Mt Fuji, Japan

07 July 2010
Summary
Route Distance: 11.6 km Estimated Time: 9:15 [actual 10:46:10]
Total Ascent: 1450 m Total Descent: 1465 m
Details

To get to Mt. Fuji, I had to take several trains from Itami (just north west of Osaka) to Wakoshi (just north west of Tokyo), where I was to meet my brother-in-law, Shoji.

I had not managed a good night's sleep due to my youngest waking up throughout the night and waking everyone else up too. So when I did finally give up trying to sleep and get up, I was more tired than hungry and so did not eat the kind of breakfast you should do before a trek. Nor lunch. The plan was to have a good dinner.

We got to the Kawaguchiko fifth station (about 2500m) about 1930hrs only to find that the restaurants were shut! No dinner either! Not the best preparation for a trek, so we got some sleep in the car and set off in the rain about 2200hrs.

The trail to the sixth station is quite gentle and easy going and once at the sixth we stopped for a quick munch on some trail mix. On to the seventh station and the going got a little steeper and a little harder. At the seventh station the rain had stopped, so we packed away our wet weather gear. The clouds broke too and we could see the stars above and the city below. The city lights are white in Japan and give a more natural feel. The clouds were lit up underneath by white light and it was quite beautiful. It took me a little while to realise that the light on the clouds was not moon light, but the glow from the city. In the UK, the lights are mostly orange which can make it look quite un-natural.

We made good time to the Eighth Station where the lack of food caught up with me. So we stopped for some VERY expensive, but very welcome cup noodles.

Set off once more and reached what I thought was the Ninth Station, as it was the next station from the Eighth and was quite pleased at the time we were making. Shoji then pointed out that this was not the Ninth, but the Eight and a half station! It turned out that we were not making as good time as I had thought and the summit for sunrise was beginning to look doubtful.

On to the Ninth Station and it was getting really hard now. The path was a mixture of wide stepped areas that were not too bad to walk, to solid rock with ropes and chains held by spikes driven into the rock. These parts required you to use you hands to pull yourself up with and I was glad that I had a head torch! It was also not always obvious which way to go, but eventually we made it to the Ninth Station.

We rested a while and just as we were about to set off, a tour of about 30 people passed us. We now had to follow at their pace, which was much slower than the pace we had been setting, but that may not have been a bad thing!

A few hundred meters of pathway from the summit, I had to stop. In the pre-dawn light, everything had turned shades green and I was so tired! So we sat off the path and waited for the sun to rise. After a short time, the colours had returned and fatigue had lessened, but we decided it would be better to stay where we were for the sunrise.

As the sun rose, there were cheers from the other climbers who had also sat down along the path to the summit. I was a beautiful sight, made all the better knowing that we had managed to climb up Mt. Fuji to see it.

We then carried on to the summit. As we went though the gate, the wind hit us! It was already 2ºC before the wind chill and with it, it was really cold! When I set off from Osaka, it was 33ºC and really humid!

I had bought a wooden walking stick at the fifth station, with the intention of getting the various brands at each of the stations and the final one at the summit. The fatal flaw in this plan was that either I missed the places where the brands were sold or they were shut. The one I, like most other people I met at the top, really wanted was the summit one and that was still closed!

We made our way down and at the Eighth Station stopped for a coffee. Just after the Eighth Station, the trail splits. The one we came up would be quite tricky gong down - especially the rocky parts, so there is a path bulldozed into the side of Mt. Fuji! It zigzags down and is quite an easy walk / jog although keeping your feet in the shifting ash and rock can sometimes be a bit tricky!

Only a few rest breaks (and one stop to make sure someone else was ok - turned out they had no water and were also very tired!) we arrived at the fifth station. The gift shops and restaurants were open for the coach loads of tourists that had already arrived at 0830hrs.

Things I learned from this trek:
Carrying an SLR and lenses, filters and mini tripod is all very well, but if you then don't have the energy to use them, kind of pointless. There were some great images to be had, but it meant taking off my rucksack, digging out my camera and I just did not have the energy to do so. I think in future I will leave the SLR & lenses and all the other bits behind and just carry the small and light compact camera I have. Not only will it save 2 to 3 kg from my pack, I will also take lots more pictures. Unless of course it’s a photographic trek.

I would also like to say a big thank you Shoji, for taking me to Mt. Fuji and climbing up with me :)

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