Unsuccessfully Climbing Mt. Fuji: A Tired Tale
I didn’t think we were going to start our Mt. Fuji climb at 12:38am…but that’s what we did. From the start, I was already tired since I arrived in Japan at 5am that morning and worked a full day before getting on the redeye flight. There was very little sleep on the flight due to my large seatmate elbowing me during the flight. But let’s climb Mt. Fuji!
The taxi dropped us off at the 5th station for the Fujinomiya trail. That’s as far as you can drive up the mountain. Once we arrived, it was a little unclear where the trail started. We walked up the road (of course!) to this large light and saw a sign that showed the trails.
As we moved further from the light, we were hiking in complete darkness. Our group of four was equipped with two headlamps, a flashlight and a glowstick. The trail was full of loose gravel and what seemed to be an endless vertical climb. Along the trail, the boundaries are marked off with ropes to the left and right.
After some time, our eyes adjusted to the darkness and the trail was lit by the stars and the moon. Although it’s very tiring starting the climb at night, it was a great experience being to stargaze while hiking. An even better bonus for me was that no one else was hiking at that time. Just so we don’t get slowed down by the crowds of people.
An hour into the hike, Jin’s backpack broke when we took a food break. I split my bag with him, but that was double the weight for half the time. We took a lot of snack breaks.
I was struggling with the hike. After 90 minutes of hiking, our group of four split up. Andy moved the fastest and Eric not too far behind. Jin and I were the slowest of the group but kept going.
I remember carry my liter bottle of water. It was very heavy. I wanted to drink a lot of it so I wouldn’t have to carry it. I heard we could buy things at the stations but they were all closed as we were climbing up.
When we arrived at the 8th station, that’s when we started running into more hikers. We were having a conversation as we were walking past the 8th station and someone whispered to keep our voices down. That’s when I noticed there were a bunch of hikers along the wall of the station sleeping. This was around 3:30am. We also saw several people slightly off the trail camping on the way up.
After the 8th station I had to put on my jacket and gloves because of the cold temperature and the wind. The back of my t-shirt was sweaty from carry the backpack and that wouldn’t get dry. I should have packed an extra shirt. I put the gloves on but I should have done that sooner. My hands wouldn’t feel warm until after taking shelter in the 9th station (later that morning). I didn’t need to put on a jacket earlier since I felt warm because we were moving pretty fast.
Halfway between the 8th and 9th station we took a break and realized the sun was already starting to rise. We watched it for awhile and the continued to the 9th station for shelter. I was so cold and sleepy. My vision was blurry. I ordered a hot chocolate for 400JPY and it came in the tiniest cup. It wasn’t very good. I was hungry so I also ordered a bowl of udon for 800JPY. Hungry, cold and tired…and yet I found it to be the worst udon I’ve ever had. I ended up drinking the broth just because it was warm. The noodles were left uneaten because they were so bad that consuming them would impact my happiness.
Even though the station was heated, it took sometime before I felt warm again. I packed a raincoat that I didn’t use, but later realized I should have put that on to stay warm!
We waited at the 9th station for an hour hoping that we’d run into Eric and Andy on the way down. Inside the station I noticed that there was a sign for free wi-fi. I took out my phone and noticed I also had cell phone service. Nice work Japan! Always connected. I texted Eric and Andy said we’d meet them back at the 5th station. When we all met up at the hotel in the afternoon, we found out they were waiting for us at the top for an hour.
It was only an hour hike to the top of Mt. Fuji, but Jin and I were dying. We were more concerned with, “How are we going to make it down the mountain?” Jin strained his leg on the way up and I felt like a zombie. I just wanted to sleep. That was my motivation to make it down the mountain with no strength.
Before we left the 9th station I saw that they sold these wooden hiking sticks for 1500JPY. I’m pretty cheap about buying things but I broke and purchased the stick. The stick is pretty much a sanded down stick with annoying bells on them. I got a few splinters from the stick so I used some tissues I had as a grip. Two hours into the downhill climb, I was annoyed by the bells and realized I could just take them off and put them in my backpack. The stick ended up being worth buying since the climb down is very slippery. Even with the stick, I slipped a few times. A few times I had to grab the rope along the trail for balance. That rope is surprisingly strong.
When we made it back down to the 5th Station, we waited for the rest of our group. Luckily, there’s cell phone service on the mountain so we were able to stay in contact. The other two guys took a different trail by mistake (at the suggestion of another non-Japanese hiker). While waiting for a response I enjoyed some ice cream at the station.
Jin and I continued back to Fujiyama by taxi for 9000JPY:
Total time spent on Mt. Fuji for Jin and I was 8.5 hours to get to the 9th station and back. With 2 hours of sitting around 6.5 hour to the 9th station and back isn’t too bad.