Posted on Jan 18, 2021
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Posted on Jan 18, 2021

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Reading time: 4 min
5km

Distance

3 hours

Time

410m

Ascent

500m

Highest point

4/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Mar

Best season

Tobetsu Maruyama 当別丸山 (500m) is a great beginner-friendly low-lying hill at the southern end of the Mashike Range north of Sapporo. There's some short lappable terrain on the southern aspect slopes just below the summit, so pick a nice day and make the most of it. The trip leans towards more of a walk than a ski though, so we recommend ascending via the undulating southern ridge, in order to enjoy the forest along the way. The summit affords views of the Mashike Range to the north, and the likes of Kamuishiri-yama in the Kabato mountains to the south. The forestry road to the west of the ridge is frequented by snowmobiles, so the hard-packed, mellow-gradient trail can make for an comparatively easier return back to the road.

We visited this route on Jan 09, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Tobetsu Maru-yama sits at the far southern end of the Mashike Range on the Japan Sea coast north of Sapporo. The route approaches the mountain from the south, via a forestry road off Route 451 connecting Takikawa City and Hamamasu Town on the coast.

General notes

Billed in the guidebook as a beginner-friendly peak with good skiing and good views, Tobetsu Maru-yama had piqued our interest for a while. Also being relatively close to Sapporo, it seemed like a route we had to do, if not out of documentary obligation. Had the weather not been closing in on us in the latter part of our trip, we might have spent a bit more time lapping and exploring the short slopes directly below the summit. As fate would have it, however, our trip ended up being just a quick up and back. This made it all feel like more of a walk than a ski, particularly considering the ski out required a healthy dose of poling. That said, the southern ridge approach was a pleasant skin through nice forest. Bring a nice lightweight ski touring setup and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this route.

Hut

None

Route details

Park well to the side of the road on Route 451, opposite or next to the entrance to the forestry road marked on the map. Depending on how recently snow clearers have come through, you may need to spend some time clearing more space to the left of the road so as to not obstruct traffic too much. Head northeast along the forestry road, and take a right after the bridge. After the dog-leg bend to the left soon after, you have the option to continue on the forestry road to the 275m point, or opt for the more challenging southern ridge route. The southern ridge route is more interesting for those more confident with their navigation skills and kickturn skills – the first steep slope from the valley floor is very steep. Here we assume skiers choose the southern ridge route. Use a suitable snowbridge to cross the stream just after the dog-leg bend, just above the erosion-stop dam. With the 269m knob in your sights, zigzag your way up the very steep slope. Beyond the 269m point, it’s just a matter of traversing the ridgeline towards the minor forestry road to the northeast. Once at the forestry road take a left and head northwest. Gain the narrow spur about 20m along the road to the northeast, passing the 321m point on your way to the southern-aspect slopes below the summit. At around 400m, traverse northwest across the lower part of the slope to wrap around the western extent of the cliff band marked on the map. In reality we didn’t observe much of a cliff. The guidebook notes heightened avalanche risk in the 150m from the cliff band down the slope, so take care. Once on the whaleback summit, your GPS will be your singular guide to find the actual trig point high point marked on the map – there’s no summit sign. Return to the forestry road the way you came, and either take the undulating summit ridge or the forestry road (less undulation) back to the start.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car: 

This route is accessible by car from Route 451 connecting the inland Takikawa City and Hamamasu on the Rumoi coast. There’s no parking area in the vicinity, so visitors to the area will be parking on the road. The road is a well-maintained, frequently snow-ploughed two-lane road, but as always, make sure to park well to the left of the road so as to not obstruct traffic.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yonbangawa (四番川) – map no. NK-54-13-7-4

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

Take care on the upper south-facing slopes below the summit, particularly in warmer weather during the winter season – these slopes will be more susceptible to rapid temperature changes, increasing the likelihood of avalanche. While the peak is relatively low altitude, and the approach relatively sheltered, the upper portions of the route are very exposed to the elements – carry appropriate gear.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Tobetsu Maru-yama
Onsen nearby

For a nice local onsen experience, try the Hamamasu Onsen 浜益温泉 (location, 500yen), about 20 minutes by car west towards the coast along Route 451. They have nice open-air pools.

Extra Resources

In Japanese: Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide 北海道雪山ガイド (2015), pp. 290-293.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other hills around 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 around Sapporo City, 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. 290 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Despite being a low-lying mountain, it has good views and the skiing is also fun. There are many peaks named Maru-yama, so it’s common to see them prefixed with the area name. As it happens though, there’s also a Tobetsu Maru-yama in southern Hokkaido in Hokuto City. For convenience’s sake, we’ll stay with Tobetsu Maru-yama for this route. This route is readily accessible from a national highway, so it’s nice that vehicle access is easy. Views are good – you can see peaks in the Mashike Range and Kabato Range. The forest isn’t too thick, so the downhill skiing is quite nice, perfect for beginners.

As mentioned above, Tobetsu Maru-yama had piqued our interest for a while, being a rather low-lying peak not too far from Hokkaido. We’d previously canoed the Tobetsu River, and loved the back-blocks vibe of the general vicinity, so that made us want to visit in winter too. 

It was a long weekend with a rather changeable weather forecast, so Haidee and I decided it would be a good time to tour around some of the lower peaks in the area, including Tobetsu Maru-yama.

Predictably, there wasn’t anyone else at the trail head that day. A little after we set off, a group of snowmobilers arrived and headed up the forestry road, but besides hearing them on the flatlands below us, once they were around the other side of the mountain, all was quiet again.

We made it to the small erosion-stop dam next to the forestry road, and had to make a choice – carry on up the forestry road, or hit the southern ridge. We’ve always been more fond of skiing through forests rather than along a man-made road, so we opted for the ridge. The first steep haul up the terminus of the ridge, however, was surprisingly steep. Steep enough to make us wonder if we were in the right place. According to the guidebook we were. Perhaps in spring, with more consolidated snow, it would have been easier going. As it was, the lead trailbreaker (A.K.A me) was treated to good practice kick-turning on very steep, deep powder terrain.

Once on the southern ridge, however, it was easy going. Pleasant ridge-line walking. A few ups and downs. Nice trees. Interesting-looking gullies below.

After about 30 minutes we joined up with the forestry road again for about 100m. The snowmobilers has since been through the area, leaving a well-compacted trail and petrol fumes in their wake.

We soon peeled off the forestry road due north along the final ridge-line approach to the slopes directly south of the cliff-banded summit. In reality it wasn’t much of a cliff band at all. In stable snow conditions skiers might even feel confident to head straight down from the summit. We played it safe and cut across the slopes to the climber’s left of the cliff bands marked on the map, and gained the summit.

At least we gained what seemed to be the summit. According to the map, the summit was still about 50m east of us, but we seemed to be at the highest point on the summit ridge. We didn’t bother to find out, as the wind was starting to pick up. Time to head down.

The descent back down to the forestry road was quick and fun. A couple of slopes to get a few turns in. At the forestry road, we opted to follow the snowmobile tracks back down to the trailhead. We knew there were some rather hefty undulations on the southern ridge route, so we figured the forestry road might be more straight forward. In reality, the forestry road, despite the hard-packed sled tracks, was still frustratingly not-quite-steep-enough to allow for pure sliding down to the trailhead. There was some poling involved.

All in all though, we were happy we’d checked the route out. Personally I’d be keen to return in more stable weather, as I imagine there’d be plenty to explore on the wide southern face below the summit.

Back at the car, we packed up and headed towards our accommodation for the night – the quixotic Sunflower Park Hotel in Hokuryu Village. Apparently styled after Dutch architecture, the entrance to the large onsen facility is flanked by dragons

The clear highlight of the drive over there, however, was an ural owl, keenly spotted by Haidee. Perched on an electricity wire, the attentive bird was keeping an eye on something in the snow below, and every now and then an eye on me, with my camera snapping away…

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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