A friend once told me she couldn’t grasp the idea of wanting to climb a mountain just to get down afterwards. But I say, you can only experience the best of nature if you search for it. It’s a reward only those who endures achieve. It’s like setting on an adventure to unravel treasures of the highest quality; treasures that neither shines like gold nor cost millions like diamonds; but simple yet marvelous treasures that pacifies and brings happiness to the deepest parts of our souls; it’s the kind of beauty only nature can provide.
I’m going to climb Mt. Fuji no matter what! I remembered my mind screaming in determination during the summer of 2017. Nothing makes the season more exciting than climbing the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters above sea level. That being said, it’s just normal for the whole trek to complete for at least two days. Aside from the strenuous climb, there’s the possibility of getting altitude sickness. Not to mention I have never been to any major climbs before. I might be an inexperienced climber but that didn’t stop me. If others can do it, why not me?
Early July to mid-September is the official climbing season of Mt. Fuji. Though it’s the highest mountain in Japan, it’s so popular that it gets too congested with both tourists and local visitors in summer. There’s no wonder why the Japanese population lives a lot longer than other people on earth. They must have harnessed their energy from the mountains. In order to avoid too many crowds, I decided to climb the mountain around the first week of July before the summer vacations in Japan which lasts from around July 20 to end of August.
I’m sure you already heard about the saying “Never underestimate the mountains”. In order to view the sunrise at the peak at the perfect timing, I decided to trek during the night but for an amateur like me, climbing alone might be a bit too risky if not dangerous. So, I wittingly joined a Mt. Fuji Climbing Tour.
Don’t get me wrong, climbing Mt. Fuji is totally safe and not at all life threatening. I just felt a bit more cautious than usual as I am climbing alone for the first time. If you go with a group of friends, you will totally be fine even without a guide because the trail is well made and signs are properly placed.
Aside from the physical and emotional aspects, I made sure I was fully ready before the climb. So first, I made all necessary preparations for the gears that I will be using during the whole journey. Though it’s summer, it could get below freezing temperatures on the summit of Mount Fuji and there’s the possibility that it might even rain so I bought a wind/water-proof jacket and pants from Mont belle.
It’s also efficient to have a heat tech thermal wear as base wear rather than having multiple layers of thick cotton shirts. In my case, I bought at Uniqlo as it is much affordable there compared to other shops. Gloves and knit cap are also necessary to fight the cold as well as another set of winter jacket just in case it gets too cold at the peak.
Climbing a mountain as grand as Mt. Fuji doesn’t need to be that expensive so if you have a friend who can lend you some stuff, it would be totally helpful. Of course, a sturdy hiking shoes is a must as well as a hiking bag. Next thing is to pack all stuffs that you will be needing during the climb. For me, this is the most fun part during the pre-climbing stage. When I shop for chocolates, aside from the taste, appearance and price, I usually care for nothing else but for the first time, I read the label. It has to have the highest calorie content!
After all, you will be needing all the energy you can get. I also packed 4 half-liter bottles of water. I purposely got half liter bottle so that it’s just easy to get it at both side pockets of my bag even while trekking. I also brought a change of clothes which I can wear after the climb, sunglasses for the way down, tissues, money and of course, my camera and phone to make the moments last. Head lamp and oxygen canister was provided by the tour package that I joined in.
Mount Fuji is divided into 10 stations, the 10th being the peak. There are four different trails, namely the Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya trail. Each 5th stations are on different sides of the mountain and paved roads go as far as this point where most people start their ascent.
Among the four 5th stations, the Fuji Subaru Line station at 2,300 meters above sea level along the Yoshida trail is the most developed and the most accessible by public transportation from Tokyo. It has a lot of restaurants and shops and an observation area offering a spectacular view of the Fuji Five Lakes below making it a great spot for tourists who wants to get a close-up look of the mountain. For climbers, it’s the perfect place to grab an energy boosting meal or a last-minute shopping before and after tackling the mountain.
Of course, before climbing up, I made sure to take a photo of me and the mighty Mt. Fuji. At first, I did not recognize it. The famous mountain looks very different without the snow covering it’s peak but that is also the very reason why it’s safe to climb on the summer season especially for an amateur like me.
For about an hour, we stayed at the 5th station to acclimatize or simply adapt to the thin air halfway the mountain. We started the ascent at exactly 6 in the evening via the Yoshida Trail. I started gasping for air midway to the 6th station. The trail was absolutely easy but it was too long and it’s constantly getting higher. I had to slow down to adapt to the thinning air and normalize my breathing. After all, it is advised to tackle the mountain at a slow pace.
My greatest fear that time would be not reaching the summit before sunrise because of possible altitude sickness attack so I did all precautionary measures in order to avoid it. While climbing, I was holding a piece of chocolate on my right hand and a bottle of water on my other hand to keep me hydrated and I took frequent breaks giving enough time for my body to adapt to the changing elevation. There are comfort rooms along the trail so there’s no need to worry about drinking water all the time. Just make sure to bring enough coins to pay for it. One should pay 200 yen for every use of the toilet.
By the time we reached the 7th station, my breathing was already as normal as it could. But the trail changed tremendously from the easy wide flatted winding route to the big rocky path all the way to the 8th station. My breathing is not the problem anymore but rather the strain on my legs which the muscles collate upon taking extra big steps as we go higher.
There were even times we had to use our hands and I realized it was dangerous climbing that part of the mountain when it rains. Fortunately, there were a lot of mountain huts on the way where we can take few minutes to rest.
We arrived at the 8.5th station, apparently the last station before the summit by around 2 A.M. The temperatures became overly cold so I had to put on another layer of winter jacket. The forecast sunrise that day was at 4:40 A.M. and from there, it will only take about an hour to the peak so we decided to rest a little longer before the last stage of our ascent. Later on, we realized it wasn’t a wise decision.
A lot of hikers have already gone passed us by the time we went back on the trail. The path was getting narrower and the concentration of trekkers kept on getting thicker as we marched to the top. The supposedly one hour only trek to the summit took us way more than that. I always knew Tokyo is a very populated place, I just didn’t expect it would be the same in the mountains. The hike became too slow as if a traffic light turns red every five seconds and turns green after a minute or more.
That’s when the thrill began. We were still on the side of the mountain when I noticed the sky already started to lit up in blends of red and orange. Anytime soon, the sun will make its glorious appearance and it would be regretful if I won’t find the perfect spot to capture that beautiful moment before it does.
I had to do something! So, I went for the slightest spaces to fit in from between hikers and even took the rough edges of the trail just so time won’t get ahead of me and it seemed a lot of foreigners have thought the same way. When it was about 4:20 A.M., everyone became too hyped on reaching the top.
I felt like a huge amount of energy was surging from within me that I was able to keep up with the hikers who appears to be a part of a giant race, constantly defying gravity and defeating exhaustion. The physical exercises I did a week before my ascent totally paid off.
I completed the ascent just at the most crucial moment. By the time the sun started peeking at the horizon, I was there, claiming my spot and witnessing one of the most splendid work of art only nature could offer while everyone else in the world is sleeping. It was the most breathtaking sunrise I’ve seen in my whole life by far! It’s the kind of treasure I will never get tired of searching.
Our journey didn’t end there. After taking rest at the peak for about an hour, we had to get down the mountain and reach the 5th station before lunch. There was a different route for the descent. Though it seems easy, the soil was loose and dry.
I couldn’t help but slide every time I make a step. It is also worth noting that there is no shop or toilets along this route so make sure you are in the right condition and have enough water left. The whole descent took around four to five hours but it was definitely the most strenuous part of the trek. This is when wearing the proper shoes and size is most important. If your wear the one without enough tolerance, your toes will surely suffer.
Though it might appear that the journey is almost over, you’ll be surprised that nature still has a lot in store. Upon descending, we were greeted by the spectacular vistas of clouds forming like ocean just below the peak of the mountain. It was very exciting to walk pass the clouds and mist on our way down. It was a scene I thought I would only see on movies before.
When we arrived back at the 5th station, it was just about the perfect time for lunch and my stomach is begging for it. After changing our clothes, we went immediately to the restaurant and had a satisfying meal.
They have a wide variety of choices with large servings in reasonable prices. After a while, I started feeling the strain on my legs and my eyes are getting heavier by the second but it didn’t matter because the achievement I had that day was way greater – making friends, getting fit and enjoying the best of nature all make up for a great summer adventure.
True, a journey is more fun when it is shared with family or friends, and perhaps new friends. It’s not just about the view that’s waiting up there; not just about the challenging trails; but also, about the bond that you form along the way and the achievement you will be able to share. I came to Mount Fuji alone but I am glad to say that I left the mountain with three reliable friends. That’s why it was more enjoyable.
If you’re a certified nature lover and adventurer, climbing Mount Fuji must be in your bucket list. At the end of the journey, you are sure to be rewarded with one of the most magnificent sunrise of a lifetime. This is absolutely not an overstatement. As you go up there and see the sun climbing up gently over the clear horizon, you’ll marvel at the beauty nature have always provided and all those strenuous hours of hiking will all be worth it.
Mount Fuji Official Website