Climbing Mt. Fuji: what you need and what you don’t

Cloud line when coming down from Mt Fuji

What should you purchase for a hike up Mt. Fuji, and what should you avoid?

Rain gear

It’s not unreasonable to expect rain on your hike.

You can rent rain gear from sundry locations, but there may be a better option. Our travel bus stopped at a small rental shop; a couple of our number had made gear reservations, but even without reservations, there was a lot of gear that the rest of us were free to rent. Rentals were surprisingly expensive.

For rain gear, I found that I was well protected with a cheap poncho, rain pants, and gaiters. You can get the former two at a combini such as 7-11 or perhaps cheaper at a Daiso (each less than 500 yen). You can get all three from a Konan (コーナン). The poncho will cover your pack in addition to yourself. No rain coat/jacket needed.

Another important piece of rain gear is boots:

Boots

A lot of the kids in my group wore their street shoes; I was grateful to have boots. Not only do they afford protection against long hours on the rocky mountain path, but they provide some protection against the rain.

For completely dry feet, you’ll want not only boots but legitimate gaiters (which cover the tongue of your boots). My socks became moist; the feet of many of others were rather less dry.

Your call, a rental for boots may be worthwhile.

Cold-weather clothing

The documents we were given advised us to bring cold-weather clothing. I never felt a need for long pants until we were at the summit and had stopped walking. The elevation is really rather high, and the winds were a bit strong. You may not want long pants, but bring a warm top.

Travel package

All you really need is a bus to and from the mountain. Even if a bus ticket is all you get, this should be the most expensive part of your hike.

We paid for a package which entailed a round-trip bus ride (9 hours each way from Osaka), a few hours’ rest on bunks in one of the stations along the trail, a few meals, and a stop at a bath on the way back. The Japanese bath was welcome after the exhausting hike.

Our hike started at 5:00pm at the 5th station on the mountain. We walked until the middle of the night, had an hour’s rest, and then resumed hiking to catch sunrise at the summit.

Guide

No. A guide actually didn’t cost our party much more than the non-guide package, but going with a guide roped us into a group of 40 or 50 people, and going in such a large group placed uncomfortable constraints on where and when would could take breaks and what speed we could go.

It was impossible to keep any kind of pace because the people least capable of climbing a mountain were taken to the front of a line, and they would take a few steps and then halt. Unfortunately, with the dense crowds of the brief climbing season (one can only climb Mt Fuji in summer), climbers were stacked bumper-to-bumper, so if you were halfway through a stride on uncertain footing, you’d be stuck in that position until the people at the front of your group decided to move again.

Lack of a regular pace and frequent stops at awkward stances made the walk more exhausting than it would otherwise have been.

To reduce crowds, I recommend going on a weekday rather than a weekend if you can.

Did the guide offer anything helpful? Only indicating which rest house was our appointed resting place. But the fact is that he got us there two hours late, so we had only one hour to lie down.

Head lamp

Hiking long hours after dark, a head lamp was beneficial. A handheld lamp would have sufficed, but the rental fee for a headlamp was only 500 yen at the shop. (Wearing it around my neck was a lot more comfortable than around my head.)

02

Some of our team brought liter-sized cans of oxygen. Apparently, a can was only 500 yen. But the oxygen was probably only a placebo. Nobody who tried the O2 noticed a benefit. I took a pull off of one can and noticed nothing at all.

Best practices while hiking

  • Drink small sips, drink frequently.
  • Don’t pause for breaks by the stations. They stink horribly from the latrines and the diesel generators.
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