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.