On the 9th of July, 2014, I had the opportunity to climb Mt Fuji in Japan as I was traveling around the country. I had been planning the climb a week prior and as I have everything booked and ready, I heard the news that a super typhoon (Neoguri) was on its way to collide with Japan. The news mentioned that it would hit Okinawa and will slow down and disappear by the time it reaches the mainland. I knew that sooner or later, the typhoon will hit Mt Fuji but I was hoping it would hit in the evening when I was already down from the summit and with a less violent wind.
I have never been so wrong. When I was at the mountain hut on the 9th July 2014, the typhoon hit when I was sleeping and as you expected when I woke up at 2 the next morning, I was faced with a life-threatening decision, to climb or not to climb. Several people already abandoned their plan at this point. Only me, 2 Swedish pals and a British couple were still on the fence about. The staff feared that we will die up there but I was so close to the summit! Only 2 hours of walk, and I would be able to say proudly that I climbed Mt Fuji. The 2 Swedish pals and a British couple agreed that we should at least give it a go and if we were unable to climb any longer, we can always turn back, so we went.
After two hours of crawling up Mt Fuji with a wind that could knock me off the cliff in seconds, a hail with the speed of a bullet and a slippery mud that was the current state of the trail, we eventually reached the summit at around 5 - 6 AM. As I was about to get a hyperthermia and the fact that we could no longer walk any further because there were no shelters to protect us from the violent wind of the typhoon, we left after 10 minutes at the summit and climbed down.
This is how NOT to climb Mt Fuji if you want to live a long life. I was able to survive purely because of luck and if you are going to climb Mt Fuji, please prepare accordingly and do check the weather before you go. Don't risk it like I did. Below are a few tips before you attempt to climb Mt Fuji.
When to visit
Mt Fuji summit is only open from the beginning of July to the end of August where the snow is dried up. If you are an expert climber, you can climb it in the early September to avoid massive crowds but keep in mind that mountain huts are not open after August so you either have to camp out or go for the summit in one day.
I highly recommend you go for the climb early in July during weekdays before the school is on a break later that month. I also DO NOT recommend you to visit during the super typhoon like I did. You can always check the forecast here.
Easy to moderate. There are some steep climbs and it can take you 5 - 7 hours to reach your accommodation nonstop but since it only takes 2 days maximum to reach the summit, I consider it pretty easy.
Pick a trail
The easiest, most popular trail is the Yoshida trail which starts at the Subaru 5th Station. This trail has the highest number of mountain huts available and it is recommended for first timer.
If you want to go off the beaten path, check out all the other trail's info provided by Japan Guide
It is possible to climb Mt Fuji in a day but it is not recommended because the summit is over 3700m above sea level and the altitude sickness can kick in at any moment when you are at 3000m or above the sea level. I recommend you start off climbing in the afternoon (the latest) first day and sleep at a mountain hut for 5 - 7 hours, wake up at 2 AM and start going for the summit at 2:30AM to 3AM. During this time of the year, the sun is expected to rise at around 4 - 5 AM (ask the staff and the mountain hut and they will wake you up for the summit).
There are a range of mountain huts available on the Yoshida trail but only one allows you to book online. You can ask the hostel staff to call the place up or you can pay USD25 extra and book online like I did. The trail can get very congested during this time so booking prior to arriving is highly recommended.
Prepare your gears
Even though July is the start of a rainy season and the weather in Japan can be quite hot and humid, the temperature near the top in the morning can be as low as 5 - 10 degrees Celsius so do prepare layers of clothing. Below is the list of things I had with me:
I locked everything I don't need in a locker at the 5th Station before I went for the summit. Climbing a mountain is no joke so don't bring unnecessary things up there.
- Bottles of water
If you are going on the Yoshida trail as I did, there may be a few stops before you reach your mountain hut but the price of everything up there is through the roof. Prepare enough water and food before you start the climb.
- A Fleece Jacket and A Down jacket
As mentioned earlier, it will be cold up there and If you are going for the sunrise, you will need to climb as early as 2 AM which can be very chilly. There are no shelters up at the summit so the jackets are your only hope for keeping yourself warm.
- Raincoat and Backpack Cover
July and August is a rainy season and trusts me, it will rain up there so do prepare a raincoat and a backpack cover. You don't want all your clothes to be all soaked when you arrive at the mountain hut.
- Trekking Shoes
The trail consists of some steep climbs both ways so do prepare adequate trekking shoes that will protect your ankle.
As mentioned earlier, you will be climbing as early as 2 AM so you will need a flashlight to do so.
- (Optional) Trekking poles
You don't need a hi-tech metal trekking pole. A stick would do just fine. You can buy a traditional climbing stick at the 5th Station and get it stamped on each mountain hut (200 - 300 Yens per stamp) as you passed along the trail as a souvenir.
And that is how you should climb Mt Fuji, NOT the way I did. I wish you the best of luck and if you have any question, please don't hesitate to ask me in the comment below. Stay out of the typhoon!
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more.