Saturday, July 15, 2006

the climb

In order to climb Mt. Fuji, you could start from the VERY bottom, or you can take a bus up to the 5th station of your choice. There are 5 routes up to the top of Mt. Fuji: Gotembaguchi, Kawaguchikoguchi, Fujinomiyaguchi, Subashiriguchi & Yoshidaguchi. (The Kawaguchikoguchi & Yoshidaguchi routes merge together at the 6th station.)

We chose the Kawaguchiko route, which is supposedly the easier of the 5 routes. The 5th station starts at 2400m (about 7874 ft), the very top of Mt. Fuji is 3776m (about 12395 ft). It is supposed to take about 6 hours to climb from the 5th station up to the top.

We got to the 5th station at about 10:30, in order to get acclimated to the altitude. During that time, we had lunch and waited around for about 2 hours. From the 5th station, you could see unkai (Japanese for sea of clouds), which was really beautiful!

And in the back of a rest area at the 5th station, you could see Mt. Fuji and it looked really close! At the 5th station, most of us bought our walking sticks. These sticks are made of wood and at most of the huts along the way you can get it branded with the hut's stamp, showing you your accumulated "mileage". I debated whether to get one of these sticks, but am glad I did, it really did come in handy!

Our climb started at about 12:30, the weather was nice, overcast, a bit on the chilly side, but not hot or humid! The first 100m seemed like walking on a flat trail, then the hill started to g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y get steep. A lot of times, you feel as though you've been walking for hours, but you've actually only gone a few feet, you could tell that the altitude started to take its toll on everyone.

The 6th station didn't have a stamp for our sticks, so we were a bit bummed, in fact the 6th station is just a post for the Safety Guidance Center--oh, if you "gotta go" along the way, be prepared to pay to use the toilet--most cost about 100yen, some 200 yen!

At the 7th station, there were a LOT of huts, here we picked up a LOT of stamps (each stamp costs 200yen)along the way and getting these stamps really helped encourage me to trudge further up the mountain. During the stretch between the 7th and 8th station, the path tends to get rocky and very steep, at times the walking stick gets in the way and you feel as though you are just crawling your way up! (I realized I am afraid of heights!!)

Looking to your right you see clouds and the city below, looking to your left all you see is clouds and the slope of the mountain! At every hut, we stopped to take water breaks, bathroom breaks and snack breaks and just breaks to rest our calves. Because the trail is rather steep it really took a toll on our calves!

The sun set and we had to take out our head lamps. I really freaked out climbing at night and realized that I have night vision. The wind picked up a bit and it started to get really cold, there were even drops of rain or maybe it was snow! Since the light from the lamps were only limited to where it was shining, it was very difficult trying to figure out where your feet and hands should go next.

At about 22:00,(about 10 hours after we started), we finally reached the 8.5 station where we would be "sleeping" at Tomoekan. This hut is one of the largest on the 8.5 station area, the bedding accommodates your group so that you don't have to sleep with people you don't know. Can you imagine 10 of us sleeping in these quarters? Talk about sardines!

Dinner was instant curry with rice and some tsukemono (pickles), not the most delicious, but it was a hot meal. Even if I didn't feel like eating, I tried to eat the rice for the carbs.

After "dinner", we all crawled into bed and tried to rest. It was so cold and we all had to share blankets--I don't think most of us slept very much (I know I didn't), plus some people in our group started to get sick from the altitude.

At about 2:00, we got up to get ready for the last leg of our climb to the top. (They don't wake you up, so bring something that can wake you up q-u-i-e-t-l-y!) Three people in our group didn't feel very well and decided that they would wait for us. So the rest of us made the trek up the last 300m. The last 300m was the hardest and steepest. It was quite scary because it was still dark and because it was really windy and cold!

Just before we reached the top, the sun started to rise at about 4:30. We stopped and sat where we were to view the sunrise. What an awesome sight!

We then continued up to the top and got the last of our stamps, the one that says you made it to the top.

Another thing you can do from the top is send a postcard to someone, it will have a special postmark on it. We sent a card to ourselves.

The only thing is that if you go up the route that we did, you'll have to walk another 20 minutes to get to the post office. Let me tell you, that this path is scary! In some places it is very narrow and there are no guardrails. If you are afraid of heights, look straight ahead! You can actually walk all the way around the lip of the crater, but we didn't have time and boy, were we tired!

The next task was to get back down to the 5th station. Our route was the Subashiriguchi route. It was supposed to take us 2.25 hours to get back to the 5th station and was supposed to be one of the easier trails. We started at about 9:00. The path was quite soft with cinders and sand. At times, you had to walk at an angle or dig your heels into the dirt, so that you wouldn't slip or fall head first and roll down the hill.

Can you believe that the only way to get supplies up and down the mountain is with a bulldozer?

Unfortunately, someone in our group fell a couple of times because of their knees and another fell and scraped their elbow/forearm, which needed stitches. Luckily, a hut, Taiyokan, offered assistance with manpower and a rescue sled. This made getting them down to the 5th station a LOT easier! (Thank you!)

Finally at about 16:00, we all made it down to the 5th station. We were all very tired, very dirty and dusty. Going down the mountain was way harder than going up, it took its toll on all of our legs, since we had to brace ourselves.

But, we were blessed with decent weather and we all went up and came down the mountain safely. I'm glad my Aunty invited us to join them on this adventure. Satoshi and I are happy that we had an opportunity to do this, although I don't think we'll be doing something like this again anytime soon.

I'll write about some foodie things on this trip in another post.

Right now, my legs are still sore and I look like Frankenstein walking....

Have a good weekend!


Anonymous said...

What an adventure! Have a blessed weekend!

Anonymous said...

Just had to stop by and comment before we run off...Kat, this has been the best post that I've read anywhere all week!! You made me feel like I was there! Yay for you and Satoshi, what a great adventure, and I'm envious of your walking sticks!!

Anonymous said...

So well done Kat!. I wish I could have done that! What a great adventure. I have done night climbing, in France when i did ice walking on French glaciers. I loved it! And yes those huts make you feel like sardines, don't they? ;-)


K and S said...

Thanks Laura, Rowena & Bea! Enjoyed sharing this with everyone.

Have a great weekend and keep cool.


*Dri* said...

beautiful!! omedeto!

K and S said...

Glad you liked it Dri :)

Take care.