35.363576° N, 138.730717° E
Wonder what those digits above stand for? Those are the co-ordinates for Mount Fuji, Fujiyama or Fuji-san as we know it . Scaling Mount Fuji had been on my Bucket List for quite a while. So, now I’d like to rewind & tell you how the saga unfolded nearly four years ago.
“Semper Paratus” is Latin for being well prepared, & that’s what my friends kept drilling into my head a month in advance, day in & day out. But I just shrugged it off & thought scaling Fuji-san would be a walk in the park .
D-Day August 10th arrived. Was not able to sleep well the previous night due to last minute packing mixed with excitement. We were supposed to meet in front of Shinjuku-West exit at 7am but I was running late. I made it just in time for departure at 7:30am by bus. We took the Fuji Subaru line & arrived at the 5th station (2300m) around 11am. Spent an hour to acclimatize ourselves to the atmosphere. Then at noon we set off on our ascent along with an energetic guide. What can I say, honestly I’m lost for words. Each turn & twist enlightened you with a panoramic view. Never imagined Mt. Fuji had such an awesome & varied landscape. Before I knew it, I was panting & clearly out of breath ! What kept me going, you may ask ? Well, it was the hoards of old people & kids effortlessly climbing, that gave me the sheer determination & perseverance to carry on. Honestly, I now have tremendous respect for people who have climbed Mt. Fuji. Along our ascent we stopped umpteen number of times to catch our breath & recharge our feeble bodies with energy bars & power drinks. The further we trudged along the more we realized the magnificent aura & power of Fuji-san. Since it was a clear & sunny day we were fortunate to view the shadow of the exceptionally symmetrical cone of Mt. Fuji below us. We arrived at our lodge at the 8.5th Station, around 7pm. We were totally exhausted but relieved to rest our sore & aching bodies. Dinner was served at 7:30 after which we were packed like a can of sardines on bunker beds. We had to wake up at 1:30am for the next leg of our journey. Falling to sleep was out of the question. I was just tossing & turning all night long. Made a couple of pit stops to the restroom. Enjoyed the cool, crisp air , watched the beautiful twinkling stars (a rare site in Tokyo) & the shimmering lights of the towns & cities below. Was surprised to see that many people climb during the night. Heaven knows how they do that since it was quite an ordeal climbing during the day !
August 11th, 2am – It was pitch dark outside & we were met with a wave of climbers. Was wondering whether the summit could accommodate all of us? It was a week day & there was a traffic jam on Mt. Fuji. Can’t imagine what it must be like on weekends. While climbing up, it was really beautiful to look down & see below us, a long serpentine trail of lights winding slowly up. After a lot of stops we made it to the top at 4:30 am. It was freezing & very windy. We huddled together into one of the Huts & warmed ourselves with a bowl of piping hot oden. It was like manna from heaven ! The summit was engulfed by a sea of people eager to watch the sunrise called “Goraiko” which means “honorable arrival of light”. I must say that in the beginning I did not think much of viewing the sunrise but it was really stunning. Nothing like watching it with your naked eyes. Pictures & videos don’t do justice to this spectacular view.
“Ohachi-meguri” – a trek around the crater that took us an hour & a half, was worth it. We visited a shrine & the Post office & let out a sigh of accomplishment as we planted ourselves on the highest point in Japan, which is 3776.24m.
Our descent was by far the worst experience of my life. Honestly I’d like to forget about it but its etched in my memory & will haunt me for the rest of my life. We chose to take the short cut & I guess the guides took us on a wild goose chase & made us stop at all the little huts, in order to give them some business. I was cribbing, complaining & cursing all the way. The descent was the last straw that broke my back. I had sore muscles & was hobbling around in excruciating pain for a couples of days.
I know I’m ending on a sour note but don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. The sumptuous lunch & rejuvenating bath at the hot-spring after our descent, was a momentary relief.
Have you climbed Mt. Fuji ? If not, I would highly recommend it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience !! You have a little over a month to whip yourself into shape, since climbing season starts from July 10th, so check out the official website for details ~ http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en/index.html