The official Mt Fuji climbing season only lasts two months a year. From early July to early September, you can safely climb to the top of Japan’s highest peak, 3776m high! If you’ve been mulling it over, but not quite sure where to begin with your preparations, here are 10 simple tips to get you started.
1. Be at the top for the sunrise. You may be wondering whether it’s worth climbing Mt Fuji during the night, or staying overnight in one of the huts. It is a bit of a hassle, since you would lose a good night’s sleep, but considering that the summit is nearly always in the clouds after the mid-morning, it’s worth it just to get an amazing view.
2. Pick a weekday for your climb. Even a Friday climb will almost certainly mean you will be stuck in traffic on the way down on Saturday. The same for a Sunday climb – you’ll get traffic on the way up, delaying your start. Taking a couple of days off in the week will mean avoiding traffic jams, overcrowded huts and lines to reach the top.
3. Get good hiking shoes. Mt Fuji is rocky and some parts can be steep. The sturdier the shoes, the less risk of stumbling and injuring yourself. Don’t forget that new shoes need to be broken in, otherwise you’ll get painful blisters. Take them on a walk or two around the neighbourhood.
4. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and pants. Since Mt Fuji has its own weather system, it can rain at any moment. Unusually strong wind is also a factor so it’s important to stay dry.
5. Bring warm clothes for the wait at the top. After you reach the top there will be a wait in the pre-dawn cold before sunrise, so bringing warm clothes including gloves and a hat is critical.
6. Train a little beforehand. In case you don’t exercise regularly, you should probably go to the gym 2 or 3 times the week before your climb. I usually use the step machine for 20 minutes and try to climb 100 steps. Remember that after a 3-5 hour climb there is also a 2-3 hour descent. Even though the excitement of the climb may lift you to the top, the long descent is where your muscles really start to ache.
7. Keep an eye on the weather. If a typhoon threatens or if there is a period of bad weather, it may be wiser to reschedule. Google “fuji weather” to get current forecasts.
8. Use the Fujinomiya route. Despite being further and more expensive, it has 3 advantages over the usual Yoshida route. First, it has the highest starting point (2380m). Second, the return can be made down the “Subashiri” sand run – you can run most of the way down in half the time (make sure to turn right for Mt Hoei). Finally, it is less crowded so there is no line to reach the top (click here for the bus times).
9. Get a good map of Mt Fuji. Even though there always tons of people and plenty of English signposts, there are many trails and visibility can sometimes drop to zero in bad weather. Having a good map will help you make the right decision. Also, it will include the walking times.
10. Be self-sufficient when it comes to food and water. Even though you can buy water and food pretty much anywhere on Mt Fuji, this is just a sound principle to stick to when climbing any mountain.
Make sure to check out the official Mt Fuji Climbing Site for the latest information on hiking routes up the mountain.