It was now time for the most physically challenging, maybe even spiritually as well, part of our whole trip, the Mount Fuji summit climb. And it’s not as simple as just starting the climb, we had to navigate to the correct starting point as well, which involved several train transfers and bus routes. Starting early around 8 AM, we took the metro to a major transit station, Shinjuku Station. From there, we took an express train to Otsuki (ou-ski pronunciation), we meant to do an earlier train ride, but it was out of reservations. Still with me? Hai (yes). From Otsuki, we had to make our way to Kawaguchiko station, which is main transit station for Mount Fuji. I put some pictures of the ride over there because everything I just wrote is pretty boring for you, dear reader.
On the train to Kawaguchiko, we were having trouble understanding what stop we were supposed to get off on, you know since we don’t know Japanese. It sounded like we were supposed to get off at this one stop, but only a few people got off the train with us, a troupe of high schoolers and a couple of foreigners with big backpacks like ourselves. So considering the latter, it made sense to get off. The stop was at an amusement park. Later found out it was the Fuji-Q Highland park.
Looking around at the station, it didn’t look like Kawaguchiko Station, as there were no buses coming and going to Mount Fuji. And if you hadn’t picked it up, dear reader, we got off the train too early; the station was in a little town. After a fruitless effort to get a taxi to the right station due to language barrier, we decided to walk our way to Kawaguchiko Station instead. Luckily, it was only a 20 minute walk from the incorrect station we hopped off at. The walk actually was very nice, got to see a small rural town. And to top it all off, we found a small business called “Samurise” were we could store our luggage overnight for the climb. We were planning on using the lockers at Kawaguchiko Station, but this was a better idea since the lockers were probably all full. Getting off too early was blessing in disguise.
After a nice warm up walk to Kawaguchiko, it was time to get the bus to Fifth Station on Mount Fuji. Yup, we weren’t starting at First Station which is at the very base of Mount Fuji. Now, now, I know what you’re thinking, “Adam, if you don’t start at the base of Mount Fuji, the climb doesn’t count!” Look, most people start at Fifth Station, and it simply would take too much time and effort to start at the base. Here’s a map of our path on Mount Fuji, with the red line being the first day ascent, and then the pink being the second day ascent then descent.
The bus to Fifth Station was around an hour trip; I was feeling the air density decreasing as we ventured further up, since I was getting sleepy along the way. Right before drifting to sleep, we arrived at fifth station; the summit was covered in clouds, so you couldn’t quite see it from there. We did an equipment check and had to go rent some extra items. I figured the extra items I needed were a headlamp for night climbing and some trekking poles. I had bought me some badass trekking poles like a month ago, but TSA strikes again. Trekking poles have a removable tip that has a spike at the end, for ice/snow hikes, and you know how TSA is with pointy objects. You can check the poles, but not carry on, and since we were only doing carry on for this trip, well, my poles were left behind and had to rent some at fifth station. After attaching Brian’s GoPro to my chest and getting plenty of water for the hike, we were ready to rock and roll.
We were going to do the Yoshida Trail one of the most popular trails on the hike. We were approached by a man asking for donations to keep Mount Fuji operating smoothly, it was only about 10 USD and considering how there’s no admission fee to climb, why wouldn’t we donate? Plus they gave us this badass badge made from real Mount Fuji wood. Sugoi! We were then approached by a Mount Fuji guide, we didn’t think we needed to talk to them, but they were very friendly and wanted to make sure we were totally prepared. They were super helpful, telling us what dangers to expect and what time to leave to get to the top. They even recommended to rent gloves as some parts required some light bouldering. It was such a treat to talk English to a fluent speaker in Japanese, like water in a desert. We had a casual conversation about where we were from, the weather, etc. I don’t normally like small talk, but when you can actually talk to someone in Japan, it’s a much needed respite.
We went back to rent the additional gloves and I went ahead and rented a backpack as well, just to be sure of good weight distribution on my back. I had a cheap rope backpack that wasn’t going to feel good at all going up to the summit. Once that was settled, it was finally time to start the trek up Mount Fuji. Here’s a few of my favorite photos of the initial hike up, some are a little out of focus, but you get a sense of the scale and the elevation we were located at.
And of course, I had to get pictures of myself on Mount Fuji, and do the most American and outdated thing ever, dabbing on Mount Fuji:
The start of the hike was grueling; it started with intense steep inclines and I was already thinking to myself, “Why the fuck I am doing this, I’m on vacation.” I truly believe the initial part was a weed out course, to see if you really wanted it. I knew I wanted to see that summit and besides, we had our reservation at the 7th station mountain hut, and it would be extremely rude to miss it. It was supposed take an estimated 3 hours to get to 7th Station from our start point at 5th Station. We were really pushing it when we left, which was around 2:30 PM, and we were supposed to make the 7th station by the latest at 6 PM, for dinner. So we pushed ourselves to take limited breaks, only when were incredibly out of breath. It turned out that the initial part was just a warm up to get the juices flowing; our pace was incredibly fast, because wouldn’t you know it, we made to 7th station in 90 minutes instead of 3 hours! That’s double the theoretical speed! We were extremely proud of ourselves for making it there so fast. Here’s few photos of our Mountain Hut exterior and its view. Keep in mind that this is still four hours hike below the summit, yet it looks like we are incredibly high up.
We posted up our equipment in our little sleeping quarters. There was a bunch of sleeping bags and we expected to be sleeping elbow to elbow per online research. Luckily this time around it wasn’t completely packed so we had some elbow room.
Now we needed some extra calories, so we made our way to dinner, and here’s what we got. Not really sure of all the food items were on here, but we were already used to eating foods unknown to us on our trip so far.
We sat next to this young Singaporean couple and they were delight to talk to. We talked about Asian politics, how Singapore was a city state, Hong Kong’s independence causing trouble with China, and Taiwan’s independence. I made an effort to say how embarrassed we were about Donald Trump’s presidency, and the woman said politics never reflects the common folk. It was really nice to hear that. Their names were Raymond and Quiyu (pronounced Tsu-you). After a few attempts of saying her name, I finally figured out how to say it, I had to utilize my tonsils/neck muscles instead of my throat to pronounce the “tsu” sound. She said only one other foreigner who was from Hungary out of all places could say it correctly. I was very proud of myself. Here’s a nice photo of the two:
At this point, I managed to also snag one my favorite photos of the trip so far, I’m not ashamed to say this is one of the best photos I’ve taken in my life. It didn’t require too much technical knowledge to get it, but the effort to get to that location and get the shot, well, it just adds to its value for me.
It was time for bed, considering it would be a 4 hour hike to the top, we decided to go to bed immediately around 6 pm to wake up around midnight to start our journey to the summit. Will we make it to the top? Will Donald Trump finally get impeached? Find out next time on Dragon Ball Z!