Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just Did It

To follow up on my blog almost 3 months ago (and just a little ways down the page), my lovely wife and I made it up to the top of Mount Fuji. It was an exhilarating journey that started around 4pm when we left our hotel room and walked to the bus station. Upon arriving at the station we realized that our bus tickets were sitting back at the room. In the rain and crowded Tokyo streets, I ran back and picked them up, returning just minutes prior to our departure time.

We couldn't get a direct bus up to the start of the trail, so we ended up in Kawagutchi, the town at the base of Mount Fuji, and took a shuttle bus up to the 5th station (about half way up the mountain). During our 45 minute layover, we decided to get one last meal at the station. We were hoping for something substantial, but with the only choices being udon noodles or horse meat, we settled for the noodles.

We finally arrived at the 5th station around 8:30pm and after buying a $13 flashlight at the gift shop, hit the trail. There were only a few other hikers that we passed, or that passed us, during the first few hours of the hike. We were advised to bring lots of water, so between the two of us, we had 8 liters of water and 1 liter of Pocari Sweat. Little did we know that there were several stations, or huts, that sold water, soda, even beer and sake along the way at reasonable prices.

Around 1am we hit throngs of Japanese tourists and slowed our progress immensely. The trail was usually 2-3 people wide, but was congested so much that we would take a few steps then stop. This continued on all the way to the top. We made it to within a hundred feet or so of the top for the sunrise and stopped to take some pictures.

I was sure the views from 12,388 feet would be spectacular, but I didn't expect to find a fully functioning restaurant, vending machines and vendors selling warm coffee and hot chocolate. That made the 6 liters of water we were still carrying that much heavier.

After hiking through the night, and feeling the strong, bitter cold winds at the top, we opted not to hike around the rim of the crater. We sat for a minute and then hit the descent trail. From there, we had a good view of the line of hikers still trying to summit. We finally made it to the bottom at 8:45am, around 12 hours after we started. Our feet were sore, we were hungry and ready to sleep. Our breakfast consisted of soft serve ice cream, a melon cream soda, and a steamed bun.

After getting lunch at McDonald's back in Tokyo, we arrived back at our hotel at 1:30pm, 21 hours after leaving, then promptly slept till 8 the next morning.

There is a saying in Japan that "a wise man hikes Mount Fuji once, but a fool hikes it twice." I think I fall somewhere in between, considering I carried so much water up and back for nothing.