I’m Climbing Mt. Fuji (Again) and You Should Too!
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All year I’ve been looking forward to my favorite GAJET event: The Mt. Fuji Climb. To get ready I’ve been running up and down the stairs at school during my free periods, and planning what to pack this year.
I climbed Mt. Fuji only a month after arriving in Japan in 2011. I climbed it again the next year. This year will be my third climb. If I could, I would climb Mt. Fuji every year!
Climbing Mt. Fuji may sound difficult, but in reality it’s possible even for beginners. It’s more of a hike, really. On the trails you’ll see people of all ages. This is a hike that anyone can do. Think of it as a very, very long walk uphill.
The hike starts at the 5th station, about halfway up the mountain. Here you can buy a souvenir walking stick to use as you hike. At many of the mountain huts along the way you can buy souvenir stamps to be burned into your walking stick. Each stamp costs about 300 yen. If you are on a budget, I suggest skipping the stamps at the lower stations, like Stations 6 through 8, and save your money to buy the stamps closer to the summit. The summit has a special stamp that says “Top of Mt. Fuji.”
What is it like to climb Mt. Fuji?
The trails up the mountain are covered by gravel and are very wide. At the start you are simply climbing very large stairs. Between the 7th and 8th stations there is a section that is made up of large boulders. This section will call for some climbing, but there are chains for you to hold onto as you climb. I think it is the most fun, and the only time I considered it to be difficult was in the rain.
After the 8th Station though the hike resumes to wide, gravel paths that meander up the mountain in a zigzag pattern. There are many mountain huts along the way where you can stop and take a rest, buy food or water (at inflated prices), and go to the bathroom. The bathrooms ask for a 200-300 yen donation and they provide toilet paper.
How long does it take?
The hike up the mountain usually takes 6 to 8 hours. At the top you can buy hot food and souvenirs.
Getting back down Mt. Fuji is a completely different story. The trail is steeper and made up of red lava rocks. The red dust from the rocks will cover you from head to toe by the end of the descent. I wore a face mask to avoid getting it in my mouth and nose, but it didn’t block the dust 100%. I still recommend wearing one though.
The descent takes less time, 3 to 5 hours, but it’s still very difficult. It’s easy to slip and fall on the rocks, and rest stops are infrequent. Be sure to buy water at the summit before you start if you are running low.
There is a possibility of getting altitude sickness on the mountain. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. It’s common for hikers to get a headache, but if your symptoms worsen you should get help at one of the huts and go back down the mountain.
Some final tips
- Turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode to save battery. As of July 10th 2015 Mt. Fuji has WiFi so you can shamelessly Snapchat and Tindr from the top of Fuji #livinginthemoment.
- Even though there’s toilet paper in the bathrooms, bring some tissues as a precaution.
- Stretch before climbing and stretch often during the climb.
What to take
Whether or not you have a good experience on Mt. Fuji can depend on how well you prepare. You should bring:
- A warm coat, hat, and gloves.
- Warm clothes and layers for the different temperatures on the mountain.
- Rain gear.
- Hiking boots.
- Head lamp.
- At least 2 liters of water.
- Band aids.
- Small towel and/or hand towel.
- Face mask.
- Toilet paper/tissues.
- Extra phone battery (if you have one).