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Iwaonupuri (イワオヌプリ, 1,116m; also marked as Mt.
Io - 硫黄山) is the smaller sister to Niseko’s Mt.
Annupuri in the west.
From Hirafu to the trailhead at Goshiki Hot Springs, it is a 45 minute (20km) circular drive, so it is a great way to get away from the bustling pistes of Hirafu.
As one of the closest truly backcountry ski routes near Niseko, it can be an accessible way to experience the beauty of the region.
Bring a towel, because you’d be mad to miss a soak in the Goshiki Onsen hot springs, just a few meters down the road from the carpark. Access: By car or taxi.
A taxi will likely cost around 8,000yen to 10,000yen from central Hirafu to Goshiki Onsen, one way.
You'll need to book a taxi for the return trip in advance. Ascent (320m - 1hr 30mins): The route starts at the end of the snow-clearing on Route 58 just past Goshiki Onsen hotsprings.
Skin or showshoe along the road until you arrive at the Kutchan Town border, marked with road signs.
From here, cut northwest, following the town border marked on your paper or digital map. The route continues on the flat for another 200m or so before climbing through a thicket of trees onto an initial plateau at around 850m, directly south of Mt.
Iwaonupuri's majestic bowl.
In stable snow conditions, the bowl directly south of the peak and the sparse trees to the climber's right will offer the best descent. The climb up, however, continues on the more stable western flanks of the main bowl.
If the ridge directly west of the bowl is too icy for skins, consider wrapping further around to the northwest on the 950m contour to join up with the summer trail, which approaches the peak from the southwest. From the southwest ridge in clear conditions, you'll enjoy expansive, awe-inspiring views across the Rankoshi Plains and Niseko Range. Descent (320m): In stable conditions, the bowl directly south of the summit and sparse trees to the skiers left of the bowl offer an enjoyable but short run back down to the plateau at around 850m.
This run of about 300m is long enough to enjoy the descent, but short enough to make the hike back up again for another few runs.
The Iwaonupuri bowl is best avoided in anything but the most stable snow conditions.
Check local Niseko avalanche bulletins before heading out: http://niseko.nadare.info/.
Watch out for substantial cornices overhanging the top of the bowl, regardless of current snow conditions. With your powder-appetite sated, you will follow the same route back down to the road-end that you came up.
Keep the speed up on the descent down from the 850m plateau, and you'll likely be able to make it along the flat road without needing to put the skins back on. Full route description with photos and extra information: http://www.14degrees.org/mt-iwaonupuri-mt-io-ski-tour-day-trip-foot-goshiki-hot-springs/ son