Commencing August 11, unusual measures go into effect on the climbing routes of Mount Fuji. The mountain is an iconic Japanese landmark soaring to an altitude of 3,776 meters.
This decisive action directly responds to an unparalleled surge in domestic and international climbers. It is the result of hazardous incidents such as falls and rockslides. Meanwhile, concerns have grown with the escalation in climbing activity following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.
"Enforcing limits on climbing routes for reasons unrelated to natural disasters, like volcanic eruptions, is unprecedented. However, the prevailing circumstances underscore the urgent need for some form of regulation. Mount Fuji has reached a worrisome level of overcrowding.
"The decision to curtail the influx of climbers appears to be a proactive measure to avert potential accidents," elucidates a seasoned mountain guide.
Averting Accidents, Starting With Mountain Day
Yamanashi Prefecture is responsible for the popular Fuji-Yoshida Route on Mount Fuji. It has unveiled plans to impose regulations on climbers. These measures take effect on August 11, which aligns with Mountain Day.
The restrictions will remain in effect until September 10, encompassing the initial climbing season.
These restrictions apply to the area above the fifth station of the Yoshida Route. Safety guides will be patrolling the climbing routes. They will alert the prefectural authorities in case of overcrowding or the potential for incidents like falls and rockslides among climbers.
Subsequently, the prefecture will ask the prefectural police to step in and regulate the situation. In the end, the police would have the final decision.
Limits on Climbers
Limits will be enforced if there are more than 4,000 climbers on any day and substantial congestion at the summit. Under those conditions, onsite police officers would temporarily halt the progression of climbers.
"Our intention is to lift the restrictions once safety is ensured," said a staff member located at a specific mountain hut. "However, given the unprecedented nature of the situation, there is a potential for confusion at the site," the staff member continued.
The implementation of regulations was a necessary step driven by specific circumstances. The trails near the mountain's peak have already witnessed a surge in climbers. This has led to significant congestion. It has also escalated the risks associated with rockfalls and other accidents.
Tenth Anniversary as a World Heritage Site
This summer heralds the first mountain climbing season since COVID-19 was reclassified as a Category 5 infectious disease.
Furthermore, it coincides with the 10th anniversary of Mount Fuji's inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. That is raising expectations for an increased number of climbers.
Accommodations at mountain huts have already nearly reached maximum capacity. Preliminary data indicates that the count of climbers from the Yoshida trail, during the period from July 1 to July 30, has surpassed 60,000. This reflects an approximate 17% increase compared to the same timeframe in 2019, before the spread of COVID-19.
Considering these circumstances, regulation of the trails up the mountain trail was deemed necessary.
Overconfident Climbers and Other Concerns
Apart from the issue of overcrowding, there has been a recognized concern related to a practice known as "bullet climbing." Bullet climbing involves starting the climb from the fifth station at night. Climbers then skip overnight stays and aim to swiftly reach the summit to see the sunrise.
"Young individuals confident in their physical fitness and foreigners seeking a memorable experience often opt for bullet climbing. They see Japan's highest peak as that kind of challenge. Some even resort to wearing sneakers instead of proper climbing shoes," says a mountain guide.
"Mount Fuji is more than 3,700 meters high and susceptible to rapid weather changes. For climbers, this also adds to the heightened risks of altitude sickness and hypothermia," the guide added. Furthermore, the risks associated with bullet climbing are likely to contribute to increased confusion near a crowded summit," the guide concluded.
Moreover, a substantial increase in climbers is expected with the long holiday starting on August 11. This period also aligns with the summer Bon festival season. Adding complications to the climbing scene, a typhoon is additionally expected to approach the Mount Fuji area over the weekend of August 12, escalating tensions.
- Protecting Mount Fuji: Bad Mannered Climbers Lead to Talk of Tax, Mountain Manners Lectures
- [A Photographer's Notes] The 'Mt Fuji One Stroke' Challenge
- Mount Fuji’s Countless Gifts: Disaster Prevention Technology Aids Space Exploration, Too
- Ken Noguchi: Now is the Time to Plan and Prepare for a Mount Fuji Eruption
(Read the article in Japanese.)
Author: JAPAN Forward