Before I go on to talk about one of the most important achievements in my life, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who follow my blog and take the time to read and comment on my posts. What started as a mere recollection of my travel experiences has turned into something that I look forward to with much love and great earnest. I’m grateful for all the appreciation, love and support. Thank you and God bless.
Standing at an altitude of 2300 metres above sea level and around 30 minutes past 10 at night, I was seriously beginning to question my life decisions. What exactly was I doing at the base of a 3776 metres mountain at such an ungodly hour? Why was I missing the much awaited France VS Belgium WC semi-final? What was I doing in Japan? And to top it all, why do I spend all my money behind travelling? All valid questions.
Unfortunately, it was a little too late for such questions. There I was, standing on a Level 1 active volcano – jet lagged and tired. Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend the next 10 hours alone. My friend, Akshay, a physicist and one of those beautiful mind geniuses, had agreed to join me in my hike. Ignoring his repeated plea to stay back and watch the world cup semi-finals, I finally managed to drag him to Tokyo and board the bus to Fuji fifth station. Our primary goal was to reach the summit in time for sunrise.
The Yoshida trail
Mount Fuji, commonly known as Fuji-san is the tallest mountain in Japan and reaches a height of 3776 metres. A pride of Japan and the Japanese, Mount Fuji is a sacred mountain and has received a ‘cultural’ World Heritage site status in 2013. There are four main trails to reach the summit -Yoshida, Gotemba, Subashiri and Fujinomiya. The most popular trail is the Yoshida trail which is around 2 and a half hours from Tokyo. The lengthiest among all the trails, it takes around 4 and a half hours for experienced hikers and 5-6 hours for novices such as myself to reach the summit. The route is fairly-straight forward and well-marked at the corners. Being the closest to Tokyo, this route sees a large number of hikers and can be very crowded during the peak season. With one headlight to see our way in the pitch dark, we set off for the 3776 metres ascent.
If you’ve heard stories (and legends perhaps?) of the accuracy of the Japanese, please note that we took exactly 60 minutes to reach the 6th station from the 5th station. Similarly, the time taken to reach the 8th station from the 7th station was 100 minutes! Co-incidence or Accuracy?
Mount Fuji has all the characteristics of an active volcano. The Yoshida trail is marked by heavy boulders, precipitous slopes and bare, exposed rocks. At times, the trail winds around for as long as you can see before disappearing amidst a dense roll of clouds and mountain turns. From a distance, we could see twinkling lights from the mountain huts at higher stations and flashing headlights of a steady flow of hikers who were racing against time to reach the summit before sunrise. Closer to the 7th station, we were a witness to the great number of stars, planets and other celestial bodies that share the same universe, the same fabric of space and time with our home planet. Higher up, we could see the Great Rift of the Milky Way that stretches for long distances across the night sky. It was tiring but the city lights from the Yamanashi prefecture and the starry starry night lifted our drowsy spirits and tired senses. By the time we reached the 8th station, it was cold and sleep had started to creep into our drained out mind and body.
Nevertheless, we battled on and arrived at the 8.5 station in time for sunrise. From there, it is another 200 metres to the final summit.
The summit as expected, was crowded. As per the website, it takes around 90 minutes to explore and walk around the crater. We were too tired to do so and instead, decided to savour the mountain views over a cup of seafood ramen before starting our downward descent.
So if you’ve decided to climb Mount Fuji at some point in your life, you can glance through the following Q and A or get in touch with me for any further clarification(s).
Can one climb Mount Fuji in a day?
Yes, it it very much possible to climb the mountain in a day. Normally, it takes around 5-6 hours to reach the summit from the fifth station by the Fujiyoshida trail. Please allot another 3 and a half – 4 hours for descent.
Is it worth climbing Mount Fuji?
If you’ve read other travel blogs, you are most likely to get confused by all the mixed reviews written by people who’ve had different experiences during their hike. While it is true that Mount Fuji has been commercialised, I was unaffected by my fellow hikers. To me, sunrise from Mount Fuji lived upto my expectations. But then again, I decided to climb throughout the night to avoid the heat and day crowd. When I finally reached the starting point after 4 hours of descent, I was shocked to see the number of people who climb Fuji on a daily basis. The crowd can be easily mistaken for a concert. Perhaps, the day-time hike is not such a good idea after all.
Do I need to be an experienced hiker in order to be able to climb Mount Fuji?
The short answer is, No. Climbing Mount Fuji doesn’t require any specific set of mountaineering skills. All it needs is – motivation, tenacity, adequate supplies and a love for mountains!
Can one depend on mountain rescue/request as stated in the official website for climbing Mount Fuji-san?
After reading travel blogs of various other hikers who have tried their luck at climbing Mount Fuji, my answer would be NO. If you’re unaccustomed to heights or suffer from altitude sickness, my advice would be to turn back or book a mountain hut (can be expensive and is subject to availability) in order to get acclimatised to the altitude.
Can I camp on Fuji-san?
Mount Fuji is sacred to the Japanese and camping is strictly prohibited.
What are some of the “must-haves” during the 6 hours hike?
If you are hiking all throughout the night, make sure you carry a headlight to see your way in the dark. An alternative to water would be to carry sufficient energy drinks (yes, they do help!). Bananas and snickers can work miracles on your body at a height of over 2000 metres. I would also recommend carrying a hiking stick for the descent (which can be a real nuisance).
What could I have done differently ?
I was travelling from India and was jet lagged during the climb. Owing to the lack of sleep, I started my climb very slowly and was apprehensive of continuing my ascent. The descent route for the Yoshida trail is coarse, rugged and prone to slips and ankle twists! My advice to prospective hikers would be to get enough sleep and carry a hiking stick.
Should I climb Fuji during the day or in time for sunrise?
Please note that the hiking season for Fuji-san lasts for two months (July- August). As it so happens, Japan is extremely hot and humid during these two months with temperatures reaching as high as 40 degree Celsius. Speaking for myself, I was glad to hike throughout the night and reach in time for sunrise.
Is it as crowded as stated in the websites/travel blogs?
The short answer is YES. Closer to the summit, don’t be surprised if you experience a weird form of human traffic jam and are forced to trail behind a good number of hikers.
Are there restroom facilities on the mountain?
Each station has adequate toilet facilities priced at 200 Yen. At the stations, you can replenish your food/water supplies and enjoy a cup of (overpriced) ramen instant noodles.
Would I attempt to climb Mount Fuji again?
This is a tricky one. As much as I loved my ascent to the summit of Japan’s highest peak, I would give it a pass the next time I am in Japan. Instead, I would try to take on Mount Yari or Mount Yake (or both!) in the Kamikochi National Park.