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Home: Highest Mountains in Japan: Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)

Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)
elev. 2932m
Japan's 26th Highest Mountain

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Despite being a relatively easy climb, Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳) (Japanese for "White Horse Mountain") is without question one of Japan's most dangerous peaks, claiming lives just about every year.

In fact, on Aug. 27, 2006, the very next day after I hiked up the Daisekkei Valley (大雪渓) (big snow valley), a lady died there after being struck by a huge, 1-meter wide boulder that tumbled down out of nowhere in foggy conditions with severely restricted visibility. 

Mt. Shirouma-dake from Maruyama
Mt. Shirouma-dake from Maruyama
(Photo credit: Alpsdake, taken July 30, 2000)

After the massive 8000 cu. m. landslide(*) of Aug. 11, 2005 killed one hiker and injured 2 others in the Daisekkei Valley, a team of Japanese researchers identified a number of unique factors, the combination of which make the valley especially hazardous:
  • Slope angles exceeding 60 degrees (almost vertical) exist in the upper reaches of the U-shaped glacial valley
  • The source area of the rockfall is 250 m above the valley floor and a number of rock blocks still remain there, increasing the chances of recollapse
  • The area is prone to frequent avalanches and periods of intense rainfall & snowfall (46 mm of precipitation were recorded on Aug. 10, the day before the above landslide)
  • An overbundance of glacial rock debris, which can become deadly projectiles in the event of rockslides
  • Seasonal freeze-thaw cycles aggravate both the high- and low-density rock joints, increasing the likelihood of future separation of rock blocks from rockwalls and catastrophic slope failures
  • Mt. Shirouma-dake is one of Japan's most popular peaks, even among foreigners, and is easily accessible from the Tokyo & Osaka metropolitan areas, making it extremely crowded from late July to mid-August
  • Trekking tours arranged by commercial outdoor guides for beginner climbers have increased in popularity in recent years
(*) The largest volume of sediment in a landslide ever recorded in the Shirouma-dake district

The above researchers in their Nov. 2006 report recommended fundamental improvements in the education system for climbers, including proposing a map identifying the most hazardous areas. And to put in MY 2 cents worth, I've compiled a short list of news stories about Mt. Shirouma-dake mountain climbing accidents which have occurred in recent years. Be careful !

At the top of Daisekkei Valley (big snow valley)
At the top of Daisekkei Valley (大雪渓) (big snow valley)

From the Sarukura trailhead (elev. 1250m) to the summit, it took me almost 7 hrs., including about an hour and 15 minutes to trek across the Daisekkei Valley (大雪渓) (my Mt. Shirouma-dake trip schedule).

Since the big snow valley can be a bit slippery in places, especially early in the morning, crampons are recommended and I rented mine for 700 yen at a little shop just outside of Hakuba Station.

Near the summit, you have a choice of 2 mountain huts, one sleeping 1000 and the other one, Hakuba-sanso (白馬山荘), sleeping a remarkable 1500. I chose the smaller (and lower elevation) one, Chojo Shukusha (頂上宿舎).

Hakuba-sanso, sleeping quarters for 1500 people
Hakuba-sanso (白馬山荘), sleeping quarters for 1500
people, from the summit of Mt. Shirouma-dake 

After scaling Japan's 32nd tallest peak, Mt. Shirouma-yari-ga-take (白 馬鑓ヶ岳, elev. 2903m), a real treat on the way back down to Sarukura was the open-air Yari Onsen (hot spring), which was right on the hiking trail and only cost 300 yen (my trip expenses). To be honest, the water was a tad too hot for me, especially on my sunburn from the day before (I was hiking in shorts and forgot my sunscreen), but a hot spring bath on a hiking trail in Japan is an extreme rarity.

White Horse Mountain is arguably one of the most accessible of Japan's highest mountains. I left Shinjuku Station in Tokyo at 9 pm on Friday night Aug. 25, 2006 and was back home by 9:30 on Sunday night.  

But I did receive a very kind favor from a nice man who drove out of his way to give me a lift from Matsumoto to Hakuba. Koichi-san is an Azumino City-based mechanical engineer who designs Sony Vaio notebook computers.

My Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳) Pics

I hope you'll have time to check out my Flickr photo album below of this fabulous mountain climbing trip. Enjoy!!

Pics of Mt. Shirouma-dake (白 馬岳), elev. 2932m,
Japan's 26th highest peak,
Aug. 25-27, 2006
(If the slideshow player above is not visible, you can view the entire album @ Flickr here.)

My Google Map of Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)

In Oct. 2009 I created the customized map below, as I thought it'd be cool to see all of Japan's 25 highest mountains at a glance.

(zoom out to see all 25 highest mountains)

View 25 Highest Mountains in Japan in a larger map

Route Map of Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)


If you're thinking of doing this climb, I suggest you pick up a copy of Hiking in Japan by the Lonely Planet, which was just updated in Aug. 2009.

I own the 2001 edition and it has a nice 5-page write-up of Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳), complete with access info, a small trail map, route description, and even phone numbers for the mountain huts.

Also, if you have any time to kill before or after your Mt. Shirouma-dake hike, you might want to take some time to explore the Hakuba area, the venue for many of the skiing events at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. This page at Trip Advisor shows a lot of the fun stuff to do, as well as places to stay in the area.

Please stop by again soon, as I intend to update this page periodically with more details in the future, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to use the section below. Or if you prefer sending me a private message, just click on "Contact Me."

And if you've already climbed Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳) & you'd care to share your climbing story & pics with other climbers, feel free to do so in the section below.

Additional links:
Mt. Shirouma-dake summit weather forecast
Mt. Shirouma-dake topo map (from Geospatial Information Authority of Japan)
Mt. Shirouma-dake route map (part of the Yama-to-kogen Chizu series published by Shobunsha)
Shirouma-dake/Kashimayari-ga-dake area mountain huts and hiking times
Sunrise/Sunset times for Mt. Shirouma-dake new icon

Have a Question or Story about Climbing Mt. Shirouma-dake?

Do you have a question or a story about climbing Mt. Shirouma-dake? Please pay it forward and share your climbing experience (along with up to 4 pics) with other visitors to this page still planning their Mt. Shirouma-dake hike!

Unlike social media sites like Facebook & Twitter where your post quickly gets pushed down off the page, your story here will be given a dedicated webpage and its own URL, giving others a chance to comment (see below other climbing Mt. Shirouma-dake stories submitted so far). And feel free to link your story back to your webpage, blog, or any other page of your choosing.

What Other Mt. Shirouma-dake Climbers Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other Mt. Shirouma-dake climbers...

Can you help me find a mountain I climbed many years ago? 
hi gary! i wonder if you can help me find a mountain i climbed many years ago? i thought it was the 2nd highest in japan and called date (kita?), …

Shirouma-dake area mountain hut closing dates 
Hi Gary, I saw some of your insightful comments on hiking in Japan and ask that you please give us some guidance. My wife and I plus another couple …

I am looking for some accommodation around the Hakuba area 
Hi Gary, I stumbled upon your website and enjoyed reading your blog. The reason I came across your website was because I am looking for some accommodation …

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Gary J. Wolff

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