Late season day hike up Fujisan
Just wanted to try out a trip report so this is actually something i did early last October. First a little intro...
The 'official' open season for climbing Mount Fuji is just the months of July and August, however you can avoid the massive crowds by going late. The down sides are that all the huts and touristy stuff is closed, if you like that sort of thing, and of course the weather. Also, as the trails are supposedly closed then its possible that someone could object, but when I went there were a few other hikers around and no one seemed at all concerned - you just need to step around the barricades. Doing the popular overnight hike, i.e. summit at sunrise, would be harder out of season due to the lack of operating huts, but I suppose you could always kip in the car till the start time. This is another advantage of the off season as in peak season the highest car parks are closed to the public to reduce congestion and you have to take a shuttle bus from lower car parks, assuming you are driving in. In season you can take a direct bus from Tokyo, but I think only tour buses operate outside of that i.e. you just get to see the trailhead.
Regarding the weather, summit temperatures on Fujisan are around 20C to 25C lower than nearby Tokyo, so you need to dress appropriately whatever the season. On the days preceding my hike the summit temperature at the peak weather station was around -15C, but on the day it was a more typical -4.5C. Despite being colder, I would pick October over September due to the lesser chance of Typhoons. There is little to no shelter on Fuji, and wind is potentially the biggest danger (assuming you are dressed properly).
So far so good...
Fuji is divided into 10 stations, with the 10th being the summit. There are car parks as high as the 5th station (where most people these days hike from) but in the peak season these are restricted to buses and the like. I didn't have to worry about this so after an early start in Tokyo I took the highway and arrived about 3 hours later at the fujinomiya trail's 5 station. At 2400m this is the highest car park, and I figured I needed all the help I could get being someone who spends almost all his time stuck behind a desk. The weather was glorious and time was 8 am (actually I wanted to arrive much earlier but its really difficult getting out of bed...) and the smallish car park was already pretty lively.
Time for a piccy, but looks like it would be better to upload them to an external photo website first...
While I'm waiting for the photos to start working...
The trail head had a shop and a restaurant that were both closed as expected, however luckily the free toilets were still in operation. This was lucky because it turned out that maybe 10 minutes up the trail there is a station still open but which charges 200yen i.e. more than a quid for the use. Coach tours still operate until the snow closes the access road, so I would expect that things get busy around here later in the day. When I arrived the cloud level was just below the car park level, so there was a good view towards the summit - which as it turned out was not that inspiring from this close up
Unpacking my kit from the car I realised something was missing. Something infact was still sitting by the font door of my house... D'oh! More about that later.
So I started the long slog up the fairly featureless slope, leaving the remanents of the clouds behind. At this stage I was feeling strangely fleet of foot.
"Hey Snowy, I can see the pub from here!"
At about this time a gap in the clouds opened up, allowing me to see all the way back to the car park and beyond. As you can see, the route basically just follows the fall line - theres not much else it can do given Fujisan's classic volcanic cone shape.
Eventually after a total of about 4 hours of slogging I reached a torii, a kind of symbolic japanese gate, that I assumed marked the end of the trail. The last few 10s of metres before this are a bit of a scramble up the crater outer rim - enough so that I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures.
Now that I had got this far, I certainly wanted to make the most of this opportunity, so a circumnavigation of the crater rim was in order. The obvious features were various buildings/huts and shrines catering to the tourist trade - all shut until next summer. Apparently then they even operate a post office up here. In the background is Kengamine, the highest point of the crater rim and hence the true summit of Fujisan and the highest point in Japan. The building on it is a mostly derelict weather research station.
As you can see from this piccy, Mount Fuji stands in the middle of a flat plain and dwarfs its nearest mountain neighbours, indeed it dwarfs pretty much every other mountain in Japan
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