Mt. Shirouma (白馬岳)

This blog post was written back in 2009. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Shirouma is the highest peak in the Hakuba section of the Kita Alps and on the top of most Japanese hikers ‘to climb’ list. It also happens to be one of the few peaks in Japan with year-round snow fields.


The hike: From the bus stop, the trail starts between the large mountain hut and the toilet. If you don’t have crampons then you can usually buy simple 2-pointers from the hut which should be sufficient (unless climbing early in the season). The trail initially follows a gravel forest road, passing by a gargantuan concrete waterfall – easily the tallest artificial fall in Japan. The road eventually turns into a hiking trail proper, and you’ll reach a pair of huts and campground, just below the start of the Daisekkei (great snow field). Take a break and inquire at the hut about current snow conditions/avalanche risk. The Daisekkei is not to be taken lightly, as a landslide in July 2008 killed two people and rockfalls are very common. Bring a helmet just in case if you’ve got one. Put on your crampons before stepping out into the snowfield and please wear some eye protection if the sun is out. You’ll be hiking in the snow for most of the way, so just follow the crowds/footprints. Overall it’s not too bad of a slog, and you should reach the ridge line in anywhere from 2-1/2 to 4 hours, depending on conditions. There’s a huge hut staring at you at the junction, as well as a modest campground. Turn right and pass another hut, and you’ll be on the summit of Mt. Shirouma in another 10 minutes or so. The views are outstanding if the weather is good (consider yourself very lucky if it is – Hakuba is notorious for cloudy weather in the Alpine backcountry). From the summit, you’ve got 4 options. You can either retrace your steps all the way back to Sarukura, or continue on the same ridge line over to Mt. Yukigura (雪倉岳) or down to Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳). Alternatively, you can head down the back side of the mountain towards Keyaki-daira (欅平). This trail is not used very much, so I can’t attest for the condition. A better option might be to stay on top overnight, catch the sunrise, and then hike along the ridge over to Mt. Yari (鎗ヶ岳) and down to Yari Hot Spring (鎗温泉). Take a left at the first junction on the other side of Mt. Yari, and you’ll arrive at the hot spring in another hour. This trail actually ends up back at Sarukura, making a great 3-day loop hike.

When to go: This hike can be done from early June to early October, when the buses to Sarukura are running. You could also go earlier if you’ve got crampons and an ice axe. Avalanches are common in the Daisekkei until the end of May, so be careful if hiking in the spring. Click here if you don’t believe me.

Access: From Matsumoto (松本) station, take the JR Ooito line to Hakuba (白馬) station. From there, take a bus bound for Sarukura (猿倉) and get off at the final stop. Click here for the bus schedule. There are also overnight Alpico Group buses from Shinjuku station in Tokyo directly to Hakuba

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change 1702m)

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21 Comments on “Mt. Shirouma (白馬岳)”

  1. Damian Says:

    Hi Wes, as discussed I’ll update your readers on the changing conditions above Hakuba as winter approaches.

    As at 9 Oct 2009 the snowline in Hakuba is at about 2600m, probably a little lower on Daisekke. Snow depth is variable due to wind deposit in pockets and hollows. Visibility from the valley has been broken all day. From what I have seen, whilst the cover appears scant, there would be enough snow on the summit ridge lines that hiking over boulders and rocky ground would be a hassle in the areas of snow drift since gaps between rocks are obscured: classic ankle damage stuff in boulder fields.

    I expect the snow to only diminish slightly over the next 3 days due to almost constant subfreezing temperatures above 2500m.

    The aki colours are at their best at about 2000m. I’ll be hiking up to 1900m on richly forested Kazebuki Dake tomorrow and am anticipating fantastic colours around the lake.

  2. Chris Ward Says:

    How’s it going? Could Shiromadake be considered safe to hike yet? Looking to get the season underway with something big!



    • wesu Says:


      Thanks for the comment and question. The Daisekkei is still top to bottom covered in spring snow. This means icy conditions in the morning, and slushy conditions in the afternoon. My reliable source in Hakuba advises 10-point crampons for this time of year (at least until mid-July after the rains wash away a few more meters of snow).

      If you want a “safer” approach, you could consider entering via the Gondola at Tsukaike ski resort and approach Shirouma from the northeast (via Mt. Norikura). I haven’t done this myself, but I know it’s a popular alternative.

      Personally, I’ve climbed both Mt. Goryu and Mt. Kashima-yari at this time of year without too much trouble, so if you’ve got a fair amount of experience hiking through snow/alpine conditions, then I’d say go for it.

      • Chris Ward Says:

        Hey Wes, thanks for the info. I’ll probably leave it a month or two as I’ve not climbed in the snow before.

        Thanks again,


  3. damian Says:

    Hi Wes, just a note to your suggestion of the alternate route via Tsugaike cable car then Norikura Dake: the Norikura summer trail is still covered with snow and by the looks of the weather will remain that way for the next week or so at least. The snow is lingering late this year. Obviously it is a safer snow climb than Daisekkei, but a snow climb none the less. Perhaps I should have posted this in the current conditions discussion for Hakuba.

  4. David Says:

    I am hoping to climb Shirouma-dake with a small group on July 14-15, 2010, ascending the Daisekkei and descending via Yari-ga-take and Yari onsen. I’ve heard that there was a lot of snow this year. Any info on the ridge trail from Shirouma to Yari-ga-take and the trail down to Yari onsen would be appreciated.


  5. damian Says:

    In reply to David’s query: despite recent heavy rain here in Hakuba the summer trail that descends from the main ridge just south of the Yari summit down the wide open slope to Yari Onsen is still completely covered in snow. I will update again in week or so.

    Also note that the Yari Onsen hut may not be open on the 14-15 July. In previous years it has opened on the 18th. Though camping was probably ok, hut and facility construction may not have be completed (the very basic hut complex is completely disassembled every winter).

  6. damian Says:

    Hi Wes, I have little detail but have seen a local email report of rock fall injuries in Hakuba’s Daisekkei over the last few days. There is still snow patches about the peaks and opportunity for stones to be released by thaw.

    For hikers in Hakuba – Snow still streaks the wide south aspect of Yari down towards Yari Onsen. Also, there is a small patch of snow at the top of Hakuba Norikura Dake that probably needs to be crossed (though quite easily)

  7. Jeff Says:

    I am planning on climbing shirouma dake the first week in September. I am thinking of camping at the summit and juts wondering if you might know how cold it might get??

    Also is the climb down that goes through the onsen back to Sakura a difficult one?


  8. Chris Ward Says:

    Climbed Shiroma last Saturday (Aug 21st), and thought a little feedback might help some people.

    Firstly, awesome hike. The daisekki is quite a place, thought it got a little creepy on the way up when the fog came in. And the views from the top were great. I could only see the surrounding mountains, but I’ve heard you can see right out to Noto Hanto or south to Fuji on a clear day.

    I started climbing at 7am and it took me a little over 4hrs to make the summit from the car park, and about 3hrs back down. I was overtaking people the whole way and trying to get to the top before the cloud came in, but I think even slow people could do it as a day trip in good conditions. The crampons I bought for 1000yen at the second hut were perfectly adequate for the daisekki and I got up it in about an hour. From there it was another two hours of pretty steep climbing to the summit. The hut right at the top, while convenient, is a real monstrosity. How they get permission to build such things is anyone’s guess.

    I initially aimed to do the Yari Onsen circuit, but after getting to the foot of Mt. Yari I just didn’t have enough for another climb and headed back. With a really early start (like 5am) I think it would be possible in good weather.

    It was really busy the whole way up, but coming back down was eerily quiet, and I was practically alone on the daisekki coming down. There were a couple of park ranger guys here and there, which was quite reassuring.

    All in all, it was a great day out, though I’d probably avoid it if the weather didn’t look good. Too much chance of rock slides for my liking.

    Thanks again to this site for the info.


  9. wes Says:

    This is from Damian at Steep Deep Japan (early November 2011)

    Hi Wes, I went for my first stroll up Daisekkei today in quite some time (since late spring). No snow at all of course. However at 2020m there is a gapping hole where the ice has collapsed on the climbers left and a wide deep crevasse that spans almost the entire width to the climbers right.

    On the far climbers right there is a passable section of ice. However as you ascend you can not see the crevasse cutting the ice in two until you are at the edge, meaning one must back-track down hill and to the side to get past. You need to traverse downhill to the left. At this stage it is getting a little steeper and the traverse will take you above another crevasse so if you slip as you traverse to the left (as you descend), you will end up in trouble. Now you are sandwiched between two crevasses on steeper ice whilst traversing to find a route – not ideal, so the best bet it to stick far climbers right from perhaps 1950m or so to avoid the whole yet unseen debacle higher up. It is now impossible to walk directly up the middle of Daisekkei. It is quite dramatic! The crevasse must have opened towards the end of the popular hiking season as the red grit that is used to marked the path on the ice is clearly broken and continues on the other side of the crevasse. Something of a U-turn has been marked on the ice with the red grit.

    All huts are shut now and the area is deserted of people. The aki colours are spectacular at around 1000m and below.


    • Amelie Says:

      Hi Wes,

      I was referred to your site from a member. Lots of great information…I read through the relevant pages and I’m interested in doing the Mt. Shirouma/Mt. Yari loop solo in Sept/Oct (I’m not in a rush so no time constraints). I’m pretty physically fit, but my first hike was just late last year in Chilean Patagonia so not in serious Alpine conditions. I know that I should be satisfied with trying Mt. Yari, but I wanted see what you say. If the conditions will likely be unfavorable for that time of year, I’m open to alternatives. Also, I noticed that Damian only accepts referrals or business from tour operators so do you have any suggestions for guides? I’d prefer to do it solo, but I wouldn’t be opposed to trekking with a group or finding a guide.

      Thanks and keep up the good work!


      • Jeff Says:

        Hi Amelie,
        September and October will be fine although might be a chilly in October and a chance of snow at the top. This winter there has been a lot of snow so maybe the Daisekki will be in better shape.
        I have done this hike and can be done solo without problems. First day is a bit of a climb but day two is a really long one!
        Have fun.

      • Amelie Says:

        Hi Jeff,

        Thank you for the reply. There are many great options so it’s difficult to choose. I will try for as early in Sept as I can manage around my schedule and I’ll also look at alternatives although it looks like for the most part, the Minami Alps are more manageable with a car and the open season is a bit shorter for some of those ranges. I checked the national holidays so there aren’t many to avoid. Well, time to work on planning.


  10. Sarah Says:

    Hi, your site has been my go to site for climbing info, thanks so much! Is the climb to Yari from Shirouma and back to Sarukura well marked, especially if there is still snow along the ridgeline? Considering doing it in early August (avoiding Obon) as both those mountains were on my list this year, so might as well do them in one fell swoop, conditions permitting.

    • wes Says:


      Yes, the route is well-marked and popular throughout the summer. The huts on the summit of Shirouma have room for several thousand hikers!


  11. Dom Says:


    I am thinking of attempting this hike of Mt Shirouma, perhaps onwards to Mt Yari, in mid or late June. Would it be too early? As I have not hiked in Alpine conditions before, I m concerned with the terrain and weather conditions during that period.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! :D

  12. Quyen Tran Says:

    I intend to go by Alpico bus, can you please tell me the stop at which i should get off the bus?

    • wes Says:

      You need to take the bus from Hakuba station to Sarukura. Get off at the last stop (Sarukura). You can’t miss it. Just follow the crowds

  13. Mark Says:

    Great article! I relied heavily on posts like thIs to plan a family trek with 4 kids. We started at Tsugaike ropeway and descended down the Daisekkei. The kids loved it. Thanks!

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