Hokkaido's darkest peak- Kurodake
21 Sep, 2010
Kurodake is one of Hokkaido’s best-kept secrets and is tucked away in the far reaches of the Daisetsuzan National Park. Kurodake or Black Mountain as it translates is a backcountry treasure. Kurodake is a mountain for the backcountry enthusiast and provides great hiking opportunities and plenty of dare I say it, extreme lines.
Kurodake towers above the small village of Sounkyo that lies about 40minutes northwest of Asahikawa in central Hokkaido. Sounkyo itself is a hot spring resort made up of hotels and pensions that most of which offer Onsens. Unlike most ski resorts in Japan the Sounkyo area is rugged and rocky with steep sided canyons, icefalls and Couloirs giving the place a kind of European Alps feel.
Kurodake itself is a rugged peak standing at 1984m. There is no real skifield in terms of groomed runs, but there is powder to be had aplenty. The mountain is accessed via a ropeway and a double chair that only runs a couple of months a season. The ropeway too is strangely closed in January and usually reopens in the first week of February. Reopening day seems to change from year to year so it is best to call before you go.
There are many options on the mountain in terms of riding, a popular option is to hike to the peak, which takes between one and two hours to reach depending on conditions and whether the chair is running. This will give you an epic long powder run where you are unlikely to cross another track. The journey up and down is not too demanding but backcountry gear and knowledge is necessary.
Below the ropeway is in a word gnarly and a lot of can be had here but you really need to be with someone who knows the area as nothing is patrolled and there are several hidden cliff bands and various other hazards. Two years ago two parties spent the night stuck above such a cliff band and were rescued in the morning by helicopter by the Japanese defense force. The riding is wicked but caution and common sense should be exercised.
If this sounds like your cup tea the best way to fully enjoy the area is with a guide. The links below will take you to guiding accommodation options. Otherwise there are a huge number of hotels in the area almost all of which have there own Onsens so after a hard day shreddin' you can enjoy relaxation at its best.