Monday, September 1, 2008

3.776 meters (12.395 feet) later...

Hello all!

I bet you are wondering what in the world is 3,776 meters long right? Well, its not long...its high. Mt. Fuji that is! Mt. Fuji or Fuji-san, as it is respectfully known as here, is my latest story to tell you. This past Saturday, the 30th, Matt, Leah and I all set out for Fuji-san. We left at the crazy hour of 5:00 am so that we could get down their early enough to climb that morning. It was a great plan, however, it didn't quite work out that way. We made good time, and we even made it through Tokyo without getting lost! That is a feat in and of itself! As we got closer and closer it kept looking stormier and stormier. This is not a good thing when trying to climb a mountain. Just for information purposes...apparently a climber was killed a few weeks ago do to lightning. Yikes! So obviously, we were a bit apprehensive and decided to talk to a weather person at the Fuji Visitor Center. We already had our room booked for the night so we could climb on Sunday if need be. Well, they said that Saturday was not good, but Sunday looked good to climb. So, we decided to lay low and enjoy our day exploring around Fuji. We went and checked in to the Youth Hostel and then decided to go explore the Kawaguchi Lake. This is one of the 5 big lakes around Fuji. We drove and walked around before deciding to hit a shop on the lake for some lunch. That afternoon, we took a nice nap (gotta rest for Fuji) and grabbed some dinner and then we went to bed fairly early. All in all...a good, relaxing day!

Day 2 of the Fuji-san journey began at 5:30 am and we left to drive up to Fuji at 6:00 am. Another early day! The weather was looking much more promising and so we decided today was the day to give it our all. We drove up to the starting point (aka 5th Station) at about 5,000 feet to start the long day of climbing. All three of us were armed with our packs full of snacks, a lot of water and plenty of clothing (for rain and warmth). The first thing to do is by your walking stick. Its a simple wooden stick (with a flag) that you can get stamped at each station along the mountain. When I say stamped, I mean a burned in stamp. Its really pretty cool! After this we set out for our journey. Before making it to the 6th station I am already thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" Just for reference, the time between the 5th and 6th stations is like 20 minutes! ha! Anyway, so we make it to the 6th station and press onward. Matt and Leah are apparently in much better shape than I, because I lagged behind them the entire time, but oh well. I was content with not passing out on the mountain! So I paced myself and tried to breathe deep breaths (not an easy thing to do at this altitude) and focus on keeping my legs moving. So throughout the day fog would roll in and the mist would come with it. It was quite serene at times. Obviously, having flown before, I have been above the clouds, but never because I have climbed there! It was amazing to look out and see clouds move in and out as you are on the face of this mountain! So to make a long story short, we made it to the summit around 1:00 pm! It has been a long time since I have felt that much relief at seeing the end of something! Whew! We were all whipped and ready for a much needed break, that is for sure! At the top of Fuji is a crater (due to it being a volcano), and if you want to, you can hike around the crater. This hike is another 90 minutes. Matt and Leah (with a hopeful look in their eye) decided to go. I said, ever so politely, "I don't think so!" ha! I was happy with my summit as it was! I decided to sit down and journal a bit about the journey (I will share this in the next post), and just relax. The weather at the top was unbelievable! We actually had blue skies above us and lots of sun! Yes, we all got a bit of sunburn, but nothing too bad. Well, Matt and Leah headed off to go around the crater and then quickly returned. Turns out they had accidentally headed down the decent path a bit and had to climb back up a few meters. When they had to do that they said never mind! We all relaxed and regained some energy for the decent back down. The decent was a breeze compared to the climb! We were heading down pretty quickly due to approaching storms that we could see building around the mountain (not a good feeling when you are on top). We made it down to the bottom in 2 1/2 hours and we were oh so glad to cross that finish line! Oh such a sweet feeling! So we bought our omiyage (souvenirs) and such and headed to the car. The timing was perfect, because as soon as we got down the rain started to fall. It couldn't have worked out any better (unless I had taken a helicopter up). ha!

The only tough thing about climbing on Sunday is that we had to drive back on Sunday as well. Heading down to Fuji it took us about 3 1/2 hours. Heading back to home in Mito, it took us about 5 hours. The traffic was horrible! Matt did a great job getting us through Tokyo again (and avoiding crazy Japanese drivers) without incident! We were all very glad to be home and ready for a hot bath to soak in!

Well, that is the story of Fuji-san! I did it, and I don't plan to do it again! I will post pictures on the picture page, as well as posting my journal entry from the summit soon.

I hope all is well wherever you are! Happy Labor Day to all, enjoy your 3 day weekend (if you get one)! I can't believe September is already here!

Sayonara for now!

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