During the hot month of August, I climbed up Mt. Fuji, alone and in the dark. It was quite an accomplishment and one that solo travelers shouldn't be afraid to do. I found that climbing Mt. Fuji was fairly simple and not troublesome as a solo traveler. Many travelers, however believe they can simply go without preparation, which is a big no-no and highly discouraged. I met some guys once that were going up in their shorts. So here I have provided some practical tips about the small things for climbing Mt. Fuji at night, and doing it solo is no different.
When I climbed:
A Sunday night in August
Start time from 5th station: 8:30 pm
Time for reaching the summit: about 4:00 am
Time for leaving the summit: 5:10 am
End time at 5th station: about 8:00 am.
Tips for a successful climb:
Load up on carbs- At least 8-9 hours BEFORE you climb, eat a full meal. I ate pasta and a beef salad and then bread, banana, and peanut butter for "breakfast" a couple of hours before I climbed. You're about to climb a mountain, you're going to want that energy from the carbs.
Stretch!- Make sure you’re nice and limber.
Keep a positive mindset- If you are traveling with another person, great, you have someone to help encourage you to keep going. If you are alone, then you need to continuously encourage yourself. A negative mindset will result in negative thoughts, thus a negative experience.
Bring layers!- The top of the mountain is extremely cold and sometimes windy. I was wearing 5 layers on top and 3 layers on bottom and it still wasn’t enough. Then, when the sun rises, and you’re descending the mountain, it gets really hot, so you’ll need to be able to strip down to single layers.
Rest at EVERY station- Rest for 10 minutes at the MOST, save for the beginning of the climb, so that you become adjusted to the altitude. Besides the 5th station, I rested at the 6th station the longest for altitude adjustment because it’s not far from the 5th station so I hadn’t exhausted my body yet. The LONGER the break you take though, the MORE tired you will be to continue walking up the mountain. Also, I saw a few people skip stations only to pass them later because they hadn’t become accustomed to the altitude and began to feel sick.
Drink water- Not just in case of dehydration, but also the altitude. It feels like you are about to hurl, so drinking water gets rid of this pain and assists in helping with the altitude adjustment.
Bring money- Even though everything sold on the mountain is extremely expensive, you will find yourself wanting what they have because you forgot something. For me it was hot coffee. Also, they charge 200 yen for the toilets, so make sure your money is already broken into coins.
Use the toilet- You’d think that you can hold your pee, but you can’t. Not while walking up a mountain when you are already exhausted, your muscles hurt, and you’re cold. Get rid of one more painful factor and dish out the 200 yen for using the toilets whenever you can.
Use the toilet at the “8.5th station”- There is no toilet at the 9th station. I made this mistake and had to hold it all the way to the top, which was about 2 hours, and the line for the toilet at the summit is insanely long.
Use heat packs- I bought one heat pack on the mountain but it wasn’t enough. If I had brought more, I’m sure I would have been a lot more comfortable.
DON’T buy new hiking boots- Unless you have the time to break them in and use them beforehand, I do not suggest buying new hiking boots. Running shoes, or some kind of shoes with traction on them that you’ve used before or are used to will work just fine.
Tips for photography:
Climbing up- It’s dark so the picture might not come out too well, but the view of all the climbers headlamps makes for a great photo-op.
More space for a good photo- If you venture further from the entrance of the summit, past the toilets there is a small hill where there are less people, that way you can have less people in your photos.
Not just the sunrise- Another very cool sight to see was the people. Their clothing actually. Everyone is dressed in their bright ski jackets of all different colors, it really makes a great contrast against the dark colors of the mountain.
After-sunrise photos- While descending the mountain the view as the sun continues to rise is just as great as the actual sunrise and there are less people descending so you can get a great group photo on the trail rather than the summit
What to Bring
If you are climbing to see the sunrise, you will be walking during the night and therefore will need something to light your way. A flashlight is too much to carry, but a headlamp keeps you handsfree during your climb. Ensure that your battery is full before you begin your climb!
Bring your favorite pair of sunglasses for the descent because the sun shines right in your face as you climb down the mountain. I prefer looking like the blues brothers when I wear sunglasses, but you can bring any polarized sunglasses.
A hat and scarf are highly recommended, but even then you'll still be freezing your face off. A full face mask like the one above will assist in keeping you warm rather than holding your scarf to your face to keep you warm. Trust me, you'll want to think about the cold as little as possible.
HotHands Body Warmers With Adhesive
These will be your life saver! Not just hand warmers, but body warmers. Put them in your pockets or stick them between your layers (I prefer on my lower back). They are a godsend and will keep you warm for 12 hours.
A majority of the weight that you will carry should be from your water. Not only is the water going to keep you hydrated during the long climb ahead, but it also helps you adjust to the altitude. I used this hands-free water bladder that I kept in my backpack.
A lightweight camera is best recommended, especially one that is built for all weather conditions. I use the GoPro Hero 5 which has excellent picture quality and battery life.
Other Things to Bring
- Extra underwear/socks in case of rain
- Energy bars
- Cup o Noodles or other easy to make food (energy bars can get old after a while)
Then there are the obvious tips that other Mt. Fuji websites have covered like get enough sleep (I only got 1.5 hours), bring a waterproof jacket or poncho (it didn't rain for me, but I used mine to keep me warm) or rest in a hut before continuing to climb (however this can be counter-productive: “a body at rest stays at rest” and will not want to continue climbing a mountain).
I am not an expert, but these are the things I think people should know. Do what you feel comfortable with and make sure you listen to your body.
For more tips and guidelines for climbing make sure you visit Mt. Fuji website here. I followed this website before I left and I was well-prepared which resulted in an overall good experience unlike other climbers who were miserable from lack of knowledge.
It's not a difficult mountain, you just have to be prepared. It's an experience that everyone should try at least once. If you want to know more about my own Mt. Fuji climbing experience, read about it here.
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