Bankei Sanso Hut Overnight Hike

Posted on Feb 6, 2019
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Posted on Feb 6, 2019

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Reading time: 5 min
9.5km

Distance

5.5 hours

Time

555m

Ascent

920m

Highest point

4/10

Difficulty

I can't think of a better mountain hut in the Sapporo area to drag a group of inexperienced hikers up to than Bankei Sanso Hut (万計山荘, 920m). This massive two-storied hut is laid back and spacious, and the hike to get there has just enough challenge to make it a good memorable experience. We headed up there with eight first-time overnight hikers, and had a great time despite the heavy rain on the return trip. Even though we didn't manage to make it up to Mt. Soranuma (空沼岳, 1,251m), the Bankei Pond (万計沼) makes for a beautiful backdrop.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This route up to the Bankei Pond and Bankei Sanso Hut is about 30km southwest of central Sapporo City. The trail to the hut is the Mt. Soranuma hiking trail. It starts just south of Tokiwa, south of Makomanai in southern Sapporo City. The location of the trailhead is somewhat fluid, as the original trailhead (around here) is now inaccessible due to the road being washed out. Presently, the furthest a car can be driven is to around here.

General notes

The Bankei Hut can be a nice option if the weather is otherwise not suitable for climbing all the way to Mt. Soranuma. Hike to the hut, stay the night, and see how things look in the morning. The Mt. Soranuma trail is known to be a very muddy trail, particularly beyond the hut. Even approaching the hut, there can be very muddy patches. That said, a few of our group were in lightweight sneakers, and beyond having very muddy shoes and socks by the end of the trip, they survived.

Hut

Bankei Sanso Hut (full details here)

The Bankei Sanso Hut was built in 1965 as a forest workers’ hut, and is currently managed and maintained by the Bankei-sanso Hut Volunteer Society. The spacious two-story hut sleeps approximately 100 people. It is located about 3 hours up the Mt. Soranuma summer trail.

Route markers

This trail is marked sporadically with tape tied to trees, but the trail itself is well defined, with no junctions until reaching the Bankei Pond. Once at the pond, go right to get to the Bankei Sanso Hut. Going left across the stream will lead you to the Hokkaido University Soranuma Hut.

Route Timing

Up | 3hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

Take the Hokkaido Chuo Bus No. 101 from Makomanai subway station (Bus stop No. 7) to Soranuma Futamata (空沼二股) bus stop (here) – the end of the line on the Soranuma-line (空沼線), around 22 minutes on the bus. From the bus stop it is a 2km walk to the trailhead. As of Jan 2017, the earliest bus from Makomanai Station was at 7:18am on weekdays and 7:15am on weekends and holidays, then about once an hour. Last bus from Makomanai station was 8:33pm on weekdays, 7pm on weekends. Return buses from Soranuma-futama were 6:54am till 9pm on weekdays and 6:58am till 7:40pm on weekends, with around 8 buses in between. See this PDF for the timetable.

By car: 

As mentioned above, the trailhead location is somewhat fluid. If arriving by car, just follow the Mt. Soranuma (空沼岳) signs through the quarry to the main carpark. Either park at the main carpark (about 1km from the start of the trail proper) or drive across the bridge and along the dirt road till you can’t drive any further.

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Soranumadake (空沼岳) – map no. NK-54-14-11-4

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compass – instructions here.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Bankei Sanso Hut

Onsen nearby

The one thing that this route could do with is a hot spring somewhere near the trailhead. The closest natural onsen would be Kogane-yu Onsen (小金湯温泉, here), about 30 mins by car from the quarry/trailhead.

Extra Resources
  • See Hokkaido Hiking Logs’ description of the full Mt. Soranuma hike here.
  • Hokkaido Guide also has a good description of the hike and trailhead here, with some great photos of the hike in spring.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Film of the Bankei Sanso Hut Hiking trip by Sachiyo Ono

Late last year, one of the undergrad students in my lab mentioned in passing that he’d like to go hiking with me some day. This past weekend, I finally got around to organizing something. I’m not sure if he imagined that it would be quite as involved a trip as it turned out to be. But I decided it was a good opportunity to have them experience staying over in a mountain hut. One of the best in Hokkaido, too.

So we borrowed some hiking gear from the university rec faculty (thanks Prof. Tsunoda!) and made the trek up to Bankei Sanso Hut on the Mt. Soranuma trail. There were six students, as well as Haidee and myself. The students were Genki, Hinano, Sachiyo, Shun-ichiro, Shunsuke, and Taro. We started from university bright and early, stuffing the rental van to the brim with the packs. Before we set off we made sure everyone had a the navigation app Geographica installed and the route file downloaded (we are the Digital Media and Society Lab, after all).

Once at the trailhead, we drove as far as we could along the dirt road to the end of the maintained section of the road. We were one of about six cars parked along side the road. This was the first time for most of the team to carry overnight gear in a pack on a hike before. We began with me giving a demonstration of how to ensure a tight waist-belt fit to avoid getting sore shoulders.

After the instructions, we got on our way. Pretty soon the trail gets exciting, with a washed out section of the road requiring a scramble across slippery bedrock. Then it’s over the Bankei-sawa River a couple of times before the trail starts climbing in earnest.

For much of the way, the trail cuts through thick sasa bamboo grass. This sasa grows at the base of large trees above. Even on a damp day such as today, the forest is beautiful and quiet.

About 1/4 of the way up to the hut, we took a quick break in a clearing. Hinano discovered she had mobile reception, so started up an Instagram live story. It would be the last connection we’d have with the outside world for the next 24 hours.

After the break, we pushed on along a track that became more and more dense with sasa before climbing high enough that the trail opened out. There had been a lot of rain in the last few days, so the track was deep mud at times. One particularly rickety bridge got the heart pumping.

More or less on cue, after three hours on the trail, we suddenly emerged at Bankei Pond. It was a moody afternoon, with a thick fog shrouding the views. Everyone was happy to see the safe sanctuary of the hut (details here). A volunteer from the Bankei Hut Friendship Society was at the hut already – the society has a member there on most weekends during the non-snow season for upkeep of the hut. After getting settled in to the hut, I bumped into a retired faculty member from our university. He is involved in the Academic Alpine Club of Hokkaido, and was at Bankei Pond to stay at Hokkaido University’s Soranma Hut. This 1920’s historic hut was recently renovated, getting a new foundation and a new composting toilet. He gave us a tour of the hut.

On the menu that night was yaki-soba (fried noodles).

The next day, after a breakfast of toasted bagels, we donned wet weather gear and set out back down the trail. It was clear that we wouldn’t be heading up to Mt. Soranuma today – the weather forecast was for heavy rain. 

It was somewhat of a subdued return down the track. At times the rain was a torrential downpour. It made for gorgeous atmospheric photos for those brave enough to get their cameras out.

At the trailhead, everyone was happy to stomp around in the Bankei-sawa River to wash off the mud that had completely soaked into shoes and socks. Despite the rain (or perhaps because of it), everyone was in good spirits. A great, memorable trip into the hills.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route up Mt. Bankei Sanso Hut? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

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