Sunday, August 14, 2011

The wait is over...

So at the end of Quinn's post about our Tokyo trip, she promised that I'd post soon with pictures and excitement from my trip to Mt. Fuji. It took me a while to do so, not (only) because I'm lazy, but (also) because my camera was misbehaving and I had to rely on others to e-mail me their pictures.

After checking out of our hotel in Ikebukuro, I took a few trains to get to Gotemba, a little town right at the base of Mt. Fuji. I had a bowl of ramen (what else?) while waiting, and eventually my fellow climbers arrived by car from Kobe.
There aren't a lot of pictures from the way up, because we started hiking at about 6:30pm and it got dark pretty quickly. On the left is Paul Pratt; in the center is Mike Liechty. I know both of them from church -- Paul is going back to the UK tomorrow and Mike is an American. The picture was being taken by Corey, an American co-worker of Mike's. We're at the Gotenba 5th station, the furthest point to which one can drive with a car; from that point on up it's on foot.

The climb took us about 7 hours -- the idea was to hike up through the night and watch the sunrise at the summit. As it turns out, we left too early for that to go very smoothly -- we arrived at the summit station at about 1:30am and then had to wait about 3 hours before the sun rose. After being hot and sweaty pretty much constantly for the last couple of months, I was startled at how cold I was. I had a sweater and my winter coat, but had packed in a hurry and didn't think to bring a hat or gloves. Pretty much the longest three hours ever, standing on top of a mountain waiting for the sun to rise. It sounds much more poetic than it was.
Here's me with the sun about to rise in the background. It was more impressive in person. The sunrise, I mean -- I probably look better in the picture than in real life. The walking stick was something I'd bought at the base -- they sell these sturdy sticks that are engraved with some Fuji 2011 stuff, and then at the top there's a little shrine where they engrave people's sticks for proof they've been to the top. For a small fee, of course. If inclined, one could spend a lot of money on the way up Fuji. At one of the stations on the way up, we saw a sign that said that the restrooms were 200 yen and added "No sleeping in restroom. You will be charged 5000 yen."
This is looking down at the summit station from the volcano rim, which is slightly higher up. That's where we waited during the night. They have vending machines that sell hot drinks (genius) and around 3-ish they opened up the buildings and started selling soup and curry rice for the people who are hungry. During the night I kept hearing people taking hits on oxygen cans that they sold further down the mountain. That big crowd had all hiked up, mostly during the wee hours of the morning, and now that the main event arrived they're getting ready to head back down. By about 2:30am we could look over the edge and see a steady stream of flashlights and headlamps coming up the mountain.
This is a view looking down the side of the mountain; near the top of the image you can see the green where vegetation starts again; the upper part of the mountain is all just volcanic rock.
This is looking back up, as we were on our way down. I don't quite understand why all of the stations and similar things had torii gates since they didn't look like shrines to me. Maybe the entire mountain is a shrine, technically. The trails are different going up and down -- the trail up is (mostly) pretty solid and good for climbing, while the trail down is mostly loose volcanic sand, so that it's easy on the knees and you can basically run down. We made it down in about 3 hours.

So that's Fuji. Quinn wants to do it next summer -- I think the Gotenba route is a good way to go, but next time I'm bringing lots of warm clothing.

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