The previous night, Hiro and I had stayed at the rather dilapidated Mt. Musa Sokuseiso Hut. We were back at the car in the morning by 11am, and made the 45 minute drive to the end of the snow-cleared section of road to start skiing towards Nishibetsu Hut at around 1pm. Because it was late in the season, we were able to drive all the way to the start of the forestry road (here), which cut off about 1km of skiing.
We parked up and got on our way.
I’d seen mentions of the forestry road approaching the hut being hopelessly boring, but Hiro and I had a good pace, and the kilometers went past fast enough.
We did have it pretty easy though. The snow had a decently hard crust on it, and we were very rarely breaking trail.
Most of the way was following the Kiraway – a 71km long walk trail from Nakashibetsu to Teshikaga Town. The trail is popular in summer with hikers.
After just under two hours of skiing, the rumored Nishibetsu Hut appeared in a clearing in the trees. It was everything it was made out to be. Even though we knew it would be unlocked, it felt amazing that it actually was. It felt like we were stepping into something that should not just be open to the public.
The hut has a library. It has a full suite of kitchen utensils and pots and pans. And bedding. A glorious stove. Double-glazed windows. A balcony on the second floor.
As far as Hokkaido mountain huts go, this was heaven.
It seemed that the hut had not been used or cleaned since late autumn, and we spent an hour or so cleaning out the wood stove, and sweeping up the dead ladybugs on the floors.
After that, it was slow-food time. On the menu was some more of Hiro’s wild Hokkaido venison he’d received from a friend, and Hiro’s current hut-food obsession – paella. The wood stove worked a treat for this kind of slow food.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke to a howling wind outside. We weren’t too perturbed about the prospect of not being able to summit Mt. Nishibetsu though. Yesterday the clear weather gave us a good look at the ridge on Mt. Nishibetsu that we’d be climbing up, and there really didn’t seem to be much snow up there. It was late spring in eastern Hokkaido, after all – this area gets much less snow than the northern and western parts of Hokkaido. This plus the icy conditions yesterday made it an easy decision to just take it easy and have a restful morning at the hut.
My contribution to the hut gourmet was crepes for breakfast, also cooked on the wood stove.
After breakfast we did our leaving-the-hut chores: replenishing the inside wood-stash with wood from on the veranda, sweeping down surfaces, and giving the hut one more clean up.
Rather reluctantly we bade our farewells to the hut, donned our skis, and started back to the car. We had a four-hour drive ahead of us to get to our next destination for this eastern-Hokkaido ski tour trip – the Shikaribetsu Gorge wild onsen area for some ski access wild onsen!
We took a bit of a shortcut on the way back to the car, hurtling down between rows of trees to cut off the corner of the two forestry roads to the hut.
When we were just about to the car, Hiro stopped ahead and pointed out some animal prints in the snow.
These were from a Hokkaido brown bear – probably only a few days earlier. It was a sobering thought that the bears around here were now awake, and we’d been sharing the woods with them on the ski to the hut and back!
We made our quick getaway, and started the journey west.
We did have a quick hot spring break beforehand though, at the free outdoor onsen Karamatsu-no-yu (location) near Yourouushi Onsen. Eastern Hokkaido is pure magic.