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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    540

    Wet Dreams in the Hida Mountains

    Due to the complete media blow out coming from Japan this winter, I’ve been hesitant to share anything from over here. I know I’m sick of hearing about how awesome Japan is; I can’t imagine how annoying it is if you live somewhere suffering through a rough snow year.

    However, I thought it might be appreciated to see a different perspective on the skiing and mountains in Japan. Everybody knows about the deep mid winter powder season. It is a lot less common to see what Japan looks like in the spring when weather and conditions are more variable, but periods of stability allow access into the high peaks and big lines.

    The first bigger line I’d like to share is a little link up on Shiradake I call the Diagonal Couloir. It consists of three nice steepish northeastish pitches, the last of which is a neat looking couloir with a big rock wall on one side. From the valley, it is hard to imagine that it will go, but with a few different perspectives it becomes more believable.


    Can you see it? Zach Paley photo.

    When conditions are right, Shiradake is a leisurely three hour ridge walk from the lifts. The real danger is significant and extended exposure to major slide paths on the way out, so timing is key.


    Turns from the top. Lee Lyon photo, Zach Paley skier.


    Pitch One. Zach Paley photo, Lee Lyon skier.


    Headed for Pitch Two. Zach Paley photo, Lee Lyon skier.


    Pitch Two. Lee Lyon photo, Zach Paley skier.


    Connecting pitches. Lee Lyon photo, Zach Paley skier.


    The Slot. Zach Paley photo, Lee Lyon skier.


    Beneath the wall, pitch three. Zach Paley photo, Lee Lyon skier.


    Running home. Zach Paley photo, Lee Lyon swimmer.

    My intention is to keep adding to this as the spring goes on, so stay tuned for more.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2009
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    Maine Coast
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    Stunning pictures. Yes keep adding on.

  3. #3
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    Jan 2006
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    One cool thing about Hakuba is that many of the biggest, most aesthetic lines are clearly visible from town. Every sunny morning, I wake up and stare at Shakushi’s SE face lit up in alpenglow. I scan the surrounding terrain for signs of instability for the day ahead, and I dream about putting tracks on Shakushi’s spines. I’ve been waiting for the right conditions to get on this face for some years now. In late March, an opportunity finally presented itself.


    The morning view. Zach Paley photo.

    Shakushi Southeast sees immediate direct morning sun, so an early start is imperative. We began skinning at 3am with the intention of dropping in around 10am. Slogging for hours in the dark can get depressing, but once the sun starts to rise it’s all forgotten.


    Sunrise at the bottom of the Daisekkei. Dave Ellison photo.


    Dave Ellison photo.

    As the sun climbed higher in the sky, we neared the top of the Daisekkei.


    Dave Ellison photo, Lee Lyon climber.


    Dave and Matthias climbing with Shirouma behind. Lee Lyon photo.

    One of the biggest challenges on this face is that the ridge is guarded by overhanging cornices. It took awhile, but we were able to find one break in the cornice where we could sneak in.


    Searching for an entrance. Dave Ellison photo.


    The chink in the armor. Rather steep. Lee Lyon photo.

    The entrance was steep and committing. We had perfect corn off the top, but the first few turns were still exciting.


    Rationalizing. Dave Ellison photo.


    Dave Ellison photo, Lee Lyon skier.


    Dave Ellison photo.

    After a few turns, the steep entrance ramp benched out on a fin. From there, the slope angled mellowed out a bit, but you still wouldn’t want to fall.


    Lee Lyon photo, Matthias Weichselbaumer rider.





    When we reached the bottom of the face, things were already heating up and falling apart. Time to head home.


    Looking back up. Dave Ellison photo.

    It feels really good to have achieved one of my major ski goals in this valley. Now, when I look out the window in the morning, I can reminisce rather than dream about skiing Shakushi’s Southeast face.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2006
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    Couloirfornia
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    8,717
    Very very cool.

    And definitely agree that there's a lot of attention paid to the "Japow experience," and much less to skiing the steep bigger peaks.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest_Hemingway View Post
    I realize there is not much hope for a bullfighting forum. I understand that most of you would prefer to discuss the ingredients of jacket fabrics than the ingredients of a brave man. I know nothing of the former. But the latter is made of courage, and skill, and grace in the presence of the possibility of death. If someone could make a jacket of those three things it would no doubt be the most popular and prized item in all of your closets.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2009
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    smog lake shitty
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    Given how little snow there is in the Western US this year, it's quite exciting to see massive, house-sized cornices and big mountains just plastered with snow.

  6. #6
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    Jan 2008
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    Paper St. Soap Co.
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    Good stuff.

  7. #7
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    Jan 2006
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    540
    On Honshu, the transition from winter to spring can be be painful. In March, temperatures rise, but the mountain weather remains as wild as ever. The result is rapid and violent transitions from heat and sun to rain, cold, snow and heavy doses of wind.

    However, when the Gobi Desert dust finally settles and stable weather windows materialize, opportunities arise to ride big, beautiful lines that are truly world class. The reward is even sweeter when you’ve had to wait and watch through all the big storms and wild weather. When a weather window does come your way, it’s important to take full advantage of it, because you never know when one will come again.

    With that in mind, we decided to follow up our Shakushi day with Shirouma’s Southeast Face. Shirouma is Hakuba’s highest peak, and it’s Southeast Face is a huge, smooth ramp that can offer fantastic corn skiing, if your timing is right.


    The Southeast Face is on the looker’s left. The top third of it at least. Zach Paley photo.


    More sunrises. Ho hum. Lee Lyon photo, Matthias Weischelbaumer skinner.


    Zach and Matthias. Lee Lyon photo.


    Zach and Matthias working up the Daisekkei. Lee Lyon photo.


    Views to the northwest from Shirouma Sansou. Lee Lyon photo.


    Dave, from the top. Lee Lyon photo.


    Long way down. Dave Ellison skier, Lee Lyon photo.


    Back in the Daisekkei.


    Looking back up at Shirouma from the Sarukura.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2012
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    gnArvada
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    Great pics- it's cool how those trees are hanging on to such steep faces!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Rather than a dreamy peak observed from our window, Goryudake hides a bit farther back with a less straightforward approach. When observed from the correct angle, its diamond shaped rock formations become obvious, revealing a couloir seemingly cut by Zorro himself. It’s a tantalizingly close, deceptively far objective that usually requires a tent and some luck.


    Find the Z. Yes it goes.

    Goryu literally translates to the ‘Five Dragons’, an adequate name for a peak that’s constantly mauled by the wind. Opting for sweat on the skintrack over sleep on the mountain, we gave chase to the dragon expecting only snow affected by a malignant March. The soft spot in the dragon’s scales held surprises: powder in all three pitches.


    From afar


    Up


    View from the top


    Down the line







    As it happens with lines not visible from the valley, all the five dragons withheld were their facade during the after-ski beer. Not that it mattered much, our memory served us just fine.
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  10. #10
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    Jan 2006
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    Vanity Fair
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    not that I have a problem with the endless japow pictures but IMO this is the really interesting side of japan..
    Ich bitte dich nur, weck mich nicht.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2009
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    Continuing with the theme of objectives not immediately in view from the window, the Northeast Couloir of Shakushidake entices the ambitious when viewed from popular resorts to the north of the valley. However dreamy this line seems from afar, it requires and early start just to get it. And like most things in Hakuba, the weather windows are few and far between. It requires much tenacity to get this line in good snow.


    Shakushidake Northeast Couloir

    When we felt things were right, the early start led to a sunrise, the sunrise to the Daisekkei, the Daisekkei to the climb, and the climb to ice about 100 meters from the top. As circumstances would have it the full line wasn’t meant to be. Ambitions, early starts, and tenacity combined are still sometimes not enough, at least to top out. We weren’t going to worry about just the tip. Even without the very top, good snow lasted where it counted.


    Sunrise Skin. Skier Dave Ellison


    Good turns down the gut. Dave Ellison Skier. Lee Lyon Photo.


    Leaving our mark


    Stoically stoked at the bottom
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  12. #12
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    Feb 2009
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    It’s no secret that skiing the alpine around here is something we fantasize about. It’s also no secret that it rains a lot here in the spring. Though the ‘wet dreams’ we don’t want can become a reality all too often in the spring, the ones we want are worth the wait. When rain gave way to snow up high, there was one we’ve been fantasizing about more than others. Significantly more.


    The upper half of Shirouma Northeast. Sometimes images aren't enough. Photo Zach Paley

    The northeast corner pocket of Shiroumadake has called for several years, most palpably so since this winter, when a closer look revealed its potential. It starts with the spine pillow features we have familiarized ourselves with around here, and continues into some steep, techy ridge skiing. The line concludes with a rider’s delight: the choice of a spine or couloir leading into a wide drainage designed for airplane turns, all concluding 2200 meters below at the valley floor.


    On the up. Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley


    Up and up. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley


    Requisite entrance shot. Skier and photo Lee Lyon


    Top of Hakuba. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Lee Lyon


    Matthias further down. Photo Zach Paley


    In the thick of things. Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley


    Skier Zach Paley. Photo Lee Lyon


    The second of many pitches. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley


    Feeling small on the third pitch. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Skier Zach Paley. Photo Lee lyon


    Time to open things up and point 'em. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley

    Maybe we are paying for it now as we sit through rain. Maybe it was truly meant to be. This was one of the more difficult and more luck driven objectives of the spring. Attaining it was a true treat.
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  13. #13
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    Aug 2008
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    Where the climate suits my clothes.
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    More! More! More!!!

  14. #14
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    Mar 2008
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    3,195
    Really dig this thread, thank you. Always wanted to see more than just scenic shots of those faces. Nice work making it happen.
    "The skis just popped me up out of the snow and I went screaming down the hill on a high better than any heroin junkie." She Ra

  15. #15
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    Jan 2010
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    this thread rules
    crab in my shoe mouth

  16. #16
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    Jan 2010
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    694
    Win win win!!!

  17. #17
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    Feb 2009
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    Shirouma Central starts beneath the large cliff at the summit. It snakes down the center and out of view. Photo Zach Paley.

    The day after the northeast face of Shiroumadake promised for optimal weather. We decided it was a good time for round two. Burning the candle at both ends with these early starts and long days, I couldn’t help but allow ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ to creep into my head while walking in the dark. Sunrise couldn’t have come soon enough.

    The sun did a sufficient job broiling the easterly facing central line down Shiroumadake, making it prime for corn turns. Wind kept things firm and interesting for the top few meters, but once in the line, it rode quite smoothly. Corn gave way to buttery turns as snow significantly softened down low. We worked our way down and out the way we came, and for the second day in a row we found ourselves gazing back up at the peaks while enjoying some well earned crappy Japanese beer.


    A much needed sunrise for the team. Left to right, Zach Paley, Matthias Weichselbaumer, Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley.


    On the up. Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley.


    More Sunrise. Photo Zach Paley.


    Up and up. Lee Lyon and Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.


    Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley.


    Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley.


    The photo guy gets to make turns, too. Skier Zach Paley. Photo Lee Lyon.
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  18. #18
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    May 2015
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    Really amazing views that you captured good Work...!!!

  19. #19
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    Feb 2009
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    Early starts, such is life. Photo Zach Paley.

    Despite seeming close, Yarigatake requires the most walking of the big three peaks that make up the Hakuba skyline. It’s well worth the hike. The massive ramp that runs southeast off the summit tightens between formidable rock walls about half way down to form a couloir that finishes one of the longest, most consistently steep pitches in the valley.


    Yari Southeast. Photo Zach Paley.

    Growing tired of climbing the Daisekkei, we opted to climb past Yari Onsen to the south instead. This was a big mistake. It was incredibly tempting to remove ski boots and exchange the objective of the day for a hot soak. We resisted the urge to get balls deep in the moist pools berthed from the earth, and pushed on towards the summit.


    No Daisekkei, no problems. Splitboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.


    Resisting onsen temptation. Splitboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.

    Steaming sulfur from below and scalding sun from above slowed progress to a crawl. This was one of the sweatiest hikes I’d endured in a long, long time. Warm temperatures aside, we found great corn at the top, softer snow towards the bottom. The ski was fantastic, and long!


    Turns from the top. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.

    It’s been over four years since I last had the opportunity to enjoy turns on Yari. Hopefully the next opportunity to ski this peak comes sooner.


    Soft and well earned. Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  20. #20
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    Dec 2006
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    37N 122W
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    385
    I love this. A progressive TR. This is both inspiring and a great resource for when I go back to Japan. Nice. Nice. Nice.
    "Kids today, all they talk about is big air. I say, stay on the mountain, that's where the action is. If you want big air, pull my finger." ~Smooth Johnson~

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    694
    Much respect. Great stuff here, the unseen onsen, hidden couloirs, gifts from the rising sun

  22. #22
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    Feb 2009
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    Hot butt mud. Photo Zach Paley.

    Not all wet dreams are good dreams.


    Rain runnels...pure joy. Photo Zach Paley.

    A lot inspired the namesake of this saga. Constantly dreaming about getting to ski these towering mountains played a factor, however it wasn’t until a deluge of rain for two consecutive weeks that the literal sense of being in a wet dream set in.

    Like most wet dreams, things got weird. When not used to the confines and time constraints that come with what most consider normality, there’s only so much down time one can tolerate before feeling a little unbalanced. Thankfully, before the Gary Busey level of sanity set in, the promise of fair weather returned.


    Pink skies at night... Photo Zach Paley.

    Tateyama is one of the many places down range we’d gazed upon, but had never been around late enough to visit when open. We opted for a long high pressure period that was interrupted by foul weather for only 20 hours. In theory, it sounded great. A few days of hard skiing, a day of rest, followed by a handful more big days skiing until food and motivation were consumed. Things started well enough with powder skiing and making turns on everything we could see from camp, which was a lot.


    Tateyama Ropeway. Photo Lee Lyon.


    Campsite view. Photo Zach Paley.


    Snowboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.


    Clear skies bringing the Raiko out to play. Photo Lee Lyon.


    Skier Zach Paley. Photo Lee Lyon.


    Skier Lee Lyon. Photo Zach Paley.


    Pink skies at morning... Skier Lee Lyon. Splitboarder Matthias Weichselbaumer. Photo Zach Paley.

    Then the expected weather came. Early. With rain. A lot more than forecasted. Puddles turned to ponds, daydreams to wet dreams, tents from leaking to collapsing. It was the worst night any of us had ever spent in a tent. The next morning, a break in the rain allowed us to take stock of what wasn’t soaked. There wasn’t much left dry. Our faces hurt from getting slapped in the face by the shaking tent walls. The tents were higher than the surrounding ground, and the Mongolian monsoon was only half way through. Dreams had turned to nightmares. We wrung out what we could and stuffed it into our backpacks. Tails between our legs, we limped down from Tateyama to lick our wounds and dry gear. Don’t trifle with bad weather in Japan.


    The calm after the storm. Photo Zach Paley.
    http://zpski.blogspot.com/

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  23. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    heart in terrace, ass in cowtown
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    3,117
    Well played guys! Great to see people nailing what they've scoped for a long while. Also great to see another side to skiing in Japan. 2000+m descents are big ass runs!
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  24. #24
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    pdx
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    not sure how i missed this one
    subscribed now


  25. #25
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    pdx
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    wow!


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