Mt. Fuji it is arguably the most iconic image of Japan. Despite not having erupted for over 300 years, the volcano (which stands at 3776 meters) is still considered to be active. With its near perfect symmetrical dome (covered by snow for most of the year), It is no surprise that over 300,000 local Japanese and tourists climb Japan’s highest mountain every year. In our latest blog post we give some Backyard Travel insider tips on climbing the beautiful mountain; from when the best time of year is to climb, to what to wear and which route to take.
What months are best to climb?
When planning a trip to Mt. Fuji it is very important to understand that really the only months when it can be climbed is in July and August, the official climbing season. Outside of these months the weather conditions become extreme, with plenty of snow, ice and avalanches and the ascent is too dangerous, even for most experienced of climbers. In July and August the mountain is usually free of snow, the temperature quite mild, and the huts providing refuge and food along the way are open.
As the climbing season is only a couple of months long, it does mean that climbing to the top can become incredibly busy on certain days. It is best to avoid the Japanese public holiday, ‘Obon Week’ in the middle of August, which is always the most popular week of the year to climb, as 2/3 of those who do climb the mountain are Japanese. If possible try and climb on a weekday, avoiding the weekends, as you are more likely to be able to climb in smaller groups and be able to enjoy those spectacular views a bit better.
Is it a difficult mountain to climb?
Although it is not a technical peak to climb, Mt Fuji is a little steeper in certain parts than it may look from a distance, and therefore it can be easy to underestimate this. Most of the climb can be done without assistance, but there are some points where the terrain is quite steep and rocky, so you will need to hold on to ropes to help with your footing. One really important thing to factor in, is that the air gets notably thinner the higher you climb so you might find you are climbing at a slower pace than you think, as to not suffer from altitude sickness.
Which route to take?
The mountain has ten different stations, with the 1st at the foot of Mt Fuji and the 10th station being at the summit. From stations one to five the climb is fairly leisurely, as paved roads cover the lower slopes and the proper climbing starts from the 5th station upwards. There are in fact four different 5th stations, providing four different routes that you can take to get to the summit, all on different sides of the mountain.
The most popular route is the ‘Yoshida’ trail, as this is the most accessible from Tokyo and starts in Kawaguchiko Town. The route (which takes on average between 5 to 7 hours to climb) can become pretty congested, although there are a lot of mountain huts along the trail to stay overnight in, and there are some excellent sunrise views for any person that doesn’t make the summit in time.
The Fujinomiya Trail is the 2nd most popular route, as it is very well connected by public transport to Western Japan. The Fujinomiya Station is the highest of the 5th stations (2400 meters), and therefore this trail is the shortest up to Mt Fuji, with the quickest climbers only taking four hours to get to the top.
Subashiri and Gotemba Trails are the two quietest trails, as their stations don’t have the infrastructure of the other two and are a little harder to get to from major destinations. The Gotemba trail is possibly the most challenging route, as the station is the lowest of the 5th stations (at 1400 meters), meaning the longest trail, taking between 7 – 10 hours, and the terrain is made up lava rock for large parts, causing tougher climbing conditions. It is though arguably the most rewarding route and the descent is particularly enjoyable as you can literally run down a lot of the mountain by taking large, leaping strides, due to the fact that the straight path is covered in loose lava gravel.
What should I bring with me?
Climbing Fuji can make for an exceptionally rewarding experience, as setting off in the early hours of the morning and getting to the summit for sunrise, makes for incredible memories that will last a life time. What you don’t want though is for those memories to be spoiled by not being prepared and not bringing the right equipment with you. You will need to bring proper hiking shoes as the steep, rocky terrain in some parts, means that they are imperative. As some of the hiking is done a night you will need a torch and preferably a head lamp as well. Gloves are also highly recommend to bring along, as not only will they protect you against the cold weather, but they will also offer protection from friction burns, which can help when holding on to ropes and pulling yourself along at certain parts of this rewarding climb.
If you’d like to include a visit, or to climb spectacular Mt. Fuji on a tailor-made trip, be sure to consult with one of our Japan Travel Specialists who will be happy to tailor any of our Japan tours to your personal preferences.