Climbing Mt. Fuji is one of the best things to do in Japan. It is exhausting, exhilarating, and leaves you with the ultimate bragging rights. But those bragging rights come at a cost – Mt. Fuji is not an easy mountain to climb. It involves rain, spending the night in a hut, climbing through the dark, crowds, lost of dust, and paying $2 – $3 for a toilet on the bathroom. Oh yeah, and back, knee, and foot problems.
Before climbing Mt. Fuji, my Japanese father-in-law gave me a couple Japanese magazines to pour through, brushing up on tips. However, some of the other foreigners on the mountain weren’t so lucky; one woman in our group sprained her ankle a couple hours into the climb.
I wanted to translate some of the helpful Japanese tips so that foreigners climbing Mt. Fuji won’t have any problems.
Ascending Mt. Fuji: How to Climb without hurting your knees, back, and feet.
The key here is small steps and a straight back. When climbing Mt. Fuji, try to keep your back as straight as possible and steps as small as possible. Larger steps increase the chance of you slipping. This is what you should look like:
Notice how the climber steps as close to the edge of the step as possible, instead of over-extending. It seems weird, but this is the best way to climb.
This is what you should NOT look like. Notice the bent back and large steps. It can hurt your knees as well as your back.
Notice how taking large steps will cause extra pressure on your knees and make you use more energy? As long as you remember to keep your back straight and steps short, you should have no problem climbing the first part of the mountain (before you hit the major rocks)
Descending Mt. Fuji: How to Climb without hurting your knees, back, and feet.
Descending is another matter altogether. I ended up slipping down a couple times; the descending route of the Fuji-san Yoshida Trail was all dirt. Dirt is slippery.
Anyways, here is the clip-art.
Much like climbing UP the mountain, you will want to keep your steps short and your back straight. Why short steps? Because it is easy to slip. I saw people going down left and right on the ways down – unlike this illustration, the entire downward route of the Yoshida Trail on Mt. Fuji (the post popular climbing trail) was all loose dirt – that turns scary and muddy when it rains.
How to deal with large Boulders or Ledges
One of the weirder pieces of advice from the book had to deal with descending LARGE amounts, like climbing down from a boulder or tall ledge. They suggested going sideways. It explained that going sideways is the easiest way to protect your knee. If you go down straight, you can easily miss your foot (or step on some uneven ground), that can twist your knee and bring you falling down.
And yes, I did actually see a lot of people (especially elderly men) doing this during the descent.
How to use your Mountain Climbing Pole or Stick:
I didn’t bring a mountain climbing stick. I don’t like holding things when I walk. Most people in my group did bring a stick, though.
While mountain climbing poles can be a great way to keep your balance (or whatever they are used for, I’m actually not sure), they can also cause a series of problems. Mostly back problems.
When you are ascending Mt. Fuji, try to keep your poles close to your legs. Don’t use them as leverage to pull yourself up the mountain – our legs are a lot stronger than our arms. Trying to pull yourself up the mountain like that will only result in a hurt back.
See? Doesn’t that look painful? Also, remember to keep your back straight!
Descending is a similar deal. The mountain climbing poles are meant to ease your balance and make sure you don’t fall. Try not to lean on them too hard (hurt back, poles slip, etc).
Also, you know, keep your back straight. And have a great time climbing Mt. Fuji!
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