Hakuba: Climb Shirouma-dake (or Hang in the Carpark)
Get There: Drive to the end of Route 322 and park in the carpark — about 20 minutes from central Hakuba.
At the very windy end of Route 322 is the rather thrilling Sarukura carpark. We say thrilling because, unlike most expanses of concrete, this one is a pleasure to be in thanks to the phenomenal power and beauty of the manmade waterfalls that surge alongside it.
If you’re just as into climbing as you are carparks, this won’t even be the end of your adventure, as Sarukura actually marks the beginning of the trek to Shirouma-dake. This is Hakuba’s highest mountain, and one of few in Japan that boast snowfields all year round.
An avalanche in July 2008 tragically proved deadly for a couple of hikers and rockfalls are not uncommon, so it’s worth enquiring at Hakubajiri Lodge – an hour into the trek and just before the Daisekkei snowfields – about the day’s conditions and risks. You may want proper gear to attempt the Daisekki, including crampons and a helmet, but the former can be purchased at the hut, and as long as you’re not walking in knockoff Nikes, you should be sweet.
The ridge takes between two and four hours to reach from the beginning of the snowfields, and provides unreal views. There are two lodges up there, as well as a campsite, with the usual thing to do either being to continue to the summit in time for sunset and stay the night, or wake up at 3:30am and catch the sunrise from the top.
From there, you have a couple of choices depending on how hardcore you are. Either you can return to Sarukura, continue south to other peaks, or keep going to Yarigatake, which has one of the highest onsen in the country, before finishing where you started back at the carpark.