Posted on Jan 24, 2020
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48 0
SE
Posted on Jan 24, 2020
Share on facebook
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48 0
SE
7km

Distance

4 hours

Time

500m

Ascent

1045m

Highest point

4.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Apr

Best season

Niseko's own Weisshorn (ワイスホルン, 1045m) sits to the north-northwest of the main Niseko United ski resort, and was once home to a full ski area of its own. The mountain has a number of bowls and ridges suited to great skiing, along with impressive views on a good day across the Niseko range. These are within relatively easy access via a 3 hour skin up the mountain's eastern ridge. Here we outline the popular up-and-back route, starting at the road-end past Hanazono Ski Resort.

We visited this route on Jan 11, 2020

Extra photos provided by Geraldine Danger.

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Weisshorn sits to the northwest of the Niseko ski resort area in southern Hokkaido, attached to but sitting to the north of the Niseko end of the Niseko Range. This backcountry ski touring route up Weisshorn starts here at the end of the snow clearing on Route 58, about 5km along the road from the Hanazono Ski Resort.

General notes

Weisshorn is home to the now defunct Weiss Ski Area. There is, however, a cat skiing operation there. We will, however, just leave Hokkaido Hiking Logs’ description here…”the mountain is now known for being the base for what is probably the flattest cat skiing operation in the world” (link).

Weisshorn is a strange name for a mountain in Japan. Apparently, the mountain started out as Kozawa-dake (小沢岳), but was later re-named to Weisshorn in the 1920’s. Old-school blogger Amaimonoko, who has some amazingly detailed information on mountain names in Hokkaido, writes the following about Weisshorn (I’ve translated this from the original webpage).

“I was once told by a Kutchan local that Weisshorn got it’s name from ‘the actual’ Weisshorn in the European Alps. According to that Kutchan local, the European Alps Weisshorn stands at 4500m (45X100.0m), so Niseko’s Weisshorn (alt. 1045m) got it’s name from swapping around the numbers (45+1000). The meaning of weiss horn itself, is white horn/tusk. The Kadokawa Japan Placename Dictionary (角川日本地名大辞典) writes that the Niseko Weisshorn got its name from a similar-looking 3773m high mountain in Switzerland, also called Weisshorn. It’s unclear whether there’s a 3773m Weisshorn in the European Alps in addition to the 4500m Weisshorn.

Apparently, people at living around the foot of the mountain also called the mountain Kozawa-dake (小沢岳).

As for who christened the mountain with the name Weisshorn, there’s two theories; the Hokkaido University Ski Club Theory and the German Theory. In the 1931 Hokkaido Mountains book, it says “it was previously named by the Hokkaido University Ski Club.” In the 1931 Hokkaido University Ski Club Bulletin, the mountain is indeed referred to as Weisshorn, but there’s nothing from the context suggesting they named the peak as such. In Shoku Kikuchi’s 1928 Kakuretaru Meisho-chi “Shinsen-numa” (a book about Shinsen-numa Marsh near Chisenupuri), he writes “taken aback at it’s appearance, [that peak] was at one time praised as Japan’s Weisshorn by a visiting German.”

In 1924, Japanese writer Ichiro Kano wrote “I hereby rename the peak to the north of Iwaonupuri as Weissberg, due to it’s pure white surface, tempting the skier to endlessly long turns down its slopes.” Weiss berg means “white mountain” in German.

Therefore, between 1924 and 1928, was there, perhaps, some sort of trigger to change the name from Weissberg to Weisshorn? Perhaps that trigger was that German visitor, who might have said something to someone at the Hokkaido University Ski Club? Or perhaps it was a case of a club member taking it into their own hands to change the name? This, for sure, is uncertain. Personally I have a feeling that the Niseko Weisshorn, void of the pointed horn-like summit that the 4500m European Weisshorn has, might have been better left as “Weissberg”.”

Hut
None
Route details

Starting from the end of the snow clearing, head down the smaller minor road to the right. Carry on along this road for just over 1km (about 20 mins), before veering left off the road to join up with the ridge you’ll follow all the way up. If you end up at the old abandoned ski resort building, you’ve gone too far. After about 25 minutes, you’ll arrive at the base of a large knob. Wrap around the looker’s left of this to carry on up the ridge. At around 750m the trees thin out, and the ridge is exposed to the elements. Keep following the ridge up. To the looker’s right, on the other side of the compact valley, you’ll see the defunct Weiss Ski Area top ski lift. Once you’re at the 1000m mark, it’s flat 300m walk to the true summit. This route returns the way it came from.

Route Timing
Up | 3hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car:

There is no official parking area for the winter trailhead. There’s room at the far end of the snow-cleared area for about four cars. Obey any no parking signs posted.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ) – map no. NK-54-20-7-4

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).

Aspect
The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is Southeast. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Shiribeshi area, consider looking at the Japan Avalanche Network weekly avalanche bulletins or the daily Niseko Avalanche Information website. These may give extra insight into avalanche conditions in the greater area around the route.

Snow and
route safety

The main concern on this route (beyond the issues outlined in our Hokkaido ski touring safety post here) would be navigation in low visibility conditions when beyond the treeline. Dropping down the wrong ridge or bowl on Weisshorn will lead skiers off in completely different directions.

Weisshorn Ski Touring Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

C

6

Totals

45/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy).  More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Weisshorn
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the trailhead is arguably the down-to-earth Kutchan Onsen (くっちゃん温泉, location, 800yen). They also offer a lunch menu, but the last order is at 1:45pm.

Extra Resources

See the write-up by the Hokkaido Hiking Logs here. He was up there when there was actually a view…and what a view it is!

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent. 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

“I’m keen to come, but I have to be back in Niseko early afternoon,” said one potential group member. “I’m keen too,” said another, “but I can’t get to the trailhead till after 9am.” And so started the putting together of a hasty blat up Weisshorn, which on paper should only take us 4 hours. With most in the group with other plans for the day, it was not going to be a case of smelling the roses. Efficiency was the key.

In the end, we got away from the end of the snow-clearing at around 8:45am, under a dull blanket of cloud.

It was early January 2020 – the year that people will talk about as that winter season that took forever to get going. Still, everything is relative – we started skinning right from the car, we were surrounded by lovely white fresh snow, and the surface conditions were light and fluffy. By the time we’d chatted and skinned right past our turn-off point, it was time to get our bearings and find the right ridge we were supposed to be on.

Once we were on the ridge to the right of the deep gully between it and the ski area, it was easy going, weaving up through the trees. It felt unseasonably warm. We were quite quickly shedding layers.

And it was bushy. We weren’t surprised to see this, as we’d bashed around through the bush on other trips this season too. But still, we’d have liked to have seen an extra 2m or so of base.

While the approach skin along the road added somewhat of a flat start to the trip, once on the ridge proper it didn’t feel like it took too long to get beyond the treeline. It was blowing a cold breeze, so we tried to keep to the lee of it, on the right side of the ridge, as much as possible.

Still, by the time we’d got to about 850m, the wind was blowing a gale. Where we’d had patchy skies previously, the clouds rolled in, and we found ourselves questioning whether it was wise to push on. The snow conditions were deteriorating quickly too the higher we went. 

And everyone had a busy day ahead of them.

We all agreed to traverse around to the old derelict top cable station at around 900m, and assess our options. By the time we got there, the weather only seemed to be getting worse, so we made the call to rip skins and head on down.

Of course, as soon as we were all ready to descend, the skies cleared up. Sigh. We made the descent anyway, quickly blatting down the cat ski slope – there appeared to be nothing operating today.

Arguably Alistair had the most appropriate skis for the day’s snow conditions – a thin layer of wind-affected snow had us on less hefty planks struggling to ski with style…or so we said, wanting to blame the tools, rather than a clear gap in our skills compared to Alistair!

The return along the flat access road was average at best. It certainly wasn’t downhill enough to ski, and on more than one occasion I considered putting the skins back on. I think next time I probably would.

I arrived back at the car with more than a little regret that we’d not got to the top, or had the chance to lap a few of the upper slopes.

One more peak to add to the list of ‘next time’.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Weisshorn Ski Touring Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

C

6

Totals

45/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.