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Published: December 17th 2010
The view of Mt.Fuji from the rest stop on the way to Kawaguchiko. You can see it is pretty well covered in clouds.
1pm on Sunday August 9th and I’m in the quaint, but fortunately comfortable Kawaguchiko station waiting. Almost every muscle in my body aches, I’ve miss placed two people and most of my stuff along with them. Last time I saw them was on Mt.Fuji on the way to the summit.
This is a bit of a long story, but I’ll keep it brief. I’m a gaijin (foreigner) living in Japan and like almost every other gaijin I really wanted to climb Mt.Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, and watch the sunrise. To do this you walk up ½ way up from the 5th station during day 1 and then rest in a hut until 11pm/12am and walk to the top by 4am to watch the sunrise then walk all the way back down to the 5th station the next morning. Alexa, Simon, Simon’s sister and I were going together. Alexa arrived at Kawauchi Station by train yesterday before us and we were very late to meet her since our bus spent most of its journey in a perpetual series of traffic jams since this weekend was the first day of Obon, a summer holiday, in Japan. When we united Alexa and
I bought walking sticks and the four of us took the bus from Kawaguchiko Station to the 5th station on the Yoshida Trail up Fuji-san. From there we began the lengthy journey on foot to 3, 776 meters above sea level. Fuji-san is notorious for being surrounded by clouds so much so that quite often you can barely see it at all. So not surprisingly we were going through clouds for the first part of our hike. It wasn’t until we were steps away from the 7th station area that we broke above the clouds and got a view you often only see from planes. Unfortunately after the cloud break the landscape and trail also changed becoming steep and barren. The hike through the 7th station wasn’t easy, but it was fun. Alexa and I got the first brands of many on our hiking sticks, we got to see some mountain huts and we found the one we were going to stay in.
Unfortunately Alexa miss read her clock and woke us up at 10pm instead of 12am. We didn’t realize the error until halfway through the 8th station when it was too late to back track. We snuggled up
against the cold and tried to kill time at various stops. Sadly towards the end of the 8th station area Simon’s sister got altitude sickness and Alexa and I carried on after leaving the other two members of our team in a hut to rest. The rest of the hike was brutal and crowded. It was a back to back, elbow to elbow trail of people climbing in the middle of the night. When you looked up or down the mountain you could see the twisting, turning trail of lights winding up the mountainside. After the rugged struggle the two of us finally arrived at the top just in time to watch the first streak of color glow into existence and slowly encompass the sky. It was lucky that Alexa woke us up early after all. The view from the top of Mt. Fuji was almost unbelievable and incredibly rewarding. We completed our sticks at the summit and at first went down the wrong trail, but soon we were on the right path to the base of the mountain. The way down Mt.Fuji is sooo much faster, but it is also murder for your knees. The path down is made
up of steep slopes in zigzags covered in loose lava dust and rock that causes you to slip and slide and twist and fall. When we returned just past 5am to the 8th station where we deposited Simon and his sister they were MIA, sadly Simon had all my stuff with him( hence the current predicament). Without much choice I sent a text to his turned-off phone and continued down the mountain until my knees were screaming and my whole body ached. There is a saying that goes “A wise man climbs Mt.Fuji, but a fool climbs it twice.” At the moment I could see why that saying exists.
At the 5th station we grabbed some snacks and waited for the bus that would return us to Kawaguchiko. Pretty soon after arriving at the base Alexa grabbed a train towards home and I waited until luckily my travel buddies finally found me. After we united the three of us went to see the Kawaguchiko Lake and did some souvenir shopping before catching the bus back. What a weekend!
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