When my wife, Lisa, suggested a family trip to Japan during August, Mount Fuji instantly popped into my mind. The iconic, 12,388-foot conical volcanic peak that has graced so many Japan guidebook covers and travel websites has long intrigued me. And climbing season goes from early July to early September, so the timing would be perfect.
Would Lisa and I, along with our daughter, Daniela, who had just turned 13, be able to climb it? The elevation gain is more than 5,800 feet, sudden weather changes are common, and sleeping quarters are far from luxurious. Our family had done high-elevation hikes in the past, but never one this high.
In hindsight, I’m glad we decided to forge ahead with the trip and join the estimated 300,000 people who ascend Japan’s sacred mountain annually, because by the following summer, the country, along with the rest of the world, would close its doors to tourists in the midst of the pandemic.
Mount Fuji has four main trails and 10 stations, or mountain huts. We planned an overnight climb and reserved beds in a hut on the mountain so we could reach the summit for sunrise. As most hikers do, we would start our climb at Station 5, where the paved road ends and the gravel Yoshida Trail begins. We’d sleep at Station 8, the highest, so we could summit quickly the next day. Here’s how our 24 hours on Mount Fuji went.