Can Children Climb Mt Fuji? This 5 Year Old Can!
On the morning of the 2017 Marine Day public holiday, my father, five year old son and I set off from Tokyo to conquer Mt Fuji.
My son, a physically active and strong willed child, had been keen to climb the mountain from an early age but like most youngsters couldn’t realistically fathom the level of physical exertion required to achieve such a feat. Today it was anyone's guess whether he could battle against exhaustion, the possible effects of altitude sickness, interrupted sleep and unpredictable weather patterns to make it to the summit.
We headed off from Tokyo at the unreasonably early hour of 4am. This gave us an excessive 10 hours of hiking time to reach our accommodation by sunset at the Fujisan Hotel on the mountain's 8th Station. As we left the logistical planning to the very last minute, there were no seats available on the early morning buses from Tokyo to Mt Fuji. Instead we opted to drive to the Fuji Hokuroku Parking Area and catch the private shuttle bus to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station and entrance to the Yoshida Trail.
Navigating our way to the Fuji Hokuroku Parking Area and purchasing tickets for the non-reserved shuttle bus was a breeze. Parking was an affordable ¥1000 per vehicle and the return shuttle bus tickets ¥1,860 for adults and ¥930 for children. Buses run every ½ hour between the Fuji Hokuroku Parking Area and the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station making travelling in either direction very convenient.
The 6am bus we alighted was carrying no more than 10 passengers which allowed us plenty of room to take our packs on board and stretch out for the 45 minute ride.
Arriving at the 5th station just before 7am, we quickly downed some pre-prepared peanut butter sandwiches, used the last of the free public toilets and made our way up the road to the Yoshida Trail in what we calculated would be a 6 hour hike to our hut at the 8th station.
The weather forecast predicted rain but all we were seeing were clear skies and stunning views of the lakes, towns and mountain ranges below.
My son literally hit the trail running with my father and I trying to convince him to slow down in an effort to conserve his energy. Being too fast out of the blocks was bound to be a recipe for disaster.
The Yoshida Trail was well marked with no issue of straying from the path in the clear visibility conditions we were experiencing.
The hum of heavy machinery clearing the trails, transporting waste and keeping the climbers safe was a pleasant distraction from the more difficult uphill sections.
My father and son walked hand in hand up some of the steeper sections of the mountain.
Resting at one of the plateaus along the trail.
A fellow climber enjoying some peace and quiet outside one of the many stations along the Yoshida Trail.
Don't forget your ¥100 coins. Not all the toilets operate on the trust system...
An example of the cost of food and drink should you wish to purchase your supplies on the mountain.
We didn't encounter too many climbers reaching for the cans of oxygen this climb.
Scrambling was required on few sections of the Yoshida Trail. My son seemed to navigate these areas better than a lot of adults.
Vuvuzela, why not! The mountain hut staff weren't too impressed.
It's a long way down.
Beautiful torii gate we passed through.
You'll only starve to death on Mt Fuji if you run out of money.
Probably best to stay away from this ledge.
Rescue workers doing what they do best.
Couldn't have asked for a better day.
The higher we climbed, the noticeably cooler it became.
Stones securing the mountain hut roofs.
A small shrine we passed.
Plenty of empty bench seating to take a break and enjoy the surrounding landscape.
Arriving at the Fujisan Hotel on the 8th Station at 1pm, we took refuge from the cold wind and treated ourselves to a ¥600 Cup Noodle lunch. Despite our slow pace and generous amount of rest stops, we’d still easily managed to reach our hut in the 6 hour time-frame that we’d anticipated.
Check-in was at 3pm but the kind staff escourted us to our sleeping quarters after our meal where we changed into something a little more comfortable and took a well deserved break. Both my father and son had a short nap before dinner which was scheduled to be served at the very early time of 4pm.
The sleeping space in the hut was cramped to say the least and you’re guaranteed, for better or worse, to know your neighbour intimately by the end of the evening.
My son awoke from his nap looking pale in the face and voiced concern of a slight pain in his stomach. He’d been looking forward to the curry rice dinner all morning but had hardly touched his meal once served. My father and I attributed the loss of appetite and upset stomach to the mild effects the altitude was having on him at 3,400 metres.
It’s hard to go wrong with Japanese curry rice but this evening’s meal was rather average to say the least. As a solid serving of carbs doused in fat, we polished everything off as we knew the calories would provide us with the sustenance for the final leg of the ascent in the morning. Our breakfast bento box was also issued at dinner which we stowed away in our packs ready for the following morning.
After dinner and a few well deserved drinks we retired back to our allocated positions in the open plan sleeping area. It was warmer and more relaxing for my son to lie in his sleeping bag and play games on my phone there.
Most guests were in bed by 7:30pm, trying to squeeze in as much sleep as possible before the 2am departure. As a light sleeper, I only managed a few hours of interrupted shuteye as my son spent the duration of the evening kicking and punching me in his sleep. The amount of people snoring on this particular stay was off the charts.
The rustle of plastic bags, crinkling of waterproof clothing, chatter and blinding beams of light from headlamps signified 2am. I was ecstatic to get going having spent most the evening awake in the overwhelmingly stuffy cabin. My son required some prodding to get moving but after some encouraging words, that we weren’t too far off the summit, we were on our way.
Skipping breakfast we donned our headlamps, which was a huge novelty for my son, and continued up the mountain in what we anticipated to be a 90 minute hike in the dark to the summit for sunrise at 4:25am.
The option of leaving our packs at the lodge was available but as neither my father or I felt overly tired or sore, we stubbornly carried all of our gear with us.
The temperature was cool but bearable and the trail easier to ascend than what we’d experienced the previous day.
The climb was extremely slow going due to the numbers of climbers timing their ascent with sunrise. The trail often came to a complete standstill due to congestion. The positive of this being my son didn’t require too many extended rest breaks.
Nearing 4am, many tired climbers started becoming a little impatient that they’d miss the sunrise at the summit. Others were happy to just perch themselves slightly off the trail and take in the views from there, which in all honesty was probably the better option and viewing position.
As the steps to the summit of Mt Fuji appeared around the final bend of the Yoshida Trail my son made a run for it, rightfully wanting to be the ‘winner’.
To say the summit was crowded would’ve been an understatement. The lip of mountain was 4 to 6 people deep with climbers scrambling over each other trying to secure that perfect vantage point to see the sun appear from beneath the morning clouds.
Not wanting hang around at the summit for too long due to the wind, cold and high altitude, we enjoyed the sunrise together, took some photographic memories of my son on top of the world and set off on the descent.
While tough on the legs, the descent was a piece of cake. The lower we dropped the greater improvement I saw in my son’s energy levels, motivation and appetite. Confirming as we had suspected, the negative effects the higher altitude had been having on him.
With minimal stops on the 3½ hour journey down, we were treated to another fine day and spectacular views all the way to the 5th station.
Greeted by the horses where we’d begun our adventure only a day before, there was nothing left to do but enjoy a celebratory ice cream, wait 15 minutes for the shuttle bus and make our way back to Tokyo.
Can children climb Mt Fuji? Yes. Today I’m proud to say that my 5 year old son achieved this massive feat that tests even the best of us adults. His strong determination, good level of physical fitness and the right equipment were the keys to his success.
Should children climb Mt Fuji?
It really comes down to your personal judgement as a parent and realistically being able to gauge your child's physical ability and mental determination. Many adults don't complete the climb so to expect too much from a young child would be unfair.
Arriving home, my other mischievous two year old son burst through the door blurting “I wanna climb Mountain Fuji… I wanna...”.
Would I contemplate doing it again… that’s a question better answered in 3 years time.
Congratulations Louie for making it to the top of the world, 18.07.17.
We’re all proud of you.
Tips for Climbing Mt Fuji with Children.
The motivation to attempt such a feat should come from the child.
Set off as early as possible to allow for extended rest breaks and to have a few extra walking hours up your sleeve if things don't go as planned.
The more adults in your climbing group for support, the better.
Pack drinks and snacks that your child can look forward to consuming along the journey.
Test your child’s endurance on a smaller climb before the main event to properly gauge their ability.
Buy the necessary footwear, thermal clothing, waterproof clothing and equipment. We bought quality secondhand Montbell shoes and clothing with the intention to resell everything once our son outgrows them.
Read up on the symptoms of mild altitude sickness and monitor your child’s health throughout the climb.
Headlamps, compasses, maps and similar hiking equipment are great motivational props for children.
General Tips for Climbing Mt Fuji.
No matter what you hear, you’d be foolish to climb Mt Fuji in only a T-shirt and shorts if you're aiming for the summit at sunrise.
Walking poles are optional, we didn't use them.
Bring ample ¥100 coins for toilet usage.
Carry all your drinks and food in or travel light and buy everything on the mountain at reasonably inflated prices.
Don’t expect to wake up feeling fresh from your mountain hut stay if you’re a sensitive sleeper.
If you’re desperate to see sunrise at the summit, don’t underestimate the morning congestion on the Yoshida Trail.
Anticipate and pack for rain regardless of the weather forecast.
Anticipate some mild, possibly major, symptoms of altitude sickness.
Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.
Bring plenty of plastic bags to waterproof your belongings and carry out your rubbish.
Not a big fan of crowds? Avoid all weekends and public holidays, the trip to the summit for sunrise and the Yoshida Trail.