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Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Mt. Fuji on 07/01/2009 20:54:28 MDT Print View

My son (20) is traveling to Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) in early August. One of his goals is to climb Mt. Fuji. He is in good condition and has hiked and backpacked a bit, but doesn't have much experience at any altitude other than skiing in Colorado the last few years. I would greatly appreciate any tips, suggestions, cautions, warnings, etc. He is planning to take a bus or train from Tokyo to the mountain and make it a day trip.

Thanks!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Mt. Fuji on 07/01/2009 22:30:02 MDT Print View

Mt Fuji is one the easiest mountains in Japan to climb. It's just high (3,776 m/ 12,388 ft). Basically you just take a bus from one of the train stations surrounding the volcano (the most popular starting station is Kawaguchiko, which is also the easiest and fastest to get to from Tokyo, though I started from Gotemba) to the eight climbing station up the flank of the mountain and start walking from there. The path is VERY well marked (tens of thousands of people climb the mountain every year) and the climb just goes zigzagging up. You don't even need a map. All sorts of people climb, including people wearing high heels and who never even go for strolls down their neighborhood streets. There are mountain huts along the way selling (at premium prices) food and drinks and trinkets. A post office sits on the summit. Most people will opt to climb starting at dusk and climb during the night because during the day the summer sun will bake you on the treeless, bright colored volcanic ash covered slopes.

In spite of how easy it is there are precautions that everyone should take, but that a lot of people don't listen to. It is high, so there is a chance that some people might develop altitude sickness. I developed a slight headache and was dizzy from the lack of oxygen, but nothing serious. Here and there a few people carry oxygen canisters so as to get their breath back.

Also, since there is no protection the wind can get really wild up there, bringing freezing rain and even snow even during the summer. At the summit dawn can be bitterly cold, so it is wise to bring a warm jacket and waterproofs.

The official climbing season is August, at other times of the year the mountain is officially "closed" though people climb it all year. Up until the middle of June there is snow on the summit and, unless you are an experienced mountaineer, I wouldn't recommend climbing the mountain before June. September is typhoon season and being up on the mountain in those conditions is definitely not something I would want to experience, so checking the weather situation is important.

For a first time mountain walk Mt. Fuji may be a good start. It's easy, nothing technical, and there are lots of people around to help out if something goes wrong. But personally, other than the one time I climbed it, it isn't a very interesting mountain to climb. As Alan Booth, a great writer about Japan, once stated, it's like "walking up a giant ash tray". If you want a high mountain that is also interesting and challenging, and not too hard, try Karasawa in the North Japan Alps.

Still, as the Japanese saying goes,
"A fool to never climb Mt. Fuji,
A fool to twice climb Mt. Fuji.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Mt. Fuji on 07/01/2009 23:18:50 MDT Print View

I've climbed it once- spent the night at the summit doing jumping jacks while wearing trash bags with a bunch of Korean students to stay warm (we had to empty the 3 trash cans to get the bags). I didn't speak a word of Korean and they had no English skills and we had an absolute blast sharing the little food we had and joking through the night.

There are so many types climbing that mountain, from kids to little grandmas to people that looked like they've never climbed stairs.

The atmosphere was one giant, crowded party. It felt like there might have been 1,000 people going up and down it that day.

Your son will be fine. It's a worthwhile experience- he should definitely climb it. Sunrise the following morning was one of the best I've ever seen.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
"Mt. Fuji" on 07/02/2009 00:41:23 MDT Print View

Jim,
I've climbed Fuji 4 times (I live in Japan). My recommendation to your son is to make it an over-night (hiking) trip. That way he can wait at the top and see the sunrise at about 0430. Then catch a morning bus back to Tokyo.
Catch a morning bus from Shinjuku South bus terminal to Kawaguchiko (station 5, 50% up the mountain). Climb at a leisurely pace so as to get to the summit at 3AM or so,(that should average about 6 hours, plus breaks but a healthy young person can do it in 3.5) watch a spectacular sunrise, and hike down for the bus ride home.

A UL packing list for an overnight on Fuji is here:
http://tokyotrekkingcircle.wordpress.com/2007/08/18/%E5%AF%8C%E5%A3%AB%E5%B1%B1%E7%99%BB%E5%B1%B1%E6%8C%81%E3%81%A1%E7%89%A9%E3%83%AA%E3%82%B9%E3%83%88/
DO take a down jacket it can be 0C or less at the top with the wind chill.
If your son or anyone else wants more details, contact me via my profile.

Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Mt. Fuji on 07/02/2009 15:27:24 MDT Print View

Thank you all very much! I will pass this on to Scott. You guys are sort of the "old guard" of BPL, and I trust your advice and judgement implicitly. It is greatly appreciated.

Yohei Aoyagi
(zzz_bear) - MLife

Locale: Tokyo
Re: Mt. Fuji on 07/03/2009 04:57:58 MDT Print View

Jim,

I'm Japanese.
Welcome to Japan!

Mt.Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, and very popular.
Hiking up Mt.Fuji is not difficult, but be careful about high altitude and cold.
Your son will be able to hike up the top!

I recommend hiking up on weekday.
Because many people crowd very much on weekend.

The sunrise seeing from mountain is called "Goraikou" in Japanese. Seeing goraikou from Fuji is very beautiful and spectacular.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Re: Mt. Fuji on 07/03/2009 05:40:55 MDT Print View

"I recommend hiking up on weekday.
Because many people crowd very much on weekend."

That's good advice - Fuji is now astonishingly busy on the weekends in the climbing season.

When I climbed it in 1991 with my girlfriend (now wife) I thought it was crowded, but it's far, far busier now.

I slept in a hut on the way up but I wouldn't do that again, it was an absolute fire trap.

And, even though it will seem stupid at the hot, humid base of the mountain your son should definitely take warm clothing because it will be around zero at the top pre-dawn. I found that out the hard way.

On the other hand, the sunrise was stunning and I have a panorama photo of the summit Torii outlined against the rising sun that's on my wall still.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Mt. Fuji on 07/03/2009 06:01:28 MDT Print View

One more piece of advice: the volcanic ash and sharp rocks are very hard on shoes. Wear a pair of shoes that you don't mind trashing. Using short gaiters to keep as much of the ash out as possible might also be a good idea. I used plastic grocery bags held closed by a rubber band. Ash still got in.

The recommendation to hike during the week is very good advice. When I climbed on a Friday evening there were times I literally had to stand in line waiting for the people above me to move on. I didn't mind it so much going up. It was at night and the long line of flashlights from thousands of walkers coming up from down below was actually quite beautiful.

It is traditional to buy a wooden walking staff and get a brand at each station as you walk up. There are actually stations from all the way down at the base of the mountain, but almost no one walks from the bottom to the eighth station. That is a very long walk and would probably take two days to get to the summit. Almost everyone starts at the eighth station and climbs from there.

Edited by butuki on 07/03/2009 06:04:20 MDT.

M v
(ohcool2009) - F
Climbing end of August on 08/01/2009 12:51:15 MDT Print View

Hi, I will be visting Tokyo end of August and would like to take my two kids to watch the sunrise at Mount Fuji. I read that the climbing season ends at last week of August for weather factor. What is the chance of climbing on August 31?
P.S. I have never climb any mountain before, my two kids have backpacking experiences (not at high altitude), what would be the receommend itinerary for us?

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Climbing end of August on 08/01/2009 18:41:00 MDT Print View

Hello M v,

Most people who climb Mt. Fuji have never climbed a mountain before so you'll have LOTS of company! :)

Mt. Fuji only "officially" closes, but people climb the mountain all year. I suspect that the closing date is more for protection for the many many people who've never had any outdoor experience at all.

September is the beginning of typhoon season. You definitely do not want to be up there during a typhoon. Just check the weather and make sure no typhoons are around and you should be fine right until the end of September. After that it gets really cold at the top and only experienced mountaineers should attempt the mountain.

Mt. Fuji is dangerous in bad weather because it is completely exposed on all sides. It takes the brunt of all the weather from the ocean to the south. It is so big that it creates its own weather patterns. And since there is no shelter on its flanks the winds get very strong. So you have to watch the weather carefully.

The thing you have to watch, too, at the time of year you want to go, is bus access. Often, with the end of climbing season, the bus service is shut down, too, and getting there without a car is very difficult. If you rent a car you will have no problem, but then along the way up, all the mountain huts and the store with food at the top will be closed. You have to make sure you bring the necessary food and water for the trip up and down. Most likely there will be other post official season climbing, especially foreigners who don't listen to the official season dates (remember this is the country that officially closes beaches at the end of August, even though the weather is hot and summery!)

I just emphasize this: don't underestimate Mt. Fuji. It is famous as a tourist destination, but it is still a high and volatile mountain. It is not an afternoon stroll. The climb is very hard on your knees and you will be exhausted after the long descent through soft ash. During the day it can be brutally hot one moment and freezing the next. Make sure you have all the proper equipment: the ten essentials, rainwear, sunglasses, food, water, sun cream, a warm insulating layer, some form of shelter like a tarp or survival bag.

That said, every year thousands of completely unprepared people do the climb, so with a little preparation you should be fine. Have fun!

PS: If by chance it is not possible to climb Mt. Fuji I would suggest making an attempt at Kitadake, just west of Mt. Fuji. It is the second highest mountain in Japan and there is no closing date, though too late in the year (usually about the end of October) and bus service stops. It is a bit more serious than Mt. Fuji, but a lot more interesting and varied. You will have a wonderful view of Mt. Fuji from the top. There are quite a number of mountain huts along the way, so you will only need to bring basic shelter for emergencies. You can do a two-day, there and back trip, or a six-day, much more involved traverse of the range. To get there take the Azusa Limited Express from Shinjuku station to Kofu and from Kofu take a bus (or if you have the money, taxi) to Hirogawara. Climb from there. Pretty straightforward.

Edited by butuki on 08/01/2009 18:47:51 MDT.

M v
(ohcool2009) - F
Re: Re: Climbing end of August on 08/05/2009 14:59:28 MDT Print View

Hi Miguel,
Thanks for all the information. Since this is my first trip to Japan, I am debating whether I want to make it memorable to see the magnificient sunrise or take it easy and tour Hakone. As an inexperience mountaineer, I can only climb when the bus and huts are available, I can't affort to take too much risk.
It's a difficult decision because it is end of the official climbing season.
Deciding to climb means carrying a lot more gear to Japan (from Canada) and still need to cope with change of plan due to weather. Then it's the decision to start early the day before or start the night before. Some of the article I read talks about higher risk of altitude effect if we start at night and rush up the mountain.
Do you know of anyone experiencing altitude effect during the climb?

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Climbing end of August on 08/05/2009 16:44:48 MDT Print View

A lot of people get effects from the altitude. Quite a few walkers take canned oxygen to help them breathe better. I was pretty dizzy when I got near the top, though it wasn't anything bad. I was also quite out of breath. The thing which is dangerous, though, is when people start getting severe headaches and they continue climbing out of a sense of macho duty. Mt. Fuji is not high enough to really bring on acute altitude sickness, but I saw quite a number of people who were severely debilitated by their headaches and nausea. If you start getting those symptoms the smart thing is to sit down and wait. If it persists it's time to turn back. At Mt. Fuji altitude levels (as compared to the much higher levels of the Himalaya or even the Alps in Europe) it is the need for acclimation that causes the problems. If you walk up very slowly over two days you will be better off than if you make a lightning ascent.

Keep in mind, however, that tens of thousands of people, mostly inexperienced city folk, climb Mt. Fuji every year (by far the highest number of walkers to climb any mountain in Japan) and most of them have no trouble at all. You do not need to be an experienced mountain walker to climb Mt. Fuji.

If you were here at any other time I'd lend you equipment to walk, but, get this, I'm heading to Vancouver tomorrow for a month of walking the mountains there!

View of Mt. Fuji at dawn from the flank of Kitadake, the second highest mountain in Japan (yes, I took the photo):

Lavender Fuji

Edited by butuki on 08/05/2009 16:55:34 MDT.