Before I left for Asia I decided my top priority would be to climb Mt. Fuji, the highest point in Japan. To do this I needed to pack the most ridiculous things for summer in Asia including coats, sweaters, mittens etc. So much valuable real estate was taken up by winter gear. At the top I could not have been more thankful for these items, here is the story.
I started out the day at kawaguchiko station in Fujikawaguchiko Yamanashi where I bought a round trip bus to the 5th station on Mt. Fuji. Don’t bother with cabs here the base price is 700 yen and the bus ride is almost 1 hour long, it would cost a fortune. I went across the street to 7/11 and got snacks, drinks and noodles for the hike since I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant fees up there. I also got a bunch of cash for pay toilets, more food and mad money then boarded the bus.
They say you should spend a couple of hours at the 5th station to acclimatize yourself before starting. Be sure to line up for the bus early you don’t want to be stuck standing up for that ride or miss it (like I did) so I only had an hour to acclimatize, oh well. Spending an hour there was easy, there are so many shops to poke your head into. There is a post office so you can send your mom a Fuji postcard and tons of little food stalls, not too terribly priced either, surprisingly.
I didn’t have a headlamp and originally I was just going to use my Iphone’s flashlight feature but I found a rental shop and picked one up for 500 yen for the two days. I wandered into the info center and they offered to make me a reservation for a mountain hut. I was expecting to pay 5000 yen for the night no food included but since it was the weekend the minimum price was 7100 yen. He wrote the name of the hut on a paper and the Japanese characters just in case there was no English signs up there for me.
Now I was ready to get suited up. I started in yoga pants, yoga top, sweater and hiking socks since it was still warm at this altitude. I met an older gentleman that wanted to hike with me right at the beginning so we took off together at 4pm.
The first bit of the trail was the most physically taxing on me. I prefer to go straight up and doing slow but steep diagonals was really hard for me and I got winded easily. Finally the 6th station came, we looked up and thought we could see 7, 8 and 9 but someone nicely pointed out that 7 has 5 huts and that’s what we could see. Uh oh. We kept climbing and periodically took breaks, I was paranoid of getting altitude sickness after all this effort put in and not to mention my complete lack of physical fitness.
Around station 8 the path started to get ridiculous. The path turned into a rock face that we needed to scale. The only thing to save/help us was a metal chain handrail that I used like I was Tarzan to hoist myself up. I put on my mitts at this point to save my hands from cuts. To tell you the truth this was my favorite part, I like having to use my arms and legs its more fun and requires you to use your brain versus just hiking zigzags which can get dull quickly. My friend got altitude sickness here which was dangerous as he was dizzy while scaling the rocks so he had to camp out at 8.2 for the night. I had to make it to my reservation further up so I kept going.
It started to get dark so I added sweat pants and my wind jacket as well as the headlamp and continued on. It’s fairly dangerous at night to hike on this trail. Thankfully I was mostly past the vertical rock climbing but I would recommend If you’re a slow hiker and you plan to stay at one of the 8th station huts to leave before 4pm to avoid darkness.
I sat on the side for a bit as the air was getting thinner and it was harder for me to climb anymore in the cold dark with the trail doing horizontal zigzags again. Here I saw in the tiny town below they were launching fireworks in celebration of the Mt. Fuji trails opening for the season, I’m glad I took a rest at that moment.
Finally reaching my hut for the night at 830pm they gave me a pair of socks and showed me to the bunk.. It was woefully underwhelming. The ‘bed’ was one long enclosed sleeping area where 30 people sleep side by side sharing blankets. Not ideal when you want a refreshing nap before setting out in the cold morning to see the sunrise but it would have to do.
I ate my giant cup of noodles, I had to pay 200 yen for hot water for it but I still saved 200 yen bringing it myself. The food that came with the huts breakfast & dinner package was cold and consisted of rice and some veggies and seaweed. I was cold so I was very happy with my noodles.
Finally at 930 it was time for bed and I was very cold. Who shares which blanket was unclear and I don’t think I was covered properly. I brought up hand warmers so I tucked a pair into my socks and tried to sleep while people were talking all around me. Just when I got to sleep the early birds started to wake up for the hike (12:30am) I managed to pretend to sleep for another 30 minutes before I couldn’t stand the noise and got up myself. I brought up pre cooked rice so I had that for breakfast and a banana and I set out for the final bit.
I was told from my hut to the top was about 2 hours, I’m glad they were lying because it took me 3.5. Maybe it was because I was moving slow but it was a looong way up. So long I wanted to quit several times but I told myself I would never do this again so I better make it up the damn volcano. I saw the sun rise and it was beautiful. There were clouds moving in so visibility wasn’t amazing but they held out long enough for us to see it rise.
At about 300 meters to the top my phone froze and shut off, right around the time the trail got extremely congested and slow moving. It took forever to do the last 100m with all the early birds coming down. Since it was the beginning of the season nothing was open at the top of the mountain, not even the post office which was a bummer. It was so cold and so windy at this point I only stayed up there for a few minutes and had to head down. I think the temperature with the wind had to be around freezing as my feet were quite numb. I stopped at the second hut for some soup and to rest but got unceremoniously kicked out when my soup was done (understandably I guess) so I had to start making my way down. The wind was even more vicious and I was losing the will to climb down but with no shelter I had no choice. When I got down around the 7th station the path split and I took the descending route which was just quick zigzags through deep pebbles. I took it at a bit of a moon bounce down which was very hard on my knees but I had to get down fast as I was losing steam.
At the 3.5 km mark there was a bathrooms and everyone was making a pit stop and at the 3km mark I switched to flip flops I couldn’t do shoes anymore. I don’t recommend this as it was all gravel down but at least there wasn’t anymore steep incline/declines.
Finally at the bottom I could barely walk. I caught the bus back to Kawaguchiko station. From there I went directly onto the public mini bus (red line) to the gem museum stop and walked to the Royal hotel Onsen and took a long bath. Outside the Onsen are 100 yen massage chairs which I also took advantage of, they felt glorious after the long hike. I followed up the hike with a lot of water and a Pocari Sweat to balance electrolytes and a very long sleep.
Climbing is hard and even dangerous work but I made it in one piece and you can too!
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