Ironically enough, Dave and I climbed Mt. Fuji the exact same weekend last summer. I was a little hesitant to climb again after our experience climbing down in the torrential rainstorm. As Sonia and I discussed expectations, I said I wanted amazing weather at the summit. I wanted pictures of being above the clouds with blue skies and a Torii gate. Realistically, I wanted it to not rain as much as it did last year.
We took the MWR tour and left Yokosuka at 2:00 am Saturday morning. We made a brief stop in route for provisions and arrived at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji a little before 5:00 am. I decided to carry the same hiking stick from last year and fill it with stamps. This was Sonia’s first climb so she purchased a new stick to have stamped along the route. Here is the location of the 5th station. It is the furthest accessible point by vehicle.
Of course, one of the best parts of the hike is seeing an amazing sunrise.
From 5th station we begin our hike to the 6th station. This part of the hike is repeated when we come down the mountain. We took a quick picture at the 6th station before going up! If you look closely at the picture, you can see the results of the high winds. Most of the way up the mountain today, we were challenged with very strong and gusting winds.
The hike from the 6th station to the 7th station consists of wide igneous rock covered trails with a lot of switchbacks. In my opinion, it is the most boring part of the hike.
It was a lot of this!
And fortunately, this!
The 7th station is fun because here you can receive the first stamp on your hiking stick. Also, the terrain of the trail changes dramatically. There are a lot more large igneous rocks. I remembered how challenging they were last time to climb over because their texture is so rough. Today, they were exceptionally difficult because of the strong winds. At times I felt like a human sail and decided to keep my head down and hold onto the rocks with both hands! Sonia was smart and brought sunglasses to keep not only the sun out of her eyes but also dust. She was a great help to me by yelling “put your head down” when she felt a strong gust. We were covered in dust by the time we came down the mountain.
The other important thing to note is how beautiful the skies were during this portion of our hike. It truly set the stage that I just might have my amazing views.
From the 7th station we continued on to the 8th station.
At 3100m, the views were still spectacular.
We reached the 8th station just before 8:00am. Time wise, the 8th station is approximately halfway up the mountain. We had about three hours of hiking remaining before reaching the summit. We enjoyed my new favorite find at Family Mart. Cheeseburgers!
As we were finishing up our mid morning snack, the clouds were building and rain started. Quickly we gathered our gear and started hiking again. The rain didn’t last too long! Whew! The next stop was the 8.5th station (that’s what the sign calls it!) or the original 8th station. It takes an average of 80 minutes to go from the 8th station to the 8.5th station. The elevation change is a little over 300m. Along the way, we noticed new trail maintenance and a sign. It was fun to see “new things” on this journey!
Through this portion of the journey, we kept good tabs on our pace and level of exertion. Knowing we had about three hours of hiking to reach the summit, we remain cautious and steady. None the less, our hearts were pounding pretty hard at times! As we passed the 3240m – 3400m elevation, we stopped for a few fun photos.
I was able to get a good picture with a Torii above the clouds. I took time to embrace the wabi-sabi. It’s may not be at the summit but, it’s a great picture! Beauty in the imperfections. As a result, I have a cute Torii picture on Mt. Fuji.
As we arrived to the 8.5th station, the clouds started to roll in, again.
That’s a patch of snow!
From the 8.5th station to the summit is about 90 minutes. The elevation change is a little over 300m. It was during this stretch last year when the wheels started to fall off because of the weather and our inexperience with climbing Mt. Fuji. This year, I at least knew that the 600m sign meant we still had 25 minutes of strenuous climbing!
As we arrived at the 9th station, we were greeted by another Torii. Perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a few photos.
The final stretch to the summit remained. The clouds were thick.
Off we went. One boulder scramble, stair step at a time!
Until finally…. we made it!! Check us out!
At the summit, we stopped for lunch. It was just before 11:00am. About 6 hours of hiking with necessary breaks. Not too shabby! Actually, 6 hours is the average. Lunch was a delicious warm bowl of ramen! By the time we reached the summit the only spot left on my hiking stick was for my second summit stamp!
We ate, had our hiking sticks and temple books stamped, and used the restroom. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was noon and it was beginning to rain. Oh, no. I honestly didn’t know if I had the strength to endure the descent in the rain again this year. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. The rain stopped pretty soon after we left the summit.
The descent without rain was so much easier. We each slipped a couple times on the loose igneous rock. But, we were ok. We were dry and warm.
Somewhere along the descent, the clouds were beneath us and above us.
We could stand on the ledge and I could get my cool cloud picture.
I experienced wabi-sabi yet again. The summit isn’t the only place magical pictures can be captured.
The remainder of the hike had a few sprinkles and maybe a slip or two. Without all the rain, coming off the mountain was a breeze. We were back at the 5th station by 3:00pm.
We had two hours before the buses left to clean up, eat, and shop. Which we did. I enjoyed Mt. Fuji Melon Bread and a Mt. Fuji Craft beer. Delicious reward for a great hike.
After our hike today, I’ve decided I love Mt. Fuji even more. She has a way of showing you your strengths and weaknesses when you make the climb. Mt. Fuji doesn’t give you what you want, but gives you what you need. Sonia needed to check Mt. Fuji off her Japan bucket list. She was ready for the challenges climbing Mt. Fuji would give her and she came out victorious.
Today, I needed perspective and a dose of wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfection. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is a good sensei (teacher). I came and I climbed – twice. For that I am wiser, not a fool!