This post doesn’t get a clever title because
- I am extremely tired after being up for 24+ hours
- The experience was no joke
I had the idea to hike Mt. Fuji before coming to Japan, but it didn’t become a reality until Annabel and I bought our bus tickets one evening back in July. Even then, it was an event to look forward to far off in the distance. Until yesterday.
We left Tokyo around 7:30pm on Sunday and arrived to Mt. Fuji Yoshida Trail 5th Station around 10pm. Once there, we got all geared up in hiking boots, rain gear, headlamps, and gloves that we rented (we soon learned they were worth every penny). Our plan was similar to many others: to hike up Fuji overnight in order to catch the sunrise in the morning at the summit. With much excitement, we started what we were told would be an intermediate 6 hour hike.
*Cue narrator* “It was not an intermediate 6 hour hike.”
Between rests, cold rain, high winds, and dense fog we took 8 hours to make it to the summit. Lack of sleep due to hiking overnight and altitude sickness didn’t help either! There were many times when we were on all fours climbing up rocks. At one point, Annabel and I had decided to leave the 2 guys we had met from Luxembourg behind and trek on while they stopped to eat. Soon after, both our headlamps began to die, the rain and wind picked up and there were no other hikers around us unlike other parts of the trail. We both quietly understood that this was kinda scary, but continued on as the only way to go was up. Luckily, the sun began to peep out at the point and we were able to hike in the dawn light.
There were a couple times when resting that I questioned whether we would actually make it. However, I soon realized that there was no way to go back the way we came and had a renewed motivation to make it to the top. Sadly, we did not make it to the summit to see the sunrise, but were able to witness it from the mountainside. We later learned this didn’t matter though as the summit was FREEZING with 0 visibility. Annabel and I could barely feel our fingers to press the buttons on my phone to snap a few pics. I had worried that as a California girl, I would be far underprepared for anything besides 70 and sunny, but others had it much worse. There were many hikers huddled at the summit in simple sneakers and (soaked) fleece jackets.
After spending maybe 15 minutes at the top, we took a moment to motivate each other while shivering in a mens bathroom turned shelter from the elements. We knew we only had 5 hours to descend a 4 hour path (and considering our ascent this worried us), so it was with great determination that we made our way to the trail head. Luckily, as we shuffled down the volcanic ash, the temperature became more bearable and we were able to easily hold a conversation as the effects of the altitude wore off. Multiple slips later, we made it back to the 5th station soaked, but feeling accomplished (and in only 3 hours!)
Hiking Mt. Fuji was an amazing once in a lifetime experience – stress on the word once in accordance with the Japanese proverb below.
“A wise man will climb Mt Fuji once; a fool will climb Mt Fuji twice.”