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September 12, 2013
Mt. Fuji's Heritage status worries some

MOUNT FUJI, Japan (AP) -- They trudge up well-trod cinder paths by the thousands, headlamps glowing in the dark, and then settle in, shivering, to await and cheer the sun's blazing ascent over the horizon.

Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan's most iconic landmark, is a group activity: Seldom is it climbed in solitude. The recent recognition of the 3,776-meter (12,388-foot) peak as a UNESCO World Heritage site has many here worried that it will draw still more people, adding to the wear and tear on the environment from the more than 300,000 who already climb the mountain each year.

Safety is another concern. At least seven people died and 70 were hurt climbing Fuji in 2012, and traffic jams of climbers in the pre-dawn darkness can add to the risks, says Shomei Yokouchi, governor of Yamanashi, the area to the west. The official climbing season runs July to August, and the trek -- nine hours round trip in good weather -- is especially treacherous other times of the year. -- Photo essay by AP Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder

(20 images)




Thousands of hikers cheer from the summit of Mount Fuji in Japan as the sun rises on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. Mount Fuji's near perfect cone was created by an eruption thousands of years ago that buried earlier peaks, and pilgrims have been climbing it for centuries -- though women have been allowed only since 1868. It towers over the Pacific coast, ringed by lakes, national parks, temples and shrines that are also part of the World Heritage site. AP / David Guttenfelder
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A Japanese couple sits under a space blanket to keep warm on top of the the summit of Mount Fuji at dawn on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Thousands of hikers wait for the sun to rise on the summit of Mount Fuji before dawn on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Thousands of hikers, with headlamps and flashlights lighting their way, climb to the summit of Mount Fuji before dawn on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers make their way down from the summit of Mount Fuji after watching the sunrise form the topon Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers make their way down the slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers rest next to a snack stand on the summit of Mount Fuji in Japan on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers climb one of the trails on Mount Fuji on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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An arrow painted on a rock points the way on a trail along the slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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A Japanese woman sits on a rock overlooking a crater on Mount Fuji in Japan on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Japanese students make their way down a steep trail on Mount Fuji in Japan during a school putting to learn about the mountain environment and pick up any trash they could find on the trails on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 . AP / David Guttenfelder
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A Japanese student collects garbage on the slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan during a school outing to learn about the mountain environment on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Japanese students sort through garbage they collected on and around Mount Fuji in Japan during a school outing to learn about the mountain environment on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Mount Fuji souvenirs sit on shelves for sale at a shop at the base of the mountain in Japan on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Tour buses, guard rails and a tourist information sign sit in a parking lot at the base of Mount Fuji on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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A Japanese man, wearing a Mount Fuji-shaped hat, passes by vending machines and benches at a rest station on one of the trails on Mount Fuji on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers are packed into sleeping rows at a rest station before the summit of Mount Fuji in Japan on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Hikers with headlamps stop to take pictures during their climb to the summit of Mount Fuji in Japan before dawn on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Japanese hikers climb one of the trails on Mount Fuji on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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A Japanese man and his children climb one of the trails on Mount Fuji on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder

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