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Winter and Snow Hiking

The off-season for hiking in Japan typically spans from late October through the beginning of July or from late fall to early summer. During this time, the higher peaks will be covered in snow and require not only appropriate winter gear like crampons and ice axe, but also the skills to use them for self-arrest and avalanche safety.

(If you're looking for snowfree and easy winter hikes click HERE)

In the alps and higher peaks, the first snowfall is usually around the end of October. By the end of June, the majority of snow will have melted, but this also depends on the peak and year, so checking current trail conditions is necessary when hiking during the off-season.

In general hiking during this time is quite different and requires more planning, gear and experience. Huts will be closed, busses are not running and winter trails follow different routes than summer to avoid avalanches.

Lastly, keep in mind that the gear needed for hiking in snow and winter differs from summer hiking. You'll not only need warmer clothes but also special gear like crampons and ice axe, as well as emergency gear like bivy and sleeping bag. Weather changes are common, and you need to be prepared to be stuck on a mountain and survive the night.

Also, make sure your rescue insurance covers mountaineering, as many insurance policies exclude hikes that use crampons and an axe.

General Warning: I would not recommend doing any peaks or winter hikes without an experienced friend. Mountains in winter are not forgiving if you make a mistake.

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