Mount Fuji had a majestic sea of clouds at the summit at sunrise. It came with a lot of challenge though with the long ascent, the technical surface and the freezing cold climate.
Mount Fuji was a two day trek with the first day being a climb from Station 5 at 2,305 MASL to our hut at 3,400 MASL. The second day is the assault to the summit at 3,766 MASL and the long descent back to Station 5. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and is among its top tourist attraction.
Trekking Mount Fuji
We had a total of 5 days in Japan with two of those days allotted for the climb. We stayed at Sakura Asakusa Hotel, which was near a temple and main tourist areas. It’s about a 4 hours bus ride from Asakusa to Station 5 in Fujiyama, which is the common starting point of the hike to Mount Fuji. After arriving at noon, we spent about an hour in Station 5 for lunch and to slowly acclimatize for the climb. There were thousands of trekkers for the day as July and August are climbing season for Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji can also be a day hike but we opted to chase sunrise so we’ll be having a 2 day hike.
Day 1 – Route Map and Elevation (2,305 MASL to 3,400 MASL)
Starting from Station 5 at 2,305 MASL, the route goes on a short rolling terrain on the first kilometer before through zig zag trails and technical terrains on the next 4.5 kilometers covering about 1,100 meters worth of climbs.
Day 1 Climb
Day 1 was the tougher part of the climb with a total ascent of 1,095 meters starting from 2,305 MASL at Station 5. The difficult part is that you have to trek it with trekking bags, which is around 7-8 kilograms. For a trekker, that’s a usual routine for them but for a trail runner like me, I am more used navigating the trail light. It’s gonna be a slow hike so I’ll manage. The first kilometer has a slightly rolling descent to the trail head before entering the moderate ascent on dirt surfaces.
Time to Regroup
After the first hut at around 1.5 kilometers, we had to regroup at the fork near the hut. It was to remind us to familiarize with the area especially on the descent. The fork leads to another trail and part of Japan so we shouldn’t miss the spot or risk entering uncharted territories.
Zig Zag Path
The first set of trails were zig zag path, which was more manageable. You can shorten the ascent by taking several corners at a time. The weather had several changes on this stretch. There were warm parts though mostly it was cold and chilly. There were several huts were you can check in and have your stick stamped. It would be a good souvenir though it was a bit costly as one stamp would be 300 to 500 yen.
Despite the ascent, it was faster to move at this stretch. It helps that we were looking forward to our next souvenir stamp. The load from the trekking bags were still manageable at this time.
It helped a lot that we were trekking as a group as it’s added motivation. The Zigzag paths lasted until 2,700 MASL or around 3.2 kilometers from the start.
The trails shifted to more technical rock formations. I went on a more reactive and strategic approach where you adjust each stride on the granite rock surfaces. We started to slow down on the more technical course.
It was starting to get colder. We had to manage our breaks as it also meant that we’d be exposed to the cold longer and lose the warmth of our body heat from the trek. I started to feel the burden of the hiking bag especially after each break. I had to rely on my mental mindset that this is the harder part of the trek since the we’d go lighter on the assault.
2,900 MASL and counting
It’s continuing to persevere amidst the elevation, exhaustion and the cold climate. The view gets better as you go up. It also nice to see that there are a lot of hikers along the trail.
We started slowing down a bit at 3,000 MASL as we’re prone to altitude sickness at this level. We took a brief rest at each hut and resume again.
Crossing into the night
It was starting to go dark as the day crosses into the night. The temperature also drops and the chilly wind can be punishing too. The tracks go back to the zigzag path but this time the surface was a lot more challenging. It was loose soil and rocks, which can really drag your pace. We took a rest after several corners.
It was dark and it made the surface a lot more challenging since it’s harder to adopt to the surface when you can barely see it. We then made our way to our hut at 3,400 MASL. It was time to rest and we’ll chase the early morning sun rise starting at 3am.
Day 2 – Route Map and Elevation (3,400 MASL to 3,766 MASL and back to 3,400 MASL)
Starting at 3,400 MASL, the trail goes on a long zigzag trail to the summit at around 1.3 kilometers. The summit is a wide area, which includes the crater of the volcano. The route goes back through another zigzag trail back to 3,400 MASL.
Day 2 Climb
I’ve already gathered a lot of memories in my stick, it was time to finish of this adventure. I added more layers for day 2 as the 7 degrees at our hut would be even colder at the summit at 2-3 degrees.
It was freezing cold heading to the summit. The trails were back to the zigzag trails with the loose surfaces that tends to add drag to each stride. It was a slow climb as there were numerous sunrise chasers too. The good thing was that it was not exhausting because of slower ascent caused by the queue.
It was a nice sight seeing the unison of headlamps from the long queue of hikers in the dark. The trek felt easier now since we were just on our assault packs.
We arrived at the summit area in less than two hours and had a lot of time before the sunrise. I had my stick stamp for the summit, which was the last stamp for the collection. I enjoyed every minute of admiring the sea of clouds, which felt more like an ocean to me. The effort to see such beauty is really worth every moment at the summit.
Sunset view above the clouds was even better. You can appreciate every single second of the sun slowly ascending above the clouds signaling the transition from the dark to the light. It’s humbling to see a beauty as natural as this one.
Touring the Summit
The summit was huge and it also had the crater area of the Volcano. There’s also another long trek if you want to see another perspective of the summit but this was the best part of the summit. It was really coldwith strong chilly winds that really sinks into your core.
Since it was really cold, we decided to start our descent back to the hut. The surface had loose soil so it was like sliding your way down with a large probability of falling. I cushioned each step with a pole for added balance and I also tried running some stretches as the faster cadence would limit the drag caused by the loose surface. It was a crazy challenge on its own.
Day 2 Descent Route Map and Elevation Profile
The descent was a straight descent along zigzag trails covering more than a thousand meters worth of descent heading back to the 5th Station. The surface was slippery with loose soil and rocks.
Descending Back to Station 5
After having our breakfast at our hut, it was time to go down. I went with the first group with Darren as our guide. The descent were on loose soil and rocky grounds. It was a lot tougher as every time you would step, you would slide on the surface.
I struggled on the first few kilometers of the descent taking tiny steps to prevent myself from falling. This is my first in a surface this loose and slippery. I started to be familiar with the trail surface later and was able to speed up.
There were also rains about two kilometers heading to Station 5 so we had to secure our back packs. What I appreciate on the descent was that it gave us a different view. There were also areas with clearer skies to see some forested parts of the mountains. We then made our way back to Station 5 after meeting the lead pack at the fork.