Preparing to Summit Mt. Fuji
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
So you want to hike to the top of Japan's highest peak?
Us too! And we're all ready to go for this weekend. Fingers crossed we get a clear morning and a gorgeous sunrise!
Here's everything you need to do and know before you attempt this climb:
1. Choose when to climb. Climbing season is from the beginning of July to the beginning of September, and the best times to go are at the beginning or end of that window to avoid the biggest crowds during school breaks and holidays. We're just barely getting our climb in before the window closes. You can still hike outside of the official season, but there are fewer resources available to hikers and conditions are significantly more harsh.
2. Choose a trail. There are four trails to the top of Fuji: Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya. Yoshida is the most commonly traveled, as it's conveniently reached and has the most facilities for hikers. It's highly recommended for first time hikers of Fuji, though Subashiri has more tree coverage. Gotemba is a bit longer than the others, and Fujinomiya is a bit shorter. All trails have stations numbered 1 to 10 and 90% of hikers start from the 5th station of one of them which can be reached by bus. Some hike from the base, but that adds another 5-7 hours to the hike.
3. Book a mountain hut. If you're planning to hike in the afternoon, stay the night, and summit before sunrise, you'll need to book a mountain hut beforehand. Camping isn't allowed. This website charges about $10 as a booking fee and then you pay for the reservation in cash upon arrival. Alternately, you can book yourself if you speak Japanese OR you can hike through the night, skipping the sleeping thing all together.
4. Make sure you have all the right gear. We recommend: a hiking backpack with a water reservoir (at least 2 liters) and a rain cover, hiking poles, and a headlamp for the early morning climb to catch sunrise. If visiting Japan briefly, gear can be rented for the climb. Since we're here for a bit longer and hiking in multiple locations, we brought our gear along and purchased a few things. I've got a CamelBak backpack that holds 3 liters of water, a rain cover, Black Diamond hiking poles, and a Black Diamond headlamp.
5. Make sure you have all the right attire. The key to dressing for Fuji is layers. Even during the summer, temps can reach below freezing at the top, so make sure to pack layers that you can add on as you go up in elevation. I'm wearing/packing a hat, a beanie, gloves that will keep my hands dry with Smartwool glove liners that will keep them warm, a North Face rain jacket with a fleece layer, a North Face long sleeve base layer, a LuLuLemon sports bra/tank, Threads 4 Thought yoga pants, Prana pants for a top layer, Montbell hiking socks, Oboz hiking shoes, and a buff for the dusty hike back down.
Update: I also brought along thinker Smartwool socks for the freezing summit!
6. Maybe do some stair climbers at the gym? Not a bad idea, but who has the time? I've been doing a lot of walking around Osaka and the amount of stairs I go up and down to take the subway really should cover it!
7. Check the conditions. We've been obsessively checking this site, which sometimes freaks us out and sometimes leads to relief. It lets hikers know if there are any weather warnings or advisories that may affect an upcoming hike. About a week before ours, it announced a rock slide making summiting from our planned trail (the one we're stuck with because we booked a hut on it) impossible. Thankfully, a couple days later, it also announced that all routes were available, so it must have been cleared.
8. Pack snacks and coins. Always pack snacks. Some of the mountain hut reservations come with dinner and breakfast and food and drinks are available for purchase along the way, but for an unsurprising premium. It's always a good idea to pack some dried fruit and nuts for munching during a long hike. This is a first for having to bring coins on a hike though. In true Japanese fashion, everything on Fuji is cash-based and there's a fee to use the bathrooms--about 200 yen (roughly $2.00), so those 100 yen coins will come in handy.
Pack that coin purse and get up the mountain!
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