Things to Bring
35.21°N/138.44°E, Shizuoka-ken/Yamanashi-ken, Central Honshu
|It was on June 13, 1993 in the middle of the rainy season when my Canadian friend David and I decided to give Fuji-san a try. In the evening of June 12, I went to Nagoya Station and took the Shinkansen to Shizuoka where David picked me up. We drove through the night, it was overcast, the temperature 25 °C. Eventually we reached the gate of the "Fuji Skyline" toll road at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Going up it started to drizzle, but at about 2000 m we emerged from the clouds and the sky was completely clear.
|The Starting Point
|At midnight we finally got to the parking area at Shin Gogome (5th stage) on the Fujinomiya (southern) side of the mountain. The elevation here is 2400 m and it was considerably colder than at sea level: 13°C. We were able to see the top of the volcano in dim moon light from here: a black cone with patches of snow, it sure didn't look very high even though we knew it was over 1300 meters to the summit.
|Closing a Mountain
|We changed, got our head lamps out and and left the car. It was 12:30 AM. There might have been a few other people on the trail but we didn't see anyone else. A few minutes up the the mountain there was a makeshift barrier informing us that Mt. Fuji was Officially Closed! We didn't believe our eyes: how could anyone possibly close a mountain?
|Undeterred we moved up. The trail itself was rather boring: 3 m wide with guide ropes on the sides, nothing but volcanic rock, huge signs every 50 meters or so and of course no vegetation whatsoever in sight. We moved fast, the trail zigzaging up the slope. All the stone huts on the mountain were closed. We occasionally stopped to drink or have a quick snack. Directly below us a cloud, but in the distance we could see the lights of Fuji City and the ocean.
|Hitting the Snow
|At about 1:45 AM we reached 3000 m. The going got increasingly more difficult due to the lack of oxygen, also the slope of the volcano became gradually steeper. Suddenly the trail disappeared under the remains of an avalanche, it was blocked by 3 m of snow and ice. The next sign could be seen about 50 m to the right across a névé.
|The Scary Part
|David went ahead, I made two steps and froze: I was standing on blank ice, my crampons were in my pack and I didn't carry an ice ax (the wooden staff which had served me so well on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal was absolutely useless here). If I slipped I would slide down at least 200 m, not a very comforting thought! I yelled after David, he returned and with the help of his ax I made it across.
|After that little episode the rest of the climb was uneventful. We got to the rim of the crater at 4:30 AM, the summit with the weather station could be seen to the left. A group of five rock climbers had camped up here, they were just getting ready for their descent down the crater. After the boring climb up the view from the rim was outstanding: to our left Fuji city and the ocean, to our right the crater: a nearly vertical drop of about 200 m, black rock and tons of snow. We reached the summit about 15 minutes later, rather exhausted but happy. The temperature was +4°C, there was no wind and the sun was out so we didn't feel cold.
|At around 6 AM we started our descent. By this time the effects of the altitude combined with lack of sleep finally got to me: I felt absolutely weak, drained of all energy, slightly nauseous and depressed. Fortunately the trail was very easy just going down, down, down. We got back to the car three hours later, I still wasn't feeling too well, but by the time we reached sea level all negative symptoms were gone and I was genki again.
Things to Bring
|With an elevation of almost 4000 m the temperature at the summit is about 20°C lower than at sea level, so a sweater, a warm hat and gloves might be a good idea to pack. Coming straight from sea level you might experience mild symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) Check out the site of the Himalayan Rescue Association for further details.
|Winds can be strong and there is virtually no protection from the elements, so you should bring a parka or anorak with a hood, preferably rain proof. The sun is very intense up there, so sunglasses and a sunhat are essential.
|Keep in mind that you have to stay hydrated. Unless you want to spend a fortune on softdrinks at the huts (which are only open in the "official" climbing season during July and August anyway) bring at least 3 liters of (nonalcoholic) liquid. Sports drinks like "Aquarius" or "Pocari Sweat" are good.