Is this your year to conquer the iconic Mt. Fuji on a day trip? Well, maybe my story will help you make up your mind. Or maybe it will conjure up the desire for you to climb it again! Either way, the official climbing season is just around the corner beginning July 1st through August 31st and I am here to tell you that even though it took every ounce of my energy to reach the summit, it was worth every strenuous step. A memorable experience that brought a great sense of accomplishment!
Known for its perfectly cone-shaped volcano, Mt. Fuji was granted UNESCO World Heritage status on June 22, 2013. With this new status brings many more like-minded hikers from near and afar, wanting to achieve the summit at 3776 meters high. Whether you decide to hike during the week, when it's least crowded, or on the weekend when longer lines are formed for walking-stick stamps and it's bumper-to-bumper as you traverse up the chain railed rocky mountain, you must come prepared.
There’s a Japanese proverb: "Everyone should climb Mount Fuji once; only a fool would climb it twice."
So, technically I'm a fool and my 16-year old son is a fool x 2 (he climbed it three times). I climbed Fuji-san twice because there were so many things that prevented me from reaching the summit the first time: 1) Stuffed my backpack with too much water, food & gear, adding unnecessary weight, 2) Stopped to take way too many photos, 3) Stood in line to get a stamp at every station hut, 4) Unruly rain & wind. Therefore, I didn’t make the 11:00am cut-off time at the Fujisan hotel (Original 8th Station) in order to reach the summit by 1:00pm and descend in time to catch the chartered bus by 5:00pm. I admit, my spirit was broken and in the back of my mind I kept replaying all of the what-if's. I was determined to try again the following year.
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With more stair-climber time on the books, a lighter backpack, fewer stamps and amazing weather, I made it to the summit in 2012. Again, the day trip began with a beautiful sunrise at 5:30am from the Subaru 5th Station and a six hour trek up the the Yoshidaguchi Trail. The four-hour descent felt like a never-ending zig-zag on loose volcanic gravel toward the Fuji-Subaru Line. It really doesn’t get any easier here. Be sure to trim those toe nails prior to your trip and make a mental note that toilets are few and far between on the way down.
With the walking stick to show and a few stories to tell, climbing Mt. Fuji will always hold a special place in my heart. Now I can contentedly enjoy the breathtaking views of Fuji-san from a distance and say, “I once stood on the top of that mountain!” I hope you get the opportunity to say the same thing, too.
*Updated May 27, 2014 due to UNESCO World Heritage Status