Climbing Mt. Fuji (Up)

4 August 2007

We decided to try and climb Mt. Fuji the 4th and 5th of August. The idea was to start in the early evening at the 5th station of the subashiri trail (1,980m), climb up to the summit (3,776m), watch the sunrise and descend via the Gotemba trail.

We took the Odakyu line and Gotemba line to Gotemba station and from there took a normal bus to the Subashiri New 5th station (Mt. Fuji is devided in 10 stations, from the base 1 to the summit 10, normally you start the climb at the 5th station). There we started around 17:00. Sunrise would be around 4:50, and according to several websites the climb should take about 6 hours. Counting extra time for rests, and expected crowdedness, we thought we still had plenty of time...

The trail started in the forest

with some open places


and a view of our goal for the day when the clouds cleared a bit.

It took quite some time to the 6th station (at 18:50), because we took some rests to eat and also because my backpack was a bit heavy (I had to bring a lot of warm clothes for at the top, medic kit, enough to drink and eat, but actually I think I brought too much food...)

This is some hut in between the 6th and 7th station (19:50) and it already got dark

Just before the one of the 8th stations there was this big torii gate (which is often placed at the entrance of sacred ground).

There are several huts around the 8th station. This is the "real" 8th station, or at least it says so (0:50).

Here the Kawaguchi-ko trail came together with our trail. The Kawaguchi-ko trail is the most popular trail and therefore very crowded, especially in the weekends (we went saturday/sunday) in august.

From the last 8th station (1:40) on most of the trail there was traffic jam. According to wikipedia, "An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year, 30% of whom are foreigners." Considering that
  • you can only (officially) climb the mountain from 1 july to 1 september (2 months),
  • that most people climb in august (holidays) and especially the weekends,
  • that most people climb at night to see the sunrise at the top and to avoid the afternoon heat and
  • that this is part of the most popular route
it means thousands of people were climbing together with us there...

All white/blue lights are headlights of people climbing. The lights in the back are from the cities at the base of Mt. Fuji.

It is really astonishing to see so many people climb at the same time. However, it is very noisy as well. Group leaders shouting names of people they cant find, guides screaming all kinds of encouragements, official guides telling slower people to walk left and faster people to walk at the right...

Because we were progressing so slow, we were affraid we wouldn't make it to the top before sunrise. However, suddenly it became clear why we had been going so slow all the time: the last part is really steep and relatively narrow. You really have to watch where you put your feet and use your hands from time to time to make a big step up. Luckily, progress on this steep part was relatively fast as the crowd kept moving, so we entered trough the last torii gate around 4:15, still 30 minutes early, which was actually great timing as we could still find a nice spot to see sunrise!

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