Climbing Mount Fuji: Scariest Night of My Life
Planning out my trip to Japan, I wrote down all of the things I wanted to see. Right at the top of the list; Mt Fuji. Boasting incredible views from its 3,776 meters, a fascinating history, and incredible significance to Japanese culture. Mt Fuji is truly majestic. I had dreams of seeing the sunrise from the summit of Mt Fuji. Immediately I started scouring the internet to find out everything I could about climbing Mt Fuji. Then I wondered, “Is climbing Mt Fuji hard?”.
I read blog post after blog post that mentioned how thousands of people ascend to Mt Fuji’s summit each year. I thought to myself, “If so many people do this, climbing Mt Fuji can’t be that hard, right?” Well, friend, I got all geared up, ascended to the summit of Mt Fuji and this was my terrifying experience. But first, let me cover some frequently asked questions!
Is Climbing Mount Fuji Hard?
I have to start by saying that before climbing Mt Fuji, my husband, Daniel, and I had never climbed a mountain before in our lives. We prepped several days in advance trying to get our gear together, and reading as much about it as we could. Every blog we came across online talked about how thousands of people climb it every year, and how it was an easy climb. Let me be the one to tell you that IT IS NOT EASY. So if you’ve come here wondering, “is climbing Mt Fuji hard climbing” let me be the one to tell you, it absolutely is. When you scroll down to read the rest of our story summiting the mountain, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
*Disclaimer: Do not even attempt to climb it unless you are in decent physical shape, have altitude sickness medication just in case, and have the proper gear*
How to Prepare for Climbing Mt Fuji
We did everything we could to get prepared to climb Mt Fuji. We walked an hour every single day for two months, ate mostly vegetarian, and led a generally healthy lifestyle! Climbing Mt Fuji is equal parts endurance, and being careful. You don’t need any specialized equipment to climb to the summit of Mt Fuji, but you do need patience. We learned that slow and steady wins the race and that taking multiple breaks as you ascend makes the altitude sickness easier.
How to Deal With Mt Fuji Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness on Mt Fuji was something we had heard about but didn’t really expect it to happen to us. The altitude sickness starts to hit the moment you arrive at the 5th station and get ready to climb Mt Fuji. So we recommend you sit down at a restaurant and have a meal while your body acclimates.
As you go up Mt Fuji, the mountain huts will sell cans of oxygen at a very inflated price. We recommend you buy your own cans of oxygen or bring oxygen pills with you on the mountain.
What Gear Do I Need to Climb Mt Fuji?
Because so many blogs had told us that Mt Fuji was easy, we didn’t think we needed much. Since you should plan for a two day, one-night hike, you need to bring all of the water and food you’re going to need. That meant bringing AT LEAST 3, 1.5 Liter bottles of water, and tons of calorie packs. Here is everything we recommend to climb Mt Fuji:
To ascend the mountain, hiking boots aren’t a big deal because the path is pretty clear and grippy. However, coming down the mountain is pure gravel and at a very steep incline. Even with my hiking boots, I found myself to be sliding, tripping, and slipping the entire way down the steep descent. You want to make sure that the hiking boots you get that cover your ankles because the chances of twisting your ankle during the climb are very high!
For women, I recommend these!
For men, I recommend these!
Waterproof Jacket & Pants
When you’re climbing Mt Fuji, the weather is very unpredictable. During our time climbing Mt Fuji it rained multiple times and would start quite suddenly. Keep in mind that although the beginning on the climb may not be very cold, the higher you go on the mountain, the colder and windier it gets! Our waterproof jackets were very well-loved and used during our climb considering it rained several times.
We recommend a jacket like this one and find pants for like $2 at the local J-Mart!
A Head Lamp
You will end up climbing this mountain in the dark at some point and it is pitch black. I’m a bit of a cheapo and only brought one of these and we struggled HARD!
A Hiking Stick
This isn’t super necessary on the way up, but on the way down, a hiking stick will absolutely save your knees!
How Tall is Mt Fuji?
Mt Fuji is 3, 776 meters, or 12,389 feet, making it the tallest mountain and Volcano in Japan.
Which trail should I use to climb Mt Fuji?
The Yoshida trail is the most common and most difficult trail to climb to the summit of Mt Fuji. Because it’s the oldest, it also has the most mountain huts available and is well trodded. It’s about 3.6 miles long and takes between 6-10 hours to ascend.
Can a beginner climb Mt Fuji?
Yes, but be careful. Mt Fuji was the first mountain we ever climbed and we were able to accomplish it. For beginners, we definitely recommend you book in a Mountain Hut for one night to get acclimated to the height of the mountain. Also, make sure you take plenty of water and food to keep you energized while climbing Mt Fuji.
When is the best time for climbing Mt Fuji?
The hiking season extends from early July, until the end of August. We recommend you do it right when it opens before the Japanese school break starts. The mountain will be less congested at this time, making it a more enjoyable climb. During the hiking season, there is no snow on Mt Fuji, but keep in mind it will still be very cold! Take the right gear!
With That Out of the Way, Here’s our Climbing Mt Fuji Story:
Guys, Mt Fuji was SO much harder than I expected, but MAN what an experience. We got to the mountain after taking a bus to 5thstation which is where everyone starts their hike. It was cold, and we had already started to feel some altitude sickness at 2000 meters, so we decided to eat at a restaurant up there and hang out for a couple of hours to get acclimated.
Once we were ready and on our way to the Yoshida trail, we decided to speak to the Mt Fuji information desk and ask for a map. While they were explaining to us the different routes, and how to get to the summit safely, I asked where our Mountain Hut was…
Mt Fuji Mountain Hut Fiasco
Mountain Huts are the very basic accommodations along the trail, that allow you to take a rest day before summiting. We booked ours several weeks in advance on the Subishiri trail because they said it was the least congested of the trails. I asked the information desk to circle our Mountain Hut on the map so we wouldn’t get lost. There we learned that we had booked our original mountain hut on the wrong trail in another city! Thankfully they canceled that one for us and made a reservation at a new one on the 8th station of the Yoshida trail called Fujisan Hotel. After getting that all squared away, we began our ascent.
You can book mountain huts on Mt Fuji by clicking this link! Book quickly because these spots fill up fast. I also recommend you stay in the highest Mountain hut possible because you will be much more tired on the second day than you will be on the first. Remember climbing Mt Fuji is hard and it’s a MOUNTAIN. The more climbing you get done on the first day, the less you will have on the next!
Starting the Climb to Mt Fuji’s Summit: From 5th Station to 7th Station
The beginning of the hike is pretty easy and beautiful! It’s a very lush tropical forest, with little streams of water coming off the mountain. To the left of the trail, there is a giant drop off, where you would usually have a gorgeous view. When we were climbing, it was super cloudy, so we didn’t get to see anything but the clouds rolling over us.
Getting to the 6th station wasn’t too difficult. It was mostly flat and lasted for about an hour or so. Even though we had just started the hike, Daniel had already started getting altitude sickness. Poor guy, he was so excited (and cocky) in the beginning, and Fuji pooped all over his parade. We kept pushing through toward the 7th station, and this is where the trail starts getting steep. There were giant rocks everywhere in a multitude of different colors. Red, Orange, and even blue rocks! They looked like the porous volcanic rocks I learned about in the 5th grade, except this time I was the one on a volcano!
May the Fun Begin: Mt Fuji gets STEEP and Dangerous
The entire ascension I couldn’t believe I was there. On Mt Fuji. In Japan. I was elated and riding on an endorphin high! Everything was pretty smooth, outside of the occasional steep rock, until the 7thstation. That is when climbing Mt Fuji becomes hard. The seven-station is where the huts begin to appear and you can start getting food and supplies. That’s also where the fun, steep, jagged-edged rocks start to appear where you have to bring out all of your climbing skills. The steep, red, and rugged terrain looked like something that belonged on Mars.
That kind of terrain went all the way up to the 8thstation which is where our Mountain hut was. It was also a three-hour hike straight up the mountain. This was the most fun part of the hike, but definitely, one I wasn’t expecting. The trail up to the eight-station is dangerous. One wrong move, or dislodged rock, and you can fall as much as 20 feet down very sharp and steep rocks. You are using your arms to hoist yourself up to the next rock at times, and can’t have your hands full. This is the part I wish more people would have warned me about.
Sunset on Mt Fuji
The sun was starting to set, and we didn’t want to get stuck climbing through the sharp rocks during the night time, so we started to go as quickly as we could without getting hurt. 2 1/2 hours into the hike from 7th to 8th station, we made it to the first mountain hut. Daniel was really starting to feel awful from the altitude sickness on Mt Fuji at this point. We sat, enjoyed some warm cup noodles on the mountain, and rested for about 20 minutes. While your climbing, you inevitably bump into the same people over and over again. We ended up making friends with a group from Singapore, who graciously offered Daniel oxygen pills so we could make it to our mountain hut.
Scariest Night of My Life
When we got the first mountain hut on the 8thstation, we learned we were still 6 mountain huts away from ours. Almost another 2-hour hike away, through steep rocks, in pitch-black darkness. It was freezing cold, windy, and started lightly snowing. We couldn’t see anything that our headlights didn’t illuminate, and would often walk through clouds that only let us see a foot or two in front of us. The path was narrow and the ledge of the mountain was a foot away from us. All that separates you and certain death is a tiny, futile rope. You couldn’t see the way down, you just saw the blackness next to you. Looking at my feet was the only thing I could do to not focus on what would happen if I tripped. It’s honestly the scariest and most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done.
Best View in the World
We stayed at the Fujisan Hotel which is the second-highest mountain hut on Fuji (3400 meters, 11,150 ft). Once we finally got to our mountain hut we were able to relax a little. The view was unreal. Now that we were in a safer spot, we were able to relish in all that we had accomplished that day. The view was our reward, and suddenly it was all worth it. The altitude sickness, the sweat, and almost tears… all worth it. It was like the view from an airplane at night, except its dead silent, and the stars illuminate the sky above. The cities below are lit up and we were able to just be witnesses to the world below us. The best part, we had the view to ourselves.
Daniel’s Health Takes a Turn for the Worst
We went to sleep in a log cabin that was squished amongst dozens of other people. The mattress reminds me of our tatami mats, and they gave us a THICK warm blanket. It was pretty comfortable. Since it took us so long to get up there (about 9 hours of active trekking), we only had like 3 hours to sleep. We woke up at 2 AM to start the hike, but Daniel was feeling awful.
He was nauseous, had heart palpitations, and thought he was going to need a med-evac. We waited up there for about two hours, drank tons of water, ate some of our calorie sticks, and called our families. We figured we weren’t going to make it to the summit for sunrise, but that was okay. The view from where we were was already incredible. We were going to try and get as high as we could before the sunrise started, whether that was the summit or not.
The Best Spot for Sunrise on Mt Fuji
Once Daniel started feeling better, we continued the climb toward the summit. We found a quiet rock on the way to the 8.5 station to watch the sunrise. It was the best decision we could have made. Since everyone who was climbing was already at the summit for sunrise, we had the whole trail to ourselves. We sat down, brought out the snuggie, and just enjoyed watching nature show off. The sky went from black to dark blue, to purple, then pink-orange! It was stunning. Below us, we had the city and lakes illuminated by the rising sun, with clouds rolling in the distance. We were so grateful to be up there for that moment. All of the hard work we had put in was worth it.
Climbing to the Summit of Mt Fuji
We weren’t done yet, though. We still had to make it to the summit, and go back down. The climb up that day was much harder than expected. We were tired from the hike the day before, and sleep-deprived. Altitude sickness was still a problem and the wind and sun were burning our faces. It was cold and windy, and we still had two hours to go. Every time we would take a break, hornets would cluster around us. It was like they knew if we rested too long we would never make it to the summit.
The terrain near the summit looks otherworldly. Dry, volcanic, and bright red. The wind and sun are fierce, and it’s not pleasant to climb anymore. We could see the summit’s first Tori gate in the distance, but it felt like an eternity away. The rocks were steep again, and we were back to climbing on all fours. We were exhausted, our bodies ached, and the altitude was making us dizzy. Just before summiting, we met a five-year-old who was climbing the mountain with his whole family. A FIVE-YEAR-OLD! After giving the little soldier a congratulatory high five, I felt a new sense of motivation to get my sorry butt up! Up we went, through the second Tori gate, and WE MADE IT! We finally made it.
The Summit of Mt Fuji
The summit was surprisingly anticlimactic. There was a shrine, and a couple of noodle places (which were very expensive), a crater, and another 1hr hike to the highest point of the mountain. By then we were so tired and over it, we were not going any higher. We made it to the summit and that’s what mattered to us. We walked over to the crater, but you couldn’t really see in it. After 15 minutes of enjoying the view and eating $9 cup noodles, we started making our way down.
The Worst Part of climbing Mt Fuji is over… Or So I Thought
This was by far the most difficult part of the entire climb. The road down is very steep and slippery. The rocks are like small gravel that literally slide under your feet. This is where we were super grateful to be using hiking boots. I could not imagine going down with any other kind of footwear. I was hot, it was hard on my knees, and a truly miserable four hours. It was so bad, I didn’t even care about the views anymore. It made me angry because I could see how far I was from the ground. I just wanted to be taken off the damn mountain.
Every 20 minutes or so, there would be a sign telling us that we were still two hours from the bottom. I thought I was going to cry. I couldn’t understand why the hell anybody chose to climb mountains. NOTHING was worth this pain. My legs were quivering from exhaustion, and we were dehydrated. My positivity from the day before was gone, and now I was just bitter. We saw people walking downhill backward to spare their knees, and people running in zig-zags, but that didn’t even help.
Four Painful Hours of Climbing Mt Fuji Later…
Finally, we made it to the jungle/forest part that we had started with. We could see hundreds of people getting ready to climb, all brown-eyed and bushy-tailed walking their way up. We wanted to tell everyone climbing, “why are you doing this to yourself?!”. Daniel and I would start laughing when we would see people in shorts and a t-shirt climbing Mt Fuji, knowing they were going to freeze up there. We felt exhausted, in pain, and war-torn. Not enough people talk about how hard climbing Mt Fuji is. This was our first mountain, and maybe that was our first mistake. We couldn’t even look at the mountain after climbing it and we couldn’t understand how people find mountaineering fun.
How We Feel Now after Climbing Mt Fuji
It’s crazy how time makes you forget the pain. Now that weeks have passed, and our bodies have recovered, we are looking for our next mountain to climb! Although climbing Mt Fuji is hard, the accomplished feeling after and incredible views really make it all worth it. Mountaineering definitely taught us some powerful lessons about how strong we are mentally, and the respect we need to have for mountains. It wasn’t safe, and climbing Mt Fuji was hard, but it sure was worth it.
What to Do After Climbing Mt Fuji
After climbing Mt Fuji, my legs barely worked. I was in severe pain for about 4 days after the hike. The single best thing I did for my body was live in a Japanese onsen. An onsen is a traditional Japanese bathhouse that uses volcanic thermal waters for therapeutic purposes. Because of it’s proximity to Mt Fuji, Hakone has some of the best onsen in the country. The Onsen took all of my pain away, and made my body heal faster. Be warned that there are very funny rules about onsen in Japan. If you want to learn more about Japanese onsen and my experience with them, click here!
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