Skiing Fuji-san -- under construction
This is a trip that I had been planning for a long time. Since the official climbing season for Fujisan does not start until July, I thought there would be no busses to the standard starting points at the fifth step. Thus I expected that I would have to climb up all the mountain, which, together with the travel there and all the equipment I had to carry, would have meant a trip of several days. Fortuntaley, I found out that on the Kawaguchiko-Route on the North side of Fujisan busses had already started in mid April. Obviously not for people who wanted to go to the top, because the timetable ran only from mid-morning till early afternoon, not enough time for 1300 vertical meters with skis etc. unless you want to sprint.
On the other hand, the time to do it in two days was ample. So I watched the snow situation on some webcams, followed the weather forecast to find two days with nice conditions, and finally took off from Kyoto in the morning. Around noon I got my first glance at Fujisan from the train.
From Kawaguchiko station I almost immediately got a bus to the fifth station, where I arranged my bags and proceeded to the point where the ascension route leaves the heavily touristic zone around the bus stop.
From the bus stop it is one or two kilometers pretty horizontally Eastward before the actual climbing starts. Then you will find yourself between pretty serious walls - I do not know whether they are thought to prevent erosion or whether their purpose is stopping rocks that people further up might trip off. At any rate they do reduce the feeling of nature and mountains away from civilization. The cascade of huts that soon start do not make things much prettier. They have nothing to do with cosy huts like in the Alps. With their corrugated iron sheeting they rather resemble the shanties of a slum. Maybe things look a bit nicer during summer, when there is some life, but I was not very pleased by the sight.
In this zone I met a group of snowboarders who said that the snow had been very hard-frozen all the way, and that they had barely used their boards. Several people had hiked to around the seventh station where the heavy snow on the trail started. An finally I met two Spaniards who had climbed to the top with crampons and were wondering what to do, because the last bus had already left from the fifth station and they still had at least well over an hour to go. I recommendend trying to hitch a ride, but have no idea how things went for them.
At the last of the huts between the seventh and eighth station I decided to make my camp. I was already at about 3000 meters, and further up it did not look like there would be too many good places.
The main task was to produce some water for dinner and the following day. Here is where I made the only use of my ice axe: because all snow was rather hard-frozen, it would have been difficult to fill my pot. For dinner I did add a few things to the water.
While the burner was working I prepared my camp. It was a bit sheltered by the huts close by, nonetheless I hoped the weather forecast would be correct and winds would not be very heavy during the night.
In the evening I could see a curious thing, the shadow of Fuji-san; in the morning the sun reflected beautifully in one of the lakes, while the world down there was still very quiet. Wind tearing on my sleeping bag had kept me from sleeping very much, but the night had been alright. After making a tea I took off early and decided not to put on the skis with climbing skins - everything was quite frozen and walking with crampons seemed the better alternative.
The rest of the climb was more of the same, walking up the rather steady slope. Just the huts and walls were hidden every time more deeply in snow and ice. All the time I was not sure whether the rocky ridge one can see from the very start was already the top. When I finally arrived there, the surprisingly big crater opened up and answered my question. It is quite a memorable sight. The following 4 pictures show a look aroud this crater.
Since it was very nice weather and still quite early I took the opportunity to sit alone on the top of Fuji-san and to look around for quite a while.
One of the tori gates presented a perfect start for the downhill fun.
The first part was rather steep and rock-hard. However, over night some very fine firn had formed on top of the old, hard snow. With my skis I shaved these crystals of and in rustling cascades they slid down towards three more guys who were climbing up. At around their height I crossed over to the other side of Kawaguchi-ko trail. In the ascent I had made very wide serpentines and had found one slope where the sun was already softening the snow and the wind did not hit to keep it cool. Now it was actually soft like warm butter on top. It was maybe the most enjoyable ride I have ever had, the skis were almost working by themselves. Unfortunately I had to stop for a moment to go off to the side and collect my camp gear that I had deposited at my sleeping spot.
Unfortunately you cannot really see my tracks because the sun was blazing down from just the direction in which I had to take the picture. But I do not really care so much, I can still see it there...