Utsukushigahara, with its highest point 2,034 meters above sea level, is a plateau located in the center of Nagano Prefecture. We walk along the Alps View Course, starting from Mount Ushibuse, heading east to Ougahana. There, we take in the glorious view of Japan's roof, the Northern Alps.
Mid-February: Mount Norikura (3,026m)
In winter, the Northern Alps are pure white. Passing the forest belt, with its trees covered in ice frost, a completely different world of glistening ice fans out. It's an extreme environment with a temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius and winds blowing at more than 20 meters per second. We reach the summit by pushing up a steep slope where strong winds slam down ice particles. And then we are rewarded with heavenly views.
Mid-May: Mount Hotaka (3,190m)
With the long winter over, the mountaineering season reboots. Kamikochi, at the entrance of the Mount Hotaka climbing route, is alive with vivid greens and alpine flowers. We pass through Karasawa to reach Okuhotakadake, the highest peak of the Northern Alps. Even when it's spring at the foothills, high up on the mountain it is still in winter. The landscape dramatically changes as we hike higher and higher.
Early August: The Kurobe River
The Northern Alps in mid-summer. Around Kumonodaira, at the source of the Kurobe River, alpine plants are bursting in all kinds of brilliant colors. The treat of the season is sawanobori, Japan's popular pastime of summer river climbing. We take on one of Japan's most beautiful streams, the Akagisawa, hiking straight up and over its waterfalls.
Early October: Mount Tsurugi (2,999m)
The Northern Alps is a riot of color at the height of the foliage season. With its cool temperatures, it is the best season for climbing. To get to the trailhead, we hop on the Kurobe Gorge Railway. On the way up the mountain, we step on one of the few glaciers in Japan, ascend the rock wall, and stand proudly at the summit of Mount Tsurugi.