Base briefings on hiking a must as Mount Fuji climbing season begins
July 5, 2008
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Few sights in Japan are as iconic as the majestic, cone-shaped Mount Fuji rising above the horizon.
At more than 12,000 feet, Fuji-san is the tallest mountain in Japan, and its summit is easily accessible for only about two months of the year.
This week marks the beginning of the climbing season, and as tens of thousands of eager climbers prepare to trek to the top of the giant volcano, military outdoor recreation offices are working to help prepare people for the endeavor.
"The more prepared you are, the better your chance is of reaching the summit," said Christopher Whitener, Yokota’s outdoor recreation director.
He said an information and safety briefing for those climbing Mount Fuji is offered every Thursday afternoon at Yokota’s outdoor recreation office. The briefing covers such topics as conditions on the mountain, what to pack and wear, and how to prepare physically for the climb. It is mandatory for any personnel going on one of the base-sponsored climbs; other bases in the area offer similar briefings.
"The approach is to give people information about the challenge of climbing the mountain, so they know what they are getting into before they get out there," Whitener said.
Mount Fuji climbing trips are the most popular trips offered by bases, he said, adding that Yokota has between 14 and 16 trips to the mountain scheduled in July and August.
However, Whitener was quick to add that scaling Mount Fuji isn’t a simple afternoon hike.
According to Yokota’s outdoor recreation office, the average climbing time to the top of the mountain is six to seven hours.
Many people hear stories from their friends who have climbed to the top and just assume it’s a simple hike that everyone can make with no problem, Whitener said.
Hiking from the starting point at the fifth station to the summit is a more than 4,500-foot ascent.
That, along with the lower oxygen at higher altitudes, can be overwhelming for some people, he explained.
"[Climbing Fuji] is always going to be tough physically," Whitener said. "But the more you know, the more you’ll enjoy it."
Tips for climbing Japan’s tallest mountain
Start preparing early and be in the best shape you can be. Physical activity will be more exhausting as you climb higher.Carry water with you on the climb. Drink water and eat something at each station and don’t wait until you are thirsty. Rehydrate often.Use plenty of sunscreen. Climbing Mount Fuji brings you closer to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.Bring additional clothing to layer on as it gets colder. It will get colder as you get closer to the top. When it is close to 90 degrees at the base, it can be close to freezing at the top.Avoid alcohol and caffeine for 24 hours before and after you climb. They are diuretics and will cause you to become dehydrated.Know your limitations and climb safely. Do not be afraid to turn back if you can’t go farther. Overdoing it can lead to serious injury or even death. You can always try again later. The mountain will still be there.Source: Yokota Outdoor Recreation Office