Shakotan Hut and Mt. Shakotan-dake Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)


Shakotan Hut provides an excellent base from which to explore peaks such as Mt. Shakotan-dake (積丹岳 – 1,255m) or Mt. Yobetsu (余別岳 – 1,298m) on the Shakotan Peninsula. About 40 minutes from the end of the snow-cleared section of dirt road, this is a public-transport accessible hut, free to use for overnight stays. As far as Hokkaido mountain huts go, it is a luxurious one – running spring water, a kerosene stove, and a large tatami living area. We stayed overnight there for a blue-sky ascent of Mt. Shakotan.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Essential Info

  • Route GPS log: Mt. Shakotan GPX file download (hut location is here).
  • Route timing: Around 40 minutes from trailhead to Shakotan Hut, and another 3 hours from there to Mt. Shakotan-dake summit. About 1.5hrs back down.
  • Total vertical gain: 1,100m
  • Topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan (Shakotan Hut in the cross-hairs here, Mt. Shakotan-dake here, ), or buy the following 1:25,000 paper topo maps (for 350yen each) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
    • Yobetsu (余別) – map no. NK-54-20-9-1
    • Mikuni (美国) – map no. NK-54-20-5-3
  • Snow and route safety: When I mentioned to Mr. Hirata, the hutkeeper of Ginreiso Hut, that I was planning on going to Mt. Shakotan, he said I would die. I’d been there before, and didn’t die, but I can see where he is coming from – Mt. Shakotan is often buffeted by howling winds direct from the Japan Sea, so you’ll need to choose your weather window wisely. The Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047) suggests leaving this area alone in mid-winter, and waiting till mid-March for more stable weather.
  • Other resources: See the write-up (in Japanese) from p. 242 of the Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047). Also see an earlier route report of mine here.
  • Best time to visit: Mid-March till mid-May (as per the Yuki-yama Guide).
  • Getting there and away
    • By public transport: You’ll want to catch the Number 21 bus from Yoichi JR Station, bound for Cape Kamuisaki, and get off at the bus stop called tozan-guchi (登山口) which is stop number 52 (counting from Otaru Station). Bus stop location is around 43.308076, 140.553185, and will likely take around an hour from Yoichi Station. Check at tourist info at Sapporo Station before you head off for season timetable information.
    • By car: There is a small area to park cars just before the forestry road starts here. Later in the season, it is sometimes possible to drive almost all the way to Shakotan Hut, but don’t bank on it. Respect roped-off roads.
  • Onsen neaby: Shakotan Onsen (location), 10km further around the cape, has been highly recommended to be by a number of people. I’ve only ever been to Furubira Onsen (location), which is nice and on the way back to Sapporo, but the ocean-view outdoor bath is only open from the end of April.
  • Weather forecast (Google Translated): Tenkura pinpoint for Mt. Shakotan-dake
  • Other attractions: The historic Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery (location) is on the way back to Sapporo (near the Yoichi JR Train Station), and they offer free tastings. Very much worth a visit!
  • Date visited: Feb 19th, 2017

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Route Map with GPS Trace (Full Route GPX file)


Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Shakotan Hut (積丹岳休憩所) Essential Info

  • Location of Shakotan Hut: About 2.3km from the forestry road entrance (location), after climbing around 250m in altitude (hut location – Google Maps).
  • Details: Maintained by the local volunteer Shakotan-dake Mountain Association, this hut is an immaculate oasis with running water inside the hut, a kerosene stove (with kerosene supplied), futon, and a large tatami area. Officially it is managed by the local Shakotan Town Council Tourism Department.
  • Booking: As of March 2017, there was no booking required, and the hut is unlocked in winter. The official contact point is the Shakotan Town Council Commerce and Tourism Department (TEL: 0135-44-3381). When I called to confirm that the hut would be available for an overnight stay, I was told it was and just to make sure to write my details in the visitor book.
  • Fee: Free.
  • Facilities
    • Heating: The hut is heated by a kerosene stove. Kerosene is supplied in a large tank inside the hut, connected directly to the stove. Lighting the stove takes a couple of steps, so I’ve put together a PDF instruction sheet here.
    • Water: There is running water in the hut. It is spring water straight from the spring, so can be drunk without boiling or treatment.
    • Kitchen/cooking: There is a large sink, plus some frypans, kettles, and some drinking glasses. The kerosene stove will happily bring water to the boil.
    • Bedding: There are futon matresses, blankets, and duvets in the hut ready for use, enough for about six or seven people.
    • Electricity: There is no electricity in the hut.
    • Toilets: There is one toilet (no toilet paper) just outside the hut entrance. It is a basic long-drop.
  • Special Shakotan Hut usage notes: Remember: Always leave a hut cleaner than you found it.

Climb and Ski Report

From the Yuki-yama Guidebook:

“Enjoy a massive 1,100m ski descent on Mt. Shakotan which, along with Mt. Yobetsu, is a big boss of the Shakotan Peninsula. There’s a hiking trail on Mt. Shakotan, so people also climb it in summer. In mid-winter, owing to the fact that it is right next to the Japan Sea, it is an extremely difficult climb with its fierce blizzards. People generally climb Mt. Shakotan in the spring once the weather has become more stable. With gentle slopes and large open aspects higher up, it is perfect for enjoying spring skiing.” Yuki-yama Guide, 2015, p. 186

Mt. Shakotan can easily be accessed and climbed as a day-trip from Sapporo City, as I’ve done before. But, making the most of the excellent Shakotan Hut, three of us from Sapporo climbed Mt. Mekunnai on Saturday (report here), and then made the 2hr drive to the Mt. Shakotan trailhead so that we could stay at the hut and climb Mt. Shakotan on Sunday.

I had told Andy and Hiro that it would be an easy skin up an uncleared forestry road to the hut. Indeed, this is the route marked in the Yuki-yama Guide and was the route I’d done a few years back. With this in mind, I figured it would be perfectly OK to arrive at the trailhead relatively late, potentially getting to the hut after dark. Hiro had the right idea based on that information – he had prepared a sled to haul his gear up to the hut along the snow-bound road.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The reality was somewhat different, with the forestry road cleared of at least 1m of snow, right down to the gravel. It would be impossible to ski on it, so we were forced to follow a route along the west of the snaking forestry road, at times having to gingerly clamber over debris from the road-clearing.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

With daylight fading fast – we had set off from the trailhead at 5:30pm – it would end up taking us about 1hr 15mins to get to the hut after abandoning Hiro’s sled soon after setting off, and taking turns carrying the now unwieldy extra luggage. It was a comfort having the GPS track, overlaid on the Japan official topographical maps using the Geographica App (iPhone | Android) on Andy’s phone, so that we at least knew we were headed in the right direction, and had a map location of the hut.

It was sweet relief to arrive at the hut at almost 7pm. We quickly got the stove running (English PDF instructions here), and settled in for a relaxing remaining evening. On the menu was a Hokkaido classic – Genghis Khan.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The delightfully quiet hut allowed us to sleep in till 6am – one of the best sleeps I’ve had in a mountain hut.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

After a large breakfast of crepes we left our large packs in the hut and set off towards the summit of Mt. Shakotan.

Before long, we were all in our t-shirts – it was well and truly spring weather.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The wind would come and go, however, and by the time we were above the treeline, we all had our jackets back on.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The upper ridge was a fickle beast, rising up to false summits and giving us peeks here and there of the scenery on the other side.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The summit finally yielded and gave us expansive views over Mt. Yobetsu, the Japan Sea coast, and back towards Mt. Yotei and the Niseko Range, where we had been just a day ago.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

The way down got properly interesting only once we’d clattered our way down to around 970m across sastrugi-like wind-blown snow. From there, it was glorious tree skiing on even, consistent spring snow.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Once back at the hut we packed up, signed the guestbook…

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

And braved the tightly-treed traverse-descent along side the cleared gravel road.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Back at the cars, a group of snowboarders, some with their snowboards attached sideways on their packs, some pulling sleds full of gear and food, were just heading off. 10 minutes later, just as we were pulling away, we noticed them returning to their van…I can only imagine that they must have been re-considering their strategy for getting their gear to the hut.

Seeing as Andy is a bit of a whiskey fan, we dropped in at the Nikka whiskey distillery on the way back to Sapporo. This historic distillery has free tastings…alas Hiro and I were driving, so had to enjoy watching Andy enjoying the offerings.

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
Mt. Shakotan ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

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