Climbing Mt. Fuji
A Personal Climber’s Account
Almost all Japanese people want to try climbing Mt Fuji once in their life, but not everyone will have a chance to climb to the summit. I was lucky enough to get a chance to reach the summit. We started at night, and when we arrived at the Mt Fuji area a dense fog lay all around but it was a clear night as we started to walk to the top. We saw a lot of shooting stars and constellations, it was a wonderful night. The road to the top of the mountain was hard, a steep slope, rocks, and many climbers. Especially, the road between the 7th- 8th station is very hard, similar to rock-climbing. On the way, there are many mountain huts that are selling mineral water, juice. The cost of one bottle of water is 400 yen.
Finally, we arrived at the summit of Mt Fuji; it took about 6 hours from the 5th station. We arrived on time for the sunrise, it was a marvelous morning but it was very cold. The temperature at the top was probably 3 – 5 degrees Celsius. There are many mountain huts that serve noodles, miso soup, etc. If you have the strength to walk around the crater that is 800m in diameter, 200m across, you can do that. This takes about 1 hour 30 minutes extra.
Before we got back to the 5th station where we started, roads were always downslope which made our knees weak. But it was faster than going up, it only took us 3 hours and 30 minutes to get back to the 5th station.
I recommend you to soak in a hot spring before going back home, this will definitely soothe your aching muscles and make it easier for you to recover.
5th station (2,350 m)
45 min – easy —
6th station (2,390m)
60 min – a little bit hard —
7th station ( 2,700m)
100 min – very hard —
8th station (3,020m)
80 min – very hard —
Original 8th station( 3,360m)
80 min – hard —
Summit of Mt Fuji (3,776m)
Notice to Climbers
1. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. Because of weather that can change suddenly, it is best to avoid wearing casual wear for climbing. Warm clothing, gloves, and a raincoat are necessary.
2. Be sure to follow the official routes for climbing up and down. For your own safety, never stray off the trails.
3. You are highly encouraged to keep in contact with each other while climbing and descending the mountain and not
go astray from your group.
4. On the descending route, there is only one toilet facility and no mountain huts are available.
5. During storms, stop walking and find shelter in huts.
6. Watch out for falling rocks and stones, especially in places under construction.
7. Used cans and trash must be taken home. Be considerate of the people living on and near Mt. Fuji as well as the other climbers.
What to Expect, Another Climber’s Account
The 5th station is the furthest you can go by bus, it is halfway up the mountain and you will reach the peak after climbing past six other stations before getting to the torii gate marking the peak of the mountain. The climbing time is about 5 to 6 hours. Remember that for safety you will be climbing at the pace of your slowest walker. Be careful of altitude sickness.
Along the way, you will pass many groups. Children as young as six or seven will be climbing with parents. The walk is not too difficult but it does take time and the steepness and altitude mean that you will often be out of breath if you try and climb too quickly. Take plenty of long stops and enjoy the climb. It is possible to see some climbers run up the mountain but let’s just say that they are of a different breed to most of us. We found that each station took an hour or so to reach and we were not overtaken by too many other climbers. The track is reasonably well marked and during the climbing season, the route all the way up is dotted with those climbing ahead of you or climbing down. The track is just that, so don’t expect well-made boardwalks or stairs, it really is a wilderness area. At the 8th station, there is also an aid station so if you are having problems this is the place to get some help.
From the 8th station, the walk begins to get quite steep and by the time you get to 9th station, the track will almost be so steep and rocky that at times it will feel like you are rock climbing. At around this point some in your party might experience altitude sickness, the only cure for it is to climb down if it gets severe. Fortunately, maybe because of our slow ascent, none of us felt the altitude and we soldiered on up to the top. Just before the peak, there is a large torii gate. It marks your achievement as having climbed up the mountain. From the torii gate, it is only a little further to the top.
In our case, we climbed during the night in order to see the sunrise and as we started at 10 pm we had plenty of time to kill before dawn at around 4:30 am. A note here on night vision, even though it is dark, aided by moonlight your eyes will adjust to the available light and at night you will be able to find your way and see what is around you. Be wise about using a torch because the light from a torch will destroy your night vision and you will end up with tunnel vision, only being able to see where the torchlight falls and consequently your walk will seem more stressful than it really is.
As night falls and as you climb it will get much colder, we had good gear but even then a hat, sweater, long trousers, and a windproof jacket were just not enough. While climbing you won’t feel the cold but when you stop you will cool down very quickly, so bring clothes that you can layer easily.
Once we got to the top, we still had a couple of hours to kill so with the 500 or so other climbers who were at the top by the time we got there, we found a rock to shelter us from the wind and we tried to get some sleep. At sunrise, we were cold and tired so we skipped walking around the crater, which can take over an hour, and bade farewell to Mt Fuji.
What to bring
- Water (suggest at least two liters for a night climb, much more for a day climb)
- Warm clothes
- Rain jacket and pants
- Plastic bags for rubbish (there are no garbage disposals on the mountain)
- High energy foods such as sweets, nuts, chocolate
- Camera to record the experience
- Torch/flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid kit