Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mt. Fuji!

Well we did it. I can't believe we did it! They say that everyone should climb Mt. Fuji once and the window for climbing it is just July and August. So, despite having done not a lick of exercise all summer long, we got out our hiking boots and headed to "Fuji-san". The proper way to climb it, we were told, is to to start in the evening and aim to be at the top for sunrise. So we boarded a bus in Shinjuku at about 7pm and watched the sun set as we left Tokyo. 

The mountain is divided up into 10 stations, with the first station at the bottom and the 10th at the top. Buses take you as far up as the 5th station. There are few different routes that I think merge together at around the 8th. After loading up on some snacks at Kawaguchiko 5th Station, we set out on our way. There were no other people around when we started, and there is a brief downhill at the beginning, so I was convinced we were going the wrong way. Finally we saw this sign just as the terrain turned steep and all doubt was erased. 
Oh good, just 320 minutes to go.

We decided to go for it all in one push, but another option is to stay at one of these small cabins along the way, get some sleep and head out early in the morning. This one has vacancy and goes for about $60 per person. Many of these huts also sell ramen, candy bars, beer and bottled oxygen, with an increasing mark-up the higher you get. We didn't need most of the offerings, but we did splurge and get a cup of top ramen at about the 7th station. That may have been the best top ramen I have ever had.

A torii marks the way to the 8th station. This is when it started to get pretty crowded. Despite going on a weekday, we still met up with a lot of other climbers, every one of us trying to summit before sunrise.
And finally to the top. We got there at about 3:30 am, so had a little time to sit around before sunrise. People started to stir and get their cameras ready at the first glimpse of light.
There was actually quite a settlement up at the top. In the buildings there behind Ryan, there were bathrooms and coffee vendors, and ....
...restaurants that sell noodles and other hot treats (it was really really cold up there).
You could also get your walking stick branded.  Here's a video. 
Then it was time to trek down the never ending switchbacks of scree.
We got into a good groove on the way down and got in front of the crowd.  Still above the clouds.
Right around the 6th station, folks had set up a bunch of cairns that gave the impression of being on the surface of the moon. Very freaky on the way up in the dark.
And here it is from the bottom. Well, this is one of the false peaks anyway. It's a long way up there. I can see now why people start the hike in the middle of the night. Not for the temperature or for the sunrise on the peak, but because if you saw what a slog it was going to be before you started, you might not actually go through with it. 
But we did. When we got back home we slept for about 10 hours and then made a big pot of fish nabe, the food that sumo wrestlers eat. Yum!

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