Over the weekend I took a trip to climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji overnight and see the sunrise with 4 of my friends. For 14 hours I hiked 3,776 meters up Mt. Fuji in the rain and reached the top at 5am! My lungs were on fire, my legs felt like they’re going to fall off, and we had only gotten 4 hours of sleep in the previous 2 days, but this trip was worth it all. The excitement of reaching the summit with my friends and also people from all over the world was an amazing cultural experience. Though the journey was long and treacherous, I am glad I got to see another beautiful landmark of Japan!
Before taking a bus to the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji (this is the last station where public transportation will go), we decided to explore the Ice, Wind, and Bat Caves of Kawaguchiko. I felt like I was Laura Croft as I crouched down in caves and climbed over rocks to see natural lava formations and ice clusters. Journeying through the Bat Cave in person was awesome because it was pretty large and on the way we hiked by the Aokigahara Forest which is a famous spot for suicide. Seeing these sights before the climb really added to the excitement of our journey, and there were many photo ops on the way!
Around 7pm we started hiking the Yoshida Trail of Mt. Fuji in the dark. I was fortunate to have brought a flashlight because the journey would have been extremely difficult due to all of the mist on the mountain. It rained lightly for a bit but luckily we didn’t get very damp in our raincoats. Going up the mountain was pretty easy and we only stopped for one 30 minute rest at the 8th Station for to warm up over some hot chocolate. All of the food and drinks are expensive so it is recommended to bring your own, but we were so cold the 400円 warm drinks were worth it!
The most difficult part for me was the last 900 meters to the summit. Here the air was a lot thinner and there were so many people that we had to move very slowly in a line. Due to the fog, I could not see very well in front of me and had to use my full body to climb over the rocks. I am a fit athlete so normally this would not be a problem, but due to me being short of breath I felt like I was over-exerting myself. Fortunately, my strong will to see the sunrise and my friends helped get me to the top around 4:30am which was a half an hour before the sunrise. While we waited I noticed that there was a gym owned by Team Mystic in Pokemon GO! The sun rose shortly after 5am and we began the 3 hour descent down. I enjoyed the trip but I was so happy to be back on solid ground again!
Things I would have done differently:
- Bought a hiking stick: My friend bought one of these and said it was a lot easier on her legs! Going down the mountain was very difficult for me because I slid a lot due to the wet rocks from the rain. With a hiking stick, you can see where the stable ground is at and it also supports your body. You can buy them at the 5th Station very cheaply and I wish I would have got one!
- Packed more layers: You sweat a lot on Mt. Fuji as long as you keep moving. However, a mere 10 minutes after sitting down will have you shivering, especially if you go at night. I wore 3 layers but still was extremely cold at the summit. If I climb again I plan to buy a wind-resistant jacket so I can stay up there longer.
- Brought more protein/energy food: I knew I would be burning a lot of calories on this journey, but didn’t pack a lot of protein so I got really hungry in the middle of the night. Luckily, my friends had packed extra protein bars, energy gels, and drinks that kept me from being hungry. Definitely bring food that is healthy and easy to carry!
Overall I was very satisfied with this hike and though it rained we stayed in high spirits and got amazing photos and lifelong memories of Mt. Fuji!
To see a virtual tour of the journey we went on, please see the Mt. Fuji 2016 video my friend Neelu Tadisetty took!