Two wonders of nature that are easy to reach in Asia are two of the world’s most perfectly coned volcanoes – the glorious Mt. Fuji in Japan and the majestic Mt. Mayon in the Philippines. Other than being trademarks of their respective countries, both of these volcanoes have one thing in common – they’re very challenging to hike and definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, hiking Japan’s Mt. Fuji and the Philippines’ Mt. Mayon offer two unique experiences that are linked by their likenesses.
For anyone attempting to climb these iconic volcanoes, read on for these great tips and be sure to pick up the right equipment. Travel gear retailer Luggage Direct recommends a small lightweight backpack as both mountains are either one or two-day treks.
Mt. Fuji, known locally as Fuji-san, is located at Fuefuki City in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture. At 4,000 meters high, Mt. Fuji is the country’s tallest mountain yet the variety of available trails make it suitable for all types of hikers. Overall, there are 10 stations throughout the climbing trails and the ascent starts by the 5th station or the Fujinomiya-guchi station. Most novice hikers reach up to the 8th station where they are treated with picturesque views of stunning landscapes. Lodgings, rest areas, and a first-aid station are available at the 8th station.
The hike from the 5th to the 8th station is beginner-friendly. If the weather is kind, hiking up to the 8th station is a breeze in the summer. Ascending further up to the 9th and 10th stations requires more physical stamina as weather conditions can drastically change at the higher elevations. What awaits at the summit of Mt. Fuji is the Kusushi-jinja Shrine which is dedicated to the legendary land gods Onamuji and Sukunahikona.
It takes about 5 to 8 hours to hike up the summit of Mt. Fuji and about 4 to 6 hours to descend. There are four available trails but the most popular ones due to their easy access to public transportation – and beginner-friendly paths – are the Yoshida and Fujinomiya-guchi trails. A few tips for hiking these trails:
- Avoid the peak season from around the end of July to the end of August so the trails won’t be too crowded.
- Wear comfortable shoes and do outfit-layering. Hiking up requires physical strength and the breeze can get quite chilly higher up.
- The basic necessities can be quite costly on the mountain. Pack lots of energy snacks and bring enough water to avoid extra purchasing. Remember to use the restroom prior to starting the hike.
- Pack light but pack well especially for those who don’t plan the spend the night in any of the available lodgings. Leaving at daybreak is the only way the summit can be reached in one day. To those who plan to overnight, make sure to secure accommodation reservations early, especially around the peak season.
Mt. Mayon is located in Albay, Philippines, and more commonly known as the Mayon Volcano. Quite a lot smaller than Mt. Fuji, Mt. Mayon, it is only about 2,500 meters high but more difficult to climb. Being an active volcano, it’s necessary to take extra precautions and closely monitor advisories when attempting to hike Mt. Mayon.
The volcano’s hiking path consists of 4 camps: the base camp, camp 1, camp 2, and the crater of the volcano itself. The base camp can easily be accessed by car and from there, the trekking starts. It takes about two hours to get to camp 1 and another 2-3 hours to get to camp 2. What makes camp 2 special is its trademark gullies from a dried waterfall bed, as well as the lava paths. At camp 2, travelers are also rewarded with a magnificent view of the entire Legazpi City and the ocean.
Advancing beyond camp 2 is no longer advisable for beginners as it requires greater physical strength. It takes another 5-7 hours to get to the actual crater. For this reason, reaching the crater of Mt Mayon requires one night on the mountain, despite it not being as high as Mt Fuji.
Special precautions are needed on the final lap of the hike including the need for masks as the volcano emits fumes. For these reasons, it is recommended that those who want to attempt the crater climb do so with a guide. In the Philippines, guides do not cost a lot of money, but they can ensure hikers’ safety.
Some other things to keep in mind:
- The months between February and May represent the best period to tackle the trails of Mt. Mayon. It’s not advisable to hike up the mountain during the rest of the year due to the frequency of heavy rains.
- The northwest slope is the safest trail to take. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has a research center there as well as a lodging called the Mayon Resthouse.
- Since it is recommended to hike Mt. Mayon during the hot dry season, it’s best to wear rash guards and clothing that can protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
As part of promoting tourism globally, officials of Albay and Fuefuki signed a pact in 2016 as part of a marketing strategy that formed a ‘sisterhood’ between Mt. Mayon and Mt. Fuji respectively. It allows resources and expertise to be shared to better promote responsible climbing and visits to these marvels.
Both volcanoes have their own charms making them icons of their countries, but keep in mind that these beauties are not for the weak and both require preparation and research prior to climbing. There are not many individuals who can claim that they’ve conquered the sisterhood of Fire and Ice – both Mt. Mayon and Mt. Fuji – but there are still many who want to try.
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