I survived mt fuji That statement makes the whole story anti-climatic, but the fact that I’m writing this probably gave that away anyhow. Spurred on by tales of a beautiful sunrise, crisp mountain air and what simply had to be suicidal self loathing, I decided to try mt. Fuji again. Before going this time I pulled a yossarian; I told my friends I was off to climb a mountain, it would be very dangerous and I would write to them as soon as I returned. I haven’t written anyone yet.
Back to fuji. Both the story and me. I made it to the bus without incident this time. The bus took it’s two hour trip to the mountain with no events worthy of note. At 11:00pm we arrived at station five. This is the current traditional place to start. Everything you might need is sold here in case you forgot something, and when you get back down you can commemorate the experience with a souvenir or thirty. This is where I bought my walking staff. Up the mountain there are rest areas where I would get my staff stamped. I simply had no idea how useful it would be in between the stations. I didn’t give it a name.
over 6 years ago
The trip started in the rain. That is actually a bit of a silly statement because it didn’t just start in the rain, the whole trip was in the rain. Five or six hours of climbing, all while inundated with falling water. It was dark, foggy and rainy as the whole crew from the bus followed me in what I sincerely hoped was the right direction. I don’t know why they thought I might have the slightest hint of where to go, but they fell in lock step behind me (different germans this time). The trail was not marked well enough for this weather and suddenly started to slope downward. There is a sinking, sickening feeling that one gets when they finally realize what a horrific mistake they have made. The feeling engendered when fire trucks race by you on the way home, smoke is coming from the general direction you both are traveling in and you remember that you never put out your candles which conveniently rest by the drapes. That approximates how I felt as my stomach slowly started to curl up in little ulcer-shaped knots. I had a quick and unpleasant thought about how I insisted on going at night so I could see the sunrise above the clouds. I also hoped I wouldn’t be the first person here who inadvertently climbed down fuji rather than up. I tried slinking back into the crowd by pretending to stop and tie my boot. Amazingly enough, everyone had to stop for some reason or another at that exact same time So I forged ahead. The fates were kind and we soon found that the initial dip was the only path from the rest area to the actual path on the mountain proper. In retrospect it was very much like a rollercoaster with a quick dip at the beginning to give enough momentum for the long climb to the first drop. As the path became clearer I relaxed and was finally able to smile with destroying the enamel of my teeth.
The first segment was like a long inclined dirt path. Loose sand and rocks, now mud and gravelesque made the walk, not difficult, but uncomfortable. The lights from our headlamps were not cutting through the fog or the darkness that had so completely engulfed us. Our way was on a slight incline that zigged and zagged it’s way slowly up the mountain. It wasn’t til after the 7th station that we encountered serious climbing. There was no path from the station. Just rocks and a guideline that let you know you weren’t about to walk off a cliff. at least not unless you stepped a foot outside of the guidelines, then you would find yourself merged with the rocks and trees below. There are other ways to be in tune with nature I think. As I climbed from stone to stone and rock to rock I felt exhilerated. ‘This was just like climbing a real mountain,’ I thought And then I realized, I was indeed climbing a real mountain. When making my plans I had done some research and found that many people of all ages climb fuji. When I considered the idea of elderly and pre-adolescent climbers, I naturally concluded that it would be an easy walk-through. What I didn’t know was that people would sometimes take up to three days to climb if they needed to. The stations were equipped with sleeping areas like primitive hotels and if needed or planned, a group could spend the night there and continue on the next day. Although I was prepared for an endurance test, I had no thoughts that it would actually test my endurance.
The rain was the worst part. It made the rocks slippery and the dirt harder to get a grip on. I often felt as if I were sliding down faster thani was climbing up.
The long paths were the worst part. They would zig and zag for long periods of time and I wished I could just climb straight up the side.
The straight up rock climbing was the worst part. Forget stairmaster, this was the ultimate in feeling the burn. I wished I could just zig-zag my way up the side.
The darkness was the worst part. If I could see where I was going, I could avoid the rocks that were biting at my heels and snapping at my shins.
The fog was the worst part. My headlamp was rendered useless because the fog would reflect it’s light back at me. Also, my camera couldn’t get a decent shot.
The cold was the worst part. While exerting, I was sweating. When the way had me at a slower pace, all the moisture decided to freeze. And there was no way to heat myself back up.
The wind was the worst part. The typhoon was approaching, but the wind, which was moving faster anyway, arrived early. It normally whips around on the mountain, but tonight it was in top form. I was amused at a sign that had a picture of two cartoon characters (manga style) being blown off the mountain.
The best parts were the stamps they would brand into my walking staff (which still didn’t have a name) and the ramen noodles I had around the ninth station. A regular cup of instant chinese noodles. But in that station, out of the wind and rain, it was the ambrosia. I hope that everytime I ever have ramen again, I think of that wonderful styrofoam cup and the noodles from heaven.
Also on my best of times list was this one moment when I realized I was going to win. It was a quick and utter certainty that I was going to make it all the way to the top. I had faced the cold, wind and rain. I had two containers of oxygen that I had judiciously used to thwart any altitude sickness that I might have encountered. I had pushed ahead when the path seemed to disappear from right under my feet, but I had never been sure if I was going to complete this task. Suddenly I was daring Fuji to take it’s best shot at me, as I wasn’t going to be defeated. I instantly realized I should have kept my gauntlets to myself and just finished the task in a humble manner as the mountain swelled and marshaled the forces of nature for one last attempt to repel me. I was invincible, or at least I felt that way as I scrambled up the rest of the way to the top.
When I got to the top, the sunrise wasn’t there. It had refused to get out of bed today on account of the weather. The fog was still so thick I couldn’t see the crater. the wind was so violent, the only picture I could get at the top was from an angle inspired by the fact the camera and person holding it had to be up against a wall wedged in between two buildings. In my picture at the top of fuji there is an old car battery of some sort. Very romantic.