05 Nov Mount Fuji
by David Luk
I have been to Japan recently and successfully summited the Mount Fuji, one of the most famous mountains in the world. It was an extraordinary travelling experience to me as it was my first time hiking outside Hong Kong.
Being the most iconic symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain at an elevation of 3,776 meters. The official climbing season started from 1st July and ended at 10th September this year. As the mountain is free of snow during the warm months, only normal hiking equipment is needed for visitors to climb. Mount Fuji, therefore, has become an annual pilgrimage for Japanese as well as travellers from around the world.
View over Mount Fuji by David Luk
As Mount Fuji is just 100km south-west of Tokyo, we arrived Tokyo two days before the starting date of the official climbing season, and had a short urban tour in the most dynamic city in Asia.
We started our journey to the Fuji Five Lake region by bus and stayed there overnight in a hostel. Although it was only the first day of the official climbing period, we have already met a lot of hikers from different countries who are ready to conquer the mountain just like us.
In order to climb through the most famous Mount Fuji trail — Yoshida Trail, we woke up early the next morning and took bus to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. As the 5th Station is already 2300 meters above sea level, our aim that day is to reach our mountain hut located at around 3450m on the 9th Station by evening, go for the sunrise the next day and then return.
We started the climb at 11:00am. The hike up are mostly staircases and paved roads, with not a lot of steep and rocky sections. The path, in fact, does not pose too many difficulties to hikers. However, the most important thing needed to be aware of, is the weather condition during the hike. First of all, the temperature will keep dropping till around zero degrees Celsius with the increasing altitude. Also, as there might be abrupt change of weather condition up on the mountain, you might possibly have to hike under rain and strong winds, which may be colder than normal circumstances.
View from Mount Fuji by David Luk
We reached the hut at around 5:00pm. There are actually lots of mountain huts operating along the trail to provide shelter and food for hikers, especially between the 7th and 8th station. The hut we booked, named Goraiko-Kan, is located at the highest point among the other huts on the trail. Therefore, with more effort we paid on the first day to climb up the hill from 2300m to 3450m, there are only around 300m left for us to climb from our hut to the top of Mount Fuji the next morning.
We had our dinner and took good rest at the hut that night and continued our jouney after midnight. Another thing needed to be mentioned is that as the air gets notably thinner as we reached the hut, people should take full precautions of having the chance in suffering from altitude sickness.
We spent some hours sleeping, woke up at around 2:00am, put on our headlamps and hike again to reach the summit for the sunrise at around 4:30am. We finally succeed in watching the breathtaking sunrise on the top of Mount Fuji just in time, ignoring the fact that all of us were completely frozen by that time.
We were extremely lucky being able to see the sunrise on the first day of the public climbing season. As the Mount Fuji is frequently wrapped in clouds, it all depends on luck for hikers to climb in good weather and have a beautiful view. The return journey is much shorter and the trail is relatively more well-developed, however, we had to hike under extreme wind and I still remember the sound of little rocks and dust hitting my coat.
Although, as mentioned, the difficulty of Mount Fuji is not too high, when it comes to hiking, proper equipment is always one of the most crucial elements to smoothen the journey. I suggest the following items as essentials for climbing Mount Fuji:
Proper hiking shoes (especially water-proof) for rocky trails and rainy weather.
- Proper warm clothes/jackets for low temperatures and also strong winds.
- Flashlight/headlamp are absolutely needed for night climbing.
- Hiking Stick — trust me, it will be extremely helpful when you are suffering from altitude sickness. You may consider those wooden sticks sold at Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station.
- Money, food, water.
Summiting the magnificent Mount Fuji is definitely an achievement for an average person. Though the climbing experience may vary due to the weather condition, it’s not as hard as it may seem under normal circumstances. I hope my experience in summiting Mount Fuji can be a good reference for those who are planning to conquer the most famous landmark in Japan and wish you all the best in your journey!