Mount Fuji

I climbed Mount Fuji last week.

It’s the sort of thing you figure I’d have done before — considering the number of years I’ve lived in Japan, and also the fact that me and my wife are pretty avid mountaineers. But we’d just never gotten around to it, and one of the main reasons that I hadn’t shown much interest was because I kept hearing that during the climbing season it was so crowded that you had to wait in a queue to get to the top.

Not my idea of a fun hike.

But despite the fact that we had a big weekend trek planned the following weekend, we suddenly decided to do it. The official season was over (it ends on August 31), which would mean less people, and there wouldn’t be any snow yet — that starts towards the end of September. In a last-minute manner, my friend Ryan Ruel also joined us, after he found out about our plans through Facebook — having no gear, another friend chimed in and offered to help.

Unlike the way most people do it — which is to start late in the day, sleep in a hut midway, and then wake up in the middle of the night to hike the rest, in order to see the rising sun — we did the entire run in one day. We took a bus from Shinjuku late in the afternoon, arrived at Base Camp 5 in the evening, and stayed at a hut — Ryan slept in the hut, while we brought our tent, but it ended up being so cold (we don’t have sleeping bags yet) that we shivered the entire night. We finally entered the hut at around 3am, and slept a couple of hours in front of a stove.

We started the hike at around 5:30, and it took us about 6 to 6 and half hours to make it to the top. It’s not a difficult climb on a technical level, but tiring as hell. My favorite part of the day was walking around the crater, which takes about an hour and a half. The way down was the worst thing we had to deal with. Although it took us about 3 and a half hours (and we had to go back to the hut to get our tent), it’s a slippery trail filled with small rocks that made it hard on the feet and knees.

I don’t ever want to do that again, but I’m sure glad I got to experience it at least once in my life.

By Jean Snow

Production Services Manager at Ubisoft Shanghai. Before that, half a life spent in Tokyo.