The day finally arrived when my Japanese friend Masahiro and I were going to climb Mt. Fuji. His family seemed a bit nervous, and even though I really did not know what lie ahead, I reassured them that we would be fine.
I felt calm on the way there, a quite excitement underneath. I had long said I was going to climb Mt. Fuji, but this time it was coming true. When we arrived, I noticed a lot of people around the area. We begin immediately.
The trail started out easy enough on the way up. It was mostly just a dirt trail. We noticed, however, that everyone coming down looked incredibly tired, and we were soon to find out why. A little way up, the terrain began to change to what I like to call to rock waterfalls or rocky stairs, which were literally mounds of rocks ascending like stairs. This was probably the most daunting part of the ascent.
There were times when Masahiro and I would get out of breath quite easily. I think due to the higher altitude, our bodies were still adjusting. After about an hour, we reached the 7th station, where we could take a rest and buy a bottle of water.
We were already pretty high up, and I must say what surprised me the most about Fuji was the abundant greenery. Whenever you see the pictures from afar, you imagine just a solid rock mass with a snow-covered top, but Fuji is truly teeming with life.
We continued on after a small rest until we reached another station about an hour later. It was already getting much cooler, so I put on my jacket. It was beginning to get dark too, but we had to reach the hotel before it got too dark. The trail from that point on to the hotel was not as bad.
Another hour of climbing and we reached the hotel, around 7:30. I was kind of grateful that it had gotten pretty dark, because we were really high up and some of the paths were real narrow. If I looked to my side I might have panicked.
The hotel, which by its name one would imagine something different, was actually more of a lodge. Inside there were rows of low tables for eating and in the other room there were these rows of continuous beds. It was more like bunk beds except they were all connected, so in other words everyone had to sleep in the same bed. It was chilly inside, but the bed was supplied with heavy blankets.
We had to get up at 2:30 if we were going to reach the summit by sunrise, so after a quick meal of curry rice we went straight to bed. I did not sleep too well, and I was fully awake by 2. When we started out, I was surprised by all the people outside. It seems that everyone wanted to get to the top before sunrise as well.
The climb up from here was mostly just ascending dirt trails of various heights, and we had been pretty much alone climbing so far. From here on out, we got into a large group, which made the ascent a little bit slower. I noticed a group of men dressed in Army uniforms, and I wondered if Mt. Fuji is used for training.
On the way up, it got incredibly cold, especially since we frequently stopped. My whole body began to shake, and my hands became numb. I seriously thought my foot was getting hypothermia, but I was just freaking out. It truly was a chill down to the bone. I was determined to make it to the top, though. I had made it this far.
Every time I thought we were almost there, another spiral path would appear. Finally after 3 hours, I saw the final torii gate signifying the end. It was already becoming daylight. It was so cloudy that there would be brief moments of darkness, and then the clouds would move to allow a window of light which pleased everyone.
When we reached the top, the only thing I wanted to do was to get something warm to drink, but first we had to go look at the sun. It was about half up, and from this altitude you could stare directly at it without being blinded. We tried getting some pictures, but I do not think they truly captured the beauty. The most stunning aspect though was the sea of clouds below. It was absolutely magnificent.
After this, we immediately went and got some hot coffee. My hands were so numb, that when I grabbed the coffee cup I did not even feel the warmth at first. But gradually, I began to feel warmer inside.
The top of Mt. Fuji is pretty much what you would expect of a volcano. There were incredibly strong winds blowing ash into my face. We took our photo by the post at the top and then began our descent.
The trail going down was much safer and was pretty much a dirt/soil path all the way down. I was completely exhausted by this time, and was trudging down very slowly. The trip down only took about half as long as going up, about 3 hours.
When we finally reached the bottom, we were triumphant. We did it! It was truly a memorable experience, even now as I am writing I feel sore in my legs and lower back, reminders of the journey.