Saturday, April 5, 2008

Climbing Mt Fuji

One of my most memorable experiences in Japan happened around the end of August. At this time, the weather is still horribly hot and humid - however, this seems to be the best time to climb Mt Fuji. Fuji is only open to visitors for two months during the year (July and August) and most climbers do the hike overnight. After a bit of discussion, I was able to sucker a few co-workers into doing the hike with. So we set off...after taking two trains and a bus, we arrived at the 5th station, about 2/3 of the way up Fuji. Unfortunately, the weather was rather bleak and we were a little unprepared (read: we all had to buy rain equipment at the small store). With that small problem solved, off we went. Look how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

We also all bought the popular hiking sticks to help guide us up the volcano. At each station, you can have your stick stamped to show your progress. As we progressed, I quickly realized carrying the stick was not helpful at all. Scrambling up rocks with only one hand is not the easiest feat.

We continued our climb all night long - stopping at each station for a break, food, and even a mini nap at one point. We reached the last station before the top (station 8.5) with plenty of time to spare before sunset. After pausing for a few, we set off again only to encounter huge amounts of traffic. I guess everyone else figured they would climb Mt Fuji the last weekend it was open too! Unfortunately, we did not make it to the top of Fuji to see sunrise, but we were pretty close! A bunch of us huddled together (it was soooo cold) and watched the sunrise.

After a short break at the top, we began our journey downwards. They nicely bulldozed a path down the side of Fuji for all visitors. However, this path is sandy, slippery, and horrible on the knees - it was a long journey down! Tired, and sweaty (funny how hot it got once the sun rose), we all made it down the mountain and began our journey home. It was definitely a fantastic experience!!

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