“A wise man climbs Fuji once, a fool climbs it twice” … or so the saying goes!
Climbing Mount Fuji has been on my bucket list for a few years. The official hiking season falls between July and August so this helped us decide on Japan as the starting point for our travels.
From Hakone we travelled to Kawaguchiko, but not before stopping by the delicious French boulongerie opposite our hostel in Miyanoshita. Definitely having withdrawal symptoms from the lack of pastries since France! The journey to Kawaguchiko took a looooong three hours and it wasn’t direct so we had to catch various connecting buses. When we finally arrived at the station we stored our luggage in the lockers and stocked up on snacks and water from 7-11.
We caught the regular bus which leaves Kawaguchiko for Mount Fuji 5th station at around 6pm. The journey took approx 30 minutes with only one stop on route. The 5th station was so much bigger than I imagined. There were a few shops, restaurants and a massive car park! We arrived above the clouds as the sun was setting.
At 7pm, the sky had started to darken and we left the 5th station to begin the hike, following the Yoshida trail. A donation of 1,000 yen per person is requested at the start of the trail.
I read the hike would take between 6-7 hours. Taking that into consideration with a few additional hours rest factored in along the route would allow us to reach the summit at 5am, in time for the sunrise. Lots of mountain huts have been built into the side of the volcano at various levels offering a place to sleep or rest. There was a fee for sleeping over but resting for a short time was free, or so we thought!
It didn’t take us long to reach the 6th station. It was really dark when we arrived and the temperature had started to drop. We were recommended to rest a little at each station to adjust to the change in altitude so we decided to stop. The hut on the 6th station would only let us in if we bought something to consume and as we had bought our own food earlier we sat on the benches outside the hut and waited.
The ground became much steeper after the 6th station and turned into more of a climb, having to use our hands to pull us up over the rocks. By 10.30pm we had reached the 3,100 meter point. With only 676 meters to the summit and a sign telling us we had 3km left to climb we were way ahead of time so decided to wait around the 8th station for a while. We ended up waiting for 2 hours! It was here we realised the mountain huts weren’t letting anyone in to rest so we had to sit outside. It was freeeeezing!!! I checked the temperature on my phone and it was 5 degrees. Luckily the wind was fairly still but it felt much colder sitting around and we were glad to start moving again.
We reached the 3,250 meter point at 1.30am. The mountain huts were getting busier and the cost of water and food increased the higher we climbed. I noticed a small bottle of water was being sold for 500yen, 5 times as much as 7-11! We still hadn’t passed any huts letting us in to rest so we bought a hot chocolate (the only item we purchased during the hike) and waited around another hour before heading to the summit. I was really surprised that most of the mountain huts had free wifi! Couldn’t believe it but it was great as it helped the time pass.
We made a couple more stops on route but by 3am the crowds of people increased so we decided to head straight up. Where our trail met the Subashiri trail a bottle neck started to form slowing everyone down. The path also started to narrow so the remaining walk was mostly done in a single file. I looked down to the paths below me and thousands of lights lit the way. I couldn’t believe how many people were out climbing. I have been night hiking before but this was something else. It really was amazing!
We reached the summit just after 4am and found a spot to sit. My mum had given us a foil blanket each, which I originally laughed at thinking I definitely wouldn’t have any use for it. I was wrong. I couldn’t thank her enough – mum’s always know best! We wrapped it around ourselves and it kept us warm whilst we waited for the sun to rise.
At 5.12am the sky started to lighten followed by the most beautiful sunrise!
It definitely made up for the long cold hike!
We walked around the crater, which was just incredible! I didn’t realise how big it was! The surroundings were breathtaking:
The sun rose quickly and started to warm us up. We made our way down at 8am. The descent is mainly loose gravel and stones from the volcano. It’s one long, tedious descent with some sharp hairpin bends. The view, albeit stunning remains the same adding to the monotony. We employed the side step technique, whilst staying low on our knees to reduce any impact. However hilarious we may have looked, we made it down in under 2 hours and our knees were pain-free the following morning!
Would I climb Mount Fuji again? … YES, definitely! I am that fool! It was such a fantastic experience, never to be forgotten. Although if I were to hike it again I would either start the hike later to avoid the lengthy waiting around in the cold or start at a lower level.