Leading Locations: Mt Fuji, Japan.
On the 13th of July one of my dreams came true and that was to climb to the top of Fujisan.
Mount Fuji, located on Honshu Island, is the highest mountain peak in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). An active stratovovolcano that last erupted in 1707–08,Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres (60 mi) south-west of Tokyo and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. Mt Fuji can be climbed from July – September.
On the morning of the climb, i caught the tour bus with my Teacher friend Yuji from Shinjuku station. My Japanese running friend Takanori was suppose to come with me on the tour but a mistake was made with the company name so he unfortunately ended on a different tour. Thankfully this wasn’t the last time i would see him! Instead I was joined by an American whose name was Sebastian.
The bus trip from Shinjuku station to Mt Fuji is roughly 2 hours and the tour costs around 20,000 Yen ($200.00 AU).
When we arrived at the 5th station of Mt Fuji which was 2,305 m above sea level, we met up with our group leader and we started our descent to the top of Fuji. We weren’t allowed to walk in front of our leader as he set the appropriate pace. This was to be a good thing as i found out later as i climbed towards the 8th station. On the walk from the 5th station to the 6th station the weather was quite warm and would have been around 25 degrees C.
The walk between the 5th and 6th station was pretty easy as you got to follow a pretty stable path. The air wasn’t too cold which was good. As we reached the 7th station that was when the air began to become a little bit thinner. I also noticed we were making our way above the clouds. At this point i knew that we were getting pretty high and close to 3000m.
From the 7th to the 8th station we were advised by our guide to pull out our gloves, parker and poles as the clouds began rolling in and the wind started picking up. At first i didn’t feel how the cold the weather was but as we began physically climbing to the 8th station the temperature was dropping particularly as we climbed out way to 3000m. It was very important at this stage to ensure I was well hydrated as the air became thin and harder to breathe. Fujisan was very deceiving. You would look up and think you were almost there but the climbing path just kept going and going.. and going.
As we approached a little over 3000m i felt like every step i was taking was becoming slower and slower and i started to feel a little weak in the knees. I was looking forward to having a rest at the 8th station. The rest was crucial as this allowed your body to acclimatise to the altitude.
As we made our way to the 8th station we were excited for a good feed. When we arrived it was a great feeling as the weather did start to turn. At the 8th station there were huts where you could eat and sleep. As soon as we arrived we put out bags in the sleeping area, took off our shoes and had a nice communal dinner in which Japanese curry was served. Thus curry was super tasty and was so nice to eat after a long day of walking and climbing.
Soon after dinner we were advised by our group leader to get some important rest which would be from 6pm – 12am.
As i prepared for bed i did notice that i was starting to get a migraine and feel nautious. I unfortunately didnt sleep for those 6 hours due to a little bit of altitude sickness. There was a lovely Japanese lady who was sleeping a couple of beds down and she gave me some nurofen and a cold pack for my head. This was the biggest life saver! Despite not sleeping, my headache started to go down. I noticed that if i took nice big breaths and shut my eyes, this would help with the migraine and nauseousness.
At 12am we had our group leader yelling at us to get up as we had to make our voyage to the top as the weather at that point was ok. We had to whack on a headlamp and use this headlamp for the next 3 hours until we reached the top of Fujisan. This part was the hardest but the good thing was that my migraine and nauseousness had disappeared and i felt much better standing up. The wind was heavy along with the fog and there was even some rain. There were some parts where there was some physical climbing which was challenging particularly at night. Mostly everyone in the group was ok other than my friend Yuji who had to have a few inhales of the Fuji Oxygen spray. There was also alot of silence along the way. No one really had the energy to talk until we arrived at the very top.
As we got towards the peak the trail got quite technical and involved some climbing and the temperature started to drop significantly. All you can see getting closer and closer to the peak are a trail of head lamps. The most noticeable icon is a torri gate at the peak of Mt Fuji which has 2 lions sitting either side of the gate. Walking through the tori gate there was a feeling of jubilation and success knowing that you climbed 3776m. I had no idea what to expect at the top and i found it interesting that there are a series of shelters for all the different climbing tours which offer hot food and drinks. It was freezing cold, windy and raining so the shelter was an excellent option. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the famous rising sun due to the fog and rain but the feeling of reaching the top was just as rewarding. We didn’t get to do our walk around the crater as the winds were heavy and it was too dangerous at the time so next time i climb Fuji that is definitely something i want to do. The group only stayed at the top for about an hour and a half due to the conditions and then we swiftly made our way down a different trail to the trail we climbed up. The trail was much easier however the surface was much more volcanic and rocky.
As we made our way back down to the 8th station the sun appeared in the clouds and the views were spectacular. The way i perceived the landscape was similar to that of a Japanese watercolour painting. The peaks of mountains appearing through the misty clouds looking like organic brush strokes. The views were breathtaking and this will stick with me forever. I took some amazing pictures with my TomTom Bandit which highlighted how amazing these views actually were. The surface of Fuji on the way down almost reminded me of Mars as the rocks were a vibrant red which contrasted with the blue sky and the green forests surrounding Fuji. The rocks were very unstable and almost everyone in the group had a fall. In the end it took me and my friends Sebastian, Yuji and I almost 4 hours to get back down. The air got thicker and our bodies felt more alive as we reached the bottom.
Climbing Mt Fuji was one of the most memorable experiences in my 30 years and i would love to go back and see the sunrise and walk the crater. Similarly to how i feel after i complete a race, reaching the top of Fuji and knowing a goal was ticked gave me a great sense of pride and achievement. I’m also so happy i got to climb Japans highest mountain and climb a mountain which culturally has so much significance to not only Japan but my mums Japanese culture.
I dedicate this walk to my pop who taught me to always believe in myself and to face challenges head on with confidence regardless of the outcome.