Climb Japan's highest peak, volcano

27 Mar

CLIMB JAPAN’S HIGHEST PEAK, VOLCANO  Climbing to the summit of Japan’s highest mountain, Mt Fuji, is one of the most rewarding experiences an amateur climber can have. The climb was particularly special for me because I recently achieved great weightloss and fitness goals. What better way to celebrate a new healthy lifestyle and to test my fitness than to complete a nine-hour climb, right?

Mt Fuji is Japan’s highest peak. It reaches 3,776m and it is actually a volcano that has been dormant for many years. The last time Mt Fuji erupted was in 1707 and it was reported that volcanic ash reached as far as Tokyo.

The volcano climb, blow by blow

(Note this climb was completed in August 2009 – Japan’s summer)

I take an early bus from Kawaguchiko train station to Mt Fuji’s 5th station (2305km). There are a few shops at the station, including souvenirs, a cafe and a pharmacy, but it’s the end of the road and the only way up from here is to walk. I collect a map from a stand on the side of the road and begin walking with my partner. It feels slightly odd that we can just walk ourselves up a mountain without any assistance, but August is peak climbing season in Japan so dozens of locals are walking along with us.

The ascent to the 6th station is very gradual. I reach the station, which consists of just a few benches and toilets, and continue without a rest. From this point the climb gets more difficult.

By the 8th station my legs become so sore that, rather than walking, I am using all fours to pull myself up over parts of rough terrain just to take some pressure off my leg muscles and onto my arms. Now I realise why all of the Japanese climbers have large walking sticks to assist them. I strongly recommend taking a stick to assist you, despite how daggy it looks.

My legs hurt and my heart is racing. My face is smoking red hot but when I stop to rest for a moment, I become very cold and my chest tightens up. So I continue walking to keep my body temperature stable.

Clouds rush past me and up towards the summit. They circle around the top of the mountain as if they are looking down and mocking me because it was so easy for them to reach the goal. It’s been over four hours now and I’m still on the ascent, but I’m not being overtaken by others so I assure myself that I am doing ok.

I can see the summit now and adrenalin is pumping through my veins. It is the adrenaline that carries me all the way to the top, wearing a smile from ear to ear even though I’m in serious pain.

The summit of Mt Fuji. It's bustling during peak climbing season - July/August.

At first glance, the summit looks like a scene from a movie. There are huts, resting areas, lots of people and even a horse that must have carried supplies to the shop. Shea and I sit in the shop and order green tea to warm our insides. It works a treat.

We make our way to the mind-blowing centre of the volcano …

I celebrate reaching the top of Mt Fuji and the view is worth every second of pain.

Information about the climb

Remember to continue applying sunscreen. This photo was taken the day after the climb - it really hurt!

Mt Fuji is a two and a half hour bus ride west from Tokyo. The mountain is divided into ten stations (from the base to the summit) and there are a number of trails. I took the most direct route to the top, starting from the Kawaguchiko 5th station (2305km). It took me approximately five hours to reach the top which includes a few short rest stops at stations along the way. I spent close to an hour admiring the view from the summit, despite overwhelming clouds and haze that were in the way, and then tackled the downhill track to arrive back at the 5th station another three and a half hours later.

I completed the climb in a full day. However, most tourism companies recommend completing the climb over two days so you can enjoy the summit at sunrise. If I was to complete the climb again, I would try this option just to obtain more time to achieve a decent view because it is usually very cloudy and hazy across the entire region. In fact, even during the days surrounding the climb, I never actually saw Mt Fuji. To complete the climb over two days, start climbing from the 5th station in late afternoon or evening, book accommodation at one of the basic lodges scattered along the trail between the 5th and 8th stations (there is about a dozen lodges and apparently you generally only receive a blanket and some floorspace), wake up early to complete the climb and enjoy the view as the sun rises.

Click here to browse photos of the Mt Fuji climb and the small town, Kawaguchiko, where I stayed at the foothills of the mountain.

By Marissa Toohey

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