Days 10 and 11 in Japan were solely focused on hiking to the top of Mt Fuji. We slept in that morning because the plan was to start hiking Fuji in the afternoon, sleep on the mountain and then get to the summit in time to see the sunrise. This method is pretty much the norm among hikers and we were hiking during the busiest week of the year. My friend and I stopped at a Subway (yes the sandwich place in the states) and had breakfast. We also stopped by a nearby convenience store to grab a few extra eats and some water for our trek.
In my pack I had a pair of pants, a hoodie, 2-2liters of water, spare socks and some food. *Spoiler alert* Notice the above paragraph and notice the lack of certain things packed, such as a light and more clothes.
The morning was spent train hopping a bit until we got to the place where we were to switch to a bus. At this point it was the middle of the afternoon. Our originally planned bus was actually canceled so we didn’t board the bus to get to the base of Fuji until almost 3PM. We grabbed another quick bite to eat and boarded the bus.
The next hour and a half was spent on the bus driving through fog, and clouds to get to our base station. We got to our starting point around 4:30, we were already a couple hours behind where we wanted to be at in terms of time. We purchased a couple walking sticks so we could get wood burnings in them as we reached certain stations.
The base of the mountain was pretty wooded and the trails were pretty easy to hike. Certain areas of the early path was even paved for hikers. We kept up with our fluids and took small snack breaks every so often to keep up our calorie intake. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to have to suffice on granola bars and bananas too much, so I wanted to keep kind of full as I hiked.
As we hiked through the woods, we would find some outlook points where we could look back and see down the side of the mountain and get a peak at the peak as well. It was a little unbelievable at the time to think we were going to make the journey. The clouds were really moving by the peak and the summit would clear at one point and then behind the clouds and fog another.
At this point we had put on our extra clothes since the elevation had made it drastically cooler than we had experienced before we got on the bus. The air was a lot cooler and humidity wasn’t a factor.
We reached our first check point and got our first wood burnings as well. We sat at a table and took a little bit of an extended break. We were making pretty solid time as we were making our way to a hut that we had reservations for that night.
The next section of trail was again wooded but trees were starting to thin out a bit. As we made our way out of the trees we were now hiking in the wide open space and night time was starting to creep in. We made it to another checkpoint and my friend was starting to get tired.
After a long break we started our journey again as night time fell upon us. It was now pretty dark, the lights in the cities below the mountain were starting to turn on. A little time passed after we started hiking again and my friend couldn’t go any more. We formulated a plan where he would go back down to the station and we would meet up tomorrow. There was a distinct trail we were on so we knew if we stayed on the trail we would meet up the next day.
I continued to climb up the mountain solo, for all of the things we read online about the busy season, we didn’t see a whole lot of other hikers. I reached another check station and got my second wood burning.
I tried to make up for some lost time, so I had a brief stop and kept pushing on. As the night sky continued to get darker, I could see fireworks from cities below having their festivals for the season.
It was starting to get cool out, so I hiked to stay warm. The night sky had gotten so dark that it was hard to see in front of your face without a light. With no place to rest at I pushed on through the night.
Between the hours of around 1AM to 4AM I had several thoughts of climbing down the mountain to the station where my friend was staying. These 3 hours were some of the mentally challenging times. I had no light to see the path and the temperature was well cooler than hoodie weather. At this point I had used my bandana to cover my mouth from the wind and I had used my spare pair of socks as mittens. I would sleep outside a check station for less than an hour before I was so cold I had to move, in which I would hike to the next station to warm up and repeat the process.
At each check station i would look for the station our reservation was at to sleep. After not finding it at a few stations and with the hours winding down to when I would have to start my ascent I decided to bypass the hut and just hike. At around 4:30 in the morning I reached a checkpoint where two paths merged and it was jam packed with people. Hikers filled the entire camp, finally I saw the amount of people I read about online.
Hikers had started their ascent to the the top, there was so many people, that there was a line of people hiking towards the top. The line of hikers was so long that by the time people were preparing for the sunrise you could not hike to the top because it was full.
I was one check station below the summit when the sun started to rise. Hikers were cheering as the sun rose and many were taking photos. A storm started rolling in and clouds were blocking the sun at points as they rolled in and out quickly.
After the sun rose people started to descend the summit allowing for others to get to the top. I reached the summit and got my final wood burnings in my hiking stick. I slept at the top of Fuji for a while in a big shelter.
The wind ripped through the summit and clouds rolled over the top that you could see them. The other side of the mountain was even more foggy then the side I climbed.
Our original idea was to climbdown the other side of Fuji but I had to go back to find my friend. The plan we devised last night I was to wait at the top for a few more hours for him. With it being so cold at the summit, or me being so underdressed, I headed back to find him.
As I worked my way down the mountain the fog started to roll in and it started raining. I hiked down to the station he was staying at and didn’t see him. I figured he headed back to the bus stop because we had to be back to the bus my mid afternoon.
The rain continued to fall and the descent trail was soft, loose dirt that filled my shoes as I tried to not fall face down in the dirt. Some hikers were running down the mountain in the dirt, some people slipped and some used the guide rope to stay upright.
I reached the bus station at the base and found my friend, who was dry and was able to stay out of the rain. We hopped on the bus back to the train station and slept for most of the way. As soon as we arrived at the train station we boarded and slept some more.
That night we hung out and talked about our hikes. My friend captured some beautiful sunrise pictures because he was low enough on the mountain he was between cloud layers. My pictures were blocked by clouds.
We grabbed some beef bowls that night and crashed to recover from our hike. I was pretty sure I was going to get some kind of sickness, at least a cold if not pneumonia from that hike, but I actually came out unscathed even when I got back to the states.
It was an awesome hike and it pushed me farther in mental toughness. I was well prepared on the food and water front of the hike but under prepared in terms of clothing. Which is good to know for next time. I had my hiking light and such laid out to take to Japan but they were forgotten at home. I really want to hike Fuji again and hope to get that opportunity again someday 🙂
*(First image is the path pointing us to the trail, second is the wooded area that we hiked in, third is looking up at the summit through the fog and clouds, fourth is a look back at the foot of Fuji, fifth is the same thing only later in the day as night started to fall, sixth is the hike up in the foggy morning, seventh is my clouded sunrise shot, eighth is a shot down at the cities covered by clouds, ninth is the line heading to the summit, tenth is how foggy and cloud covered the summit was, eleventh is how foggy it was at the start of the hike down, and finally the foggy trail further down the mountain).