Mt. Fuji (富士山 Fuji-san) is the tallest mountain in Japan at 12,388 feet (3,776 meters). Fuji-san is an active volcano, but it has not erupted since 1707. Mt. Fuji’s perfectly symmetrical cone is well-known throughout Japan and is often depicted on Japanese artwork. It is reported that 300,000 people climb Mt. Fuji every year and approximately 1/3 of the climbers are foreign visitors.
The “official” season to climb Mt. Fuji is during July and August. These are the only 2 months when the mountain is generally free from snow and the mountain huts are in operation.
Our group started the journey by leaving the Shinjuku bus station around 6:00pm on Saturday, August 16.
All of these photos were taken with our small point-and-shoot camera (or they are from some of our friends). When I was packing my bag for the climb, I chose to pack warm clothes and food – rather than my regular camera! 🙂
The bus arrived at the 5th station (the most common starting point) shortly after 8:00pm.
The climbing crew…
At 9:00pm, we started out for a long night of climbing!
The beginning of the climb was a casual walk. We could look off to the side of the mountain and see the glow of the city below. We stopped for a picture early on…
Yes, everyone was closing their eyes on purpose. 🙂
I don’t exactly remember where this photo was taken, but maybe somewhere between the 7th (2700 meters / 8858 feet) and one of the 8th (3020 meters / 9908 feet) stations?
There were multiple stops for the 8th station. This one was at 3100 meters (10,170 feet)…only 676 meters (2218 feet) to go!
Everyone responded to the altitude change in their own way… 🙂
I think everyone was beginning to feel the affects of the altitude at this point. We would stop for a short break, eat/drink, and then continue on our way. This was also before the real cold and windy portions of the climb. I still had 1 more jacket to put on!
We brought enough water and food with us, but we did have the option of purchasing items from the mountain huts. There is nothing like spending around $4.00 for a bottle of water. It’s totally worth it if you need it!
Bathrooms were also available at each station. You generally had to pay (or donate) between $0.50 – $2.00 to use a very smelly restroom. Ugh – the smell was horrible.
I like the look on this child’s face. I think this is how we were all feeling by this point in the evening.
Here is an example of one of the mountain huts / stations.
We forgot to take photos while we were going through the difficult terrain (this was probably was a good thing!). The first video will give you a good idea of what things looked like climbing at night.
I’m so glad we had headlamps! Some of the terrain required you to use your hands to climb up very large rocks. We had to be very careful where we stepped during these portions of the climb. The closer we got to the top, the slower the climb became. The climb was a “true climb” at this point and people were obviously exhausted. People would constantly pull off into any available space to rest, sleep, or catch a few breaths on their oxygen cans.
Overall, we felt pretty good. The worst part for me was the cold and wind. My fingers and toes were so cold at this point that I had to try to move in place in order to keep warm and to stay awake. I really wanted to fall asleep, but we did everything we could to stay awake and warm (while clinging to the side of a mountain)!
This video will give you an idea of some of the easier terrain…
A look at some of the slightly more difficult terrain…
At 4:30am and 7.5 hours of climbing – we finally reached the summit! Reaching the top was kind of like finishing another marathon, except this took a lot longer than a marathon!! Even though the trek to the top was slow and cold, the timing could not have been better. The sunrise took place shortly before 5:00am. (Pictures to come in Part 2!)
When we arrived at the summit, people were huddled near the edge of the mountain, facing east. It kind of looked like a scene from March of the Penguins, with everyone sitting down and huddled together.
The weather would rapidly change at the summit. Incoming clouds…
Matching suits anyone?
We found an opening in the crowd and waited for the sun to rise…
Check back for Part 2 – which will include pictures of the beautiful sunrise!