A day in the life of a mountain hut

We visited a couple working at the Ootenjo Hutte in the Northern Alps. What is the compatibility between mountain living and HERENESS WOOL?

  • Photograph: Hinano Kimoto
  • Text: HERENESS

They begin their work while it is still dark and send climbers off at dawn to wish them safety. Today, the hut welcomes new visitors and offers them a place to rest and relax. Located on the western saddle of Mt. Ootenjo in the Northern Alps, the Ootenjo Hut is staffed by a couple who are well suited to mountain living surrounded by nature.

During the summer mountain climbing season, the ways to enjoy mountain climbing become richer and richer. Mountain huts offer a wide range of options, from challenging yourself with more difficult mountains to extending the distance to make full use of the time available. Not only do they provide rest and lodging on the way to your destination, but the interaction with other climbers you meet there and the people who guard the huts is also a valuable memory of your trip.

Located at the midpoint of Omote-Ginza, one of the most popular routes in the Northern Alps, is the Ootearai Hut. It takes about 6 hours from Nakabusa Onsen and about 7 hours from here to Yarigatake, so if you are aiming for the summit of Yarigatake in 3 days and 2 nights or 4 days and 3 nights, this is the perfect place to stay for the first night.

However, it is not easy to reach here. At the first branch of Omotegoza, we choose a traverse route to the west (straight ahead) with the summit of Mount Otearaidake at our side. It is the shortest route to Mt. Yarigatake, but there is a persistent series of chain-link and steep slope difficulties. After many repeated bends, we finally saw the red roof. The feeling of being released from a long period of tension is a special sense of security provided by a mountain lodge.

he person who greeted us was Mrs. Hana Murata, who runs the Ooteari Hutte. She works as a hut keeper with her husband, Mr.Sou.

"It was a long way, wasn't it? Thank you for your hard work. Let me make you some tea."

His wheat-colored skin and soft-spoken tone are impressive, and it is encouraging to see how naturally he handles his duties at 2,650 meters at the young age of 27. Coming out of the kitchen, Sou-san is an even more reassuring presence for Hua and the other two staff members. As I followed a day in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Murata, who run the Ooteari Hutte, I began to feel at home in this small mountain lodge.

Routine work at a mountain lodge

I get up at 3:30 a.m. Work starts at 4:00 a.m. I have to prepare my lunch and breakfast in the morning. In the morning, he prepares lunch and breakfast. The quiet way they work in the kitchen when it is still dark makes it clear that this is a daily routine that is familiar to their bodies. The temperature is around 15 degrees Celsius. Even though it is the hottest time of the year, the mornings are cold.

Sou says, "It's easy to work with, so in the kitchen I basically wear short sleeves and a vest is just fine."

Breakfast at 5:00. At this time of day, the scenery outside changes from moment to moment. The morning sun is shining on the Yarigatake and Hotaka peaks, gradually making their outlines clearer and clearer.

"If you have time to climb up to the Ushikubu Observation Deck, please do so, and you will have the 360-degree panoramic view all to yourself," Hana said.The view from the Ushikubu Observatory, accessible in 15 minutes one way, is worth seeing.

6:00, staff breakfast. After finishing their work, they eat together. By this time, the staff had cleaned up after the guests' breakfast and did some simple cleaning in the building. After the meal, the staff was divided into two groups for further cleaning of the building and the kitchen, followed by a short break.

8:00, cleaning of the entire building. In addition to cleaning guest rooms, restrooms, and the entrance hall, bedding is hung out to dry when weather permits. The thoroughness of the cleaning is astonishing. I realized that the coziness I felt when I stayed here was due to the thorough cleaning.

9:00, tea time. Mr. Ohara, a staff member, baked a chocolate cake. The moderately sweet cake, served with coffee, is a welcome relief from fatigue.

"I thought you were doing something sneaky," says a smiling Sou. Ohara-san told me, "The other day, Hana-san requested a chocolate cake.

Sou-san and Ohara-san's interaction creates a friendly atmosphere; they have worked together here every year since Sou-san took over the management of Ooteari Hutte from his predecessor in 2019. (It will be closed in 2020 due to the Corona disaster.) And Matsumoto-san is a new member who joined this year.

"I like Hana's writing, so I applied for the open slot in the shed," said Matsumoto-san.

She came to Ooteari Hutte, where she could work with Hua, after reading a column in which Hua's personality was expressed and she fell in love with the place. The warm atmosphere in this mountain lodge is due to the wonderful relationship among the staff.

After this, they will be divided into two shifts, 9:30am-12:00pm and after lunch-3:00pm. They will serve lunch menus to climbers who stop by for a break, and in the afternoon they will handle check-in for overnight guests. Although accommodation is by reservation only, hut work requires flexibility in the mountains, where things are not always as planned.

Mountain Living × HERENESS WOOL

We wondered if HERENESS' WOOL items are fulfilling their role as work clothes for hutkeepers who are constantly on the move in an environment where the temperature differs greatly between morning and evening. We took advantage of a break to talk to the two men.

"The T-shirt <DRY WOOL T-SHIRT (UNISEX)> is warm and will be useful for a long time, even with short sleeves. I have always liked natural materials, so I also like the way it feels against my skin. The pants <SUGARCANE LONG PANTS (WOMEN)> are surprisingly lightweight and easy to move in. They stretch well, so they were stress-free. The zippers on the pockets are also fine and a nice touch."(Hana-san)

「The T-shirt <SMOOTH WOOL T-SHIRT(UNISEX)> can be used as work wear without concern. It will be washed at limited times, so it is nice to know that it has an odor-resistant function and durability. The shirt and pants set-up <MOUNTAIN WOOL SHIRT> and <MOUNTAIN WOOL SHORTS> were taut yet easy to move in. After the Bon Festival, it will suddenly turn to fall, so I will be wearing shirts a lot from now on.」(Sou-san)

They felt the comfort of natural materials that HERENESS' WOOL items were most particular about. In addition, the temperature-regulating and odor-absorbing functions of wool became their ally in mountain living, and the design for active scenes and the use of blended fibers with the characteristics of polyester also supported their movements well.

At 3:00 p.m., tea is served and then dinner is prepared. If there are group reservations, dinner will be served in two batches. If we receive orders from guests who will be leaving early tomorrow, we will also prepare lunch boxes for them.

Dinner at 17:00. The main dish is Ootearai Hutte's specialty, tonkatsu. Freshly fried and juicy, the pork cutlet is thick, tender, and very tasty. It will definitely energize you for tomorrow's hike.

19:00, staff dinner. When it is dark and quiet, we gather in the kitchen for a happy time.

At 20:00, lights out. They go to bed as early as possible to prepare for the next day. "Sometimes the stars are unbelievably beautiful. The stars are even more beautiful than in Azumino, where you can see the city," Hana told us about the nighttime charms of the Ootearai Hutte.

In addition to routine tasks, the work of a mountain lodge is diverse. Trail maintenance, for example, is in that category. They cut the grass, repair collapsed areas, and maintain the nearby trails a little each year during the period of operation. In addition, several times a month, supplies are delivered by helicopter. On those days, things are not always as usual, and it is a busier day while also dealing with visitors.

Coexisting with nature between the village and the mountains

While working as a hut keeper at the Ooteari Hutte, Hua works for a yoga wear brand, and Sou makes his living patrolling the ski slopes in the winter.

「When I was 16, I went to Australia as an exchange student, and we had a yoga class in physical education. At the end of the class, I went to heaven in shavasana pose . At that time, I thought I would like to work in yoga someday. After that, I went to fashion school because I liked fashion, and after working for a while, in my early twenties, I remembered, "I wanted to do yoga as a career! I remembered that. Now I work for a yoga wear brand that makes yoga wear from sustainable materials!」(Hana-san)

「I am from Toyama, and it was nothing special for me to ski the way my parents did in a place where it snows. It was a natural thing when I realized it was just one of the fun things I did during the year. When I started working as a patrolman, I saw my seniors skiing so well, and I wanted to enjoy skiing just as much as they did, and that's when I got hooked.」(Sou-san)

They share a common interest in physical exercise and a comfort with being in nature, and they sometimes go back and forth and share each other's areas of expertise. They met at another mountain lodge, and while drawing on the experiences they had together there, they live with a commitment to the Ooteari Hutte approach.

"We believe that little things can make a big difference, and here we are trying to reduce the sale of plastic bottles and recycle as much as possible. We also think a little before throwing away even a single cabbage core. What we unconsciously do downstairs (in the city) comes directly back to us here. I hope that by making efforts to avoid generating garbage, we can save time and effort in disposing of it, which will also help the environment."(Sou-san)

"Since I've been here I've been thinking more about the natural environment we need to protect. Even if it wasn't in the customer's thoughts, I'm doing it in the hope that the hut will naturally become a hut that participates in the action."(Hana-san)

They coexist with nature by thinking about the mountain environment, which directly affects them, and devising ways to live in harmony with nature. The coziness of the small mountain lodge where they waited for us, familiar with such a lifestyle, was deeply etched in our memories.

【Model Size】
Hana Murata (160cm tall)


Sou Murata (180cm tall)

※Cap, Murata-san's