I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew that it is 3776.24m high, the highest mountain I climbed. It is, so far, the only mountain I climbed outside Philippines.
Mt. Fuji or Fujisan is the highest mountain in Japan and people describes it as having “an exceptionally symmetrical cone”. Prior to this climb, I saw Fujisan from bird’s eye view. It was a beautiful sight. I was awed on how perfect its shape is. And was very lucky, to view it with the classic snow on top image.
For this trip, we joined the “Sunshine” tour group. It was composed mainly of college students, first time climbers I assumed. They all looked enthusiastic and “genki”. The trip from Osaka to Yamanashi Prefecture took us 10 hours, with several pit stops along the way. Two of my friends joined me in this trip, at first I was thinking of going solo, but I was quite happy that they accompanied me even though one never climbed a mountain in her life and the other have several experienced but still, same as me, not enough to actually know what to expect.
The climb started from Kawaguchiko 5th Station. Rain was already making its way when we arrived. We changed to our rain gears, had an early dinner and prepped up for the start of the climb. I am not perfectly packed for this climb, but my gear I think is adequate. I may not have the fancy walking sticks and boot-type hiking shoes, but I have my reliable 30L Dueter bag, my La Fuma comfy shoes, a rain gear, pocket oxygen, 1L of sports drink, trail food and extra windbreaker.
I didn’t expect the 5th station to be as spacious, it was different from the usual drop-off stations in the Philippines. This one is really tourist-friendly. There were several restaurants and omiyage shops. There were also stores to load up with proper gears before starting the ascend. The price is relatively more expensive, so better buy everything you need before your trip. But if you would rather go up with a light pack, then buying drinks up the mountain huts is okay. It costs aroungd 500 yen for a 500ml drinks.
After the prep work, the guide oriented us with the ascend to the 7th station. He said that it will take us roughly 4 hours to ascend, with stop for every 20 minutes. He mentioned to keep paced so as not to over exert the climb. He also mentioned that it will be rather steep and rocky for this part of the climb. I suggest to do some stretching before starting, an important aspect of the climb I neglected to do. Call me lazy, LOL!
For this climb, we took the Yoshida trail. It is as most sites describes the easiest trail up to the summit (I wonder now what “difficult” will be). And it is also the most crowded trail during climbing season (July to August). Starting the trail we were met with mixed of rain and fog. But still the trail is very much visible. The first 20 minutes were easy, to say the least. But as we go further up, the harder it gets. As the sun goes down, some of the excitement I had started to fade. I started to feel uneasy and out of breath. I look at the sight below, and thought that the fog was starting to rise up causing my vision to be unclear. What I wasn’t aware was that the altitude was starting to affect me. This realization hit me when I inhaled my first portable oxygen. After two mouthful, my vision was back to 20/20.
After the 6th station, that’s when I stopped taking photos. The trail was so steep and rocky, add that it was already pitch dark, it was quite impossible to stop just to camwhore. With exhaustion, I don’t think I have enough energy to lift my arm and push the button. We were the last to arrived at the 7th station. We were quite impaired with one not having her own headlamp and another with altitude sickness. We were exhausted and hungry, both of them immediately slept upon arriving. I ate noodles before going to sleep. It was freezing cold in that area. Unfortunately, my bed space was between two futons. My lower body covered by one while my upper body barely covered by the other. Good thing I brought along a hand warmer, that kept me warm while trying to sleep.
After less than an hour of rest, by 1:05am we have to prepare for the ascend to the summit. Both of my companions were hesitating to climb up again. Both think of quitting, they asked me what I think about it, I just said that they are almost there and I cannot decide for the both of them. Along the way, I lost one of my friend. With throngs of climbers making their way to the summit, I have no time to go back and look for her. Luckily, I saw her joining another group. And I learned after the descent that with less than 20 minutes away from the summit, she decided to climb down. So it was just two of us who reached the summit that day. We arrived less than the time expected. It only took us 3 hours to ascend from 7th station to summit. Exhausted, hungry and cold, we waited for the sun to rise.
After seeing the sunrise, I completely forgot my exhaustion. I just stared there for 40 minutes, admiring the span of greatness in front of me. It is not everyday that you have that view. Seeing hundreds of people witnessing the same magnificent sight, I was completely satisfied and contented. Never in my life I have ever dreamed or imagined that I would climb Fujisan. And being up there, I was proud of myself.
The descent is a story on its own. It took us 4 hours from summit to 5th station. I never run out of breath but it definitely semi-busted my knees. Just imagine climbing 1700m up and going down the same distance but now with gravity pulling you down. And the trail sliding your feet almost same as water. But I enjoyed going down the most, seeing people’s proud faces, everyone seemed to be “genki”, laughing and running as they made their way back. I sang a song or two on my way.
I wrote a letter to two of my friends who joined me in this tremendous feat. I told them that climbing is more than reaching the summit, it’s about conquering our fears and insecurities. The challenge, I told them is within our selves. It is about pushing our limits and seeing what we can achieved. And I believe we did achieve something up there. One who had altitude sickness who still reached the summit and the other one who climbed her first ever. For myself, it was about climbing on my own. I always depended on someone whenever I climb. There was always someone pampering me and carrying my load (both literally and figuratively). I always doubt my capacity to achieve something, I always think of quitting even before trying. But this time, I let go of all of that and just climb. I have to be honest, those thoughts occurred to me while ascending, but I pushed it away. And took those small steps that helped me reached my destination.
I conquered Fujisan, and I conquered myself. Banzai!
To help you assist with your climb, here are some sites that helped me prepped up. Of course, the actual experience itself I would say is very different 😀 :
http://fujisan.yamakei.co.jp/en-success.html (English site, this site really helps you ready for your climb, it’s honest and complete)
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6901.html (English site, all you need to know about climbing Mt. Fuji)
http://www.travex.jp/fujisan/ (Sunshine tour, Japanese site, I suggest for first time climbers to join tour groups, well, I’m just saying. Lol! Package includes transportation, food, mountain huts, guide, onsen bath, souvenir and certificate)
http://www.weather-forecast.com/locations/Fuji-1/forecasts/latest (English site, it helps to know what weather to expect)