ridge all the way up to the New Route (新道), joining the main western ridge just south of the 1138m knob. Once on the western ridge, it’s about 2 hours to the summit, via the Teshio-dake Emergency Hut. Note that this western ridge above the treeline and very exposed to the elements. On the return, head back the way you came along the western ridge, to about 100m beyond the 1433m peak. From there, we opted to descend via a northern spur with good tree skiing on its western aspects. At the terminus of the spur, re-connect with the Old Route hiking trail, and head back to the hut. The return from the hut to the road end along the flat access road took us about 2.5 hours.

Route Timing
Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

From the road clearing end (at the eastern end of Ponteshio Lake) to Teshio-dake hut, it’s a 3 to 3.5hr skin along a mostly flat snowed in road. Bank on between 2 and 2.5 hours for the return, with skins on – the road is not steep enough to glide. From the hut to summit is about 3.5 hours, and then about 1.5hrs back to the hut.

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

There is good access to the ‘trailhead’ at the end of Ponteshio Lake, here, via the quaint little town of Aibetsu in the south. Aibetsu town has an amazing soba restaurant, as well as a convenience store. There is no official parking or cleared parking areas at the end of the roadclearing at the end of Ponteshio Lake (here). Therefore, park well to the side of the road, and avoid parking in the snow clearer’s turn around spots (the two big snow-cleared ‘divots’ perpendicular to the road). Please leave a note on the dashboard indicating your intentions – we’ve heard of the police being called by concerned dam workers when our friends stayed at the hut for a couple of days.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Uennaizan (宇江内山) – map no. NK-54-7-1-3

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

In winter, this is an extraordinarily remote location. Skiers must be self-sufficient, experienced, and well prepared. Note that cell reception is very limited in the area – we recommend some sort of GPS messenger, such as the Garmin inReach for emergency communications. It therefore goes without saying that this is very much the backcountry – there is no patrol, no avalanche control. Much of the route to the summit is beyond the treeline – be prepared for temperatures to plunge below -20°C. Note that in deep winter, clear and calm days suitable to be in the alpine will be limited – keep expectations in check.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Teshio-dake
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the trailhead is arguably the super local Kyowa Onsen (協和温泉, location, 500yen). There’s no outdoor bath, but the retro indoor baths boast a couple of tubs, a sauna, and a cold pool. They’re open from 8am till 10pm, and also offer accommodation and a small restaurant.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

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

A winter foray into the Teshio-dake area had long been on my list of things to get around to. To make a good go of it, however, I really wanted to spend a few days based at the Teshio-dake hut. The opportunity presented itself in the form of rain at Moriyoshi-zan in Akita Prefecture. You see, Chris, Katie, and Andy and I had a bullet-proof perfect plan all drafted up for an 8-day mission, sampling some of Tohoku’s established ski touring routes. We got through the first four fantastic days in Aomori, only to be greeted with a southerly weather system for the last four days, driving up the temperatures. When we limped into the Moriyoshi-zan ski resort, it was raining.

“How high is the freezing level?” I asked the front desk guy. “Well above the top station,” he replied. We slunked off, dejected and beaten. This was not what we’d come down to Tohoku for. “Let’s discuss options over lunch,” offered Katie, after cheering everyone up with her insistence that she take another photo in one of those put-your-head-in-it photo wall things.

My memory of how things evolved over lunch is hazy. I’m pretty sure at one point Chris suggested we just pack it all in and head back north to Hokkaido. It made sense. Today was a whitewash anyway, so why not drive the 3 hours to Hachinohe, jump on the overnight ferry, and be in Hokkaido by 6am the next morning?

We all felt terrible for cancelling our accommodation for that night in Moriyoshi-zan. It was a small, remote mountain inn. “You want to cancel?!” the incredulous elderly woman spat into the phone. “I’ve already bought ingredients for your dinners,” she said, sounding dejected. I asked how we could make it right, and she requested that we pay in full for the first night of the two nights we were booked in to stay. Her’s was a cash-only establishment, so after lunch we made the 45 minute drive up a dead-end road to pay in person.

Generous to the core, as all Tohoku locals had been hitherto, she allowed us to have a soak in the inn’s onsen before we left. In the mixed-gender onsen, we all took turns sitting next to the onsen inlet pipe – it was only just warm enough to be comfortable. This made it perfect for discussing our options though. How about the northern reaches of the Daisetsu range? What about Ashibetsu-dake near Furano?

And then I suggested, as a long-shot, a four-day hut trip to Teshio-dake hut. “It involves a 9km skin to the hut,” I warned everyone. “And reports I’ve had suggest the hut doesn’t get very warm, even with the stove cranking.”

“We’re totally up for a hut trip,” gushed Katie. 

“The terrain seems more suited to snowmobiling in,” mused Chris. “But I’m keen if you guys are keen.”

And so it was decided. Teshio-dake hut or bust.

The drive from Moriyoshi-zan to Hachinohe was unevenftul. We were on the expressway most of the way. Speeding through a wet, warm wasteland. Where had those previous four days of gloriously cold, dry snow gone? This year was, indeed, a strange year.

The southerly monster that was dampening our Tohoku powder tour was, of course, also threatening to make our hasty escape back to Hokkaido on the ferry a very rough and wild ride. Chris took some screenshots from various weather app screens. All were indicating it was going to be an interesting night. We stocked up on sea-sickness pills in Hachinohe.

Despite it being a very rough 8hr overnight ferry ride, we all slept well – the meds did their job. We had gone to sleep in Hachinohe on the eastern coast of Aomori Prefecture, and were now driving towards central Hokkaido at 7am the next morning.

We stopped in at my place to raid my gear shelf – sleeping bags, sleeping mats, cookers, pots…everything we’d need for three nights in a hut with little more than a stove and fuel. And then we hightailed it to my nearby Homac hardware store to get the bits necessary for building an improvised pulk. It would end up being a massively wide sled, but gloriously effective in reducing the load on our backs – no one had anticipated doing a hut trip on this trip, so our normal daypacks would have been a stretch to get all the food and gear in. 

We also stopped in at the local Max Value supermarket. This was not going to be a freeze-dry suffer-fest. Hokkaido Wilds doesn’t do freeze-dry suffer-fest hut trips.

Amazingly, all the gear fit into Chris’s adventure-wagon, including the huge sled, which fit very nicely into the roof-box. The two hour drive up to Aibetsu Town and then on to the end of the snowclearing at the end of Ponteshio Lake was straight forward.

We’d left rainy Moriyoshi-zan – 500km south – less than 24 hours earlier, and were now back in a northern winter wonderland. We hastily got everything in order, and set off towards the hut. It was already 3pm, so we were expecting to arrive at the hut after sundown.

We took turns pulling the sled. After an hour or so, we figured out it was easier pulling the sled if the three people not pulling the sled made a two-person wide skin track. This sped things up a little. As expected, by the time we got to the hut, we’d been hauling for almost four hours, and it was well after dark.

Once at the hut, we hurried to get the wood stove running and dinner on the go – a simple affair consisting of boil-in-the-tray rice, ready-made curry sachets, and sausages. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the wood stove was much more effective at heating the hut than others had reported it being. Perhaps some work had been done to seal up some of the gaps in the hut walls and windows.

After dinner we didn’t spend too much time hanging around before settling into our sleeping bags for an early night.

The next morning, first on the agenda was removing some of the window boards, in order to make the hut feel less like a dark, dank hovel.

We’d expected the next day to be more or less a write-off as far as getting into the alpine was concerned. Winds of up to 90km/h were forecast, along with some snow. We contented ourselves with skiing some lines we’d been told about, getting well and truly hammered by the wind in the process. We’ll post a few of those routes soonish. Suffice it to say that the relative lack of snow this year across Hokkaido was making slope selection difficult – lots of shrubbery still exposed on some otherwise good looking slopes. 

After lunch back at the hut, Andy, Katie and I headed back out into a strengthening storm. “You have some crazy friends,” I told Chris in jest afterwards. But despite not getting very high, or scoring any great lines, it was nice to be out and getting a better feel for the environs around the hut.

Dinner that night was yaki-niku – a Japanese take on barbecue, but not at all like barbecue. Cuts of pork and beef, fried on the frypan we’d hauled up to the hut on the sled. Along with veges and lots of mushrooms, plus yaki-niku dipping sauce.

Sleep soon followed.

It was now our second full day at the hut. Summit day. Or so we hoped. Peering outside, we could see the surrounding ridges were cloaked in cloud. It was a moody start to the day, but we started it well with good drip coffee, bacon and eggs, and sausages. And yes, Katie is wearing sloth slippers.

We finally dragged ourselves out of the warm confines of the hut, and into an overcast morning. “Let’s just see how far we get, and keep expectations in check,” I proffered. We were hoping to find at least one good slope to get some decent skiing in on this trip, and that probably didn’t require us to get to the summit.

Just beyond the trailhead, Andy gave another shot at skinning across the steel-beam bridge across the creek. He’d made a glorious fall yesterday, but was determined to make it across. The problem was that there was only a long mushroom-like slither of soft snow along the 20cm wide girders on either side. Not quite enough to catch enough snow to fully support two skis side by side. To his credit, he made it further along today, before losing a pole end into thin air on the other side. He conceded defeat and slithered off the side of the bridge to the snow-covered creek below.

We made good time along the summer trail Old Route (旧道) to the connecting Connecting Route (連絡道). At the junction, we quickly gained the ridge, and started the climb in earnest. As we climbed, the weather cleared. A mystical mist at first, and then glorious sunshine. We were ecstatic. We might get to the summit today after all.

We made good time again to the main western ridge that would take us to the summit. Chris put up his drone to get some beta shots. It was a beautiful, clear blue sky day above us, with next to no wind. The drone shots revealed some high cloud above the summit, but more concerning, some pretty dense-looking low cloud hugging the summit ridge.

We pushed on, still agnostic to our chances of actually seeing the summit.

Our blue skies wouldn’t last. Before long we had climbed into the soupy void. Visibility was OK, but the wind had picked up considerably. Despite this, it was smiles all around as Chris snapped some portraits of the team.

I was in somewhat of a hungry it-must-be-lunchtime-soon daze, when I finally bothered to look around me. We’d spent at least 15 minutes walking into the haze, and I’d lost track of my surroundings. There in the distance, unexpectedly, was the Teshiodake Emergency Hut. I was ecstatic. Hokkaido mountain huts are akin to pokemon for me. Gotta catch ’em all. And I’d completely forgotten that we’d be passing by this hut on our way to the summit.

It was caked in rime, but more importantly, there stood Teshio-dake in the distance behind it, standing clear against a blue sky. The snow conditions were rimy, hard-packed wind-destroyed concrete, but we all couldn’t have cared less. Chris sent the drone up for a second time to get some bigger-pictute shots.

The final push to the summit was fairly easy. Weaving through low-lying snow monsters, the only crux of the route was a bullet-proof snow final climb up to the summit. “Ski crampons wouldn’t have gone amiss on that ascent,” mentioned Chris at the summit.

All around us was a sea of clouds. Huge views across to Kuro-dake and the northern reaches of the Daisetsuzan Range to the south. We felt on top of the world.

I was distracted by my boots though. The ski mode lever had iced up, and wouldn’t budge to allow me to close my boots. I tried heating it with a lighter, but a stiff breeze at the summit was thwarting those attempts. “You have hot water in your thermos, right?” asked Chris. That did the trick, at least allowing me to close the boots snugly around my feet.

The descent off the summit was a scratchy, bumpy, scrapey sort of affair, with pockets of thin wind-blown powder on top of bullet-proof rime. It was survival skiing for the most part for me at least. It didn’t take us long to get back to the hut on the ridge, and from there, we checked out a promising looking line east of the Maru-yama hump, at around the 1330m point on the map. The slope was steep though, and with massive winds we’d seen the previous days, we didn’t dare venture onto it.

We put skins back on, and made the climb back up to the summer trail, skirting around the western side of the 1433m knob. From there, we could finally start making our descent in earnest. We wrapped around the northern side of the knob, and immediately struck gold.

“I knew it would be good,” said Andy, “because all of a sudden, I couldn’t hear you up ahead!”

He was right. The sudden change from ear-piercing ski-chatter on hard ice to the smooth, quiet, creamy sensation of skiing on powder was euphoric.

We skied that western side of the long south to north ridge all the way to back to the summer trail junction – such a great punctuation to an already fantastic day out.

We arrived back at the hut in the late afternoon, all grinning from ear-to-ear. A roaring success. We celebrated with cheese and crackers, some more of the sake we’d hauled in, nabe hot pot for dinner, and many rounds of card games.

This was followed by another early night. The next day would be our last day at the hut, and we had an extra-interesting looking line close to the hut to check out. I’ll leave that for another post.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

hokkaidowilds.orgに掲載されるすべてのスキールート、自転車ツーリングルート、ハイキングルートと同様に、本ページに掲載される情報を利用し行動する場合、必ず自己責任で利用することを条件とします。出発する前に現地の天候や状況、通行止め情報などを確認しましょう。行動中は、公有地/私有地に関係なく必ず現地の利用条件を守るようにし、適切な安全装置や、コンパスや地図などのナビゲーション道具を身に着けてください。いうまでもありませんが、自然に与える人間の影響を少なくし、ゴミの持ち帰りをはじめ環境を傷をつけない(Leave No Trace)ようなアウトドア行動にしましょう。本サイトに掲載される情報はあくまで計画を立てるための一つの情報源に過ぎなく、行為者の先んじて払ってしかるべき正当な注意義務及び努力と合わせて利用することを条件とします。本ページのGPSトラック(GPXとKMLと地図)を含む情報は提供者のできる限り正確な調べにより提供しているものの、その情報の正確性や、提供者の行動判断は、hokkaidowilds.orgは一切の責任を負いかねなく保証できません。また、本ページに掲載される情報を利用することによるいかなる怪我、器物損壊等、その他事件 ・事故等においてhokkaidowilds.orgや本サイトの関係者は一切の責任を負いかねます。

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

2 thoughts on “Teshio-dake Western Ridge”

  1. Another inspiring read and view courtesy of the Hokkaido Wilds crew! You guys and gals have pretty much become the gold standard when it comes to blogging in this country, especially in regards to documenting your outdoor escapades 😊 I like the fact that rather than hurrying there and back like Yamano-makochan you chose the more chilled option of spending a few nights at that splendid mountain hut. Good thing as those fierce on the second day would have put paid to any summit dreams. For a truly extreme experience spending a mid-winters night at one of those A-Framed refuge huts would be quite the adventure.

    1. Thanks for the kind words @David! We certainly do our fair share of fast and light speed trips as well. The hut option is great in that it’s a more relaxed pace, but, it’s a big logistics exercise to get the group and all the gear in and out. We poked our head into the refuge… #spartan… So you’d be hauling everything in there. Great to have as a safety bail out but not really suited as a base to ski from as there’s just not that much up there. Will be lovely in summer though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See More Like this