"He who never climbs Mt. Fuji is a fool. He who climbs Mt. Fuji a second time is a fool." - Japanese Proverb
I've heard variations of the above phrase often when we would discuss Mt. Fuji. A Japanese friend told me that "Mt. Fuji is a mountain to look at; not to climb." She is obviously part of the 99%.
|8PM - Starting Point|
We chose the Yoshida trail. Our bus from Tokyo brought us right to the 5th Station and gave us a chance to change clothes, buy walking sticks, and fill up on water.
|5th Station - Yoshida Trail|
We started a little after 8PM. The first few kilometers of the trail are long switchbacks of small lava rocks, dust, and red rock. It was a tiresome course of back and forth. Every few steps small rocks would slide out from under our feet and we would have to take that step again. We had a two couples that got off the bus with us and started at the same time. We would pass each other every so often during rest periods. Other than them, the bottom part of the mountain was empty. The temperature was a comfortable 65 degrees with no wind.
About an hour into our hike we arrived at out first station. The traditional souvenir for climbing Mt. Fuji is a walking stick. Along the way you can get them branded for 200 yen (almost $3.00).
|Getting our stamp!|
|Getting a Mohawk above 9,000 feet!|
|Making friends along the way|
|Getting our stamp at station 7|
|A station/mountain hut|
|Quite a funky smell!|
There was a reverent quiet as we hiked those last few hundred meters. There was a sense of shared jounrey among those of us on the trail. Through our sweat, blood (for some), and tears (for others) we were going to be rewarded with something spectacular.
Finally we reached the top! But we were about four hours before sunrise! It was a chilly 17 degrees at the top of the mountain that morning. We had added layers along the way, but they weren't enough to keep us warm. I had read about people dying on Mt. Fuji - many from hypothermia. After being at the top I can understand how that happens. We curled up on a pallet to keep warm and try and get some sleep. Sleep didn't come, and honestly, neither did the warmth.
|Starting to get light...|
|Wait for it...|
|Hurry up! We're cold!|
|People who didn't make the summit turned around.|
|We made it!|
|Waiting in queues on the way down|
|Climbing down the rocks|
|Tired but happy!|