Aug. 13, 14, 2011 Mt. Fuji climb
Torii at the top of Mt. Fuji
Your Climbing Mt. Fuji FAQ site was invaluable in preparing for my climb, Gary, thanks! My first ever climb up Mt. Fuji was August 13, 14, 2011. There were 5 of us in our climbing group though we all got to Fuji at different times and took different ascent routes.
I took the first Shinjuku to 5th station bus in the morning on Saturday the 13th, which got caught up in traffic and arrived early afternoon. Two from our climbing group, Vince and Mike, had spent Friday evening at the base of Fuji, climbed from the bottom in the morning, and were at the 5th station resting when I got there. Another climber, Kozo, took a different bus and arrived a little later and the fifth member, Midori, arrived even later in the afternoon, also by bus.
I had reservations at an 8th station hut, where they request guests check in by early evening, and so started my ascent from the 5th station around 2pm. The climb to the hut took 4 hrs. I got there in time to check in and lay down a bit before they started serving a light meal. The amenities were VERY basic. Guests are allotted one sleeping bag’s width of space and they really squeeze people in. After eating, I tried to get some shut-eye before departing, and wasn’t really able to, but started my ascent from the hut around 12:30.
The hardest part of the whole climb was from the 8th station onward where the air is definitely thinner the higher you go and it was steep. I took a number of rests along the way, pulling off to the side of the trail, and got to the top somewhere between 3 and 3:30, still almost 2 hrs before sunrise. The sky was pitch black and it was a lot colder than I’d imagined.
The forecasted low that night at the summit was 8 C. The Yoshida Trail (my ascent trail) side was sheltered from the wind but up top, the wind was COLD. I had on my winter (ski) parka with three shirt layers on underneath and a pair of jeans (no upper or lower thermals). The wind chill made it seem a LOT colder than 8 C, definitely below freezing, and it was hard to keep warm. If you wear jeans, you should bring at least one pair of thermals to put on underneath. A thermal shirt and/or fleece jacket would also help, depending on your outer jacket layer.
I was able to go into a food shop when they opened. (If you go in, you’re expected to order.) I had a bowl of ton-jiru soup that warmed me up and went back out but there was still almost an hour before sunrise (5:03 am). I climbed atop a shack-like structure jutting out from a building overhanging the ridge up top and the wall I was up against provided some shelter from the wind. So I sat...and waited.
The sky stayed dark for what seemed an eternity but gradually started turning lighter. All this waiting in the COLD was worthwhile though as sunrise was beeautiful!! One of the most awe-inspiring I’ve ever experienced...Right before the sun started coming up over the horizon was probably the most mesmerizing, the way the clouds, sky and horizon changed into all the intense colors...and when the sun finally rose there was a big roar!
After sunrise, I went to the torii up top and was finally able to connect w/ Mike and Kozo. We took pictures then started our descent, which took about 2 1/2 hrs to climb down to the 5th station. (Vince and Midori had started descending just after sunrise.)
The view from up top and above the clouds was breathtaking. It’s also fascinating to see a cloud formation roll up the side of the mountain right in front of your eyes!
Being the middle of summer there were A LOT of people that made the trek. Even in the middle of the night there was a steady line of climbers, all wearing headlamps, hiking up one right after another. When you look down from the top you see a stream of lights crawling up the side of Mt. Fuji...at 3am in the morning! It was quite an experience and as Mike, who’s climbed to the top 9 times mentioned, (I’ll) "be back"...I definitely will!
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