Climbing Mt. Fuji was definitely worth the effort!
(Los Angeles, California, USA)
In preparing for my Mt Fuji climb, I came across this website which was completely invaluable. Thank you so much for the wealth of information!
I thought I'd post a little about my experience. I looked for info on the experiences of others and found a few accounts. There were many on how it took people in their 20s and 30s to "do the climb in 3 hours," that "it wasn't that hard and I'm not even in that great of shape." I found one honest account of having to turn around and call it quits.
Here is my honest account of my experience.
I'm a 53-year-old female. I live at sea level and hike 15-20 miles a week. Most altitude gain I ever get is about 3500 feet. So I guess I could call myself an avid hiker. I also do yoga once a week and ride a bicycle frequently. I'm in decent shape and healthy, but by no means an athlete.
My friend and I did the Yoshida Trail Sept 3-4, 2019. We stayed at a hut at the 8.5th station. My friend lives in Alaska and runs 5-10 miles a day. He is 61 years old. He could have done the climb faster, but he stayed by my side the entire time (thank you J.L).
Don't let anyone fool you. Climbing Mt Fuji was very hard. I will never do it again. I am incredibly proud of my accomplishment and I definitely use my bragging rights. We started from the 5th station. It took us 6.5 hours to get to the 8.5th station where we spent the night. There was a considerable amount of rock SCRAMBLING. I didn't anticipate this. I found this very challenging. I used my hands to help me climb and had to be careful to not scrape them.
TIP NUMBER ONE: Remember to hydrate and bring food for fuel. You are using A LOT of energy. We brought 6 liters of water for the two of us. I drank most of it. My friend thinks he is superhuman and I will admit he is a little bit of a freak of nature. He ended up getting bloody noses from dehydration and I had a "told you so" moment. I drank what I thought was a lot of water and used the toilet 3 times, barely peeing much at all. That was all during ascent and descent. We brought snacks from 7-11. We ate everything.
TIP NUMBER TWO: Either pack anything you want to keep dry in plastic bags or get a backpack cover. Also, remember it will get much cooler as the sun goes down, if it rains and as you gain altitude. We started off in shorts and t-shirt and had gloves and hat on by the end. It rained enough to get my hiking boots wet through to my socks. You will want to put on rain gear and have something dry to change into when you get to your hut. In the morning I was cold and happy I had my lightweight down jacket, which I was grateful had dried over night.
The staff at the hut were very friendly, helpful, and organized. They showed us where we could change, where we would be sleeping, and give us our dinner. I was so exhausted and feeling the altitude by now. I knew I needed to eat, so I forced myself to eat the meal even though I didn't have much of an appetite. I then went to my assigned sleeping spot, took some Ibuprofen and anti-nausea stuff, and collapsed into my nest, grateful to be horizontal.
I thought I would fall right to sleep since I was exhausted. I don't think I slept more than an hour. Maybe 2 in 15-minute increments. A sleeping bag on the floor at 53 is NOT comfortable. I can't sleep on my side on a hard surface without my hip hurting. So I was on my back the entire time. Which was also not comfortable. They pack you in like sardines and the kid next to me was sound asleep (I could sleep on a rock in my 20's too) and leaning on my arm. I spent considerable time trying to politely get him to nudge over. I was already awake at 1:45 am when the lights got turned on so everyone can get up and get out the door to make it to the summit to see the sunrise.
By 3 am we were out the door. It took an hour to get ourselves together. From the reading I did prior to this trip, it was going to take us 90 minutes to get to the summit from the 8.5th station. It took us 2.5 hours. This was due to a couple of things. There were a lot of people on the trail so things were slow, but the altitude took a toll on 99% of the hikers. People were throwing up. Large groups were stopping to catch their breath. We were stopping to catch our breath. We probably had to stop every 5-10 minutes to rest. People were stopping to take pictures.
Also, there was MORE ROCK SCRAMBLING. I was getting discouraged as I neared the summit. I know it was due to the altitude, but I started to cry. It got to the point that all I could do was put one foot in front of the other with great concentration and effort and still it seemed like I wasn't getting any closer to the summit even though I could see it. I tripped a couple of times, I was so tired and most likely disoriented from the altitude and also dehydrated. I told my friend to stop talking to me as it was too much effort to listen and walk at the same time.
TIP NUMBER THREE: Bring a head lamp!! I brought a $7 piece of junk from Target. Wish I had spent the extra money on something decent.
TIP NUMBER FOUR: If you are sensitive to cold like I am (I live in Southern California), make sure you have gloves and a hat. If the altitude doesn't get you, your attitude will.
Made it to the summit in time for the sunrise. One of the most glorious events of my life. Words cannot describe the elation I felt. Once in a lifetime experience. Wouldn't change a thing. I am in love with life.
My friend took some time to walk around at the summit. I sat down and closed my eyes. Spent some time focusing on my breathing, enjoying the feeling of the sun on my face. Grateful for everything.
Hike down was about 3-4 hours. Knees on fire. It's a different trail down, no rock scrambling. Just a nice wide trail but steep. Go find yourself an onsen and have a soak after you get back to wherever you are staying. Better yet, check into a luxury hotel like we did and give yourself some well deserved pampering.