A very prominent high peak, the most Northern large mountain in the Kita (North) Alps range. Winter sees skiers by the thousands at the large Happo-one (pronounced ohh-nee) ski resort just to the South, when the magestic snow-clad Shirouma-dake dominates the view. Summer sees hordes of hikers climbing to the summit, or doing the very popular "Shirouma-san-zan (three mountain) traverse", taking in the main summit and two prominent summits to the South. The traverse is splended, as is a climb just to the summit and back. The top several hundred meters is above the treeline, making for sweeping views of the Kita Alps, lower peaks, and lone Fuji-san far on the horizon. Shirouma-dake must definitely rank as one of Japan's most beautiful mountains.
Easy access via either the Nagano Shinkansen (bullet train) or express train route via. Kofu/Matsumoto makes getting there and back to Tokyo or Osaka on a weekend very feasible indeed, dispite the long distance involved. Climbs mostly start from the village of Hakuba (which uses identical Chinese characters as Shirouma).
There are many shinkansen departures from Tokyo central station to Nagano throughout the day, with several bus connections from Nagano to the village of Hakuba. Earliest is very early, around 6:30 AM, so you can be at the trailhead by around 10 AM. The other option is by the normal express train route which runs via Kofu and Matsumoto. This takes a couple hours longer but is far cheaper. There is also an overnight sleeper train on many nights, for early morning arrival. There is also available a ticket allowing you to go there by shinkansen and come back by the normal express train line. This is useful if, say, you are an english teacher in Tokyo and only have the weekend to spare, and don't fancy an overnight train on Friday night. Otherwise, the normal express train line is your best option.
No permits required anytime of the year.
When To Climb
In summer, literally thousands of people pile onto the summit. The main season is July to August, but as the mountain is quite high, this depends on seasonal snow melt. By September and October it is getting chilly and the people thin out, making it an excellent time to visit, although be careful that the mountain hut you want to stay in is still open (campers need not worry). At first the first snowfall, the difficulties increase considerably, as the mountain always becomes blanketed in think snow every winter. Then it is truly an Alpine adventure, until the snow melts in the early summer.
In the winter, you will need all the mountaineering gear such as crampons, ice ax, and possibility rope and touring skis or snowshoes. Don't underestimate the challenge of this mountain - on the other hand don't necessarily get scared away when every Japanese person says you are completely nuts to even think about it. During the July/August "official" season, you just need warm clothing and perhaps a cheap pair of 4-point crampons as the Daisekkei is a long, somewhat steep snowfield all year round.
* Sarukuru Hut - At the Daisekkei trailhead
* Shirouma-Jiri Hut - 1 hour from the Daisekkei trailhead
* Hakuba-san-sou Hut - right at the summit
* Choujyou Hut - almost adjacent to Hakuba-san-zan
* Yari-onsen Hut - at the onsen mentioned in the route descriptions
* Ten-kou Hut - North of the Fukaerazu-kiretto
* At any of the above huts. Fee around 500 yen.
Described in the so-so "Hiking in Japan" book as well as in newer and arguably better "Lonely Planet: Hiking in Japan". Like all Japanese mountains, you will find very little else in English, however a ridiculous amount of material in Japanese. The Japanese material is sometimes still very useful even if you don't know the language, since maps are somewhat international and many include a healthy
amount of photos and graphics to help bridge the gap.
The most direct way to the summit is by the Daisekkei valley - trailhead is 30 minutes by bus or taxi from Hakuba village. One day gets you on the summit, although with not enough time to return. Campsite near the summit, or choose the massive and famous "Hakuba-sansoo" mountain hut. So called "mountain hut", really a mammoth 3-story complex with hundreds of rooms and a seperate equally-large restaruant. They advertise this thing even on the Tokyo subway signboards.
You can start (or finish) your "Shirouma-san-zan" traverse also from the Daisekkei trailhead. Head on a trail Southwest passing a highly rated natural onsen (hot springs. )Don't forget your swimsuit for a quick dip. Then continue West to gain the ridge, turn North and tag three summits, following the above route to back where you started. Takes 2-4 days.
For a longer, but quite worthwhile hike, you can also start from the Happo-one ski resorts. Take the highest lift and keep going on the ridge until you read the main summit ridge. Turn North and head towards Shirouma-san and the other two summits. In between is the "kaerazu-kirette" - a giant "kirette" (cut/gap) in the ridgeline that involves several hundred meters of climbing down then back up, using fixed chains and ropes. Climbing at perhaps French PD+ or American III, but with plenty of fixed pro. Highly recommended. Takes 2-5 days, ending at the same above daisetsu-kyo trailhead.