Climbing Mt. Fuji was, in a word, veryveryverytough. The view from the top though, simply spectacular. I’ve been meaning to make the climb ever since I came to Japan. Been meaning to do it for 5 years now. So why now? I went on the 8th night, a day after I submitted my doctoral dissertation. It felt like the perfect time, a now-or-never situation. And so, I went.
There were 3 of us. I drove. We had the same backpacks, albeit different colors. Once we got on the highway, it was pedal to the metal. There was no traffic.
You can buy these walking sticks to help you. These are not ordinary walking sticks. You can brand them at each station on your way up. There’s someone who will make a mark on your walking stick. It’s not free though… I went climbing without a walking stick. A tip. I wish I had 2 trekking poles.
Although it wasn’t raining where we were, we saw lightning that night! It was just amazing. Another interesting thing we saw on our way up, fireworks. I think it was the Tokyo Bay Fireworks. It lasted for quite a while. An hour maybe? And it was really tiny! I have never seen fireworks so tiny! Before arriving on the Mt. Fuji, I was telling my friends who accompanied me that we might be able to see the fireworks from the 5th station. ^^. And we did.
I didn’t manage any photos of the lightning nor the fireworks though. Was too excited to be on my way up. ^^. About halfway up after the sixth station, I couldn’t take it any longer. Had to take a rest. So while we rested, I took out my camera and photographed the night view. Will give you 2 thumbs and 2 big toes up if you recognize the city in the photograph above.
Looking back down when climbing up, this is the only thing you’ll see if you decide to climb at night. A zigzag trail of lights down the mountain. Everywhere else is pitch black!
From here on, the camera stayed in my bag and my back was soaked with sweat as I struggled all the way up. A tip.
“Use the chain, Luke”
It was a hard climb. The trail we were on zigzagged endlessly. It was always left, right, left, right… etc. We stopped for a breather every 5-6 turns. Some portions of the climb you had to use your hands to grab rock and pull yourself up. A pair of gloves with rubber tips might be ¥200 at the convenience store, but it’s priceless when you’ll climbing Mt. Fuji.
Although I kept the big guy, I still used my iPhone to capture some images on the way. Taking it out of my pocket was much simpler than taking the D300 out of my bag. There’s supposed to be reception all the way up, but I found it to be rather spotty and not always reliable. I’m with softbank. Maybe docomo subscribers have a different experience. Some prices of food at the 7th station. Averages about 3-4 times what you can get downhill.
Drinks were expensive.
These people are cannibals. Pocari sweat is the most expensive drink you can find from the 5th station up. At the 5th station, it’s ¥200 a bottle. ¥50 more expensive than any other drink. Up here, it’s ¥1 for 1ml. ¥500 for a bottle of pocari sweat. It was the most expensive pocari sweat that I have ever had. And it was good.
I only carried a litre of water up. You have to be careful about how much water you carry. Extra weight wears you down real fast on the way up. Remember to ration it properly too. You’ll need water on your way down. I bought 2 pocari sweat. One up and the other down.
Pringles are kinda fun. Because of the low pressure above, they bugle. The same thing happened with my soy joy. It was like an inflated balloon.
Probably took this shot just before ascending to the 8th station.
3250m about sea level at the 8th station. If you’re not yawning or sleeping at this level, you’ll be like me. Taking photos of people yawning and sleeping. ^^.
I literally climbed my way to the top. I took a few shortcuts crawling up which I do not recommend. The thought of sliding down the slope scares me shitless now that I think of it. I’m glad I got up safe.
Here we are, at the submit during daybreak.
Mountains and clouds. A very dreamy view.
Can you see the cities down on the left and right? It’s really tiny!
It was cloudy so we didn’t manage to see the sun directly. It rose behind a curtain of clouds. Isn’t it amazing? You have your low clouds and your high clouds.
I used to study cloud types in primary school science. Cirrus and stratocumulus clouds or something… can’t really remember. Did I get it right?
The sun was rising further to the left, but the clouds here had amazing light.
You can see the sun on the left. Wondering why this guy had his camera pointed down?
It only gets better from there. ^^.
People who arrived earlier had their tripods out and cameras pointed towards the sun.
Lots of happy people at the top.
Now isn’t this something!
A halo around the sun. It’s really beautiful.
Did you know, a rainbow around the sun is a promise that rain is coming? … And it did. It rained cats and dogs the day after.
Lots of people were still on their way up.
Others on the top were just photographing the spectacular view.
There’s a shrine up here. Hence the gate.
One of the lakes around Mt. Fuji. From the way it curves, I believe that’s Yamanaka-ko (山中湖).
See the sea of clouds to the right?
It’s all so lumpy. ^^.
Here’s another landmark at the summit.
Looking down from here, it was hard to believe that only hours ago I was among the crowd down there. It’s so colorful isn’t it?
My friend Alex catching his breath and taking in the sights.
The temperature at the top was pretty comfortable. The wind however was brutally cold. I put on an extra down jacket to keep warm
While we were tired and hungry, I was more hungry than tired. We popped into the… cafeteria (?) to grab a bite. Everyone does. ^^.
Some prices. The tonjiru (pork soup, ¥800) was probably the hottest item on the menu. I heard many orders for it.
I went for the miso ramen. You can’t be a ramen enthusiast and not have a bowl of ramen at the highest peak in Japan! It was yummy. Well, I think anything is yummy at this point when you’re hungry and tired…
After a while on the summit, the clouds started to settle in and visibility dropped. The winds also picked up speed. I guess it was time to start our descent, like everyone else.
While you can see a group of hikers on the left heading down, if you looked closely, you’ll be able to see a line of people on their way up too.
The lake on the left is Kawaguchi-ko (河口湖).
The gray color on top reminds me of sushi. Sushi with a long strip of fatty tuna. ^^.
I made it to the top!
After starting my descent, I took another look at the summit.
And also took a look at the uphill trail. We are all so small.
According to history, the first person to climb Mt. Fuji was a monk way back in 663. How did he do it without good hiking shoes!?!
Another look at Kawaguchi-ko (河口湖).
Here we have people going up.
Here, people walking down and my other friend Kohsuke posing with my tripod.
I like looking at clouds.
It’s all so fluffy.
The path down also zigzags left and right. There are no steps, so you kinda just slide down the slopes. It’s not as steep as the uphill trail, but the constant walk down the slopes put a lot of strain on my knees. They were shaking! Climbing up stairs after became really difficult and painful for a day!
At certain sections on the way down, there were paths that led to the other trail going up.
I made 2 climbs up to the summit that day. We lost sight of Alex just before descending and we decided to wait for him at the 8th station below after leaving a few messages and SMSes on his cell. That turned out to be a bad decision on my part. Kohsuke and I waited/slept for 4 hours at the 8th station and still didn’t hear anything from Alex. I was beginning to worry. I thought he might have fallen into the crater or something!
We asked the people at the 8th station if they could make a call to the shops on the top. You know, get someone up there to make contact with Alex if he’s still up there. They said they don’t do stuff like that. I felt like smacking his head.
And so, after careful consideration of our predicament, I decided to go back up the way we came. Kohsuke waited with my bags at the 8th station. There was no reason for both of us to go back up.
Just in case Alex was on his way down. I decided to use the downhill trail instead of the uphill trail to get back up to the summit. I think I spent an hour and a half going all the way back up. It wasn’t a good experience. When you walk down the slope, sometimes kicking the dirt on the trail is inevitable as you slide down. That plus the wind equalled sand in my face as I made my way up.
When I finally got up, I found Alex taking a nap at one of the cafeterias at the top. I was relieved he was ok. But a little irritated he didn’t do anything to try to make contact with us after losing sight of us for 4 hours! So we talked about what went wrong on the way down. Alex didn’t realize he had his cellphone on airplane mode and decided to adopt the “stay-and-wait-at-the-spot-he-lost-us” strategy. Kohsuke and I adopted the “wait-at-the-8th-station-and-keeping-calling” strategy. sigh. I guess these 2 were simply incompatible. We were on a schedule because we rented the car for only 24 hours. Now behind schedule, Alex offered to pay for the extra hours. I decided to split the costs with him.
So my advice to you if you’re going in groups. Keep your cellphone on. If you get separated at the top and there’s no reception, make your way down to the 8th station. There’s reception there. It’s a good place to meet up after getting separated since once you’re up, you can only go down. Another simple contingency plan you can adopt is to just decide to meet up at the 8th station below at a certain time should you get separated.
If not, you might probably end up like me, making 2 trips to the summit. ^^.
I took a few nicely shaped rocks back for souvenirs. You want one? ^^.
Also took some photos with my iPhone.
The small little guy takes some pretty nice shots too.
As we descended, we actually went through the clouds.
It was very common to see people sleeping on the way down.
If you decide to take a nap, you best coverup from the sun like these guys. It’s not good getting sunburnt and having the skin on your face peeling and all flaky…
The 8th station on the way down. Can you see the trail all the way up?
Climbing Mt. Fuji was indeed AN experience. We took 8 hours to get to the top. Having to wait in line at certain sections of the trail and resting quite frequently probably made it this long. The weather when we went was perfect though. It was clear night skies all the way up. The stars were out in full force and my rain gear stayed in the bag.
I didn’t mind going home tired, but definitely not dirty and tired. Dragging our weary bodies all the way back to the car, we headed straight to the nearest onsen to scrub our weary bodies clean. I saw a Fujiyama onsen right off the Kawaguchi-ko interchange when I was driving here the day before. Washing off the sand and dirt from my body and soaking in the onsen, I thought to myself. This is bliss.
After conquering Mt. Fuji, the 3 of us agreed. No more.