I climbed Mt Fuji for the first time back in July 2009, at the start of the school holidays, climbed overnight with limited clothing, no torch and the only food I brought along being two cold cheeseburgers. Once I got to the top, the wind was so bad I’m sure I saw Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton running around trying to make a movie. Its fair to say I agreed with the old Japanese proverb that every Mt Fuji blog likes to warn us about, ‘He who climbs Fuji once is wise; he who climbs it twice is a fool’. I was certain that I was never going to climb it again, that was until my good friend George of the Jungle turned up at Morita farm in cut-off jeans and a leather jacket.
It was the start of September when we decided to give the mountain another crack. In Japan, you are told to only swim between July and August, this also the time you are told to climb Mt Fuji. For both these activities the crowds are worse than lining up for some chocolate at Max Brenner’s in Omote Sando restaurant. The first day we had planned was cancelled as the weather had turned for the worst, so we went swimming at Motosuko with the whole lake to ourselves.
The next day was our last chance so we set off to begin climbing at 11am. The cloud cover was already thick, but as soon as we got to 5th station it had cleared up which made for some stunning views of the summit. This time we had proper warm clothing, plenty of snacks and also some cheap whisky to get us to sleep. We had reserved a room at the 7th station, but after reaching it at 3pm we decided to keep on trekking until the next station to save our time hiking in the morning.
Just because the name of the Fujisan Hotel at the 8th station features the word hotel, let me kindly remind you that the term is used very loosely. It was a place to try and rest, watch the stars and enjoy the planes fly past at eye level. George even watched ‘The Inbetweeners 2’ while flicking through Tinder to see what was on offer at high altitude. He then disappeared for a while but failed to share where he went….
At 2am we were awoken and sent on our way to the top. This meant to join the line of ants and spending the next 300m and 2hours inching our way to the summit. Still though it was better than the previous climb of going at that whole speed from the 5th station. This time at the top we were able to enjoy the sunrise views and walk the crater for 360-degree views of the area, it was definitely worth the effort and the delicious meal Fujisan Hotel had packed us for breakfast.
Of course the descend is no good for the knees, but its not actually as bad as everyone makes out. You could be in Palmerston North working at NZ Van lines; so just enjoy the views and talk to people on the way down. The descend will be over quickly and in no time you will be enjoying a delicious Farmers Blend smoothie in Kawaguchiko.
I’ve already got a group of friends who are frothing to climb it in 2015, there are a few changes that will take place this time though.
1- Start the climb at 9am and climb all the way to the summit on the first day. It isn’t actually out of the question fitness wise for most people. This way you will have no crowds to grind your gears when you are tired at 3am in the morning. You will also be able to watch the sunset over Shizuoka which is meant to be better than the service you receive at Walter White’s car wash.
2- There are huts on the top of the Gotemba trail that at the start of September always have space available, I will definitely stay there this year. It also means you don’t have to get up until just before sunrise.
3- Bring some Yamazaki 18-year-old single malt whisky. Being at the top of Japan, you need to have a top of the line whisky.
That’s about it, if you’ve had a bad experience it the past, try it again, but just make sure you choose the right conditions and it will be an experience you will not regret.