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July 2012

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Mount Fuji, as seen from Kawaguchiko train and bus station Bookmark and Share

Let me tell you about one of the most unforgettable days of my life: the day we climbed Mount Fuji!

That's the view of Mount Fuji from Kawaguchiko train and bus station. It all started right there.

Forests, mountains and lakes as seen from Mount Fuji We arrived in Kawaguchiko the night before the climb, and checked-in at the K’s House Hostel, which is kind of the backpacker’s hub in town. When looking at Mount Fuji in the dark, we could see several lights on its slope. Those were the flashlights from dozens of night climbers, whose aim is to see the sunrise from Mount Fuji’s Summit.
In order to appreciate the landscape, we didn’t want to climb by night.

Instead, we woke up very early and took the first bus from Kawaguchiko to Mount Fuji 5th station.
Felling in Germany? No, it's Mount Fuji's 5th station There are several trails on Mount Fuji and there are four places called “5th station”. Yoshida Trail 5th station is the most popular one, as it’s the highest point on Mount Fuji that can be reached by road.
It’s located 2300 meters above sea level, so still almost 1500m from the summit. I think this is something good, and I hope that no further roads will be constructed so it will stay this way. For example, the summits of Mount Etna or Mount Vesuvius can be reached by road, so getting to the top is not a challenge anymore. It’s good because anyone can enjoy the view, but there’s no more magic in climbing to those mountains anymore.
A prayer at Komitake Shrine, the Buddhist Temple in Mount Fiji 5th Station, before climbing the mountain

The 5th station is the last chance to buy some hiking gear, some warm clothes, and the one place to send a postcard home. For those who can’t get to the top, there’s an observation deck where the views of the surrounding valleys and lakes are amazing.

The 5th station is location in what used to be the summit of the Komitake volcano, 700 000 years ago, before even Mount Fuji existed. After several violent eruptions, Mount Fuji has buried Komitake and now both mountains are one. (for details, click here).

Daranibō Tengu in Komitake Shrine, Mount Fuji Between the shops, the small Komitake Shrine is definitely worth a visit.
There are several Tengu masks, displayed as long nose demons, or birds with long eyebrows.
Dozens of interpretations about Tengu exist. They’re said to be demons, spirits, ghosts, monsters, but can also bring protection.
In any case, Tengu are said to live in the mountain, and so they are worshipped and Komitake Shrine.
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clouds, blue sky... green and rocky soil. You never know what climbimng the mountain is about

Well, we left the 5th station behind and started the walk uphill, though the Yoshida Trail.

We knew that we had a full day hike, about 6 hours upwards and 3 hours down. The last bus back to Kawaguchiko was at 10pm.

We decided to climb the mountain and get down in the same day. It was a bit of a rush but we didn't want to sleep in a mountain hut. They're quite expensive and be very crowed during the climbing season.

Power rangers on Mount Fuji

Something nice about Mount Fuji is that there are not only experienced hikers here. The mountain is fairly easy to climb and there's no need for a specific preparation. For most people, being in good shape is enough.

Mount Fuji sees all kinds of climbers though its slopes: young, elder, whole families... and even superheroes!
We saw two guys from Tokyo who had the great idea to climb the Fuji dressed as the Power Ragers... Just for fun!

A horse helping Mount Fuji climbers

The begining of the path is very green and covered with forests.
On the first part of the trail, it's possible to hire a horse or a carriage, but those can't go too high.

After a couple of hours, the landscape changes. The greenery fades away and we found ourselves on a more inhospitable environment, walking on volcanic rocks without a single tree around.

After a long climb, a well deserved rest

It was sunny and warm when we started to climb early in the morning, but just as we were leaving the 7th Station, huge clouds suddenly covered the sky.

A heavy storm came without warning, bringing rain, hail and snow. It didn't last long, but we didn't have waterproof clothes so we were wet and cold after it.
We found refuge at the 7th Station's mountain hut. After the rain, we had lunch and took some rest at the same spot.

Snow, rocks and clouds

The last part of the climb is the hardest.
We were very tired after hours of climbing uphill. This, combined with little sleep the previous night and the altitude sickness at 3500 meters, made the end of the trail the most difficult part.

The mind says yes, the body says no, but there's no turning back.
So close to the summit, every effort is tough but rewarding.

Metal Traveller at Toori near Mount Fuji's top

The old Japanese saying goes that anyone would be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji once, but a fool to climb it twice.
This has been corrupted through the Internet as "He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man. He who climbs it twice is a fool", a popular but completely wrong translation that doesn't really have the same meaning.

Night started to fall down as we were getting down the mountain, and we met some climbers that were getting uphill to catch the sunrise.
For us the adventure was over, but I will for sure remember this day forever.

A toori on Mount Fuji Bookmark and Share

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