On 10/28/2005 at about 8:30 AM local time I set my foot on the top of the highest mountain in Japan – Mt Fuji 12388 feet high.
Since Tuesday it’s raining hard in Tokyo. My hopes are it will stop because rain and the possible strong winds the guides talk about are the only things that could stop my ascent. I am attempting the climb in post season when all of the huts are closed since September and some of the guide books about tents flying down the mountain with people in them… However during the open season the climb is like downtown on Friday afternoon – people in lines waiting to make the next step.
Even on Wednesday it continues to rain while I am leaving my hotel in Tokyo. Only after changing the trains in Otsuki sun shows its face and gives me some hope. At the last train station Kawaguchiko the sun is finally out but Mt. Fuji is hiding in the clouds. Last bus leaves at 1:30 PM and I am the only passenger. Therefore the driver can make some stops during the way so I don’t have take all the pictures from behind a window – better than taxi! After registering with the mountain patrol, where nobody speaks English and the only forecast I can get is “tomorrow OK” instead of wind speed and temperature for the night I am leaving towards the begging of the trail. Starts is slower than expected, mainly because the altitude makes it hard to breath for me and the backpack seems so much heavier compared to checks while packing it. Sun is very quickly hiding behind the mountain and it is getting cold very quickly. First stop for some snack is around 4 PM and you can see the shadow of Mt. Fuji on the photos. It gets also dark and even colder and I am crossing the 3000m mark (9842 feet).
I am getting hungry again so I stop and cook some soup and hot tea. Interestingly what takes 5 minutes while camping in Washington is not done even after 15 minutes of full flame due to the wind, cold and possibly altitude. Around 6:15 I fell better and set to continue going up again. It is dark so I am using a headlamp and carefully go over rocks with snow using the chains guarding the trail. The fatigue is coming back very fast so around 9 PM I am preparing my bivouac, changing into dry clothing and moving all the layer I got from the backpack on my body. However even though I have all the cloth and I am in a sleeping tired I can’t sleep. Occasional winds brings snow onto my face and my feet are getting very cold. I am getting out and trying some exercises but it does not help much. The only other idea to get me feet warm is to use my goratex pants and wrap them up around my feet. Finally around midnight I am falling asleep. Snow is bothering me again but I can see sun coming up so I am getting out to take some photos from about 11000 feet. After breakfast I am packing some nergy gels and chocolate and leaving the rest so I can go faster, Just below the top I am passing an American guy from California. He started the climb at 11PM and didn’t sleep at all. Finally I am reaching the top and looking into a crater that is much bigger that I expected. After taking some pictures and reaching the false summit the we are agreeing with the guy after looking at the map the real summit will be on the opposite side of the crater near the observatory. After we walk around and a short climb we can take pictures from the real summit of Mt. Fuji. I made it! At about 9:30 we are starting the descent together and I am picking up my stuff on the way down.
We made it back to the mountain patrol station around 2PM, just in time for some great bbq roasted pork and a quick beer. Then we have to run to catch the last bus down.
From the train station I am continuing by bus through the pass around Mt. Fuji to a city called Gotemba where I am staying in a hotel and next day visiting local hot springs to get my bones unfrozen. At the evening back on train to Tokyo and next day on a flight to Seattle.