- Hike Mount Fuji
We woke early as it was the day we would climb a section of mount fuji. We had some toast and made the most of the free tea and coffee and jam. We packed a rucksacks with snacks and lots of water for the journey. Then we walked down to the bus stop outside of the train station. There we bought tickets for a bus to station 5 of mount fuji. 95% of people pick up the trail from the fifth station to the summit. We weren’t prepared for a hike to the summit so we thought we would aim for station 6 or 7 and just see how we get on. After all we didn’t know what to expect so would do as much as we felt we could handle without killing ourselves or puking ferociously from altitude sickness. The bus took us up the winding roads up the mountain and though lush dense coniferous forest. We soon made it to the fifth station which was 2305m above sea level. There were hundreds of people in a range of attire some wearing full hiking gear looking like they were ready to climb Everest and others in casual wear and heels.
We stayed at the station as I had read that you should give your body some time to get used to the altitude. So we waited half an hour, got ready and paid the 1000 Yen entry fee (£8) to begin the trail. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect but the Yoshida trail began weaving through a woodland and the paths were full of people. There were also large tour groups which clogged up the paths and in places you would come to a stand still where the path had bottlenecked. I felt for the people that were coming down as these groups would not stick to one side. The trail started off steep and continued that way. After 35 minutes we made it to the sixth station and we felt like this might not be so tough. In the back of my mind I was thinking at this rate we might be able to make it to the summit and back down before dusk.
After a break at the sixth we powered on and we left the forest and the paths began to zig zag and were filled with loose volcanic rock which in places felt like you were trying to walk in sand. The temperature was cool but we were warm in just a t shirt due to hiking. So it wasn’t to hot or too cold. Every now and then a welcomed breeze would blow mist over you which was like a breath of fresh air. We also were noticing that we were getting tired quicker which was down to the air being thinner than usual.
The section between the 6th and 7th was harder and longer and we took a few more brief stops. We had stocked up on some fruit and nut mix and jelly beans which provided a boost of energy when we were feeling low. Along the route we offered some jellybeans to other hikers and some reciprocated with their food which wasn’t our intention but was welcomed. After all who would not love a jellybean when they were feeling shattered. We made it to the 7th station and surrounding area was engulfed with mist. It looked as if it should be freezing but it wasn’t. The view of the town below was now gone and wasn’t looking like it would clear for a long time. We were above the clouds and it felt incredible. The views despite being restricted from the surrounding areas were magical and that’s what kept is going to get to the next station.
After the 7th station the paths disappeared and the route turned to a series of rocks with steel chain either side to provide a means of way to pull you up and prevent you falling off of the mountain. Everyones pace slowed and we had to use the power in our legs to propel ourselves forward. In areas where the tour groups were sprawled over the paths we would quickly power through to nip in front but then you felt light headed and out of breath once past them.
But as we continued along the route the amount of people began to reduce and we had more room to move. This was the toughest section and we were beginning to tire. In some places you were using all your limbs to scale the rocks. But despite the tough labour it was fantastic and as soon as their was a break in the clouds the rest of the mountain appeared and it looked fantastic. After a couple of hours we made it to station 8 and felt triumphant. We did not have enough daylight to make it to the top and back down again but were happy we got this far and surpassed our original expectations.
After a celebratory biscuit at station 8 we found the trail back down and this seemed even more challenging than the way up. The route down was thick with small volcanic rocks which you couldn’t get any grip in. That mixed with the sharp decline meant that you struggled to stay up on two feet. We had to try and zig zag our way down and try not to fall off the mountain. As we descended we got more confident so we would move quicker and just as you felt like you had mastered it we would trip or slip which would bring us back down to earth literally.
After a couple of hours we made it back to the fifth station feeling triumphant and shattered.
We soon boarded the bus which took us back to the town. It was dark by now so we decided to stay in town for dinner before heading back. We found a small restaurant ‘Tetsuyaki’ which had just four tables but the food smelt incredible. We soon got a table and after a few minutes another couple joined our table. They were from Taiwan and had tried to hike the mountain the day before but one had hit their head on a rock so they had to come back and get stitched up.
They were both lovely and recommended some places for us to see in our next stop Kyoto. The guy, Yuan, asked where we were from and he guessed Australia and then Britain. We said yes to Britain of course and he then said ah ok ‘Hello Mate’ in his best British accent it did make us laugh. He lived in the states for two years and said he loved disney. We asked his girlfriend if she liked disney and she said no. Then he just said ‘Boo’ you don’t like it!
After dinner we headed back and we got chatting to two older guys in our dorm who had came here to hike Fuji. They were both retired but still full of life and had hiked the mountain in 12 hours straight. One could speak English well as he said he used to travel to England for business and visit Telford of all places to one of his companies branches. The other, Peter, couldn’t speak much English so we spoke to each other through google translate and he told us he was a soldier for 20 years and is a mountaineering guide. If you serve for 20 years in the military you can retire no matter your age. He gave us a beer and we chatted to them for a while and had some laughs.
After a welcomed shower we called it a day and we had had a fantastic time.