Climbing Mt Fuji

Mt Fuji in cloud

(This is a guest post by my father, Duncan Payling)

Mt. Fuji, a sacred mountain, stands at 3,776 m (12,388 ft) high. It is Japan’s highest and most prominent mountain and the second highest single mountain in the world after Mount Kilimanjaro.

The official climbing season is between 1 July and 27 August during which the mountain tracks become extremely busy and sometimes heavily congested with thousands of hopeful pilgrims attempting the climb.

The climb described here is via one of the most popular routes “The Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail” from the 5th Station (2,305 m) to the summit. This particular route was selected as the climb was undertaken in early September, outside the normal climbing period, and time was limited. It also relied on using public transport from Tokyo, which is somewhat restricted outside the official climbing period.From 5th Station, the advised times for the climb are:
Ascent: 5-7 hours
Descent: 3-5 hours

Mt Fuji climbing route signDuring the official climbing season one can board a bus in Shinjuku and travel directly to the 5th station (Yamanashi Prefecture). To get there out of season I caught the regular bus from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko Train Station and then a local shuttle bus to Kawaguchiko 5th Station. Also as a result of limited bus access and a 2.00 pm arrival time a decision had to be made to stay on the mountain overnight. This was no problem and was in keeping with my plan to experience the sunrise from the summit. Alternatively a later start and a night climb would have been a viable option.

Despite all the dire warnings I had read on various web sites about the appeal and cost of using the various huts on the trail I wanted the opportunity to stay in a Japanese hut to compare it with those experienced in the European Alps. I have to admit that the warnings were accurate and in my opinion a nights stay at one of these huts bears no comparison to the level of comfort or value found in their European counterparts. However it was a memorable if somewhat uncomfortable experience.

Mt Fuji climbing route 1Starting on the trail at 2.00 pm there were few people around once I left the confines of the tourist shops and restaurants at the 5th Station. The track was reasonably easy going, zigzagging it’s way upwards with a few sections of rocky terrain protected by wire rope or chain. As one got higher the incline of the track became steeper but was not technically difficult. Thankfully although somewhat chilly there was little wind. The prospect of walking up paths surrounded by slopes covered in loose volcanic ash and fine sand would have been somewhat uncomfortable in even a modest breeze. During the afternoon I met a few other climbers taking shelter at the various rest stops along the way. Most of these facilities were all securely locked and battened down for the winter period. Arriving at the Real 8th station at about 16.30 hrs I was running out of options where to stay so opted for a hut at this level that was still open and paid to have a meal and stay the night. I was shown to where I was to spend the night in a typical matratzenlager style dormitory and was then given a plate of unidentifiable brown curry and rice followed by several cups of welcome tea.

Mt Fuji climbing route 2After an uncomfortable night an early start at 03.30 to set off for the summit was not such a big deal despite the lack of sleep and advancing years. Still at least I hadn’t needed to buy a can of instant oxygen to survive! Leaving the hut that morning it was quite a surprise to see the increased numbers of people making their way upwards in the dark, lamps shining, heads bobbing around like fireflies. A number of groups had made it up during the night and were straggling in line behind their leaders who were carrying poles with lights on the end and shepherding them ever upwards and shouting words of encouragement.

As the track meandered on it was evident that a few people were showing signs of distress both from over exertion and also lack of oxygen. Sensibly their companions were either letting them rest or taking them down the trail to a lower altitude to recover.

After about another hour of walking up numerous switchbacks on the trail one arrives at a set of stairs, which ascend through a wooden tori gate before finally arriving at the summit. Along with a few dozen other enthusiastic climbers having made it before the sun is due to rise everyone is taking the opportunity to take photographs of themselves under the summit tori gate as evidence of their achievement. The weather was fine although chilly in keeping with the altitude. (Average Annual Mid-Summer Temperature on the summit is 6 ° C)

Looking around as the sun begins to rise and the colours in the sky become more intense the real magic of the occasion becomes apparent and the effort involved in climbing this iconic mountain is amply rewarded. After watching the sun appear fully on the horizon it was time to go down I had achieved my goal.

The decent is reasonably straightforward providing one remembers to make sure to follow the Descending trail after the Edoya Hut and not to try and go down the Ascending route. I was back down at Kawaguchiko 5th Station in about 3 hrs and had a celebratory breakfast consisting of a plate of freshly prepared gyoza and a can of Mt Fuji beer!

Unfortunately being dependent on local transport a tedious few hours had to be spent waiting around before returning to Kawaguchiko train station to retrieve my luggage from the lockers there and continue on my journey to Kyoto.

Needless to say climbing Mt Fuji is a serious undertaking despite its popularity and this is particularly so out of season when most facilities on the mountain are closed. Normal precautions should be taken for climbing mountains of this altitude and suitable clothing and equipment must be carried. Also in retrospect I should have carried a more varied supply of food and drink.

Given the opportunity to do the climb again I would still go out of season but do the whole trail starting from the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine (850m) with arrival time at the summit to coincide with sunrise and then descend to Kawaguchiko 5th Station and take the bus.

The advised times for the climb from the Fuji Sengen Shrine are:
Ascent: 10 – 11 hours
Descent: 6 hours

Mt Fuji summit Sunrise from Mt Fuji 1 Sunrise from Mt Fuji 2 Tori Gate

Bushwalking – Mt Roland and Mt Vandyke (Tasmania)

Mt Roland

“South of Devonport, the rolling farmlands and towns are dominated by the towering cliffs of Mt Roland.”

Day Walks Tasmania

We chose this walk primarily because it was on the way to our ultimate destination (we had flown in to Devonport and were travelling to Cradle Mountain). As a result, we were very pleased when it turned out to be a very enjoyable walk in its own right.

The nearest town is Sheffield; the start of the walk is accessed from the C136 road which turns off the B14 just outside Sheffield. We used the detailed route description in “Day Walks Tasmania” (a guide book that I can recommend).

Walk date: December 10, 2005
Time level: 1 day moderate/hard (allow around 7 hours), about 18km
Map: TASMAP Cethana (1:25,000), map in the guidebook
My rating: B+. Well worth a visit, especially if you are travelling down from Devonport to Cradle Mountain

Approaching Mt Roland View from Mt Roland View from Mt Roland 2 Heathlands near Mt Roland

Fellwalking – Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags 1

“Bowfell’s companion at the head of Great Langdale was given the name of Crinkle Crags by the dalesfolk of that valley because of the succession of abrupt undulations on its log summit ridge. Seen from a distance these seem minor and of little consequence but on closer acquaintance are found to be not merely crinkly but exceedingly rough…”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Parking by the side of the Wrynose pass just east of Three Shire Stone, I walked briefly along the pass and then turned north, following the well-worn footpath past Red Tarn, and turning left at the crossroad of paths a little further on to follow the trail past Great Knott to the Crinkle Crags. There are five summits (although the track doesn’t traverse them all). A quick lunch was had at the last crag, before rapidly deteriorating weather forced a hasty retreat back to my car.

My rating: B+
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book four, The Southern Fells
Access: The track starts at the Wrynose path just west of Three Shire Stones.

Fellwalking – Helvellyn

Looking back over Striding Edge

“Legend and poetry, a lovely name and a lofty altitude combine to encompass Helvellyn in an aura of romance; and thousands of pilgrims, aided by its easy accessibility, are attracted to its summit each year”

The Eastern Fells (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

On both my ascents of Helvellyn, I approached from Glenridding on the eastern side, walking towards Patterdale on the permissive path by the side of the road, crossing Grisedale Bridge and then turning right into a lane and then picking up a path to Hole-in-the-Wall and ultimately ascending via Striding Edge. Wainwright describes Striding Edge as the finest way of all to the top of Helvellyn, a judgment that few would disagree with. After lunch at the top, I descended via Red Tarn and Swirral Edge, making a particularly fine circuit walk. The Pathfinder Guide to Lake District Walks describes a good route that follows this basic idea.

My rating: A+. Justifiably one of the most popular walks in the Lake District.
Map: OL 5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Eastern Fells (Anniversary Edition): Book One (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Striding Edge from Swirral Edge Red Tarn On the track back to Glenridding

Books: Lake District Walks & More Lake District Walks (Pathfinder Guides)

Lake District Walks (cover) More Lake District Walks (cover)

I have found the pathfinder guides to be generally very good at providing interesting and varied walks in the various areas of Britain (I own and have used nine of them). These two books covering the lake district provide a good introduction to some very enjoyable walks in that beautiful region. The first book (Lake District Walks) is the best and will provide an excellent introduction to those not overly familiar with the area. The second (More Lake District Walks) is starting to push the boundaries of the area a little and I personally didn’t find the suggested walks as compelling – having said that, the Newlands Horseshoe is one of my favourite Lakeland walks, and the second book also includes Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England – which is obviously a Lakeland classic.

The route descriptions are generally pretty reliable, and having extracts of ordnance survey maps rather than line drawings makes the walks (usually) easier to follow. There are however a couple of minor niggles – sometimes the route descriptions leave a bit to be desired – in some places there’s plenty of detail, but in others where a bit more detail would be nice, none is provided; the descriptions of how to get to the start points of the walks could also be improved.

Overall though, both books provide a good selection of routes with generally clear directions and can be recommended. Just make sure that you still carry a full map and compass (and know how to use them).

Walk of the Month: Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk

Pyramid Hill

A surprisingly rugged walk less than 70km from the Melbourne CBD, this circuit of Werribee Gorge provides an excellent day’s outing.

Werribee Gorge State Park is reached via the Western Freeway from Melbourne. To access the park, take the Pentland Hills Road exit, turning right under the freeway and then immediately left to follow the old alignment of the Western Highway (with the Western Freeway to your left). The road soon dips back under the freeway, turn left immediately thereafter onto Myers Road which leads to the park entrance. The walk can be commenced at either the Quarry Picnic area or down a rather steep gravel road (accessible by 2wd vehicles with care) to the Meikles Point Picnic Area (which is where I started).

I’d recommend travelling anti-clockwise to get the climb over with first. From Meikles Point Picnic Area, the track ascends a few steps to a toilet block and then follows an old vehicle track before dropping left and reaching Myers Road and then the Quarry Picnic Area. From here a signposted old vehicular track ascends through scrub to a junction with the short circuit walk, then passes a side track to Eastern viewpoint (worth a visit), passes Picnic Point before descending to Western viewpoint and then steeply descending to the bottom of the Gorge at Blackwood Pool. At this point the track turns sharply to the South following the edge of the Werribee River (note that the track always stays at the north side of the river, the line on the Parks Victoria parks notes that the track appears to cross is the old viaduct).

This section requires some rock scrambling; one rather tricky section of rocky bluff now has a wire rope attached to assist. On this part of the walk you will pass the attractive NeedlesBeach (a nice place for a break), Lions Head Beach (if you look at the rock opposite – see photo below – you can sort of make out a lion’s face) and Pyramid Rock (aptly named). Eventually, the track reaches the route of the old viaduct and becomes a well formed trail back to Meikles Point.

Note: Care needs to be taken on this walk as some rock scrambling is required. This walk is not one to do in the wet, rain will make the rocks slippery and the river could rise rapidly, leaving you stranded.

Walk date: Sept 16, 2007
Time/level: 1 day moderate (allow 3-4 hours), about 9km
Map: Parks Victoria Park Notes
My rating: B, a good day walk out of Melbourne

Eastern viewpoint Western viewpoint towards picnic point Lions Head

Bushwalking – Mt Buller West Ridge

View of Mt Buller

Mt Buller stands at 1805m, and an approach to the summit via the West Ridge makes for an excellent days walking with great views. The only (minor) drawback is that Mt Buller is also a major ski resort, so the actual summit itself is a bit of an anti-climax, with a road almost to the top – so getting there is most of the fun, and the approach from the west ‘hides’ most of the ski resort development until you are almost at the top.

Mt Buller is located about 45km from Mansfield. The start of the walk is a track just off Doughty Road about 5km or so from the turn-off from the main Mt Buller Rd just after Sawmill Settlement, about 30km from Mansfield. The track climbs to Round Hill before descending into a saddle and then climbing steeply to Mt Buller Summit about 5km from the start.

This whole area is snowbound in winter, and like the rest of the Victorian Alps is subject to cold, wet and windy weather at any time. There’s also a bit of scrambling involved on the narrow ridge, so this is not a route for beginners.

Walk date: Easter 2005
Time/level: 1 day moderate/hard (allow 4-5 hours), about 10km
Map: Buller-Stirling Outdoor Leisure Map (1:25,000)
My rating: A, a very good Victorian bushwalk

over round hill mt buller west ridge 1 mt buller summit sign mt buller west ridge 2