Mt. Kurobegoro (黒部五郎岳）
Mt. Kurobegoro is on the main Kamikochi-Tateyama trekking route, and one of the most unspoilt peaks in the Kita Alps. The huge col below the summit traps snow until late in the year, providing numerous photo ops when the weather is cooperating.
The hike: Please note that the trail from Utsubo towards the first big junction is upkept and is becoming less and less popular. If you’ve got your own transport, then it’s better to start at Hietsu Tunnel (飛越トンネル), which is just up the road from Utsubo. Anyway, walk on the forest road that continues past the bus stop to its terminus. It’s about 5km or so, and it should take about an hour. Once you reach the end, the trail will branch off towards the left, climbing a somewhat steep spur before flattening out into some marshlands. There’s a water source here, and the mizubasho (skunk cabbage) bloom from early to mid June. Stay on the trail for another 30 minutes or so, and you’ll reach a trail junction, and considerably more foot traffic. This is where the path meets up with the main trail coming from Hietsu tunnel, so turn right and follow the signs to Mt. Teraji (寺地山), which should take another hour or so to reach. Again, the trail is well trodden and easy to follow. The views will start to open up the higher you climb: Mt. Yakushi towers to your left and Mt. Kasa keeps a watchful eye on your right, while Mt. Kurobegoro rises directly in front of you. Continue climbing up for another hour or so, and you’ll find a trail junction on your right, which leads down to Kitanomata Emergency Hut (北ノ俣非難小屋), your home for the night. The triangular hut is small but well kept, with plenty of water flowing out front. If you’ve gotten an early start, then you can consider climbing up and over Mt. Kurobegoro, but keep in mind that you’ve got 4-1/2 to 5 hours of tough hiking before reaching the next hut, so plan accordingly. The next morning, retrace your steps back to the junction, turning right towards Mt. Kitanomata (北ノ俣岳). Soon you’ll rise above the tree line, and if the cloud isn’t in you can see your destination. After an hour or so, you’ll reach a large trail junction, where you’ll finally be on the main ridgeline of the Kita Alps. Turn left if you want to go to Tateyama, or right if Kamikochi is your destination. If you just want to do a quick up-and-back of Mt. Kurobegoro, then leave your pack at the junction. At any rate, it’s a steady 2 hour climb through stunning alpine terrain. Keep your eyes out for ptarmigan and take in the scenery if the weather is good. Unfortunately, when I did this hike in the pouring rain and I couldn’t see a thing. so you bet I’ll be back here to get revenge. Carry on climbing slowly and steadily, and before long you’ll be sitting on top of the target peak. The trail splits in two on the summit, but you can take either fork, since they both meet up again at the bottom. If there’s still a lot of snow, then the left fork is probably a better option. Descend through the spectacular col, and after 90 minutes or so, you’ll arrive at Kurobegoro hut and campground. Set up camp here, or continue along the ridge to Sugoroku if it’s still early in the day. Alternatively. you can turn left at the next trail junction and head north towards Mt. Washiba or Kumo-no-daira. Take your time and enjoy exploring one of the best sections of the Japan Alps.
When to go: This hike can be done from mid-July to early October, when most of the snow is gone. If you’ve got crampons and winter hiking experience, then you can go earlier in the season. Click here for an unbelievable account of a Japanese guy who skied 35km up and over the peak and down to Shin-hotaka hot spring during Golden Week!
Access: Access is really difficult without a car, but it can be done with a little time and patience. From the bus terminal next to Takayama (高山) station, take a bus bound for Nouhi-basu Kamioka Eigyousho (濃飛バス営業所) and get off at that stop. From there, change to the Yama-no-mura bus (山之村バス) bound for Wasafu (和佐府) and get off at Utsubobashi (打保橋). There are only 2 buses a day to Wasafu (only 1 during the winter season), so make sure you time your approach accordingly. If you take the 9:40am bus from Takayama, then the transfer is timed, so you can arrive at the Utsubo trailhead at 12:16pm. Click here to download the bus schedule from Takayama to Kamioka and here to download the schedule for the Yama-no-mura bus.
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~1800m)