Elevation: Tenguama 840m, Horobetsudake 892m (highest point is ~910m, total elevation change ~900m)
Length: Half-day+ (~14km roundtrip)
Hiked on: March 27th, 2017
This was going to be a double peak attempt, however I did not make it all the way to Horobetsudake proper instead turning around at the high point in the Horobetsu mountain range at 910m. Straddling the three towns of Suttsu, Kuromatsunai, and Rankoshi just off the Sea of Japan, the hike offers great views however getting a good weather window can be a bit of a challenge.
The hike begins near the Eneos gas station on Route 229 which wraps around Suttsu Bay. There is a small road that goes into the mountains along the pastures however it will likely be covered in snow into April. Go up as far as you can and park the car (in a way that won’t block the road) and you can start the walk up the road. The walk isn’t as bad as it appears on the map and you can skin and ski back down most of it.
The road bends slightly once then you’ll eventually get to a point the road narrows quite a bit (turning into a gravel road under the snow). From there you will want to get off the road and hop onto one of the ridges that will take you up the mountains. Unfortunately there is no clear route up and it will depend more on which ridge will have enough snow to go up (probably not an issue in winter). They do all join together eventually, so just use your navigation skills and find the easiest way to get up.
The climb gets steep pretty fast (after all you have 800m to climb in just a couple kilometres) and when the snow is frozen it can be a bit hairy at times despite the whole thing being in the trees and crampons may not be a bad idea. The section just before the ridge flattens out once around 700m is particularly scary so take care going up. From there things get easier (the views certainly help) and it’s one last climb up an open face until you get to the top of Tenguyama.
After enjoying the views for a bit, you can either go back down or continue along the ridge to the east towards Horobetsudake. The ridge is wide with minimal up and down and despite the distance relatively easy walking. The ridge joins onto the main ridge of the Horobetsu range which runs north to south. Where the ridge of Tenguyama joins the main ridge is also the highest point in the range at just over 900m.
You can continue on north to reach Horobetsudake (add another 1 hour or so roundtrip) to tick both peaks off the list but I chose to head back at this point. The walk back to Tenguyama is easy (you’ll need to keep your skins on for the most part). From Tenguyama you can get a few nice turns down the open face (look out for avalanches, although snow doesn’t seem to stick much to this face) and from there it’s skiing back down along the ridge you climbed up.
I ended up on one ridge over to the one I came up which had significantly less snow cover and end up doing some bushwhacking through the sasa bamboo. There is also a bit of a marsh area near the bottom. Keep your eyes on the map but as long as you can orient yourself relative to the road you walked up you should be okay.
The trickiest part of the hike may be timing it to ensure there is enough snow coverage. Being close to the ocean the snow starts melting quite fast at the bottom despite there being easily 3+ meters at the top. Aim to go before the end of March however the area is known for being notoriously windy being located just off the Sea of Japan.