Posted on Mar 9, 2020
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Posted on Mar 9, 2020

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Reading time: < 1 min
6km

Distance

3 hours

Time

375m

Ascent

654m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Apr

Best season

Takadomari-yama (鷹泊山, 654m) is a prominence on a long southwest ridge extending from Etanbetsu Pass (江丹別峠, 470m) in one of Hokkaido's coldest and snowiest towns. Like many of the ski touring routes in Horokanai Town (幌加内町), this route is accessed via the pass for an easy approach to some fantastic pick-your-aspect skiing. East, west, north - most aspects are covered, with options for days. The last few years has seen an explosion in interest in the Horokanai area - despite the low elevation, this route delivers some fantastic dry and deep skiing on good lappable slopes.

We visited this route on Feb 22, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This ski touring route is in the sleepy little town of Horokanai in northern Hokkaido, about 1hr north of Asahikawa City. The route starts from Etanbetsu Pass, here, on the border of Asahikawa City and Horokanai Town.

General notes

Horokanai has two main claims to fame: 1) the coldest recorded temperature ever in Japan (-41.2°C) and 2) the lowest population density of any town in Japan. Inexplicably, however, Horokanai’s world-class powder snow has been completely overlooked. It routinely snows more in Horokanai than the Kutchan area (close to world-famous Niseko ski resort), and is routinely much colder. This is a good thing, of course, because many of the bread-and-butter ski touring routes around Horokanai – including this one from Etanbetsu Pass – are quite low in elevation. Most of them don’t even get above 1000m. So, check the weather forecast for the cold snaps, and head north to this dry-snow wonderland.

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 parking area (here) on the Horokanai Town side of Etanbetsu Pass (江丹別峠, 470m). Skin up and over the snow walls from the parking lot towards the southwest ridge. Don’t climb all the way to the top of the ridge. Keep to the western side of the ridge, resisting the urge to climb too much at this point. If you climb up to the top of the ridge straight away, you’ll only have to descend again in about 500m. Keeping to the western side of the ridge means you’ll be able to return in your skin tracks without putting skins on again, on the return to Etanbetsu Pass. Once past the starting ‘hump’, skin along the gently climbing ridgeline due southwest to the Takadomari-yama summit in about 1hr. The summit is indicated by a small wooden sign, attached to a tree. If you’re just out for a quick walk in nature, then you’ll return the same way you came. For more experienced skiers, there is some excellent skiing off the summit ridge to the west and east. Walk further along the ridge, and take either the left or right ridges for some northerly aspect skiing. The only way back up, or course, is to climb up to the summit ridge again. So be prepared for some hefty, deep-snow trail-breaking. Avoid the large tree-less bowls unless very sure of the snow stability – these bowls are prime avalanche terrain.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

There is ample parking in the Etanbetsu Pass parking area, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Etanbetsu (江丹別) – map no. NK-54-7-13-2

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).

Snow and route safety

Horokanai is well known for its bone-chilling cold temperatures. Plan accordingly, with extra cold-weather gear. The large treeless bowls to the south of the summit are prime avalanche terrain. Don’t ski these unless very sure of the snow stability. The only runout for avalanches in this area are deep, compact gullies – avalanches in this area will involve very complicated, deep burials.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Takadomari-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.

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

Route Trip Notes

This would be the first of two routes we would hurriedly check out in one day in the hills east and southeast of Horokanai town. Given the mass of terrain around Takadomari-yama, next time we’ll most certainly pick a good weather day and spend much more time exploring.

We arrived at the trailhead at around 8:30am, and were at the summit of Takadomari-yama by around 10am. We skirted to the south along the ridge from there, taking the eastern broad ridge, skinning towards the broad col just before the 606m point. From there, we ripped skins and dropped down to the deep gully floor. Mercifully, there was a day-old skin track heading directly back up the eastern side of the gully to Takadomari-yama. In hindsight, this eastern slope of the main summit ridge would have been a more consistently steep slope to ski. The northerly aspect slope that we skied, while well anchored with trees, started off quite mellow before gradually getting steeper – some elevation was lost to the upper longer, mellow section.

See the actual route we skied at the southern end of this somewhat erratic GPS track I took on our three-day Horokanai ski trip.

The hike back up to Takadomari-yama was steep but relatively quick. We were back at the car and headed towards our next objective – Wassamu Pass – by just after lunch.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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