Posted on Mar 26, 2021
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Posted on Mar 26, 2021
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16km

Distance

6 hours

Time

897m

Ascent

1464m

Highest point

7.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Mar

Best season

Muine-yama 無意根山 (1464m) is a conspicuous alpine temptation for all winter mountain lovers in Sapporo City. It's long whaleback summit shines pure white long into the spring, visible from much of the city. This route up the mountain follows the summer trail, and makes the long traverse over the Senjaku Plateau 千尺高地 (1153m) to the summit. Views are expansive. Yotei-zan, Niseko Annupuri, Yoichi-dake, and even further afield to the Mashike Range. The summit plateau is long and arduous, so requires good weather. But from Senjaku Plateau there are a number of options for thrilling descents back down to the trailhead, all with relatively well protected powder snow slopes.

We visited this route on Feb 28, 2021

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Muine-yama is located about 30km southwest of Sapporo. This route starts from the abandoned mine at Toyoha 豊羽鉱山 at the end of the local road running west from Jozankei 定山渓, around here.

General notes

Muine-yama hardly needs any introduction to locals even vaguely familiar with the mountains around Sapporo City. It’s a summer and winter staple, with multiple approaches in summer and winter. This Motoyama route is arguably the bread-and-butter winter route, with most visitors opting for this approach to the summit in the snow-bound months. It’s a long slog to the summit, but it’s a summit worth bagging at least once. If not for the views, but for the inspiration it’ll give you to come back to explore more of the myriad slopes dropping off the long summit ridge.

Hut
None
Route details

Park up at the end of the road near the gate here, and walk 400m (5 mins) back down the road to the start of the route here. You may notice that snowshoers prefer to head straight up the summer trail marked on the map, but skiers prefer to follow the road up a little further before rejoining with the summer trail at around 680m. This allows for a less tightly-treed descent on the way down. Follow the trail marked on the map to the Senjaku Plateau at 1153m. If the weather looks unsuitable for heading to the summit, skiers can still have plenty of fun lapping the northern slopes below Senjaku Plateau (beware of avalanche risk). Once you’re at Senjaku Plateau, a vigorous 2 hour climb from the trailhead, most of the climbing is done. From there, it’s still a solid 2 hours of gentle incline across the broad whaleback summit plateau to actually get to the summit proper. About half way to the summit, you’ll come across the uma-no-se, literally ‘horse back’. This is a conspicuous dip in the narrow ridge – beware of the cornice. From there, it’s about another 1 hour of wind-scoured hard-packed snow to the non-descript summit. Expect grand views across to Mt. Yotei. The descent across the summit plateau requires some poling as well as some side-stepping back up the horse’s back, so it’ll take about one hour to get from the summit back down to the Senjaku Plateau at 1153m. Here, one can decide to ski the north northeast bowl to join up with the summer trail at around 840m, or take the safer summer trail all the way down.

Route Timing
Up | 4hrs
Down | 2hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route, although note that there are buses that run to Jozankei. From there, it would be about a 30 minute taxi trip (14km).

By car:

The private Toyoha Mine road is cleared in winter, and is open to public use (obey all signs posted). Note that in deep winter, visitors to the area are asked to park only at the very end of the road, here. This is about 200m walk from the winter trailhead up Muine-yama, here. You may see cars parked right at the trailhead, but this is technically not allowed. Parking on the side of the road is prohibited. In the spring, it may be possible to drive all the way up to the summer trailhead car park, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Muineyama (無意根山) – map no. NK-54-14-15-3

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).

Aspect
The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is North. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Shiribeshi area, consider looking at the Japan Avalanche Network weekly avalanche bulletins or the daily Niseko Avalanche Information website. These may give extra insight into avalanche conditions in the greater area around the route.

Snow and
route safety

This route as marked on the GPS file is relatively safe in regards to avalanche risk, but Muine-yama boasts the largest number of avalanche fatalities of any mountain in the Sapporo region (see the Hokkaido Institute of Avalanche Research and Education database map here). This is primarily due to its popularity, but also due to the steep eastward slopes and overall tight, deep run-out gullies. Avoid the steep north-facing Senjaku Plateau bowl on high-risk days.

Muine-yama Toyoha Motoyama Route Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

A

20

Totals

77/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy).  More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Muine-yama
Onsen nearby

To get to the trailhead, you’ll pass through the Jozankei Onsen area. Out of the numerous onsen in this area, we’ve enjoyed Hoheikyo Onsen 豊平峡温泉 (location, 1000yen) for their massive outdoor bath, and authentic onsen experience (and Indian curry), but can be busy on weekends. Yunohana Onsen 湯の花 (location, 850yen) in Jozankei is also a nice option – large outdoor baths overlooking the river, and large foot court area. In addition there are a whole slew of other options in the Jozankei area.

Extra Resources

See the write-up (in Japanese) from p. 146-149 of the Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047).

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other hills around Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those around Sapporo City, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 140 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Mt. Muine is a platform-shaped mountain that can be seen southwest from Sapporo City’s Ishiyama suburbs. It is Sapporo City’s second-highest mountain after Mt. Yoichi. From Senjaku Plateau to the summit of Mt. Muine is a long, flat, easy-to-lose-one’s way ridge. During unstable weather in mid-winter, that part of the route demands some serious mountaineering skills. The Senjaku Plateau, however, can be accessed even in bad weather and can be very satisfying, so this part of the route is worthy of its own route guide.

The weather forecast called for a long day in the hills, so Muine-yama it was. Tim and I had just finished parking up on the side of the road at the trailhead, and were about to set off, when another skier let us and another car know that technically we weren’t allowed to park on the side of the road. There were no signs to this effect, but then the walls of snow were over three or four meters high. We quickly threw our stuff back into the van, sped off up the hill to the larger parking area, and returned as quickly as we could on our skis.

I’d been up towards Muine-yama before, in the very late spring. In winter, everything looked different. On the way up to Senjaku Plateau, we ended up on the snowshoer’s trail. There was some up and downs that we would later find out weren’t there if one was following the more popular ski touring route. The snow was good for now. A little heavy, but deep. Being a popular route though, we didn’t need to break trail.

As we approached the plateau, an older snowshoer was descending. “How far are you going?” she asked. We told her we’d be keen to get to the summit of Muine if possible.

“It was a total white-out up there, I couldn’t see a thing,” she said. “I had to turn back.”

Right above us was blue skies, but indeed, further on over the plateau, there were some clouds. Before we carried on, we wrapped up in an extra layer each and put on our goggles. Even if it was windy, we were keen to see what it was like up on the plateau.

As it turned out, however, the weather forecast was correct. It appears the snowshoer had got the early morning low cloud, but by the time we got up there in late morning, the forecasted clear skies had appeared. It was late winter ski touring perfection.

Once up on the plateau, we could already see Mt. Yotei in the distance. Not a breath of wind. Looking further up to the summit of Muine, however, we could see that a fierce wind was whipping across the summit, sending tortured clouds of turbulence flying. And it was still a long way off.

“Not many people go to the summit on skis,” mused the old snowshoer we’d passed earlier. Now we can see why. It was a long, flat-ish way from this half-way point. Mercifully, there were some snowmobile tracks for part of the way through the softer snow – this made the going pretty quick.

Soon we were up on the summit ridge proper. The landscape dropped away down to the left and the right. Somewhere down there was the Muine Hut, although I couldn’t see its iconic red roof.

The uma-no-se dip in the ridge was somewhat surprising to us. We’d not really expected it, and it took us by surprise. It was nothing too difficult, but after trudging away towards the summit for at least an hour, it was just one last little thing separating us from our goal.

We made it to the 1464m point on the map. The official summit (trig point) is actually slightly lower at 1460m. If the weather conditions had been better, we might have been more inclined to go take a picture at the summit sign. But it was blowing a gale, and the view of the surrounding peaks was appearing and disappearing as every gust new gust of wind whipped up more clouds.

We ripped skins and started our clattery wind-scoured descent.

After we’d crossed the upper parts of the summit ridge, the snow was less wind affected. The slope was only just descending though, so we spent far too much time poling and stomping our way along the flat-ish plateau, before we finally gave in and put skins on again. With skins back on, it was a much easier hike back to the Senjaku Plateau. We dug a pit and decided the snowpack was stable enough to have a crack at the Senjaku Plateau bowl, marked as avalanche terrain on the map.

It was clearly a popular spot, as we were sharing the slopes with another few sets of fresh tracks from the morning. Ideally, we would have lapped the slope a couple of times. But we’d just spent over 3 hours walking across flatlands to get to the summit…lapping would have to wait for another day.

The remainder of the ski back down was a playful rip down the skintrack through tight trees at times. Before we knew it we were back at the trailhead. We dropped out skis and backpacks, walked up to get the car, and that was our Muine adventure done and dusted. Next time we’ll probably just lap Senjaku Plateau.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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Muine-yama Toyoha Motoyama Route Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

A

20

Totals

77/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.