Have you ever seen the sun rise across Mt Yotei, Niseko's very own volcano? If you've visited the area the 1,898m snow covered peak is a pretty hard to miss! That said with the snow we get in Niseko it is not unusual for it to be in the clouds for weeks on end. Any avid skiers or boarders upon seeing Yotei for the first time can't help but wonder what it would be like to ski down it. As Mt Yotei is designated as national park heli or cat skiing is not possible so for most this as as far as it goes as the only way up is to to put one foot in front of the other and hike to the summit.
The easiest way access the peak is via the trail head on the Makkari side of the mountain. This allows you to drive a significant part of the ascent. The car park is just a 15minute drive from Hirafu to the south east.
As you pull into the car park the Summit is in plain sight but looks a long way off! A little daunting but the beginning of the hike is flat and provides a nice warm up for what is to come!
The start of the trail is flat and then begins to meander up through the trees. The snow was firm under foot here and the boot pack was well stepped. Mottled morning sunlight flickered through the trees and our group of 3 began to space out as each of us found our stride.
Up and out of the tree line the sun was beaming down and about now it was getting hot! Upon finding a nice spot to rest it was time for a drink, to lose a layer and take in the views, which were incredible.
Onwards and upwards from here and this is where things started to get a little tougher. We follow the ridge up which is wind blown and a bit icy making traction a bit of an issue for a short section. Here we met some other hikers, one of which was battling with the section on skins and touring ski. As a group of snowboarders our weapons of choice were snowshoes which are generally the preferred choice (rather than split boards) for Yotei due to this iciness and the steep pitch of the last 3rd of the climb.
The top 3rd and especially the top quarter of the climb is where things get really tough, you've already been hiking for at least 3 hours and the pitch only gets steeper as you climb higher. This is combined with soft sugary snow make each step a challenge and really drains your energy, it's here that you need to dig deep to push forward and dig deep to find that muesli bar in your pocket for one last charge for the summit.
And then you're there, the first of our party summited in 3hours and 45minutes, I snuck in at just under 4 hours. We'd started at 07:00am there were others who had also just summited that set out at 04:30am which shows the time it takes does differ from individual to individual. How ever long it takes the summit looks the same and is just as satifying to get to, especially on a blue sky day like the one we were lucky enough to experience.
The rewards of making the summit don't stop at incredible views and sense of accomplishment, you also get to enjoy the champagne powder the crater holds. The 1500m descent down to the car is a pretty good time too!