Some years ago I was on my way to Kyoto, Japan traveling by train and out the window, we could see Mount Fuji off in the distance with its iconic snow-capped peak. I thought about how cool it would be to climb up there and put the idea away in my mental bucket list then forgot about it. Last year I again thought of climbing however I had missed the opportunity as the season was too late. But this year, September 5, 2017, I finally did it.
Climbing Mount Fuji
I joined with a group of folks to climb up and we decided to use a tour operator for convenience. The tour was turn-key and provided all we needed for a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Having them provide transportation, tickets, and reservations was totally worth it.
If you want to do an overnight on the mountain you must reserve long in advance to stay in one of the huts. This is where joining a tour group is very helpful.
Our group slowly crept up the mountain at an unusually slow pace so it took us around six hours to get from the main trail-head (Subaru Line 5th Station) to Station 8 where we had dinner and a few hours rest. At around 3am in the morning we started our climb to the summit. Due to so many people, the assent was quite slow with a lot of stop-and-go and we made the summit just before the sunrise.
Tips and Suggestions
General – Keep in mind that the hike up Mount Fuji is not a wilderness hike and you don’t need to bring everything for survival. If you are in good shape, you can hike up and down in a single day and feel fine. There are rest huts along the way and at the top, toilets, and lots of people.
Altitude – Most people have no major issues with the altitude but some do and Diamox is helpful. You may see vendors selling canned oxygen at the trail-head and the rest-stops; I’m skeptical of its usefulness though. I have had issues in the past from rapid ascent however the hike up Mount Fuji was no problem at all. Drink a lot of water, pee often, eat electrolyte-rich snacks and take it easy.
Boots – Proper hiking boots that you have already been using a lot is good advice. The hike down is very rough on your feet jamming of the toes into the front of your boots. Not to mention all the opportunities for twisting your ankle. I saw quite a few people suffering foot issues mainly because they had improper shoes or new boots that hadn’t been broken in yet. After about six hours, your ankles get really tired and weaken a bit; Enough to loose footing and cause a sprain.
Clothing – Although it may be hot at the trail-head it’s near to below freezing atop the mountain even in summer. Dress in layers and choose materials best suited to all weather, especially cold & wet. You must have durable rain gear ready such as pants and jacket. Do not bring a poncho because it’ll get in the way for you and other hikers and the guides do not allow ponchos on the trail.
Food & Water – You can buy water and snacks at the mountain huts however you may wish to bring as much as you are willing to carry to save money and be certain of having it. I kept about one liter of water with me always and a few light snacks. The snacks were simple high nutrition and useful to replace electrolytes lost from so much sweating. For example, I had an apple, a stick of beef jerky, and one packet of Emergen-C drink powder..that’s it.
Money – Of course you need money! For convenience, it’s best to have coins for the toilets and quick payments. I had about 60+ each of 100-Yen coins and 20,000 in bills which were plenty.
Essential gear – Bring what you need for an overnight hike but be careful not to have too much as it’ll start to feel terribly heavy and cumbersome after awhile. I feel the items below are essential and must have:
- Small backpack
- Extra undershirt, socks, underwear
- Multi-weather hiking clothing
- Hiking boots
- Rain pants and jacket
- Water bottle and light food/snacks
- Sunblock and sunglasses
- Headlamp so you are hands-free
- Personal first aid kit for blisters, headache, etc.
- Some tissue/toilet paper just in case
Be sure to look at the photo slideshow and their captions to read more about the hike.