On the 19th August 2016 I reached the summit of Mt. Fuji for the first time, achieving one of my lifelong goals. If you haven’t already climbed it this year then you best hurry as the season for novice hikers ceases on the 10th September, you have 2 weeks!
On the morning of the climb we were instructed that we needed to get to the 5th station to start our ascent. There are many ways of getting there. The easiest which is what I chose is to go from Fuji Hokuroku Parking. Buses there cost ¥1800 as a round trip to Mt. Fuji 5th station and are every 30 minutes starting from 05:30am, which is when I left. The journey from Hokuroku to the 5th station took about 45 minutes as you wind endlessly up the lower part of the mountain, until you reach the crisp air that engulfs the 5th station surroundings.
After purchasing a wooden hiking stick (which I would recommend for the descent not the ascent) we began our trek. The walking sticks vary in the shop from ¥1000 to ¥1500, the only difference between them is the design so don’t worry about taking too much time to decide which one to get.
There are 4 main trails to ascend to the summit of Mt. Fuji.
Fuji Subaru Line 5th station
The Yoshida trail
Takes 5-7 hours to ascend, 4-5 hours to descend
Subashiri Line 5th station
The Subashiri trail
Takes 5-8 hours to ascend, 3-5 hours to descend
Gotemba 5th Station
The Gotemba Trail
Takes 8-10 hours to ascend, 4-6 hours to descend
Fujinomiya 5th station
The Fujinomiya Trail
Takes 4-7 hours to ascend, 3-5 to descend
I chose the Yoshida trail as it is the closest to where I was staying in the Yaminashi prefecture close to Fujis 5 lakes. We began our ascent at 6:30am in the cool winds and early morning sun.
Station 5 to station 6
The easiest part of the trek, you walk on relatively even ground climbing slowly. You start on a path which gradually becomes more rocky and slippery. This leg of the journey took about 45 mins to an hour.
Station 6 to Station 7
Now you are becoming increasingly aware of what lies ahead of you. The path is very rocky and not paved. You begin to slowly realise that the high altitude is going to have an effect on your climb. Your breathing will become more laboured and you will start to take momentary rests. This typically takes 1 hour from start to finish.
Station 7 to Station 8
In my opinion I found this the toughest part. Rather than ascending via walking you are literally having to rock climb at this point. It is becoming more hard to catch your breath and you will notice a lot of people taking breaks. This is when your fitness comes in (as well as your hand eye coordination) as you need to determine how you are going to climb up the next rock. This can take anywhere from 1-1.5 hours.
Station 8 to station 8.5
A lot of people if they give up usually stop at this point. The 8th station seems to go on forever. You really are having to focus on breathing patterns now as there is much less oxygen in the air.
Station 8.5 to station 9
Suprisingly I didn’t find this part too difficult. Your muscles are beginning to get used to this hard work out. Although I did start to feel the effects of altitude sickness at this point. My head was pounding, I was seeing double vision and I was hallucinating a rainbow of colours whilst looking face down at the grey rock. By this point you’re almost robotic as you climb, knowing you are so close.
Station 9 to Summit
Although one of the shortest parts this is definitely the most difficult. The last 200 metres was an absolute killer, your body is crying out for rest but knowing that you are minutes away gets you through it. This part takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Now that you have seen how Mt. Fuji is climbed here is some other useful information that may be of service to you if you’re thinking about making the climb.
Things to be aware of when climbing Fuji
Climbing season late July to 10 September
Personally I didn’t take any climbing gear when I climbed Mt. Fuji. I wore a football jersey, a pair of trousers from H&M and some knock off vans I bought from a street vendor in Malaysia and I still made the summit. However, if you think you would do better with some equipment then Mt. Fuji local next to Kawaguchiko Lake offers climbing attire for rent for just over ¥9500. I was fortunate enough with good weather and a cool temperature but if the forecast is rain then it would be better to hire out proper gear.
Sunscreen is a must. I mistakenly forgot to apply sun lotion and my neck and face for incredibly burnt without me realising (as the temperature is only about 5 degrees). I am now sat in a hotel room with 3 layers of skin ripped off of my nose looking like a right numpty.
Do not underestimate the descent. In a way I found going down the mountain more difficult. My legs were in pieces, the euphoria had started to wear off and it was very slippery. Be prepared to take a long time to get back down to the 5th station.
Bring as much water as you can. I only drank 2 litres of water in my 9 hour ascend and descend which is no where near enough but i couldn’t justify spending ¥500 (£3.80) on a 500ml bottle of water whilst I was up there. If you want to stay hydrated but want to keep costs down try and take 3 litres of water.
Same goes for food. Pack as much slow releasing energy foods as possible. I snacked on almonds, nuts and bananas as I climbed and descended.
Due to climbing season lasting a month of the year it can get busy climbing the mountain. I would recommend going in the early morning or late at night and completely avoiding mid August where the Japanese flock to Mt. Fuji in celebration of Obon.
If you want to go on a Sunrise Tour of Mt. Fuji I am aware that Fujisan Sunrise Tour Company are a affordable and reliable company to use if that’s you’re thing.
Thanks for reading!