Hakuba (Shirouma) mountain in the North Alps

24-26 July 2008

This year I went hiking with Naruoka-kun again (last year we went to Yari-ga-dake) and two other students from the lab joined us this time. We went to Hakuba/Shirouma in the north of nagano prefecture.

[HDR] We went to Hakuba station by "moonlight shinshuu" overnight train. It was a very old train with smelly airconditioner and no beds, just slightly reclining seats. On the other hand, we used the 18-kippu (JR site), wich is a special very cheap ticket that can be used in some school holidays, so I shouldn't complain.

We started by bus :-p and from the last stop we walked via the "daisekkei" (big snowy valley) to the last hut before the top. See the map here (pdf). It was nice and cool and soon we saw nice flowers, nice mountains etc etc, just the things we had longed for while still in hot and humid Tokyo.

Soon we reached the start of the daisekkei, a part of the trail that goes over ice for a pretty long stretch (it doesn't fully melt in summer). as it is long and it goes up quite a bit, you should use crampons ("aizen" in japanese, after the German word "eisen") to have better grip. Naruoka-kun brougt a set for each of us. It was slightly foggy from time to time, but it often cleared up as wel...

This is the way they mark the route.


and more nice flowers

and finally we came to the hut. We had planned to drop our stuff there and go back- and forth to another mountaintop a bit south, but as the climb had taken us a little bit more time, and mainly because the weather was not that good at the top (very windy, foggy), we decided to call it de day.

The next day it was only a short walk to Hakuba (Shiroumadake, 2932.2m) but we had a way longer trip to go. According to the map it would be 7 hours in total that day (normally we walk a bit faster than those times, so for us those times generally include most of the rests) but it ended up about 10 hours! Partly because there were still quite some places covered with ice where we had to be carefull and the weather was also not our friend... It seems that every time I go to see hike the Alps it is raining...

In some swampy areas, where the ice had just melted, there were some kind of Arum flowers (mizubashou in Japanese).

Lunch (chicken noodles) on the ice

We stayed at the Asahikoya mountain hut and had a really great dinner (they had something to celebrate). The next morning, before breakfast (because we would have a "7 hour" long hike again and we had to catch the last bus down), but with a bento (lunchbox) of the hut, we hit the trail again and soon we arrived at Asahidake. Very nice weather still... If it WOULD be clear (they say it often is...) you WOULD be able to see the Japanese sea from there.

More swampy areas with really, really slippery beams which you are supposed to walk on (not to disturb the nature in this national park). Also more melting ice and, because of that, some places where the path had to be improvised.

Finally the weather cleared up (as we descended) and it got really really hot (as we had to climb again). Every year they build this temporary bridge over the river again.

When we arrived at the end of the trail, again about 10h after we started, we clearly missed the one-but-last bus which would have had a good connection with the trains to bring us home. So we had enough time for a nice onsen (hot spring bath) in the lodge there before taking the bus. At the station, there were these umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. Later I found out why: swallows were flying in and out had been building nests everywhere.