I like to write my blog in real-time. I feel like if I wait too long, then I forget some of the details, and the details are where the good stuff is. That being stated, if you read my last blog, you will understand why I am so late in writing about my Mt Fuji experience. Sometimes you just can’t write.
My best furry-friend, Gus, died on Sunday, August 22nd, and our trip to Mt Fuji was scheduled for Thursday, August 26th. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make myself go. I was completely devastated, and I was living in a blurry, dark tunnel. I didn’t want to go, but by husband strongly encouraged it. When my guy deployed to Okinawa, almost 20 years ago, they trained at Camp Fuji, and he and his Marine friends climbed it. They were physical beasts, so it was a quick up-and-back, and it wasn’t a big deal. Because he had done it, he wasn’t super excited about taking time off work to climb it again. He knew that I wouldn’t have any trouble finding people who would climb it with me. There are A LOT of people on Okinawa who make the trip to mainland to climb this infamous mountain.
So let’s take a moment to address the fact that so many people climb Mt Fuji. It is my belief that because so many people climb it, we begin to “normalize” this very challenging experience. However, it should be a BIG DEAL. This is a MOUNTAIN, and it’s not just any mountain. It is the highest mountain in Japan, and it is the second highest volcano located on an island in Asia. It is also the seventh highest peak of any island on Earth. It is over 12,000 feet in elevation. It’s not just any ol’ day hike.
My gracious friends wanted me to go, and they agreed to do all of the thinking for me. They knew that my decision-making capabilities were non-existent. I’m 46 years old. One of my hiking buddies is 36, and the other one is 26. We are three women who were born in three different decades, and we all wanted a good experience. Side-note: we had never traveled together. Traveling with people you don’t know could be a little tricky. Traveling with people you don’t know, to go on a physically challenging adventure, could be a lot tricky. We were taking a chance on this one, and it worked out perfectly. I cannot think of two other people who I would have wanted to have this experience with me at this time. They were so sympathetic to my grief. They were so patient with my inability to really contribute. They were patient as I moved slowly up the mountain. I am the endurance athlete, and I was the slowest one of the three. They were also tons of fun afterwards when it was time to celebrate our accomplishment.
We departed on a Thursday, climbed Friday and Saturday, and we returned on Sunday. We didn’t have any expectations of sight-seeing or doing anything but climb Mt Fuji. Not getting distracted with other expectations definitely worked in our favor. We had a goal. We kept our eyes on that goal, and we reached the goal with positive attitudes and all smiles. Had we tried to do too much before or after, we could have ended up frustrated or severely exhausted.
Travel & Transportation:
If you want the exact itinerary, this is not be the blog for you. My travel buddies helped with so much if it, and I just paid and came along for the adventure. The basics are: we flew to Tokyo. We stayed at the New Sanno. We took a cab to the train station on Friday morning. We took a train and then a bus to get to Station 5 of the Subashiri Trail. Subashiri felt very technical, so I was glad to have good hiking boots, gaiters, and hiking poles. I had a small day pack that included a bladder from my Camelback, snacks, wet-weather gear, and extra layers of clothes for the summit. I brought yen for restrooms and more snacks. We began our hike at 10:00am, and we made it to Station 8.5 at about 5:00pm. We stopped every half hour to drop our packs, have a snack, and to work on hydration. I have been training for ultra-running for 10 months now, and I eat every half hour, whether or not I am hungry, and I made my hiking friends do the same. It seems excessive, but we never bonked. We never got hangry. Our blood-sugar levels never dropped. We maintained the same speed the whole time. Our 30 minute stops worked great for us. We made it to Station 8.5, and we stayed in a hut. When the sun set, it got cold, so we essentially just ate, and put ourselves to bed.
We woke up at 2:30am, and we began hiking to the summit by 3:00am. We had not seen many people on day 1, but this early hike proved to be very different. Two trailheads combined, and many people wanted to see the sunrise, so we all snaked up the mountain with our headlamps on. This part of the mountain was technical, and we went very slowly, which suited me fine. It was dark, and there were so many rocks. I prayed my rosary (with the exception of the Stations of the Cross), and before I knew it, I saw the sign saying that we were 200 meters from the top. I nearly started crying. I had so many emotions built into this, and we were about to accomplish something significant. We were blessed with the most amazing morning, and the views took my breath away. We got lucky. I didn’t realize how lucky we were until I started talking to so many people who had not been as lucky. I met a Japanese guy who had climbed it 18 times and only had good weather 1 time. We were essentially experiencing the 1 in 18 times.
The climb down wasn’t near as fun nor near as pretty. I fell time and time again. I had to take baby steps to prevent from falling on my backside. Every time I tried to look at something that wasn’t directly in front of me, I fell. Very old people and very young people flew down the mountain past me, and I just tried to stay focused on my baby steps. It took us about 9 hours to get up and only about 3 to get down. We didn’t take those 30 minute stops; we just wanted to be done, and when we were done, we found ice cream, noodles, hot drinks, and lots of fluids. All we needed to do was head back to the city so that we could shower and celebrate.
Celebrating in a pandemic looks very different than under normal circumstances. We bought wine and cheese, crackers, olives, and good bread, and we took them back to the hotel. We created our own little feast. We enjoyed our last night together because we all knew that as soon as we got back to Okinawa, life would get very busy, so this time together was very special.
If you ever have the chance to do something big, take the chance, but the only word of caution: remember that it IS a big deal. Treat it as such. Train for the hard and make note of the good, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way.