Imagine a hike that you could enjoy on a warm day but without overbearing heat that the Japan’s summers are famous for and at the same time enjoying the views of the Hakuba Valley spread out over 1000meters below, add a pristine alpine pond, then you must hike Happo-ike or further to Karamatsu Dake.
The start point of the hiking is 1831m from the top lifts at Happo-one Ski Area. To get there you can either upload on the Adam Gondola, then take a further two lifts or drive up to Kurobishi Slope and take two lifts from there. Whatever route you take you will no doubt be relaxing in the cool air taking in the greenery below.
As you get off the top lift you have a choice of two routes, either on wooden deck boards or over the rocks. The rocks are stepper and quicker but the boards make for more comfortable walking especially if the ground is wet from an overnight shower or morning dew.
The first goal to reach is Shakui Cairn at 1974m though many call this Happo-yama Cairn. Cairns are man-made stacks of stones used as trial markers. There a few on the course and make great places to rest up while you catch your breath.
Starting off again the track becomes a little steeper but you are rewarded with some wonderful photo opportunities of the Northern Alps including the impressive Goryu-dake on the left side. Next is a short snow field that has left over snow until usually mid-summer though with the 2016-2017 winter being above average snowfall, it might still there until autumn. It is a good place to take a rest on some of the large rocks. No doubt on a warm summer’s day you will be drinking lots of water and might be in need of a rest room. Not to worry, just past the snow is a toilet block open from middle of June until the middle of October.
The next cairn you come to is Dai 2 Cairn and you can pat yourself on the back as you are now a full 2km above sea level! It is only a little walk to the next cairn at 2035m.
Probably the steepest section now brings you to your first glimpse of Happo-ike Pond. You can either walk clockwise or anti-clockwise around. Happo-ike Pond is an amazing mirror like pond with the Hakuba Three Peaks usually reflected. Find a large rock to sit on and enjoy a snack, you deserve it!
You can either return down to the lifts, which is much easier than climbing up or you can venture further on to Mt. Karamatsu. The route to Mt. Karamatsu is fairly the same with some slightly gnarly periods where the track narrows. Just below the mountain is the Karamatsu Hut, here you can buy drinks and snacks or even stay the night. A tip is to leave your bag outside the hut as you climb the 20mins to the peak of Mt. Karamatsu.