Posted on Mar 11, 2020
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18 0
SNW
Posted on Mar 11, 2020
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
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18 0
SNW
5.1km

Distance

3 hours

Time

450m

Ascent

547m

Highest point

5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Mar

Best season

Sanmen-yama (三面山, 547m), just south of Wassamu Pass (和寒峠, 329m) in Horokanai (幌加内町) is a great, easily accessible backcountry skiing location. As the name of the peak would suggest it is almost a perfect triangular pyramid, with south, northwest, and northeastern slopes. These slopes are perfect for lapping that cold powder snow that Horokanai is famous for. Despite being only 547m in height, this peak packs some punch in terms of snow quality, views, and slopes.

We visited this route on Feb 22, 2020

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Sanmen-yama is an unassuming peak sitting due south of Wassamu Pass on the border of Horokanai Town and Wassamu Town, just over 1 hour north of Asahikawa City in northern Hokkaido. This route starts at the Wassamu Pass parking area, on the Horokanai Town side of the Wahoro Tunnel, here.

General notes

Like most ski touring routes in Horokanai (Japan’s coldest and lowest population density town), this route to Sanmen-yama is accessed via a road pass. This means there’s not much climbing to the actual peak. Any downhill skiing, therefore, is from the peak into one of the three main slopes. To get back to the pass, skiers will need to skin back up to the peak and make the final descent from there.

Hut
Chirorin-mura (full details here)

Chirorin-mura (チロリン村) isn’t strictly a hut. But to describe it as a hostel or hotel wouldn’t be right either. It is the brainchild and passion of Abe-san, a gloriously energetic, hospitable, and effervescent host, who built the place by hand over 25 years ago. Abe-san and his eccentric Chirorin-mura has received national fame – he’s regularly featured on travel documentaries about interesting places to stay. For 5,000yen a night, you get a warm futon inside your own indoor tent, plus an enormous yaki-niku dinner and delicious breakfast. Did we mention the karaoke is free?

Route details

Park up at the gargantuan Wassamu Pass parking area just before the Wahoro Tunnel at the pass (here). From there, skin along side the road for about 150m, and gain the small spur to the right just after a steep gully. It’s also possible to walk further along and gain the ridge from above the tunnel. Once on the main pass, head due south. Similar to the route up Takadomari-yama from Etanbetsu pass, there’s a prominent knob at the start of the route. Don’t be tempted to climb up on top of this – wrap around the right hand side through the woods. This will help avoid having to put skins back on on the way back. Keep following along the ridge, which broadens out and passes though a stand of young white birch all the way to the summit. From the summit, skiers are treated to broad views south, east and west. If snow conditions are stable, ski any of those south, northwestern, or eastern slopes, and climb back up for the final return to the pass.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Expect about 1.5 hours from carpark to summit, and another 30 minutes back to the carpark. The lappable slopes from the summit are generally about 200-300m vertical drop, so allow about 20-30 minutes to climb up after each lap.

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car:

There is plenty of parking space at the Wassamu Pass parking area, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Numaushi (沼牛) – map no. NK-54-7-13-1

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 South. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: Northwest. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Unfortunately there are no avalanche information services for recreational backcountry users in this immediate area (but see the JAN reports and Furano Avalanche Center for sporadic observations eslewhere in Hokkaido).

Snow and
route safety

The bare, treeless slopes to the south and northwest of the peak offer great skiing, but should be checked for stability before skiing. Horokanai is well known for its bone-chilling cold temperatures. Plan accordingly, with extra cold-weather gear.

Horokanai Sanmen-yama Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

C

6

Totals

48/100

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 Sanmen-yama
Onsen nearby

Just up the road is the excellent Seiwa Onsen (せいわ温泉ルオント, location, 500yen) next to the michi-no-eki. At 500yen per person, there’s an attached soba restaurant, plus sauna and outdoor baths.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore areas north of 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 in northern Hokkaido, 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

Yamano-Makochan's Video Report
Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

We’d already skied Takadomari-yama in the morning, but I was keen to check out Sanmen-yama too. It was in the vicinity, and the weather looked as though it would just hold out for the two or so hours it would take for us to get to the top of Sanmen-yama and back. We ended up not having time to sample the slopes that Yamano-makochan and his troupe enjoyed in their video (above). However, our quick blat to the summit, and then some fun downhill through the tight trees on the way down was plenty worth it.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Horokanai Sanmen-yama Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

C

6

Totals

48/100

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.