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Ascent of Fuji-san on 2012-09-17

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Alan Bernier
Duane Gilliland
Adam Helman
Adrian Rayner
Andrew Tibbetts
Pattie Gilliland
Date:Monday, September 17, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Taxicab
Peak:Fuji-san
    Location:Japan
    Elevation:3775 m / 12388 ft

Ascent Trip Report

This was the first peak of a two week trip. For convenience we made a night ascent as soon as we arrived in Japan.

Adrian and Andrew and I (the UK contingent) and Adam and Alan (USA) meet at Tokyo Narita airport Sunday pm. We had planned to meet Duane and Pattie at Tokyo Shinjuku railway station late afternoon but fail to locate them in this labyrinth so having stowed our non-hiking gear in station lockers, we take a train to Otusuki and from there to Kawaguchiko. Most of our rail trips are covered by our Japan Rail passes although this last leg isn't JR and cost us about ¥1000 (£8) each. We are at Kawaguchiko about 11 pm. From here it is a short expensive (¥13,000) ride along the toll road in one of the taxis waiting even at this late hour, to Gogoma which is the trailhead for the popular route from the NNE (Gogoma means fifth station which relates to traditional rest/overnight stops on the various ascent routes).

We are at Gogoma before midnight. The trail starts at a signboard at N35.39372 E138.73368, 2319m: we start hiking at 00:42 in light rain (the forecast is showery). We hike a road east for 1 km then we bend R at N35.39029 E138.74157 on a signposted trail which has a suggested ascent time of about 6hrs30. We aim to be a little faster than this, hoping to be at the crater rim soon after first light.

The trail is busy: we move at a steady pace, passing the occasional party. At xxx is a key intersection: we take the R fork which is the Up route (one way system to manage the often high visitor numbers): this has a rocky section, YDS 2+, the weather continues rainy and in the dark this is a bit harder than it should be, however it is extremely well defined with reflective-marked chains/fences either side.

We pass several mountain huts, some open but none allowing shelter for cold wet hikers, as we soon discover when we go inside one and are ordered out by the warden. Higher up we are even forbidden from sheltering in the lee of a hut, although we always manage to find shelter when we need to stop for food or extra clothing against the increasingly cold wet conditions. Quite a few parties are descending, apparently having bailed: we are keen not to turn around although the crater rim and summit will be pretty grim if the weather doesn't relent.

At one of the higher huts, hot instant noodles are for sale and these are very welcome. At one of the higher stations we discover Duane and Pattie who, as we had hoped, took an earlier train.

Above, the trail zigzags easily upwards, but exposed to the wind it is very cold, although the rain at last eases off and dawn arrives with fine views onto glowing brown cloud masses. We pass through a kind of wooden portal/gateway with 2 lion sculptures: once through this we are soon at a large shrine at the crater rim, where we turn R (N35.36580 E138.73287), then keeping R again to stay on the rim keeping on the (slightly shorter) anticlockwise route.

The crater although not huge is impressive, with sulphur stained rocks and two snow fields. Adam and Alan have gone ahead and summitted first: the rest of us arrive at about 06:15. The summit is a rock outcrop N35.36072 E138.72737, 3772m, covered in small denomination coin offerings, next to a weather station. Visibility is good, across the crater and out over a cloud sea. We leave after about 20 mins; most of the party going back the way they came; Adrian and I continue anti clockwise (somehow becoming separated en route) to complete the crater circuit, bypassing a low prominence summit, passing a shrine then crossing a low prominence summit before returning to the main shrine. There are dozens of people here, mostly young, with many more ascending - a testament to how popular this peak is, even late season on a poor-weather day. The Down route leaves the rim at the SE end of the shrine complex but I continue to the Up route to follow the rest of our party (no problems passing ascending hikers on the easy trail), catching Duane and Pattie after a few minutes.

After a while there's an intersection at a hut complex and we find our way onto the Down route: good news as it bypasses the rock section which is probably still wet and slippery. The trail is easy-graded loose soil, great for descending although would be hard work in ascent (hence it is the Down path!). We reach some buildings and stop for a break. The Up route is visible just to our left (west). It seems there is a left turn hereabouts which we miss, probably while chatting. We continue down the easy trail, passing a strange tracked vehicle driving up the trail. In a while we see a trailhead below us and it is obviously the wrong one, too far east. We try to bushwhack west to regain the trail but the vegetation is too dense and we give up and decide to descend to the "wrong fifth station" (Subaru) and find our way back to the rail network from there. Luckily there is a mobile phone signal so I manage to text the rest of the party although Adrian's phone battery runs out before a proper arrangement can be made. We are adopted by three young lads, who work out the travel options (train or slightly faster express bus). One of them lives in Tokyo and stays with us to Shinjuku. Their assistance was a life saver.

We eventually meet the others at Shinjuku railway station where we retrieve our stowed gear and get the bullet train north to Sendai. Here we find a cheapish hotel (Smile Hotel), tucked away in a shopping plaza about a mile from Sendai station. We are lucky to get the last 2 rooms in the hotel and at last start to catch up on 3 nights lost sleep. Two days later we climb Asahi-dake

During the Fuji descent debacle I tripped and fell on an easy trail, bruising my left quadriceps and making staircases and other steep terrain difficult. It remains to be seen how this will affect the rest of the trip...

Fuji photo album

Trip itinerary:
16 Sept: arrive at Tokyo Narita airport, travel by train and taxi to Fuji trailhead, commence ascent
17 summit Fuji-san, travel by bus and train to Sendai, hotel overnight
18 travel by train to Asahi-kawa, hotel overnight
19 bus to trailhead, climb Asahi, travel by bus and train to Kutchan, hotel/camp overnight
20 bus to trailhead, climb Yotei-zan, bus back to Kutchan, hotel/camp overnight
21 travel by train via Morioka to Ainosawa, camp overnight
22 climb Iwate-san, camp at Ainosawa overnight
23 travel by train via Nagano to Komagane, hotel overnight
24 bus to trailhead, climb Komagatake, travel by bus and train to Akiso-fukushima, camp overnight
25 taxi to trailhead, climb Ontake-san, travel by bus and train to Chino, hotel overnight
26 taxi to trailhead, climb Akadake, taxi to Chino, hotel overnight
27 travel by train to Kofu, bus to Kitadake trailhead, camp overnight
28 climb Kitadake, bus to Kofu, hotel overnight
29 train to Narita airport, fly home

Misc notes/logistics

Travel: we used a JapanRail pass (buy a voucher before arrival in Japan, exchange for Pass on arrival). This cost about £350 and covers almost all rail journeys; possible to buy additional options covering buses and first class.

Phones and internet: 3G phones work, others don't. Adrian and I had smartphones with pretty good coverage but generally avoided voice calls and data roaming as too expensive. Free Wifi is by no means universal: available occasionally at some hotels, and train stations although often a prior subscription is required. Keeping devices charged can be an issue; some bullet trains have electrical sockets, as do hotels.

Money: although ATMs are widespread, we found that our cards were often rejected/unrecognised. Cash was required frequently eg for buses and some restaurants and hotels. Between us we managed but it would be easy to get caught out.

Language: it is possible to get by with English, although Adrian knows Japanese which obviously helps. Younger people tend to have some English as do some rail staff and other public facing people. Some signs in the Tokyo area are bilingual as are signs at some main rail stations and some in-train PA announcements.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1485 m / 4878 ft
    Elevation Loss:1824 m / 5990 ft
    Distance:16 km / 9.9 mi
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1471 m / 4829 ft
    Extra Loss:14 m / 49 ft
    Distance:8.5 km / 5.3 mi
    Route:from NNE
    Trailhead:NNE trailhead (Gogoma)  2318 m / 7608 ft
    Time Up:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1810 m / 5941 ft
    Extra Gain:14 m / 49 ft
    Distance:7.5 km / 4.7 mi
    Route:ENE route
    Trailhead:ENE trailhead(Subaru)  1979 m / 6496 ft
    Time Down:6 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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