OGAWA's Page of Mountain and Fishing in Japan
Back country skiing from Mt. Gassan to Hiziori spa in Yamagata prefecture (Apr/29 - May/3, 2010)
The slope from Mt. Gassan for Tukimigahara is fantastic.
Avalanche at drop off for the Tatutani river

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- Skedule

  [4/29] Kyoto = (car)=> Gassan ski area (stay)
 Gassan ski area 04:30 -> 06:00 The top of the Mt. Gassan -> 10:00 Tatutanigawa river -> 11:45 Nenbutugahara plain -> 12:45 Escape hut -> Head back to the hut since I found I took a wrong route -> 15:00 The escape hut (stay)

  [5/1] The escape hut 04:30 -> 08:00 Sign board for Akasakagawa river -> 09:00 estray around Akasakagawa river/Nekomatasawa river/Mt. Akasunayama -> around 18:00 stay on the ridge between Mt. Akasunayama and Mt. Ohmoriyama in a shelter

  [5/2] shelter 04:00 -> Mt. Ohmoriyama -> I found a bold criff that I can't go. -> Mt. Ohmoriyama -> 14:00 Road for Hiziori -> Hiziori spa =(bus)=> Murakami c. (stayed at a hootel)

  [5/3] Nurakami c. =(buses)=> Ubasawa, Gassan ski area(I took my car) =(car)=> Kyoto(go home)


  Cloudy,4/30 night:Snow Storm,5/1 night:fine

  Telemark ski(ski:Black Diamond Voodoo, Boots:Black Diamond Seeker


 This ski tour route is very long. It has 25 km long. And usually people go this route in one day.
  By using the stored position energy, we can get to Mt.Gassan easier than in summer to Hiziori spa., This route is available only by skiing.

   During a Golden Week in Japan, I tried this route alone as one day tour. But unfortunatelly it took 3 days to go through for Hiziori spa.

[The first day]

  I drived to all the way to the Gassan ski area in the formar day. I left my car in a parking lot of the lodge I stayed , and I started early in the morning for Mt. Gassan with ski. It will be too late to get Hiziori spa in one day if we wait starting of the lift.

   I reached the top of Mt. Gassan. I could see down a lot of people clibming for here. It seemed that I climbed the Mt. Gassan first today. Soon after only I got there, fog was rising from the vallay people were climbing. I was scared stiff since white out is very dangerous in a wide plain like this. In a hurry, I started skiing for Tatutanigawa.

   The skiing in Mt. Gassan was most wonderfull in my back country skiing, I'm thinkin today.
  The slope condition was film crust. The crust became small pieces of ice by my skies. And the falling velocity of the small ice was almost equal to the sliding velocity of me. The falling ice delivered sound like rings made of crystal and brilliant light. Resultingly, the snow surface around me was a huge brilliant flying carpet having over a hundred rings in a cloud.
  It was very religious experience in the natural world. I was excited alone in the wide slope in Mt. Gassan.

  The happy slide was over at the valley of Tatutanigawa river. We must go down steep slope toward Tatutanigawa river.
  The slope had a lot of cruck on snow. I prayed a avalanche would not arise. I took side slide skiing to the bottom of the valley covered with snow. I found a bridge. It must be a bridge marked on the route map. So I saw I was on the route now.
  I could understand easily that if an avalanche catches me at such a no man's land, no man could help me. So let's go to a safe point as soon as possible. I started climbing the opposed slope.

  I would get to Nenbutugahara plain.
  But I must have taken wrong direction in a forest, I got to a higher ridge compared to Nenbutugahara plain. I suposed I was around Mt. Senbonmatuyama. I removed seel from my skies and I skied to the Nenbutugahara plain. On the way, I found 3 men sitting on the slope. They were looking at me. I would show them my skiing! But to reach around them I recognied they were 3 trees...

  In Nenbutugahara plain the route will turn to the right and soon a hut for escape will be seen. But the hut didn't appeared. So , to make sure, I measured my current position by a map and conpass.
  Totally different!
  I was in Nigorisawa river located in south.
  According to an iron rule "When you get lost, you should return the way you come untill the undoubted place.", I walked to Mt. Senbonmatuyama. From the point, I understood that the Nenbutugahara plain has more big scale than I thought. So I must turn the right on bigger curveture to go to the hut.
  Mr. So-and-so ( He was lifted by a HEL day after.) meight get lost the route by misleading following my trail.

  I found the hut easily. And fortunately I could open thr door easily because snow was removed. There wasn't a people.
  It was still one o'clock then. I thought I could get to Hiziori spa without staying.

  I learned by the map that I should climb a slope behind the hut to go to Mt. Kodake (1225m), my next target. The shape of the land is very complex. I arrived a peak that I think Mt. Kodake.
Though to measure the current position, it was not Mt. Kodake, but 1138m- peak.

  I retrned to the hut following the iron rule. I must do an restart from here.
  I carefully climbed again reading a map. It was already 3 o'clock when I reach at a clear ridge for Mt. Kodake.
If I proceed, the distance from a safe point the hut will be far and far. So I thought I should stay at the hut rather than going for Hiziori. I thought it would be better to start early in the next morning from the hut.
  I returned the hut again.

  First, I needed water. I made over 2L water by melting snow. I made 1L sport drink out of the 2L water for tomorrow.
  There wasn't food, but there were some futons and a radio there. If there wasn't a radio, I would feel fear in a silent two-story hut.
I had a supper. It was a little biscuit or so. To see outside through a window, it was snow storm. I really thought that it was rucky to go back here.

【The second day】

  It didn't snow in the morning. I supposed I could arrive at Hiziori untill moon because I had already proceeded half the way. I thought I want to bathe a hot sping and drink beer if I get to Hiziori.
  The route to Mt. Kodake was checked yesterday, so I could go smoothly without guesswork.
  Suddenly a low flying HELI was appeared. And it approuched me straight as an arrow and stopped at 20m front of me. By a loud speaker,
"This is a police HELI. Are you Mr. **?"
I replyed,
by my sign. The HELI replyed,
"Did you see someone in this route ?".
"No, I didn't.",
I said.
"We see. So, safe and sound."
It had gone soon.
Someone seemed to become in distress.

  To find the only sign board on the route at the point to drop in for Akasawagawa river,I was at ease.
  The snow storm of last night made the slope comfortable powder. So I could easily get to Akasawagawa river covered with snow.
  I slided for about 200m along it, and I found a howe at right side. The route is along this howe. I was undoubtedly on the route, I thought. The aspect and a map were matched absolutely.
I climbed up on a broad ridge and along the ridge I went. Next I should go on the the first small branch ridge. Perfect !, I thought.
  This branch ridge must lead to Mt. Ohmori but I found it leads nowhere. This ridge end and Mt. Ohmoriyama is divided by a valley.
"Oh! I can't go to Mt. Ohmoriyama then. Why?"

# After I went back home, I studied guide books on this route. Accordingly, I learned going along the branch ridge is correct. We should go down to the bottom of the valley, then we should climb carrying skis on our back a side face of the ridge leading to Mt. Ohmoriyama.

  I doubted the branch ridge I took was wrong. Following the iron rule, I re-climbed the steep slope covered with deep snow to the broad ridge.
  I searched around from the broad ridge, but there isn't another branch ridge between Mt. Akasunayama and the branch ridge. Absolutely it isn't. The map is wrong?

  My hypothesis was that Mt. Akasunayama I supposed is isn't true Mt. Akasunayama but the true Mt. Akasunayama exists beyond the fake one. And there must be the true branch ridge that leads to Mt. Ohmoriyama in front of the true Mt. Akasunagawa.
  I went down the route I climbed an hour ago. I found a skier hike up to me. Lucky! I would ask him the true route to Mt. Ohmoriyama. The next moment, he disappeared...It must be a hallucination.

  I got to the Akasawagawa river. From here, I had better search for the climbing point for the true Mt. Akasunayama, soon.
  I went down for sevral hundred meters. But I could not find another route that can be climbed. what is even worse, the left side cant seemed to be causing avalanche. I was not myself.
  A map teach me the distance would be some 200m. So sevral hundred meters is too far. I should go back soon. I thought that must be true Mt. Akasunayama. Then, I reminded the danger of avalanche. I ran to the path I had taken. I was reliefed when I got to a safety position on the ridge. Oh! hell, the valley I had run was totally covered with a lot of debris. I would be the end, if I pass there 15 minute later.

  If it was the true Mt. Akasunayama, going for Mt. Ohmoriyama from the top would naturally make me be on the ridge leading to it. But reaching to the top isn't easy.
There seemed to be two ways to reaching there. To traverse a drop off or to pass a bush. I selected the later method because I don't like altitude.
On the other hand, the bush was not so good. It holded my body and I couldn't step on ground. In spite of it I got to the top. The slope I was going to ski had a feeling of avalanche.
After I binded on my skis, I rushed down to the ridge without stopping. My selected route was thought to be right. But finaly I took a mistake to go right and was stopped by a valley.

  It was 6 PM. I gave up going down a mountain in this day. I decided to stay here.

  First, I called my wife by a mobile phone. She seemed to be worried.
Next, with my shovel, I made a cave to lay down on snow surface where wind wouldn't blow stronglly. Then I set up a shelter there with skis as posts. I paved a mat and an empty pack sack on the snow surface. I wore all clothes I had includig ski boots and covered myself with a gore tex sleeping bag cover.
  I still had gas, I made water from snow. As ration, I had a little nuts and candy. I supposed it was day's ration.
Fortunately, it was calm, fine and full moon at night. But I couldn't sleep well becouse of coldness.

[The third day]

  The third day started with climbing.
  Tiny miscourse sliding leads to big climbing. After about 1 hour climbing, I got to the ridge for Mt. Ohmoriyama.
  The ridge is covered with beech tree very closely. Since skis got stack with it often, I couldn't proceed steadily.
  I arrived reach at last to Mt. Ohmoriyama. It would take a few minute to go to the final point, roadway. From there, the slope becomes too steep to ski. So I walked down for the road way carring skis on my back.
  But the slope I had walked for about 30 min. was broken by a criff and under the criff a lake was seen. There seemed to be no roadway.
  I couldn't understand this situation. I re-examined a map with a compuss. And I found my walking direction changed to he south from the correct direction, east.I had to climb the steep slope again. I had no water then I ate snow.
  Around Mt. Ohmoriyama's top, I found the correct route. There were some traces of skis. The slope for the road way was easy. So I arrived the road soon. It was 2 o'clock then.It is 1 hour walk to the Hiziorionsen. A long tour had ended.
# I went to Nurakami-city soon after getting to the Hiziorionsen without a stay.In the Nurakami-city I stayed in a hotel.For the first time in several days I had sushi as supper. It was really good. In the next day I returned to the lodge in Ubasawa by buses. There was my car. I apologized to the lodge's people since they were worried about me.I went back home by my car recalling items I had experienced in this tour.


buna slope
I lost the route in grove of beech trees
The Nenbutugahara plain. I lost the route again here.
I stayed in a peopleless hut in snowstorm.
hinangoya naibu
I could sleep well with futons stocked in the hut.
Around Mt. Kodake
The only sign board exists in the route
Akasaka river I've just walked off the trail was covered with snow debris.
Bivouac shelter at fullmoon's night at "Mt.moon"
Labyrinth of beech
I could find the road !