Father & Son Hiking
A father and son hiking adventure to explore the three thousand meter Hakuba peaks was on the cards during the hot summer school holidays.
We decided to make it slightly more adventurous and instead of utilizing the well placed mountain huts, that cater for hikers in the high alpine, we thought that camping in our two-man tent under the stars would be far more exciting.
Camping also meant carrying backpacks with said tent, sleeping bags, waterproof clothing, four full days of food, cooking equipment, flashlights and of course roll mats to protect us from the cold floor and any rocks under the tent. Practicing lifting the packs in comfort of home was easy enough, but we were a little unprepared for climbing!
We chose the Happo-one ski area to Tsugaike Nature Park route, which given four days, would give us plenty of time to rest and recuperate everyday in the late afternoon sun.
Leaving the ski lifts at Happo-one it was a fairly easy climb with my son racing off like a mountain goat on the wide boards overtaking everyone in sight. I just plodded along noticing that my backpack was getting heavier and heavier with every step. Maybe I should have chosen the mountain huts instead of camping!
The first rest stop was Happo-ike Pond at 2,060m. This is a great place to enjoy lunch and take in the majestic peaks in front of you. It is one of Hakuba’s favorite day hikes so it can get a little crowded. After lunching on onigiri (rice balls), the staple food of hikers in Japan, it was back on the trail to our goal of Karamatsu Mountain Hut and campsite at 2,620m.
We awoke before dawn to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, but unfortunately we were shrouded in a thick mist and being rather chilly we decided to go back to sleep until the sun burnt of the clouds. After packing the tent away it was time to climb Karamatsu and follow the trail onwards to “Kaerazu-no-ken” or literally “The Point of no Return” Here the going is hard with lots of chains and old bridges to cross. It is not for the fainthearted! That night we camped at Tengu which was our favorite campsite of the hike.
After a beautiful sunrise it was time to tackle the Hakuba Three Peaks. First was Mt Hakuba Yarigatake followed closely by Mt. Shakushi and then onto the highest peak in Hakuba, Mt. Shirouma at 2,932m. We pitched our tent that evening just below the summit and we were surprised with the number of people camping! Everyone was escaping the summer heat!
It was nearly all downhill from here, all the way to Tsugaike Nature Park with the highlight being the beautiful Hakuba Oike Pond. The scenery passed from high alpine to marshes to forests. Wearily at the bottom we soaked at legs in the free foot onsen while enjoing a delicious ice cream at the Tsugaike base area.
My bed never felt better that night!