Everything You Need to Know About Climbing Mt. Fuji
Is it really fun?
During the summer season in Japan, Mount Fuji or Fujisan is filled with climbers who want to see the sunrise view from the mountain, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. If interested, you have the opportunity to climb during the beginning of July to early September. But remember, to climb the mountain with an altitude of 3,776 m, you should be prepared if you do not want to get cold before reaching the top or get your feet hurt when going down the mountain.
One of our teammates has made climbing Mt. Fuji her annual routine. And amazed as we are, we asked her to share her experience of climbing Mount Fuji which takes two days and one night and what made her make it a yearly habit.
Preparation is key in climbing. You should prepare money, climbing equipment, and climbing wear.
On this trip, she brought 20 pieces of ¥100 coins to pay for using the toilet (usually charged ¥200 to ¥300), emergency money, two packs of dried fruits for snacks, and three bottles of 500ml isotonic drinks, one face towel to wipe sweat, wet wipes for cleaning hands (because water is very scarce there), and two changes of clothes (when wet from rain or sweat).
It is best to think wisely what things to bring as you will be carrying it with you on the hike. For clothing, shoes, and gears, she usually rents them. She recommends that you wear the proper clothing and shoes for hiking, especially the shoes because it helps make climbing easier and prevents sand or rocks from getting inside your regular workout shoes.
For additional clothing, she also brought a fleece jacket because it gets colder as you get higher up. She also had rain gear to guard against rain or to avoid the wind. She put everything in a backpack that is light and easy to carry.
Items such as headlamp for walking at night, gloves for climbing rocks or when freezing, and a hat to avoid the sun can be borrowed at a rental shop in Fuji-Subaru Line 5th station area.
Money is the most important. You can't find an ATM after arriving there. So you should prepare a few ¥100 coins and more money (around ¥10,000 to ¥30,000) that will be used in an emergency situation, such as when you have to stay at the lodgings because you can’t climb anymore or have to use horses to go down the mountain because your feet hurt.
Day One: Climb slowly from 5th station to 8th station in six hours
The climb started at 1 p.m. from Fuji-Subaru Line 5th station using the Yoshida route, the most popular route commonly used by beginners.
The journey to the 6th station begins with a downward path followed by a slight incline, but can still be passed at a leisurely pace. If you have a walking stick, it's better to start using it from here. After passing the 6th station, she passed the zigzag and sandy uphill road. Here, her legs started to hurt. Plus, there were no trees so the sun feels painful to the skin. Once past 7th station, the road starts steep with large rocks. There is a chain or rope barrier that should not be touched because it is easy to lose and can hurt people around you. From here, she started to feel the cold and needed to put on her jacket.
It was already around 6 p.m. when she arrived at the 8th station, and the temperature was even colder. She went straight to the lodging that has been booked before, ate curry rice and had some hot tea. She also changed into dry clothes, bought drinks, and made other preparations before leaving for the summit. Apparently, she couldn’t sleep even though she wanted to because there was only a thin mattress and she had to sleep together with other climbers. She just closed her eyes and took a rest before leaving again to catch the sunrise between 4:30 to 5 a.m.
Day Two: The cold journey from 8th station to the summit
It was 11:30 p.m. and finally time to start her last journey to the top. The temperature was about 0 degrees Celsius. So, she wore gloves, a headlight and all the jackets that she had with her (except the raincoat so she wouldn’t feel too hot and it could be worn later after she arrived at the top).
The journey from hotel to the summit can be reached in three hours. However, summer is climbing season and the path would be filled with queues of climbers. That was the reason why she started to climb at 11:30 p.m.
The entire trail to the top was filled with large stone climbs and stairs that can make people exhausted. Many climbers stop because they begin to feel the peak syndrome due to lack of oxygen due to sleep and fatigue. Fortunately, she didn’t experience this syndrome.
Enjoy the sunrise while sipping warm drinks
She arrived at the summit around 4 a.m. There were still a few minutes until sunrise and that was the time to find a strategic position to see the beautiful scenery. There are several areas: the area in front of the restaurants, the area on the incline, or in the area down the road. This time, she decided to see the view from a bench in front of the restaurant.
Even though she wore all the jackets, including the rain gear, it was still very cold. Moreover, when not moving, the body feels colder because of the wind that blows. So, she decided to wait while warming herself up by sipping a hot amazake (non-alcoholic sake).
The sun was rising from under the clouds, and that was exquisitely beautiful. Everyone was amazed by the scenery while holding their cameras to record the entire process of sunrise. Whether it was because of the sun or because of the beautiful view, at that moment, she completely forgot about the cold and fatigue she had been feeling since the night before.
Some additional info, for those who are interested in climbing Mt. Fuji as well. There are about three restaurants, but in the hours before and while sunrise, you won’t be able to get inside unless you are a tour participant. You can only buy hot drinks to help warm you up.
A trip down the mountain that feels eternal
After seeing the sunrise, she started going down the mountain. Unlike the climb up, the trip down felt more tiring physically and mentally, because it was only going down a winding sandy lane, with the same beautiful scenery for hours. Some even say, the trip down is more painful. She couldn’t agree more!
At times like this, it will be helpful if you have sunglasses because the sun can be extra bright. Make up your own mountain climbing soundtrack by listening to your favorite music while doing the trek. It’ll be almost like you’re starring in your own mountain climbing documentary!
To go down the mountain from the peak to Fuji 5th station took about three to four hours. After arriving, she immediately returned the stuff she rented, so she didn't need to bring any more items along with her. She headed straight to the restaurant to enjoy curry rice and ice cream after the climb. A fitting reward for a trip to Mt. Fuji’s summit.
All in all, it was a fulfilling experience of having to view the sunrise of the Land of the Rising Sun atop its iconic Mt. Fuji.
Want to experience this, too? Visit the Official Website for Mt. Fuji Climbing.
(12 September 2019)