Stories, pictures and video from the mountains of Hokkaido

Hiking and Skiing Yotei

April 27th 2015. Mt Yotei (1,898m)

I’ve hiked to the summit of Mt Yotei three times over the past few years, but never during the ski season. With the opportunity of hiking and skiing it rapidly melting away for this season, I wasn’t going to miss out on a clear weather day and a day off work. Original Hokkaido Cartel member Peter Im was also keen for the hike so we arranged to meet at the Hirafu trailhead at 5:30, soon after sunrise.

Sunrise from close to the trailhead.

Surprisingly, given how warm April had been, we were able to get our skis on and skin straight from the carpark which made the initial stage of the climb a lot easier. The lower slopes were very slushy, even early in the day, and covered with a lot of tree branches and the odd patch of sasa.

Getting up on to the lower slopes. Niseko in the background.

Once we were onto the main face, it was just a long slog to the top. We were able to skin to about halfway before the snow got too firm and we strapped our skis to our packs and decided bootpack. The wind was howling, so we took a 30 minute pause waiting for it to die down a little before continuing to the crater rim on foot.

Slowly making progress on foot

After a very long grind up the upper slopes, we reached the crater rim and were treated to great views over the Niseko range and beyond to the sea of Japan, just about visible in the haze. A celebratory kampai was in order!

Peter with Annupuri behind

A mini kampai at the top, overlooking the crater

Peter was tired after the climb, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to ski into the crater. Getting my skis on again, I skinned around the rim to drop one of the steeper lines on the opposite side. It was a short steep line, but a lot of fun. Totally worth the extra effort and the hike out.

Skinning around the crater rim

Short clip skiing into the crater. Thanks Peter for the video!

After climbing back out to where Peter was waiting (patiently!) for me, I had a moment to get my breath back and then we set off on the long ski down the main face. This was the longest unbroken ski run I’ve done in many a year, and a real thigh burner. The snow definitely wasn’t Hokkaido powder, but really nice spring corn and one of the funnest lines of the year. After a long climb up, the decent was over so quickly, but totally, totally worth the effort.

Peter

Definitely enjoying myself

A looong line down

After reaching the bottom and a quick pole through the trees, we were back at the cars sweating, sunburnt, but stoked! Ski gear was stripped off and I changed into shorts and flip flops for the drive home on the hottest day of the year. (29 degrees C recorded in Sapporo!)

A long day, 3am start from home with a 2.5 hour drive either way, but such a good day skiing. Probably the last of the season, number 104.

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5 responses

  1. Hi! I read your website and thought you might give me some tips on hiking Mt Yotei!
    Really cool that you’ve hiked up Mt Yotei for almost 3 times!
    I am planning to hike Mt Yotei when I am in Hokkaido this early June. My plan is to hike on 5th June 2015. Is it safe to hike up during this period and if there are still snow? Can I hike up in normal hiking boots during this period?
    Thanks!

    Tango from Singapore!

    May 18, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    • Hi Tango, thanks for reading!

      You should be ok by June 5th. There will probably still be snow patches higher up on the mountain, but you’d be fine with sturdy hiking boots and maybe poles. The south route (from Makkari) is most exposed to the sun, so would have the least snow.

      Good luck!

      May 18, 2015 at 6:37 pm

  2. Good times! Wish I had enough gas to ski into the crater.. we’ll just have to do it again.

    All the ridges on the Kutchan and Makkari sides are totally free of snow now, so it definitely looks hikeable, although you might run into some snow in the gullies and shaded areas!

    May 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    • Looking at a sunset-sunrise overnighter at the Makkari hut on Jun 13/14 if the weather cooperates. You’re welcome to join!

      May 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      • Tempting! But I’m planning a camping trip to Toya on those dates.. if that falls through though I’ll let you know, but I’m also planning a 2 or 3 day hike to Poroshiri the following week so maybe I should save my energy haha.

        May 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm

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