Over a quarter million people climb the infamous Mt. Fuji every year during the short climbing season of July and August. You may have heard the horror stories of climbers being stuck in lines while climbing up the mountain and uncomfortable mountain huts filled to the brim. Hearing this, you may want to avoid those issues by climbing during the off-season. Alternatively, you may only be visiting Japan for a short period in June and don’t want to miss out. Even for experienced climbers, climbing Mt. Fuji in the off-season is potentially life-threatening and not recommended. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t climb during the offseason and how to address your concerns about the climbing season.
Even in the peripheral months of June and September, summit temperatures stay at or below freezing temperature. For the unprepared climber, these temperatures will quickly induce hypothermia and can be life-threatening. Only during the months of July and August does the temperature at the summit regularly stay above freezing, even if by a few degrees.
Climbers must remember that they are climbing Japan’s tallest mountain, and with an increase in altitude comes an increase in hostile weather conditions. Annual average wind speed on the mountain is 25 miles per hour, but during July and August winds average over 5 miles per hour less. With the wind chill, temperatures can feel a dozen degrees colder. Considering a gust of over 200 miles per hour was once recorded in just late September, avoid being potentially blown off the mountain by staying within the climbing season.
Even in early July, some patches of snow still remain on the mountain. This means in early June there is a solid layer of slick melting snow and ice near the summit. Without proper hiking boots, trekking poles, and ice axes to break an accidental slip, you can tumble down the mountain’s steep slope. While climbing in late June may mean avoiding the most of the remaining snow, climbers still face a lot of issues by choosing to climb on June 30th instead of July 1st.
Each trail has several mountain huts that can house anywhere from 50 to over 300 people. Climbers often stay at a mountain hut close to the summit and wake up early to watch the sunrise from the summit. Because of their closure during the off-season, climbers must climb throughout the night to reach the summit for sunrise. In case you were thinking about it, camping on Mt. Fuji is not only illegal but dangerous as well, as strong winds have been known to blow tents off the mountain.
*There is one hut on the popular Yoshida trail that is open from June 1st through September 30th. As it is at the beginning of the climb at 5th station, so you will still run into the same issues presented further in the article.
Bathroom facilities are closed during the off-season and urinating and/or defecating on the sacred mountain is very illegal. Climbing Mt. Fuji can be a 10-hour ordeal, so off-season hikers must carry a portable toilet. While portable toilets are neither heavy or difficult to use, climbers may feel uncomfortable without enclosed privacy. Additionally, climbers must carry their waste up and down the mountain, which is not impractical but can be uncomfortable.
Like all other support facilities on the mountain, all food and drink stands on the mountain are closed. While it is recommended to bring as much food up the mountain as possible, being able to restock on water and food is an important backup to have for even experienced climbers. It is especially important to stay hydrated on the mountain, as climbers are fully exposed to the sun and are likely to sweat excessively at the warmer lower levels of the ascent.
This is the most dangerous aspect about climbing during the off-season. There are no rescue staff on the mountain, let alone barely any climbers around you. The hours of wait before you receive assistance in an emergency could be the difference between mild hypothermia and death.
One of the most humorous negatives about climbing Mt. Fuji in general is that you cannot see Mt. Fuji from Mt. Fuji. This is a similar predicament to going to the top of the Tokyo Tower – you can’t take a good picture of an iconic landmark if you are on top of it. By climbing one of the many shorter mountains surrounding Mt. Fuji, or relaxing in a luxurious private hotel onsen, you can get those postcard-worthy views without endangering yourself.
Mt. Fuji has not one but five furnished trails to its summit, yet over 60 percent of climbers take the crowded Yoshida trail. By taking another trail, you are almost guaranteed to be able to climb the mountain at your own pace rather than that of the person in front of you. The other trails also have unique features and views that most other climbers do not experience. The Gotemba trail’s soft volcanic sand allows you to safely run down parts of the path which is an Instagram-worthy video in and of itself. Don’t let the crowds scare you into the off-season, just climb another trail!
Japan isn’t going anywhere and neither is Mt. Fuji. While climbing Mt. Fuji is a bucket list item for many, it isn’t worth risking one’s life to climb it during the dangerous off-season. Most people who visit Japan enjoy their time and swear they will come back in the near future. Come back to Japan during July or August to experience Mt. Fuji at its fullest and safest!
Website : Official Website for Mt. Fuji Climbing