Dormitory Food tastes SO GOOD after starving and freezing on top of Mt.Fuji…
Mt. Fuji: the largest mountain in Japan, and sleeping volcano (last erruption in 1707-1708). Climbing Fuji-san is something you *have* to do if you come to Japan and like hiking. There is a saying: “You are a fool if you do not climb Fuji-san, and you are a fool if you do it more than once.” I’d have to agree with this.
Saturday morning, 9am – Ben, Alex, and I left on our bikes to ride to Ogaki station, a 40 minute bike ride. We ended up missing a turn off on our way, so we missed the train we were originally going to catch, but that was ok. From Ogaki we took a few trains (maybe 4-5 hours) and ended up in Fujinomiya. From there, we took a bus (3000yen round trip) to the half-way point on Fuji-san. 2 hours. It was 5:30pm, and we hadn’t even started hiking yet. The weather, however, was perfect!
Even though we knew we did not have to leave until maybe 9pm (we didn’t want to have to wait too long at the peak in freezing weather), we started our casual ascent seeing as the weather was so perfect. It was really beautiful, and we could not have hoped for better weather. We were lucky. The bus had dropped us off at station 5, and by the time we reached station 7, it was very cold. I had brought a full change of clothes, and I ended up tying my spare shirt on my head to keep warm. Ben, the “experienced hiker,” didn’t even have pants! (Or a camera!) I believe it was also at this station that we ran out of food. Yes, to say we were prepared for the night ahead would be the lie of the century. So… we were prepared, because we’re professionals. ^_^
To keep warm, we had to snuggle. Three guys cuddling together… maybe “huddling” would be more appropriate. What a bonding experience! I suppose most near-death experiences are…. =) We tried to sleep in many places. We were exhausted! But, the wind was not allowing it. I don’t know what the wind chill factor was, but it was VERY cold, and it was so difficult to hide from. We were at the wind’s mercy. The best place we found was nestled in some crevace of the volcanic rock… I may have slept for 15 minutes there… If I was lucky. Poor Ben had to try and make a cocoon out of his cheap **parka**, and Alex.. well, no matter how much stuff that guy wore he was never gonna be warm. We were all starving. Ben had thought that we could buy ramen (instant noodles) at one of the mountain huts, so that kept our spirits high: “Yeah, we get to eat hot noodles when we get to the top!”
Eventually, we reached the top. Of course, it the windiest and coldest place on the mountain. I think we reached the top at 3:00am, and we still had maybe an hour and half before the sun would rise. And guess what? No ramen. It was as if the mountain just spat in our face. That was one of the longest “hour-and-a-half”s I have ever experienced. I was extremely uncomfortable, wedged in between a big rock and a narrow wooden bench, and the icy cold ground. I couldn’t get any sleep, and I couldn’ even stay still because I was so uncomfortable. But, at last, the sun started to show its colours. The sky gradually lightened. The clouds (we were above some and below others) began to turn a fiery orange. This was it. The moment we’d been waiting for. We quickly headed over to a better viewpoint. I was extremely happy to move – it generated some badly needed body-heat for me. I found a really good location behind a big rock that shielded me a bit from the wind, and took many, many pictures. There must have been hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing. The sunrise was magnificant.
It was morning, and we had our priorities straight: 1) food 2) get the hell out of there. The mountain hut at the peak was open after the sunrise, and it was packed like a Tokyo train in rush-hour! And for what? Over-priced instant noodles. Oh, I know you’re wondering… just how over-priced were these instant noodles? For a cup of noodles that maybe costs 150yen at a konbini (convenience store), we gladly paid 800yen (almost $10 CDN). It wasn’t even a question, we would probably have paid 2500yen – we were starving. And it was a pretty damn good cup of noodles, let me tell you!
Fuji-san has many different routes. We took the Fujinomiya route (starting at 2400m) up the beast because it was most convenient for us to get to. This is the shortest and steepest route. We took the Gotemba route down. As soon as you start heading down the mountain on the Gotemba route, you can see your destination: a some shiny cars way-the-f**k off in the distance in some huge parking lot. For the whole way down, maybe five hours, you can see this same destination. It seems never to grow in size or appear any closer. The trail, itself, is very easy. It’s not too steep, and it’s very sandy. This is why it is a good trail to go down. The last half of the route is a HUGE sandy/gravel hill gradually ending up at the parking lot. I had lots of fun running and jumping down this, because the sand was very deep, and would absorb impact very effectively. It was like running down sand dunes, only this hill took hours to descend. Ben trodded on and Alex kept saying, “I can’t believe they expect people to walk this far! It’s so unreasonable!” He wasn’t very happy. =)
At last, we were at the bottom dumping piles of rocks and gravel out of our shoes and looking at our black feet in disgust. Soon after that, we were on our bus returning to Fujinomiya city, where we would begin our train trip back home. The trains were crowded, and we weren’t lucky enough to get a seat a lot of the time. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded that much, but I was SO tired… (no sleep) + (hiking Fuji-san) + (no food) = Steve, tired like the dead. I managed to get a little bit of precious sleep, but it seemed to do me no good… or make my situation worse. I think it was around 4pm Sunday when we got back to Ogaki, and we still had to bike back. We had all agreed that stopping at the first place we came across to get some ice-cream was a good idea. And that’s exactly what we did. Alex nearly had an accident on a bridge on the way back (a girl tried to pass him and they ended up grazing each other and coming to a stop), but other than that, it was pretty uneventful. It was good to be home.
The best things about Sunday were the sunrise, the 800yen instant noodles, the massive sandy hill, the ice cream, and finally, the shower… the shower was badly needed.
NOTE: I may have started this journal entry at work, but I barely got to do anything on it before I became super busy… I wrote the rest of it over the next few days in my spare time at home (mah cozy dorm room). ^_^