A classic ascent in the off season.
Climbing Mount Fuji in the regular season is a very straightforward ascent. However, during the off season the weather can change very quickly and people die as a result. Typically, 12 people die on Fuji each year trying to climb in the off season. To try to reduce the number of deaths, the police ask you to fill out this form to prove you are prepared. They even ask for your blood type. We may have forgotten to submit our forms, or fill them out, or even print them out for that matter.
We decide a better approach would be to hire a local guide to help us understand the local weather. The guide explains that because Mount Fuji stands alone, there are not any surrounding mountains to protect it from incoming wind, storms etc… As a result, the weather can be tricky to predict and timing your ascent is critical in the off season. If you’re wondering, in the picture: “A” means climbing is probably okay, “B” means you might be okay but have to be very cautious and “C” is a no go.
While hanging out in Tokyo, the guide contacts us and says tomorrow will be your only opportunity to climb the mountain safely. We get up at 4:00am and jump on a bullet train where we eat breakfast at 300Km per hour.
Normally, public transit to Mount Fuji is very good but it all stops operating outside of the regular climbing season. The guide arranged a taxi for us as very few drivers in Japan speak English (ours certainly didn’t). You can see Mount Fuji in the distance from inside the cab.
Very little English is used in Japan. The explanation points on this sign make it seem like an important warning, but we have absolutely no idea what it means?
B-ri isn’t fazed and gives the thumbs up. Let’s do this! Make note of his clothing, the day starts out sunny and somewhat warm
The view as we start heading up.
Most people climb Mount Fuji over 2 days. There are a number of buildings on the way up the mountain where people can spend the night. Since the mountain is officially “closed” during the off season, all of these building were boarded up. The thing under the blue tarp is a vending machine…. This is Japan after all
The views quickly improve as we gain elevation. In the distance you can see the Pacific Ocean, Sururga bay more specifically.
B-ri checks our elevation gain and we have a debate over how much further the summit is. We determine neither one of us actually knows how tall Mount Fuji is so we have no idea.
B-ri stops at another one of the boarded up huts “Hi Mom!”. The guide provided us with detailed instructions about a secret entrance at one of these buildings. In the event the weather turned ugly we would have to hide out in the building until conditions improved.
The route is extremely obvious and even has these little stairs in places. Compared to climbing in the Canadian Rockies, navigation is a breeze!
This log was full of Japanese coins (yen). The ground around the pole was also covered in coins. I assume you leave some money to appease the mountain gods and they allow you safe passage. In North America, I would imagine all the coins would get stolen.
We pass though a Torii gate on the way up. It is getting colder and windier now.
We are now very close to the summit. Believe it or not, this is a post office during the regular climbing season. Ever wanted to send a letter from an active volcano? Here’s your chance!
B-ri makes his way up the final section to the summit. At this altitude, the air is only 2/3rds as dense compared to sea level. This makes you a bit light headed and each step takes far more effort than it should.
Finally! The summit of Mount Fuji! 3775 meters or 12,380 feet in freedom units.
The first ascent of Mount Fuji was likely around the middle of the 12th Century by a holy Priest. Compared to the Rockies in Canada, I have seen mountains where the first recorded ascent was in the late 1980’s!
On the summit is a huge weather station. We met a Japanese climber who is hiding from the wind in the little yellow tent in the background. He explained to us that he once visited the Canadian Rockies and wanted to climb Cascade Mountain. He assumed it would be like Fuji and easy to navigate the route. He found out there are no guide ropes or stairs in the Rockies, ended up getting lost and spent a very cold night out on Cascade Mountain. Since that scary night, he bought this little tent and brings it with him everywhere… just in case.
Looking into the crater on the top of the volcano. Scientists say that Fuji is now in a critical state and after the 9.0 earthquake they feel that it could erupt at any time. I didn’t learn this until after the climb… thankfully.
Despite the bitter cold and high winds, we decide it would be a good idea to circumvent the entire crater on the top of the mountain.
B-ri is glad we did as he gets the ultimate selfie – Mount Fuji Volcano Crater Selfie!
I’m not short! B-ri is just that tall.
Because it is the off season the mountain is closed to climbing so B-ri has to climb over this gate as we make our way back down. As you can see, he finds it deeply troubling and takes it very seriously.
As we make our way back down, the clouds and wind really start to pick up. Here you can see clouds below us where it rained all day and clouds above us also. We would later find out that the clouds moving in were the precursor to an incoming super typhoon that would force us to change our travel plans, file that under foreshadowing….