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Spring backcountry gathering in Japan

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by damian, Oct 30, 2011.

  1. damian

    damian A Local

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    In August I met some fellow Australian backcountry skiers and boarders in the Snowies, and would like to meet some more. Easier said that done.

    I also happen live at the foot of a solid mountain range with a lot of great terrain and endless snow that goes mostly untouched in spring. Except for Japanese weekenders, no one really comes here in April and I ski it almost entirely by myself day after day. It seems such a shame that others don't enjoy it... and that I am not doing my bit to share it and the terrain knowledge I have accumulated.

    Over the seasons this has gotten me thinking about hosting a gathering to make the good times more affordable and accessible to others (specifically for ski.com.au members)

    Is anyone here interested in putting together a group of forum members? If you are, I have plenty of living space available for free in my house in Hakuba, and would provide my local backcountry knowledge in helping plan and execute each day's tour. However, it wouldn't be guided, we would be a group of backcountry people and everyone would chip in with decision making, and outings would be planned collectively to suit the group. That is an important distinction.

    The first half of April is by far the best time if I am to play host - I'm too busy before that. The weather can be great by then, days are long, a fantastic 'hut' with indoor/outdoor volcanic hotsprings is open, my house is empty, touring is relatively safe and easily executed. It is a good time of year (unless you are obsessed with powder).

    I really do not know how many people would be interested, or could make it if they were. But I live here with room to spare in my house and, as is normal, I'll be out touring every good day anyway... so why not join me? Really, the only silly part is you have to fly here to do it.

    We could do anything: day trips from my house, a longer hut-based trip (expensive), a combo hut/tent scenario. A bit of everything is possible. As an example for the more enthusiastic, this wider zone is possible by long day trips from a tent/hut base area. (However there is no need to go that far afield)[​IMG]
    (Picture taken 10th of April in a really bad season)

    So there you are: if you guys and girls wanted to form a suitable ski.com.au group, I'm looking for touring partners to share the fun with. You have 5 months in which to arrange leave time and for Jet Star flight deals to pop up, so that should be plenty of planning time.

    Who's in?




    Some notes....

    This isn't my group, so you don't necessarily have to know me at all, or even like me that much! I'm just offering to motivate and host a gathering at my place and provide my local knowledge to make the most of every day - and to make the trip here as affordable as possible. It would be your group that I would be a part of. Having said that, given the level of involvement I'm offering, I'd suggest from the outset that:

    - At the risk of being elitist or exclusive, I really think a gathering like this would be best suited to those who are experienced backcountry skiers/boarders, have the equipment etc.
    - About 10-14 days seems like a good time frame to allow for weather and a variety of scenarios. Of course people could come for shorter periods.
    - I'll be on about day100 by then and will be at my personal fitness peak. A mixed-fitness group is perfectly fine so long as everyone works as an easy going team, however, given it is spring, the better quality and safer skiing requires longer days of effort.
    - Day 1 should be given over to a group avalanche rescue session according to the way I teach it. Everyone should be up to speed and a day of practice is never wasted no matter who you are. I'd lead that day's proceedings. It is a good way to loosen up and get to know each other as a team.
    - There isn't any intended commercial or promotional connection. And nor do I want any. Backcountry skiers skiing backcountry together. That's all it is.
     
    #1 damian, Oct 30, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  2. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    If I can wrangle more time off around then I'll be in for sure, thanks for the generous offer too.

    so you're looking at the first 2 weeks of april then?
     
  3. damian

    damian A Local

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    Hey mate, it doesn't strictly have to be in the very first two weeks of April. Starting say after the 26th of March or so could work.
     
  4. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm interested.
     
  5. macdaddy

    macdaddy One of Us

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    Hey Damien. That's a great offer. I'd be very interested in something like that but probably wouldn't be able to commit until the new year. I've got all the required gear and have a reasonable amount of experience travelling in avalanche terrain... although if I'm being honest, I'm probably a beginner in comparison to yourself and some others on here. I've also got some snow camping experience (about 10 nights) and plenty of touring experience.
     
  6. Bluebear

    Bluebear Hard Yards

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    Mate its been on my mind for sure.
    Just have to sell the house and move the Family to QLD.
     
  7. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm definitely interested, have long contemplated a Spring Hakuba trip
     
  8. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    you're the man, damian.
    I don't think i'll be able to pull it off after a month in cham though.
     
  9. damian

    damian A Local

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    inigo - that's why I mentioned it now, so far in advance... so you can factor it into your planning. Stop here on the way home from Cham. I have one of those massive 3d Chamonix plastic wall maps in the hallway. You can point at it and make me envious.

    Belly and Heinz - good!

    Macdaddy - no need to commit for a long time. This is all very pre-emptive. Regarding skill levels - that is more a function of the group dynamic, not my opinion :). Being advanced is not important, but generally having some worn out gear and some miles under the feet is.

    Bluebear - I guess Qld is closer to Japan. Would be good to see you new spits in action.
     
  10. GS

    GS Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great offer damian, thanks!
    I am certainly interested.
     
  11. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    ha. I'll likely be back at work by april anyway but I'm good at last minute stuff so I'll bear this in mind as it approaches. I do have some q's on cham that I reckon would be right up your alley so, if you don't mind, I might fire off a PM to you later on.

    I've been to Hakuba a few years back and would love to get back for some touring. [​IMG]
     
    #11 piolet, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  12. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Generous offer Damian.... and certainly a bit left of field of many people plans / ideas / expectations of Japan snow (maybe not so much amongst people on this forum).

    Another option / factor to throw into my plans for the coming season....
     
  13. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    The first two weeks of April works for me as I had actually been thinking about those dates. Wanted to catch Hakkoda for once in more benign conditions. Maybe a good chance to combine with Hakuba. Also Easter falls in the middle of that - Apr 6-9.
     
  14. PiniPowPow

    PiniPowPow One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I'm already committed to a powder trip in Feb but seriously considering a quick jaunt over for some spring turns.
     
  15. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    My new job almost precludes any Jan - Mar travel, but that's cool, because other than returning to AK this is the next best option I was considering, bit easier on the bank balance too [​IMG]

    First 2 weeks of April for me to Heinze but a lot of water under the bridge
     
    #15 Belly, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  16. Rimey

    Rimey One of Us

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    A very generous offer Damian.
    I want to, but can't say yes until about January.
    I have a commitment on a variable date.

    Either way, have you cooked up any plans for Oz this winter ?
     
  17. damian

    damian A Local

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    GS - good to hear.

    Pini - you are coming. Full stop. Same for you k9 (and you, limey)

    Belly - you should expect it to fall well short of AK on the thrill factor [​IMG]

    fast_limey, and other who have said it: it's not really all that generous when you think about it. Skiers in ski towns put other skiers up in their houses all the time, all across the world. And I ski most good days in April as it is, so it isn't as though I'd be going without something else and forcing myself to get out there. Every evening for me for 6 months is spent planning the next day: a cycle of maps+weather, sleep, wake, sweat, eat, sleep, repeat. April is cruisy, so others may as well join in. And besides, gatherings of loosely like-minded people, especially backcountry people, are common events. So why not have one here? Hopefully there will be one next Oz winter, and I'll be at that one.
     
    #17 damian, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  18. Camelot

    Camelot One of Us

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    Great idea Damian, fantastic of you to offer the opportunity,
    For us it is probably 1 year too early in regards to equipment and experience to fit into the group, especially in regards to avalanche training and people relying on you if things go wrong.

    Cheers
    Cam
     
  19. The Bush Patrol

    The Bush Patrol Addicted

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    I am a definate maybe as my boss is a keen skier too & we have an agreement that we wont be away at the same time, he fies out to ski in the states for a month on 19th Jan & comes home on 21st Feb so I'm thinkin april may work for me. However the $10M job that I am building would be in the final stages with completion somewhere near September, so it would be kaos around that time but my boss would be most understanding (I think) but the directors may have other ideas. Then there is the minister of racing & gaming who I hope to get at a weak moment before the cup runs today. But I'm thinkin seriously about it at this stage.
     
  20. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Interested. 2nd week in April coincides with the Uni break down here; question of whether I can get the first week off. May not have any teaching at all OTOH.
     
  21. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Damian, I've had two trips to Hakuba and done some self guided touring above Tsugaike so expectations are known
     
  22. damian

    damian A Local

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    Cam - good man, good call.

    Bush Patrol - hopefully the long lead-in time will help plan around work.

    Ziggy - who's going to answer all Ziggy's gear questions? [​IMG]

    Belly - well, you'll come in handy then.

    There is still so much time for planning and prep, but I'm thinking if there is a big group we'd be best heading out there for a longer period and staying put in a base camp (with snow cave/igloo/tents/hut and possibly volcanic hotspring). If the group is small and nimble, then we can be more flexible and jump between different day or overnight trips using the valley as a base. Of course a small group can still go out for a longer base camp trip as well!

    If I run out of floor space at my place (you weren't all expecting beds, were you?) then we can create a tent city in my garden. At that time there may well still be 100-150cm on the ground as well, so a backyard igloo is possible. If we used my roof-fall snow pile then there will be 300cm to work with for a cave (rock hard digging though!). All good fun if we are stuck in the valley, but the main idea is probably to get up there for several consecutive nights, with a few day trips tacked on either side?
     
    #22 damian, Nov 1, 2011
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  23. The Bush Patrol

    The Bush Patrol Addicted

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    Looks like I'm fixin the pole for the Taj
     
  24. damian

    damian A Local

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    Bump to say that I have an email from one of the number who have shown a strong intention to get on board. He is wanting to take advantage of a Jetstar sale that ends Wednesday and needs to firm up dates with me. Of those who are really planning on being in, could you please voice any strong preferences for start - end dates (obviously arrivals and departures before.after the dates is also possible).

    Skied this today (photo from another season). Solly to say it will not be possible come spring.

    [​IMG]
     
    #24 damian, Jan 10, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  25. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Have booked flights myself and will be in the country Apr 01-13. Am thinking Hakkoda for the 2nd week.
     
  26. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    I'm in, I'll be in Hakuba Mar 07- Apr 15. Any time during then is good with me.
     
  27. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    Also, why would you post a photo from another season? That's not cool mate, and I'd even say outside the rules.
     
  28. damian

    damian A Local

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    Because I don't have a photo of that terrain from that aspect from today, or any other day this season. It is not uncommon to ski something and never get a full frontal shot of it on the day, so it is normal to use a previous photo (and say so when you do so as not to mislead regarding conditions).

    Happy birthday [​IMG]

    Stick this up yer jumper. From today:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [Heinz and nice-Cregs, thanks for your date info]
     
    #28 damian, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  29. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    I didn't mean to be insensitive damian, it's that Irish fury again.

    I should use more of [​IMG] and [​IMG]



    [​IMG] for that too mate, thank-you.
     
    #29 inky, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  30. 3decks

    3decks One of Us

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    Ill be about in April. Still sorting out dates (work trip)
     
  31. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey Damine we leave a bit earlier than that but will have to catch up with you sometime. We will be based in Akakura but we should be going to Hakuba mid Feb for a few days. Maybe we can do some days at Myoko another year when we know a bit more about the place.
    How late in the year can you normally ski? We are thinking Easter school hols might be a good time for us to come back for a bit.
     
  32. damian

    damian A Local

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    skichanger - I ski the mountains Hakuba until late May, sometimes one trip in June. It is not for everyone though and those outings are available to me based on a fair amount of experience and fitness.

    I've had a few more pm's regarding dates. I'm starting to think the best approach is to personally tailor your flight coming and goings to suit your needs, however my house will be most empty from the end of March. For early arrivals it may be necessary to find some inexpensive local accom to tide you over until the group has arrived and my house is relatively empty.

    For those thinking about coming: proper and complete skis touring equipment is required (no snow shoes). There will be physical effort and lots of camping. This is not a free introductory guided snow camping trip [​IMG]

    Having said that, interest to date (particularly via email and m) indicates that we will always have a mixed group of experience, fitness and motivations. So of even more importance is a reminder of consideration for group dynamics and the ability to move as a group and accept each others limitations. So come with expectations of a cross section of easy-minded people, rather than an aggressive group of Himalayan summiters. Anyone who does not enjoy the ego-less flow of Australian spring snow touring and camping may not enjoy this gathering so much?

    I've noticed some hesitation to chat openly about intentions planning online here - which I can understand. How about we set up a private group chat area for those firmly down for the gathering? That way, logistics and planning can be sorted out in more detail for those who are firmly down for getting on board? Any suggestions on the best way to do that?

    Everyone should also keep in mind that my house is not a palace and conditions may well get pretty basic and crowded when we are not out in the field.
    Also remember this is not my trip. It is the groups trip. I am just trying to facilitate it and provide the inputs that I can.

    damian
     
    #32 damian, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  33. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    Fair enough, you offered so we should pull it together.

    I don't mind bringing my camping kit but is that what others are expecting? A combo hut/tent trip sounds really good to me. Is it better to rent camping gear there? What's the cost of huts?

    Depending on the weather, how about a tent/hut trip during the first week of April and some day trips around it? If people with gear want to boot off o/night or whatever they can.

    Sort out plans the night before, new arrivals can let everyone know what they're doing here.

    I want to spend time on my new toy and take some decent photo's for once. I'm not out for big tech stuff, so I'm easy with whatever the group decides.

    Just some ideas.
     
  34. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'd be all over it if I had the cash.
     
  35. damian

    damian A Local

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    TP - pity you can't make it.

    Cregs - good ideas, thanks for that.

    With my knowledge of the area, I lean strongly towards recommending pretty much what you said:

    A few days based in valley for day trips, meet up, warming up legs in resort, a hangover... what ever suits or is required.

    Then perhaps 7 or so days based at a 'hut'. in the first week of April

    This hut is not an Australian hut, it is a lodge with no road access and opens in mid March.

    You can stay at the hut and get indoor onsen, breakfast+dinner for 8000 yen per night (may have changed). Or you can camp nearby with your own food and buy food and beer and onsens as required. Probably the right thing to do is also pay a nightly camping fee if we are so close that toilets and comfortable indoor shelter etc are a convenience.

    From that hut we can do day trips, or overnight tent/scave trips further afield. We can also potentially use some emergency shelters which are way out there (both on incredibly windy ridges).

    There are also outdoor hotsprings a few hundred meters from the hut. You can actually ski directly to them. And watch avalanches from them.

    The hut is in the middle of this picture (hard to see). The terrain pictured on the first page of this thread is a full day trip away, in fact I took this photo from that alpine terrain, zoomed in. Photo taken on 9th April

    [​IMG]
     
    #35 damian, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  36. BrianWilson

    BrianWilson One of Us

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    Both the Bush Patrol and myself are pretty much confirmed for this trip. We are pretty flexible with dates at this stage and are pretty much happy to go with the flow. About the only confirmed detail to date is that we will be leaving from Sydney and staying 10-14 days.

    Happy to discuss travel plans (including good flight deals) with others heading out of Australia. Might be more the merrier when it comes to interpreting train schedules and bus timetables in Japanese.

    BW
     
  37. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    jetstar sale on now, or I think it's still on?
     
  38. Rimey

    Rimey One of Us

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    Just pressed the button. Departing MEL for NRT 23.3, returning 16.4.
    My nephew and his babe are based in Niseko for 3 months (bastards), so I'll do some laps with them for a few days. He says they have a snow covered volcano to show me.

    Then on to Hakuba for fun and games beyond the resorts with the crew here ...
    I'll have my new tent and the rest packed and looking forward to whatever we work out.

    Damian, you've whet the appetite and I can't wait. How many sleeps ?
     
  39. Rimey

    Rimey One of Us

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    Damien,
    As people commit and announce they've booked their airfares, opinions will firm.
    We'll then see group intentions develop.
    Me, happy to base out of a hut/lodge for day trips or head off with a crew for a few days out in the tents.
    It all depends on the weather and conditions.
    On looking for lines, I don't care wether i'm being lapped or lapping.

    It's a few months away.
     
    #39 Rimey, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2013
  40. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    Keep the discussion open then there's a better chance the maybe's will become starters! And it'll keep the stoke levels high! I'm a faaar outsider with renos going on at home and a trip to eurodisney already on for late feb/mar.
    Good on u once again for putting this out there!
     
  41. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm definitely out, a loss in the family equals the loss of the family holiday house on the surf coast, hence I'm now using my Autumn break for one last hurrah. Good luck guys, maybe next year and thx for the offer Damian [​IMG]
     
    #41 Belly, Jan 12, 2012
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  42. GS

    GS Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    I agree, I'm still an outside chance, albeit slim. Taking European relatives for an outback jaunt for last 2 weeks of March so another couple of weeks may mean I need to look for new employment on return.
     
    #42 GS, Jan 12, 2012
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  43. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'll be around the first week of April and heading to Hakkoda for the second week.

    Don't actually have any snow camping experience so will just be looking at a few day trips from town or the hut if that works. I do like coming back to an onsen. Also warn you that I am 'slow and steady' on the climbing side.

    After a few days of that I think I'll be happy to use the Hakkoda ropeway as an assist.
     
  44. BrianWilson

    BrianWilson One of Us

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    Ok, so the Bush Patrol and I are now confirmed. Will be in Hakuba from 3 April and heading back 15 April. Happy days [​IMG]
     
    #44 BrianWilson, Jan 21, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  45. Rimey

    Rimey One of Us

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    Good one, Wilso.
    Make sure you and TBP pack your water wings for those hot springs.
     
  46. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    yeah good stuff guys.


    damian, what's the area in the picture there called?
     
  47. damian

    damian A Local

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    Good to see the group forming and commitments being laid down.

    I'm quite busy right now so late to reply to all sorts of things.

    Cregs - the photo is on the north aspect of Norikuradake (2400m) with the Renge Onsen lodge sitting in the middle of the shot, just to the left in an open area at 1500m.

    I'll get some more photos going soon.

    Meanwhile, check out some maps with no English on them.

    Scale is 1:25,000. Click to enlarge. Look for the biggest lake on this map (near the centre), run directly north to 1500m, you have the hut (surrounded by little onsen circle symbols)
    http://net.jmc.or.jp/saishiki/MF_SearchSampleDigitalMapEx2.asp?cntLat=36.79472&cntLon=137.8094

    Also from the lake run WNW until you hit a peak of 2610.9m. That is Yukikuradake (snow storage peak). Good touring, with a emergency shelter in the col just to the south by a few cm
     
    #47 damian, Jan 23, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2013
  48. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    I just noticed The Bush Patrol's post about baggage limit hassles.

    Should we put up some gear lists and see what we can share?


    I'm taking my new tiny tent but I'm bringing a Jetboil Helios that should be fine for a few of us I reckon for basic cooking, if that helps anyone. A group first aid kit would be the go too, I can maybe put most of that together if we can agree on what it needs fairly soon.

    damian, can we get stuff at that hut or do we bring it all with us? I'm tossing up which pack to take.


    4 grueling weeks to go.


     
  49. damian

    damian A Local

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    inky, just posted in Bushy's baggage thread.

    No point everyone bringing their best first aid kit etc, so good idea.

    When you say "stuff at the hut"... what stuff might you be anting to get specifically? They have bedding, food, beer...

    For this type of trip I'll try my best to use only a 50L pack. I've done it before on 5 day solos and it is only a squeeze on the way in. Mind you I am no gourmet when it comes to camping if it means less bulk in my pack. I also take way less gear than I think I have seen lugged out on some Main Range TR's [​IMG]

    The easiest approach to the hut zone is as follows: climb from 1650m to 2100m, flat traverse for about 700m, gentle skiing and traversing down a narrowing drainage to 1500m or so then a short flat traverse. This descent will be a bit of a PITA on a snowboard.

    The bigger way in requires climbing 1650m to 2400, 1000m traverse through undulating snow, ice and rocks, descent to 1500m down a 40 degree serious avalanche start zone, or a typically bumpy narrow ski down a steep ridge then out into more moderate treed terrain. It is hard work with a heavy pack. See the top section of the red dots on above photo. I've done it a few times with a good load at the start of a multi-day outing and yeah, the pistons are screaming by half way down, and my pistons are conditioned for torture by spring. I'd suggest that route is not best suited to our likely mixed group. There are variants on this route which are even steeper - not recommended (see picture below from March 5th, that is what stands generally above the hut, though only the shaded far right triangle slope skis directly to the hut)

    There is a third relatively gentle route that takes longer than the first and has a short steep ascent in the middle. It is my preferred way in, subject to conditions and group load etc

    If anyone can suggest a free simple bit of s/w that make panoramas on a mac, I'll put together a pano of the wider alpine zone available by long day trip.

    [​IMG]

    The lower middle ground in this one shows some of the longer day-trip cruiser terrain from the hut, though does not ski to the hut and requires more hiking from a separate drainage to get back to camp. All that steep stuff is much more serious than it looks - not a place I rush too.

    [​IMG]

    A very long day will give you my favourite touring peak in all of Hakuba's back range I'm talking the more gentle looking on on the right, it skis way better and longer than the bigger guy on the left. Solid 1000m vertical of all sorts of options. Leaving you with a long walk home though. I doubt these outings will suit everyone in the group, and that's perfectly fair:
    [​IMG]

    Some of the below treeline terrain available closer to the hut. I've seen plenty of bear tracks in those forests, yet to see a bear. Better terrain in the foreground and upper right. You can see the hut and melted outdoor onsen area above it to the right
    [​IMG]

    Close up of the near-hut terrain. You can ski some of it directly into an onsen:
    [​IMG]

    View from the Onsens back to my favourite peak I pictured above
    [​IMG]
     
    #49 damian, Feb 4, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  50. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    There's hut to hut trips where people camp like this nearby but just buy food and water and fuel and general daily consumables (i.e. stuff at highly inflated prices) along the way.

    I don't know how it goes there but was only thinking either a 30ltr expander or 45ltr climbing pack. 45 it is.

    I don't know macs either, great photos though mate.

    When you say snowboard do you mean splitboard? I'll manage as long as I don't have to "ski" any heavy terrain. If so I'll just transition or change to crampons and hurry up then.