Thursday, August 28, 2014

What the Fuji?

Jeff and I are going to hike Mt. Fuji tomorrow.  I thought I'd take today to give a little bit about the logistics of the process out of the way today since I think it is rather interesting.

First of all, Mt, Fuji is a big dormant volcano (last erupted in 1708) and it is a of a symbol of Japan.  It tops out at 12,388 ft.  I'm currently living at essentially sea level so I'm sure I'll notice the altitude and lack of oxygen.  There are 4 trails that lead to the top and a fifth trail that goes around the rim of the caldera.  Approximately 311,00 people climbed Mt. Fuji in 2013 so we will not be alone.  There is an official climbing season from July 1st to September 14th (but many of the bus services stop running September 1st.).  Fuji is usually covered with snow in the time periods outside of hiking season and can be very dangerous if you do not have some mountaineering experience.  Jeff and I are hiking the Fujinomiya trail.  It is one of the steeper trails but shorter and geographically the most convenient from the direction we are traveling.

The hike up on all 4 trails in divided in to 9 stations.  Each station has shops where water and snacks can be purchased, camp composting toilets and the upper stations have huts.  Most people start hiking at the 5th station as this is the highest buses can go for all 4 routes.  For the route we are taking, the road is closed to cars and we have to take the bus.  The huts are small rooms where people squash together at night like sardines in a can and pretend to sleep, and at least stay warm.  Why would you do this, you ask?  Well, most people either hike all night or hike up to the 8th station, sleep in a hut until 4:00 AM and then hike to the top to see the sun rise from the top of Mt. Fuji.  This is "the thing" to do. 

Jeff and I have opted not to do this. We are hiking up and down in a day.  We don't have the gear in Japan to do an overnight trip, waiting for the dawn can be extremely cold (well below freezing) and unless you have clear skies you really can't see much anyway (our forecast is rain so our sunrise would probably be nothing but clouds and we freezing miserableness, and if you know me, you know I'm not a fan of cold and wet.) 

The thing that makes this a smudge challenging is that all of the buses are set up for these crazy sunrise people so that means Jeff and I need to keep a brisk pace in order to catch the last bus back down after the hike.  I don't see this as a problem, but it's something we need to keep in mind.

In talking with people and reading about hiking Fuji, it seems like there are 2 common mistakes.  People forget how much colder it is at the top (hypothermia is amazingly common for people who decide to hike the whole thing in shorts and a t-shirt and then want to watch the sunrise).  Jeff and I have plenty of water proof, wind proof warm when wet stuff for the cooler temperatures and somewhat less than ideal weather forecast.  The second common mistake is people don't take it seriously since so many people hike it, they assume it is easy.  Jeff and I are assuming it will be difficult and hope to be pleasantly surprised if it's not as bad as we thought.  In the mornings we've been hiking laps up and down the 10 flights of stairs in our apartment to get ready for the hike (just in case our neighbors didn't think we were strange enough - hahaha).

Well, wish us good weather (it will make the hike more pleasant for us and the pictures better for you).  I'll post in a couple days.  :-)

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