"So we are not responsible for your life and what you do."So say the signs prominently positioned at the start of the Yoshidaguchi climbing trail on Fuji, outside of the summer season of July and August. Needing no further invitation, we marched on up...
Ever since our summer trip, we'd been toying with the idea of a winter climb of Fuji. By last weekend, with my New Year cold having cleared up and the weather set fair we had run out of excuses so off we went.
Fuji in winter is a very different proposition from the lengthy but straightforward trudge that most people experience in the summer season, and I wouldn't want to encourage anyone reading this blog to take it on casually. There is only a single hut open, at "5th station" - this is the half-way point where people usually drive to and start from in the summer, but it's heavily snowed up in the winter so even getting this far is a moderately strenuous walk. From there it's an unremittingly steep and snowy climb up a further 1500m with no shelter from the notoriously strong wind, and temperatures easily dropping below -20C and possibly past -30C.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we weren't able to make a serious attempt at the summit. Having walked up to the hut on Saturday, we found that it was shut on Sunday night, so rather than having a whole day to reach the summit and return there for the night, we only had a couple of hours practising crampon use up the increasingly icy and steepening slope (reaching about 2800m, roughly 7th station and still 900m below the summit) before having to turn back in time to descend all the way to the train station.
I'm not one to leave a serious challenge unshirked so turning back was not such a hardship :-)
Maybe we'll have another go some time.