Mt. Fuji Hike Report and Pictures

I summited Mt. Fuji on July 1, 2004.

Summit elevation is 12,388 ft. (3,776 m)
Fujinomiya trail-head is 7,800 ft. (2,400 m)
Rise is 4,588 ft. (1,376 m)

The trail length from the Fujinomiya trail-head to the crater rim is about 3 miles, one-way, according to my GPS. It seemed longer. The rim loop trail is about 1.5 miles long.

My hiking times were 5.5 hours to ascend to the true summit, 45 minutes to walk around the crater rim, and 3 hours to descend. I was probably the slowest person on the ascent. Several people passed me.

There are 4 main trails up Mt. Fuji. The Japan National Tourist Organization has a nice comparison of trails. I chose the Fujinomiya trail because it had the highest trail-head.

The 'official' hiking season is July 1 to August 30. Many of the buses only run during that period, and some buses do not start until around July 17th. A few people hike outside the season, when it is less crowded. It was not crowded on July 1st, perhaps because a typhoon had just passed, and the visibility was not ideal.

The visitor information desks encourage people to take a bus from Shinjuku, a district of south Tokyo, to Gotemba. Instead, I took the bullet train to Shin-Fuji, and then took a local train to Fujinomiya. I stayed in Fuji Green Hotel, 1 block from the train station. In the morning, I could have taken a bus at 9 am, but that would not have given me enough hiking time, so I departed at 6:30 am in a taxi. The taxi cost 8600 yen. ($86) After July 17th, there is an earlier bus and a later returning bus.

I think the most popular hike is to start from the trail-head about 8 pm, sleep in a communal inn for $100, or not, and freeze on top, waiting for the sunrise. I have seen enough sunrises standing watches in the Navy to last me a lifetime, so I prefer to hike during daylight, when it is warmer and safer. I started up from the trail-head at 7:45am. It was sunny and clear. About 8 am, the clouds began to roll in. Some of the clouds were wet, but it never really rained. The trails are divided into 'stages', as shown on the sign below. The trail-head is the 5th stage.

Met a bloke from Australia who was descending, who said he went up the previous night and stayed at one of the 'stage' inns until 3 am, and then walked up the rest of the way to see the sunrise. He said it was cloudy the previous night, but was clear after he left the inn until he met me.

Some of the young hikers brought aerosol oxygen. Breathing was ok for me. Oxygen may help with the thinner air, but the problem for most of us coming up from sea level in the same day is altitude sickness, (brain swelling and other symptoms from reduced air pressure). Even though I took extra iron for 3 days before to facilitate hemoglobin creation, I still had a headache at the summit. By the time I finished the rim loop and started down, my head hurt each time I took a step down.

The ascent was a lot of work (700,000 foot pounds for me.) I sweated a lot. My 'breatheable' coat did not breathe in the arms. Some people carried a lot of gear. Some people took nothing. About 5pm, I met 2 young Japanese guys dressed in business wear, with ties and business shoes, but no coats. One wore a short sleeve shirt. It was probably a job interview. Dentsu, an advertising agency, requires employee candidates to make the climb.

Here is what I took: 4 - 500ml bottles of water, 1 bottle of Pokari Sweat (like Gatorade), a Pearsons Salted Nutroll, a small package of dried apple chips and raisins, a meat sandwich, an apple, a small package of chocolate chip cookies, raw carrots, rain pants and coat, a thermal top, a sun hat, extra pair of wool socks, bug juice, sun screen, camera, GPS, 4 extra batteries, compass, crude map, descriptive text, a tiny first aid kit, a large garbage bag, knee braces, and a hiking pole.

I returned to the trail-head 15 minutes before the 6 pm scheduled bus departure. The driver held up departure 10 minutes more, waiting for one person, who never arrived. I think I passed him on the my way down. The bus ride back to Fujinomiya is 1 hour. I had a snack, had a long, hot soak in the tub, and went to bed. The next night in Narita, I had a steak and fries. Red wine is alleged to help reduce excess iron. I had 3 glasses to make sure.

My work in Japan consisted of 9 trips over a 10 month period. I am thankful for this experience and for all the help I received from Japanese friends in this and other adventures. If you are traveling solo in Japan, I think there are a few minimum things to learn. It is helpful to learn how to take the Narita Express into Tokyo, how to travel on the Yamanote double loop around Tokyo, and the Shinkansen. (bullet trains) It is helpful to know a few Japanese phrases: Pardon me, Sorry, Good morning, Thank you, Where is?, Red Wine. I found it helpful to know the Kanji characters for Mountain, Entrance, Exit, East, West, North, South, Tokyo. I found it helpful to know numbers.

All hikes of this difficulty require planning and conditioning. Pay careful attention to the weather. Be respectful of the mountain. People have died on Fuji-san.

Trail-head with Mt. Fuji in the background. Trail-head with Mt. Fuji in the background
Sign-map showing stages and time in minutes. The Kanji character after 30 is minute. From the bottom, the Kanji for the stages say, New 6th stage, 6th stage, New 7th stage, 7th stage, 8th stage, and so on.

This image also appears on page 30 of NGeo Adventure magazine, August/September 2009 issue. NGeo failed to give me photo credit. At least they asked permission to use my image.
Sign-map showing stages and time in minues. The Kanji character after 30 is minute.  From the bottom, the Kanji for the stages say, New 6th stage, 6th stage, New 7th stage, 7th stage, 8th stage, and so on.
Fujinomiya Route sign. Fujinomiya Route Sign
Signs of encouragement along the way: 15 minutes from the top. Signs of encouragement along the way: 15 minutes from the top
Post office and shrine at the top of the trail. Crater is behind. The true summit is behind the post office and left around the crater rim. Post office and shrine at the top of the trail. Crater is behind. The true summit is behind the post office and left around the crater rim.
Marker at the true summit. A marker at the summit.
Mt. Fuji crater. Mt. Fuji Crater
Stone graffiti near the crater, similar to white stone graffiti in the lava fields on Hawaii. Stone graffiti near the crater, similar to white stone graffiti in the lava fields on Hawaii.
Mystery monument on the northeast rim. Most people probably miss this one. Mystery monument on the northeast rim. Most people probably miss this one.

Mt. Fuji Hiking Links