Reaching to the Summit: My Mt. Fuji Adventure 2018
Review by Frank from America
Wake up. Wake up and grab your packed bag and rush to catch the train: that was all I could think about the morning of my trip to the top of Mt. Fuji with Willer Travel.
I was staying on the East side of Tokyo, and to make the 7:30 departure I needed to wake up and be out the door by 6:30.
I left at 6:35.
I was lucky and caught an earlier train during one of the transfers and made it to the bus stop with ten minutes to spare.
There were about twenty-five other non-Japanese people signed up for the tour, and as we all piled into the bus our guide, Haruka-san, began explaining the schedule of the climb to the handful of Japanese climbers who were riding with us to the mountain.
While she explained in Japanese I settled into my seat and got ready for the three-ish hours of sleep I had planned to get before arriving at the 5th station of the mountain.
But before I could shut my eyes, Haruka-san switched over into English and gave us a rundown of what to expect when we began our ascent.
As she fielded questions from more nervous travelers, we pulled into a rest area on the highway. This was good news for me, because I had forgotten to withdraw cash to use for the toilets on the mountain (200 yennies a squat).
After visiting the ATM, I also grabbed some water and a fried bread with curry baked inside as a midmorning snack.
Before reaching the 5th Station we stopped by Yamarent for people to pick up rental climbing gear and packs. I got a pair of good hiking boots, socks, a head lamp, and wet weather gear.
While some of the others were still trying on their boots, I chatted with the bus driver. Turns out he had lived in Guam for a few years and could speak English.
He wasn’t joining us on the climb, but he told me that he had climbed Mt. Fuji once when he was 16 with some of his high school buddies.
Anyway, by that point it in our conversation was time to get back on the bus and ride the last thirty minutes up to the 5th station.
Arrival. We got off the bus and were given about an hour to change and get lunch.
The Subaru 5th Station is a collection of souvenir shops and restaurants on the side of Mount Fuji that is accessible by bus.
There are also changing stations, and places to spend the night for travelers who give up and return down the mountain before they reach the summit.
After changing into my hiking gear, I poked around the shops a little bit until it was almost time to begin our ascent.
Thinking that it might be good to eat something before we departed, I scarfed down a whole cob of steamed corn sprinkled with salt.
Looking back, I would recommend eating an actual meal before going up the mountain, but I foolishly just had that corn.
We were given helmets and introduced to our guides, Midori-san and Yamabushi-san, who both spoke English.
They had us do some stretching before we made our way onto the trail. The majority of the hike was uneventful.
To ensure that almost anyone can make it to the 8th station hut where we would spend part of the night, the pace is easy with frequent water and altitude acclimation breaks.
To be honest, the climb was no joke. The exerted effort of climbing for 6 hours straight in ever-thinning air was a bit of a challenge.
At the time I would have liked to hike at a quicker pace, but if we had done so I might not have made it to the summit.
By the way, a 250-yen Snickers bar becomes a very attractive option for a snack after plodding up through misty clouds for an hour. Think of it as an opportunity to treat yo’ self.
As Midori-san reminded the group, over the course of the two days we would burn an extra 2,000 calories, so a Snickers was nothing to worry about.
That said, better than the Snickers at the 6th station was the Cream Bun at the 7th station hut, Tomoekan.
Made down in the foothills and then brought up the mountain and only sold at the Tomoekan hut at the 7th station, with a cup of coffee these buns are the perfect pick-me-up.
Without the coffee they are kind of too sweet as a snack, so I recommend getting one and eating it for dessert if you aren’t big on the whole coffee-every-twenty-minutes thing.
The journey continued. Around 6:00pm, we arrived at our mountain hut.
The Tomoekan hut on the 8th station is not big as its 7th station sister, nor does it have the cream buns for sale, but it did have a futon with my name on it, and we became closely acquainted. Before succumbing to Hypnos’s entreaties, however, I needed to eat.
Our group was served dishes of Japanese curry with rice topped off with a hamburger patty. While not the fanciest of delights, I gobbled it up and then promptly went to sleep.
1:30am, we awakened. Walking past the open window were bullet climbers, the sad figures of exhaustion who tried to climb the mountain in the dark without resting before the sunrise. After stretching under the covers and working up the courage to leave my futon cocoon, I headed downstairs to learn that I am too early, and we would not be departing for another two hours.
I lifted my legs back up into bed and once again embraced sleep.
3:00am IT’S GO-TIME, BABY! Everyone was getting up and putting on their gear. We bundled up and trundled down to eat breakfast and then begin our climb to the top.
The air almost crackled with excitement. We went out the door as the first spikes of light from the sun began to top the clouds.
We hiked up for about an hour and settled on the side of the mountain, our little group watching as Helios’s rays pierced through the sea of clouds below us.
Yamabushi-san, a member of the mountain monks who still worship Mt. Fuji, explained to us that the traditional place to watch the sunrise was here, between the 9th station and the summit. That way, we weren’t looking down on the sun kami, but instead seeing it from an equal height.
After the sun had risen, we removed our headlamps and made our way up the last short climb up to the summit.
The crater s immense, almost three kilometers around. We learned from Yamabushi-san that some parts of the crater are divine, and others are used for meditation and worship.
After our quick lesson in spirituality it’s back down the mountain. The trail down is much gentler than the path up, and after passing the 8th station trail junction, we were free to go the rest of the way down the mountain at our own pace. Which for me meant running! Well, not really, but I did maintain a quick trot to keep up with one of the other members of our party.
While it took us about ten hours to reach the summit, it took me about two and a half to get down. Looking back, if I had taken more time, my legs would not have been so sore, but at least I was able to return my gear, sit down, and relax with some delicious white peach ice cream back at the 5th station.
By the by, two tips for you to have the best time climbing Mt. Fuji possible: bring sandals for after the climb and have some ice cream once you finish. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
After I’d hung out at the bottom for about an hour, the rest of our party finally arrived.
The bus came soon after, and we moved as one, bringing on board with us smells which had never before been whiffed.
The bus driver, eager to get these smelly creatures off his bus, speedily took us to the Beni Fuji Onsen.
Getting to wash and soak in the bath was the second-best part of the whole trip (the most-best was the sunrise of course).
After the getting tired of the five different types of bath, I got out, had a glass of milk, and chatted with Haruka-san before we all got on the bus back to Shinjuku.
After getting on the bus from the hot spring I have no memories. I immediately fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we arrived at the Shinjuku bus stop.
We then all went our separate ways, some to continue their Japan travels, and some, like me, to head to their homes and fall asleep again on the couch within moments of sitting down.
Mt. Fuji Climbing Tour