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Climbing Mount Fuji
Rating: ( 4.8 ) ( 28 votes )

Kawaguchi, Japan
Jul 16, 2003 07:51

Pros: beautiful scenery, place full of surprises
Cons: none

I arrived in Japan late on Tuesday night. I was a bit nervous because it's the first time I've travelled completely alone with absolutely nothing organised, but I needn't have worried because everyone is very friendly and everything is very well organised.

I arrived in Kawaguchi early afternoon and walked around the lake before catching the bus up to the 5th stage of Mount Fuji. I had decided the climb the mountain overnight and watch the sun rise at the top. The mountain is 12,388 feet (3776 metres). From stage 5, which is cheating a bit because it's already about 8,500 feet up, it takes 6 hours to get to the top. I met up with some French, Mexican and Morrocan students and a college professor from San Francisco on the bus. We started the climb at about 9.30pm. It was a beautiful night, almost full moon, which we could see lighting up the clouds hundreds of feet below us. About 10 minutes into the walk we bumped into 2 spanish guys. A bit futher up we met some English lads. By the time we got to the last stage there were crowds of people, so many in fact we actually had to queue to climb up the mountain. It took about 5 hours to get to the last stage before the top and I was fine at this point, just a bit tired as it was about 2.00am. The climbing was very hard going, about a third of the route is actual rock climbing, which is very difficult when you're trying to hold a torch to see where you're going. I was laughing at the bottom when all the Japanese were buying oxygen for the climb. I wasn't laughing when I got to the last stage and couldn't catch my breath at all. The last stage was supposed to take an hour, but it took me 2 hours, this was a combination of having to queue - walking a couple of steps and stopping for a minute, walking a couple of steps, stopping for a minute, mostly for the Japanese to stop and take pictures. It wasn't too bad as by this point I was seriously out of breath and couldn't have gone any faster anyway. I eventually got to the top at 4.15am and I cried - through relief and pure exhaustion. The dawn was just breaking - it was beautiful, unfortunately it was also incredibly cloudy and we couldn't see a thing - not even the crater. I was so cold by this time I just went and sat in a rest hut and drank a can of hot chocolate, which did nothing to warm me up. I missed the sun rise as I was too cold to sit out side - which was very disappointing.

Not long later we decided to head down as we were too cold. About 10 minutes down we looked back up to clear blue sky, the clouds had cleared. We debated walking back up to see the crater. I said it would be a shame not to seeing as we'd come so far, so with a great deal of huffing and puffing we made it back to the top. The crowds had gone and we could see the crater - it was amazing. We started out descent at 6.30am and arrived back at 9.30am. The downward journey was hard work too - zig zagging ash paths the whole way down! I caught the bus back to Kawaguchi and said farewell to my new friends. I was planning to catch the train to Hiroshima, but decided just to get a hotel in Tokyo as it would be 8.00pm before the train arrived in Hiroshima. The train stopped at Tokyo but the doors wouldn't open. We realised that we weren't actually in Tokyo, but at a station just outside Tokyo. The doors weren't opening and we couldn't understand what was happening - Japanese trains are supposed to be very reliable. The train guard was running up and down the train and there were men wearing hard hats running up and down the platform. Someone eventually told that us someone had just jumped in front of the train. We had to exit through the drivers compartment on to the platform. There were workers holding up green sheets so that people couldn't see what was going on, so they had to move to let us out. It was just as well I wasn't going to Hiroshima as I'd missed the train anyway!

I eventually found a hotel - a little japanese one with a futon. Unfortunately there were cockroaches in my room and I ended up being chased round the hotel by a horrible Korean man who kept trying to whisper in my ear. I was exhausted after 36 hours without sleep, so it was the perfect end to the day