Posted on Mar 22, 2018
105 0

Posted on Mar 22, 2018
105 0
Reading time: 7 min
11km

Distance

5.5 hours

Time

715m

Ascent

1005m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Mar

Best season

Mt. Musa (武佐岳, 1,005m) is a volcanic mountain standing as advance guard to the more famous far-east mountains of the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, Japan. As such, the summit provides panoramic views across the plains and close-by Pacific Coast to the east, and peaks such as Mt. Shari (斜里岳, 1,547m) and Mt. Rausu (羅臼岳, 1,660m) to the northeast. En-route is the extremely rustic, half-derelict Mt. Musa Sokuseiso Hut. Dense low-lying trees prohibit skiing directly from the summit, but there are some skiing options from the ridge further down.

Last updated Oct 24, 2018

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This route is half-way between Lake Mashu and Mt. Shari, in far-eastern Hokkaido, on the Pacific Ocean side. The start of the route will depend on how far the road has been cleared – either about here for mid-winter (adding about 1km to the total trip distance) or here for spring.

General notes

I think it would be fair to say Mt. Musa is one of those hills you go to for the view (and/or the rustic old hut) rather than the downhill skiing. In places the ridge is narrow enough to get the heart racing, and the final approach to the summit has dense low trees on all sides, so it is unlikely you’ll be skiing directly from the summit. When we were there in spring the snow was hard and icy, so we left our skis at a point about 500m from the summit and boot-packed the rest of the way up.

Hut

Mt. Musa Sokuseiso Hut (full details here)

The Mt. Musa Sokuseiso Hut (武佐岳憩清荘), lovingly maintained by the volunteer Mt. Musa Mountaineering Association (武佐岳登山同好会), has “character”. It does have a really good wood stove, with plenty of wood supplied. It is also free for overnight stays, and booking is not required. The roofing doesn’t appear to leak, and appears to be in good condition. Overall though, as of writing (March 2018), the building itself is a rather dilapidated hut, receiving somewhat palliative care by the passionate volunteers from the club.

Route markers

There are sporadic official trial signs to the hut, but they’re for the summer trail – in winter they’re too far spaced apart to be much use. There are plenty of trees with ribbon tied to them, but they’re mostly forestry-work markings. Best to assume you’ll be navigating on your own.

Route Timing

Up | 4hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

About 1 hour from trailhead to hut, 3 hours from hut to summit. About 1.5 hours from summit back to trailhead.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to the trailhead.

By car: 

There is room on the side of the road here at the end of road-clearing in mid-winter and plenty of room at the official trailhead here in spring.

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Musa-dake (武佐岳) – map no. NK-55-31-2-2
Official Topo Map 2: Musa (武佐) – map no. NK-55-31-3-1

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

Snow and route safety

Police notification:  Fill your police notification out online using Compass – instructions here

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Musa

Onsen nearby

  • Karamatsu-no-yu (locaiton) is a beautiful free outdoor mixed gender hotspring next to a river.
  • Yoroushi Onsen (location) is a more established onsen with jaw-droppingly nice outdoor pools, including one river-side outdoor mixed pool.
Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Photo Gallery

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Route Trip Notes

There’s a Japanese site that lists all of the mountain huts in Hokkaido (here). It only provides very basic information, and I was scouring it on a Monday night, doing Google searches for each and every one, to see if any of them were practical and possible to use in winter on a back country ski tour.

I had made a shortlist of huts I’d not been to before (huts I have been to before are here):

Yufure Hut would have been great, but a call to the Furano City council (0167-39-2312) revealed that the hut’s chimney was currently broken, scheduled to be fixed in summer. This meant that the stove was not available for use. The Mt. Teshio hut looked amazing, but the town council (TEL: 01652-8-2121) let me know that the hut is completely shut up in winter, and is not even available for emergency stays. The Mt. Muroran Shiratori hut has long been on my list, but it is a super easy route that would suite an easy weekend with Haidee.

That left the two eastern Hokkaido Huts – Mt. Musa and Mt. Nishibetsu. Calls to the respective town councils confirmed they were available for use, no booking required. If I added to those two huts a camping trip to a ski-access wild hot spring, then it would make a very nice four-day trip, worth the 6-hour drive from Sapporo to eastern Hokkaido. If only I had the time.

This was Monday night. At around noon on Tuesday, as I was eating my lunch at work, I realized that Wednesday was a public holiday. I would only have to take two days off work, and the four day trip out east would work. But who could I ask to come at such short notice?

I emailed Hiro, the master of gourmet hut meals, and he dropped everything to join in on the crazy, adventurous plan to drive 6 hours the next day to visit two huts and some hot springs. I hoped Hiro’s trust in my planning would not be for naught.

So there we found ourselves, almost at the very eastern point of Hokkaido, at around 1pm on Wednesday, after leaving Sapporo at 6:30am. We were ready to start skinning up towards a hut we didn’t know much about, apart from that there was a stove and fuel for said stove.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

It was a hot spring day as we set off under clear blue skies. The route from the official trialhead is flat and follows a forestry road for about 1km before moving to the summer trail. Most of the way up to the hut is through plantation forest with some pockets of native bush. Closer to the hut the plantation gives way to well-spaced native forest.

We were there in spring, so the forestry roads were cleared. The gates to the forestry roads were also open, but we didn’t feel confident to enter and leave the car overnight – we didn’t want to find the gates locking us in the next day.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

It really didn’t feel like much time at all had passed before we were at the hut. From the outside, the hut looked rustic, but perfectly acceptable. The exterior oozed charm. The chimney looked intact, so that was a very positive sign.

We had to spend a few minutes digging snow away from the entrance in order to free the plywood cover over the damaged door. The one working sliding door would only slide about 10cm before jamming, so it was clear the plywood would be our door for our stay.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

After gaining entrance to the hut, however, my heart sank. The interior was not much better than what you’d expect from an abandoned building. Most shocking was the wooden floor. Twisted and bent, there was very little flat area. Temporary attempts at making the place more air-tight using thin foam sheet had been thwarted by large holes gnawed by mice. All surfaces were dusty and gritty. Mouse poo everywhere. I picked up a large plank of wood resting on the floor, and this revealed a swarming mess of winged ants. I gently laid the plank back down.

Overall, the place was a mess.

So we got to work. I was glad to have my buff to filter the dust as I breathed – sweeping up created clouds of chocking dust.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
After we’d swept up all the surfaces in the hut, including the creaky loft area, it was about time to start a long evening of slow food. Hiro does amazing things with a hut’s wood stove. Tonight we started with fresh sashimi and some pickled vegetables, before moving on to venison and vegetable stir-fry.
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

It was just before 9pm that we headed to our respective flat-ish corners of the hut for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, I toasted on top of the stove the bagels I had brought. Hiro of course one-upped me with by pulling out the bread dough he’d made up the night before, and baked it on the stovetop.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

After signing the guestbook, we left out overnight gear in the hut and headed out to try to summit Mt. Musa. We’d had a clear view of the summit the previous day, but this morning it was shrouded in cloud. The snow was hard and icy – typical spring conditions.

The forest was beautiful though. Approaching the narrow summit ridge, the route alternated between steep climbs and flat clearings.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

After about an hour, we found ourselves on a very narrow ridge. In softer snow conditions it would have been relatively easy going, but the hard icy surface underfoot made traversing a challenging experience. The view over the plains, towards the sea, however, was huge, all along the ridge to the summit.

Before making the final climb towards the summit, the route crosses a wider saddle. About half way up the final climb to the summit, we switched to boot-packing. In softer snow conditions it would be possible to make wider zig-zags up the ridge, but for us it was quicker and more straight forward to walk up.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mercifully, the cloud cover crept higher and higher as we climbed, such that as we crested the summit ridge, we had immense views all the way to the east across the Shiretoko Peninsula. Mt. Shari, Mt. Rausu, and all the hills between an beyond stood to attention. This was beyond what we’d been expecting, so it was an awesome surprise.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

We’d expected that it wouldn’t be practical to ski from the summit, and our hunch was right. We’d left our skis about 100m down, so after walking back down to them we started the icy descent back the way we’d come.

Instead of trying to ski along the knife-edge ridge, we traversed considerably along and down the eastern side of the ridge where the trees were relatively sparse. In hindsight we should have connected back up with a flat area of the main ridge at around 640m. From there the ridge widens and would allow for some nice downhill skiing to the hut. We carried on traversing, and ended up in very thick trees.

We did finally make it to the wide ridge above the hut, and enjoyed a quick dash through the forest to the hut.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

We did a final quick clean up of the hut before hurtling back down the summer trail to the car at the trailhead. With the hard snow underfoot, we were able to skate most of the way along the flatter sections.

Overall, it felt like it had been a great mountaineering-type overnight trip. Because the hut is so close to the trailhead, it meant we could drive all the way from Sapporo and still get onto the mountain and stay in the hut before nightfall. The narrow ridge to the summit was exhilarating, and the traverse back to the hut was quick and straight forward. The views were to die for. We didn’t notice any clearly amazing ski lines on the mountain however, so it’s unlikely I’d go back purely for the skiing.

From the trailhead, we started driving in the direction of the next objective – the famous and legendary Mt. Nishibetsu Hut.

Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Musa and Mt. Musa Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Musa, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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