Mount Fuji is the ultimate symbol of Japan. It is one of Japan's Sacred Mountains and a World Heritage Site, ranking 35th on the Peaks Prominence List with a height of about 12,400 feet (about 3,800 meters). Climbing Mount Fuji has been on our bucket list for a while so it was a top priority on our trip to Japan. We decided to do a midnight trek, setting out at 9:30pm and hiking through the night in order to arrive at the summit just before sunrise (4:45am)!
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The picture above was taken at the 5th station (where you begin the climb). During summer months summit temperatures average about 32 degrees F and rain is typical. After sunrise it gets very hot, with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees. We had to prepare for all types of weather for our 12 hour journey.
Our pre-trek meal where we loaded up on calories to get us through the first few hours of hiking
It began to get very windy and cold about an hour into the hike - layers were essential.
After a grueling few hours we finally started to see the summit and the sun peeking up.
Climbing season for Mount Fuji is only two and a half months out of the year, July - mid September. Climbers come from all over the world during these times to make the climb. Right as we approached the summit with only a kilometer to go, the trail started to get very crowded as everyone started congregating towards the top for sunrise. Many of these hikers had been staying in mountain huts over night to get some rest. It was strange for us to see as the trail had been virtually empty until then.
Paul got a bit of altitude sickness right as we made it to the top so we hunkered down for a brief rest.
The sunrise was incredibly beautiful. We were told that we were lucky to get such clear skies. Apparently many make it to the top only to find cloudy skies with no views, wind and rain.
Along the way, we made a friend named Crista from Switzerland.
Hikers watching the sunrise - we were surprised at how many of the hikers were Japanese.
The sun quickly changed from being orange and soft to white and harsh. Once this happened it got very hot.
Here's Paul walking around the crater! Just before going on our trek, we discovered that Mt. Fuji was/is expected to erupt between 2011-2015. The volcano last erupted in 1707 and after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, scientists believed Fuji might be close to another eruption. I have to admit this scared me a bit, despite being reassured that there were systems in place to warn people of a possible eruption.
The view of the surrounding mountains (Japanese Alps) and the lake below
The descent was truly a test of mental, physical and emotional stamina. It was far harder to make our way down the mountain than it was to make our way up. It was very steep, and the weather changed dramatically.
The loose volcanic ash was deep and made it difficult to walk without falling on your butt a time or two (or in my case, three or four).
Do you see the number of switchbacks on the way down?!
This is when Paul almost left me on the mountain to die - I thought someone was going to have to come carry me away. I. was. so. tired. And cried briefly.
We were only smiling here because we did actually make it off the mountain and in one piece to boot! Right after this, we rested our sore, tired bodies in a Japanese onsen overlooking Mt. Fuji. More on onsens and our adventures in the Japanese Alps coming soon!