Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conquering the Mountain

On August 19th, me along with a busload of others, started our 2 day journey to climb Mt. Fuji.  I wasn't worried about doing the trek without my family because I figured I'd meet new acquaintances on the tour.  I knew I was more prepared than I was last year since I had a better attitude, trekking poles, two cans of oxygen, my IPOD, and beautiful weather.  I was ready to conquer this mountain once and for all!

Beautiful weather for the climb.  Happy there was no rain this time!
By the time the bus pulled into the 5th Station at Mt. Fuji, it was close to 10am.  The temperature was comfortable, the trail had few climbers on it and I think it was a perfect time to climb.  I started and climbed with the same few people most of the day, but I wouldn't say it was any easier this year.  The one thing that made a difference was not having any time constraints.  

With a nice leisurely pace, many of us arrived at Fuji-San Hotel (the 8th Station) by 4pm.  The hut where we were sleeping in was cozy.  It was like having a big co-ed sleepover.  There were two levels of bunks and people were to sleep right next to each other.  Many people were resting as soon as they arrived to the hut, but others ordered food (curry, ramen, etc) and drink.  The ramen and beer were a good treat after making it to the 8th Station.  I was just happy I made it this far!!!   

The cozy sleeping quarters.
Lights out was at 8pm, and I couldn't sleep.  I didn't come equipped with earplugs, or my IPAD, so I was literally tossing and turning for hours.  Between the snoring, being too hot, and anticipating the remainder of the climb, 1am couldn't come soon enough.  The night before, our tour guide suggested to many of us that we could take the bulldozer route to the summit.  He said it would be less-crowded than the main trail.   I was worried I would be taking the easy-way-out, but our guide said that there is no easy way to climb to the top of Fuji-san.

So, at 1:30am, a number of us set out on the bulldozer trail.  Man, was it cold but the view was one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen in my life.  You could see the city lights as far away as Tokyo.  With one foot in front of the other, the thin air, the body slowly warming up, and a slew of others wanting to conquer the mountain, we managed to make it to the summit by 3:30am.  I was beyond elated to see the torii gate before me!!

With a little less than two hours until sunrise, it was hard to stay warm.  It was absolutely freezing. Luckily, they have vending machines, vendors that sell hot cocoa, and have warm food to pass the time.  The shrine that stamps the walking sticks didn't open until 4am, so once we finished that, we walked around with hundreds of other people trying to find a good place to view the sunrise.  

Top of Mt. Fuji just after sunrise.

The sunrise was worth the climb.  It was beautiful and you could see clouds hovering below.  Once we got a peek at the crater, we decided to head down the mountain.  Many people don't like the trek down, but the trekking poles were a tremendous help this time.  I made it back to the 5th station in less than 3 hours.  I was really enjoying myself and my accomplishment even though my camera battery died.  I am relieved to have this climb behind me, and am grateful for the friendships I made along the way.  

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