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Climbing Fuji-san : The Way Up

JAPAN | Wednesday, 21 July 2010 | Views [972]

Fuji-san, also known as Mt. Fuji or Fujiyama, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3776 meters (12,388 ft) tall.

Fuji-san, also known as Mt. Fuji or Fujiyama, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3776 meters (12,388 ft) tall.

Our bus arrived at Fuji-san at 5 o'clock in the morning.  We piled off the bus, stowed our additional gear in lockers, bought our ultra-cool walking sticks and started our climb.

Here's a view from the parking lot.  The sunrise was gorgeous, even if we weren't at the summit to watch it.

The first bit of trail was nice and easy to lure us in and not have us run screaming in the opposite direction.

The view was already breath-taking (though from beauty at this point, not oxygen deprivation.)  Check out that sunrise!

A view looking up the mountain from the trail.  We were still clearly below the vegetation line.

Random American (not in our group) posing in front of the climbing route sign.

We got to walk through the woods for a while, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Reminded me of nature walks in PA, just with more stone.

You can see the angle of the path a little better in this photo.  These were no longer the gentle sloping walk ways we started on...and we still hadn't cleared the tree line yet.

Then came the rock climbing, which Brandon and Chris were nice enough to demonstrate.    (Chris climbed with us until Level 8.  He's climbed to the summit 13 times already, so now he climbs to Level 8 and calls it good.)  It's during these stretches that you start wishing maybe you weren't carrying that ultra-cool walking stick.  But don't worry, the stick more than makes up for the hassle on the way down.

We saw two Stitch on our way up the mountain!  Surprise!

Check out that view!

One of the stations we passed as we made our way up the mountain.  This was the first station we came across...and it was closed.

So we trekked on in search of ultra-cool brands (stamps) for our ultra-cool walking sticks.  (Each station has it's own unique fire brand.)

You can see some of the stations from here, but the top of Fuji-san that you can see is not the summit.  Not quite the pleasantest of thoughts when you're at the bottom looking up, let me tell you.

The trail alternated between rocky switchbacks and rock climbing most of the way.  My least favorite was this type of rock climbing.  If you saw a metal chain running through it, you knew it was going to be bad.  And you knew that you'd best make use of that chain to help pull yourself up.

I took this photo from my level, as I looked for my next foot purchase.  The chain was well above my head at this angle and helped give me a boost up when my legs weren't quite long enough to reach what I had planned.

There were steps that led up to each station.  Sometimes they were a welcome sight, other times, not so much.  (Bear in mind that both Brandon and I have previous knee injuries we were contending with.  Stairs are not always our friends.)

We did a lot of climbing that day.  Somewhere around this point we stated to wonder if spending the previous three days walking around Tokyo about 8 hours a day might not have been the most brilliant idea we'd ever had.  Oops.

3100 meters out of 3776.  We took a short break at each station.  Long enough to grab a bite of PowerBar and swig of Gatorade while they branded our ultra-cool walking sticks.  The individual brands ran between $2-$3, but were definitely worth it.  Our ultra-cool walking sticks (hey, I climbed and earned the right to call them that) are our favorite souvenir of the experience.

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow!  If I hadn't been exhausted already, I would have serenaded Brandon with a rousing rendition of the "snow" interlude from White Christmas.  As it was, I think I squeaked a happy "snow!"

When we'd get tired, we'd just look back over where we came from.  We knew it was either continue up or try to climb back down that way...down over all those nasty rock climbing portions.  What great motivation that proved!

Chris had told us all to get a good look at Fuji-san when we were still on the bus.  It looked beautiful!  He assured us that as we got closer, it became uglier and uglier.  At the point in time I snapped this photo, I was still thinking that the lava rock was pretty.  You can believe I stopped thinking that and started agreeing with Chris the further up we got.  Oxygen deprivation and exhaustion don't lend themselves to a cheerful outlook on looking at a bunch of rocks.

Brandon leading the way...or at least waiting for me before starting the next switchback.  :)

Finally, I reached my snow!  I was such a happy girl!  Living on Okinawa, I didn't get to see snow last winter, so this was extra-exciting for me.  I'll take this moment to mention that this was the first time I've worn my polar fleece since moving here, too.  And while we're on the subject, did you notice my awesome hat?!  This is the second time that hat has hiked Fuji-san with me.  The saying goes that to climb Fuji once is a great accomplishment, but only a fool climbs twice.  My hat and I agree with the saying now.  The second time is much more difficult than the first.

A whole truck load of "stairs" to climb to get to the next station.  And these stairs were extra special (and challenging) due to their varying heights (I recommend practicing goose stepping to prepare for climbing Fuji-san) and widths. 

Above cloud level now.  In fact, we actually stood in a cloud at one of the stations on the way up.  That was an interesting, chilly experience.

Brandon snapped a photo of the brand sign at one of the stations.  2010 is the year of the Tiger.

One of the torii gates on Fuji-san.

There was an American flag flying at Station 8.5.

It was surprising how beautiful it was at times!

Two happy, but exhausted, climbers.  :)  And we still had to climb back down the mountain.  :)

---Arielle

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