Location: Rankoshi, Isoya-gun
Elevation: 842m (~700m elevation gain)
Length: Half day+ (~12km roundtrip)
Hiked on: January 31st, 2017
Located about 30 minutes south of the Niseko Range, Horonai is a relatively obscure mountain unknown even to most locals in the area. The hike begins on Route 32 just off the National Route 5 before you hit Konbu Station driving south from Niseko. There is a bridge where the signs indicating the boundary between Toyoura Town and Rankoshi Town are and a space cleared on the side of the road where you can park.
You will want cross the bridge back to Rankoshi Town and jump over the snow wall to your left to gain onto the ridge just next to the river. It’s a short climb and you will be on a very obvious service road which will take you deep into the mountains. There are a couple turnoffs onto the road, ignore those and keep following the main road which will go up and down a couple times and remains relatively flat.
Eventually the road crosses under some powerlines, which more or less marks the point where you will need to start climbing the ridge to your right. A bit after the powerlines you’ll see a bit of a gully which provides a good point to gain the ridge. Once on the top of the ridge, stay on the high point and follow the ridge which runs west and gradually gets bigger and bigger.
From there it’s a long steady climb up the broad ridge. Stay on the high point and it’ll be hard to get lost for the most part. The climb is never steep and you will more or less be able to walk in a straight line the whole time.
After a couple kilometers of walking you’ll get to a big wide clearing just beneath the summit where you’ll have to change directions and walk another 5 minutes to get to the very top. Unfortunately weather was bad again when I hiked, however on a clear day views should be rather impressive and you should be able to spot most of the major peaks in the area.
Coming down, there is some good skiing to be had just to the east of the summit however keep in mind that it is avalanche terrain and you will want to consult your map often. If you turn off to the right early enough you should be able to get back onto the ridge you climbed up, however continuing down the smaller ridge in the middle will eventually get you down to a logging road you can follow back onto the point where you first started climbing the main ridge. Keep in mind though earlier and later in the year the creeks may not be filled in which will make this descent route implausible. As always, when in doubt just follow the same route you took up.
While it is a fairly simple hike, the hike is long and you are unlikely to see other hikers or tracks in this neck of the woods so definitely plan ahead and take a map. No cellphone reception the whole hike either.