If the winter season of 2015 were a movie, it might be titled “The Long Goodbye.” Even with cherry blossoms now past their peak in most parts of Nagano, the cold and dampness of early spring have remained in the air. On the bright side, public transport into Kamikochi commenced as scheduled last Friday, with much of the park still busily engaged in preparing for the coming season. So what can you expect from Kamikochi in the early spring? Read on and find out.
As in past years, the spring season in Kamikochi has retained many features of late winter, which means that there is still snow on the ground and more than a slight chill in the air. On a clear day, the mountain views are glorious with the peaks of the Hotaka Range still crowned in snow.
As a glance at the Shirakabaso Hotel’s live camera (as of April 20th) will tell you, rainy spells have made umbrellas a popular fashion accessory among the current crop of visitors: http://www.shirakabaso.com/camera/
And, while that rain might be a nuisance, it will probably help melt some of the snow down at ground level.
On the topic of snow, now might be a good time to bring up the topic of how to handle light snow walking around Kamikochi. For deeper snow, of course, you would want to have proper snow shoes, but for the patches of snow around the trails, good waterproof footwear should suffice. The good folks at the National Park Guide website have compiled very helpful guide to traversing snow, which can be viewed here: http://npg-alps.net/blog/interpreter/2015/04/post_422.php
The conditions you can expect now at areas along the main trails.
For those of you who can’t read Japanese, we’ll summarize some of the main points. To begin with, you don’t need to worry too much about footwear if you are just spending time around Kappa Bridge. If you venture anywhere past it, however, sneakers or any variety of street shoes are not a good option. Simple stepping in a deep puddle or a patch of snow can leave you with an instant soaker, putting a very limited damper on the rest of your day. Better to have tough, weather-resistant boots suited for basic hiking along with a coating of water-repellant spray if that’s an option.
The problem with hiking boots is that is you happen to step into deep snow, they can very easily fill up and become soggy when the snow melts. There are a number of solutions to this. If you have gaiters, by all means bring them with you to allow comfortable walking in almost all locations in Kamikochi proper:
If you don’t have either gaiters or very high topped boots, you should simply exercise caution in how far you stray of that path.
TAKE NOTE: As we have said many many times on our Facebook page, proper winter hiking equipment is needed for hikes up the snowy slopes leading to Karasawa and other elevated locations. Please do not attempt such a hike if you are not appropriately experienced or equipped.
That’s all for now. Please join us later this week for news about Kamikochi’s grand opening on the 27th!
Sources of Information:
Gosenjaku Hotel website: http://www.gosenjaku.co.jp/
Taishoike Hotel website: http://www.taisyoike.co.jp
National Park Guide website: http://npg-alps.net