Yes I did.
Open during the summer months, Fujisan (Mt Fuji) is the quest for hikers visiting Japan. It will cost you a small fortune, about 10-12 hours of sleepless night, and strong determination.
I found 2 avid travellers online who also wanted to climb Mt Fuji. Thus we set off on August 10, 2016, to climb what will be my most epic overnight climb. My companions are Jiali and Charlelie, both from France, neither knew each other before this journey.
Accommodations cost about ¥5000-8000 per night, comes with curry dinner. As I mentioned, we decide to hike it overnight, so we don’t stay in these huts.
Distance & Terrain
From time to time I see the lights of these huts and I can’t imagine how much further we have to go. It appears never-ending. The climb from 5th station, where we start, to the peak is 1,400 metres in elevation.
The trails are rocky. We have to climb with hands and feet at times. Some people see us pass by without hiking poles, “That’s crazy,” I hear them say.
Note: Mt Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain at 3,773m high.
- Must bring:
- Snacks and water
- Warm clothing: toque/beanie, gloves.
- Hiking boots
- A friend or 2
- Should bring:
- Walking poles/sticks are highly advised.
- Could bring:
- Some recommend gaiters and mask, which are helpful coming down to keep dust and debris from getting in.
- Portable oxygen
I don’t regret not using hiking poles, but it would’ve been useful. The 3L of water I brought is more than sufficient for me, but I have a bad habit of not drinking enough. My companions bring 2L each and it is just enough; they could’ve used more. I have 4 layers on by the time we reach the top (t-shirt, base layer, fleece, and jacket). I also have a windbreaker which is trapping sweat so I switch to my jacket halfway through.
Want some recommendations? Jump to the bottom.
Altitude Sickness & Why Everyone Needs a Jiali
The last 2 hours up (of a total 6 hours ascent) is the worst. I have altitude sickness – headache, sleepiness, and lack oxygen. I’m an intermediate level hiker so I wasn’t expecting this.
It must’ve been the scramble to get to the top for sunrise that made it worse (or the extra weight of layers and water). Jiali offers me an aspirin, and I take it. Like an old lady, I also request that she carry me up to the top… just kidding… I request to hold her arm for the rest of the way up.
Without her, I don’t know how I could’ve done it. My eyes are heavy and I may have fallen asleep walking. There are hundreds of others climbing with us. The traffic gets heavy; many stop aside to catch their breath. We stop multiple times as well. I am breathing hard (am I wheezing?) and use my breathing as the tempo to keep me going.
At 4:30am, we reach the top of Mt Fuji.
Boy, is it cold! Even then, I manage to catch some zzzz’s for 5-10 minutes. Then in my dreamy state I am mesmerized by this:
We rejoin with Charlelie who had, in the dark of the night, surged ahead near the last stations.
There are shops at the top of Mt Fuji, and a post office. And of course, places where you can get your wooden hiking pole stamped.
You will notice there are many stamp stations in Japan, a bit gimmicky for my liking.
I’ve read a lot online to prepare for this, but reading is very different from doing. Going up Mount Fuji in the dark is treacherous. And coming down? Coming down is dreadful.
My optimistic brain thinks we be done in no time, but I keep forgetting that 6 hours going up means at least 4 hours to come down.
Oh imagine the knees! Jiali is only wearing runners, which is not a good idea. The rocks are slippery and we both slip a few times. This is where the mask (to prevent debris going into your mouth) and the hiking poles would’ve been great.
Mt Fuji Summary
The Japanese proverb pretty much sums up the hike:
He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool.”
I don’t know about the wise part, but please remind me not to climb it again. In fact, I highly recommend that you do not climb it, because I don’t want you cursing me when you do go. :)
Thank you both, Jiali and Charlelie!
Thanks also to Trang for planting this idea in my head.
(Interestingly, Charlelie says he would go again. Jiali does not plan to hike for some time.)
Need Gear for the Hike?
If you’re going to buy gear anyway, please purchase through my associates’ link on Amazon. Here are my recommendations:
Bring Head lamps, or a flashlight. Head lamps allow your hands to be free for the climbing parts of the hike –> Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.
Wear good hikers. I recommend light-weight, high-ankle boots with a sturdy sole. I wore a pair of Columbia’s (couldn’t find the equivalent online), but love my Vasque Breeze too –> Vasque Women’s Breeze 2.0 Hiking Boot.
Keep Warm with a Base Layer. No kidding. You’ll sweat along the way, but at the top, it’s fo-reeezing. It also takes little luggage space. Try –> Helly Hansen Women’s Long Sleeve Base Layer Shirt.