Wednesday morning, 8:00am at Takeda station in Kyoto. I met my two friends from work to begin the car ride up to the symbol that everyone thinks of when they think of Japan…Mt Fuji.
The sky’s were clear and it was hot, carrying my two bags…gear for the climb and gear for the few days we would be away. The plan, to stop off at a famous highway stop, visit the ice and wind caves in the dreaded suicide forest and then onto Fuji.
With the SatNat programmed in and the car packed up we began the long drive north. Captain G on the wheel and Crazy Chicago in the front keeping him company, I did what all Kenshusei do when they ain’t training….I fell asleep hahaha.
We finally arrived at the stop, and after being bitten twice by a mosquito…I hate them, but the love me…we grabbed a bite and jumped back in the car. The rain had begun.
We continued the journey and made our way to the caves. Amazing really…the temperature especially in the ice cave (traditionally they would keep ice in here to be used in the area) really dropped an my camera lens misted up when I came out. In the wind caves I came face to face with some very cute bats and saw where they would keep silk worm. Apparently they work better under ground in the dark and cold.
The caves were really nice and a good laugh for a tall person…I recommend that free helmets!! It was a sobering thought when I realised I was underground inside a active volcano…..bearing in mind two have already erupted this year in Japan.
We next went to dinner at a conveyor belt sushi joint and then into a superstore for last supplies and to get Crazy Chicago a walking pole…it was a long peace of bamboo taller than her…from now she will be called (as she was called on the trip) Gandalf.
We began the curvy climb to level 5 of Fuji, the ears began to pop and for some reason the nerves began to kick in a little…the rain was still coming down. Maybe the typhoon was going to hit us. We reached level 5 got our stuff ready and then had a sleep to adjust to the altitude for a couple of hours.
I woke to Captain G’s alarm…if was time…suddenly after putting on all my gear I realised…it was toilette time….this was not something I had thought of. A pit…yes and for some reason the first thing you naturally do is look down into it, with my head torch on the sight and smell is still burning into my brain. Like everyone before me I to had a bad stomach – not something you want before you go on Fuji or any hike.
The climb began at 12:20…the rain was still coming down and the wind and cold chill was not pleasant. We started moving. The climb was not that hard and there was no one else on the mountain so there were no lines like people had warned me about…this at the time seemed like a good thing…on reflection it was more of a sign.
Station after station we made our way up, each rest point was closed as we were not climbing in ‘climbing season’. We would search each hut for a tiny ledge to just get out of the now heavy rain to eat, rehydrate and then press on some more.
The wind was strong and freezing cold, the rain just pored big heavy drops which completely drenched me and everything I had. My boots full of cold water, it was like walking in a ice cold stream.
Then…the shakes…I was beginning to not look so good. I was now shaking a lot, uncontrollably…I had tried to keep spirits up by asking Gandalf questions but now we were all wet, tired and very, very cold.
The final stop before the top and I was bad…I have never felt so cold in my life…I just could not get warm I wanted to lay down and curl up. I pushed on though and get to the top to more shelter as quick as I could. I got so stressed out and decided to shout at Fuji ‘I know your testing me…come on bring it on’ now in Japan Fuji is seen as a God…if you’ve watched the avengers movies you will know that you should never say that to a God. Suddenly the wind picked up and the rain just pored – I apologised…quickly!
After watching the 3rd hobbit movie recently I fancied myself as a bit of a Legolas and at one point on this climb as I looked down below me…just darkness, volcanic rock, mist and the view of Gandalf and her stick climbing up behind me. I had a few seconds of a similar feeling to what Legolas must have felt! (This was kinda cool).
The top…I passed under the Tori gate and into the shrine area. Desperate to get into cover to put my dry clothes on I found some work men sleeping in a hut, I slid the door open, in Japanese – shivering Japanese – I asked to come into change…he very kindly in English said ‘NO, you not aloud here’!
Murder on Fuji…no just kidding!
After Captain G helped me change because by now I couldn’t do it my self, my blue swollen lips chattering, the swollen hands and numb feet and slow reactions proved a slight problem. Time to head down. No breaks for me…I walked and didn’t stop until I got to the bottom…I had no reason to be on that mountain any more!
“Never again” I kept saying! “No way” actually there was some bad language in there too as you can imagine.
After stopping at a onsen resort to warm up I began to reflect. Was it all worth it, why didn’t we just head back. Stupidity or determination maybe they are the same thing. I learned a lot about myself and my limits up there though and that you just have to keep pushing on…no matter how tough it gets…one small step at a time…that’s all it takes!