There is a saying in Japanese which, roughly translated, goes, “You're a fool to never hike Mt Fuji and you're a fool to do it twice.” Craig hiked it a couple of summers ago and, since neither one of us are fools, I hiked it a couple of weeks ago while Craig stayed home with Gus. I went with a friend from church, Rachel, and we approached our adventure a little differently from the way Craig did. We made our way to the 5th station on the Fujinomiya trail, the steepest and most accessible trail from Kansai, via train and bus on Friday afternoon. From there we hiked for a little over four hours to the 9th station. It was overcast and drizzly until about the last 15min and then it started to pour and hale so we covered the last 200m of the trail in record time.
Starting out at the 5th station.
People disappearing into the mist.
We spent the night at the 9th station to help get acclimated to the altitude. The accommodations are referred to as huts and they are about as primitive as the word implies. There are three hallways, each with about 6 bunks, so 12 total. Inside each bunk eight people sleep shoulder to shoulder. We were assigned pillows 4 and 5 in a top bunk. The bunks are only as wide as 8 pillows so there are hooks everywhere to hang backpacks and clothing. Since it had been pouring when we arrived all of our and our bunk mates wet clothes were hanging above us all night. Neither the bunks or the restroom (which smelled like cat litter) are gender segregated. Lights out is at 8pm and they are turned back on at 1am so people can get ready and hike up to the top in time for sunrise. As Rachel and I laid there, shoulder to shoulder, wondering if we were going to actually fall asleep at lights out, the woman to her right started to snore and the man two pillows down from me started to loudly mouth breathe. Despite all of that, I slept pretty soundly.
9th station hut hallway.
We had already decided we weren't going to try to reach the summit in the dark, the trail was just too steep and rocky and the weather to lousy to make it worth it. We headed out around 5:15am and made it to the top by about 7am. It turned out to be pretty clear between the clouds passing over us. I enjoyed a hot cup o' noodle, we snapped some pictures at the summit and then headed home.
Heading to the summit in my winter clothes.
When I used the vivid color setting on the camera the landscape made me think of Mars.
It took us roughly 6 hrs to climb and about 3.5 hrs to descend Mt Fuji. I believe Rachel and I tackled the mountain with our self respect intact. At no time did either of us stop, bend over, gasp for air and let off a string of expletives – this was not the case for everyone. I think the saying holds true – I'm glad I did it once but I don't ever intend to do it again.