Posted on Feb 18, 2020
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Posted on Feb 18, 2020

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Reading time: 4 min
16km

Distance

10 hours

Time

1321m

Ascent

1876m

Highest point

9/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Murii-dake (武利岳, 1876m) is a splendid remote peak, the second highest in the Kita-Daisetsu range. Few hikers venture here even by the regular route from the north. This route approaches via Muka-yama to the south over a broad col and a long narrow ridge. It is a tough expedition and not to be underestimated, trackless in places and involving some tough bushwhacking. But the long narrow ridge up to the rocky summit is one of the finest in central Hokkaido and gives a real sense of the wild nature of this part of the island – Hokkaido Wilds at its best!

We visited this route on Oct 06, 2019

Last updated Feb 19, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Murii-dake is in the Kita-Daisetsu range of mountains in central Hokkaido. It is usually accessed from Maruseppu off Route 333 to the north (trailhead around here), but this route uses the Muka-yama trailhead just over the Sekihoku Pass if coming from Sounkyo on the main west-east Route 39. This hike starts and finishes at about 1000m elevation a short way up a forest road off Route 39 just east of the pass (here).

General notes

Access to the Muka-yama trailhead was affected by the 2016 typhoons and the forest road now terminates about 2km short of the original trailhead. The remains of the road can be walked from here though it is very rough in the washed out sections and could be dangerous if the river level is high. The trail between Muka-yama and Murii-dake is not marked on the map and is indistinct or non-existent in places in the broad col between the two mountains. Be prepared for some arduous bushwhacking through rough terrain for a km or so. The main season for summer hiking on Murii-dake is mid-June into October; before and after this you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. The nearest facilities are at Sounkyo 層雲峡.

Hut

None

Route markers

Before you reach the former Muka-yama trailhead at 1140m it is necessary to walk around 2km along the abandoned forest road past some washed out sections that are full of debris. At the trailhead (around here) there is the usual box containing a logbook to record your details, and a spring (though to be completely safe water should be boiled or filtered). About 15 minutes further on the trail divides, though the left fork is now impassable. Take the right branch, signposted 東尾根コース (higashi-one koosu – East Ridge Trail), and climb up beside a stream though an area that has been previously been logged, then head up more steeply to join the ridge at 1570m. From here head up the ridge through occasionally rough haimatsu creeping pine to join the summit ridge at Mae-Muka-yama 前武華山 1747m, in all about 1 hour and 20 mins from the trail junction. From here follow the main ridge as it turns left (west) for a short distance to where an unsigned faint trail branches off right (north) to Murii-dake. This trail soon begins to descend into a broad col and becomes occasionally indistinct. At one point it follows the edge of a precipice for a few meters. Near the bottom (1480m) the trail disappears completely and it is necessary to bushwhack through head high sasa dwarf bamboo and tangled tree roots – look out for pink tape markers on branches. Climb up the other side and once out of the sasa pick up a clear trail to the ridge. This section will take 2-3 hours. Turn right and follow the ridge to the summit in an hour or so. Return the same way.

Route Timing
Up | 5.5hrs
Down | 4.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport access.

By car: 

Take the signposted forest road (here) north off Route 39 about 1.5 km east of Sekihoku Pass. Unless it’s been updated, the sign says Muka-dake 武華岳 instead of Muka-yama 武華山. The road ends after a few km before a washed out section. There is parking space for a few cars.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Murii-dake (武利岳) – map no. NK-54-1-14-2

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

This route is remote and relatively tough. It traverses exposed alpine terrain and can be a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. Conditions can change quickly, it is very exposed to the wind and the upper slopes can be much colder than down at the trailhead. Carry appropriate gear. The river crossings in the washouts lower down could be dangerous after heavy rain. Like all high mountain terrain in Hokkaido it is bear country so take the usual precautions. The overgrown section is a haven for ticks in summer – cover up well and check thoroughly when you get home.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Murii-dake

Onsen nearby

Sounkyo has the nearest onsen including Kurodake no Yu (黒岳の湯, location, 600yen). This place also serves delicious Italian food (pasta and pizza) in the ground floor restaurant.

Extra Resources

In Japanese: Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha). These guides are updated every few years.

Guide Options

If you’d like to hike this route and/or explore other areas of central Hokkaido with a local certified guide, then contact Jun Ishiguro. He’s a JMGA (Japan Mountain Guides Association) mountain guide and Director of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA). As a senior figure in the Hokkaido guiding scene, and with extensive experience, he can tailor trips to your needs. 

Photo Gallery

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Route Trip Notes

The previous year Jeff and I had climbed Muka-yama on a fine spring day, and on our return from the summit had scouted out the start of the faint trail leading over to Muri-dake. Ever since then it had been on our minds to return and try the route, so 7am on a clear October morning saw us once more at the end of the forest road below Muka-yama. We parked next to the only other car and pulled on our boots.

The walk up the devastated forest road was familiar although had become more overgrown as the vegetation has begun to reclaim it. We passed the gloomy former trailhead and eventually emerged into the sun a little further up the valley. Last time the hillside had been covered in the brilliant fresh green of early spring, but now we had the colours of autumn; although the brilliant foliage was mainly gone at this elevation the spidery patterns traced by the white trunks of the birch and dakekanba ダケカンバtrees against a gray/brown backdrop are just as beautiful in a more understated way. Higher up we entered the haimatsu creeping pine zone and the melting frost and rime on the branches soaked our trousers as we brushed by, being too lazy to stop and pull on our waterproofs.

On Maemuka-yama we found the unmarked trail junction and turned off along the faint track. A lone figure could be seen coming down from the summit of Muka-yama. After a few hundred meters, where the path begins to drop down the ridge, we paused to look at the view ahead across the broad col to the long ridge snaking up to the summit of Muri-dake, just over 3km from where we stood. Inspired by the panorama we dropped down into the col, not regretting too much about having to lose the height. The trail narrowed and became fainter, but at least it remained a trail until we neared the bottom. At one point it passed inches from a sheer cliff edge, not a place to slip. After a while we realized that the other climber had followed us down, so as he got closer we stopped to let him pass. As he drew level he looked up to greet us, and the double take and look of surprise on his face to see two gaijin on the trail was priceless. ‘Ehhh …. On such a minor mountain …’, he exclaimed. We chatted for a bit before he continued on. 

The fun really began near the bottom as the path petered out and we were reduced to struggling through the tangled undergrowth, pausing frequently to locate the next piece of pink marker tape to aim for. Luckily they were fairly easy to see as the leaves had gone from the trees. Fallen branches and intertwined sasa grabbed at our feet or slapped our faces as we cursed and fought our way through. As the slope steepened up the other side the downward growing sasa stalks proved particularly vexatious as we grabbed handfuls of the stuff to haul ourselves up. The occasional deer bounded away through the brush. This would not be fun in summer, we thought; not just because of the heat and lack of visibility in the trees but also as it was prime tick habitat. As someone who is paranoid about ticks, having contracted Lyme Disease in Hokkaido once before, I was constantly examining every speck on my arms and legs. This late in the season, though, the cold has usually seen them off and we found none that day.

Once out of the undergrowth the trail climbed up onto the main ridge up to Muri-dake. From here the walk was a delight, weaving in and out of small outcrops on the narrow ridge reminiscent at times of the larger hills in the Japan Alps. After a final pull up to a shoulder a hundred meters of connecting ridge deposited us on the satisfyingly narrow and rocky summit. Our fellow climber was already there and we chatted a bit more before he set off back. Alone on the summit we were tempted to linger and enjoy the stunning views in all directions, but knowing we had a long way to retrace our steps we contented ourselves with firing up the stove for some hot noodles and snacks before reluctantly taking our leave.

The return down the ridge was just as delightful as the ascent, and the drop down to the col proved easier as we were sliding down in the direction of the sasa roots this time. The pull back up to Maemuka-yama, however, a 250m climb, made us realize how tired we had become and seemed to take ages; it was late afternoon by the time we got to the top. Back on the main trail we hurried on down in the dusk. It was nearly dark by the time we reached the old trailhead and shortly after the light went completely as we negotiated the washed out road. Luckily a young moon provided just enough of a glimmer so that we didn’t need to get our head torches out. Back at the car after 10 hours we quickly chucked everything in the back and headed down to Sounkyo for onsen and pasta. Over dinner we reflected that while it had certainly been a tougher than usual day it had been well worth the effort.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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