Report from March 2021 and written by the Explore-Share team.
Mount Yotei is a stunning 6,227-foot (1,898m) active stratovolcano in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, near Niseko in Japan. This conical eye-catcher is also a top spot for intermediate to advanced backcountry skiing. Options include ski touring to the crater top and enjoying some great powder there, or even just finding great ski lines below 4,593-feet (1,400m) too.
Japan resident Emil and his friends decided to go for the crater and hired JMGA guide and Director of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) Jun Ishiguro to lead the way (booking via Explore-Share). Although Emil has prior backcountry experience on the Honshu and Hokkaido white-lands, this was a challenging feat that involved extensive knowledge about avalanche safety and of the unmarked winter routes.
It was a fantastic experience. They approached Mount Yotei from the south and skied back down the same way. Although it took them a bit longer to the crater top than expected (six hours rather than the initially planned four or five), and even though it was a tough climb with some icy spots near the top that required crampons, the rewards were reaped and thoroughly enjoyed. Guide Jun was kind and knowledgeable, which allowed Emil and his friends to achieve this exciting goal.
Emil’s recommendations for Yotei crater aspirants are to tackle the ascent early, take plenty of water, and have proper crampon preparation. Also, keep in mind that Yotei, though not technical, is still a challenge. On the upside, it usually boasts top ski conditions even when the weather is warm in nearby Niseko.
Up next for Emil? One of Mount Yotei’s alternative routes, a Rishiri ski-stravaganza and a ryokan-to-ryokan Haute Route from Niseko to the Sea of Japan. January looks promising!