Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walk on the Snow in Mt. Shirane – 草津白根の雪山ハイク


On clear Friday, I was with a couple of friends of mine to trek snowy Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane that I had to give up a year ago because of illness. This particular course is not really the kind that is expected as winter mountaineering as it requires only 200-meter altitude after getting off the ropeway station, therefore it is a quite safe hike for those who have never experienced climbing in the winter like myself as long as the weather is clear and fine.
Under the sun without winds, you will surely sweat as you walk and relatively light costume would be fine, but the actual temperature stays around minus 3 or 4 degrees C, and it is strongly recommended that you bring extra warm layers in preparation for a sudden weather change. The snow-shoes are the fundamental gear that can be rented at Tenguyama Ski facility for 1000 Yen per day. We saw some trekkers who replaced the snow-shoes with their ski to go down that looked very attractive.
From the ropeway station, you go on to the right along the well-maintained snow-path for maybe half an hour up to Shirane Rest House (closed in the winter), and from there beyond you definitely have to wear the snow shoes as you start climbing. You will then see Yugama Pond on your right that is very charming in the snow white background. You now see the mountain top fairly close, too. The views from the summit is truly panoramic with Japan Alps in the west and the mountains of Gunma and Joetsu, such as Tanigawadake, in the eat.
A mountaineering permit can be obtained at the Patrol Room in the ropeway station by filling out the provided form, but they only authorize the route to Mt. Kusatsu-Shirame in the winter that will take 3 hours back and forth. Another summit, Mt. Moto-Shirane, is not allowed: We saw some footsteps in the slope on our left along Second Romance Lift, so we decided to follow them to find how far we could go, but a patrol staff on snowmobile immediately dashed to us to alarm.
Because we are in Kusatsu Onsen, we can soak in the relaxing hot bath after the trek to make everybody feel so happy. I would like to plan an extended version of walk for the next time from Manza to Shirane.

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