Hokkaido Wilds has a well-earned reputation for its commitment to providing outdoor adventurers with top-quality information and advice. At Explore-Share, we have often collaborated providing guide recommendations, and we were very happy when Emil reached us via the Hokkaido Wilds platform to book a ski touring adventure on Mount Yotei in Japan with JMGA guide and Director of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA), Jun Ishiguro, a Hokkaido expert with all the necessary knowledge regarding avalanche safety and the route to the crater top.
Mount Yotei is a 1,898 m (6,227 ft) active stratovolcano located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park in the Niseko region of Hokkaido. Skiing on Yotei is a very unique experience for different reasons. For starters, skiing in a crater is not an everyday occurrence. Secondly, even on days when the temperature in nearby Niseko is hot, the conditions on Yotei are usually great. Finally, although the way up Yotei can be tough and icy at parts, this makes reaching the top and skiing in the crater even more rewarding, however, there are also amazing ski lines below 1,400 m for those that don’t aspire to the summit.
Emil has been living in Japan for the past eight years and has been enjoying the Japanese powder for the last five. In the last three years, he began backcountry skiing with mountain guides. Since then, he has explored the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido extensively, however, Mount Yotei was still on his bucket list. The gorgeous conical volcano has no marked winter routes or avalanche control, so backcountry skiers on a Yotei powder quest should either have an excellent command of beacon, probe and shovel, and knowledge of snow conditions and routes or, go with someone who does, which is exactly what Emil and two of his friends did.
Guide Jun, Emil, Yuki, and Aidan approached the Yotei summit from the south side of the mountain and skied back down from the south as well. Starting early was key because the hike to the top took around six hours – longer than the initially planned four to five hours. Jun, who has explored the mountain many times, proved to be a kind and helpful guide, very knowledgeable about avalanches and of the route.
Emil’s recommendations for anyone who would like to try a Yotei ski touring adventure include starting as early as possible, bringing enough water for the tough hike up, and to take crampons for the icy stretch near the crater summit. Although not too technical, tackling Yotei requires prior backcountry experience and is not a beginner feat.
Next up on Emil’s ski plans are exploring one of Mount Yotei’s other routes, checking out the pow on Rishiri, and a ryokan-to-ryokan haute route from Niseko to the Sea of Japan. Wouldn’t we all like to be in his skis?
More pictures of Emil’s ski touring experience on Mt Yotei