Did you ever think that walking through high snowwalls in May could be possible? No? Well, let me tell you all about my snowy adventure at Mount Tateyama! I am sure that the pictures will amaze you.
About Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route
Mt. Tateyama is one of Japan’s three holy mountains along with Mt. Fuji and Hakusan. In the past, people imagined that they were having a direct view into the underworld and that the highest point of Mt. Tateyama, overlooking this valley of hell, was representing heaven. Why? Because they could see hot water coming from the ground, so they called this area Jigokudani (the “hell valley”). Some people even believe that climbing Mt. Tateyama (once in your life) means that your soul will go to heaven after your death. This sounds promising, so if you have the chance to climb it, you probably should do it.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 立山黒部アルペンルート is a unique and spectacular route through the Northern Japan Alps. To travel alongside, you have to use various means of transportation including cablecars, trolley buses and a ropeway. It was completed in 1971 and connects [Toyama City](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyama_(city) in Toyama Prefecture with Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture. Due to the snow amounts in winter, it is completely inaccessible from December to mid April.
The main attraction of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is the amazing scenery of the Tateyama Mountain Range that is part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park. In spring, accumulated snow, especially around the upper sections of Midagahara and Murodo, form a majestic snow corridor whose snow walls can be up to 20 meters high.
The highest point along the route called Murodo on 2400 m of altitued offers a variety of hiking trails. Another highlight along the route is the single-span Tateyama Ropeway that provides amazing panoramic bird’s eye views of the surrounding mountain scenery.
Traveling the whole route will take you up to 7 hours, including sightseeing time. But you can also do only parts of it and buy a return ticket to your starting point.
Ascending the mountain
We had an early morning start at Kanazawa as our trip would take around 2 hours until we reached Tateyama station, the starting point for our daytrip. The weather was beautiful and sunny, so we had a perfect view of the stunning mountain panorama of the Tateyama range while driving towards our destination.
You can see Tateyama already
Unfortunately we had to spend a long time at the valley station of the cablecar as there were so many people waiting and we could only receive a ticket for a cable car that was running two hours later.
We used the time to eat some Udon and Soba and took many pictures from the idyllic station and the beautiful scenery. It was warm and sunny, so waiting outside was no problem.
Watching the trains arriving at Tateyama Station was fun
The first ascent with the cablecar was short but spectacular! The vehicle tracks were super steep and the view was great but also a bit scary. However, it was not very comfortable to be in this tight space with so many other passengers. We were really surprsied that they allowed many people inside the vehicle.
Many people who want to go up…
After a short seven minute ride, we had to change to the bus line that would take us up to the 2400 m high Murodo station.
The cable car station is around 900 m of altittude, so you can imagine why it took us nearly 50 minutes for the bus ride to arrive. The road was super curvy and steep, therefore the bus could only travel slowly.
As the bus started, we were still happy and smiling. But after the ride, we were all feeling a little sick because of the many curves in that road.
At first, there was no snow visible but after 20 minutes, we surpassed the tree line and the snow amounts gradually became more. The view was spectacular and I couldn’t stop staring out of the window. However, due to the windy road, I started to feel a little sick at the end of the ride, so I was more than relieved when the bus driver announced that we would pass the snow walls and arrive at our destination soon! And I believe, I was not the only one. The whole bus was silent so I guess many people suffered.
Suddenly, the snow was piling up higher and higher and we really drove through 15 m high snow walls on our way to Murodo station parking lot. It was extreme, I’ve never seen something like this before. Seeing this, my motion sickness was forgotten!
All those were necessary to free the road from the snow.
Murodo and the snow snow walls
After getting off the bus, we realized that it was quite chilly outside (only 3 degrees) and had to put on our winter gear really quick. Lucky for us, it was sunny and the sky was clear, but that also meant that you were lost without sunglasses as it was super bright.
Also, walking around 2400 m of alitude with a N95 mask is not a good idea! I immediately felt dizzy and had to take the mask off as soon as we were outside.
As we went from zero to 2400 m in a very short time, the body needed time to adjust and we had to take it a little slow. My friend Janka didn’t feel too well during the first 30 minutes, so we explored the area in a very leisurly pace and took many pictures.
The view was stunning, the atmosphere crazy (everything was white and there were so many people) and the fact that I was standing in so much snow in May really amazed me.
Sadly, the air was not clear enough to see far (we could see Toyama Bay but not much further), so no Hakusan view for me on that day. But, the surounding peaks of the mountains looked so beautiful. I took many pictures.
It looks so strange!
Many people built various snowmans
The peak of Mount Tateyama is accessible from June, so I really want to come back to climb the last 600 m of altitude to reach this peak. On the same time, I have also huge respect regarding this hike as it’s really high and I could already feel how hard it was to breathe the thin air.
Me, facing the peak of Mount Tateyama
We also took many pictures in the high snow walls that were only accessible by foot and where the bus didn’t drive through which was amazing as well. And funny, as some Japanese tourists wanted to have pictures with us!
Standing in between those snowwalls feels crazy
Fotographer in action
We spent nearly four hours up there and for me, it didn’t feel like that at all. A crazy and timeless experience.
For the descent, we had to wait over an hour in line for getting into the bus as everyone had to go back down again. Again, there were many people standing in line and no distance rules. I was wearing my mask again as it was inside but I felt really uncomofortable.
The bus ride down was so spectacular as we could see the long road winding down the mountain and the peaks of all surrounding mountains really well.
I think I will never forget this bus ride and the stunnding view of the Tateyama mountain range.
After some waiting time at the cable car station, we finally boarded the car and went down, back to the parking lot where it was 20 degrees warmer than up the mountain.
Too many people for me…
For dinner, Kavita drove us to a suhis restaurant and while having fresh fish, we checked our pictures and discussed our crazy adventure! It was a wonderful evening of a truly great day and I am so happy that we could do this trip.
Only days later, the state of emergency was announced for Kanazawa, so I was really luck to make the trip just in time before everything would be closed again.
So much fun!
So glad we got to experience this day together
We went on another road trip to our favorite place, Noto peninsula and enjoyed a rough seaside, empty and deserted areas as well as the most famous statue in Japan. All before the rainy season started! Also, Kanazawa is back in a state of emergency and we have to adapt our lifestyle again… Stay tuned for the update and for more pictures, follow us on Instagram. Take care and stay healthy!