Adventurer, Writer, Couch Potato.
This entry is a complete recap on the experience of climbing Mount Fuji with my dad.
We arrived at the Fifth station on Mount Fuji at 12 pm. It is the starting point for people who are to climb the mountain, and is also a popular tourist spot for those who aren’t. It had taken us around 4 hours to get there from Shinjuku in Tokyo.
The trail we were walking is called the Yashida trail and is supposedly the easiest one to do. Around 15 minutes of walking downhill we started to question if we were going the right way. We decided to head back to make sure as we did not want to keep going and find out we were at the bottom of the mountain. It was lucky we did go back as we were unaware that you need to register at the tourist information centre before you embark. There was a film crew there for NHK. Which is like the ABC or BBC for Japan. They recorded us for a while and we headed off again. Turns out we were going in the right direction. The trail just slopes down to begin with. We arrived at the sixth station at around 2 pm. They had a toilet there so I decided I better go now as I do not know when I will get another chance. A tip about the toilets on the mountain, you need to pay 200 yen to the maintenance fund before you can use them. The toilets are not exactly plumbed in which means if you do need to use toilet paper you need to place it in the bin next to the toilet. I would like to add that the bins are usually full from the previous occupants so don’t go dunking your hand in. There is also no running water to wash your hands so bring sanitary hand wipes.
After the sixth station the trail began to go up. Most of the way to the summit was on a 45 degree incline. We hiked up the dirt path until we reached a shrine and had a rest. It started to rain so we put our wet weather gear on. The path felt like it was going on forever. I was struggling. We had to stop quite a lot to recover. The altitude was the biggest challenge and the temperature was dropping significantly. We got to the seventh station at around 3:30 pm. It was around 8,800 feet above sea level. From then on the trail up was no longer a dirt path. It was rocks, boulders, snow and ice all the way. We bought some more water from one of the resting huts. They really take advantage of the remoteness. 500 yen for a 500m bottle of water! To put that in perspective for you, if I was to go out right now to a 7-11 and buy a 2 litre bottle of water it would cost me 98 yen.
The struggle, cold and slight altitude sickness was worth it though because every time I looked around I had the greatest view that you could get in Japan. It was amazing, especially when the clouds were clear and I could see the world below me. It gave me the motivational boost to keep going. As we were climbing the steep rocky path two British guys were coming up behind us. They were in T-shirts and shorts and a light backpack. The reason they chose to climb the mountain was because they saw Karl Pilkington do it on An Idiot Abroad. They had not booked a hut to stay and were hoping they could pay with Visa as they did not bring any cash with them. They essentially just decided to go “hey, let’s climb Mount Fuji today”. At around 6 pm we arrived at another hut. Luckily for those two they accepted Visa so they chose to stay there the night and climb to the summit the next day.
It was getting late, we did not expect to still be climbing for this long as it is only suppose to take 6-7 hours to the summit and we were not even at the hut we booked for the night. We also did not expect it to be this difficult. We assumed that given the height we were at and the hours we had already climbed that we must be close. We had to make it before dark so we climbed on. At around 7:15 pm we saw some lights up above. We hoped it was it. I could barely walk and felt like I was getting vertigo. If it was not the hut we booked I was going to collapse there anyway and call it a day.
Luckily for us it was the hut. We walked into the common room. It had three wooden communal tables. Two of which were full of Japanese men and a couple of women. They brought us to a table, sat us down and gave us a hot meal and some hot tea. It was the best meal I have ever had. Some kind of meat with rice but to me it tasted like a Chicken Parma. After the meal we went to the next room and they showed us where we would sleep. It was a large room with mattresses along the floor and another bunk bed type level with the same set up. There were no lights so we put our bags down and tried to get some warmer clothes on and head to bed. Sleeping was difficult and the temperature dropped just below zero, I might add there was no heating. At around 9 pm I needed to go to the toilet. So I got up and headed outside. I had to make sure to take 200 yen and my torch as I did not want to walk off the cliff the hut was sitting on.
Some hours later we were woken up by a staff member shaking our legs telling us to wake up. It was 3 am. We got up and had some cold rice for breakfast. I felt like shite! I had altitude sickness and did not think I could climb another 200 metres to the summit. We left the hut at 3:30 am and started the climb. It was dark so we had our head torches on. The below zero night had caused the already rocky climb to become cold and icy. A lot of the locals recommended us to have spikes on our boots but we did not have them to use so decided to wing it.
We finished the 12,388 feet climb to the summit just before 5 am. The sun rose about 15 minutes prior but that did not matter, the view was spectacular! Even though my body wanted to shut down, the scenery and feeling of accomplishment was a big booster. I was jumping around in no time. We walked around the summit and had a look at the volcano. The depth of it was astounding. I would not have wanted to be around when that behemoth erupted.
We headed back down at 6 am. There is a path to get back down which is easier but unfortunately as the season had not officially started it was closed so we went back the way we came. Along the way down we realised that now the sun was out it was melting the ice and snow on the rocks so it was more slippery than on the way up. It was also taking longer to go down. The telescopic walking poles I was using for support ended up collapsing in on itself and I fell a metre down onto my back. After that we decided it best to take a break. The clouds were below us so we could not see how much further we had to go which made the trek feel like an eternity. Though the lower we got the easier it was to breathe but with the constant downward climb and balancing on rocks, the pressure was taking its toll on our feet, ankles and knees. I must have rolled my ankle about fifty times. Every time we reached a hut we were certain we must be past the rocks and up to the dirt path, but we weren’t. We also seemed to be going slower than most other people. The workers were climbing down like mountain goats. Casually jumping down from one icy rock to another. We hated them for that.
It was around 1:30 pm and we finally reached the seventh station. There was an American family having lunch. There were about 15 of them, being loud and talking over each other. It reminded me of my family at Christmas, or any of my family get togethers for that matter. The Japanese people were too polite to say something but we could tell they were getting annoyed with them. Some time after that we finally made it to the dirt path. We still had a long way to go and needed to get back to the fifth station soon as the last bus off the mountain was leaving at 3:30 pm, if we did not make it we would be stuck up there another night. It felt the closer we were to the finish the slower and slower we became, but we were determined to make it.
We arrived at the fifth station at 3 pm. Our legs were like jelly. We went into the tourist information centre to let them know we were back and to collect our stamp of completion. The film crew were still there. When they saw us they started filming again. They wanted us to act out scenes looking at maps and brochures and interviewed us on what we are doing in Japan. I am currently trying to get the footage from them.
We got on the bus. There were no seats so I had to stand up! It was the longest bus ride I have ever been on. We made it back to our hotel in Shinjuku at 7:30 pm and went straight to bed.
It was the toughest and most rewarding thing I have ever experienced, physically and mentally. There were many times where I did not think I was going to make it and wanted to give up. I would not have made it to the summit on my own. Thanks for the help dad.
Here is a video of the climb. Hope you enjoy!
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