We’ll begin and end this expedition visiting some lesser known sidecountry areas of Hokkaido. Expect to bookend the Rishiri mission with secret tours around Furano (and group dependent) a crack at Tokachidake. Our team’s main focus will be the remote and elusive Rishiri volcano. Working with my local partners at Stealth Backcountry allows us to hit the goods from the moment we land!
Floating the Volcano
Rishiri Island is a backcountry skiing haven with a huge variety of ski and snowboard terrain for those willing to earn their turns. Mount Rishiri is a dormant cone-shaped volcano at the center of the remote Rishiri Island. In the native Ainu language, “Rishiri” means “island with a high peak”, which pretty much sums it up! Others call Rishiri the “floating island”, possibly because you’ll gain a lot of pleasure from floating in the deep powder!
Skiing Rishiri Island is on the bucket list for many Japan backcountry skiing aficionados. Powder on Hokkaido is world renowned because of the abundant, light, fluffy, amazing cold smoke that results from the weather systems that blow down from Siberia. Compared to most Hokkaido ski areas, Rishiri Island is much further north (and closer) to Siberia so the powder there is even better than amazing!
And if devouring all that Japanese powder isn’t enough for you, there’s also an abundance of local seafood to satisfy your appetite. A Rishiri ski trip provides a delightfully unadulterated Japanese experience.
Where is Rishiri Island?
Rishiri Island (Rishiritō) is a small island in the Sea of Japan, about 20 kilometers off the northwest coast of Hokkaido. The Oshidomari Port on Rishiri Island can be accessed via ferry from Otaru or Wakkanai (Hokkaido’s northernmost town). Wakkanai is a 5.5 hour train trip from Sapporo.
Mount Rishiri has an elevation of 1,721 metres. Depending on weather conditions, the backcountry terrain we’ll access will include a combination of ATL alpine zones and NTL/BTL tree skiing. Mt Rishiri has many ridges, gullies, and bowls- some of which are super steep, and there are several peaks to tackle. BUT, there is also a reasonable amount of mellow terrain below treeline for us to explore.
We will utilize a snowmobile to cover the long and flat distances at the base of the mountain before committing to human-power. No worries if you’re not a seasoned sled-neck!
Rishiri Ski Season
In late winter and early spring there’s a greater chance for clear days, although the main, year-round weather inhibitor to summiting Mt Rishiri is the wind. Rishiri is renowned for its oft-gusty conditions! Our expedition will run from 2/22/20 to 3/1/20.
Military units, tactical law enforcement teams, special ops, SAR squads and helo outfits, I find myself doing more and more alpine and avalanche trainings for these groups. Often, forays into the mountains are but one slice of a much larger mission menu. Unlike a professional backcountry guide who is “out in the business” every day, these professional operators must be well versed in a variety of environments and response strategies. Often, significant time may pass between a
"If nothing good is happening anywhere and at anytime in the San Juans, how do you get out an enjoy the backcountry in winter?" -every student, every course... After scaring another group of avalanche students straight this weekend, with warnings and tales of the persistent slab horror show we often manage in the San Juans, I wanted to provide a brief reflection on Strategic Mindset. This is a tool that we use daily as professionals but also one that can be easily adopted b
And (s)he finally obeyed the calendar and honored us with a righteous dump. CAIC has put out the first Avalanche Watch for the season today. (sucks I gotta roll some mountain passes) This weekend was the first Venture Snowboards Splitboard Specific Level One of 2018. A good time was had by all but there was some hard driving and difficult weather to contend with. Micracously, one of my co-instructors spun off the road on the way up to Red Mountain Pass and totaled her truck
Coal Bank is bare with patchy bullshit. Molas is still pretty thin. (~50cm NTL avg.) RMP is doing okay (~90cm NTL avg.) with more coming Sat-Mon! In addition to a lot of wet slide action due to this week's high temps, there is still slab avalanche activity happening. They might be tough to pop but if you get a slab rocking and rolling, expect big consequences! Below, are two obs from the past 48 hrs. Have fun and safe travels this weekend! Above- remote triggered from above
Last week, I had to teach height of snow measurements using a patio table....albeit the class was in downtown Durango, but it is February! Just when I was starting to get nervous about another week of melt, we got crushed on RMP yesterday. More in store for this weekend-Remember, this is a large load on a shitty pack; Wide margins and conservative mindset people. Here are the final storm totals from the past two days:
24 hr snow/h2o equiv 2-day Storm
I've been using these two videos more and more lately. I love the graphics and ease through which these complex concepts are unpacked. Check em' out- Avalanche Danger Rating Explained Avalanche Problems Explained