Sunday, 31 January 2016

Buck Country: Day 1 - Kiroro BC

So the last two remaining bachelors in my old medical peer group finally decided to tie the knot.
At a time when some others are ending marriages, or dealing with teenagers, one could always ask why, with all that evidence, would anyone want to get married?
But then the idea of a Buck's week in Hokkaido was mooted and there were no further questions.
It was a good choice - if we'd gone anywhere else (including some of the more "traditional" buck's venues), all we would have done was end up talking about skiing. Why not ski instead?
Morry lined up a terrific apartment in Hirafu, and several days' guiding with Andrew and Brennen from Black Diamond guides. Although we'd initially felt his program to be a little punishing, when we woke on the first day to deep snow and blue skies, we forgave him a little.
The guys from BD turned up and we drove an hour or so to Kiroro, which sits a little further north than Niseko and closer to the sea, which means even more snow - but with far fewer people.
Like everywhere in Japan, the Kiroro BC policy differs ever so slightly from any hard rules. There are gates, but you and your group (or guides) must register at the resort base to leave, and return only through these gates.
We got a single gondy-ride pass and headed up to the summit of Kiroro where we put on our skins and hiked about five kilometres around up to the summit of Yoichi-Dake at1488m. The Japanese scenery was as stunning as always, and our first line was down the east face, all the way to the bottom in knee-deep on a blue-bird day. Apart from face-planting several times on my telemarks, it doesn't get any better.    

We then skinned back up to Yoichi Dake, the serenity only broken by a pack of Japanese motorbike-skidoos that are seemingly allowed to go where-ever they please, and with scant regard for avalanches or any skiers in their way.
We had a great run down to our next objective, which was a bowl off the next ridge to the west. To avoid further face plants, I had clicked in my heals to the new Meidjo system, and found it to be robust enough.

This proved to be the line of the day: deep, cold, light powder with the sun behind us. 

We then climbed out and up to a saddle where we had a snack, before continuing up to the next ridge.

We got a nice line down to the gully, and then yo-yoed up to the next ridge and peak, where we bumped into a group of Swedes and politely awaited their lines before taking the steep bowl to the north. Then a long gladed run down to the valley, before climbing back up into the resort. We arrived at the base of a tiny Japanese chairlift which the ski patrol refused to let us board even though it was only a hundred metres long!

An awesome first day's touring, about 12km and over a thousand vertical climbing, with some very sweet lines indeed! The boys were happy.

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