Are you wondering how to climb Mt Fuji in one day? I'm here to tell you that it can be done with reasonable fitness and no special climbing skills. Buckle up and discover how to summit Japan's most famous mountain.
How to Climb Mt Fuji in One Day
I have a weakness for iconic summits.
So when I learned that the highest and most celebrated mountain in Japan could be climbed within a day, I was there faster than you can say shinkansen.
On the postcards, of course, Fuji is beautiful. A snow-capped deity, framed with cherry blossom and cloudless skies, an image recreated in a thousand different ways across the land of the rising sun. Up close and personal, however, Fuji feels different. Earthy, wet and submerged in mist. Slippery, stubborn and chasing my breath.
That picturesque snow blocks the mountain for all but July and August, when most of the 400 000 people who climb it each year do so by night.
But I'm here to tell you how to climb Mt Fuji in one day.
Most People Climb Overnight
In Japan, Fuji is sacred and pilgrims labour by torchlight to reach the 6th station for the sun’s first appearance. For pilgrims in search of solitude (and latecomers like myself), the only option in September is to hike by day. Yet the clouds that hover around Fuji-san make the search for sunlight no less optimistic.
The Pros and Cons of Climbing Mt Fuji in One Day
Which is best for you? Climbing Fuji in one day or the more traditional overnight method?
Climbing Mt Fuji in one day makes great sense if you are in pretty good shape and short on time. Think, regular cardio sessions at home and injury and illness free.
Where to start to climb Mt Fuji in one day
In time-honoured tradition, we cheat by starting at the 5th station, where roads and civilisation end. The “viewing point” shows clouds beneath us – and the crater above, sliced in two by Alpine-looking buildings wearing rows of Japanese script.
“The Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail is closed from September 5 to June 30,” reads the translation. “We are not responsible for your life and what you do.”
With that warning, we set off. The earthy path is wide and soft underfoot, the sun streams through the branches and we have the place to ourselves.
What the climb is Like
We pass a few unfinished buildings, a concrete pathway and a collection of corrugated huts with grubby plastic awnings. But overall, nature soothes.
That changes as we break free of the forest and tackle the blood-red volcanic soil. Spongy, light and craggy, the path springs under pressure and is crowned with fresh, fresh air. Nature takes me by the hand and introduces me to the Fuji adventure I’ve dreamed of.
Then it gets tough and the climb gets ugly. My fingers splay apart and my nails scrape at the rock. The path carves a scar into the steep and soulless terrain.
Perhaps now I understand why people climb at night. No-one's here for the view...or are they?
At a certain altitude (probably around the oxygen-deprivation zone), I see beauty: a lone man as a silhouette, doubled over a gnarled stick and plodding slowly, carefully upwards. No waterproofs, no Gore-Tex, no dehydrated noodles. Simply bubbling clouds beneath, scarlet torii above, and an end, an end to the relentless rocks, dirt and railings.
Reaching the Summit of Mt Fuji
We have reached the stone white lions. We have reached the Konohana Sakuya Hime Shinto shrine. We have reached the summit.
At 3776 metres, I stare in almost cosmic wonder at the crater that drops away before me, at the fields of clouds all around, and at the swords of ice that drip from the rugged volcanic walls.
I breathe in that strange blend of accomplishment and emptiness that accompanies reaching a peak.
We slither, slip and slide on the descent. Knees groaning, palms chafed, faces decorated with diamonds of mist. I can’t really explain why I enjoy hiking so much, but I am reminded of the following Japanese proverb:
A wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice.
WHEN CAN YOU CLIMB MT FUJI?
Ideally, between July and August to be safe. It is possible to summit Mount Fuji in September during the day but you do so at your own risk.
WHAT TO WEAR TO CLIMB MOUNT FUJI
Plenty of layers, sturdy boots with ankle support. Waterproofs. Check out what to pack for a walking holiday for more useful tips.
WHAT TO BRING TO MOUNT FUJI
Nothing heavy. Consider a torch at night, take plenty of drinking water and bring some food. In the peak season, mountain huts serve basic food but it's best not to rely on this. Again, check out this link for useful information.
You can find even more information on how to climb Mt Fuji, when to climb and how to get to the starting point on the official information page here.
How long does it take to climb Mount Fuji?
Most people start at the 5th Station (Kawaguchi-ko ) and from there, the Moutn Fuji hike takes between 5-10 hours depending on your fitness and on the queues. Don't forget to leave 2-4 hours to get back down.
Is climbing Mount Fuji hard?
Yes and no. The Mt Fuji climb doesn't require technical climbing skills. You'll mainly be hiking or scrambling. That said, it's tough terrain and pretty steep. I wouldn't recommend climbing Mt Fuji if you have injuries or breathing trouble. I also wouldn't recommend it for children younger than twelve.
Can you climb Mount Fuji without a guide?
Yes! We completed our Mount Fuji climb without a guide in September during the day. The paths are clearly marked and the route is easy to follow. Climbing Mt Fuji at night, however, might be more complicated. During the peak season, the crowds should make it obvious but I wouldn't recommend attempting an overnight climb without a guide on your own.
How much does it cost to climb Mount Fuji?
Access to the mountain itself is free, although you do have to consider your transport to the 5th station. During the peak season, collection stations ask for a 1000 Yen donation to maintain the paths.
More About Travel in Japan
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