The Trial and Tribulations of Hiking Mt. Fuji
Fuji Travel Blog› entry 2 of 13 › view all entries
Morning came. It was time to go to Mt. Fuji for our planned hike.
Waking bright and early, it was already very humid in Tokyo. We took the metro to Ueno, and transfered on the Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station, where we found a JR Office to convert our JR Pass vouchers to JR Pass book. From there, we took the shinkansen - Japan's bullet train - to Shin-Fuji, a 30-minute ride, where we planned to take the bus to Fujinomiya's 5th Station to start our hike. Unfortunately, despite hours of planning, we didn't forsee one crucial thing --- the summit of Mt Fuji on the Fujinomiya trail was actually still closed due to bad weather of snow, then rain, the past couple of weeks!!!
Oh no! What to do? The Visitors' Information Center came to our rescue.
Armed with the train & bus schedules, trail maps, and directions, we got on the shinkansen to Mishima.
After 3.5 hours, 2 buses, and some light lunch allotted in between the transfers, our enthusiasm for the hike came to a dwindling low from the whole process of just trying to get to the blasted 5th Station. Then we caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji. And finally, we reached the 5th Station at Kawaguchiko! FINALLY~!
The Kawaguchiko 5th Station is the most popular 5th Station base for climbing Mt.
On arrival, our spirits were lifted again. Excited for the hike, we went to change. Or rather I changed. Out where the jeans I wore and into the ski-like pants with an inner thermal/outer windproof layer, a long-sleeve thermal top that I only ever wear during the coldest of New York winter, over a loose and slightly over-sized shirt, and into my ancient sneakers circa undergraduate college years.
I also bought a walking stick with a 5th Station stamped on it, bells and everything! I saw so many people having one and thought maybe it'd be helpful during the hike and would be a terrific souvenir!
Along with Kate, who we met on the bus from Kawaguchiko Station to the 5th Station, and a transplanted New Yorker, also who turned out to be a fellow alumna or rather still attend to the same university I went in undergraduate and now graduate school, we started off the hike a little after 4pm, chatting all the way, until the 6th Station. A more experienced hiker than us, she had a schedule to reach the 8th Station to a mountain hut where she had made reservations, so she went ahead. We were really slow - the thin air and lack of oxygen with the elevation was already hitting us and it was only slightly over 2100 meters!
So, we learned to shut up or rather just talk less, took frequent stops to catch our breaths, slow down our tachycardic heart rates, hydrate, and took plenty of pictures instead.
For 7600 yen (approx $76) per person, we can stay at the mountain hut overnight until the scheduled 430am sunrise with 2 meals - dinner and a bento box breakfast. We were greeted warmly at the door, given a plastic bag where we can placed our sneakers, took my walking stick marked with my initials for safekeeping, and was served with hot green tea before having our simple and light curry with rice dinner.
We ventured outside the hut, in the chilly temperatures of Mt. Fuji, 2700 meters above sea level. Above the first layer of clouds, we caught a glimpse of the sun disappear and dusk falls on our side of the mountain. The Yoshiguchi Trail is where the sunrise is best seen so although I was slightly saddened with the lackluster sunset, I look forward to the sunrise. It was also recommended to us that due to unpredictable weather at the summit, it was better to see the sunrise at the lower stations.
After conversing with some hikers who spoke a little English, we decided to retire for the night. It had gotten considerably colder and the hut was getting crowded with groups of hikers also staying at the hut and having dinner. Because we were among the very few people staying in the hut until sunrise - almost everyone leaves at midnight to reach the summit around 4am for the sunrise according to the one of the staff - we were relegated to the attic sleeping bunk until there were spaces below.
Close to midnight, we heard scrambling of feet below and was later woken up by one of the staff, letting us know that we were welcome to sleep in the sleeping quarters. We transferred our belongings below and was amazed at how empty it was, now that nearly everyone had left.