What comes first to your mind when you hear Japan? Sushi, geisha, sumo, Shinkansen, blossoming cherry trees or something else? For us, it’s definitely Mt.Fuji! The perfect volcanic cone that dominates most of the postcards from Japan. We’ve been dreaming about it for long and finally ticked another bucket list item! What a journey to the top!
Climbing Mount Fuji is an experience like no other. The climbing season is officially on only for 2 months during summer and with 300 000 climbers a season, you would better plan carefully when to visit. We planned our ascent right in the last days of the climbing season in Sept 2019, which gives us a little more space on the way up to the 3 776 meters.
More photos at the bottom of this article!
On the summit day, the weather forecast seems not to be in our favor though. In the 5th station at the elevation of 2300 meters, it starts to drizzle and fog covers the entire area. Where is the trailhead?! We are a little skeptical about going up but after meeting a few fellow climbers (from Hawai so they must know something about volcanos!!) who aim to summit Mount Fuji too, we have the necessary kick to our confidence.
Reaching the sixth safety station, the lightning storm additionally emerges in front of us which again brings doubts if we can make it tonight but as each lightning perfectly enlightens the trail ahead of us, we think it’s probably the way it is done on Mount Fuji, one of the three sacred mountains in Japan. Upwards we go! Luckily, we leave the clouds and storms behind the higher we go.
When you come to Fuji, you hear about bullet climbing. It’s nothing more and nothing less than going all night long instead of staying in one of the huts on the slope. From now on, we are bullet climbers! It is our first time climbing through the whole night so we stop here and there to bite in our supplies and rest. Luckily we are bringing great Japanese hams and pizza flavored pastry which keeps us fit through the night. The lodges for the climbers are situated from the seventh station onwards. They also have small shops selling everything including cans of oxygen. We see some climbers have a very difficult time choosing between Red Bull for the wings and oxygen cans for the lungs.
Despite the notorious traffic on the Yoshida trail, we climb mostly alone. The trail just starts to pack with crowds from the 8th station when climbers wake up around 2-3 am to make the final push for the summit. At 4:40 am we finally make it to the top of the highest peak in Japan (at 3776 meters) and leaving the rest of Japan below. It’s around 5° Celsius with the occasional wind but standing and waiting an hour for the daybreak, we begin to freeze to bones. The sunrise and a flowing sea of clouds below us is, however, a perfect reward for all the effort and sleepless night.
Finally, we circumvent the crater which takes around 2 hours and after a short break, we are back on track and this time downhill. It takes around 3 hours to get back to the 5th station most of which we actually slide on the ashes. Onsen (the traditional Japanese hot spring) calls so loudly and we are falling asleep right on the bus back to the town.
The next few days after the summit, Mt. Fuji is visible only sporadically. Occasional rains and clouds cover its majestic peak and we understand she gave us and other climbers a very warm goodbye before snow covers its slopes again early in October. Arigato gozaimasu Mt. Fuji! Till next time, maybe with the blossoming cherries or fall leaves…