Almost anyone can climb Fuji, but you need to be aware of the following:
- rainwear (Goretex etc.)
- headlamp (if overnight)
- good climbing shoes (by no means essential of course and trainers possible),
- oyxgen bottles/tablets (don't underestimate the risk of altitude sickness – but best advice here is to take plenty of breaks and stay in a mountain hut overnight if attempting to see sunrise)
- have plenty of water (fairly expensive if bought along the trail but don't take too much – it does weigh a bit)
- plenty of warm layers (the summer's hot but it's very cold at the summit – we're talking thermals, fleece and gloves etc)
Beginners usually start with the Yoshida Trail, which has the most mountain huts and facilities along the route – you should book up a mountain hut (yamagoya) early if planning to climb overnight for the sunrise. The trails officially open between July and mid-September, with the exact dates listed here.
We also have an official resource about climbing Fuji on the main site.
I climbed Mt. Fuji two years ago, and the things that most affected me were as follows:
1. The temperature difference between the bottom (Yoshida Trail, 5th stage -- where most climbers start from) and the top. We're talking like 30+ degrees in the middle of the summer at the bottom, and maybe minus 1 or 2 degrees at the top. The wind comes howling over the top edge of the volcano and you'll be totally unprepared for just how cold it can make you. I was shivering uncontrollably from 01:00 when we crested the peak until after sunrise at 05:00 or so. After that, to warm up again, we force marched around and down into the crater. It was much warmer down in the crater itself.
2. The thin air. I climbed with a friend and we're both pretty fit. So we had a great old time for the first 2/3 of the ascent overtaking all the slow pokes. But, regardless of how fit we were, around the 8th stage, we both suddenly got hit by the need to breathe harder and not being able to suck enough in. Not full-blown altitude sickness but enough to give you a headache and make you feel uncomfortable. From that point on, we slowed right down and joined the line of hardy 70-year olds who knew better.
3. Flashlights. You don't realize just how dark it is up on the mountain until you climb it at night. There is no artificial lighting outside of the rest houses, and we continually had to try to tag along with better prepared people whose head-mounted flashlights (the best sort) would briefly tell us where the loose rocks and pot holes were. This problem became particularly accentuated near the top (after the 9th stage). Very little ambient light up there until you get to the food huts at the peak.
4. Food and water. Climbing 1,471 meters doesn't sound like it should be that hard, but try having a backpack loaded with warm clothes, 2 liters of water (at least), AND food -- and you'll find out that it's not so easy. Water is of course essential, and eventually it becomes a toss-up between lugging your own supply up the mountainside, or taking a few sheets of paper money (much lighter) and using that instead. I took some food up with me, but I have to admit that the smell of fresh-cooked ramen at the top of the mountain was just too much to face, and I wound up carrying some of that trail mix back down again.
You need to know about:
- The trail as your starting point.
- The best time to climb because it may be typhoon and rain, so you can't reach the highest point of Mount Fuji.
- How to anticipate altitude sickness.
- Since it's summer, the daytime is very hot, so you have to consider when you want to climb and go down, so you can adjust your cothes.
I climbed Mount Fuji twice (I know, only a fool does it :-)) and I have to say that the second time was much more pleasant for me. Although I was very well equipped the first time as well, I had not taken enough precaution regarding potential altitude sickness. And yes, I got sick... :-( So the second time, I spent much more time at the 5th station, about 1.5 hours, we had a ramen and took our time to walk around a little. This helped a big deal to adjust. Don't forget, the fifth station is already at 2,300 meters, although it doesn't look and feel like it.
While I was shopping in the outdoor shop in Harajuku I picked a free information booklet on climbing Fuji. I forget the name of the store but it's across the road from the station on the Takeshitadoori side, easy to find. It has a lot of info and they have a few language versions too.