Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mount Fuji

White lights like fire flies weave through the air to the eighth station, systematically following each other, slowly and steadily they come. It is 2am on Saturday 28th August, the last weekend of the climbing season at Mount Fuji. I am awake to greet them at Hachi-Gome on the Fujinomiya route, Mount Fuji. This is Station 8, 3250 metres and only 500 metres from the summit. We have decided to bed down in one of the mountain huts and divide our ascent into two days. We try to sleep for a few hours with about 100 others, it is amazingly quiet considering we are practically touching toes and can feel the vibrations of people breathing. I wonder how many others have slept in this futon, how is cleaned?  But for now, I am so excited about the sunrise to come, I soon forget about our lodging and am grateful for this experience. Fuji-san, as it is affectionately known is as magnificent as expected. Our first sight of the revered mountain takes our breath away. It is strikingly beautiful. It's height shocks us ......................."Fuji-san!" we exclaim, like a five year old child seeing the mountain for the first time.

By 2am, most of our "hut-mates" head out for the final climb to the summit. With lamps on their heads and warm clothes they depart. But we are content to view the sunrise from station 8. At 4.50 am we are awoken, "wake-up, the sun is rising".
Oh My Gosh! Stunning!

Fuji-san is everything and more, it is better than everyone said, we are humbled by our insignificance on this magnificent planet. Fuji-san is a "Top 100 must see destination".

By 6am we start our ascent to the top. The next stage to the 9th takes us twice as long as expected, the air is thinning, we are climbing not hiking. With all fours in spots, we pull ourselves over the 300 year old lava deposits, careful not to dislodge too many large rocks. They are light, easily moved, a peril for those below us. We meet the Japanese army in training, one by one they amicably call, "ohayo gozaimus". The camaraderie on the trail warms our spirits, we are all in this together, no matter what country we come from or what language we speak.

It came as a struggle for the family of four, but by 10am we arrived at the top of Mount Fuji san, 3770 metres. Surprising how many people were sleeping out in the open, were they the ones we saw at 2am at Hachi-Gome?

The descent was so much faster, but not without incident. I now have blackened toe-nails from the pounding on the slippery lava trail.

Both Mark and Oliver were sick and Sophia suffered a little sunburn being so exposed to the elements. Now three days later, our legs are recovering from the climb. We now have full understanding of the Japanese proverb: "A wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice"
What an unforgettable experience! Is this the highlight of our year in Japan?

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