Archive for the ‘Hokuriku hikes (北陸地方)’ category

Hakusan (白山)

June 3, 2008

It is now mandatory to submit a tozantodoke form if you’re climbing Hakusan. Starting this month, violators may be subject to a 50,000 yen fine, so please fill out the form at the trailhead before climbing. 

Hakusan, appropriately translated as ‘White Peak’, is an impressive edifice towering over Ishikawa Prefecture. The summit features unique volcanic strata, as well as wonderful crater lakes. The panoramic views of the Japan Alps aren’t half bad either.

The hike: From the bus stop, you’ve got 2 options. Either take the track to the right, called Sabou Shindou (砂防新道) or the trail to your left, called Kankou Shindou (観光新道). One or the other may be closed when you go, so take whichever is open. I’ll describe the hike using Kankou Shindou. Fill up your water bottles at the resthouse, because it’s a long, long way to the top. The first 90 minutes of the trail is pretty straight forward, and you’ll cross over a forest road several times. You’ll reach a junction called Bettouzaka-bunki (別当坂分岐). Ignore the trail coming in from the left, and continue towards the right. The trail keeps climbing up and up, on a seemingly endless array of switchbacks. The views down into the valley will also pretty impressive. You’ll reach an emergency hut in about 2-1/2 hours, and the trail will start to become a little easier after this point. In another 40 minutes or so, you’ll reach another trail junction, where the Sabou trail comes in from the right. From here to the summit, it’s just one trail, and you’ve only got 100 vertical meters or so to Murodo hut, which should take about a half hour to reach. The hut is open from May 1st to October 15th, but only serves meals from July to October. Consider staying here if you’re up for the weekend, as the sunsets are spectacular. There’s no campground here, but if you continue an hour south you can camp at Nanryu hut. Anyway, it should take about 40 minutes from Murodo to the top of Hakusan. If the weather is good then you’ll have outstanding panoramic views. You can do a loop hike from the top back to Murodo, passing by several picturesque volcanic lakes. The loop takes about an hour to complete. From the summit, you can either head south to complete a traverse of the Hakusan range (via Bessan), or return the way you came. I did the full traverse, but don’t recommend it as you end up in the middle of nowhere and have to walk on a forest road for quite a while to get back to civilization. Of course, I had lousy weather the entire trip, so my feelings would most likely be different if I had more co-operative weather.

When to go: This hike can be done during July, August, and September, when the buses to Bettoudeai are running. If you’ve got your own transport, then you can definitely go much earlier than this. The road to the trailhead doesn’t open until the end of May, but that doesn’t stop hoards of climbers from hiking along the closed road to the trailhead, and continuing from there. Click here to see the conditions during Golden Week!

Access: From Kanazawa (金沢) station, turn right out of the ticket gates and go out the East gate. You’ll see a bus rotary on your left. Walk out to bus stop #1 and take a bus bound for Bettoudeai (別当出合). There seem to be fewer and fewer buses every year. For 2015, there are buses on June 30, July 1, July 4 & 5, August 13, 14, 15 & 16, and on weekends only between August 22 and October 12. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1452m).

Mt. Arashima (荒島岳)

March 13, 2008

Mt. Arashima is a beautiful peak towering over Ono city in Fukui Prefecture. The summit yields glorious panoramic views of Hakusan, the Japan Alps, and the peaks of the northern Kansai region.

Mt. Arashima

The hike: Exit the train station and turn left on the road just in front of you. Walk for about 20 minutes until reaching the parking lot of Kadohara Ski Resort (勝原スキー場). There’s no water on this hike, so make sure you fill up before setting off. The trail runs straight through the ski fields and then curves to the right just past the top of the first lift. After about 40 minutes or so, you’ll reach the top of the ski resort, and the trail will enter the forest. The forest is beautiful, covered with virgin Beech trees which turn yellow in the autumn. The path is well marked but is anything but flat. It’ll take around an hour & a half of relentless climbing to reach Shakunage-daira (シャクナゲ平), which is known in English as “rhododendron plateau”. Have some fun teaching the Japanese hikers how to pronounce the English for this plant during your ascent. Anyway, the trail splits in 3 different directions. If you take the trail to the right, you can climb to the top of Mt. Ko-Arashima (小荒島岳), which has breathtaking views out to the real Mt. Arashima. If you’re short of time or just can’t be bothered, then ignore this trail and hang a left toward the towering peak. It should take around an hour or so to reach the flat summit and if the weather is good then you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Hakusan. After taking a well-deserved break, head back the way you came and consider hitchhiking back to Fukui or just wait for the infrequent train to come.

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you’ve got the proper equipment (and experience) for winter hiking. Otherwise, aim to go between April and November. Click here for a report about a Japanese group who climbed in Jan. 2008 and you can get some idea of how much snow this mountain gets.

Access: From Osaka or Kyoto stations, take a JR Limited Express “Thunderbird” train bound for Toyama and get off at Fukui station. From there, change to the JR Etsumihoku Line (越美北線) and get off at Kadohara station (勝原駅). The train takes about an hour and is very infrequent. If you don’t make the 9:08 train, the next one isn’t until after noon and you’ll never make it up the mountain in time.

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 1263m)