I'm not entirely sure how I did it, but I climbed to the summit of Mt. Fuji.

Our journey began early Friday morning. I take the first train out of Hitachi (5:12am) and meet up with four other climbers. We have to take a long series of trains and one bus to get to the 5th station where we'll start our climb, but we we finally make it early in the afternoon.

We spend some time at the 5th station, adjusting to the altitude (7,500 ft) and getting some lunch. We're climbing up the Yoshida trail, and started in Kawaguchiko. It's really important to know which 5th station you're starting from, because there are several around the mountain (and our trail split partway down). This station is the most popular because there's lots of parking available, and the trail has quite of few huts to rest in compared to the other trails.
We started climbing around 3pm and the trip to the 6th station is pretty easy. And it would have been a lot easier if we'd been better prepared. It started to rain on us, and two people in our group didn't have any rain gear. We were close enough to the 5th station, that the two guys volunteered to go back to buy rain jackets, and thankfully, that worked out just fine. We have a rockslide shelter to hide out in until they got back, so we stayed dry. And of course, the rain stopped as soon as they returned. But, I still got a cool jacket out of the deal, and the extra layer was good to have later.

After the 6th station, though, the trail got much more difficult, and much rockier. I very quickly became very glad I'd gotten a walking stick, because that extra balance was essential to not falling down and having an extra boost up the rocks. When we finally made it to the seventh station, I was disappointed to find out that there were actually several 7th stations, which made it kind feel like we weren't making any progress, and the sun was starting to set.

So we got our flashlights/headlamps and pressed on. Hiking through the 7th stations was soooo difficult. I was having a lot of trouble getting enough oxygen thanks to the altitude, plus I'd been up since about 1:30am, so I had to stop to rest a lot. Plus the trail itself was extremely difficult. It was legitimate mountain climbing. There were times when I was using all four limbs or climbing up on my knees just to move forward. Plus it was in the dark, and my lamp wasn't all that bright. I could see and I wasn't going to fall of the side of the mountain, but it was hard to move forward.

Then, we finally reached the 8th station. Or, as before, the first 8th station. This part was the worst, because we had a hut reservation in one of the 8th station huts, but we weren't sure where ours was on the trail. So we'd reach one station only to find out that it wasn't it and we had to keep climbing. At one point, I had to stop to get food (really gross cup noodles) because I was so exhausted. But by this time, it was somewhere around 9pm, and we really needed to get to our hut so we could get some rest before continuing the next day. So again, we pressed on.

Somewhere between 10 and 10:30, we finally reached our hut. And there was much rejoicing.
The hut is basically a building with two rooms. The first room is kind of like a dining area with a few long tables and food and drink you can buy at 5 times their regular price. The second room is where we sleep. It's divided into section with curtains for doors and room enough for 6 sleeping bags side by side. And that's it. And they're bunk bed style, so you can't stand up in them. However, we we lucky enough to have our group of 5 all get the same section, so we were at least sleeping next to people we knew. And really, I was perfectly content. I just wanted to sleep.

Wake-up call was at about 1:30, though me and one other member of our group stayed in bed a little longer because we were still so tired. We ended up leaving around 2 and were the last to leave the hut. Usually, it should take about an hour to get from our station to the summit, which would be plenty of time to catch the 4:30am sunrise. However, the trail was completely packed and moved very slowly. Plus, I was still pretty tired and not getting all the oxygen I would have liked.

I was still just below the summit when the sun came up, but I climbed off the trail a little to sit and watch it and take a few pictures. It was seriously so beautiful. There are a few more pictures in my photostream to the right, but my camera really couldn't capture it. We could see two lakes, one of which was turned a gorgeous crimson.
Once the sun was mostly up (and my batteries were pretty much dead), I finished the climb. I reached the summit at about 5:30am. There's actually quite a bit up there. There's a shrine and some little shops to get food and drink, plus the crater to go see. That crater is incredible and really kind of scary to look into. Our group got a group photo in front of it and spent some time look around and just basking in our success before heading back down. And it really wasn't that cold, I thought. I had a t-shirt, zip-up hoodie, sweatshirt, and my vinyl jacket, with some sweats and gloves, and I was perfectly comfortable. I took my gloves off at times for pictures, and was still good. We really lucked out with the weather, because it was perfectly clear, too. It was gorgeous.

Then we headed back down around 7:30, I think. The way down is completely different from the way up. For one, it's all dirt and dust and switchbacks. There's nothing really to see and it's pretty boring, compared to the epic adventure on the way up. Plus, the dust kept getting in my eyes, making it really difficult for me to see anything at all. Eventually, I rigged my hood, sunglasses, and bandana for some relief, but it was still pretty slow going for me. Plus I ran out of water, and there's no place to buy any on the trail. So I'm pretty sure I got pretty dehydrated. It was really slow going for me.

But finally, I made it back to the 5th station around 12:30. I downed three bottles of Aquarius, and got some food and souvenirs, and then we were back on the bus. I made it back to my apartment around 10pm, completely exhausted. I'm pretty sure I peeled off skin when I removed my socks, and I have a serious blister on the side of my right heel. And it's Tuesday morning, and I'm only just regaining the ability to climb in and out of bed and up and down steps without seriously soreness and aching in my legs.

But, it was worth it. I can say I climbed Mt. Fuji and survived. Tomorrow, I go back to school, and I certainly ended my summer with a bang.

Comments (2)

On August 31, 2010 at 6:08 AM , Lafayette said...

You're the coolest cousin even! Way to go Lauren.

On August 31, 2010 at 4:13 PM , apurpleladybug said...

Um, you might want to double-check the description of what you were wearing. . .

That's so awesome; you made it to the top!! Omedeto!!!