was to get the 10:55 bus from Shinjuku, arriving at 5th station in the
early afternoon, wander up to the "Fuji-san Hotel" at 8th
station, then get up early the next morning for the final ascent for
sunrise on Sunday.
Due to the traffic leaving Tokyo, we were a bit late getting to 5th station, and by the time we'd had lunch it was after 3pm. According to the map, it takes about 4h30 to the top of 8th station where the Fuji-san hotel sits. But it gets dark soon after 6pm at this time of year. Oops. I knew that in principle we could do it a lot faster than the map indicated, but wasn't sure about the rest of the group, or the possibility of crowds slowing us down.
Jules made the unfortunate choice of curry ramen in the cafe at the bottom. The yakisoba was a better choice, but this cafe (furthest to the left when facing towards the trailhead, on the 2nd floor) is not recommended. We found a better one at the opposite end of that set of buildings after coming off the mountain (still above the shops on the left, on the 2nd floor looking out on Fuji).
were glimpses of the cone of Fuji, but we spent the first part of the
walk in light cloud. With a big steep climb to come, that's probably
preferable to full sun, but it means I didn't take many pictures on
this part of the walk.
suddenly hit crowds as we got to the start of 7th station. These
"stations" are just vague areas where the huts are clustered (although
there are no huts at 9th station). There are so many huts they seemed
near-continuous through 7th and 8th stations. The path is narrower
here, with some rockier bits alternating with squeezing past the front
of each hut, which resulted in quite a few hold-ups. Up to this point
we had stayed together with the rest of the group, but it seemed a bit
futile from here on with the density of the crowds. Also, we wanted to
get to the hut before dark.
So, we marched on up, overtaking the queues by scrambling up the rockier edges of the path, which was actually quite good fun. After a while the crowds thinned out and we got to the hut around 6pm, exactly 3 hours after starting the walk. We had briefly fantasised about a quick dash to the summit in time for sunset, but we were a bit too late for that.
stragglers rolled up about 2
hours later in the pitch black, just after it had started raining. But
a bit of food and drink soon cheered everyone up.
It was hardly worth going to bed with a 1:30am wake up call planned, but we'd paid for the space, so went to lie down for a few hours. It wasn't completely full, we had about a pillow and a half each (1 pillow being roughly half a futon).
1:30am? Yes, it's a nominal 90 minute walk to the summit (and 5am sunrise in late August) but everyone had to get up at this stupid time because of the crowds...many of whom had started later the previous evening and trudged up all night in the dark, getting more and more tired and slower and slower.
typical view of the
ascent. It was so solid getting out of the hut that I really didn't
know for a while if we were going to
make it to the summit in time (and there's not much point getting up at
1:30 to miss the sunrise).
But we managed to keep a reasonable speed by walking on the outside of the path where it was bulldozed gravel (the outside is softer and rougher, and therefore virtually no-one else was walking on it) and scrambling up the edges of the rockier bits to overtake people.
And then, about 100m from the summit, we overtook a group and....there was no-one else there! We'd got to the head of the queue! That's not something I've read about in any of the numerous accounts of similar walks on the internet. So we enjoyed the last few minutes strolling to the top, which we reached around 3am, exactly 1 hour after leaving the hut.
top", I don't really mean the top, but the 10th station huts at the top
of the steep climb, where there were already plenty of people resting
and waiting for dawn. The true summit is round the other side of the
caldera, and even the nearest little top proved difficult enough to
the dark cloud. We wandered around a bit and then went back to the huts
for another hot coffee and a rest.
high cloud magically lifted around sunrise leaving a lovely view
of a carpet of cloud below, although we didn't quite see the exact
moment of sunrise itself.
sunrise, we decided to head off anticlockwise round the caldera. The
cloud had come down again, and this, coupled with a hopelessly
inaccurate map (our 2002 yama to kougen map of the area is obviously
badly out of date, which is the first time I've found a significant
error on a Japanese map), resulted in us wandering about aimlessly for
about half an hour on unmarked bulldozer trails - once completely
doubling back on ourselves. We were on the verge of giving up but had
one last go and by the simple principle of just following our noses on
the largest path we were soon on our way. This turned a lovely peaceful
walk away from the crowds, and the cloud started to lift just as we got
to the true summit. This area was again a bit more crowded (as you can
see), with quite a lot of people coming up from the southern routes.
There's the ugly ruins of an abandoned meteorological observatory right on the top. I believe FRCGC is considering installing a new one. Maintaining it through the winter might prove a challenging task!
came out properly for the second half of the walk round. We had great
views both into the caldera, and out across the countryside.
circuit took about an hour and a half including stops, and I'd
recommend it for anyone who has the time (if the weather isn't too
bad). After completing it, we set off down the steep slopes. After the
stories we had heard, it wasn't as bad as we had expected (the path is
very smooth compared to most mountains), but it would definitely seem a
long way down to people who are not used to these sort of walks.
Some people obviously found it all a bit much..
We took a total of 1h45m on the descent, and in fact caught up with most of the others (who hadn't done the circuit) on the way down, which left us with rather a long wait for the 12pm bus home - plenty of time for breakfast, the obligatory omiyage-shopping and a look at the local temple.
The bus trip home was a subdued affair. I bet a lot of people slept well that night!
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