Posted on Mar 18, 2018
135 0

Posted on Mar 18, 2018
135 0
Reading time: 6 min
12km

Distance

5.5 hours

Time

851m

Ascent

1293m

Highest point

6/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

Mt. Sapporo (札幌岳, 1,293m) is a popular peak in the Jozankei area, not least of all for its name - the same as the city in which it stands. Half way up the route to the peak is the Hokkai Gakuen University managed Hiyamizu Hut (冷水小屋, 845m), available for overnight stays on the first and third weekends of the month. From the hut, there are a multitude of great slopes to choose from for magnificent skiing. Steep, mellow, and everything in between. Mt. Sapporo's summit offers expansive views over Sapporo City and surrounds. Enjoy as a day-trip or very comfortable overnighter.

Last updated Oct 24, 2018

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This route starts at the upper end of Jozankei village in the western reaches of Sapporo City, on the road towards Jozan Lake (here).

General notes

This is one of those compact-topography narrow-valley-approach routes quite typical of the Jozankei area and hills west of Sapporo City. This allows for A) a very sheltered route to the hut, and B) some great varied terrain higher up beyond the hut. Be prepared for a very short section of boot-packing (or a scramble on skis) just behind the hut at the head of the gully. Beyond that it is gloriously open.

Hut

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut (full details here)

Hiyamizu Hut is a two story, 81.89㎡ hut that sleeps 30 people. It was originally built in 1933, but burned to the ground in 1950. A replacement hut, which stands today, was built in 1952 (details in Japanese here). The hut is owned and managed by Hokkai Gakuen University (TEL: 011-841-1161), and is available for use from the 1st of Jan till 31st of October on the first and third weekends of the month.

Route markers

The route to the hut follows the summer trail, which is marked sporadically with tape tied to trees. From the hut, the winter route diverges and is not marked.

Route Timing

Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

About 2 hours from carpark to hut, another hour to hour and a half from hut to summit. From summit back to the carpark is about 1 hour.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to the trailhead (location). The closest you’ll get to the trailhead by public transport is Hoheikyo Onsen bus stop (location). From there to the trailhead is a 2.3km walk (route here).

By car: 

There is ample parking at the trailhead (location).

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Sapporo-dake (札幌岳) – map no. NK-54-14-15-2
Official Topo Map 2: Jozankei (定山渓) – map no. NK-54-14-15-1

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

The main risks noted in the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047) are avalanche risk on the western slopes behind the hut and route-finding difficulties in low visibility on the open plateau leading to the summit.

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

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Mt. Sapporo

Onsen nearby

The gorgeous Hoheikyo Onsen (location) is worth a visit if you’ve never been before (1,000yen per person), just down the road from the trailhead.

Extra Resources
  • See the write-up (in Japanese) in the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047) on pp. 150-153.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

“Mt. Sapporo is a laid-back, fine-looking mountain that dominates the deeper reaches of the Jozankei hills. Since the old days it is well-liked as a ski touring destination, and is known for its large trees caked in ice along its ridgeline. Part way up the mountain is the Hiyamizu Hut – an oasis-like destination in the deep winter months. Staying at the hut is the purpose for many who visit Mt. Sapporo. This ski touring route follows the summer trail mostly, so to the hut there’s no worry of getting lost. The upper reaches of the route beyond the hut, however, bring with it risk of avalanche and getting disoriented, so care must be taken” (Translated from the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047), p. 150).

I’d heard a number of less-than-glowing reports from the winter route up Mt. Sapporo, tucked into the hills in the upper Jozankei area of Sapporo City. They mostly focused on the narrow, gully-floor approach to the hut, and then the steep and tight scramble up to the wider head of the valley directly behind the hut.

What I hadn’t heard so much about, however, was the multitude of ski-slope options, on multiple aspects and differing steepness just a stone’s throw from the hut. “I’ve been skiing around the Niseko area and in central Hokkaido for the last two months,” said Chris and Ed, a couple of new friends who joined us for this trip to the hut. “But this is some of the most fun steeps we’ve skied in Hokkaido!”

Overall, despite the less-than-perfect snow conditions we had for this weekend’s visit to the Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut, I can see this area quickly becoming a favorite for backcountry skin touring close to Sapporo. If only the hut was open to use by the public more frequently than just every other weekend…

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

I’d not stayed at Hiyamizu Hut before, and it was high on my list of places to visit in the winter. Rick and Hiro, friends from Sapporo were keen to join, and then I got a message from Chris (from Sweden), saying that him and his friends Ed (UK), Isabella (Sweden), and Eric (Sweden) had spent most of the season in Niseko and were hoping to visit Okuteine Hut in the weekend (as per my route guide). He was asking for some more deatils about the hut, but I mentioned that I’d be going to Mt. Sapporo. So they all decided to join, and we had a merry group of seven.

We started off at 9am from the trailhead (location), hoping to make the most of a forecast weather window that would hopefully give us some good visibility at the summit of Mt. Sapporo (Mt. Sapporo weather here). The route follows the Hiyamizu-sawa River (冷水沢川) through some scraggly forest at the beginning, quickly becoming more and more picturesque.

Chris and Ed had not originally planned to do any overnighters while in Japan on their skiing holiday, so had picked up some cheap and large foam flooring tiles to act as sleeping pads. The would later tell me that they were “not ideal”.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The route crosses the stream multiple times on the way to the hut. In most places a decently wide snow-bridge can be found later in the season. Earlier in the season might require some more searching.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The route diverges from the stream now and then, but always returns, all the way up to the hut.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
The hut is nestled at the base of a sharp ridge separating two small streams, one of which supplies the hut with water. The variety of terrain and forest on the way up to the hut makes the time pass quickly.
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

I had told the university that we’d be arriving at the hut at no later than 3pm. So the rostered hutkeeper was not there when we arrived at around 11:00am. We quickly cached our un-needed food and overnight equipment, and carried on up towards Mt. Sapporo.

It was here that I was able to experience the gully of doom that everyone I’d talked to about Mt. Sapporo in winter had told me about. “I was slipping all over the place on my skis,” a colleague at work had told me. “I ended up just boot-packing up it.”

It wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been made out to be, however. It was a fun challenge to get up without removing the skis, but would have been just as fast to remove them and walk up. It was only a 100m section, after all. In earlier-season baseless soft snow, however, I can see how it would be much more of an effort.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Once up and out of the gully, the head of the valley opens up to a very wide bowl. The winter route climbs to the climber’s right to the broad ridge that heads to the summit.
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

I can see why the Japanese ski touring guidebook for Hokkaido (ISBN: 978-4894538047) mentions this area as a place to be very cautious in low visibility. It is wide open and climbs ever so slightly beyond the treeline.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
It was blowing a strong, cold wind at the summit, so we spent only enough time there to take a few photos and transition to downhill mode. Our group consisted of three skiers, a telemarker, and three splitboarders.
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The downhill was surprisingly good for this late in the season. We’d had a lot of rain in the preceding week, and were pleasantly surprised with a nice 15 to 20 cm layer of fluffy fresh snow. We traversed quite considerably high along the western slopes of the valley to get to the hut, which meant we dropped straight down to the hut when it was below us. Traversing so high, however, meant that we had to cross a couple of large gullies, which would not have been very safe in more unstable conditions. It did, however, rewards us with a steep run directly down to the hut.

Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Sapporo Hiyamizu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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