Location: Rankoshi, Isoya-gun (Shiribeshi)
Type: Backcountry skiing
Altitude: 1134m (~600m elevation gain)
Length: Half-day (5.5km, 3 hour return on skis)
Hiked on: February 25th, 2015
Access is off the now defunct Chisenupuri Ski Area which was very popular with skiers/boarders “in the know” and also happened to cut about an hour off the hike for 200 yen. The parking is still being plowed and is still being filled up by late morning on weekends, so this is definitely a popular route.
For the first portion of the hike, you follow the beginner’s ski run on your left side as you go up. Views of Rankoshi Town and Konbudake in the background will slowly begin opening up and you’ll eventually get to a noticeable bend in the course from where you can see the top lift station on your right side.
You can hike up to the lift station if you want to check it out, but you’ll eventually want to get onto the small ridge on the left side extending towards the mountain from the bend in the course for easier access. Following the ridge, you’ll get to a big, flat open area with the enormous dome of Chisenupuri right in front of you. Enjoy the views of your target as well as the neighbouring mountains of the Niseko Range before the real climb begins.
Rather than taking the climb straight on, it’s probably best to approach it from the right side as you’re going up. There is a bit of a ridge going up right next to the big bowl on the southeast side, where the gradient was gentle enough and snow soft enough to zigzag up on my skins. Eventually though I took off my skins and bootpacked up the last little bit which was quite icy. There was a very noticeable snowdrift just before the summit where the gradient begins to flatten, so you may want to go around to the right a bit.
The summit is a nice open flat area where you can hang around for quite a bit if it’s not too windy. There’s also a small pond at the peak in summer, but obviously you can’t see it in winter. Coming down, you can either drop off into the bowl right next to where you climbed up, or ride down the east face of the mountain and follow the closed Road 66 back to the ski area. Both sides accumulate a lot of snow, so be avalanche aware. I skied down the bowl (awesome times all around,) then cut to skier’s right and skinned back up to near the top lift station so I can do another run down the trees on the left side of the lifts. There is one big cliff in the dip between the mountain and the knoll that the ski hill is on, so be careful.
From the top of the ski lift, you can drop off anywhere onto the left side, but look out for the pools of hot water at the bottom of the gully. You don’t want to go too far down if you drop in closer to the ski lift, as you’ll have to eventually traverse out to the parking lot. If you follow the lift line just to the left for a bit, you’ll hit a nice treed area which eventually steepens and you can drop off along there. Once you go down a little bit, you’ll be able to see a couple large pools of steaming ho spring water, which you’ll want to aim straight for. The run out takes you across a snow bridge between the two pools, which is a surreal experience. From there you can climb back up and come out at the Kokumin Shukusha Yuki Chichibu hotel, currently going through renovations(meaning they tore the whole thing down and are rebuilding it from scratch.)
Just a word of disclaimer, you would be crazy to take this post as professional advice or even an accurate description. The hike is fairly straight forward in clear weather, but if you do not feel comfortable traveling in snow alone or if the weather is bad, please go with someone who knows what they’re doing. You can very easily get lost coming back to the parking lot and at worst fall into a creek or a boiling pool of water. That being said, this is probably the second most popular back country skiing route in the area, so you’ll be find plenty of people to go with.