The Big Adventure Of Climbing Mt. Fuji
It’s the time of year when people get a few precious days off from work, and lots of people take those days to tackle the beast itself and… climb Mt. Fuji!
Now, if you’re a foreigner in Japan, your Japan experience is just not complete without the trip up the mountain. For those who have never done it before, it’s an amazing experience. For those of us who have done it before, well… we’re still tired.
Mt. Fuji is located about due west of Tokyo, just a couple hours drive. Amazingly enough, you can see it on a clear day even where I am in Chiba, east of Tokyo. It’s that big! Also, the Kanto plain is that flat.
Mt. Fuji is 3776 meters high at the top. In American feet, that’s more than 12,000. Yes, we’re talking about climbing up that baby. It’s an all day climb. If you just started hiking and didn’t stop to rest, which would be crazy, it would probably take under 5 hours. With breaks and all, you’re looking at 8 or so.
To the Japanese people, Mt. Fuji is a symbol of everything Japanese. Actually, most people have never climbed Mt. Fuji. For most people, seeing it is enough. There’s a saying I hear every time I mention climbing Mt. Fuji, “You’re a fool if you don’t climb Mt. Fuji once; You’re a real fool if you climb it twice.” I misquoted it, of course, because I don’t remember the exact words, but the point is that it’s something that you have to do once. Twice, and you must be insane.
The great thing about the climb is that you don’t have to do it all. There are stations as you go up, and you can stop at any one and head back. The fifth station is considered halfway, and lots of climbers call it quits there. I will say this: it’s a HARD climb. And, it’s not as pretty as you might think. You will be hiking through big plains of black volcanic rocks for the most part. But, it’s all worth it in the end.
Here are few tips and warnings…
– Bring sunscreen. Some of my friends have come back from their Mt. Fuji climb purple. This is what they told me, “Bring sunscreen.”
– Climb at night and get there for the sunrise. I know, that means walking up a mountain all night, and you may miss some pretty scenery. But, I’ve heard from lots of people that the night climb is worth it for the most spectacular sunrise you’ll ever see.
– It’s cold up there. I don’t care if you pick the hottest day in July, it’s only hot at the bottom. Definitely take jackets or you will freeze your butt off at the top.
– Bring food, water and some changes of clothes. I recommend a couple of shirts and pairs of socks. Wear something comfortable (not jeans). Definitely bring some basic first aid stuff at least.
– Check the weather before you go! There are some horror stories out there about rain and hail on the way to the top. If you have any adverse weather, you’re probably better off heading back down and trying it again next year.