Mt. Fuji, standing on top of Japan!
Ugh, didn’t sleep well, and the mountain gets really cold at night. It’s 4am and I probably got 4 hours sleep tops. Well, at least it’s not raining. I took one last glance hoping to see a sunrise, but alas, the sun was shy and hid behind the clouds.
1000m to ascend today; almost 3 Empire State buildings. Since Fujisan is conic and gets steeper as you get further to the summit, it gets tough real fast. Especially since the air becomes thinner, like you can’t catch your breath even when you are idle. Hypothermia is the #1 killer on this volcano, and we were reminded of the realities of off-season climbing when passing by memorials.
After a few 100m, we arrived at station 7. It felt good to take a nice break. There will be quite a few of these until the summit. Also, it was our first sight of ice.
From station 7 to station 8. Ok, I’m starting to feel it now, maybe it’s not such a small mountain. I may have underestimated the size. Once we reached station 8, I can recall just needing to drop my bag and laid down on the ground for a few minutes.
From station 8 to station 8. Huh, what!? Nan desu ka!? It turns out that there is no 9th station on the Subashiri route, but there is 3 8th stations. Ah, of course, makes sense. So anyway, we pass another memorial, and a small shack that is station 8b, and then to station 8c. Mt. Fuji is starting to look like a volcano now, like Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings. Hardly any plant life, just a lunar landscape with some ice here and there.
My legs are toast now. We’ve been climbing since 4am and its 10am now. I cherish all the breaks and the non-rainy weather thus far. Every step I take requires effort, 2 seconds per step. Why am I so exhausted? Oh, I’m climbing a mountain, hehe. We are now at a point where we have to walk over ice without slipping, yay, fun time! Starting to lose my mind with the lack of sleep, air, and sushi.
For hours, I was looking up at the peak every 5 minutes with a little less to climb each time. I started to doubt myself. Maybe I couldn’t make it. I can’t catch my breath, ugh. This is when you have to dig deep and just borrow reserve energy from tomorrow. Step after step, I could see the final Tori gate. I know it’s just minutes and not hours (the signs actually tell you that there is X minutes left). Always a happy moment to get to the top because you get to stop climbing! Or is it the peak?
Yosuke told us that the real summit is across the crater. Another 50m ascent to go. The crater is like a mile across and to deep of a bowl to go directly across, we must go around the rim. Just when you think it’s over, it’s not over. And then there’s the descent. The crater is an amazing sight, photos can’t capture the size and the Mars-like look to it.
The final push to the summit is a nasty 45 degree uphill 10 minute climb to Kengamine, the actual 3776m peak. The wind was blowing hard and it began to snow. So yea, mini ice-balls hitting your face. Every step was 3 seconds apart. I had to growl like Goku to push me through this section. Sorry, I wasn’t able to take photos because both of my arms were occupied pulling myself up and grabbing on the bars and railings. Can’t believe Mt. Fuji kicked my butt this bad. And I’m almost out of water with one granola bar left, oh no. But who cares, I’m at the summit! I’m on top of Japan!!!
Feeling awesome and accomplished, we all celebrated for 5-10 minutes only to see the biggest cloud move into the crater.
The ice-balls became pouring rain. Time to descend! I may be out of steam going up, but going down is my specialty. Yosuke led us off-course to a tractor trail which was usable only because it is off-season, otherwise we would have to descend the way we ascended. This was good news, the tractor trail was sandy/rocky and muddy due to melting ice and rain. In summary, almost 8 hours to get to the true peak, with a lot of photo breaks, and 4 hours to descend. With the heavy fog, it was cool to see teammates disappear and reappear through depending on how far away they are.
Going downhill for hours can get a bit tiresome, so you just gotta have fun whenever possible.
By 4pm, we were all at the parking lot of station 5, where it all began. That was crazy, arigato Mt. Fuji! I leave a part of me on every mountain I climb.
Please note, that although the sun never showed itself, and it was the cloudiest day I’ve ever had, I still got sun burnt pretty bad. Wear sunblock on these mountains! Ok, time to eat some sushi and get some rest, there is still one more day to explore Tokyo, with noodles for legs.