Mount Fuji

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July 3rd 2016
Published: January 13th 2019
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3rd Jul: I was up bright and early, ready to hike Mount Fuji. The hostel I was staying at let me leave my luggage there, and I departed just after six am to go to the rendezvous point for the start of my tour. I had scoped out where it was last night, as I didn't want to get lost. It had taken forever to walk there the night before, but I blame the busy Tokyo streets and not my slow walking. There had also been a lot of crossing and I hoped that at this early hour, I would be able to jaywalk a lot of them, due to less traffic. My first port of call was, of course, the Family Mart located on the main road close to my hostel. I picked up some breakfast, which I stuffed in my face in front of the shop, and some snacks for the trip. The streets weren't too busy, but there were still more people about than I expected for so early on a Sunday morning. Some people looked fresh or tired and ready for work, while others looked like they hadn't been home. I was going to be at the
Subashiri Route Subashiri Route Subashiri Route

The less crowded route we would take up Mt. Fuji.
meeting point pretty early, so I took a rest on the step of a random building, some benches would have been nice. I headed into the Keio Plaza hotel feeling like an impostor, dressed in hiking gear, I definitely didn't belong. I was surprised to see that a lot of people were already there, read y for the tour. After getting my name checked off, I sat and waited for the rest of the group to turn up. We had a quick briefing and then it was time to depart. Our group was quite big (maybe around 30 people), so we wouldn't all fit in the bus, some of us got into a van that was driven by one of the guides.

The drive out of Tokyo wasn't too long and was uneventful. I tried to sleep, and I think I maybe nodded off for a few minutes a couple of times. We stopped at a service station to break up the journey. I think that if the weather had been better, we would have been able to get our first glimpse of Mount Fuji from this spot. Japanese service stations are fancy! We had about half an hour here to chill. The toilets were immaculate. There was a big convenience store and there was also a Starbucks, among other things, so I could get a decent hit of caffeine. Back in the van, we drove on, passing by Gotemba, and then taking the road that would lead us up to Mount Fuji. The road was steep and very windy, we were travelling up slowly and carefully. We reached the 5th Station on the Subashiri Route, which was the route that we would be taking up the mountain. There were a few little restaurants/stores here, and it was where we were able to pick up the gear we had hired from the trekking company. While it wasn't cheap to hire stuff, it beats having to buy stuff like rain pants that I would only wear once and then have to carry around for the rest of my trip. We were also given a piece of pink ribbon, which I attached to my boot to show that I could use some of the toilets on the way up the mountain for free.

Finally, we set off. The first part of the trail was along the pavement past the couple of shops and restaurants. Then we entered the woods and passed through a torii gate. The first part involved steps, too. There are several routes up Mount Fuij and the one we were taking, the Subashiri Route, is one of the least crowded. There weren't many other people about. It certainly made a nice change to Korea, where there was always a lot of hikers on the trails. It was a beautiful sunny day and the sky was a gorgeous shade of blue. As I looked up at Fujisan, I couldn't see it as the peak was covered in cloud. I was excited that I would be up there in a few hours. Also, the terrain of Fujisan was pretty unique. I'd been told what it was like by my friends that had climbed it, but it still didn't really prepare me. It's just so dark and barren looking. It did feel like I was on another planet and not Earth. I think it took a couple of hours hiking to reach our first major stop which was the 6th Station Osadasanso. This was one of the few places that would be open along the trail as it is still too early in the season for everywhere to be open, so even though I wasn't feeling too hungry, I felt like it would be a good idea to get some lunch here, as I could get a proper meal that would be rather filling. I ordered a meat topped rice bowl, which came with a bowl of miso soup. The portion wasn't massive, which was probably a good thing, as I still had a long climb ahead of me and doing it on a very full belly would have been hard. The food was pretty good and although I can't remember the price, I didn't think it was extortionate given the location. I also heeded the guides advice and popped a couple of headache pills to combat altitude sickness. I can't remember the reasoning behind it but they said to take some pills now so that they would start to kick in before we got higher.

I still couldn't see the peak of Mount Fuji, but looking down there were some gaps in the clouds and I could see the lakes below. I continued climbing and came to the Original 6th Station Setokan. This place was closed up and I really liked the abandoned feel to it. I kind of knew that because it was still early in the season that a lot of stuff wouldn't be open and I liked how quiet it was, but I think I would like to come back in the peak climbing time just to see how busy it gets. The terrain wasn't too tough and I took my time heading up the mountain. Some people in the group were sprinting up, but I figure I'd paid enough to do this trip (it wasn't cheap), so I will take my time and enjoy the mountain. I like that the trail is kind of broken up by the different stations, it gives you shorter goals to work/stride towards. It probably took me about an hour to reach the next station, which was the 7th Station Taiyokan. Since it was closed I had a quick look around and took in the view before heading upwards to Original 7th Station Miharashikan. While the weather had been greater on the lower parts of the trail, it started to change after the Original 7th Station. We were now up in the clouds and the visibility had dropped off as had the temperature. It was getting cold. I had to layer up to stay warm. I loved how eerie it looked now. It took about another ninety minutes to reach the 8th Station. I had a look around there before heading over to our hotel, the Fujisan Hotel.

Our group convened in the dining room and we were welcomed by the staff. I wonder if the staff get cabin fever being stuck up the mountain for the season. We had a briefing by our guides. We were informed that it costs 200 yen a pop to go to the bathroom. The toilets have a coin slot and turnstiles, so you can't avoid paying. I didn't realise I would need a toilet budget! Then we were shown into the dorm. Zero luxury here. It wasn't individual bunk beds, but one giant one. We were all tightly packed in and although we had separate bedding, you were very close to your neighbours. I can't remember the capacity for the room, but I think it was quite a lot, more than just our group of people. After chilling for a bit was time for dinner. The dinner didn't look like the most appetising meal, but it was tasty. We were given a mound of white rice topped with some small processed sausages and a small cutlet with a small amount of sauce, and there was a side of curry sauce and some pickled vegetables. It was warm and filling. You could buy drinks from the hotel, they even had beers, but I didn't think it would be wise due to the altitude. I was surprised that the altitude hadn't hit me, and I was waiting for it to hit me, which it thankfully didn't. After dinner and chatting with the others, it was time for an early night. We would be getting up around 2 am, so we were off to bed early. Going outside to the bathroom wasn't an enjoyable task as it was cold and windy. I was looking forward to get some sleep though. It had been a long but enjoyable day.

4th Jul: The workers of the Fujisan Hotel came to wake us up at 2 am. Not that I had really slept, lying between a snorer and someone suffering from altitude sickness does not make for a good night's sleep. Since I was already dressed all I had to do was put on my jackets. Out in the dining room, which was light, I put on my rain pants and got my hat, head torch and gloves from my backpack. After a quick trip to the bathroom, there was another 200 yen gone, I put my hiking boots on and was all set to leave at 2:30 am. We headed outside and assembled there. We lost a bit of time here as the guides were looking for someone, I think a couple of people got up, but didn't feel too good due to altitude sickness, so they headed back into the warmth of the hotel. It was quite busy outside with hikers all heading to the summit. I loved watching the glow of their headlamps as they headed up the mountain and what made it even more exciting was that I was actually part of it. Eek! I was about to summit Fujisan. We followed the other people hiking up the mountain on the official trail for a while, which continued to get busier. We came to a small junction, where the official trail continued and where there was another trail that was blocked off by a bit of tape. Well, I think you can tell which route our guide decided to take. The roped off one! Some might see this as reckless, but our guides hike Fujisan several times a week and have done so for a few years, so I completely trusted their judgement. The trail we took was quite tough with a lot of switchbacks, but it was so quiet as there were no other hikers on it. The wind was quite strong and I could feel the morning dew on my clothes. I was glad I had opted for some waterproof pants. It didn't feel like we had been trekking for that long, but it must have been well over an hour. The group had split up and we had kind of formed smaller groups with a guide leading each one. I was in the first group and when I looked back I was surprised to see that the rest of the group was quite a distance behind me. I was the only one who had managed to keep the guide's pace.

Arriving at the top of Fujisan was a bit anticlimactic. I had reached the top of Fujisan and was at 3,776 metres. It was still quite dark, cold and very windy, but there wasn't anything to see as we waited for sunrise. Bugger, it was cold and I positioned myself against a rock to try and get a little shelter from the wind. We didn't have to wait to long for the sunrise and the sky soon began to change colour. It was really cool to watch the sunrise. It seemed to happen so fast. It was like it was being fast forwarded. It was also quite cloudy and the wind was whipping the clouds across the sky. One of the guides later said that if he had known that it would have so windy, he probably would have called off summiting for safety reasons. I'm really glad he didn't. After the sun rose, I t took a bit of a walk around the peak. There wasn't too much to see as the little stores were still shut as it was too early in the season for them to be open. After a while, it was time to head down. It was still cloudy at the peak, so there wasn't much to see. The descent back to the Fujisan Hotel didn't take too long, maybe around 30-40 minutes. I enjoyed the views as they came into view. I was on a bit of a high walking down, I think that's why I got back to the hotel so fast. Back at the hotel, it was time for breakfast. I hadn't realised how hungry I was. The breakfast was pretty similar to the stuff we'd had for dinner the night before. Nothing special, but it was filling and would give me energy to get back down the mountain.

Once we were all ready, we started the final descent back to the Fifth Station. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I made sure to apply some sunscreen as I would no doubt get burnt. We started back on the same trail that we had taken to come up but when we got down to the seventh station, we took a different route. The route down was pretty straightforward and I walked down pretty quick. I felt like I should have been going slower as who knows if I would ever climb Mount Fuji again, but the terrain just made me want to go faster. There were also quite a few diggers about working on the mountain. The earth was all loose and as I thundered down great piles of it collected in front of me. Some of the others in the group were going super fast, it was cool to watch them speed down the mountain. We also ended up taking an unofficial shortcut, which got us down the mountain ever faster, oops! We took a rest at a shut up restaurant, before continuing on to the end of the trail.

I couldn't believe that we had made it to the bottom of the trail already! It was only 9:10 am! We had reached the hut thingy that marked the start of the trail and we walked down the road a couple of hundred metres to reach the entrance to the fifth station and the restaurant that we had started from yesterday. Even though it was so early in the morning, I wanted a beer to celebrate reaching the summit and getting down in one piece. The shop/restaurant owners pointed to the cans of beer hidden in the bottom of the fridge and I selected a Kirin beer. They hadn't understood me on my first attempt to ask for beer and I thought that the Japanese word must be very different. When I inquired what the Japanese word was, I was told it was 'biru', very similar. I had a good laugh about that. We had a toast to our successful trip and sat drinking our beers. I don't think I have ever had a drink so early before in my life, but since I had been up since two am, it's not like I had woken up and started drinking. The other groups all made it back before or around 11 am, and then it was time to hit the road.

The drive back to Tokyo was fairly quick. We stopped briefly in Gotemba to drop some people off at the station and then continued on to the highway. We had a brief rest stop. I got a large coffee from Starbucks, and it helped to wake me up a bit. The heat as I got out of the van was intense. It's hard to belive that the weather was so different at the top of Mount Fuji a few hours ago. I was starving though and couldn't wait to get back to the city to get some food. I would be having a convenience store feast. It took a while to drive around Tokyo to reach the hotel. We went down one crazy deep underpass, the van just kept turning and heading deeper and deeper underground. It was like being on a helter skelter. After a couple of wrong turns, we pulled up out the back of the Keio Plaza Hotel. I felt like a right tramp walking through the hotel to get to the other side. I walked quickly through the hot streets, I was dreaming about the shower I would have when I reached the hostel. I made it back to the hostel at around 2:30 pm, a lot earlier than I thought I would get back. Even though I was exhausted, I was on a bit of a high. When I got it into my head that I wanted to climb Mount Fuji, I knew that I would have to do some serious preparations for it. I love hiking, but I have never been and never will be the fittest or fastest hiker. I spent the six months prior to the trip trying to hike every weekend, sometimes twice in a weekend. I had been told by friends who have previously summited Mount Fuji several times, that it isn't that hard of a hike. I didn't believe them and pushed myself to do as much hiking as possible so that I would be ready. I have to say they were right, the hike wasn't technically difficult at all or even that long, but the altitude is a bit of bugger. Being quite fit definitely helped me from getting altitude sickness. I kept my pace slow and steady throughout the hike to not overexert myself. I think that also helped me not to suffer from it. Only problem now is I want to do it again, but take a different trail up the mountain.

Additional photos below
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Lunch Lunch

At the 6th Station

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