Our team of five like-minded people were on a quest to scale this beast of a volcano, Known widely as Mt.Fuji, which last erupted in 1707.
There was talk on the grapevine that it was getting tickled and awakened by Mother Nature to fight the evil humans who were destroying and exploiting the earth, so we decided it was a good time to climb it before it released its wrath.
Right before the trailhead, we huddled and said some expectations and concerns that we had, did a “whoosh” huddle break and headed to the 6th station at 2390m. The path was wide and not steep, but dry and gravelly. We made it in about 45 minutes. That wasn’t too bad! Another hour on, we were on the 7th station at 2700m and took a rest there. The path had become ground dirt, less gravelly and was easier to walk on. The crowd, many of whom were foreigners, was not little but neither was it overwhelming. There were a few huts at each station that had stores that sold snacks, hot drinks, and cup noodles. I cannot fathom why they are called huts, as they are practically mini inns or ryokans 旅館! They cost about ¥5000 per night/stay. The bathrooms here cost ¥200; it should be noted that some have turnpikes and some don’t! :)
The climb from the 7th to 8th station was supposedly the hardest, and we braced ourselves for it. There were some parts where we had to get dirty with our hands, but they were not physically straining nor overly exhausting. We reached the new 8th station at 3020m (the old 8th station at 3250m comes next) and got some comfortingly warm cup noodles to celebrate being halfway up! It was getting a little chilly, but none of us felt sick yet so all was good.
30 to 45 minutes later, we passed the old 8th station. There were increasingly more people; I guess we caught up with those who set off earlier. We reached the 9th station at a little past midnight. The atmosphere was lively, and there were many people chatting over coffee, waiting to go up when it was closer to sunrise. There was plenty of time to kill and it was pretty cold. The elevation was 3460m, and some members started to feel the effects of altitude. We saw that cans of breathable oxygen were available at the stations. At 145am, we decided to make our way up slowly. It was undoubtedly slow all right, as there were guided groups and people going at snail-pace. The lights from every hiker’s headlamp made it look like Christmas lights. There were THAT many people. Waiting in line to walk along the switches, it felt like eons had passed before we finally got to the top.
Success! It was absolutely freezing (probably 8-9 deg C) for the amount of clothing we had on. We sat in a corner and waited for about an hour until the sun starting its ascent at 420am. It took a while to rise, that part was not fun; but when it did, it was majestic, if only for half a minute. We got a warm drink and started the 4km walk along the rim, where this photo of our crew was taken.
It has 8 peaks and looks like a bowl or a lotus, hence the name Ohachi-meguri. We congratulated each other at the highest peak, and then went to the post office. A teammate also got his Mt Fuji hiking pole stamped at the summit. Omedetou!
It was time to begin the 3-4 hour long descent! The ground was dry and gravelly again, and the way down was exactly the same from top to bottom. It was repetitions of turn left, steep decline, turn right, steep decline, turn left… The route down was a different one than the path up but converged somewhere between the 7th and 6th stations. Upon reaching familiar grounds, we hastened the pace to the 5th station and rewarded ourselves with some kokemomo ice cream! Kokemomo, literally “moss peach”, is known as cowberry in English, but none of us had ever heard of it. Nonetheless, it was delicious! And now with a bag full of trash (there are no dustbins anywhere from the 5th station to the top), it was time to head back to the concrete jungle for a nice shower and some sleep. It was almost a 24-hour journey in total. In a nutshell, Mt Fuji was a dear to hike, the weather was good, and we had a blast!