To Climb or Not to Climb?

Nobody will deny that Mount Fuji is an artistically inspiring Mountain with a spiritual dimension. Is it worth the climb? Photo.

We can probably all agree that Mount Fuji is a beautiful mountain — at least from a distance. A big reason for the huge growth in the number of tourists visiting the region is the fact that it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 22nd, 2013. UNESCO acknowledge Mount Fuji as a source of artistic and spiritual inspiration. The question we ask here is this: is it worth climbing?

The obvious thing you notice when you are actually standing on Mount Fuji is that the view has gone. Unless you are a pilgrim on some spiritual quest, should you bother to climb it? Photo.

There are some fairly good reasons not to climb Mount Fuji — at least not as far as the top. First of all, you can enjoy its beauty from a distance, as we’ve mentioned, and save any ecological wear and tear on the mountain. Second, you obviously can’t enjoy its beauty if you are actually standing on it. In fact, the higher reaches of Mount Fuji look pretty drab when you are actually climbing.

Here’s the surface of Mount Fuji around the 8th Station. Clearly, you’ll be seeking inspiration from the view below. Photo.

 It’s true that the view below from the summit can be breathtaking. The view of the Lakes from the top is undeniably incredible.

Here you can see Mount Fuji surrounded by its Lakes. It is a great view from the top if the weather is clear. Photo.

However, bear in mind that the mountain tends to attract clouds. Even on the very clearest day, if there is one single cloud in the sky, it is likely to be surrounding you if you are at the top of the mountain.

Mount Fuji is like a cloud magnet. Even on clear days the top can be cloudy.

So it tends to be a hard and somewhat unrewarding climb. I don’t really recommend it. Have I climbed it? Well … rather embarrassingly … I’ve climbed it three times. The first time, the weather wasn’t very good and I couldn’t really see anything from the top. We started at night from the Fifth Station and reached the summit early in the morning. It was a boring climb surrounded by mist, walking in a queue. Also, I don’t react very well to high altitude and lack of oxygen. I felt sick, sleepy and tired. Coming down was awful.

The summit of Mount Fuji looks a bit dull. If you are surrounded by cloud, it’s not a fantastic view. Photo.

I had heard that only an idiot climbs Mount Fuji twice — so I decided to climb it again to see if that was really true! Once again, we started at night after driving to the Fifth Station and arrived at the top early in the morning. The weather was better this time, and the views were also quite a lot better. However, I concluded that I was indeed an idiot. Once again, it was hard work and generally unpleasant without much feeling of reward, in spite of the view. I really hate that horrible sleepy feeling you get in altitude. I actually fell asleep standing up at one point. I dropped the coffee I was holding and everyone stared at me as if I was — indeed — an idiot.

Crowded and boring. Only an idiot would climb it twice. Photo.

So I decided to climb it for a third time in order to prove I wasn’t really an idiot. At the very least, I wanted to climb without the unpleasant altitude sickness. I decided that the solution was to spend less time at altitude. So I ran up. I ran up, alone, starting early morning, from the very bottom, in Fujiyoshida, to the very top — five hours. As soon as I got to the top, I ran down again. It was cloudy and I was starting to feel cold. I didn’t get altitude sickness and I actually felt a lot less tired at the end. Even so, I still kind of felt like an idiot, but for different reasons.

The third time I climbed Mount Fuji, I ran all the way from the Fuji-gateway town of Fujiyoshida. Here are the people of Fujiyoshida celebrating their fire festival in honor of Mount Fuji. Photo.

So should you climb it? Well, as UNESCO points out, it’s a sacred place and it has a spiritual dimension. If you really feel you must climb it, then perhaps you should. Just don’t blame me if you feel like an idiot afterwards.


Featured image: Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons