WINTER Mt FUJI: FAQ

With questions pouring in about Mt Fuji it makes sense to distil them here

big mountain/extreme cold gear

whether training for bigger peaks or trying the summer icon out of season, Mt Fuji in winter is an interesting trip and one not to be taken lightly

Whats the cost?

Standard rate is ¥70,000 per person for the trip. Factors like group size and extra gear requirements tweak costs a bit here and there.

‘off grid’ ascents are ¥85,500

An extended trip to the ice inside the caldera starts at ¥110,000.

Whats that cover?

For your money you get the logistics taken care of (including the police rescue permit), all shared on-mountain gear, any extra personal gear, professional contingency resources and on-mountain service.

More importantly it includes genuine big mountain experience. Hard earned skills from places like the Karakorum, Pamir, Tibet and Western China that translate well to the slopes of Fuji.

Whats not covered is transport to/from the trail-head, food, personal insurance

Caldera ice!?!!?

Perhaps the coolest ice in Japan. Fujis caldera is 200m deep, with stepped ice in places descending from the rim.

Making this your objective is a notable one, putting you in the company of the Giri Giri Boys and a select club of motivated Japanese climbers.

Mid and late season is best to avoid the hassles and dangers of snow.

Needless to say, its best to have ice climbing experience before signing on for this.

How long does it take?

Usually a 14hr round trip starting at 04:00am and summitting just after midday.

Obviously this is affected by weather, physical condition and where the trail starts.

What gear do I need?

As light as you can for full weather protection. You have to carry it a long way uphill. Mitts and face protection are vital, and shell layers should not be billowy and wind-catching.

As its rare to need harnesses and ropes you wont need to set off in them, but we carry a contingency set in case.

Full alpine boots are not imperative, but a boot that is insulated and can fit a crampon is. Likewise a single ice axe or ice tool will do, maybe combined with a trekking pole for the approach. Iceclimbingjapan can provide boots and hardwear, and with our current FEEDBACK PROJECT some clothes if requested.

Sleeping bags are carried, along with an alpine tent and stove are carried for safety.

Sunglasses are important.

What can I expect?

A winter ascent is the full route, passing thru all 10 stations (summer ascents start at the bus stop at station #5…).

Up to station 5 it’s a quiet trail thru forest, emerging at the tree line. Above station 5 is a winding trail of rock, ice and snow, getting ever steeper and more affected by weather. This gradually take you thru cloud layers and past shrines and summer lodges, then finally into the sacred zone above about 3600m that’s a recognized Shinto site.

Good conditions make for a very pleasant ascent that’s not super hard. Marginal conditions sort the wheat from the chaff in a swirling maelstrom of relentless buffeting.

What should I eat (& drink)?

In a word: calories. Aim for about 3500kcals

Continuous upward progress in very cold conditions is ideal fat-burning stuff. Sugars and carbohydrates are good to keep the mind sharp, the mood good and buffer hunger, but relying on just carbs and sugar wont get you far.

Common favorites are tortillas, stuffed vine leaves, slices of pizza, peanut butter and salmon jerky.

Hydration is vital of course. H2O does not exist in liquid form on fuji in winter, so carry enough to minimize having to stop and melt it.

How technical is it?

Fuji is a strategic peak, not a technical one. There wont be any double tool mixed moves or delicate mono-point stuff (unless you are headed into the caldera for the steep ice) but there will be a lot of planning and re-planning for weather, energy levels and predicted progress.

Unlike valley ice, the slopes of Fuji are exposed and endless, requiring careful planning to line-up the best summit window. chosing when, where, how and for how long to ascend, rest, wait out weather and push windows is a range of skills just as important and heard earned as v-threads and swapping hands.

How dangerous is it?

Geographical hazards are low, but the objective hazards of cold, wind and exposure are very real. Every year there are accidents with climbers being caught in weather, losing direction or slipping on ice sheets.

How does transferable is it to other mountains?

Fuji ticks some boxes for big mountain climbing that many (most?) climbers heading towards the greater ranges overlook. Anyone whos come back from places like the Himalaya or Karakorum will tell you it’s the strategy that makes or breaks the game, and that’s based as much on slogging the lower sections as it is cranking tech moves on the upper mixed stuff.

Fuji is a unique place to nail your ‘lower route condition’ without investing long slogs to remote places. Sorting out your condition, gear and strategy with 2000m of vertical gain at very cold temperatures debugs a lot of what expedition climbing consists of.

 Can i join a group?

Different capacities, motivations and objectives dont always make things easy when things get strained from exhaustion, the cold, time on yor feet.

By all means form your own group – up to about 5 is fine depending on the groups combined condition – and to reflect this we cost things accordingly.

What are the chances of summiting?

That depends on several factors ranging from weather to physical condition and motivation. As its a guided trip we dont take the same risks an independant climber might, running the whole trip on the premise of getting back to the train station, not just the top. Decisions are based on this: ‘considering the capacity for risk, what gets us home again?’ 

that said, some of the best trips as far as experience goes dont summit. a good team, even under tough conditions that exclude summiting, comes back with rewarding experiences.