Jiigatake – Getting blown off the mountain

So, forecasts can change pretty rapidly. The evening before, just sunshine and warming temps but by the morning, winds, clouds, snow, freezing temps can be on the cards. That’s what happened when Andrea and myself attempted a long day climb up Jiigatake from the closed Tateyama Route road near Omachi. We left at dawn to give us enough time and arrived bright and early at the seasonal closure.

Andrea at the closure for the Tateyama Route

Like a few other spring objectives I’ve experienced in Japan, this one starts with a walk for many kilometres up a closed but perfectly plowed road. Upon finally reaching the trailhead for the summer walking track it was off the bitchumen and onto the snow.

Andrea at the summer trailhead

The snow was mainly firm and a quite steep ridge walk meant we didn’t put skins on the entire day, half way up in boots and the rest with crampons on.

Ascending the ridge with Omachi in the background

Getting higher up and with a look towards the ridge

Andrea and the alpine ridge

Shortly thereafter, high cloud began to build and the winds, which had been pretty strong at ridge top all morning, began to shake the trees and intensify. We continued up to see how far we could get, which was pretty far. Holding our nerve we braved the sometimes body-shoving extreme++ winds and made the ridge top, but barely able to stand and occasionally shoved to the ground by the intensity, we descended, still on crampons back to a safe point on the ridge and descended a sheltered couloir into the valley we had intended to ski from the summit of Jiigatake. The true summit of Jiigatake will have to wait another day.

Andrea and the couloir exit

The skiing was a mix of powder which had been deposited by the wind into the couloir (approx 15cm) which rapidly decreased with elevation and distance from the hurricane winds near the top. The valley out was filled with debris, like lots of the large avalanche paths since the last few rain storms. The exit out the valley wasn’t too tough, some debris crossing and a small river crossing and some dams to negotiate.

Andrea negotiating the rock climb around a dam in the valley

We arrived back at the car just on dark to make a 11 hr and 15 minute round trip. Long day.