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Published: July 12th 2006
For all that know me, I’m not the most athletic person in the world and if there’s a way out of walking somewhere, I’ll find it! All of that aside, I went ahead with one of the most challenging experiences of my life…and I made it back alive! I am also no longer a fool, as the saying goes…You’re a fool not to climb Mt Fuji, and you’re a fool to climb it twice! No chance in hell of that!
Leading up to the climb, I didn’t even believe, myself, that I could do it - climb Japan’s tallest (3776m), most worshiped mountain, Fuji-san! Amy had always had her mind set on climbing the mountain and I couldn’t exactly let her go alone! My brother Peter arrived in Shizuoka on Friday and was also prepared to go ahead with the climb as that’s what we had planned for a few months!
Climbing season only runs from July to August (otherwise climb at your own risk, but I say anytime, climb at your own risk!) so with our busy Summer schedule, this was the only weekend it could happen! The week leading up to our climb, we were checking the
weather everyday and looking at the satellite pictures. We would have been doing this anyway, but had the approaching typhoon Eiwinar to worry about!!! With luck (and I guess wind) on our side, the typhoon, aimed at hitting Japan the day of our climb, blew over to the west, missing us altogether! We did still have to be prepared for rain, cold and wind.
One of our new Japanese friends, Hide (Heey-deh) came along for the adventure, and offered to pick us up and drive us all to the Fifth Station. The Fifth Station is where the majority of climbers begin from, and is about half way up the mountain. The particular Fifth Station we began from was called Kawaguchiko. This is the most popular route because it is positioned perfectly in order to see the sun rise.
After buying a walking stick (to get stamped along the way) eating some red meat and enjoying an ice cream, we began to make our way up the mountain - 4:00pm.
The fog was so thick for the first two hours, we could literally only see about 15 metres in front of us! The first few inclines, I was wondering
First view of the summit
Driving up to the 5th Station
what I had gotten myself into and needed several short breaks in order not to lose spirit and to catch my breath - never thought about giving up however.
The most memorable and best part of our climb up, was reaching the 7th Station. We had been climbing for about an hour and a half and still had not passed the 6th Station. The map said we should reach the 6th within 45 minutes! We arrived at a station an hour and a half into our climb and assumed we were making bad time, as we though it had to be the 6th. The sign where we arrived said 7th, and Hide double checked that this was correct - it was!!! Yay, we reached the 7th Station ahead of schedule and found out that there was actually no 6th Station! Confusing but we were elated!
We could now get our first stamps on our walking sticks! This became a little addictive, as nearly every hut we passed, we added a new stamp to celebrate another milestone! They actually branded the stick, using a metal stamp dipped in hot coals - very cool!
It was almost magical -
Amy described it as something out of Lord of the Rings - when the clouds finally cleared and we could see the whole mountain above us! It was truly amazing to look up and see all the 7th Station huts perched on top of each other up the mountain, and then to look below us at the breathtaking view of the clouds we had just walked right through and now were on top of!
The scenery changed quite dramatically, from tall rainforest type trees, to smaller green shrubs, to hard rock (quite difficult to climb), to red, then gray, then black dirt and volcanic rocks. The top third of the mountain, nothing grew at all but we did hear the occasional bird singing.
Climbing from the 7th to the 8th station was quite difficult as it was getting dark and the path turned to hard rock where we had to really be cautious about where we placed every foot in order to move up safely. The weather obviously turned a lot cooler so we had to put on more layers the higher we climbed.
Our accommodation was at the original 8th Station, which is higher up than
On the drive up, Peter joked that I could have the option of a donkey taking me up!
So it was funny to see these horses! They only take people for very short rides, definitely not to the top.
the 8th, so we kept on going, making necessary frequent stops until we finally reached our destination after five and a half hours of strenuous climbing - 9:30pm! We rested and ate at Fujisan Hotel 2. Of course curry and rice was in order - a much needed and well deserved meal.
I often say “it was the funniest thing ever”, but this time I really mean it when I say our sleeping arrangements were the funniest thing ever!!! Amy and I could not stop giggling! We were shown to our beds by one of the hotel staff. We took off our shoes, and then followed him through a corridor of sleeping and snoring bodies, lined up side by side and on two levels. He then took us up some stairs to the attic, literally the roof, where we had to be very quiet and crawl below beams in between a 20cm gap between the mattresses in order to reach our sleeping quarters at the end of the sardine filled room! I can now understand why some of the huts can accommodate 300-400 people! We were lined up like sardines and had to share blankets and sleep in a
room that we could not even stand up in - but it was great! As it was so cold, the heavy blankets were damp, but this all added to the fun of staying in a hut on Mt Fuji! Amy and Hide had to share a blanket - that possibly might be why he was talking in his sleep, saying “no, no, no!” It was so funny and funnier that he was talking in English in his sleep!
Without much more than a wink of sleep, we were alerted, 10 minutes before our actual wake up call (1:30am), by some loud Americans! So we began getting ready for the last leg of our climb and put on all the clothes we had as it was going to be freezing on the top! We crawled and hurdled ourselves back over the beams in the attic, past some still sleeping people, ready to brave the mountain again.
We went outside to be surrounded by hundreds of people on their way to climbing to the top for sunrise. We joined in, in what was more like a queue, to continue our climb. A sea of lights zigzagging up the mountain is
The Bravest of the Brave!
All ready to go, walking sticks and all!
pretty much all I could see. I was amazed at all the people who seemed to appear out of nowhere compared to the amount when we were climbing the mountain the previous day. I did not need to bother with my torch as there was so much light coming from everyone else’s headlamps and torches. This was definitely the scariest part of the climb, as each time we reached a corner; the wind was so strong you really had to keep a good balance! I didn’t really mind being a part of a long procession of people as you were forced to go slowly, which meant a lot of breaks!
Very, very close to the top, we could see the sun beginning to cast beautiful colours on the clouds above and below us, so we found a space on some black volcanic rock and sat and waited. For a while, we just watched the beautiful lit up sky until the sun peered over the clouds. Everyone gasped! All who were still climbing stopped instantly to take in the beautiful sunrise from the top of Fuji-san. 4:30am. Clouds began to rush past us, covering, then revealing the sun, creating a
very eerie atmosphere. As the sun moved a little higher, behind some thicker clouds, we continued our climb to the top. Not long after 20 minutes, we had finally made it!!! It was quite windy and near freezing, so we quickly had our sticks branded for the last time - Top of Mt Fuji - took some quick photos, then made our way to the descending route. At the summit, it began to rain, so on with all the wet weather gear, ready for our descend.
It rained for just over an hour on the way down. The path zig-zagged all the way down and it took a lot longer than it looked! We were tempted so many times to slide down somehow. At one stage, we joked that someone should pretend to break their ankle as there was a small caterpillar truck that could take everyone in the group down the easy way! We pushed on, staking it a few times as the gravel (or volcanic rocks) were loose and slippery. The path was also quite steep in some areas and we were forced to run a little! On the way down, the weather got warmer fast, so
we had to keep taking our layers off - luckily it had stopped raining!
The sun had disappeared soon after it rose, but the sky and clouds still looked amazing and we could see surrounding mountains pop up over the clouds. The views were truly breathtaking!
Finally, the end was in sight, and at about 10:00am we happily and proudly walked back through our starting posts at the Fifth Station. What an achievement, I still can't believe that we actually did it!!! I now have sore legs and lack of sleep hanging over me but many great memories of this amazing experience I will never forget! Thanks to my brother Peter for letting me use a lot of his photos for this blog!
(he made me write that or I would have to pay him royalties! haha)
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