Iwaenopuri is the peak in the Niseko range next to Annupuri, which is the famous one with the ski resort. It’s one of the first zones to look at for a backcountry skier in Niseko desperate to escape the slackcountry hordes.
I missed first lift at Niseko Hirafu on day…I lost track of the days. The resort was already goooone inbounds. I decided to do a proper tour. So I went out the the peak gate, and quickly motored past most of the peak bootpack line, as I actually have a pack with ski carry straps, some uphill fitness, and took my layers off instead of sweating.
Off down the north ridge (pow, awesome), transition at the bottom, and start breaking trail up the road towards Iwaenopuri. Up a nice little gully and ridge and start zigzagging up the peak.
Snow got upside down and sketchy – alarm bells went off, and I stopped near the treeline at the 1000m mark. I felt the Niseko avalanche report rating of “low” was inaccurate as the day started warming up quite a bit.
A party of snowshoers, kindly trashing my skintrack behind me, kept on going straight up, and I guess they were ok in the end.
Two sweet pow runs (including a wicked mini spine on one , the coolest feature I’ve skied in a while!) then down to Goshiki onsen for a bath. Another great uncrowded onsen, with touring out the front door. What a life! A group of yanks touring left a skintrack up the ridge behind the onsen, so I went up for one last run after I finshed my soak.
Then it was a 30 minute skin on a well broken skin track (the yanks again?) to Mikaeri bowl to ski out to Moiwa, in time for the 3.20 direct free shuttle.
Spurred by stories of my super awesome tour, I persuaded Alex T to come with me to try again the next day.
A clear sunny morning turned into a cold snowy day. Avalanche danger was significant (considerable?) with wind slabs on many aspects. And no Niseko nadare report was being provided, today or for the next few days!?
We went out the Hirafu peak gate at 9.30, and skied down the north ridge into the north bowl. The wind had been changing direction, so it seemed most aspects were wind affected. Started setting off significant (1sq m) chunks of slab when traversing, so got a bit spooked and checked slope angle and started doing ski cuts. (No concern to the hooting Niseko slackcountry heros though). We got the fuck out of there before a kook could trigger something on top of us.
Down at the road, we saw the largest guided backcountry group in the world. One guide to like…15 clients? Bloody poms!
Keen to escape the Annupuri madness, we put skins on and started up the other side, now in quite bad visibility wind and snow.
Stopped at the treeline again, and headed for a north facing zone that looked good and mellow on the map. It was much too flat, and a bit disappointing, so we decided to go back around to the eastern flank.
Had the first “Dude where’s my skintrack!?” moment as parts of the track were already obliterated by wind and snow. Breaking trail again…in fact pretty much all day.
East aspect was good. Not huge vert though as we didn’t care to go higher.
Chilly transitions. Water bottle started freezing. Skins icing up from driving snow during transitions.
Did two laps on the lower north face of annupuri itself. Deeep and chunky. No slackcountry punters venturing over the top at this point!
Started on the long trail back to Hanazono. Came in to Fujiwara no sawa down the west side (pump house run?)
Crossing Fujiwara no sawa – sawa is “creek” in Japanese – old mate missed a crucial turn:
Luckily, we were only a few minutes away from an overpriced beverage at Hanazono base, the only place in Japan that’s too fancy to have any vending machines.
Also, we helped 2 lost groups during the day. Lots of punter epics on that day, including some guys in the lodge I was in as well.
Not epic skiing honestly, but a real adventure. Felt like I had to use everything I knew to make it successful.
Serenity in the woods of Hokkaido.