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Waiting for Sunrise - Mt. Fuji

Waiting for Sunrise

Reaching the summit too early.

Morning Light

Shadow of the giant.

Another year, another attempt up Japan's highest and most iconic mountain. I first hiked up Mt. Fuji in 2008 as the last item on my bucket list while studying abroad in Yokohama. In six years living in Japan, I've failed once in 2011 due to rain and altitude sickness. Last year I reached the summit for a fourth time at the cost of terrible altitude sickness and snow. Projectile vomiting off the summit of Japan's holiest and highest mountain was the price for waiting until the last weekend of hiking season in 2014. For 2015, I figured that it would be a while before I'd be in back in Japan during hiking season and also wanted to wash out that bad taste from last year's trek and end on a better note.

The trek up Fuji is not a difficult one. Rather it's a long series of switchbacks on one of several established paths that will guide you up the mountain. It's hard to get lost, though it can be a little hard to see at night when many make the trek up to catch sunrise from the highest point in Japan. The journey up requires a more mental and physical endurance, as switchbacks for hours aren't the most interesting path to walk. You won't be seeing ropes much, and there are very few sections where you'll need to use your hands to hoist yourself higher. Altitude sickness on the mountain is real. Take breaks, hydrate and work the nutrition often, maybe a can of oxygen to help out too. 

Mountain huts along the journey will provide food and drink at high premiums. For those who chose to purchase a wooden walking stick at the Fifth Station base, some huts offer to brand the sticks for a price to prove how far you've progressed. I highly recommend bringing a set of walking poles to trek up the mountain instead, but for those interested in collecting the stamps along the journey, I recommend buying a half sized walking stick, sticking it in your pack during the climb only to take it out to collect a stamp at each hut stop. 

The first time I trekked up Mt. Fuji, I purchased a walking stick. I didn't even get all the stamps along the way. A fully branded one does look impressive. Hope it fits in your suitcase going home. Photo taken 7.24.2008.

After starting at 8:30pm and telling myself to rest often and hydrate well, I reached the summit about a half past midnight this year. Still way too early and a long wait for sunrise about four hours later. There were some hikers already up there and we chatted to pass the time. Reaching the summit early meant beating the crowds, who often pay and stay in the mountain huts for a few hours before attempting to reach the summit before daybreak. There can be a long line of hikers a few hours before sunrise creating a huge traffic jam. Better to deal with a bit of cold and wait it out instead. In the end, the sunrise and morning had to be the best I've seen in five years on top of Japan. If this were to be the last, I'd say it was a good one to go out on.