Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mt.Fuji 3776m Day - 6 & 7


1636 (local time)

Mt Fuji, Japan

Written in Koenji, opposite the train station on a park bench…

I’ve been thinking how im going to start this blog… and to be honest the only way I feel I can express my-self is probably through a facial expression. To sum it up in several words: Tired, Hurting, Hot, Thirsty, Stressed… but when I recap about what has happened in the last 24 hours! I’d say the most important words I come to think of are: Relief & a feel of accomplishment, as I have just climbed the highest mountain in Japan, and also went the highest I’ve ever been in my life. I Climbed Mount Fuji!

Mt Fujisan 3776m

Before I get into the story of my climb, I want to provide you, the audience with a little bit of information about Mount Fuji, thanks Wikipedia.

Mount Fuji or (Fuji-san) is the highest mountain in Japan located on Honshu Island at 3,776.24m (12,389 ft).An active strato-volcano that last erupted in 1707–08.

Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres  south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. It is one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains. Along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku; it is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a Historic Site, and has been submitted for future inscription on the World Heritage List as a Cultural (rather than Natural) Site.

For me, what made this such a memorable achievement was the fact that I have never, ever hiked that high in my life, Mount Fuji stands at 3,776mtrs, and although it isn’t all that high compared to other mountains in the world, what makes it special for me is that I planned this trip all on my own.

When I first had the idea of coming to Japan, Mount Fuji stood there as a Number 1 thing to do! When I started reading into it a little bit more I realised that when I get to Japan, the official climbing season is over. Which means there will be no rescue support if something goes wrong, and at 3,776mtrs there is a high possibility of things going wrong – my main concern was Altitude Sickness.

The reason being, is that I had never been this high before so I had the fear of unknown, I didn’t know how my body was going to react to the thin air of 3,776mtrs. So obviously I was worried.

With the climbing season finished, it also meant that there wont be regular busses running to and from the mountain which meant I would either have to fork out $50AUD for 3 hours of sleeping, or just battle it out in the cold for free… obviously I chose the latter.

Anyway, I bought my ticket that dropped me from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko, this 2 hour bus journey cost me 1,700 Yen, which is equivalent to $20AUD. (as it stands the exchange rate is 1AUD is 81YEN)
From Kawaguchiko you can do a bit of exploring of the 4 lakes here, but honestly I wasn’t all that concerned about that – as obviously my aim was Fuji.

So when I arrived at Kawaguchiko bus station at around 12midday, I only did small bit of walking around the lakes, but most of my time was spent buying supplies and resting my legs!

The lakes were quite beautiful, but when I looked towards Mt. Fuji it was almost completely covered in clouds! Not a great sign, and actually I was confused as I had been studying the weather over the past week to pick the best day for hiking, and for this day (Wednesday 12nd of August) it was predicted to be the best weather to summit as there would be no clouds, wind or rain.

The Lakes of Kawaguchiko!

Beautiful flowers ran along the side of the walking path!

As the hours ticked by the weather had gotten worse – it had started to rain! I was devastated as I thought I would be in for a very wet and miserable night!

To drown my sorrows I resorted to eating, so I went to a local restaurant and ordered just the standard dish of Ramen (noodles, in a soup with beef and seaweed). As I enjoyed my meal, I studied up on the different trails and routes you could take.

After my meal, I called Mum and she wished me luck and it was almost time to catch the 1650 bus from Kawaguchiko bus station to the 5th Station on Mount Fuji which is 2,300mtrs high, so basically already I had climbed in altitude 2,300mtrs in one day without any acclimatization! Normally you are meant to spend at very least an overnight at 2,300mtrs… but not me!

Since it was off-season I also had the slight concern that I would be hiking on my own, which in any circumstance is extremely dangerous, but fortunately for me I met a French guy called Bruno who I was going to be doing a majority of hiking with. But before I even start to tell you about the start of my hike, I need to tell you about a bunch of 21 year old Americans from California.

So I met these guys, whilst waiting for my bus to the 5th station, and being my friendly self I got chatty to them.

“Hey guys, are you planning on hitting Fuji tonight”
“yeah we are, but we don’t really know anything about it” they replied.
“hahaha, well what are you planning on hiking in?” I asked.
“this” they all replied.

Ok, so 1 of them, was in shorts and a t-shirt, the other two were in a pair of trendy jeans and a t-shirt, I was clearly shocked by this, as I started to realise how unprepared these guys were!
I then explained to them, that it gets to below freezing up on the summit, and that snowed last night!
Their faces dropped as they started to scramble through the bags trying to find clothes that were suitable!
I asked them, if they had head torches.

They replied “no”.

I then proceeded to explain to them that “we are hiking at night time, and granted if there was a full moon yeah, there might be enough light, but unfortunately tonight its very close to becoming a new moon, meaning that it will be very, very dark”.

I told them where the local shop was and told them to get plenty of water, snacks and of course torches!
Anyway, we saw these Americans a few times on the mountain and they were battling. The last that I saw of the Americans the tallest one was suffering from Altitude Sickness, and the rest of them were freezing cold… I didn’t see them leave the mountain. But then again, I caught the first bus back down.
Right, let me get started about the story that was ‘Summiting Fuji’

the bus station in Kawaguchiko

So, like I said earlier I had met this French guy named Bruno, who was also very much prepared for the trip, with plenty of food and warm clothes! I had decided he was going to be my hiking buddy.
When the bus dropped us off at the 5th station (1000YEN each way), which marks the boundary between heaven and earth and at an altitude of 2,300mtrs you felt pretty high. We got changed into our warmer clothes and started our hike. It had gotten dark pretty quickly but I didn’t want to get out my head lamp out as Bruno (Frenchy) and a Korean dude (James) had theirs on already.

5th Station of Mt Fuji
James and Bruno

We hiked and hiked trying to keep a slow and steady pace, as we were in no rush because we started our hike at 6pm and the sun wouldn’t rise until 5.34am the next day. So we basically had 11 hours to reach the summit but the actual hiking time was 350 minutes or 6 hours.


View of the city below!

So we basically had 5 hours to do nothing apart from get cold, so the slower we went the better it was.
The start of our hike went really well, and I was able to take some awesome photos of the city below. It was an hour into our hike when we realised we had been going the wrong way… lucky for us we only had to back track 20 minutes. It didn’t bother me, it just meant we wasted some time.

Anyway, so we hiked up and up and up until we reached the 7th Station at 2,700mtrs. We had climbed 400mtrs up so there was no real sign of the altitude having any effects on our bodies.

Myself and Bruno (Frenchy) just waited at the 7th station, thinking that it will be warmer at the 7th than the 8th or 9th, so we sat around trying our hardest to keep warm, as it was only 7 degrees and getting colder. Eventually a couple from Spain had the same idea as us, so our group of 2 (as we lost James, the Korean dude) turned into a group of 4! Perfect more chat, meant time went by faster.

All the hikers we met on our way to 7th station. Japanese, French, Korean and American in 1 shot!

The 7th Station was 6 degrees! COLD

The city below!

The lovely Spanish Couple!

I think we mucked around, telling jokes and talking about our travel stories for about 2 hours, until we got way to cold so we decided to hike up to the 8th station at 3,200mtrs. According to the map, this hike was supposed to take 100minutes! We did it in 50minutes, and that was taking it slow.

This sucked for us, as it meant we had to sit around, and get cold for even longer… GREAT.

At 3,200mtrs I felt the altitude starting to have an effect on my body, I didn’t feel dizzy or sick… just out of breath. Probably due to the lack of oxygen at this height, it probably didn’t help as we were no longer hiking, but scrambling up pretty gnarly rocks, using our hands and feet – see the photos!
The higher we climbed the colder it got!

I thought I had prepared well for the cold, well as well as I could have with my current equipment. I had 2 t-shirts, 1 long sleeved t-shirt and a Wind & Water Resistant Jumper, I borrowed a beanie and gloves as well. And still this wasn’t enough. Ideally I would have brought up thermals and ski gear.

But I still managed, when I started freezing, I just started to jump on the spot or do push ups, I may have looked stupid, but it kept me warm.

We waited around at the 8th station for ages, but we all got too cold and climbed a little bit more to another mountain hut just above the 8th station. What made it really depressing, as that we would look inside these mountain huts to see people sleeping, all rugged up in blankets and sleeping bags, whilst we are outside freezing our asses off! I suppose that’s the down side of not paying 3,000YEN ($45AUD) for 3 hours of sleep!

It was no longer a hiking path... but a scramble up volcanic rock!

Inside one of the mountain huts... i wanted desperately to use the 'flash on my camera to wake her up!! :)

Getting Closer!

To the Summit!

You arent even allowed in the huts!!

Temperature drop to 5 degrees 

So cold, but still a smile on my face!

We waited around at a mountain hut called “the Real 8th station” and we stayed there for about an hour freezing again in 2 degrees! We eventually paid 100yen ($1.5AUD) for some ‘hot water’ inside the hut to defrost! After 15 minutes of defrosting we started the epic journey to the summit! We were going to climb from 3,400mtrs to 3,776mtrs!

The 'Real 8th Station

A Stamp for 2euros.

A Small Bottle of Water 5euros

We were close!!

Dropped to 0 degrees!

Toilet - the sign above the WC reads -anyone found sleeping has to pay 30euros for a nights accommodation-

We set off, I wasn’t very quick at all, I was having to stop after every 10mtrs of hiking to catch my breath and to stop behind the trail of other hikers! I honestly wasn’t feeling all that good, I’m not sure what it was, it could have been the altitude or it could have been that I haven’t slept, or the cold getting to me, or it even could have been the fact that I was just exhausted from all this hiking… either way I was not feeling great but, it was just mind over matter! I just forced my legs to keep going! And keep going they did! I finally made it to the summit!! The Spanish couple were the first to witness a broken Stephen!

I had over heated, I had started to sweat which wasn’t great, it means that when the sweat cools, you get even colder… luckily it wasn’t that bad, and we found an ice covered bench sat down and settled to watch the sunrise!

The american boys struggling!

Almost... there!

...getting closer!

.... 10 more meters...

....just keep going...


Wow, it was amazing! The reds, oranges and yellows blew me away! Unfortunately I couldn’t get a great photo because I was to busy looking at the sky! Once the sun had fully risen and our body’s had once again defrosted we started our walk around the crater. There was no words to describe how please I was to be on top of Fuji! I was on an absolute natural high! We took some photos and continued on our merry way around the crater.

Sunrise approaching, but still so very cold...

So many colors!!

Starting to defrost!

still defrosting...

All the other hikes crammed on the top of a hill!

Here she comes... almost warm again!
Shrine Gate!

Another shrine gate, notice the snow in the corner of the building... THATS HOW COLD IT WAS!

The Actual Summit!

The highest ive ever hiked in my life! 3776m!

The shadow of mount fuji cast over the Japanese Countryside!

So even though we were on the top of the mountain, we weren’t actually on the Summit or Peak. To get the peak we had to hike up a really, really steep incline for 100 – 200 meters and then we were on the official top! This didn’t take us all that long, yeah we were all tired! But for me, I just wanted to get to the top!
After all this was done, and we took more photos it was now time for the epic decent down… Now if you have read any of my other posts you would realise how much I dislike… no not dislike, HATE going down hill, and going downhill on Fuji was probably the worst! It was loose volcanic gravel that was really tricky to hold your footing, also I knew that it was a long way down, 2 hours infact until I hit the bottom, and ill be honest, I hated every minute of it!

The dozens of switchbacks to get downhill!

It was so boring...


I was so glad to finally get to the end and take off my shoes to reveal my blisters and also to share with the world the beautiful aroma of sweating in Gore-Tex hiking boots for 15 hours!

Anyway, we caught the 9.40 bus back to Kawaguchiko station, as soon as I was in the bus I was asleep… no joke! Apparently that bus was full of people that were sleeping as well, it would have been great to get a photo.

When we got to Kawaguchiko I bought my ticket back to Shinjuku, Tokyo, and for some reason I got a discount… not sure why! But again, as soon as I was in the bus, I was asleep again.
Eventually we made it to Tokyo and after a kinda stressful afternoon of me finding out where I would be sleeping that night, an Aussie dude called Locky put me up for a couple of nights, and we went out with his friends for a massive meal! It was a great way to end a very intense 24 hours!

As soon as I got back to his Apartment I passed out!

The next day we had to get up pretty early as Locky had to head to school, so I road his bike to the local park and slept for another hour it was fantastic, sleeping in beautiful green grass in the shade was a lovely way to end a pretty eventful 48 hours!!!

The beautiful park i napped in!

Blue sky, nice soft grass... perfect!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next updates!!

Steve bye bye!

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