*What we have to say..
So you wanna climb Mt. Fuji? Go ahead go for it! but! Don't take the iconic mountain so lightly it is true what most people say that Mt. Fuji is not that hard of a climb and so many tourist flock to it's mountain sides to climb the historical volcano. But! like before don't take it lightly without the proper gear and preparation an accomplished 12 hour nature stroll can become a whole world of pain and suffering for the unprepared.
Our personal advice of caution to the Fuji weather
I myself am an experienced mountaineer but far from any professional having started the ascend on the great mountain many many years ago as a young child did I not remember the mountain being so harsh at times. Problem with my first thought though was I never finished the ascent many years back. Now older I am glad I did some research before humping on the famous volcano's mountain side again.
Together with we planned our new adventure to Fuji by booking a guided tour. My wife who has no experience in mountaineering at all made the right call by picking the tours that let you stay at a lodge (if you can call it that) for a few hours before going back on the trail for another few hours right before the sunrise. Visiting the website I started to get a bit skeptical as it recommended that you bring boots, thick jacket for cold weather and a headlamp. Our climb was going to be in the end of July and summer was still at its peak so bringing all the thick cold weather gear had me doubting the companies sanity, although the other items made sense headlamp as we would be trekking at night and boots because the rocks on Mt.Fuji can do a real number on your feet when you make your way down if you don't keep them protected. I then started thinking did they make a mistake on their site or did my childhood memories deceive me? No matter I was determined to do some research online and to my surprise they were right! The Mt. Fuji summit EVEN in the summer can go to freezing temperatures I found large blocks of ice while we were up there! If you take anything away from this post believe when they say prepare for freezing temperatures!
Do not be inconsiderate
We signed up for a group tour with an overnight stay in a lodge at the 8th station. At the beginning of our climb, we were instructed to give ourselves a name.. We named our group the Fuji Fighters! After a brief orientation, we set off to start our climb. If you are in a group, you will automatically notice who are the experienced, newbies, and the show offs. Show off are the ones that will climb so fast, sometimes faster than the tour guide, and have no consideration of other people climbing the same path. If somebody is having a hard time climbing, offer help. Do not overstep cause the person right beside you might make a wrong step and fell down. Again, offer help. Be kind.
When we arrived at the 8th station, the lodge was already packed with exhausted climbers like us. We ate our dinner quietly then head outside for a few minutes to take a short video. We were assigned our own sleeping bags, but the lodge was 3 stories fully packed. We were packed like sardines. I thought that people would be considerate of others in this kind of setting, but i was wrong. i actually don't know how to phrase it, but if you don't want to sleep, just simply turn off your lights and make as little noise as possible or please step outside and let others rest. Do not be rude.
Do not climb with someone you don't like
Climbing Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest and most visited mountain can make a lifelong memories. Do you want to remember climbing Mt. Fuji with a smile and a little bit of warmth? Of course! Climbing for 6 hours on the first day and another 10 hours on the second day with barely 3 hours of sleep, for the lack of a better word, is extremely exhausting. It could bring out the best or worst in a person, so if you are already annoyed with the person you are with on normal sea level, imagine what you would feel 3776m above sea level combined with sweat, exhaustion and extreme weather.
As we sat on top of the summit, waiting for the sunrise, i rested my head on his shoulder and i knew that i will always remember this moment. Not only I had seen many wonderful things with in 24 hours, but i had enjoyed them with the person that i love the most.
Traveling, exploring or climbing can open your world a little bit wider, so try to bring somebody you want to be with you.
About Station 5
Station 5 is were most Fuji trekkers taking the Yoshida trail begin their ascent towards the great summit that is Mt.Fuji. A total of 9 stations plus the summit is what's in store for you if you so choose this trail which what most tours take you on including the one we took.
Station 5 has
All at your disposal before you long hike towards the top of the mountain. Here you can buy the famous walking stick souvenirs you get for climbing Fuji-san. Each stop/station will brand your walking stick for a fee of 200/300 YEN meaning you've completed the climb thus far at the end you want to have all stamps branded on your stick as your bragging trophy to show off when you leave for home.
What to wear
If you plan to do a day hike 12 grueling hours trekking is what's in store for you. In our case a two day hike we get dinner and a place to sleep after getting to station 8 then start walking again in the darkness until we make sunrise. The best part about a day hike is it doesn't get as cold but you need to make a faster pace if you intend on getting back to station 5 before or the bus leaves and you're stuck there. The good thing with the two day hike is you have to leisurely make your way to station 8 to sleep but the worse part about is trekking at night to reach the sunrise this is where the freezing temperatures come into play.
Here is a side by side of what the guide was wearing during the beginning (left side) and the night trek (right side). The guide who is used to the ordeal doesn't seem to have changed much but for newbies like my wife and I we were transformed into Eskimos.
We may not look too cold in the photo but believe me we were freezing and hoped we brought more layers like everyone else.
A few things to bring
From our two day hike experience I recommend bringing these items above some may seem like you wouldn't need them but better safe than sorry.
Do not forget to snack or drink water
One of the best things about having a tour guide is he knows when to stop and take a little break. He would also inform us if we will be heading to a difficult path so we can be prepared. Take this opportunity to sit, to stretch, to drink water and to take a little bit of snack to help you on your way. We were instructed to bring at least 2 Liters of water, but if you cant carry that much water don't worry you can buy water or energy drinks at each stations. Just be prepared to pay extra.
Do not forget to breath
If you are not an experienced hiker there is a real possibility of altitude sickness which includes, dizziness, headache and even vomiting. (We saw this happened to one of the climbers in the lodge where we stayed). Our body will let us know if we need help. Please do not ignore the signs, slow down, drink water, take a deep breath or even take a few breaths from a portable oxygen if you have to. Better safe than sorry.
Do not forget about the descent. (There are no stores to buy from on your way down)
People might think that the hardest part of Mt. Fuji is climbing the summit, but in our case it was the descent. It felt like a never ending downhill which consist of thick volcanic sand and stones that you have to slide, slip, or shuffle to reach the 5th station. a very good footwear is a must because you want your ankles to be fully supported. We only have a little bit of water left after we reached the 8th station on our descend. Thinking that the descend would not be as bad as the climb and there would be a store that we can buy water on the way down, we set off to start our journey down. We were not prepared at all. The sun was up, no trees, no clouds or anything to cover us, we were thirsty. Nowhere to buy water and nowhere to hide from the sun. It was horrible. We ended up extremely exhausted and thirsty with swollen feet and swollen ankles. (We forgot that we started the second day of our climb at 1 am and only stopped for 40 mins at the summit to watch the sunrise, after that we didn't actually have a proper break)