Fujisan: Mount o’ Oxymorons

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August 25 2011

Few things in my life would I consider both awesome and awful at the same time. It seems as though most of these special moments have taken place during my adventures in Japan. Climbing the famous Mount Fuji is no exception.

First is the kids version with easy photo presentation and then I give the lowdown on how it went down. For info on climbing Fuji, google it. Or go here or here. For a full photo collection, go here.

Winding along the coast of Himi.

It’s not a town unless it has pachinko.

Biggest Godzilla statue I’ve seen yet.

Then into the mountains.

A cute rest stop for couples. You’re supposed to put a lock on the fence to signify your hearts being locked together forever I suppose.

This couple meant serious business.

We stayed the night at a friend of Craig’s place. He was rather awesome and ironically his name was Joel (the same as my boyfriend) so of course I assumed he would be awesome from the start haha. The three of us curled up on Joel’s floor and sort of slept. Yay Leo Palace. We received breakfast in bed the next morning with apples, pears, and nuts. Joel offered more and more but we thought it best if we were off.

We drove through the town on the northern side of Fujisan but I didn’t take any pictures due to the gloomy nature of the day. It was raining and we were set to climb a mountain. We took our time wandering around and eventually sat down for luch at a Cafe Gasteau. Not recommended. Coco’s Restaurant is much better thought some folks seem to really like Gasteau.

Almost there…

Welcome to Cloud-parking.

And there she is.

A beautiful artist’s rendition complete with English subtitles.

A couple prayers before I head to my impending doom.

As the sun sets on our climb, maybe 2 or so hours in.

One of the rest points.

Those crazy kids. And yes, it is that cold up there in August.

Don’t give up!!

There she blows!

So close I can taste it… The tori gate is the entrance to the top of the mountain.

Butt shot.

The colors Duke! The colorsss. Everyone was wearing lots of layers and in a multitude of rainbow assortments. Not typical fair in Japan. They tend to like their neutrals. Oh and here you can see people with the walking sticks. I bought one, of course, and am so happy I did. It was totally worth it and I even got it stamped with the base camp symbols and the summit symbols.

They’re still coming!

Here’s the story: We started off together, kind of bungee-chord-ing between eachother. Craig would bound off, Anna would pull steadily ahead of me, and I would drag along until Craig stopped to rest and we’d all come together again for a few moments before starting the next leg.

I was (am) not in shape. I don’t know that I’ve ever been very athletic in any capacity. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy physical activity in that way, I just find it a bit more trying than some people. That in mind, I did not take offense when those two didn’t wait for me. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the alone time as we climbed. It meant you didn’t have to keep pace with anyone, worry about whether you’re pushing them too hard or vice verse. Oh, and yes there was some actual rock climbing, not trail trail walking. I almost fell to my death a few times…I don’t recommend a heavy non-hiking backpack for something like that. Very top heavy.

At some point during the evening, after about 4 hours of climbing, we decided it was time to rest. The next rest station we came to, we inquired about staying and it was a bit more expensive than we had thought and was for the entire night, not a few hours like we wanted.

The next station felt like hours away and was really a struggle for me. This place also was all night but was a little cheaper for some reason. They told us that the next station was the one we wanted, the one that let you sleep for a few hours and didn’t charge for the whole night. Craig and Anna were exhausted also but were considering continuing the climb but I reasoned that by the time we got there, we’d only have 3 or less hours to sleep because our pace was so slow right now from being so tired.

We stayed and it was worth it. I pulled my beanie over my eyes, put earplugs in and knocked out for almost 4 hours. We began climbing again around 1am (I don’t remember the exact times of anything). Craig took off before Anna and I even had our boots on. We couldn’t blame him though with all the folks now pouring up the trail. It was packed. Anna and I just fell into line in the middle of some tour group and tried not to get in the way.

Following those tour guides was the best. They have awesome pacing and even though they look like they’re going really slow, they never stop moving. At this point, everyone was in the zone. Just one foot in front of the other. The best way seemed to be walking like a duck so you didn’t slip on the rocks.

After some time of my silly waddling, I came across Craig hunched over on a rock to the side of the trail. Evidently he’d felt sick when he woke up but thought he could push through it since we were almost to the top. But we weren’t actually almost to the top… the last bit is the steepest and is packed with tired folks so it’s the slowest. I passed him my pepto bottle and advised that he ate something but he refused. I headed on and stopped to wait for him at the next station. He walked over, sat down on the bench next to me and promptly stood back up to go throw up over the side of the mountain. Yuck. Don’t test altitude sickness, it will win. I think he ate a little something and took some more pepto before starting on again, very slowly this time.

I pulled on ahead of him and struggled on up to the top where I hoped to find Anna. I learned later that she had walked around the whole crater, she just couldn’t stop walking lol. I had myself some hot chocolate in a hut and tried to warm up. Got my stamp on my walking stick and then decided to go ahead and start walking down. My phone was on the verge of death and I tried calling her once but reception up there is unreliable. Craig actually found me then and we headed down until we hear from Anna and stopped for a food break to wait for her to catch up.

The way down was crazy difficult. I wore my Five-finger gloves (Vibrams). Great idea for the climb, bad for the descent. Poor Anna’s toes were hurting bad from her new hiking shoes but Craig took off with his long legs. I stayed with Anna for as long as I could but towards the end I had to take off also because it hurt less to just leap down the trail. Rocks, so many rocks. OH! And I was harrassed by an older man that I think was slightly handicapped and wouldn’t take “Leave me alone” as an answer. He kept trying to have a conversation with me, completely ignoring Anna, and kept walking backwards or sideways, constantly getting in my way and slowing me down. It was weird. We lost him eventually…

I made it, waited for Anna to catch up and we called Craig who was asleep in his car. We took off our gear, agreed that this had been both the best and worst experiences of our lives and left in a hurry.

And it was the most awesome and awful experience of my life. Never again. A wise man climbs Fujisan once. A fool, twice. I’m stickin’ to it. I hope everyone gets to have something like that in their lives.

Thank you to Craig and Anna for joining me in that crusade.

With love – M

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