Horokanai Takadomari-yama (Horokanai Pass Route)


Posted on Jan 21, 2021
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Posted on Jan 21, 2021

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Reading time: 4 min


4.5 hours





Highest point



Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds

Best season

Takadomari-yama 鷹泊山 (654m) offer excellent dry powder skiing, with slopes perfect for lapping. Here we overview an alternative northwest approach to the peak starting from Horokanai Pass 幌加内峠. While the Etanbetsu Pass 江丹別峠 approach is flatter, both approaches are similar distances, with the Horokanai Pass route offering some enjoyable downhill skiing on the descent back to the trailhead. Regardless of the approach, the large bowl east of the peak offers a smorgasbord of lappable terrain, with classic cold-and-dry Horokanai powder snow that will not disappoint.

We visited this route on Jan 10, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details


Takadomari-yama sits where the borders of Horokanai, Fukagawa, and Asahikawa City meet, at the southern end of Horokanai Town in northern Hokkaido. This route starts at the parking area on Route 275 next to Shimohorokanai Dam, just north of the northern exit of the Horokanai Pass tunnel.

General notes

As mentioned above, this route is a less-travelled complement to the more common approach to Takadomari-yama from Etanbetsu pass. For frequent visitors to Takadomari-yama, who are visiting solely for lapping the western and northern aspects of the western bowl, the Etanbetsu Pass route will always be the more straight forward option. That said, this Horokanai Pass route allows for a little more downhill fun on the descent. While not particularly steep on the descent back down to Horokanai Pass, there are some playful open areas. The 444m knob part way through the route poses a challenge in route-finding to avoid having to climb it again on the descent, but overall it’s an interesting minor alternative route with some nice forest scenery along the way.



Route details

Park in the parking area and cross the road. Clamber up onto the snowbank and head directly south, crossing a snowed in road along the way. Directly after the road, the climbing starts in earnest for 100m vertical before easing off again. The route is then very gradual all the way to the summit. Along the way is a 444m knob, which skiers can either climb and then descend before carrying along the ridge. This will require some climbing on the descent though, so it’s better to make a careful contour around the knob without climbing to the top of it. This will allow skiers to pole their way around it on the descent with no need for putting skins back on. From the Takadomari-yama summit, head down due south along the ridge to the next high point, and enjoy a full 300m of steep skiing to just above the gully floor. Of course the entire eastern and northern slopes, accessed from the horse-shoe ridge, are prime skiing terrain. With a deep gully below, however, skiers may want to check stability of the snowpack before venturing onto more open areas. Horokanai is known for very deep, dry, soft powder, so allow plenty of time for the tiring skin back up to the ridge. Return to the parking area the way you came.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

The timing above doesn’t take into account lapping the slopes to the east of the summit. Add on an extra 45 minutes to an hour for each lap down into the gully.


Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car: 

Park in the large car parking area just north of the tunnel. Officially, this parking area is a snow-clearing machinery turn-around area. Rather unintuitively, it’s best to park right in front of the sign asking people to avoid parking in the parking area; we parked well to the north of the parking area, thinking we were keeping out of the way, and just as we were leaving on our skis, a snow plough operator asked us to move our car to the center of the area, as snowploughs back in to the far north and far south ends. In any case, respect the wishes and directions of road maintenance crew.

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

Snow and route safety

Horokanai is famous in Hokkaido (and Japan) for having some of the lowest recorded temperatures; it’s claim to fame is having the lowest recorded temperature ever of -41.2℃. Be well prepared for extreme cold, despite the low altitude of the hills. Also take extreme care on the eastern and northern slopes extending below the horseshoe summit ridge – they’re steep with plenty of avalanche potential.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Takadomari-yama
Onsen nearby

About 30 minutes north 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. If heading straight back south towards Sapporo, we’re recommend Chippubetsu Onsen 秩父別温泉 (location, 500yen), a large onsen facility with nice 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

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Haidee and I were on a bit of a south-of-northern-Hokkaido three-day weekend ski touring trip, and Horokanai just seemed to be a perfect addition to the two other routes we’d ticked off (Tobetsu Maru-yama and Otoe-yama). 

We’d been up to Takadomari-yama before, but had approached from Etanebtsu Pass. On that trip, we met a party that had climbed up from Horokanai Pass, and since then that alternative route had piqued my interest. The 444m knob in the middle seemed like the only tricky bit in the route. Other than that, it seemed to promise a bit more enjoyable skiing on the way down than the Etanebtsu Route.

When we arrived at the car parking area, we were the first on the scene. It was snowing on and off, and spirits were a bit low. We’d been hoping for better weather.

After setting off, however, the weather improved somewhat, allowing us improving views as we climbed. The snow was super deep, but luckily there was an old, faint skin track to follow, keeping things firm underfoot. 

As per the plan, we opted to contour around the 444m knob, so that theoretically, we’d have an easier time on the descent. The skin track we were following opted to go up and over the knob, so it was quite the commitment to break our own new train around the side of it. 

On the descent later, we found we’d done an OK job, with just a few side-steps required here and there.

With the knob behind us, we were now climbing up the mellow slope to the summit. A freezing breeze nipped at exposed skin. 

We arrived at the summit to find a well-trodden skin track coming in from our left. We’d been beaten to the downhill by a party that had taken the easier Etanbetsu Pass route. Looking down the ridge, we could see them almost ready to drop in.

We hurried to get ready for the downhill, just as the forecasted wind and snow started encroaching on the summit ridge. It was a sublime ski down into the gully. Deep, steep, and floaty.

The hike back up out of the gully was just the same…except the ‘floaty’ was now the ‘sinky’ reality of breaking trail in the steep and deep. We’d dropped down about 75m vertical lower than the group above us, so we had some fresh trail-breaking to do. Once at the upper group’s ski track however, we could relax a bit and just follow our ski tips.

By the time we arrived back at the summit, the weather had properly packed it in. Another party who’d come up the way we’d came thanked us for the skin track. “We had hoped to ski the gully,” one of them said. “But this weather has turned us around. We’re heading back right now.”

The descent down to the parking area was fun. Had there been better visibility, it would have been more fun. The contour around the 444m knob that we’d cut wasn’t perfect, but we patted ourselves on the back for not having to hike back up on the descent.

Another fine Horokanai route added to the bunch.

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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