Dirk and I did not initially set out to climb Mt. Fuppushi. The idea was to do Mt. Tarumae. What we didn’t know, however, was that access to road 141 at the turnoff from road 276 on the Lake Shikotsu side is inexplicably not accessible in winter. Road 141 itself is cleared on the Tomakomai City side, so would be accessible from further south, but we’d already come to Lake Shikotsu; getting to the Mt. Tarumae road junction would require either a 50km drive or a 4km walk (carrying skis). Either way, it would add an hour to the trip.
We sought out an alternative peak to tackle.
Mt. Fuppushi was the clear alternative we were after. Just a few minutes down the road we found the Kitaone Trail entrance. The summer car park was of course completely snowed in, but there was enough room on the roadside to park our 12-hour rental (a 660cc gutless but economical wonder).
After the setback with the access road to Mt. Tarumae, it was already 10am by the time we set off. Being late in the season, the snow was rotten with plenty of debris in the lower reaches. We followed a forestry road for a while before hitting the Kitaone Trail proper.
The day was clear overhead, but relatively hazy, and after an hour of ascending through thickets of established woods, we emerged on the ridge that would take us (steeply) towards the summit. There was no wind, and the steep climb made it all rather hot work.
At around 12:30pm, we had hit the gut-buster steep sections of the climb. This area required stiff kicking of steps, and with a soft layer of rotting snow on the surface, it was easy to slip backwards. We were wanting for skins for some easier zigzag traverses.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat for lunch at around 12:45pm, only 15 minutes or so from the summit. It had to be quick, because despite the now extensive views over Lake Shikotsu, we were out of the shelter from the wind. A biting westerly cut through sweat-drenched layers. The name of the mountain, Fuppushi, is an indigenous Ainu name meaning “the place with conifers.” When the pronunciation is represented by Japanese kanji characters, however, the characters literally mean wind (fuu) not (fu) die (shi). Our wind-battered stop for lunch gave a certain weight to the name.
Lunch scoffed, we dropped our skis and backpacks and clambered on all fours up the remaining 50 meters or so to the summit. We were greeted with unobstructed 360 degree views over Lake Shikotsu to the north, and Mt. Tarumae to the east. An unusually dense haze put a damper on the view, but it was impressive nonetheless. Had we managed to get to the Mt. Tarumae trailhead, we would have hiked much farther, across Mt. Tarumae, to where this photo was taken. While the via-Taruame route would be a worthy one to take on for a long day out on the mountain, we were happy with the nicely strenuous Kitaone Route.
By 1:30pm we were on our way down. Somehow I had gone an entire winter season in Hokkaido this year without having even one day of downhill skiing, so the ski down was (for me) somewhat of a baptism of fire. Steep-ish terrain with plenty of trees to make things interesting…it was not until I got to the bottom that I actually felt like I had my skiing legs back.
As our reward for a great morning out on the mountain, we attempted to have a soak in the awesome Mizu-no-uta hotel’s onsen, but unfortunately had arrived too late for their day visiting hours (they finish at 3pm). We had to settle for the much less exciting, but no less hot and relaxing Kyukanomura Shikotsuko onsen. At least they were cheaper; 720yen rather than probably twice that price.
The day was wrapped up with dinner at (the now closed) Sapporo Shokudo in Chitose, a cafeteria-style Japanese restaurant where a large meal plus a handle of beer usually costs a reasonable 1,000yen or so.