Sunday, July 21, 2019

Revisiting Fujisan

-- Susan, every other Sunday.

One year ago this weekend, I climbed Japan's highest and most famous peak.

At 3,776 meters, Mt. Fuji is far from a world-class mountain in terms of mountaineering difficulty. However, she is still high enough to present a challenge to those of us for whom technical climbing is firmly off the table.

People often ask me how long it takes to climb Mt. Fuji - and while your mileage may vary, I thought today I'd answer that question (from my perspective, at least) in semi-photographic form.

July 19, 2018, 5:02 am: my first sight of Mt. Fuji from a distance, seen through the morning mist, just before dawn.

Fuji from Fujinomiya, at dawn

(And the same perspective, four hours later:)

I swear I left a volcano around here somewhere.

10:15 am: At the bus stop preparing to ride to Fujinomiya 5th station, where we would start the climb.

That's my mom. She turned 75 a month before this trip.

12:22 pm: "Team Fuji 2018" at the Fujinomiya 5th Station Trailhead.

L-R: Laurie Bolland, Kaitlyn Bolland, a slightly-balder me, my Mom

1:04 pm: The Hike Begins.

Proof that my mom is a badass.

1:20 pm: Arriving at 6th Station.

Deceptively simple to this point.

Like many mountains in Japan, the Fujinomiya trail features periodic "stations" that break the climb into roughly equal distances. On Fuji, many of these stations also feature huts where people can spend the night, and all of them offer branding stations where hikers can have the altitude and station number burned into wooden staves or sticks.

One down, five to go.

2.25 pm: Arriving at "New" 7th Station, where Team Fuji planned to spend the night. (The other members of the team arrived over the next few minutes.)

One of many huts on the Fujinomiya trail.

Sunset at Fujinomia New 7th Station, above the sea of clouds.

Sunset at 2,780 meters.

12:50 am: After leaving New 7th Station at midnight, in hopes of seeing sunrise on the summit, we hiked through the darkness, up rocky slopes covered in volcanic scree.

The views were not nearly as nice...

We hiked through darkness, up rocky slopes, with the Milky Way clearly visible overhead and Mars gazing down like the eye of a benevolent god.

2:31 am: A wooden post on the trail has become an ersatz shrine decorated with coins and military insignia, each of which represents a prayer or a wish for good luck.

2:53 am: Fujinomiya 9th Station. The temperature was thirty degrees colder here than at the base of the mountain -- just above freezing, even though it was mid-July.

Cold, but confident. Under two hours left to go.

3:40 am: Passing Station 9.5 as dawn begins to bleach the eastern sky.

4:23 am: the White Torii that marks the sacred summit of Japan's highest peak.

We reached the top just in time to see the sunrise.

4:46 am: Dawn at the highest point in Japan.

Dawn above the sea of clouds.

5:32 am: Fuji's shadow on the clouds over Shizuoka Prefecture.

Mt. Fuji throws some serious shade.

A portion of the massive summit crater.

Snow remains in the bottom of the crater year-round.

8:02 am: On the descent, the same angle at Station 9.5

What a difference five hours makes...

And the view toward the summit:

It's a long way up.

11:22 am: Team Fuji back at New Seventh Station.


From that point, we still had about another 90 minutes' worth of rocky descent to the trailhead, but everyone agreed the climb was a complete success.

How long does it take to climb Mt. Fuji? As I mentioned above, your mileage may vary, but for me it was a 24-hour trek that I will treasure for a lifetime.


  1. Susan, I have been trying all day to comment here. I hope this works. Thank you for this account of scaling Fuji-San, a mountain I will never climb unfortunately for me. But one I will always worship.

  2. Susan, I doubt I'll ever get to take that hike...but then again I won't have to, you've already taken me there. Thank you and Team Fuji 2018 for the adventure.