Sunday, August 17, 2008

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji has to be the most miserable climb I have ever done. Let me walk you through it. It's a pretty big mountain at 12,336 feet but it's more impressive because it stands alone and its entire height is from sea level.The Base runs a bus shuttle to the mountain. Unfortunately, the bus leaves at 2am. Luckily, I'm still a bit on Utah time so it wasn't so horrible. I slept the rest of the time until we got to the mountain at 5am. I took off on my own because the only people on the bus that I knew didn't look like they could keep up. ( This turned out to be a good choice as one guy didn't even make to the top and the other guy took forever.)

Hopping off the bus I was awarded one of those amazing views that just scream "Life is beautiful."
The weather was cool and moist. I never would have guessed the misery that was to come. The bus dropped us off at the fifth station, which was at 5,000 ft. This was still below the tree line that ends at 8,000 ft. I took off before anybody else from my bus. After a bit of hiking I felt pretty good. I didn't see any other americans but there some Japanese folk on the mountain that must have started pretty early to already be there.

I think this picture is from above the sixth station just above the tree lines.

As you can tell, I'm pretending to run up the mountain. Yeah, that turned out to be a big lie. What made the climb so tough is that it is constant switchbacks with no break. The trail ranged from packed dirt to somewhat maintained trails with some steps in the beginning. Towards the middle of the mountain the trail was over really rough basalt lava flows.

The whole mountain is just steep. Really steep. I took this picture to show how steep it is. All over the mountain are these signs that say "Don't climb straight." All I can say is anyone who climbs straight up the mountain has legs of steel.

The upper third of the mountain was tough because the trail became loose cinders and pumice. It was like walking through a gravel driveway. Every step was loose and you felt like you couldn't get great traction.

Summit within view.
OK, a little about the hiking stations. There are eight total on the mountain. They are like little rest stops complete with little kiosks that sell food and drink. The eighth station has a "hotel" where people are crammed in like sheep- on the bunk beds and the floor. The prices are beyond disneyland. Like six bucks for a bottle of water or soda. Three bucks for a snickers bar.

So, I wasn't too surprised when the summit had a mini-village.

But I was surprised to see a vending machine.

So the schedule for the bus went something like this. Arrive at 5am - Leave at 6pm. When I got to the summit and looked at my clock and it said 9:45am, I realized that I had some time to kill. I decided to take a nap. You'd be surprised at how comfortable lava rock can be when you're tired enough. This turned out to be a big mistake because I got a major sunburn from it. I also walked around the crater. If you curious, it looks like a gigantic hole. No boiling lava. Yeah, I know. I was disappointed too.

After that I decided to hike down. Going up was hard - going down was punishment.

And so, four 1/2 hours up - two hours down. I've been there done that. I'm one of 200,000 people who climb Mt. Fuji every year....and I'll never do it again.


Tara and family said...

How did we miss that, did you announce you were going to Japan and we did not read it? I am SO incredibly jealous beyond words! I remember being in the exact same spots as in the pictures. In fact, we are having a full on Japanese feast today with sushi, gyoza, yakisoba noodles, and miso soup. (for Jade's BD) If you can, eat at a Yakiniku restaurant, they were our favorite, all you can eat and they had awesome food! Man, I wish I could send you a shopping list! If SO rocks that you climbed Mt. Fuji, honestly, that is so awesome. Bill almost made it to the top before he almost died from the elements. (it was monsoon) Have fun! You are in our favorite country! (so far)

Emily said...

Good job, honey, you made it to the top! It may have been miserable- but it looks really pretty and life is beautiful, right? Right!

pamela said...

Wow! What beautiful photos! What a memory.

pamela said...

Patrick, this is Dad. Real Darby men don't:
1. Ride the bus to the mountain, we hike in all the way.
2. Walk up the mountain, we run up.
3. Use switchbacks, it's straight up the flanks for us.
4. Climb no stinkin' mountain that has kiosks every 100 feet, and a vending machine at the summit.
5. Even think about climbing a mountain that doesn't have searing hot lava streams flowing down its flanks with house-size boulders flying everywhere.

Try again, and this time, get it right.

Dad Weimer said...

You don't have a picture of the hanging scaffold at the top! I don't think you made it. That's OK, Wanda will fill you in on what you missed.

Cheryl said...

Well done, Patrick!

If you think you had it rough, I pity the poor souls who had to carry all of the supplies for the vending machine up there!!