Climbing MT Fuji out of season
I had planned to climb mt Fuji in May, but it was really hard to get reliable information. Whoever I asked told me that it is not allowed and that it is very dangerous. Even that it is not possible. However I did it, I had great experience, and I find it very doable, so thatís why I will write this report, for people in the future who will search similar information. I still donít recommend it to anybody nor want to take any responsibility for other peopleís destinies. So I will just write about my experience, my climbing history and shape, and my thoughts, so you can maybe relate to it and decide for yourself.
I came to Japan for two months April /May, and I wished to climb Mt. Fuji among all. I assumed it was doable. It is similar latitude as European Alps, up to 1000 m shorter than Alpeís tallest peaks. As May/June is the best season to climb Alpes, I thought it must be here as well. Slope seems pretty much same everywhere (20 degrees?), and there is no crevasses. But people (even outdoor guides in Japan) told me that it is much harder due to mountainís exposure and strong wind. Well thatís partially true. But of course you must follow the weather forecast and choose good time for climbing. Same as sunshine and participation forecast, there is the wind forecast as well. People told me that experience climbers die there regularly, and two of them died just few weeks before my trip. Thatís really sad, but unfortunately that is the fact on every serious mountain in the world.
First of all I have to tell you about my mountaineering experience. When I was 20 something, I was ambitious to climb big mountains, I climbed Mt. Blanc, and was preparing to climb Aconcagua, but once in the Alpes I had bad experience (stuck on the steep place) and I decided that dangerous situations and adrenaline stuff is not for me. I decided not (necessarily) to climb peaks but enjoy trekking. So I did quite some trekkings in my life Ė Himalayas, Patagonia, Alps, New Guinea, etc, etcÖ But thatís not too often. Maybe once or twice a year I do an Ďexpeditioní (1-4 weeks walking), and another 5 times I go for a weekend trip. I did some serious jungle treks as well. Other than that when Iím home in Croatia, I try to keep in shape by running (once a week, one hour) and going to gym (once to twice a week). Half of my time Iím travelling (Iím professional traveler Ė www.davorrostuhar.com
) and then I mostly donít do anything to keep my shape.
So I guess I have pretty much better shape than average male of 28 years, but still Iím not sport freek, nor can I run marathons, climb big peaks, or do adventure races. I do it all for fun and for health, and for love of outdoors.
Since I came to Japan in the beginning of April I didnít do any outdoor or sports activities, but in early May I did 6 day (130 km) trek in Kii peninsula.
One person from this forum helped me with borrowing me equipment for mt. Fuji (ice axe, crampons, gaitersÖ), and I decided to go there alone. There is a guide service but it cost more than 500 euro, so I decided to go alone. I donít know the guideís name but his number inside Japan is 0555 237 554. He speaks English. Everybody told me that I need between 8 and 12 hours to get to the top and down, from Kawaguchiko 5th station (2300 m above see level) I will not write about how to get there, and other practicalities about that, as that you can find out elsewhere.
I was waiting for good weather. Could have chosen between Friday Ė clear, winds 30-40 kmph, or Saturday Ė cloudy, almost no winds. I have chosen Friday, as I prefer nice visibility in spite of winds. People told me that it is possible to do it if the winds are bellow 40 or 50 kmph.
I started walking from 2300 m at 6 am. on 21st May. I had just a tourist map but the path was easy to follow, as it is huge, and lined with huts (all closed out off season) At 2800 m. I had to put crampons on and change walking sticks for ice axe. I was walking pretty fast and outrunned few other Japanese hikers. There was altogether 15 people climbing the mountain from Kawaguchiko side that day. All of them who had iceaxe (only 6!!), didnít hold it properly, so I assume they donít even know how to use it. If you never walked in crampons and donít know how to hold and use ice axe Ė donít go there, because you really might die! I think it is relatively easy to use those stuff, but if you donít know it, it is really serious problem, and big risk, even of death!
To my surprise I reached the top of the volcano at 10 am, after 4 hrs walking! As I had more time than expected, I did a trek around the volcano ridge (some 2-3 kms), and that was beautiful but toughest part of the trip. Some pretty steep slopes (40-50 degrees) plus strong wind that few times threw me out of balance.
It took me one hour to do it and then I rested and lunched for half an hour. I descended the same way I came and that took me another hour and a half.
I had perfect weather that day, and perfect ice condition (frozen snow). Overall it was really rewarding experience! Mt Fuji is very impressive and powerful, and I have deepest respect for that mountain!
So the most important things to know or do when preparing for climb out of season is
1) Respect the mountain, and donít ever underestimate it!
2) Be in good shape, and know well your own abilities, donít ever overestimate it!
3) Have all the proper equipment! (You should know what it is!)
4) Plan well the time for the climb. Weather forecast on Mt. Fuji is of crucial importance. This site may help: www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/Mount-Fuji/6day/top
Consider all other rules important for climbing mountains.
It is not possible to rent equipment in Japan, because they are obsessed by following the rules. Logics is as this: If climbing season is only in July and August, that means that you have no reason to look for equipment out of that season.
There were so many warnings that I almost didnít do it, but later on I found it much easier than expected. Now Iím really happy I did it.
If you are in a similar position where I was, I hope this report will help you. But be respectful, responsible and donít be foolish. Most of the people I met on the mountain, and some that wanted to join me before that, didnít have proper experience to do it.
If you have needed experience and consider weather forecast carefully, you might have one of the most memorable climbs of your life, because Mt Fuji is really majestic and spectacular mountain with strong energy. And in this time of the year (late May) it is picture-perfect
snow caped, and free of tourists (who flock there in thousands every day during season)
davor - www.davorrostuhar.com
republished with the permission of the author