At the top of most Japanese hikers’ ‘must-climb’ list is Mt. Shirouma, the highest peak in the Hakuba section of the Kita Alps. The mountain lies in Nagano Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture. Being the 26th tallest mountain in Japan, Mt. Shirouma stands at a respectable height of 2,932 meters. Its beautiful landscape with natural surroundings and year-round snowfields makes it an ideal place for hikers!
You can start the hike from the bus stop, from where you can already see the trail that initially follows a gravel forest road. It is located between the large mountain hut and the toilet. Walking on, you will pass by an artificial gargantuan concrete waterfall.
Before starting the hike properly you will have to stop over at a campground below the Daisekkei (the snowfield). It is very important to first ask about the snow conditions so it is easier to avoid unnecessary danger. It is best to put on a helmet and crampons before venturing into the field. If the sun is hot make sure to wear proper eye protection. Most of the time you will be hiking in the snow. Just follow the footsteps or the crowd ahead of you.
In 2 to 4 hours, you will reach the ridge line, the time it will actually take largely depends on the weather conditions. At the junction, you will see another campground and another hut. Once you turn right you will see yet another hut, which is an indicator that you will reach the summit within around 10 minutes.
If the weather is good consider yourself very lucky, as the views will be breathtaking. There are actually several options to consider once you reach the top. You can go back by retracing your steps, or stay up there overnight so you can catch the sunrise. You can also go over to Mt. Yari where you can visit the Yari hot spring and enjoy a relaxing time. This is considered to be a rare experience, as hot spring baths are not common on hiking trails.
Though Mt. Shirouma is an ideal hiking place for foreign visitors because it is a relatively easy course, there is no doubt that the peak is dangerous. It is prone to avalanches and heavy rainfall, which is why it is very important to know the weather conditions before starting your hike. It has a sloping angle of almost 60 degrees with high chances of rockfall. Several lives are claimed on a yearly basis because of these conditions. In order to prevent this, the educational system has been improved for hikers, there is a map pointing out the mountain’s hazardous areas which you should definitely carry with you.
It is best to go between early June and early October, as buses are available during this season. Take heed that avalanches are common in the snow fields during early May, so you might want to avoid this time of year.
If you keep your safety in mind, you will be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful views of the area while clearing your head in the middle of nature. Enjoy your trip!
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