chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Mt. Fuji

I did it!! I climbed Japan's largest and most famous mountain -- Mt. Fuji! What an experience!

I was the organizer of the trip as Toyama AJET's Excursion Representative. So the onus was on me to make sure things went smoothly. I'd say they did, apart from one thing I'll mention in a bit.

Twenty of my fellow Toyamans and myself took a cramped minicoach from Toyama prefecture to Yamanashi prefecture on July 16th. We arrived at the Kawaguchiko 5th station at 17:00. (There are several '5th stations', from which you may start your ascent up Mt. Fuji. No one starts at the 1st station.) From here, we started our climb at 18:00.

The Fuji-san Climbers

I was doing pretty well during most of the ascent. It was a steady pace, with plenty of breaks and snacking. I was obsessed with not getting altitude sickness, so often inhaled pure O2 from my handy aerosol can. I'm not sure if it actually did anything, but I didn't get sick! (Ahem, placebo...)

It started to get dark about 1 hour into the climb, and it was completely pitch black 2.5 hours up the mountain. Luckily, my stylish headlamp allowed me to scale the boulders and gravel through the night.

In the distance, as we climbed, there was a large storm brewing. You could see violent lightening flashing through the clouds that seemed only miles directly in front of me. I have to admit, I was scared! I wasn't sure if the storm would head straight for me, or bypass us. I mean, we were in the clouds! Eventually, I realised the storm was only passing, and actually provided an excellent show. While resting at one of the stations, Amanda and I noted that this experience would have been really religious, had either of us been actually religious.

Sunset SkyThere Was a Storm in the Distance

Even though we'd all set out at the same time, the group had broken up into pockets of people. The groups would pass each other and/or exchange people at various points up the mountain. It was a bit like a party, with mingling and chit-chat. It kind of took your mind off the fact that you're clinging to loose rocks 3000 metres above sea level!

By 22:00, the group I was climbing with decided to spend the night at one of the huts at the 8th station. For ¥6,300, we got the amazing privilage of spooning with strangers in cramped quarters. We had to fit 5 people in a space only 2 metres wide! Ah, snuggling at 3200 metres. :)

At 01:30, we jumped out of bed (okay, crawled...), and began our final ascent to the peak. We wanted to be at the top of Fuji-san by sunrise (around 04:45). To our utter misery, the climb up the remainder of the mountain was cold, rainy, and packed with others trying to reach the top in time.

It Was Ridiculous!Sunrise Was Missed

My climb up the last section of the trail was literally a queue. I took perhaps 1 step a minute on average. I couldn't believe it! How could there have been so much people trying to get up the same stupid mountain at the same stupid time??

We ended up missing the sunrise, but it was just as well. The clouds had hidden any sunshine, so it would have been missed anyway. Oh well.

At the top, I warmed up with my expensive coffee, and toured the crater of Mt. Fuji. The view alone definitely made the whole trip up worthwhile!

The Crater of Mt. FujiMariette, Me, and My ¥500 Coffee
The Money Shot

After resting for an hour, we began our 'slide' down the mountain. We had to navigate a zigzagging trail of volcanic ash for most of the journey. It was definitely much easier and faster than going up, but there was one problem... At one point along the trail, the path splits into two different directions. One leading back to Yamanashi prefecture, and the other leading to Shizuoka prefecture. I had warned everyone several times to take the left path to get back to the bus. But, Amanda went right! It's not her fault, as it was easy to miss and hard to backtrack. (It happens every year.) However, it was a big problem. The bus couldn't get around the mountain in a reasonable amount of time, and a cab back to our station was much too expensive. So... Amanda had to take the train back! Actually, she probably had a more comfortable ride than us.

That's it! I get to plan it all over again for the new people coming to Japan in August. I may go again, just to make sure things go smoothly. As the saying goes, "A wise man climbs Fuji, but only a fool climbs Fuji twice." I guess I'm a fool-to-be!
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On July 20, 2005, Blogger R2K said:

That seems great!

Very nice page, and images!


On July 20, 2005, Blogger Christophe said:

Wow. This is now definitely also on my 'to do' list when escaping the expo...    

On July 21, 2005, Anonymous Kari said:

omg, chris! i had no idea you were planning on climbing mt. fuji! way to go!
(i'm so totally jealous of you and will have to do some incredibly amazing things in new zealand to make you jealous of me too!)    

On July 21, 2005, Blogger Gillian said:

Nice description Chris! I have NO desire to climb Fuji, but I'm glad you did! ;) The last bit looks horrible - soo many people! (I wonder what the net value was of all those jackets, headlights, boots, and other gear everyone had bought just to stand in line?)
So what's next, Mr. Event Co-ordinator?    

On July 21, 2005, Blogger Chocamocha said:

Hey Chris, great photos there! been thinking about climbing Mt Fuji this summer but not sure after seeing how busy it is...also Gillian mentioned that you were going to summer sonic- a few of us from yamaguchi will be there too if you want to meet up?    

On July 29, 2005, Blogger Mark said:

Sorry, I nabbed some of your photos for my blog. Good luck with organising it again!    

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