Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Climbing Mount Fuji: DIY or Guided Hiking Tour?

So you've decided to climb Mount Fuji. Congratulations! That's the first step to certain death on an active volcano in Japan.

Sunrise on Mount Fuji
Okay, I am joking. Not certain death. But not the active volcano part though because that part is true. In case you didn't know, Mount Fuji is an active volcano. But anyway, so you have decided to climb it anyway and are now wondering if you should join a guided hiking tour or just DIY the entire climb.


The answer is: it entirely depends on you and your group.

Both options have their pros and cons to consider and having done both, I am going to list them down for you to take into consideration. Let us begin!

Do It Yourself aka DIY Climb 
Unlike Mount Kinabalu, it's NOT compulsory to have a guide with you for the climb. The route is relatively easy to climb with switchback trails and a few rocky sections. However, given its drastic temperature change, one does need to be prepared attire-wise and should make arrangements to stay overnight at one of the many mountain huts on Fuji.

All by myself
Pros:
1. You can go at your own pace - fast or slow.
2. You can take as many breaks as you want.
3. It might be cheaper.
4. You can decide your own schedule post and pre-hike
5. More opportunities to fully bask and enjoy the experience.
6. You get to pick your mountain hut depending on your tech or linguistic skills.

Cons:
1. You have to make your logistic arrangements. Not knowing Japanese can make it tricky to book the mountain hut but nothing a little google translate can't help with. Read my post here on how to make a reservations for a mountain hut. Bus reservations can be done online and in English.
2. You're responsible for your own timeliness, bookings and equipment.
3. If anything happens on Mount Fuji, you can only rely on yourself, companions and/or the kindness of others.

Ideal if you're self-dependent, capable of making your own bookings and don't like moving in big groups. If you're a naturally fast hiker, then DIY would suit you.

Guided Hiking Tour 
Most guided hiking tours I've come across when researching it often offer a 2 Days-1 Night package with bus transport, mountain accommodation and three meals. Depending on the size of the group, the tour can come with one mountain guide and one tour guide who would accompany the group as well. I've tried the Willer Express Mount Fuji tour for my most recent climb and found it satisfactory.
Yas, our mountain guide from Willer Travel Express
Pros:
1. Relatively stress-free experience with everything handled by the tour agency including transport, mountain accommodation, three meals on the mountain and guides to plan out your hike.
2. The group is only as fast as its slowest member so the pace can be leisurely.
3. Local mountain guides determines what time to depart, when to rest, head out for the summit etc.
4. Guides can communicate with the mountain workers in case of anything.
5. Discounts at participating stores and restaurants at the Fifth station.

Cons:
1. The group is only as fast as its slowest member so the pace can be draggy.
2. You are to follow the guide's pace.
3. A lot of breaks every 20-30 minutes which causes the body cool down.
4. Mandatory to follow the tour's schedule, pre and post hike.
5. Pricier.

Ideal if you're travelling in a big group of various fitness levels or just don't want to deal with the hassle of transportation and accommodation booking and doesn't mind traveling.

And there you have it. Hopefully this guide would help you with your options. For more in-depth details on both of my Mount Fuji climbs, check out the links below:
DIY Mount Fuji 2015
Guided Hike Tour 2017 



Important things to remember:
- Official hiking season is July to mid-September regardless if you're DIY-ing or by guided tour.
- Reservations for huts usually open two months prior.

Useful links:
Tour - http://willerexpress.com/en/
Bus - https://highway-buses.jp/course/fuji-5th.php
Accommodation - https://www.goraikoukan.jp/english/
More Mount Fuji tips - https://www.garyjwolff.com/climbing-mt-fuji.html

Happy hiking!

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