Destination – Mt. Hakuba

Hakuba

The top of Shirouma Dake

There is lots to explore in Hakuba. The stand out spot when you are in the valley is obviously the tallest peak of Shirouma Dake or to translate that, Mt. Hakuba or again White Horse mountain. I had climbed it previously from the Daisekkei ice field but this time we were taking an alternative route via Tsugaike and staying the night in the lodge. Studying the weather and assessing all the models we decided upon the weekend of the 3/4 September 2017. It looked to be a sunny and relatively low wind weekend. True to Hakuba’s form of micro climate we found ourselves locked into some low cloud however there were plenty of times it cleared enough to get the camera out.

Hakuba

The gondola and ropeway will take you half way up to 1900 meters

We started off at the Tsugaike gondola and then a 300 meter walk to the ropeway. That takes us up to the starting point. (turn right just before the Park Entrance Hut). It is a pleasant start through high sassa grass forests up to the swampy flats of Tengu para. The next part of the climb up to Norikura Dake involves a bit of bouldering. You’ll likely see some snow up here with a small 50 meter traverse which may be icy. They do have a rope to assist you. At the top of Norikura you will have a chance to see some raicho birds. You may see there head pop up occasionally. It is difficult at this time of year to get a good photo but you may be lucky.  From here it is a bit of rock hopping down to Hakuba Oike (pond). As we strolled into the basin we were able to get a great view of the pond before we were socked in with a think cloud. There is a lodge at the pond for a toilet break and a bite to eat. We brought our own food so we sat down outside and had some lunch here. It took us close to 3 hours to get to this point.

Hakuba

The Tengu para swampy marshland

Hakuba

Still some snow on Norikura Dake

Hakuba

A bit of bouldering to get you through this section

 

Hakuba

Hakuba pond with the hut in the background

The next stage of the trip is on a stony trail traversing along the side of the mountains with ridges and saddles. At this stage we were still hidden in the clouds. It was beautiful in it’s own respect however I could imagine how spectacular the scenery would have been on a clear day. The terrain doesn’t change much from here except for a few steeper sections as we made our way along the peaks that I laud from the village daily. The biggest threat would probably be the wind through the saddles which I could imagine being quite fierce on its day.  As we climbed higher we eventually punched through the cloud to an absolutely stunning vista. It was worth the wait and the cloud below us has now become a bonus. This stage is about 3-4 hours to the top peak of Shirouma sitting at 2932 meters above sea level

Hakuba

Rocky fields along the way

Hakuba

You can see where the inspiration for the traditional Japanese garden has come from

Hakuba hikes

Getting on top of the clouds. It was so nice to feel the sun.

Hakuba

Watch your step. It gets steep in sections

 

Hakuba

Getting closer to the peak

Hakuba

We made it. Top of the peak with a sea of cloud

Continuing on just down about 15 minutes from the peak is the lodge. This place sleeps 800+ people but on a busy weekend during peak season they will never turn any one away so be prepared for minimal space. We chose a quiet weekend just out of peak so we were able to get a private room. Nothing fancy here other than a warm futon for the night which after a big hike is all you need (maybe a pillow and a pair of ear plugs too if you are a light sleeper). The restaurant is beautifully built and offers amazing sunset views out of the cold. Sitting up so high in the mountains in a nice comfortable restaurant and being able to order a beer and some warm food makes this a dream hiking destination. The lodge offers a basic dinner and breakfast  deal with accommodation as an extra or you can purchase dinner separately at the restaurant which is what we did.

Hakuba

A beautiful sunset too from high in the mountains

Hakuba

Sitting back on the top of the mountains with beer and edamame. Life is good.

After a big hike and a few beers and a feed it was time to catch some zzzzs. We were woken up abruptly for the first breakfast call at around 5 o’clock. Seems people are really keen to get moving early. A perfect clear morning gives us the views we were dreaming of.

Hakuba

The view from my bedroom window in the morning. That’s a great way to get you moving.

Hakuba

Looking back up to the peak in the morning

There are a couple of different routes from this point with more lodges along the way if you want to stay more nights. We have chose to make our way down and back to Hakuba via the Daisekkei ice field down to Sarukura. Before you leave be sure to hire some crampons for the ice down lower (700 yen) The hike is a steep decline and walking poles are recommended. Lots of twists and turns and every step takes concentration. Don’t forget to stop and look back at the magnificent rugged mountain scenery. Even though it is all down hill, it is a bit of a challenge. As we were making our way down on a perfect clear morning we could see below a thick cloud charge up the valley and just stop right over the ice. It was another natural change that just added to the trip.  It will take a bit over hour to reach the icefield. The trail carers assess the icefield regularly to make sure the routes are safe however you will see one of the major threats is being hit by rocks that have been naturally released and sent down the steep mountain sides. There are numerous boulders scattered around so stay aware. You will hear the smaller rockfalls too as you make your way down. It is not really a marked trail here for most of the way however you can basically pick where everyone else has been walking. They may put some coloured markings down or a rope in some areas to show where to go. Once you are off the ice there is a little bit of scrambling but mostly steps down to the next hut where you can relax and buy a drink. The next 45+ minutes is an easy hike back to the Sarukura hut where you can hand in your crampons and get a snack. They have buses running from here to the village at some times during the year. Either that or arrange a pick up with your hotel or you can ask them to call you a taxi.

Hakuba

A perfect morning to begin the hike down

 

Hakuba

Pick your way carefully. Natures stairs

 

Hakuba

The start of the icefied just below.

 

Hakuba

and then just like that the cloud rolled up the valley

A couple of highlights for me. I hiked with my 7 year old daughter. This was an amazing bonding experience that I will always remember. I knew she was capable physically however there is the mental aspect of a long climb. She passed with flying colours. This is not a climb for every kid. Once you get up past the lake it is just as difficult to go back as it is to go forward and that would be hard to explain to a child who is in melt down. Keep them going with plenty of positive reinforcement but ensure to do some smaller hikes prior to tackling something like this (and take plenty of snacks 🙂 .  The other thing for me was producing my first Brocken Spectre which is a rainbow halo created from the sun behind you and reflecting your shadow on the clouds below.  It gives a stunning effect and something I have always wanted to see.

Hakuba

Brocken Spectre. That’s my shadow with a rainbow.

What to take.

Good hiking boots,  food, snacks, water, raincoat, extra warm clothes, gloves, walking poles, sunscreen, cash (no card facilities), camera, first aid kit,  crampons (can be hired), pillow, torch, phone,  plastic bags for rubbish, sunglasses

Tips

Temperatures can get down to zero even in the summer time so be prepared.  Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.

The hiking in the Japanese alps is as good as anywhere in the world. Come and explore this beautiful part of Japan on your next visit. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at tony@whitehorse-hakuba.com

White Horse Hotel, Hakuba.  www.whitehorse-hakuba.com

Hakuba

Above the clouds on the very top peak of the Hakuba valley

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Hakuba Accommodation

Hakuba

Japanese style rooms with western comforts

There are many options for accommodation in the Hakuba Valley.  When you are searching for the best place to stay for your holiday there are a couple of things you should look for. Position is important. Ski-in, ski-out is not necessarily a good thing here. With 8 resort areas and 25 kms separating the furthest ones it makes more sense to stay central. The northern resort of Cortina does get a huge amount of snow however it does not always come from that direction. The key to Hakuba is having easy access to all of the resorts. The White Horse Hotel has a private shuttle service that will drop you off and pick you up at all of the resorts at any time of the day. If you want to be first in line for fresh tracks or get to your lesson in relative comfort with no stress then definitely this is for you. We also advise you on the best places to go every morning so you’ll be sure to get the most favourable conditions on a daily basis.  Everyone is different and while a lot of people talk about chasing the deep powder which we certainly specialise in, we also find that many of our guests are just looking for uncrowded groomed runs with maybe just a little fresh snow. We take everybody’s needs into consideraton when helping them choose where to go each morning.

Position also comes into play for apres. Being able to stroll out of your hotel and have a number of fantastic options for dinner and drinks is a bonus. Once again the White Horse Hotel is perfect in this regards. The hotel is located in Echoland which is the main restaurant and bar area of Hakuba. We also have our own bar and restaurant for our guests to enjoy if you just want to stay in for the evening. Having been here for over 10 years now, we continually strive to give our guests the best experience possible. I hope you can come and enjoy our hospitality in this very beautiful part of the world. When booking, it is always best to go directly through the hotel regardless of where you want to stay. We limit the number of rooms available for the booking engines as we want to be able to service our repeat and referred guests especially during the peak periods. Contact us directly for availability.

info@whitehorse-hakuba.com

http://www.whitehorse-hakuba.com

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Season wrap 2016/17

Hakuba 2017

Hakuba Cortina 31st January 2017. What a day that one was.

What an awesome snow season we had here in Hakuba for 2016/17. The season began with first lifts spinning on the 8th of December and finishing up on the 7th of May. It was a little late to start and teased us for a while but then on the 11th of January Hakuba did what it does and in a big big way. Talking to one of the expert avalanche safety patrol guys on Tsugaike, his measurements on the upper to mid mountain was 4 meters over 10 days. Over the next 2.5 months we had consistent dumps of snow giving everyone a chance to experience what keeps bringing people back. For me personally I was able to continue to explore and discover new, easy to get to spots and am constantly amazed in what I am able to find.  In regards to the groomed runs there is always plenty of fun to be had there for all levels of skiers and boarders.  The parks were upped a level with bigger and better set-ups and the usual standout, Hakuba47, were able to run to the last day.  The new lift ticket system was rushed into action at the start of the season so no doubt there were some teething problems however I have confidence that next year it should run a lot smoother. The new gates are easy to get through and the convenience of not having to buy a ticket daily or exchange a voucher is excellent for tourists. Off the mountain and into the valley Hakuba continues to grow domestically and internationally. There is a lot of development going on and even more in the planning stages. There are new restaurants, cafes and bars opening each year and the choice is outstanding. Every year I have been here I have seen subtle changes which make the experience much easier and more attractive for the foreign tourists. Thank you Hakuba for another amazing winter. I am blessed to call you my home.

Hakuba sunshine

Plenty of bluebird days too

Hakuba snow

Hakuba Powder Hounds found Heaven this season

Hakuba powder snow

Hakuba Kashimayari – that moment when the sun shines through

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First day of the season competition 2016 /17

first-day-2015-16-season

A pic from the 28th of November 2015. Last seasons winner for picking the first day was Steve Williams.

Here we go again. Each year we run a competition to pick the first day of the season. The rules are

  • The first day the lifts open for skiers and boarders at any one of the resorts in Hakuba.
  • One date per person. If 2 or more people choose the same date then we will have a draw out of a hat to choose the winner.
  • The date must be chosen at least one week in advance
  • If a date isn’t chosen then it’s the closest date before.

The prizes are

So go to the bottom of this blog and put your date in the comments section or email me HERE and I will add it. Good luck. Remember that the resorts will open as soon as there is enough snow on the ground so it’s pretty much any time now. Just waiting for THAT storm.

The list so far.

Gerard Hollands – 23rd November

Shay Mason – 24th November

Simon 24th November

TJ – 25th November

Ange – 25th November

Olivia – 25th November

Tyler – 26th November

Andrew Clarke – 26th November

Melody – 26th November

David Bridger – 26th November

Onotch – 26th November

Erica – 26th November

Jack Johnson – 26th November

Nicole Spencer – 26th November

Ingrid – 26th November

Jake Lyons – 26th November

William Righton – 27th November

Kiralee Dempster – 27th November

Grant Hakuba House – 27th November

Austin Campion – 27th November

Matt Reed – 28th November

Shane Steere – 28th November

James Gill – 28th November

Andreas Zweibrot – 28th November

Kieran – 28th November

Chiharu W – 28th November

Thomas Williams – 28th November

Daniel – 29th November

Aimee Jones – 29th November

Lisa Gale – 29th November

Heath Gallagher – 29 November

Olga Gordan – 30th November

PJC – 30th November

JB – 30th November

Mike – 31st November (good luck with that)

Brian Morris – 1st December

Anthony Ginman – 1st December

Zuzana Solcova – 1st December

4wanderlusters – 1st December

Troy – 2nd December

Richard Copland – 2nd December

Deborah Curry – 2nd December

Jacob Luff – 2nd December

Michael – 3rd December

David McAlister – 3rd December

Jamie – 3rd December

Chris – 3rd December

Ryan Crumlish – 4th December

Paul – 4th December

James Millane – 4th December

Adam Roberts – 4th December

Alex – 5th December

Ruthryan – 5th December

Dylan – 5th December

Heidi Dell – 5th December

Hannah Sayer – 5th December

Fraser Burrough – 5th December

Stephen – 6th December

Paris – 6th December

James Willoughby – 6th December

Tereza Foulcher – 6th December

Jeremy Corner – 8th December

Jesse Fenn – 8th December

Nathan Moore – 8th December

Reuben – 10th December

Steve Nixon – 10th December

Clare – 10th December

Carlie Lidstone – 13th December

Tamara Gallagher – 13th December

Alex – 14th December

Meesha Novotny – 16th December

Shane – 17th December

Dane – 17th December

Dee Mathiesen – 28th December

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travis Rice in Japan

The Hakuba mountains in Japan is where Travis Rice filmed the Japanese segment of his latest film “The Fourth Phase”. The movie footage is amazing and you will be pretty much guaranteed similar conditions if you come here mid season for a 2 week stint. Here is some footage of what he got up to in the Valley. A Cortina powder day is an obvious choice for even the pro’s. Can I recommend ensuring you are geared up for rescue if you try any lines like these and also please don’t slide on our roads. Fun to watch but buses hurt if they hit you. I think they used a stuntman 🙂

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Mt Hakuba (Shirouma) climb. 白馬岳

Mt Hakuba 4

Almost to the top. Mt Shirouma lodge on the right with the peak just beyond that.

We have world class hiking here in Hakuba for every level of experience. I recently took on the big one, Mt Shirouma, through the Daisekkei snowfield for a day hike. I would recommend staying up at the mountain lodge for the evening to truly take in the great atmosphere of one of Japans most famous hikes. On this particular day we had a good mix of conditions which added to the experience. No rain thankfully however at times a misty fog would surround us. The snowfield is glacier like with lots of creaks and groans in the snowpack giving an eerie mood. Adding to that is the intermittent sound of small rockfalls on either side of the gorge. There is constant threat and existence of larger rockfalls so there is a need to be vigilant. It’s a solid hike for 5 hours with some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever experience. I can thoroughly recommend it along with the ramen and beer at the top. You do require crampons for the snowfield which can be purchased at the base for 1000 yen.

Mt Hakuba 27

We are going up

Mount Hakuba

A little bit further and we hit the ice field

Hakuba hiking

Conditions were icy and like walking on a giant golfball. You need crampons

Japan hiking

and looking back down the valley

Hakuba Japan

Beautiful wildflowers along the way

Japan outdoors

the scenery constantly changed from brilliant

hiking in Japan

to magnificent

snowjapan

the clouds would come and go

Japanese mountains

with some amazing displays

#MyHakuba

Nearly at the top

白馬岳

Hikers Heaven. On top of the world with a shelter, food and drinks. The peak in the background just 10 minutes away

Hakuba peak

The peak monument @ 2932 meters

Ramen 2

The ramen up top was actually very good and, well Sapporo is always good.

Thank you to my good friend and Professional Guide, Hiromi Ishihara, for taking me along on this amazing adventure.  I can certainly recommend her services if you are looking for some knowledgeable assistance to the region.

If you would like more information on this and anything else about Hakuba then please contact me directly at info@whitehorse-hakuba.com

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New Lift Ticket System – game changer

Hakuba lifts

and then the clouds clear.

Huge news for the Hakuba Valley this week with the anouncement of a new lift ticketing system to be introduced for this 2016-17 winter season. It’s a big and positive step for the resorts to get together and introduce a state of the art lift pass. Life will be a lot easier now for everyone coming here to ski and snowboard. No more waiting at the ticket box exchanging vouchers or buying daily passes. The lift ticket, which you will be able to pre-purchase, will enable you to walk straight through the gates which puts you on the lifts faster to get you where you want to be. Goryu, Iimori, Hakuba47, Happo One, Iwatake, Tsugaike and Norikura will all have scanning gates this season to allow you instant access to the lifts. Jigatake, Kashimayari, Yanaba, Sanosaka and Cortina will introduce them the following season however your pass will still enable you to exchange a day pass.

Just a little history on my take of the way things were done previously. There are 500 or so ski resorts in Japan. Most of them are owned by separate entities all vying for their piece of the ski market. There has been a lot of competition and that included between each of the resorts in Hakuba.  Over recent history there has been a lot of encouragement from the locals in Hakuba for the resorts to join forces and become one of the biggest and best resort areas not only in Japan but on a world scale. “THE HAKUBA VALLEY”. Finally with the hard work of a few very motivated men and woman we are starting to see the potential of what Hakuba can be.

For more info on the system check out the Skidata website HERE.

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Bucket list

 

Hakuba in April

Trip of a life time

April 2016. Where will you be? How about combining one of Japan’s most incredible festivals with a trip to the giant snow walls whilst checking out the Cherry Blossom season and throw in a back country Heli Ski adventure in the Japanese Alps. This is a trip of a life time.

Onabashira is commonly know as the log sliding festival.  Giant trees are  sent sliding down a hill with the local people riding atop. This event is truly an amazing spectacle and something that should not be missed. More info here

The giant snow walls of Tateyama are world renowned. We’ll be taking the adventurous route through long tunnels, over a huge dam and traversing on Japans longest single span ropeway to reach the destination. More info here

The Cherry Blossoms in Japan will even make the toughest of men ohh and arhh over their beauty. Come and celebrate as the Japanese do with a Hanami party under the Cherry trees. More info here

Heli Ski in the Japanese Alps in style with a classic Japanese  bento picnic lunch and a bottle of champagne on top of one of the most spectacular mountain regions in the world. This is available for intermediate and above skiers and boarders. Mellow lines and a good introduction to the Hakuba backcountry. More info here

Tony Anderson from the White Horse Hotel has been living in the region for 10 years and will be you personal escort for this adventure of a lifetime. Contact him directly HERE for more information and package deals. There are limited numbers so get in early.

Onabashira official website Here

Giant Snow walls site Here

 

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Monk Fish Festival

Hakuba tours

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

If you are in Hakuba tomorrow then this would certainly be a good way to check out a real local festival. These fish are ugly but very tasty so jump on a spectacular scenic train ride and go and enjoy a great day on the coast. I would definitely recommend it. The Nou and the Oyashirazu festivals on the following weeks are also easy to get to.

Hakuba festivals

Worth the train ride

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Discount lift tickets for Hakuba

Doctor Hakuba

Cheap tickets. They were cheap already.

Here are the discount vouchers for this season. I always wonder why people pre purchase tickets when the deals are so good. Pre purchased tickets have to be validated at the ticket box each day anyway so you may as well take advantage of these vouchers. There are a few more family deals HERE at SnowNavi

[How to use]
Print out the voucher (black and white is OK). Please fill your name, number of users, address, age and bring to the ticket office.

Happoone Ski Resort - Discount coupons pack a day pass - Snownavi

Happoone Ski Area - Discount coupons pack a day pass - Snownavi

Tsugaike kogen Ski Resort - Discount coupons pack a day pass - Snownavi

Tsugaike kogen Ski Area - Discount coupons pack a day pass - Snownavi

Tsugaike kogen Ski Area - Discount coupons pack a day pass - Snownavi

Hakuba Iwatake Snowfield - One day Lift Ticket Coupon with Lunch Ticket

Hakuba Iwatake Snowfield - Family Pack A Lift one day pack

Hakuba Iwatake Snowfield - Family Pack B Lift one day pack

 

 

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