Blog

Hakusan

Lower parking lot. The peak somewhere beyond this hill far in the distance.

Being in Toyama and having access to the northern alps readily available at a moment's notice is nice. The three peaks that consist of the top of the mountain range are grouped together and considered as one of the holiest peaks in Japan. Mt. Fuji is considered another as well as Hakusan in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Ryan and I decided to make a run up to the top of Hakusan in July and cross summiting the holy three off our bucket list of things to do in Japan. The base is a few hours of a drive away from Toyama and there are a number of routes trekkers can take to reach the summit. Common routes include driving up to the Bettodeai parking lot to hike, which provides several water and toilet stops on the trail. We chose to start our hike from much lower, beginning at Ichinose and taking the Hakusan Zenjodo trail, adding a significant amount of distance to the trek up.

The lower trailhead is well below the tree line and still in the bubble of Japanese summer humidity. We broke a sweat early on stairs built into the trail, wondering how long we'd be on this man-made trail until reaching the top. A few hours into the hike and still in the trees, we ran into two suzumebachi, the Japanese killer bees, that didn't enjoy us encroaching their space. The 30 minutes or so they flew around and landed on us was enough to think that this would be the last hiking either of us would ever do. The trail had turned to bounding boulders keeping us from going fast and I would quickly swat my hat when one would land on Ryan's shoulder. They eventually let up as we got higher and out of the trees, but it was more than enough to rethink our route back in the evening.

The trail up to Hakusan is surrounded in greenery in the summer and lacks the support that both Fuji and Tateyama provide for travelers on their trails. Tateyama is a caldera and you have the safety of knowing that the ridge loop will eventually come around and the number of hut lodges and bus terminal means that you have a fallback in case of an emergency. Fuji is even more trekker friendly with its plentiful huts selling food, drinks and lodging along the Fuji-Yoshida trail. Hakusan provides an empty emergency hut with no supplies along the trail and the Murodo rest huts right before the summit. For hikers thinking of doing an overnight hike, the emergency hut makes a good location to stay and eliminate the need for packing a tent.

For all the effort getting up the mountain, the trail suddenly eased up and opened to a wide flat plain. It was a welcome change to the past six hours of hiking skyward. The Murodo huts stood past the plain and it was a short, final hike up to the peak. With the clouds coming in, we made our way back down the way we came, lucky enough to not run into more bees on the way down. It was a ten hour round trip by the time we made it back to the Ichinose parking lot and we were off on our way back to Toyama by sunset.

 Tonogaike Emergency hut and looking back at the ridge we took.

Tonogaike Emergency hut and looking back at the ridge we took.

 Sudden clearing.

Sudden clearing.