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TRIP REPORT: Rabid K9 - off the leash... Japan 2010.

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Rabid K9, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. stovemiester

    stovemiester First Runs

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    two thumbs up
     
  2. benchives

    benchives Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    not only are you are master traveller but also a great, interesting and funny reporter. You would be great as a travel writer or reporter. I would be your number one fan!
     
  3. Dive

    Dive Hard Yards

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    I think you'll find that I'd be his number one fan.

    Keep them coming Rabid, this is one of the most compelling threads ever.
     
    #153 Dive, May 8, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  4. Fastlaner

    Fastlaner Hard Yards

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    I don't know if I'll do a trip report from South America in August. There is no way I could top this.
    I so want to go back to Japan; this TR brings it home; how much I loved it; how much more there is to explore.
     
  5. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    Oi Fastlaner [​IMG]

    You absolutely MUST do a trip report....seriously, I doubt if any of us will do as well as K9 but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a go. [​IMG]
     
    #155 SideStreet, May 8, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  6. Fastlaner

    Fastlaner Hard Yards

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    Ha! Yes of course I'll do a trip report from Cerro Catedral, can't wait to get there.
    I just forgot to put the tounge in cheek symbol on my post <img src="https://www.ski.com.au/xf/styles/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="\:\/" title="smirk" height="15" width="15" />
     
    #156 Fastlaner, May 9, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  7. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Just include a bit on the Bariloche 'wildlife' as well. [​IMG]
     
    #157 Heinz, May 9, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  8. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    [​IMG]'

    Looking forward to it. [​IMG]
     
    #158 SideStreet, May 9, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  9. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    COMING SOON - the much awaiting Part XIII, screening from a romantic northern Hokkaido onsen village & it's jagged surrounding peaks....

    Online 26th May, maybe sooner....
     
  10. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    PART XIII: KURODAKE

    **********
    Kurodake - Daisetsuzan splendour.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – on the summit ridge of the ‘Black Mountain’.
    [​IMG]

    **********

    From Utoro, we roll back along the coast, a reasonable wind swell is blowing in with the chilly norwester, but as yet, no more sea-ice has appeared which is a little disappointing.
    Once on the flat coastal marshlands typical of the north coast, scenery is a lot less appealing. Some small coastal ‘snowdunes’ are quite a contrast to the mobile sandunes we’re more used to, but the landscape is largely flat, bleak & with a surprising amount of heavy industry. We stop briefly at the Tofuchi Ko wetlands near Abashiri, evidently a significant area of habitat for several rare migratory bird species & find a frenzy of Japanese tourists engaged in the feeding of an equally excited cacophony of local birdlife on a small area of free water near the lake outlet.

    Abashiri – slaty-backed gulls take a break from besieging tourists at Tofuchi Ko.
    [​IMG]

    Abashiri – relative calm as the mute swans plan their attack on the next hapless small child who strays within reach.
    [​IMG]

    It’s an unusual sight in a RAMSAR listed wetland, but that’s Japan. Bird schizza, yens, cameras, hats, small children, feathers, women hair, men’s wigs & more bird schizza are flying in all directions & the noise is overwhelming. I’ve been in many colonies of breeding seabirds before, but never a place where the noise of frenzied people overwhelms the avian crescendo!! Occasionally a circling raptor swoops right into the crowd for an opportunistic kill & the whole racket rises a few more decibels each time. There’s plainly going to be tears, probably when one of the bullying white swans attacks a child…. we depart gladly, shaking our heads at this strange little place.

    Turn inland from Abashiri & start slowly beginning to rise towards the distant Daisetsuzan. Chugging south steadily, following the Japanese method of totally ignoring speed limits, I’m already planning to jump on the last ropeway car & drop an evening run….

    Then we naively turn off at Bihoro, thinking it will be a nice rural run into mountains & precede to run into a featureless urban rural industrial conurbation that melds seemlessly from one small rural city to another. Extending for well over 50km, we crawl between the frustrating traffic lights, the day ticks past as we curse the Japanese traffic light timing of 10 seconds for disway, 10 for datway, 5 minutes of red for all ways & everyway, including pedestrians, stand there dumbfounded.

    Eventually, we finally emerge from the urban wasteland, the broad river valley narrows & we thankfully wind up into the hills. Quickly ascend to well over 1000m & some sensationally steep terrain is dropping directly from the road, although this side of the range seem to sit in a snow shadow for the prevailing north wester, after one of the less common north east dumps that sometimes hit northern Hokkaido, some solid lines could be bombed straight from the safety barricading.

    Back into the frequent long tunnels of the alpine roadways & suddenly we arrive in Sounkyo, the hot spring base ‘village’ of Kurodake. Sounkyo is mainly a collection of smallish mid-rise hotels, some pensions & a few services. The village seems both sleepy & mostly closed up & yet busy at the same time with crowds of Japanese tourists moving in & out of some the flash hotels high of the hill. A reasonable snow depth in village, but the lower faces & cliffs rising steeply above the town have shed much of their load in the recent warmer weather. Cold air funnels down into the narrow, deep valley from the high country hidden far above, ominous bluffs & cliffs stand sentinel over the small village & the place has a darker, more daunting feel than many other mountain settlements we’ve traveled through in Japan.

    Our shortlisted accommodation options turn out to be closed, windows boarded up to prevent snow ingress & it seems much of the place is still in the early stages of awaking from winter hibernation. We manage to make our way into little pension in the village centre that has had the snow cleared from the entrance. It’s cold, dark & packed up inside, but the walls & part of the floors are covered in paintings, photos, topographic maps & specimens all about the natural history of the area. This is the place for us, as we are standing there looking around curiously, a half asleep middle aged Japanese man shuffles out of the darkness from somewhere in the backrooms. He gradually wakes up, is happy for us to stay, which we negotiate over the period of about 45 minutes, we’ll have the run of the whole building which is connected to the central town onsen & a couple of restuarants & most importantly, is within 100m of the ropeway base.

    Sounkyo – skylight view from the pension, the terrain here rises vertically.
    [​IMG]

    We move in, start to warm the place up a bit, a few lights are on & suddenly people start trickling in, seeing the place open. Run into some slightly confused Scandinavians in Siecomart, they are on the run from the current shabby snow conditions of their season home in Niseko & they move in as well. We’re happy that the owner of the unpronounceabley named pension in now getting some business after opening his doors for us. While we are there, the owner has several visitors & they sit in the front room for hours, talking, planning & preserving butterfly specimens. The men are obviously very knowledgable, probaly some of Hokkaido or Japans leading natural scientists & I again long to be able to exchange some more information with them. The owner has by this time realised we are Australian, pulls out several large publications on the worlds butterflies & proceeds to formulate a broken request for us to acquire some Ulysses butterfly specimens from northern Queensland for him.

    Attached town onsen is great, especially the semi-open air top floor, overlooking the village with snow drifting in again. Onsens quite busy, by now the rituals well down pat & I’m feeling quite Japanese in my technique, have even taken to trying to use the very small seats for showering, although haven’t quite got into using the blowdryer or towel flicking other onsen users.

    Downstairs, the Japanese / Italian restaurant has a tasty selection of hybrid dishes, although meals portions unfortunately scaled down to more modest sizes. A large selection of outdoor publications to peruse as well, even if we can mostly just look at the pictures!

    Sounkyo – bluebird morning in the village.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – ropeway rises steeply from the small village.
    [​IMG]

    Awake to an immaculate bluebird day, no wind & even better, fresh snow on the ground in the village. One glance out the second storey window & instantly into excited hyperdrive, Rabbess is telling me to settle down to no avail, owner has let us use limited kitchen facilities so we quickly fuel up, throw our backcountry gear on & run up the short rise to the ropeway base. The three Scando’s are also excited, minus the running bit & we’re on the first car up.

    Terrain rises steeply from the base, lower trees being quite dense & punctuated by cliffs but theres plenty of chutes & ridable lines available. Massive ice chunks have fallen from the trees during the previous warmer weather & are now partly covered by new snow, these along with numerous slide paths, indicate the lower mountain is going to be tricky riding. Apart from us & the Scando’s, there’s a handful of other riders in the car. As we crest the escarpment that marks the edge of the Diasetsuzan high country proper, the big mountain alpine terrain stands out clearly against the bright blue sky. A tangible increase in excitement ripples through the car & we’re all fidgeting & shuffling, eager to get into it.

    Hit the ropeway top station running, 100m or so slightly uphill to the double chair, which lifts another gently angled, pleasant alpine terrace studded with large conifers & a couple of short groomed runs. We run a couple a quick warm up laps through the open trees, the surface snow is soft, light & fast, although harder turns still meet the hard icy layer underneath.

    Kurodake – standard view from the small double chair, fresh snow, cool & bluebird, less than twenty riders across the whole mountain. X-cited!
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – earning turns on steady climb to the summit ridge.
    [​IMG]

    Three other teams are heading for the summit proper, including the Scando’s who haven’t really got all the gear they require. Oddly, the couple of Japanese skiers head straight across the middle of the triangular peak. With the deeper layers of the Kurodake snowpack still unknown to me, I’m not happy with the route selection & we climb the longer, but less slide exposed ridgeline. The ridgeline is very firm due to wind scouring & steep enough for a slip to result in an uncontrolled fall, surrounded by substantial cliff, the climb feels quite exposed & requires deliberate front pointing on our snowshoes crampons.

    Away from the ridges, the bowls of the peak have filled with beautiful light dry powder & we climb quickly, making good time to the summit ridge. Interestingly animal tracks in the new snow show a fox chasing a rabbit along the exposed cliff edge. Awesome Daisetsuzan terrain stands before us, with years of big backcountry alpine lines just in the immediate terrain we can see, my love of this majestic central Hokkaido mountain range grows further….

    Kurodake – exposed, wind scoured ridges & big drops require sure footing.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – team canine, powering up the hill, overtaking all comers.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – summit ridge, big commiting lines all around.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We’ve overtaken the other groups, the Scando’s are slip sliding their way up without crampons, the two Swedish snowboarders having to follow in the kicksteps of the robust Finnish skier chick. Ironically, the Japanese have stopped for a smoke break in a grove of small trees below.

    I dig a quick pit to check some of the deeper layers, while the new snow isn’t enough to be anymore than sluff, with the more committing terrain, I want to see whats happening further down. Reassuringly, the snowpack shows the most homogenous characteristics & lack of potential slide layers we’ve seen so far. The Scando’s arrive, ask me about what I’ve found, reassured, they then proceed to show good mountain etiquette & that they’ve spent the season in competitive Niseko by bombing into the untracked bowl below us.

    Kurodake – quick inspection in one of the summit bowls.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake terrain.
    [​IMG]

    We climb further, a pair of Japanese snowboarders have gone past us while I was digging, traversing a very exposed icy section above, one slips & lets out a panicked shriek which also gives us a fright. He manages to catch himself on one snowshoe crampon & urgent Japanese curses & relieved laughter echo across the mountain.

    Kurodake – back on the steep, icy summit ridge.
    [​IMG]

    Dropping in, the open bowls are steep, fast & the new snow is glorious, the best we’ve had since Kamui. Occasional ice patches are a small inconvenience, the groves of small trees have captured some nice deep powder pockets & we weave some memorable turns from the peak in the crisp spring sunshine.

    Kurodake – K9 dropping backcountry bombs.
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    3.
    [​IMG]

    Looking back on some nice Rabid turns.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – Rabbess gets back into the powdery goodness.
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – local ripper unloading the freight-train.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake summit & morning tracks.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – ropeway top-station & a grand mountain outlook.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – endless backcountry lines to be had.
    [​IMG]

    Back at the ropeway station, we meet the Scando’s again & scope a route down the lower mountain. Riding down with Team Volvo, just below the ropeway we find some great trees with good steep terrain, however the snow condition is nightmarish, all five off us being reasonable riders, we struggle through the massive iceblocks littering the forest floor. Finally, we are out of the evergreens & the snow improves with the open canopy allowing more of the new snow to reach the ground.

    Kurodake – looking back down into village from ropeway top-station.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG].

    Unwisely, we then follow the Scando’s down a creekline & end up precisely were I meant for us not to end up, cliffed out directly above the village. I curse & vow not to follow Scandanavians again, unless they are female, blonde & wearing nothing but skimpy underwear! With some simple roping gear, it would be an easy abseil descent, however roping gear, simple or otherwise, is not currently in our possession.

    We backtrack & find an only slightly less precarious descent route, involving some dubious tree climbing manouvres, bottom clenching & holding of ones tongue in the correct position! Eventually reach a small bench, restrap in & ride out down terrain that would be very nice with more fresh snow.

    Scrambling over avy debris right by the ropeway base completes the descent & reinforces the more serious nature of this mountain.

    Sounkyo – crossing a small slide path to get back to ropeway base after an interesting descent through the cliff bands.
    [​IMG]

    After a short break, we’re back up again for some afternoon action. The mountain is now empty, apart from us & the few lift staff. Rabbess & I enjoy a significant moment together in the late afternoon sun, on the rooftop of the ropeway station, looking out over the grandeur of the Daisetsuzan mountains.

    We take the easy way down the lower mountain this time, descending happily to the village in the comfort of the ropeway car.

    Kurodake – Rabbess hooking into more untracked on a great day in the far north, only another 1000m to drop!
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    3.
    [​IMG]

    4.
    [​IMG]

    5.
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – the peak & steep terrain rise far above the village as dusk settles on just another epic day in Japan.
    [​IMG]

    Another pleasant onsen & delicious but only partly filling dinner, we drop back into the Sounkyo ice village.

    Down by the small river which runs through the valley, the 'ice village' construction is fairly large. Made by a different method to the Shikaribetsu Ko village, it seems to be 'built' from running river water over sturdy wooden frames, the ice gradually 'growing' on the cold, shady valley floor. Some of the structures are quite large & involved, the resulting ice looking a lot like large ‘flowstone’ cave formations. Lit up by the usual colored lights, it has a bit of tacky Japanesism about it, but is still worth a visit. Enjoy the tight & slippery passages of the ‘ice cave’ & attempt to bruise myself repeatedly throwing my bad person down the ‘ice slide’. The said slide has some large protrusions & petite Japanese girlies psyche themselves up at the top then slip down in a non-stop crescendo of screams, squeaks & yelps.

    As I set-up to take some photos from above the village, down below a crowd suddenly gathers near the ice stage & we realize a wedding is taking place. Not exactly the place for summer dresses, the bride, groom & celebrant are all wearing the underfeathers of several dozen Siberian snow geese & the ceremony is conducted quickly & efficiently.

    Some brief words, the rings are on, a quick kiss, clapping from the crowd, who I assume are mostly random strangers, then a short volley of fireworks. It’s odd & very Japanese in execution, but I do admire efficiency & lack of pomposity with which the wedding is conducted.

    Sounkyo – ice village & unexpected public wedding!
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sounkyo – and the fireworks
    [​IMG]

    Kurodake – Japanese backcountry dreams.
    [​IMG]

    After an epic day, we awake with a little bit of powder hangover. The dark skies have descended again but it’s nice & cold & another 10cm or so of good snow has fallen in the village. The ropeway cables disappear up into fast moving cloud & I can hear more than a gentle sighing of the wind in the clifftop conifers above the village.

    Compared to yesterdays calm bluebird glory, it’s going to be somewhat less hospitable up in the alpine & Kurodake’s steep cliffed terrain is no place to blunder about in poor viz. That aside, we decide to head up for one peak to base lap before moving on. Some calf deep powder is drifting about the village alleys & my excitement meter is starting to register again.

    The ropeway is empty as we shuffle in, but the female staff member dashes our plans by busting out the dreaded raised crossed arms when we request a one way ticket. She points to the small mountain conditions sign & sternly mutters “Crozed, down mountain crozed!†The lower section of the mountain is ‘not open due to avalanche danger’ & no amount of attempts at persuasion or brazen statements about dropping back down different peaks will dissuade the staunch little lady from her chosen task. Ever the frugal creature, I’m loathe to pay for a service we won’t use, another staunch ropeway man slides from the shadows with Japanese stealth to back up the woman in the office & the wind blasted alpine suddenly seems less inviting & we decide to hit the road again, leaving Kurodake as a place of balmy, bluebird big mountain riding in our minds….

    As we rumble westwards out of the Daisetsuzan mountains, we pass through heavy snow showers interspersed by brief moments of early spring sun. Pippu ski area is just off our route toward the Asahikawa-Sapporo Roadway & despite it’s small size, a place I’ve wanted to visit. Last trip I’d scoped the area as we approached Asahikawa from the north west & I checked the well placed Pippu webcam many times pre-trip to observe conditions around the city.

    Looking good as we close in on the base, some of the rural buildings are still holding their rooftop snow mushrooms & there’s a nice six inches of fresh powder on the ground. The carpark is packed with a least 10 local vehicles & the usual token gathering of self-defence force personel.

    Pippu – cheap, uncrowded, good snow & a whole lot of road trip fun.
    [​IMG]

    Tickets are uber-cheap, I grab a 3 hour pass but being discount ladies day, it’s even cheaper (1500Y) for Rabbess to purchase a full day pass. We encounter these mid-week discounts for wenches at a few places along the way. Laughs are also had at the large sign proudly advertising the local ‘Ski Rodge’ outside the modest base building. Dropping into little places like Pippu are always some of our snow roadtrip highlights. It’s gloriously relaxed & uncrowded & the snow is great again. We suit up by the guinea pig with light snow fluttering in, sun shining, 50m from the first lift with a bit of music to amp us up. We love Japan.

    Tough access.
    [​IMG]

    Pippu is a small field serviced by a selection of color coded single & double chairs, the hill being akin to the bottom pitch of nearby Kamui. Fun for a couple of hours, especially with fresh snow untracked snow to be had, we let the dogs out, racing each other straightline down the hill, feeling especially relaxed after the more committing riding of Kurodake.

    Icy cookies of doom still rear their ugly heads in a few places off-piste & I nearly take out a lift pylon spinning out of control after hitting one at high speed under one of the chairs. Top skiers right of the hill is especially fun with calf to knee deep fresh up top, then we stumble into the edge of a partly shaded backbowl & it’s face shots & overhead plumes aplenty as we tear into this fun little section. A few little banks & nicely constructed kicker, we runs laps, bombing out of the trees into the surprised defence forces each time. On the modestly paced lifts, we barrack on the army as they practice skiing with a full pack on their horrendously dated white sled runners, it’s quite amusing as they weave out of control snow ploughs & I’m cackling for carnage as they careen downwards.

    The excited, frothing canine is back & each run I’m bouncing the single chairs with impatience to get the top. In all my frothing, I’m pushing hard off the chair each time I dismount, which unknown to me, causes the lift to stop as my just vacated chair swings wildly into the centre drive. The well fed top lifty soon recognizes my excited western self, on my second lap up, he’s out on the platform widly gesticulating with a look of abject horror as I approach, frothing at the mouth. Not quite grasping his message, I give him the smile & nod with thumbs up for good measure, this relaxes him slightly until I push off harder then ever & the lift shudders to a stop once more. Two metres from the lift, it suddenly dawns on my stupid self what he’s was on about & I try to give him my most apologetic, I’m really, really sorry look. He stares samurai swords of fury & I head off feeling like the rudest mongrel ever. Rabbess is behind me & hangs her head trying to distance herself from the most impolite man to ride Pippu. Next lap up, I’m ready but the poor lifty still throws his five foot high, four foot wide frame out the small hut door in disbelief & shock that I’m back. I manage to disembark as gently as I can from a chair that only covers two thirds of my petite hindquarters & even hold the chair still before toeing smoothly off the platform. The lifty’s face lights up in a massive smile & I feel I’ve redeemed my bad self!

    Rabbess eventually drags my trembling, wild eyed person off the hill & we saddle up to head south after a great few hours of local field riding….

    And wild crowds!!
    [​IMG]

    From Pippu, we loop straight onto the Roadway heading south, completely bypassing Asahikawa’s congestion. As usual, the posted speed limit is a blistering 70km/h, we thrash the piggie along at a more brisk pace on the well constructed dual carriageway & are far from the fastest vehicle on the road. Central Hokkaido flashes by & before long we’re into the outskirts of Sapporo again.

    Taking the expressway has saved us a few hours but certainly not any yen, we knew the roadway would be a little bit more expensive but the first toll gate we hit see’s the zealous little man trying to saw off my arm as he demands 8000Y for only 150km or so of driving. After we zoom by Sapporo in nice atmospheric late afternoon light, we exit near Otaru with another only slightly less zealous man asking for a further 2000Y. I ignore Rabbess’s suggestions of speeding straight through the flimsy boom gate & pay up.

    Our next & final stop is Niseko, like many Antipodeans, a place we’ve been before on our first trip to the country. This time we want to hit up more of the backcountry & after having seen a little more of northern Japan, it will be interesting to compare our impressions this time around….

    Roadway approaching Sapporo late afternoon.
    [​IMG]
     
    #160 Rabid K9, May 27, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  11. smackies

    smackies A Local

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    Amazing. This thread must never end.
     
  12. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Ditto

    I look fwd to the Niseko installment with interest.
     
  13. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    God I love this stuff.....K9....you are the greatest!! [​IMG]
     
    #163 SideStreet, May 27, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  14. smitty484

    smitty484 Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    8000yen for the toll!!! WTF!!!! They rip off an arm and a leg.

    Epic installment again, I look forward to your thoughts on Niseko.
     
  15. Annago

    Annago Hard Yards

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    This is great stuff Rabid and Rabbess. Very much appreciated!
     
  16. Annago

    Annago Hard Yards

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    This must stay on the first page!
     
  17. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    how the hell did you do that Annago??? Every time I try to scroll down....it keeps going up again. [​IMG]
     
    #167 SideStreet, May 29, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  18. VSG

    VSG Crayon Master Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Rabid. I take it these are trip reports from mid winter/ Jan? Feb?

    blardy good. You mad dog. [​IMG]
     
    #168 VSG, May 29, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  19. main street

    main street Sun Peaks Resident

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    Best TR..... ever.

    Deserves top spot in the archives when it's done.
     
  20. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Mid winter rolling through into early spring, Jan - March this year, latest section from start of March, been busy chasing cats, biting strangers & cattle mustering, so taken a little while to get last reports completed.

    Thanks for all the encouragement out there....
     
    #170 Rabid K9, May 29, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  21. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    you have an interesting job!! [​IMG]
     
    #171 SideStreet, May 29, 2010
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  22. Apresski

    Apresski Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I've just read this report from the start, what an absolute star you are Rabid K9. all I can say is 'eat your heart out' Lonely Planet [​IMG]
     
    #172 Apresski, May 29, 2010
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  23. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Lonely Planet is a fixed medium (old publishing) and therefore will always struggle new media, especially Rab's reports [​IMG]
     
    #173 M_G, May 29, 2010
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  24. tangent

    tangent First Runs

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    Hey k9, if you don't mind me asking, how much did you spend roughly on this trip? thanks
     
  25. hpsauce

    hpsauce A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    It's been 22 days! Come on Rabid.......
     
  26. Cham

    Cham One of Us

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    Yeah get a move on dude....need something to dream about at work.
     
  27. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Alright, alight, next chapter will be along soon...ish. Wasn't sure how much remaining interest there was in the semi-comprehensible ramblings of a madman weaving through northern Japan now the southern hemisphere winter has dawned!!
     
    #177 Rabid K9, Jun 18, 2010
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  28. smitty484

    smitty484 Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Interest still remains with this snow deprived poster
     
  29. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Anytime is a good time Rab [​IMG]
     
    #179 M_G, Jun 18, 2010
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  30. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    I guess when you look at it that way [​IMG]
    and you are only going to Niseko now...
     
    #180 Donza, Jun 18, 2010
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  31. andrew7

    andrew7 Hard Yards

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    I'm keen to hear more [​IMG]
     
    #181 andrew7, Jun 18, 2010
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  32. hpsauce

    hpsauce A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yes, I think I speak for all when I say we are expecting this to be wrapped it up with the poignant observations and modesty that have made it a classic.....then straight to the pool room
     
  33. Cham

    Cham One of Us

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    Oh don't worry....i'm sure there is plenty of interest remaining. [​IMG] Better than reading some crappy write up in a ski mag that's for sure!! Good stuff.....we look forward to the remaining chapter.
     
    #183 Cham, Jun 18, 2010
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  34. Dive

    Dive Hard Yards

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    Huge interest, Rab-さん、this thread will have me looking for unexpected volcanic onsens around Perisher this winter.
     
    #184 Dive, Jun 18, 2010
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  35. stovemiester

    stovemiester First Runs

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    definately needs a monthly edition.....must read
     
  36. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    c'mon rab....we're waiting son!!!

    I need my fix man!!
     
  37. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sleep deprived nights I'll endure to appease the clammering hordes....

    Next chapter well underway.... backcountry, powder, slow food, fast women, adventure, lots of photos, some humour, should be out by Wednesday night!!

    In the meantime...

    [​IMG]
     
    #187 Rabid K9, Jun 20, 2010
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  38. Toto Warmlet

    Toto Warmlet One of Us

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    That's a very sweet line.
    Odd that dogs are up at 128 am, but these late editions allow us in NZ to see the latest first.
    Will these fast women be modest?
     
  39. andrew7

    andrew7 Hard Yards

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    Bump [​IMG]
     
    #189 andrew7, Jun 23, 2010
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  40. Born2ski

    Born2ski Part of the Furniture

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    [​IMG] It's Wednesday night. Waiting, waiting, waiting.................
     
    #190 Born2ski, Jun 23, 2010
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  41. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sorry readers, 'should' was the operative word. Some technical difficulties & home renovations requiring my attentions on days off, with a standard to keep, this next sections taking a while but I'm nearly there....
     
    #191 Rabid K9, Jun 24, 2010
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  42. malibu

    malibu Hard Yards

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    Dear Ms Rabid K9

    Please excuse Mr Rabid K9 from any domestic duties, home renovations and other unwelcome distractions until he has fulfilled his obligations to the skiing public.

    Regards
    His fan base on Ski.com


    Just print that, hand it to Rabess and get the post up please. [​IMG]
     
    #192 malibu, Jun 24, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  43. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    The TR is running longer than the trip itself.
     
  44. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    [​IMG]
     
    #194 SideStreet, Jun 24, 2010
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  45. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Just to confirm according to the start of the TR the trip was 7 weeks. This thread was started on Mar 25 so has been going just short of 3 months so almost twice as long. Hopefully it will be completed before the next trip?
     
    #195 Heinz, Jun 24, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  46. Cham

    Cham One of Us

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    Rapid....you can't dangle a carrot and not follow through my friend. It's Friday! Come on....pull the finger out.
     
  47. SideStreet

    SideStreet Part of the Furniture

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    Aw c'mon....leave him alone....we can wait. He needs some sleep so he can string words together.

    but you'd better hurry up K9 or I'll send over my pig dog to sort you out!!
     
  48. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    I believe the term is 'delayed gratification', as more than one female of the species has told me!

    'Procrastination' may be another....

    And so here is the long awaited, just slightly overdue Part XIV. Hang on, there's a landscaping project that need doing in the backyard, I'll be back shortly....
     
    #198 Rabid K9, Jun 26, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  49. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    PART XIV: NISEKO

    Amongst antipodean riders of all persuasions, Niseko stirs passionate debate on both sides of the snow fence. ‘To flat’, ‘boring terrain’, ‘overrun by Australian bogans’, ‘too Japanese’ say some….‘Best snow in the world’, ‘uncrowded’, ‘endless backcountry’, ‘cultural experience’ say others…. From my more than slightly crazed perspective, they are all both right & entirely wrong. As always, I like to draw my own conclusions about places, nothing drives me more mad than being limited by the issues of others…

    A parallel that has been drawn many a time before, is to compare Niseko with Bali.

    Bali became popular for good reason, in season, consistent world class surf, relatively cheap & easy to get to from Australia & even now, in reality, a surface hardly scratched. Generally we are a gregarious primate that likes to follow in the paths comfortably well beaten by more adventurous others!! And so Niseko provides that, the comfort of the familiar with more than a dash of the strange, reliable snow & great riding. That said, just as one can be riding perfect 6-8ft tropical reefbreaks alone, within an hour of stepping onto that happy little Indonesian island, with barely more than a few minutes bootpacking in Niseko, an expanse of glorious backcountry opens up that could easily consume many seasons of exploring….

    And this is what drew us back to the Niseko… Again using Indonesia as the example, the archipelago doesn’t have the heaviest waves in the world, but arguably the most perfect, a place where one goes to master tube riding skills & the place where you will probably ride the best barrels of your surfing life. Niseko, with it’s easy, relatively safe backcountry access, less threatening low altitude & climate, abundance of snow & beautiful terrain is a fine place to increase backcountry skills & clock up a lot of vertical metres in a day, stocking ones personal ‘toolbox’ for missions of the ‘gnarlier’ variety elsewhere….

    With all the micro-regions natural & cultural attributes combined, I’ll go out a limb & say that given the latitude & altitude, you’d be hard pressed to find a betterer, more fun backcountry training ground anywhere, not just in Japan!! I’ve seen a little bit of Japan mountains & snow scene now, despite it’s few detractions, if you’ve got limited time for a Japanese snow trip & just want to get in a lot of in or out of bounds riding with reliably bloody good snow, it is hard to go past this Big N area.

    Yotei San – exponentially more drooled over or posed in front of than ridden. 1.5km vert natural halfpipes anyone?
    [​IMG]

    Back to reality, it’s off the soapbox & back into the cockpit of the now well-travelled guinea pig. The excessively expensive roadway is exited near Otaru, Rabbess frothing on the price more than me for once & again we meet the coast, right as the rays of the setting spring sun bathe the windswept settlement in golden light. The moderate, cool norwester is still blowing, a smaller windswell is meandering in, one keen local is out for a late afternoon surf in less than good conditions & it’s all very pleasant by the seaside…. standing there in the onshore breeze & the agreeable, moist salty smell of the ocean, I think I’ve had colder days surfing in Tassie.

    Coastal settlement near Otaru.
    [​IMG]

    Looking west towards Shakotan.
    [​IMG]

    Another tetrapod protected harbor. I’m sure that transformers hide in these piles of tetrapods?
    [​IMG]

    Keen local about to paddle back out after a 1ft windswell bomb!
    [​IMG]

    Tear ourselves from the coast, longingly wishing we had more time to loop right around the broad, mountainous peninsula NW of Niseko & wind back inland towards Kutchan. Arrive in Kutchan with some moderate snowshowers & ironically, in one of the more well visited (by westerners) areas of Hokkaido, take the first genuine wrong road turn of the trip. The road is suspiciously deserted & as we wind back into the hills near Weisshorn, snow starts to absolutely bucket down. The snowbanks become higher & flakes fatter as we begin to think that the road looked nothing like this last time?

    The guinea pig earns it’s AWD keep as fresh snow rapidly claims the road, turn around & eventually make our way back into Hirafu village via the normal route, new snows quite deep in the carparks & it looks like an nighta faceshots are on the cards. Being Niseko & latter in the season, we’ve decided to freestyle it, with nothing booked & the ‘warmer’ temps of southern Hokkaido, we can sleep in the extravagantly ‘spacious’ X-trail if no-one will accommodate us. Even in the two years since we first went to Niseko, Hirafu has changed substantially. Last time we stayed at Hakuunso Lodge, which was still genuinely Japanese & within a short dash of the Hirafu gondora, we wonder now if the place has been overtaken with it’s prime location in the upper village.

    Sure enough, times have changed Hakuunso, they can’t fit us in our whole stay anyway & we roll onwards, towards the quieter & closer to backcountry side of An’nupuri, a small victory for the canine who plays poorly with others….

    On next choice is Moiwa Lodge which looks like an ideal base on the website, as we plough through the ‘carpark’ the guinea pig is getting faceshots. Some lights are on but no response comes to our vigorous door pounding. Snowflakes like sheets of paper are being thrown out of the sky & I’m fully expecting to dig our way out of the carpark, the piggies little Japanese petrol heart works hard, but to it’s credit, ploughs on. Impressed, I think we’ll take an even more back route, Rabbess wisely talks me out of it as I size up the three metre drifts blocking a road that hasn’t seen sky since December. An’nupuri Backpackers looks cosy & is up for sale but it’s full & the sex segregated sleeping arrangements have all the appeal of a lingerie show at a lawn bowls tournament!

    Lodge An’nupuri – standard morning view from the front steps. Clearing viz, a few inches of fresh down here, the upper bowls will be filled & primed nicely! Sit bad dog, SIT!
    [​IMG]

    Fourth stop lucky, we find a welcoming home for the next few days at Lodge An’nupuri. Dusting off my powder shroud in the entry room, a handsome Never Summer Summit 168 is spyed leaning proudly against the wall, telling me instantly that this is the place for us. Each time I enter or exit the lodge over coming days, the shiny powder stick gives me a quick lower brain bloodrush, some passionate fondling ensues & after tracking down the unloving owner who doesn’t even know where he’s left the board, I attempt to buy the said mountain slaying machine, unfortunately to no avail. Still to this day I’ve not recovered from my unsated fling & may yet add a split version to my Never Summer board harem!!

    Snowboards aside, the lodge is spacious but cosy, clean, & recently renovated, we score a great room with a loft. Designed as a family room, the loft has one of those mystery hatches which access the roof void, this little door would be sure to provide kiddies sleeping upstairs with hours of terror & even I look at it with suspicion when my drying clothes start moving themselves around. Goblins I'm sure!

    The Lodge managers, Ray (a laidback Californian) & his saucy Japanese wifey, Chihiro, are a friendly couple & only having eight rooms, the atmosphere is great, with a happy mix of non-pretentious Aussies & Poms escaping Cirque de Hirafu. I struggle with remembering Chihiro’s name, opting to call her Chisenupuri after the nearby peak, fitting, considering we meet up with her for an afternoon ripping through the trees there later in our stay.

    Higashione – first morning, Rabbess beats the hordes & scores fresh lines on the opposite side of the mountain.
    [​IMG]

    The Peak – first morning, Rabbess’s second lap up, fresh tracks aplenty, even in the obvious locations.
    [​IMG]

    Although the heavy snow had abruptly stopped during the night, we still had a foot of fresh on the ground in the village & the icy hardpack from last week was being relegated to deeper layers. Up & onto first gondora, plan was to clock a lot of lift accessed vertical across the mountain & backbowls today, with our disparate energy & excitement levels, loose arrangements were made to meet at Hanazono somewhere around that middle time of day when less keen stop for food. Sky was clearing as lifts started spinning & upper gates would be opening soon….

    Warm up lap down through the trees & bowls along the Mizuno no Sawa boundary, new snow was nice but still hitting some partly submerged ice demons far to big to be called death cookies on steeper sections. Many of the larger trees of the lower & mid mountain had shed a seasons worth of snow cushions in the warmth of the previous week, now set like boulders, they made some nasty obstacles. Good to be back, but in truth the inbounds mountain was feeling a lot flatter than I remember.

    Head our alternate ways at the top of the Village gondora, top gates are about to be flung open, I reason that the lines too long for the single chair & head up and out gate 2. No bootpack & a bit wind scoured on the ridge, scramble up to the South Peak, plenty of crew cutting across Osawa bowl against advice, run down to saddle & up to the main peak overtaking the slow moving line. It’s a nice quick jaunt & first tracks down the well pitched Kozanosawa bowl is my reward.

    Over her side, Rabbess does me proud, getting near the front of the single chair line, powering past the unfit on the way up & being one of the first to drop Higashione.

    Both runs are bloody good, frothing good in fact. Rabbess is vaccinated & she’s still foaming at the mouth when we finally catch up hours later. Kozanosawa is steep & superfast, a few touches of the harder layer underneath on deep turns, I mach-line ahead of a good amount of sluff, the ‘surfing’ of the endless natural halfpipe at the bottom, icing on a very tasty cake. My face is cramped in a stoked grin as I rocket back in the gondora to do it all again. Short hike, 950m vert of fall-line knee deep powder, no unstrapping or skating, just a fun weasel out through the trees, these are some seriously easy, bang for yen laps!

    An’nupuri Backbowls – Japanese skiers getting the goods.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As I gobble down something sweet, warm & from a vendor on the way back up, I reflect on some of the out of bounds behaviours I’m seeing here in Niseko. After a reasonable amount of backcountry time on this trip, making fairly sensible decisions & seeing others do the same, the busy upper gate accessed terrain of An’nupuri is like an Irish guide (I’ll apologize right now to any of that heritage) to surviving backcountry riding.

    Fair enough, Rabbess & I have just dropped two of the bigger runs off the main peak alone, but all around people are cutting in on top of each other, traversing loaded faces, stopping or side slipping in the worst areas, the vast majority I encountered had none of the basic essentials, not even knowing what a transceiver was, let alone how to use one. Golden rules were not only being broken, they were being melted down & sold for scrap!

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the gate system at Niseko is great in theory & works well with more experienced riders, it’s just overloaded by the weight of inexperienced & complacent numbers who blindly go out through them….

    As if to illustrate my thoughts, I’m stopped on the South Peak again, looking down at my first line & four small slides that have subsequently been triggered by riders behind me. Wondering if someones buried down there, who should appear on the peak beside me but a bloody Irishman with a snowboard!! “Ohr yaeh, thart wus mei, eiye stairted uh avulurnche, kurried mei douwn thei faeirkun moountein†“We you scared?†“Nouweâ€.

    I’m staring in disbelief at the unequipped O’Flarretty departing for another go & altering my plans to ride where some idiot is not going to cut in above, when lo & behold, a Frenchman (also apologize to these nuclear testing pirates as well) shuffles up, plainly pooping his pants. Under the mistaken belief that all Frogs could ride, rockclimb, cook & have no fear, this fella puts that theory to bed, at least the first & last part anyway. “Et iz verry steehp yehz?†“Owh kan ehi ghet dowhn?†By the time I coax the frightened Frenchie off the peak, it’s time to meet Rabbess & I enjoy the long top to bottom run through powder pockets, trees & groomers down to the now much different Hanazono base. Surprisingly down in the resort, apart from the flat base run-out, it’s very uncrowded & theress even still patches of cord left on-piste.

    An’nupuri – small part of the lower mountain re-groomed for nighta.
    [​IMG]

    Rabbess is also stoked from a couple of classic ‘off the peak runs’ but after we gobble a generic bowl of un-nutritional filth in one of the well located eating houses & then dropping an essential binding screw through the mesh entry grate, I’m ready to commit random acts of violence, mostly against myself. To looks of disbelief, I disassemble the floor structure & descend into a festering pit of meltwater, rubbish, cigarette butts & discarded chewing gum to find my missing screw. After half an hour of searching, courtesy of the tuning bench above, I’ve found a bigger variety of screws than a woodwork store, but not my own. Now blind by frustration, it takes the calm, amused eye of Rabbess spot my beloved piece of stainless steel hiding in a cloak of mouldy hair!!

    We visit a few of our favourite bits of the inbounds mountain during the afternoon, some Japanese boarders are going massive in the ‘Stomping Ground’ park, the Hanazono Quad #1 providing a great aerial perspective of their antics. Both of us still thinking the resort area does seem so much flatter this time. Off-piste is fairly tracked & in the later afternoon, the whole mountain suddenly turns into a large pile of chopped cement. Backside traversing the hard bumps from peak all the way to An’nupuri base, takes years of my front knee cartiliage, dropping through gate 7 offers no relief, just bigger bumps. A drastic change in snow surface conditions in such a short time.

    Niseko Backcountry – one of the many winter closed roads.
    [​IMG]

    Niseko Backcountry – incredible snowpack.
    [​IMG]

    With nighta looking like being less fun than nude wrestling in spinifex, we take advantage of the car & longer spring twilight hours & scope out some access for coming days around the backside of the mountain. Niseko area needs no hyping for snow depth, but with the slightly higher altitude & aspect the back areas, compared to Hirafu, the snowbase along the roads in these areas is astonishing. Winter here is really not at all agreeable to keeping roads open, many are not, a road engineering team is building more ‘slide mitigation barriers’ along steeper sections of the Goshiki Road. With trees here still retaining a lot of their winter snowloading & the temperature being more than 4C cooler than the front side, plans brew for the coming couple of days of milder weather….

    And so the next couple of days pan out…. Temperatures each night are borderline, a bit of snow falls during night hours but then melts by eight or nine each morning as the temps climb to 4 or 5C on the frontside. Seems like the Japanese snow machine currently has some faulty wiring, spluttering & surging, being the last few days of our trip it’s frustrating.

    Wander over to Chisenupuri with it’s fast little double chair & easily accessible backcountry. Sulphur is strong in the air, clouds of steam rise out of bubbling pools & streams around the base & it’s almost deserted apart from one or two other riders & the token group of self defence forces, we buy a ten time pass (cheap but can’t remember exact price). Warm up with a few laps through the trees within the main small bowl. Short but fun terrain, lots of lumps & bumps but the snow is extremely slow & grabby on lower angles, probably the heaviest snow I’ve ridden in Japan.

    Chisenupuri – self defence forces readying for an afternoon of skinny skiing drills.
    [​IMG]

    Chisenupuri – still on the military theme, Rabid does his best heroic ‘Top Dog’ impersonation, striding into battle with a damp backcountry.
    [​IMG]

    Grab our backcountry gear & head out towards the peak from the top of the chair. Visibility quite poor above about 850m, various shapes off almost snow / almost rain continue to fall. Drop the side of the main face, sticking close to trees for a reference point, setting up to carve a nice big mystery lump almost plunge into a large sulphurous thermal vent. A bit of fun in the trees, traversing a low angle ridge back towards base we come across some massive steaming hot pools.

    Chisenupuri Backcountry – dropping in with less than perfect conditions.
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    Big snowbanks hang over the bubbling pools & we’re worried we’ll be overcome by sulphur gas, fall in & be broiled if we get too close! Our concern proves unfounded when the ride out is right across a snowbridge over the massive cauldron of a hot spring next to the small, old hotel. The scene is quite surreal with the clouds of steam bellowing over the snowy landscape & we clown about in the steam.

    Chisenupuri Backcountry – one of a number of large natural hot springs.
    [​IMG]

    Chisenupuri – the huge bubbling, boiling cauldron near base ‘ village’.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Chisenupuri – test driving the ‘Avalung’ through some sulphurous stream clouds.
    [​IMG]

    Stopping for a snack in the carpark, we come across Ray & Chihiro also having some lunch in their van. Ray is resting his injured knee with a backseat sleep, so we invite Chihiro to come out for a few laps through a great area of sidecountry trees we’ve just discovered. She is the quintessential very ‘cute’ Japanese sonoboardo girlie, reasonably competent & loving the area of trees we’ve found. Certainly not a bad afternoon, running laps through well pitched open trees full of bumps, jumps & banks, having a great laugh with two saucy girlies, finishing each time with a ride through the steam & easy stroll back to the lift. Rabid loves Japan….

    Chisenupuri – that Japanese contrast again!
    [​IMG]

    Chisenupuri – more of the wild snowpack.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As mentioned, the snowpack about these parts is astounding & there’s partly submerged obstacles everywhere for the keen to huck off. Feeling happy with the world, I’m amped to drop off some well cushioned rooftops, scoping the first, we are sent packing by a very irate hotel owner who explodes out of his snowy hole like an Akita guard dog.

    Find a more discreet location & plenty of fun is had, some great photo opportunities exist for riders braver & more competent than myself. Throw off a few things, Rabbess photographing attempts to inflict injury on my person.

    Chisenupuri – Rabid offering up some roof clearing assistance to the clearly besieged locals!
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    3.
    [​IMG]

    Chisenupuri – roof-drop aided by the confidence of a very deep snowpack.
    [​IMG]

    Already an average weather day has been memorable, to add more icing, we cruise up to nearby Goshiki Onsen for some hot water therapy. Classic old wooden buildings, eerily quite but still with a human presence. Plans that involve steaming hot water, naked women & cameras are thwarted by some local ladies, unfortunately no more Kinta Naeba style action, just a stray mongrel wetting his fleas in what was a most enjoyable onsen.

    Goshiki Onsen – a dog that loves bathing!
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    Goshiki Onsen – what better place to scope some more backcountry lines, you could literally ride into the onsen here.
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    Sitting in the outside bath, huge snowdrifts above, looking at lines in the surrounding bowls, the smell of warm timber & beautiful old woodwork, strongly sulphur rich waters, this was in my top few onsen list from this trip.

    For me, one of the attractions of Niseko is the vibrant local Japanese community. After visiting so many Japanese ski area’s that are ghostly shells of an overextended economic era, Niseko is refreshing to see so many Japanese thriving & living in beautiful place based around the natural flow of the seasons. To finish a classic day we wander into to Café Gentem, enjoying delicious food in the warm, cosy yurt. The cultural contrast of the yurt & Japan is emphasized by the mix of Asian & Corky customers, an Australian couple with at least two generations age difference represent our country well by having a drunken domestic that involves loud voices, swearing, tears, broken glass & cringing.

    Gentem Café – yurt interior, note: Australian white trash at extreme left of frame about to commence loud, drunken domestic.
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    Another day of the on mainly off weather, visibility not good enough for any decent backcountry missions, we grab a mountain ticket & decide to hit some of the resort features. Our ‘warm up run’ brings wet shells, horrible choppy conditions through gate 7 & a rapid retreat back to the lodge.

    An’nupuri – forest thermometer outside room says “it’s far to warm today, stay in bedâ€!
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    Hiraflu – Gentemstick ‘178 Superfish’ post testride, binding ‘O-ten Cable Tie Very Limited Edition’ by Rabid.
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    Running out of days to demo a legendary Gentemstick, a ‘task’ on my list, after a brief break & thoughts of the impending oppressive summer heat of returning to WA, we head back over to the Gentem showroom. Foot size & surfer style sees Taro fit me out with a 178 Superfish, far removed from anything I’ve ever contemplated riding on snow before. With a radical swallow tail & gigantic nose like a shovel nosed shark it’s probably not the best day to test such a dedicated powder machine. Looking extremely retro as I stroll into the Hirafu gondora, to tell the truth, I feel like a beginner again, shittenhouszing myself as I start down the long rolling ‘Yotei Sunset’ run.

    Within one turn, I realise I can actually ride the beast & get my confidence back. A totally different ride to my Never Summer tank, on hardpack, the first thing I notice is the flex & chatter of the thin wood deck, several times I’m sure I‘d broken it after heaving into vigorous turns. The big nose runs away on me several times on the chopped, steeper pistes, skipping with little or no contact on the surface I come within millimetres of totally canonballing a blissfully unaware Japanese lad tottering along on those silly ski skate contraptions. Sure I would have hospitialized the lad, it’s been a long time since I’ve skittled anyone with my out of control hurtling & decide the general public will be safer without me on-piste. Head into the Miharashi trees, find some softer pockets but also that the big swallow tail doesn’t go so well in reverse!

    After a few runs, start to understand the board a bit more, a beautifully crafted stick, with the massive nose, setback stance & flex, it really would be insane floating in bottomless powder. Interestingly with the very slight rocker, the board tended to speed up across the flats when in a relaxed off edge stance & carried nicely over the Niseko flat sections. For me though, the best thing was the speed the board carried through big banked turns. Doing some laps on the slow bottom double chair under the Hirafu gondora, I practiced big roundhouse turns on the banks & pipe walls, driving flat out surfer turns of the top, wounded seagull swoops, soul arches & all, I really felt like I was riding a surfboard & would love to take this board to some large scale terrain features. Once I started attacking the banks, a few others joined in on standard cambered twins but really couldn’t match the speed & drive of the Superfish which actually kept accelerating through the whole turn.

    Packing up in the carpark, the temperature was dropping quickly, Yotei’s glowing summit was peering out from the cloud & tomorrow, our last riding day was looking good.

    Yotei San – tempting the K9 for a last day mission.
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    Hiraflu – slightly icy nighta at the gondora base.
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    Hiraflu – halfpipe & the always carvable banks leading into the gondora.
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    Hiraflu – nighta on the lower mountain.
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    Hiraflu – nighta.
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    With temperatures once again below zero, quality dry snow quietly fell during the night. Awaking to 15-20cm of fresh powder, light cloud that would soon clear & moderate winds on the peak, an epic last day was on. Quick plans were made for a nice backcountry circuit, getting to our first peak on the An’nupuri lifts. A fast top to bottom straightline in the resort confirmed the snow was good, very good with even the groomed pistes pluming white gold. Hoots & bellows of joy filter through the white haze as happy riders shoot themselves in the face all over the place.

    An’nupuri – gate 2, you know it’s going to be a good day!
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    First out the trusty gate 2, we bolt up the South Peak in good time. A little blustery up top with snow being whipped across the ridge, we hurry down the saddle & across to the north peak. Visibility still limited up high, Rabbess doubting my assurances that it would soon clear. Picking my way through the ice band & sussing the snowpack at the top of Kita Shamen, I fall on simple terrain & belt my head on the ice. Even through the helmet, it shakes me, had I not had one on, I think our backcountry day would have been pear shaped early on!

    An’nupuri South Peak– Rabbess sharing my enthusiasm for horizontal snow!
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    An’nupuri – snowboarding hordes walking to the peak like they’ve got lead boots!
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    Within a short distance, the wind scoured ice gives way to outstanding Hokkaido goodness, I resettle my brain & we open up down the glorious steady pitch of Kita Shamen. Rabbess is throwing plumes of powder in all directions & the Canon lenses are loving the snow hazed mountain light!

    An’nupuri Backcountry – West Australians can’t ski! Nobody told us! Rabbess unloads on our last day of riding.
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    Puffing, grinning & absolutely covered in light, dry powder, we regroup by a grove of trees, just us & the joy of the mountains, within a short distance we’ve left the resort world behind. Another snow shower closes in & amongst the scattered trees of these back faces the fresh snow is light, deep & worthy of much frothing. Running out into the open valley bottom, I’m looking for signs of the mountain ring road thats buried somewhere about here, eventually the top two metres of one of those characteristic Japanese road poles shows just how deep the snowpack is here.

    An’nupuri Backcountry – K9 in on the powder frenzy.
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    Niseko Backcountry – powder, emerging sun, empty mountains, huge grins all-round.
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    Iwaonupuri – even the up was good.
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    Iwaonupuri – Rabbess down again.
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    And having a thoroughly awful time!
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    The day continues in similarly excellent fashion as we move onto the great little peak of Iwaonupuri, the snowpack is stable & the fresh a perfect depth for shoeing, on such an enjoyable day, gravity seems to exert less force on the way up.

    Iwaonupuri – truly pleasant backcountry access.
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    Iwaonupuri – mountainscapes.
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    An’nupuri Backcountry – earlier work on lower Kita Shamen face.
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    An’nupuri Backcountry – another happy team running laps on Nishi Shamen.
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    Iwaonupuri – Rabid getting it up again.
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    Iwaonupuri – and acting out a ‘White Dream’!
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    I’ve just dropped a nice bowl line, we’ve got the delicious array of snacks out by another tree grove & we’re mucking in the snow pretending to be an assortment of Japanese animals. A small group is running laps across the way on the backside of An’nupuri but apart from that, this side of the mountains are empty of people & full of fun lines, then over the rise skins a lone corky. I guess immediately it’s Go Native out for an afternoon cruise, too many coincidences for it not to be & I think he also realises that I’m the human incarnation of another ski.com poster.

    Small talk is made but neither party gives much away as we switchback our way up to the top ridge again, on such a good day in the mountains, talk is superfluous anyway. Identities are revealed as we shoot some photos & gaze at all the untracked lines in the surrounding backcountry. I’m very envious of Go Native having all this in his backyard & we all drop back down the wide open face towards Goshiki Onsen. A large mid-face rock provides a great photographic vantage point. The afternoon sun in now fully out, the snow has suddenly began snowballing & become a lot stickier on south faces but the run down into Goshiki is still far too much fun.

    Iwaonupuri – looking back down the line above.
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    Niseko Backcountry – nothing to see here?
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    Iwaonupuri – Rabbess at it again.
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    Opening the throttle.
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    Iwaonupuri – Go Native clamps down the heel & gets amongst it in his adopted backyard.
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    Iwaonupuri – Go Native drops into Goshiki Onsen.
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    Goshiki Onsen – the bathing bit of heaven!.
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    Depart ways with Go Native at Goshiki, still a couple of hours of daylight left, I’m tempted to hike another peak, instead we enjoy a vendor dispensed beer, which I spill all over myself in excitement & lounging in the snow with the warm spring sun beaming down.

    Niseko Backcountry – Rabbess looks longingly back to the Goshiki Bowl & Iwaonupuri.
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    Iwaonupuri.
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    An’nupuri – Rabbess drops back in towards Annupuri base after an classic final day.
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    More easy shoeing, the hardest bit is climbing up over the road embankment, back towards An’nupuri, with the shadows of the mountain lengthening, we drop back into the lower section of Kozanosawa & the easy run back to the base. The legs are still fresh & we’re extremely reluctant to stop riding, knowing that after nearly seven weeks of non-stop snow action, tomorrow it’s all over. Too late to make another lap out the top gates, the groomers are out for nighta, so we jump on the quad & run a few laps, racing each other on the mostly empty, slightly icy pistes. After a classic backcountry powder day, it’s a change of pace, but I know that within 6.4 seconds of landing back in the March swelter of WA, I’d gladly be racing down icy groomers with a setting orange sun.

    Stoked & happy, but with more than a twinge of post trip come down setting in, we make the short stroll back to the Lodge. I’m trying to absorb everything, the sound, smells, feel & sight of the snowy environment, committing it to mutli-dimensional memory for future reference when I’m far from snow covered mountains.

    Coming back to Niseko was das' bomb, even with a couple of average snow days. Having a vehicle gave us more flexibility, even in a well facilitated location like Niseko & this trip we've seen more of the surrounding area. Still, I know more snow is on the way & could easily spend weeks in the backcountry after a day like that we just had.

    All good stories eventually end, but I’m not a fan of sudden endings, questions left unanswered & the like, so the next & definitely final instalment will be the wrap up….

    An’nupuri Peak.
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    #199 Rabid K9, Jun 26, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  50. smitty484

    smitty484 Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    As always top stuff [​IMG]
     
    #200 smitty484, Jun 26, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013