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