Horobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Sannosuke Route)

幌別岳

Posted on Jun 14, 2019
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30 0
E
Posted on Jun 14, 2019
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30 0
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13.5km

Distance

6 hours

Time

820m

Ascent

892m

Highest point

5.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

Horobetsu-dake (幌別岳, 892m) stands at the western limit of the general Niseko are, on the border of Suttsu and Rankoshi Towns. From the summit, expect 360 degree views across to the Niskeo Range, Yotei-zan, Shiribetsu-dake, Shakotan Peninsula, Kariba-yama, and of course the Japan Sea. This seldom-visited 15km long range - the Horobetsu Range - is a perfect antidote to the more easily accessed but more crowded Niseko Range further east. What this route lacks in large open slopes, it makes up for in views and locals-only vibes.

We visited this route on Apr 14, 2019

Thanks to Chris T. Auld for proposing we check this peak out.

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Horobetsu-dake sits on the border between Rankoshi Town and Suttsu Town, about 14km southwest of Rankoshi Town, in the Niseko region of Hokkaido. This route starts here, about 2km northwest of Mena JR Station on the JR Hakodate Honsen Line.

General notes

With so many easily-accessed treeless slopes around Niseko, Horobetsu-dake is understandably overlooked as a backcountry destination in the Niseko Region. The 4km approach on snowed-in roads is not too painful though, passing through some gorgeous forest and along side the lovely Sannosukedai-1 River. Once on the ridge approaching the summit, there are grand views of the Niseko Range, Yotei-zan, and Konbu-dake. At the summit, expect views across to Kariba-yama in Shimamaki, as well as the Japan Sea and the Shakotan Peninsula. “More of a walk than a ski,” was Chris’s comment on the route, and I’d agree. There are plenty of skiing options off the ridge on the way down, but care should be taken, as they almost invariably end up deep in a gully at the bottom – classic terrain traps abound around this route. That said, this route would be a great way to get out of the crowds and have a mountain all to yourself. This is a very seldom skied mountain – even in Japanese there are only a few reports floating around on the Internet, mostly from the early 2000’s.

Hut
None
Route details

This route is not marked, and there’s no summer trail to the summit. The start of the route will vary depending on the time of year – in mid winter, it will be right at the main road, around here. In spring, it may be possible to drive about 1.5km along the paved and then gravel road, to around here. From either of these points, follow the snowed-in forestry road west-northwest to the curious paved road that wraps around the entire side of the Horobetsu Range. Take a left at the road and follow this to the bridge crossing the Sannosukedai-1 River. Immediately after crossing the river, take a right turn and make a short scramble up a cramped gully to a small clearing, before starting the zig-zag climb up the relatively tree-dense slope to the 479m point. From here it is simply a matter of following the ridge. At around 530m, just beyond a short elongated hump, there is a slight descent towards a saddle, after which it is all climbing up to the peak. On the final approach beyond the 800m mark, you’ll be faced with cornices. There’s a natural 10m gap between the cornices, which only becomes apparent once you’re on the 830m hump.

Route Timing
Up | 4.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

Expect about 4.5 hours from trailhead to summit, and then about 1.5 hours back down.

Transport

Public transport:

Mena Station on the JR Hakodate Line (here), only a few stops west of Niseko, is about 3km from the start of the route, so if you’re happy with a 40-minute walk, then yes, this route is accessible via public transport.

By car:

As mentioned above, the start of the route will vary depending on the season. There’s no carpark to speak of, so you’ll need to park on the side of the road. Park well to the side of the road, and be prepared to clear some extra space to park in.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Mena (目名) – map no. NK-54-20-12-1

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).

Aspect
The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is East. 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

As mentioned above, the topography on this route is relatively tight off the main ridge – you’ll need to be confident of the stability of the snow, more so than usual thanks to the deep gullies. As is the case for all ski routes on The Hokkaido Wilds, this route assumes a confident ability to read a topographical map.

Horobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Sannosuke Route) Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

C

6

Totals

56/100

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 Horobetsu-dake
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to this route is the cheap and cheerful Rankoshi Yusenkaku Onsen (蘭越幽泉閣, 500yen), just behind the Konbu JR Station, here. There’s a number of indoor pools, a couple of sauna options, and a nice outdoor pool too. Local produce is usually for sale in the foyer too.

Extra Resources
  • See this Yamareco.com entry (in Japanese) here: https://www.yamareco.com/modules/yamareco/detail-1777896.html
  • Another Japanese report here: https://ezoyama.web.fc2.com/tozan/horobetudake2014.htm

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent. 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

“We should go do Horobetsu-dake,” said Chris in a chat message to me. The first thing I did was Google Horobetsu-dake. I’d never heard of it. “I can see it on my morning walks around my cabin,” Chris explained. My Google search produced about three decade-old Japanese posts, and not much else. But the views promised to be great, so we agreed to take a look in spring.

Fast-forward, and we’d finally got together to take a look at the route up Horobetsu-dake. Chris’s neighbour in Rankoshi wasn’t too optimistic about our chances of good snow. “It is quite a low mountain for this late in a season with not much snow,” he explained. It was, after all, mid-April. Like many of our Hokkaido Wilds trips, however, I argued that we could just consider it a hiking trip on skis. So we gave it a shot.

Being mid-April, we discovered the access road to the route was more or less clear of snow. Not quite clear enough to get all the way up the farm access road, but just clear enough to get stuck. If only Chris hadn’t been the responsible citizen he is, and left his snow tires on for another week.

20 minutes of digging and reversing later, we parked up in a sensible spot and got on our way. The indignity of walking our skis a few hundred meters was certainly less than having to dig a car out of the snow. The snow was well in its recession stages as we skinned up the road to the bridge, where we’d start climbing in earnest towards the Horobetsu-dake peak.

Whereas I had originally marked on the map that we should cut up the gully directly past the bridge, I decided in the end that we should carry on about 50m past the bridge, and climb up onto a small plateau. In the end this achieved only having to descend a little in order to get to the ridge we wanted to be on. Once at the ridge, however, it was all uphill, weaving our way between relatively densely-packed trees.

While the snow on the ridge was no issue at all, on all sides of the ridge it was literally dropping away as we watched. We saw one large full-layer slide, and saw plenty of signs of others. Glide-cracks abounded. This was not going to be a care-free lap-the-slopes kind of trip. Up and back along the ridge was the order of the day. The views were great and certainly made up for the lack of downhill potential.

Approaching the treeline, we could see some very prominent cornices along the summit ridge. From where we were on the approach ridge, it looked like one long impenetrable line of cornice. We agreed to head up to a hump on the ridge where we could get a better view, and then decide whether to carry on. From where we were, it looked all decidedly sketchy.

From the top of the hump at around 830m, however, it was clear that there were a couple of options for getting the final 60m or so up to the summit. Either wrap around to the north, or head straight up towards a gap in the cornices. The gap in the cornices seemed the most straight-forward option, so we carried on straight up.

And with that, it was more or less job done. We stayed at the summit just long enough to stuff down some food, before we transitioned for the downhill. There was a chilly, stiff breeze blowing, which contrasted with the balmy temperatures on the way up. We kept well to the ridge on the way down, resisting as much as possible not to drop down into the gorgeous-looking slopes on either side of the ridge. There was a lot of heating going on, and we didn’t want to aggravate further already aggravated slopes. 

There was one section of up on the way down, but the snow was firm spring snow, so it wasn’t too much of a chore. From there it was all downhill to the road, where it was a matter of poling or skating back to the car. Glorious “more of a walk than a ski” spring skiing.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Horobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Sannosuke Route) Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

C

6

Totals

56/100

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.