Published: July 25th 2006July 8th 2006
I dont know where to start- the clouds, the sunrise, the height, the pain, the cold, the wind or the stick, but I do want to say- I CLIMBED MT FUJI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hang on, lets put that in bold writing I CLIMBED MT FUJI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This was one of the things that was on my 'What I want to do in Japan' list before I even arrived and while I was not sure I could do it I knew that I would always feel like I should have if I didnt. It took some convincing Marissa that it was something we could do, but once her brother was on board, plus a new found Japanese friend, Hide (Hee-de) it was all systems go.
There is a Japanese proverb that says 'He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool'. And spot on to whoever came up with that because there's no way you are getting me back up that mountain (or any other mountain for that matter) but I am very glad I did it. (Note:- the proverb is meant to be sexist, up until a little while ago women
If you only knew...
So enthusiastic and excited.
werent allowed to climb because the mountain goddess would get jealous!!!)
Before we go any further please note I have given this blog a soundtrack, as singing in my head (and out loud occasionally) helped to pass the time and distract from the discomfort. 500 yen for anyone who can name all the songs!!
Official climbing season is July and August, which means the huts are open, the snow has melted and the weather is less inclement than normal, and unless you are a professional or just plain dumb this is the time to go, we chose early July to avoid the holiday crowds in August. We had made preparations prior, I had to buy sandshoes, a backpack and wet weather gear, Marissa bought oxygen just in case!!! It felt like Christmas getting ready the night before, I was so excited but also nervous, and I still wasnt sure I could do it, but Hide arrived in his car to drive us to the fifth station at 12.00 lunchtime Saturday and it was time for the adventure to begin.
There are four fifth stations, the one we climbed is called Kawaguchiko and is the most popular- it
has the most huts and is perfect for seeing sunrise. We parked the car and walked through the mist to buy our sticks (these came in very handy) and some meat on a stick and sat a while to aclimatise to the lack of oxygen in the air. We didnt really notice any difference and had no trouble breathing on the way up, but better to be safe than sorry! Everything that I have read about Mt Fuji says to buy a stick, but to take off the flag coz it will get ruined and take off the bells coz they will drive you nuts. It took us about 200 metres to realise how true this was and the bells were promptly tucked into our backpacks to be put back on at the end of the climb. (Some 17 hours, six pairs of sore legs (Peter said his werent sore, what a hero!) and a numb runny nose later).
We started out at 4pm. The walk started off with a downhill stint, which puzzled us seeing the rest of the mountain is upwards, I remember commenting that I wouldnt be appreciating going back up the hill on the way
home, but we soon started a gradual ascent. The first milestone we were looking for was the 6th station (seeing we started at the 5th) and the leaflet we received said it should take us about 45 minutes to get to it. We walked uphill (the climbing came later) and rested, and walked some more and rested some more, through clouds and mist and past a dog who made most of the trek in a carry cage strapped to his owner's back!, when all of a sudden we rounded a corner, the foggy clouds opened like a curtain before us and we looked down on a sea of fluffy white marshmallow clouds. This image will always be imprinted in my brain. There was no land visible except for where we were standing and what was above us and all around was white. It was truly breathtaking (and i didnt have much left so its not like i was giving it away freely). I also had a Frodo moment here, when we looked up the mountain it was like a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings, the sun shone down on a little village, nestled into the side of
We'll go ridin on the horses yeah yeah
Peter was teasing Marissa on the way up saying she could put her stuff on a donkey to get to the top- unfortunately these horses dont go very far!
the mountain and most of the time hidden by cloud and I swear i saw Gollum being tricksy with his precious in a hut. This spot on Fuji-san holds many dear memories for me, as just before the clouds parted Peter let go the quote of the weekend- "If you cant fart on Mount Fuji where can you fart". The logic behind this was lost on me, but it certainly gave us something to giggle about in the hours ahead. The laughing over, Peter decided it was time to move on, pointing out wed been climbing for over an hour and while we could see it we hadnt yet reached the 6th station (which you remember was meant to take us 45 minutes!!!) It was shaping up to be a long day.
So we climbed (we werent just walking uphill anymore) for another 20 minutes or so when we reached the first hut on the 6th station- but hang on, that sign has the number 7 on it, surely we cant have missed a whole station, but surely they wouldnt have a sign saying number 7 and 2700 metres on it at the 6th station?? Hide quickly asked the
Yodele ti hoo
We thought this looked like a chateau in the snowfields
question in Japanese and sure enough to our absolute elation and relief we had in fact reached the 7th station!! And ahead of time! Will wonders never cease. So feeling a lot stronger, a lot more hopeful and a little confused as to what had happened to the 6th station we had a break and got the first stamp on our stick.
Back on our feet with the encouragement? of our fearless leader and resident photgrapher (Peter) we began climbing (really really climbing now) past all the huts and gathering stamps on the way. Much to Peter's disgust but he was just jealous coz he didnt have a stick, only hot air to propel him up the hill.
The climb got quite strenuous between the 7th and 8th stations, we were climbing up volcanic rock and molten lava ( i may have made up the lava bit but thats what it looked like) and using our hands and sticks (ha ha peter) to make our way up. Theres not much to say about this part of the climb, it was really just climbing, singing songs in my head and not much talking except for the occasional 'ganbare, ganbare'
Macho macho man
The reason Peter's legs didnt hurt- he stretched before hand. The rest of us wouldve, but we didnt wanna risk a dicky photo like this!!!
(keep trying, dont give up) and adding layers of clothing the higher and colder we got. We reached the 8th station at about 8.00pm and after it had got dark. By this time we had gloves, beanies and many layers on and my nose was running like Niagara Falls (oops wrong tourist attraction). It was cold.
The climb from the 8th station to our hut on the original 8th station- (the 8th and a half station!) is a bit of a blur, but I do remember stopping at one stage knowing that Peter was somewhere in the darkness in front of me, Marissa and Hide where somewhere in the darkness behind me but right then I was all alone and (nearly) on top of the mountain with a sky full of stars above me. Talk about perspective. Thats another memory that will stay with me for life.
We finally finally finally after five and a half hours on the go and only half an hour late arrived at our hut and a big bowl of steaming hot curry and rice and a nice warm bed was waiting for us. (Actually an extremely expensive and small served in plastic
Lets get retarded!!
High spirits at the start of the walking track. 4.00pm
curry and rice and a space on the floor with a damp doona was waiting for us, but whos complaining??!) The expense and the meal and the cold was well worth the laughs we got climbing up to our beds in a sort of attic and crawling 30 metres under the overhead beams between sleeping people trying so hard not to laugh so we wouldnt wake them, with Hide telling us off and that we werent aloud to take photos!!
Speaking of Hide, he provided another of the laughs when he started talking in his sleep, in English!! Needless to say, we didnt sleep much coz of the damp and cold and the situation, oh except for Peter of course who made us late the next morning coz he wouldnt get out of bed. We had only planned on a couple of hours anyway so we could be at the summit in time for sunrise, so our 1.30 wake up call was actually more of a get up call and arrived early courtesy of some Americans next to us. Nuff said.
So back out into the cold approx 2.00 am and this time into a line of like
minded people striving for sunrise. There was no worries about what speed we would be travelling as there were too many people to do anything but walk steadily upwards and brace ourselves against the wind everytime we turned the corner. The wind was something I would gladly have done without, it was very strong and scary, but all part of the experence i suppose. So we soldiered on and it began to get light, too light too soon as we were still 20 minutes or so from the top when we decided to settle in so we didnt miss the show.
And what a show....... I have no words. The pictures dont do it justice (even though they are great pictures Peter Piper).
So we lapped up what we could of the colours and the atmosphere (the goddess of Fuji had a very pretty dress on that morning) before the clouds once again closed over and the sun disappeared. We turned and began the last part of the journey to conquer Fuji-san. And some 13 hours and 1,400 metres after we left the 5th station we arrived AT THE SUMMIT- 3,776 metres.
And as we arrived so
did the rain so we got our final and most valuable stamp, took some photos with the Aussie flag, dragged on more layers, this time of water proof clothing and started the descent.
Ouch, Zig, Ouch, Zag, Ouch, slide, trip, photo, strip off layers of clothing, ouch, toilet stop, slip, stumble, ouch. Thats all I have to say about that.
Then.................................. we reached the hill that we thought it was strange to be going down at the start that i wasnt looking forward to going up at the end but when the time came the gradual upwards slope was heaven for my poor jarred knees and best of all the end was in sight!!
Relief and a sense of pride and satisfaction and thank god thats over and cheers all round... But noone else seemed to care when we arrived back at the 5th station. Maybe we should have gone with a tour group, they got certificates and a round of applause when they reached the bottom.
But I know I did it. I still find it hard to believe, but I really did do it!
There are more photos below