Some folks in my office organized a trip to hike the formidable Mt Fuji (or as Lexi insists on calling it: "Mountain Fuji") last Saturday. It was quite the trek and made for a long day. Our itinerary had us leaving base at 3 am. There were 16 of us in all; we traveled south from the base in 2 cars and a mini-van. We parked around 4:20 at the very base of the mountain, then waited 45 for the first shuttle going up to the "5th Station." This is where we started hiking. Not sure why it's called the 5th Station, but there's probably a sensible explanation somewhere on the internet. The 5th station has some restaurants and a few little shops where we got our souvenir hiking sticks (more on these later) and any other last minute items we thought we might need. We finally started our hike around 6:20.
Here's a view of Fuji-san from the 5th Station:
Let's talk about these stamps. Almost every rest stop had a brand, some electric, others heated by flame, that they would burn into your walking stick. Each stamp cost about 200 yen each. 100 yen coins are about the size of a quarter, so it feels like you're only coughing up 50 cents per stamp. But, when you do a little math in your head, you realize that 200 yen is actually closer to $3. But even when you know it's $3 per stamp, it still only two coins, so you keep buying the stamps. (I've said a couple times since we got here "I know the value of a dollar, but not the value of 78 yen.") The stick was about $12, and there were about 14-15 stamps, so this turned into about a $50 souvenir by the time I got to the top. The stamp merchants kept a straight face while we were there, but I'm pretty sure they laughed all the way to the bank after we left. Looking on the bright side, now I can prove I walked all the way to the top. No one can claim I was dropped on top by a helicopter. No holes in that story. It's air tight.
The hike was a good physical and mental challenge for me. On the way up, you can't really see the summit, so you never have a really good idea of how far you are from the top. That's what made it a mental challenge. I never felt physically overwhelmed, but it was difficult. Took me and a couple of my co-workers about 5 1/2 hours to get to the summit. We had beautiful weather on our way up, but after being on top for a couple hours it started raining. I guess that's Fuji's way of saying we overstayed our welcome. This pic is of the torii gate at the summit.
We ended up waiting four hours at the top hoping to get a photo op with all of us from the office. Around 4 pm there were still five of our coworkers who hadn't made it up. We started thinking if we didn't descend soon, we'd be doing so in the dark. We hadn't come prepared for night hiking, So down we went in the rain around 4 pm. A few of us got down in about 2 hours 15 mins and were off the mountain by around 6:15 pm. As with the way up, others took more time than we did. The others ended up finishing in the dark, and we were on our way home around 9:15.
We got home, exhausted, around 10:45. By the time I kicked off my dirty hiking boots, I'd been up for nearly 21 hrs, and I'd been wet for nearly 8 hours. It was a great day, but it felt great to be home.
Fuji-san's hiking season is limited to the months of July and August. I guess before and after that you can't hike to the top because of the snow. So, plan your trip accordingly if you want to hike Mountain Fuji. Visitors definitely welcome.