There’s this saying in japan that only fools hike Mt Fuji, Japan’s tallest peak, twice. After doing the hike, I think that this should be revised to state that only fools climb Mt Fuji and that only crazy people do it more than once.
Friday, August 19 2005.
Mike and I decided to hike Mt Fuji together and I am really excited because I will not be doing it alone. I am also really excited because we will be hiking the mountain under the full moon! It just couldn’t be more perfect.
This evening we took the bus from Tokyo to Mt Fuji. The ride was fine, but we ended up being dropped off at the base of the mountain instead of at the 5th station as we were expecting. The 5th station is as far up the mountain you can go by vehicle, and starting higher obviously means a shorter hike.
We made our was to the base of Mt Fuji, where we bought a few extra things for the hike, along with our hiking sticks. One of the really cool things about hiking Mt Fuji is this very hiking stick. Made of plain wood (and we purchased ours at 7/11), you can pay people at each station along the mountain to have the stick branded. Each station has its own insignia, and in the end you end up with a very unique souvenir.
We hopped a new bus and headed to the 5th station, as originally planned. The 5th station is at about 2300 meters – just under the official starting point of altitude sickness (3000 meters). Still, on the ride up the mountain we were giddy like school children and couldn’t stop laughing; I think already the altitude change was getting to us! We arrived at the 5th station just after midnight and made the smart decision to purchase some gloves.
From there we started our long journey up. We were not alone in our climb, but the mountain wasn’t too busy either.
Along the way we were getting pretty discouraged about our progress: we must have encountered four 8th stations! It felt like we were never going to make it. The altitude really got to me, with every switchback being pure torture. It felt like each 500 meters took 5 hours, and I constantly had to stop to catch my breath.
We finally arrived at a point where the sun was starting to come up – the whole point of this was to watch the sun rise above Japan. We took a few photos and I then made a very difficult decision: I was not going to make it to the top. I was hungry and tired and sick and it just wasn’t going to happen. I gave up – maybe I shouldn’t have, and maybe I could have still made it. Yet, at the time, it felt like the only choice. I stopped my journey at 3450 meters (326 meters short). The terrain, the steepness (you can see the just how angled the mountain is in a shot bellow) – it was all too much.
Mike went up without me, while I stayed behind. I crawled into a ball and slept, while he pushed on and brought my camera with him. Here are his photos. As you can see there is everything up there; even a post office! I feel bad for those who have to carry all of that stuff to the top…
About an hour later Mike came back down to join me, and we started our journey down. Hiking down the mountain was much easier than going up and took no time at all: we decided to just run down the mountain, like one would do in snow. The volcanic rocks that make up the ground act like giant grains of sand (that feel your shoes and socks – we had to throw away our socks and wash our shoes after this), and they absorb the run pretty well. And yes, this sign was just a few meters from where I gave up my quest up Mt Fuji. Oh, the irony!
Once we arrived at the 5th station we realized that something was wrong. While the pathway going up was clear, it was confusing going down and we ended up taking the wrong way down – and ended up on the other side of the mountain! There was no bus here, and so we had to walk all the way down the mountain. Not a nice twist after hiking all night on no sleep!
Eventually we made it down, and found a bus to bring us back to the bus terminal. What an adventure! What insanity! All things considered I am really glad that I did the hike, even though I did not complete it. I tend to have difficulty giving up on things, and I am glad that I was able to look past this and be true to myself.
Now, to those we saw running up the mountain – the saying at the top of this blog post is clearly beyond you.
Side note: Today, a Japanese company held their *morning* interviews at the top of Mt Fuji. They wanted to be certain that candidates would have what it takes to work for their company. Only in japan! Crazy people…