Tuesday, July 24, 2007

富士山 The Mt.Fuji Climb

So I finally did it. After 20 years of looking at Mt. Fuji out of Jet and Train windows as i passed by, I finally took the challenge to make the climb. At 12,396 feet, it is Japans tallest peak. The weather finally partially cooperated giving us no rain to climb in, but the peak was obscured by clouds from below and vice-verse. I must say that this was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done, and it would have probably been a little easier at 22 than 42. People of all nationalities, ages, shapes, sizes, and background's come to climb the mountain, and from what we saw, many people reach the top whom you wouldn't expect, and many perfectly healthy folks never reach the top due to exhaustion or oxygen deprivation related sickness.
I joined my other expat climbing companions, Beth, Amanda, and Kim and we started our ascent at about 2pm on Sunday afternoon at the 5Th of 10 stations. This is the common starting point for climbers. The climbing was not really challenging from a terrain standpoint but the altitude definitely had our lungs working harder than normal.
We reached our rest hut at about 6:30pm, and there we had a cup of noodles and a place to rest until about 1am when we were off again, trying to reach the summit before sunrise. Many people climb straight through but resting for a few hours at the 8Th is a good idea to let your body acclimate to the lack of oxygen.
At about 1am we were off again trying to reach the peak before sunup. Yes this was actually the fun part as the climbing became more treacherous, with real rock climbing, and of course we were in the dark, using headlamps and flashlights . At this level many people start to have problems as the climbing gets tougher and the trail narrower, and the the trail actually became a traffic jam of climbers.
Happily we clawed our way through them and reached the peak at 4:30am in time to see the 4:45 sunrise. So total climbing time minus rest was about 8 hours.
The sunrise view though obscured by the clouds far below was as awesome as everyone said it would be, and the rest of the views down the mountain and of the craterd top also made for a worthwhile trip.
Finally we rested a bit, shivered a lot, took some pictures, and then decided to head back down the mountain.
The descent was actually more physically gruelling than climbing. While the down trail was basically a flat crushed lava rock weaving back an forth down the mountain we had no idea that this would be difficult. I thought after the climb up it sounded pretty good, but the reality was that 4.5 hours of a steep downhill grade, deep sand, and rocks, and our exhaustion, was by far much worse than any thing we were dealt going up. Took us about 4.5 hours to get down.
Actual travel time up and down was about 12.5 hours, save the 6 hour break on the 8TH for a overall total of about 18.5 hours.
Im sure you have looked at the pictures above, but do also take some time to visit the links below to Amanda and Beth's pictures also, as they both took time to snap some really great shots. Amanda's photos actually include a timeline of the whole day/night. My photos alone absolutely do not do this trip justice.

Kevin's Fuji Photos
Amanda's Fuji Photos
Beth's Fuji Photos

A long day? Yes! Worth the time and effort? Yes! Should you do it? Yes, if ever given the opportunity! Would I ever do this or any other large mountain climb again? Absolutely not, once was enough for a lifetime.
In the end it was one of the great adventures in my life and the pictures cannot begin to show you how amazing Fuji is or relate to you completely the experience we had.

1 comment:

tornados28 said...

I see you have a link to Wikipedia Utsunomiya page. If you go to that page, you'll see a link to Bell Mall. I created the Bell Mall wikipedia page and if you or anyone has more current or better info to add, please do.