Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mt. Fuji

So we seem be getting off theme a bit with the whole Tochigi thing. But the blog is really intended to help people who live in or who are going to Tochigi. Many of those will climb Mt. Fuji. And what an experience they are in for!

Most Japanese consider Mt. Fuji to be a mountain you must climb once in your lifetime. And I guess most foreigners would like to climb it while there are here too.


Mt. Fuji is a volcanic crater. It most recently erupted in 1707. Its 3776 m. high. Most people start the walk from station 5 at about 2300 m.

The recommend time to climb Mt. Fuji is July or August. At this time there will be little or no snow and it won't get too cold at the top. Even so, expect it to be chilly. It can get down to close to 0 Celsius at the top, even though it will be quite warm when you start.


The Japanese will be insanely well prepared for the trip (well the ones we know were). In our local outdoor shop there is a whole section devoted not to climbing mountains, but to climbing Mt. Fuji. That way you can get special socks perfectly suited to the task. Nearly everybody will have spray cans of oxygen. We didn't take any.

We did what most people do and took a bus to station 5 arriving in the late afternoon. Our friends had arranged to have a meal there and also have a short rest to adjust to the altitude. Frankly speaking we weren't too concerned about the walk except that I am not sure we have ever started at sea level and climbed to 3700 m. all in the space of half a day. So we did think that the only issue might be altitude.

Anyway as it got dark we started walking. Its a fairly long walk. I think most could make it without prior training. But it will be hard slog. A walking stick and a torch would be handy. We almost had a full moon and there were lots of people and I got by with neither.


Maybe you have done quite a bit of walking in the past and think you know every possible aspect of a mountain climb. But you won't be prepared for the crowds. Imagine Tokyo station, put it on the side of a mountain and put everybody in boots. Thats what its like. We went on a Friday, maybe it would be better to do it truly midweek, I don't know. But if I ever do it again, I'm doing it in shoulder season, not peak season.

On the way up there are lots of little shops and even little hostels you can sleep in if you like. Food and drinks are available all the way up at increasing prices. A bottle of water cost 500 yen at the top (yes, of course there are drink vending machines on top of Mt. Fuji!)


Once you get to the top you can watch the sunrise, though we didn't make it in time due to crowds. The sunrise was quite beautiful.
Then there is a walk around the crater which you can skip if you like. On the rim walk you go past the post office. You might want to bring some postcards to post from there. There was a queue when I posted ours.


It was nearly down to zero on top. So go well equipped. I brought shorts and T-shirt, fibre jacket and pants, a raincoat, gloves and warm hat. I was very comfortable the whole time. If I had of had them in Japan I would have brought waterproof overpants. I would have worn them I think.


The walk down was harder than the walk up for us. We ignored the advice to bring a towel. My advice now, bring one! Or perhaps better a facemask. On the way down there is lots of red dust that will be kicked up and you will get it all over you and breath it in too.


Also on the way down the sun got quite strong. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen.

Our friends had arranged a stop at an onsen on the way back. This is highly, highly recommended.

All in all a good time.

Times:
Started 8:30 PM
Top 5:00 AM (badly slowed by crowds)
Bottom 10:00 AM

1 comment:

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