Sunday, October 31, 2010

Climbing Mt. Fuji with Sunrise Tours: What you need to know

Climbing Mt Fuji has always sounded intimidating to me--physically, logistically, and economically. I read stories of water, noodles, and toilets costing upwards of $10 per bottle, cup, and leak. With rumors of mysterious “huts” that wouldn’t ruthlessly  wouldn’t let you in without paying astronomical feels no matter how cold, hungry, or weak you were.

You can only climb Fuji in July and August, and since I was going to Japan in August this year, this was my chance. I booked a 2 day tour with Sunrise Tours, which I thought was a good way to go. They pickup you up in Tokyo and drop you off the next day. They make it is easy as possible, but you don’t know what to expect until you get there.

If you read all of the fine print on the Sunrise Web site it will tell you most of what you need to know, and I’ve added my commentary to help my fellow climbers fill in the gaps.


Day 1: Tokyo - Mt.Fuji
7:10 a.m. Leave Keio Plaza Hotel. Shinjuku

You meet in the lobby of the Keio plaza hotel in Shinjuku and then you walk a few minutes to a parking lot where the buses are waiting. The Keio plaza hotel is pretty nice so it’s a good choice to stay there the night before since you have to meet at 7:00 am. The Keio plaza has Konbini (convenience store) in the basement so you can stock up on snacks and water. At the lobby you will meet your English speaking tour guide (who is Japanese) and about 20 other foreigners. When you get to the bus parking lot there will be about another 50-70 Japanese their waiting for the bus too. This is because you are part of a bigger Japanese tour and you all get on the bus and climb together.

They make all of the foreigners sit at the back of the bus, which some of the people did not like, but they do it to keep us all together so the tour guide can translate the announcements.

They don’t mention this on the itinerary but on the way to Mt Fuji they stop off at a rest stop where you can grab some more food and drinks before you get to the mountain.

11:30 a.m.
Arrive at Mt.Fuji Kawaguchiko 5th station.
Lunch on your own and prepare to climb.

You drive halfway up the mountain and they drop you off at this base, which looks kind of like a small ski resort. There are about 100 buses and it is totally packed with people. They said there are two kinds of people there, those with smiles on there faces who are about to go up. And those with frowns who just got down.

Momo July 2010 371In one of the lodges the tour group has reserved a floor with tatami mats where you can change into your gear, eat, and leave your luggage. You have about 30 extra minutes to walk around and they have cafeterias where you can buy lunch. The prices are not that exorbitant here, but this is where where the pee pee tax begins, you have to pay 100 yen to use the restroom.

1:00 p.m.
Depart 5th Station and ascend route.

Now it’s time to start hiking (in the rain). It starts out pretty gradually

Momo July 2010 381

After about 30 minutes the path get’s narrower and steeper.

Momo July 2010 389 At some points you have walk single file up the rocks.

Momo July 2010 392 I really liked the look of the colorful, coordinated rain gear that most people were wearing. For the first leg of the trip everything was pretty easy (because we were going pretty slow) and everyone was having a good time.

5:00 p.m.
Arrive at Toyokan lodge at 8th station. 
Short stay at Toyokan Hut (Dinner and rest until 11:00 p.m.)

Momo July 2010 396

To be continued…


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