Location: Eniwa City (Ishikari-gun)
Type: Backcountry skiing
Altitude: 968m (~400m elevation gain)
Length: Half-day (~5km roundtrip)
First new post in almost two years! I made a small trip up to Hokkaido earlier this month and while I mostly hiked up already familiar peaks in the Niseko/Niki area I had a chance to hit up one new peak before my flight.
Located right behind the eye-catching Mount Eniwa on the shore of Lake Chitose, Mount Okotanpe is a fairly unremarkable peak yet a popular one as it is an easier hike than most other peaks in the area and has good access from Sapporo.
Driving along Route 453 connecting Sapporo to Chitose, you will see a road (Route 78) going towards Lake Okotanpe, which is gated in winter. There is a big snow cleared area right after the intersection (if you’re coming from Sapporo) where you can park. On the day I went the parking area wasn’t cleared of snow even though I hadn’t started the hike until around 11am so after a big snowfall you may not be able to park until later in the day.
The first section of the hike will be walking down the snow covered road, which is an interesting experience in its own. After around a kilometer and a half, the gully to the right of the road will become shallower and you will be able to gain the ridge to the right. The initial section is steep but as you get higher the gradient will flatten out a bit. There is one false peak to your right as you climb up, traverse around that peak and onto the col between that one and the summit.
Once at the col climb a little higher and you will see a nice open face that makes for good skiing that is also the eastern face of the summit. Climb up along the left side of the open face (safer and easier) and not before long you’ll reach the summit.
The summit offers a great view of Mount Eniwa and also a peak at the elusive Lake Okotanpe. You should also be able to spot Izaridake to the west although it was covered in clouds when I was there.
Getting down, the east face is a good ski and you can continue down the gully to the south of the col right back to the ridge. Do note that it is quite bushy and snow coverage may not be the best until February or later. There are also people that continue onto Izaridake from there, or ski down the southwest onto the shores of Lake Okotanpe, but that’s an untested route for me and you will have to do it at your own risk.
Mount Okotanpe’s probably not the most interesting hike (Eniwadake or Fuppushi/Tarumae is better) nor the best skiing (Ichankoppe is better) in the Lake Shikotsu area, but it is probably one of the easiest and quickest hikes, so if you only have half a day before catching a flight out, then it makes for a nice option.