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| | |-+  April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
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Author Topic: April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route  (Read 2017 times)
kylesw
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Posts: 58


April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
« on: 04/13/16, 07:02 AM »

Mt. Fuji needs no introduction. It is the tallest peak in Japan at 3776 meters, and stands on its own amidst broad forests and small foothills. On a clear day it is visible from Tokyo, and on a busy summer’s day, thousands and thousands of people will reach the peak’s summit in favorable conditions. Mt. Fuji’s ‘official’ climbing season is in the summer months, when you will find vending machines and udon huts all the way to the summit. Winter and spring, however, are another story. In a typical spring, the volcano is blanketed with snow down to road level, making for an awesome climbing and skiing objective.

I’ve had the good fortune of spending a lot of time in Japan for over the past couple years. Working only a couple hours away, an attempt at the summit only seemed natural. I made my first attempt on Fuji in February of 2015 without skis and climbed to 3200 meters before turning around in very cold winter conditions. I chose the Gotemba Route as it seemed to be the easiest access of the four primary Fuji routes. From this attempt I learned that (1) it’s much better to attempt later in the spring, when temperatures are more reasonable and (2) it’s a big day – the road spur to the Gotemba 5th station is closed in winter, meaning you must start from the road at 1290 meters, making for a ~2500 meter day (8200’).

As spring turned the corner here in Japan, Jordan, Lindsey, and myself thought we’d give Fuji a go in more reasonable spring conditions.
Logistics: Getting to the town of Gotemba is quite easy, as it is accessible from the Tokyo area by train. Just be sure to pack efficiently as the trains can be quite crowded! There are many English speaking hotels in the city as it is such a tourist hotspot. The turnoff for the Gotemba 5th station is just a 25 minute drive from the Gotemba train station – you can easily book a cab or rent a car to get yourself there.

On Saturday, we woke in our hotel at 3 am and were on the trail by 4:30, starting from 1290 m (4200’). The sun rose as we climbed through the vast lava fields that comprise the SE flank of the mountain. The main island of Japan, Honshu, has had a mediocre winter compared to normal – which was revealed by the fact that we didn’t reach snow until 2380 m (7782’) after 3 hours of hiking through loose, wet pumice stone. It sure would have been nice to skin from the road!

Jordan and I dawned skis and Lindsey put on her crampons when we reached the first snow finger. Firm snow, slowly softening in the sun, made for efficient travel. Navigation was easy with clear conditions, as it’s just a “point it uphill” type of volcano route. After another 3 hours, we made my previous high point of 3200 m (10,500’). At this point, the snow was getting firmer so we all switched to boot crampons for better purchase, hoping the sun would continue to soften the snow enough for safe climbing and skiing. However, conditions continued to deteriorate - by 3480 m (11,400’), crampon and axe purchase was minimal due to a rain-on-snow event the Thursday prior that had subsequently froze up to a near water-ice hardness. Turning around was an easy decision at that point, because falling was not arrestable.

We were rewarded with a nice, moderate to low angle descent that progressed from firm snow to corn to slush, skiing a total of 1250 m (4000’). An hour and a half of plunge stepping through loose pumice brought us to 5th station and eventually the car, making for a sub 12 hour day, with a total of 7500’ gained on the day.

Map: https://www.strava.com/activities/539773016


sunrise as seen from just above the Gotemba 5th station


a low snow year for Mt. Fuji


dancing through the pumice


finally on snow for smooth travel


just below our turnaround point where it was a bit too firm


the pow sticks are heavy but still fun in good corn!


fun skiing near the 7th station


playing with the clouds


and out through the moonscape
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Zap
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Posts: 2155


Re: April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
« Reply #1 on: 04/13/16, 03:20 PM »

Great to read your trip report and photos. About 20 years ago, I was Japan for business and took my backcountry gear. The weather was bad so I cancelled the climb today. Your "team" was great. Wink
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kylesw
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Posts: 58


Re: April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
« Reply #2 on: 04/15/16, 02:26 AM »

Thanks Zap!
FYI for everyone - this is a totally doable weekend trip if you ever happen to find yourself in Tokyo with your gear on a April or May weekend!
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mattd
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Posts: 35


Re: April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
« Reply #3 on: 04/15/16, 04:00 PM »

Oh yes!  I teach a study abroad class to Japan every year and I've been wanting to ski Fuji-san. Thanks for the report, unfortunately I go there in September usually so the amount of snow is a smallish number.

The motivation from the pictures makes me say arigato gozaimasu.
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clane
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Posts: 28


Re: April 9th, 2016, Mt. Fuji, Gotemba Route
« Reply #4 on: 04/19/16, 10:03 AM »

Great shots!
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