Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)


Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake (小喜茂別岳 – 970m) is the little-sibling of the higher Mt. Kimobetsu-dake (喜茂別岳 – 1,177m) further to the north (Mt. Kimobetsu-dake route guide here). Access to Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake is just as easy though, and its mellow slopes are great for those just getting their feet wet in backcountry skiing. Expect a beginner to intermediate slope at the upper end of the route that is perfect for lapping a couple of times before heading down.

Route GPS File

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Essential details


5.9km
Distance


4.5 hours
Time


480m
Ascent


970m
Highest point


4.5/10
Difficulty?


Dec-Mar
Best Season?

Need-to-Know Details

  • Location: This Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake route is on the western side (Kimobetsu Town side) of Nakayama Pass.
  • General notes: This route is marked as “perfect for beginner backcountry skiers” in the HokkaidoYuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047). This is a fair description; it is a relatively short approach (2 to 3 hours), the downhill slopes are not too steep, and it includes the satisfaction of bagging a peak. More experienced skiers might find the route underwhelming, however, and if time permits, pushing deeper into the backcountry towards the higher-altitude Mt. Kimobetsu gives access to much more enjoyable terrain for the experienced skier (see route guide here).
  • Route markers: When we were there in January 2018, there were sporadic strands of pink taped attached to trees along the route. It is best to assume, however, that you will be navigating on your own.
  • Transport: This route is not accessible by public transport. There is a car parking area about 800m down the road from the trailhead. As of January 2018, this parking area was home to some pre-fab construction buildings. As a courtesy, please ask for permission to park in their carpark – they should be very accommodating.
  • Paper topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan here (Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake is in the cross-hairs), or buy the following 1/25000 paper topo map (for 350yen) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
    • Nakayama-toge (中山峠) – map no. NK−54−14−15−4
  • Snow and route safety: The main risk noted in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide is the ease of skiing down the wrong ridges and/or gullies on the way down. Check your location after each run to make sure you haven’t strayed too far off course.
  • Weather forecast (Google Translated): Tenkurapinpoint for Mt. Kimobetsu-dake, which is in the general vicinity of Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake.
  • Other resources
    • See the write-up (in Japanese) in the Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047) from page 170-173.
  • Onsen neaby: On the way to Sapporo City, you’ll be passing through Jozankei Onsen area. A favourite of ours is the down-to-earth Matsu-no-yu Onsen on the Sapporo City side of Jozankei Onsen. If you’d like to pair onsen with lunch or dinner, try Kogane-yu Onsen next door; they have a very reasonable restaurant attached. If you have time, you might want to check out the Ainu Culture Center (location) just across the road from the onsen.
  • Date visited for this report: 14th January, 2018

See my Hokkaido Ski Touring Resources page for more trips and tips
Please read my disclaimer, if you haven’t already

Trip Report

Descending down the Nakayama Pass towards Kimobetsu Town, the triangular mountain visible on the right is Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake. It doesn’t have a hiking trail, so can only be climbed in the winter. From Nakayama Pass it looks like it is thick with trees, but on the other side of the mountain are long slopes with very little trees. This makes it a simple mountain to climb. People even climb it in simple snowshoes, but it is home to long gentle slopes and perfect for beginner backcountry skiers, new to the winter mountains (Translated from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide, p. 170).

After pulling the plug on climbing up Mt. Kokimobetsu last week due to high wind and snow (and then opting to ski Mt. Onuma instead), a forecast for sunny skies this weekend motivated us to head back this weekend to try out our luck again.

When we arrived at the carpark about 400m down the road from the trailhead, things were looking sunny. With three of us with skis and one with a snowboard, we made the initial trudge along the roadside. As usual, actually getting off the road and onto the snow required some scrambling…

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

The blue skies lasted about 20 minutes once on the trail, before clouding over completely. From the trailhead, the route climbs almost immediately up to the closest pylon, before carrying on on a 51degree bearing straight towards the peak.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Photo by Rick Siddle

The route continues on the 51degree bearing through thin stands of trees and sporadic clearings. For the most part the middle section of the route is a very gentle uphill gradient and in parts it is flat.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

At around 730m in altitude, the route finally starts climbing in earnest towards the peak. In the end, this will give about 240m of easy, fun skiing on the downhill given the right conditions.

We noticed someone had set up a basic tarp shelter at the base of the hill – we would later see two snowboarders huddled in the shelter cooking something on their Jetboil stoves.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

The ski down from the summit was mellow, and in the right snow conditions could possibly be great fun. We had some crusty snow which made things a little more challenging. For much of the downhill and flat sections after about 730m in altitude, the uptrack was my friend – keep the speed up was the name of the game.

Overall we felt that Mt. Kimobetsu, further up into the hills is a more exciting hill and worth the effort for the downhill. For a complete beginner, however, Mt. Kokimobetsu would likely be an enjoyable and challenging day out.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake backcountry ski touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

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