Mt. Maetokachi Kabawara Ridge backcountry ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)


Mt. Maetokachi (前十勝岳, 1,790m) is another classic staple for backcountry skiing in the Tokachi Ranges. Its broad, plank-like north-western face is a veritable playground of wide gullies and snow-fields. Here, I outline the classic Kabawara Ridge route, which is the most-traveled route on the mountain for backcountry skiing. Like Mt. Sandan, the route is accessed from the hopelessly amazing Hakuginso Lodge – a mountain lodge boasting to be the “mecca of powder” with everything you could possibly want: onsen hotsprings, a large communal kitchen, a large basement drying room, friendly staff, and only 2,750yen a night.

Route GPS File

Essential details


6km
Distance


4 hours
Time


770m
Ascent


1,790m
Highest point


7/10
Difficulty?


Jan-May
Best Season?

Essential Info

  • About Hakuginso Lodge: See these posts here and here.
  • Location: Tokachi mountain range, central Hokkaido. About 3 hours drive east from Sapporo, 5hrs by train and bus. Route start location: https://goo.gl/maps/ZEG931cYCDC2
  • Route timing: Around 3 hours climb from Hakuginso Lodge (location) to Mt. Maetokachi summit. About 1 hour to return.
  • Topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan here (Mt. Maetokachi is in the cross-hairs), or buy the following 1:25,000 paper topo map (for 350yen) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
    • Shirogane Onsen (白金温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-8-1
  • Snow safety: The entire face of Mt. Maetokachi is somewhat of a playground. Just watch out for exposed rocks on the northern end of the face and near the ferrules. The altitudes in these areas are much higher than the snowy playgrounds elsewhere in Hokkaido – be extra respectful of mother nature here.
  • Other resources: See the write-up (in Japanese) on p. 372 of the Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047).
  • Getting there and away
    • By public transport: From JR Kami-Furano Train Station, there is a bus, run by the Kami-Furano Town Bus company, that runs to the Hakuginso Lodge. You’ll want to catch the tokachidake-onsen-yuki (十勝岳温泉行き) bus from the train station and get off at the Hakuginso bus stop (白銀荘). As of March 2017, there were three buses per day going to the lodge (08:52, 12;49, 16:31) and three returning (10:01, 13:51, 17:40). The fare is around 500yen one way, and it takes around 30 minutes.
  • Onsen neaby: The Hakuginso Lodge is an onsen – a very nice one at that. They charge 600yen for day visitors. You can stay overnight for just under 3,000yen (see details here). 10 minutes walk down the road from the lodge is the natural, free, mixed-gender Fukiage Onsen (location). The Ryounkaku Onsen (location – 600yen per person – accessible by same bus that gets you to Hakuginso Lodge) has an incredible view, and they also offer lunch.
  • Weather forecast (Google Translated): Tenkura pinpoint (this is for Mt. Sandan, but should apply also to Mae-tokachi).
  • Other resources
  • Date visited: January 24th, 2016

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

Climb and Ski report

Excerpt translated from the Japanese Yuki-yama Guidebook:

“Mt. Maetokachi is the advanced guard in front of Mt. Tokachi. It boasts a beautiful triangular shape when viewed from Hakuginso Lodge, and the ferules which rise from the surrounding craters give it another level of impressiveness. Overnight, deep snow can transform into exposed rock, so it doesn’t have the most predictable snow conditions. In general, mid-February and later is the best time to visit. Visual guides up the mountain such as trees are non-existent here, so good clear weather is the key to enjoying it. Mt. Tokachi is an active volcano, so make sure to check activity reports on the Meterological Department website or at Hakuginso Lodge.” Yuki-yama Guide, 2015, p. 372

This route report is a continuation of sorts from our trip up Mt. Sandan (here). Along with the boys from France, we had skirted across a gully from Mt. Sandan’s northwest face to Mt. Maetokachi’s northwest face.

The skin up Mt. Maetokachi started through spooky scarred forest.

Skiing MT. Maetokachi in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

But soon enough we found ourselves once again dodging the dreaded low-lying pines.

Skiing MT. Maetokachi in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

In the end, we only made around an hour and a half of progress up Mt. Maetokachi before making the call to head down for the day. The peak was clearly in dense cloud, we’d already climbed in total for almost five hours, and the descent was not looking promising with the low pines. We did, however, take the time to scout the area out for terrain that would allow for a more enjoyable downhill ski run. The answer came in a beautiful wide gully, full with waist-deep powder. It was magic.

Skiing MT. Maetokachi in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

Skiing MT. Maetokachi in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

As if as icing on the cake, our final few minutes of descent were punctuated by a clear view over the Furano plains. Up till this point in the day they had been obscured by clouds.

Expansive views over the Furano plains (Hokkaido, Japan)

Smiles and more smiles.

Skiing MT. Maetokachi in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

The day was finished off with a soak in the free Fukiage Onsen. This wild onsen is just 10 minutes walk from the Hakuginso lodge, and is a great way to soothe the muscles after a long day. Just perfect.

Fukiage natural free onsen in the Tokachi mountain range (Hokkaido, Japan)

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