Monday, July 5, 2010

Crazy Climbers!

A well-known Japanese saying suggests that anybody would be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji once—but a fool to do so twice. I completely agree with this saying, as I am so very glad that I did it, but will probably never do it again!

I learned several things on what I will call our “Fuji adventure.” First of all, I have to admit that climbing up Mt. Fuji was at the top of Nick and my list of things to do while in Japan. Well, now we can honestly say we have in fact climbed Mt. Fuji. And yes, we did make it all the way to the top! In fact, we even did what most people would consider crazy, and climbed at night, just so we could watch the sun rise from the highest point in Japan! What we didn’t anticipate is that it would take as long as it did, or that it would rain on us for most of the way up the mountain/volcano!

Notice we were warned...we read this sign as it was raining!
Nick and I went with two of our friends, Mari and Chris Kruger (who are also our sponsors). When we arrived in Japan, we were excited to find out that the two of them had not yet climbed Fuji (this was surprising because they have already been here a year and a half and practically done everything!). Now was the perfect time to climb because the boys had the weekend off for the holiday, and Fuji’s climbing season is only 2 months long (July and August, otherwise it is too cold)!
Before the climb...

On the drive to Mt Fuji (or what the Japanese consider the honorable Fuji-san) we missed our exit, which resulted in us taking an hour detour! This is when I discovered that highways in Japan do not have exits…like ever! I don’t know if they think it is ok to drive an hour on a road and not get off of it, but in the States we have exits almost every half mile….in Japan it is like every 90 kilometers! (In Japan they don’t do things in miles, it’s in kilometers. So instead of driving 50 mph, here we drive 80 kilometers!!! Very confusing!) You will be driving and see your house go past you, but not be able to get off of the highway to get to it for another 30 minutes, where you will then have to backtrack on side roads…annoying! Bottom line, don’t miss your exit!

Nick's sandwriting isn't so great, it says: "Holman Mt Fuji"

Well in our case, missing the exit was an accident, for obvious reasons the signs were confusing! Nonetheless, we finally made it to Fuji…when we got there, we wanted to make a pit stop before we made our ascend up the mountain. This is where I discovered that for the remainder of our adventure we would be paying to use the restrooms!!!

Nick and I at one of the first stops. There were stations at every few thousand feet where you could use the restroom, get your walking stick stamped, get something to eat and at some places go in and sleep...of course all of these things came with a fee!

Our entire trip up and then down the mountain was exactly 14½ hours, so it was next to impossible to not use the restroom at least a couple times…especially since we were drinking as much as possible, so as to stay hydrated! Not only did you have to pay to use the facilities, but in most of the restrooms, the toilets were in the ground (old school Japanese toilets) and you had to throw the toilet paper in the trashcans – instead of the toilet!!! Absolutely DISGUSTING!!!

Raining and yucky!

Before we started our journey up Fuji-san we purchased these walking sticks (BEST idea ever…they saved our lives more than once!!!) that would not only be our souvenirs but also help us climb the mountain. The sticks are legendary; they have a Japanese flag at the top and 2 bells attached. Supposedly, the bells were traditionally put on the walking sticks to wake up the Gods so they could hear the Japanese coming up the mountain…they are very superstitious like that! What we all liked the most about the walking sticks was that there were places all the way up the mountain where you could get your stick “stamped” indicating that you had surpassed a certain point. The “stamps” were actually burned into the wood of the stick; it was very old school and interesting to watch. Each stamp is different and unique…we were kind of obsessive about theses stamps, we had to get one at every stop, even though they were 200 Yen each! Nonetheless they make for excellent keepsakes, and as I said before, they helped get us up the mountain safely!

Our sticks were so wet, they had to dry them off before they could engrave them!

Getting up the mountain was not easy, only 1% of Japanese ever climb Fuji in their lifetime and those who haven’t, think you’re brave if you do so! In fact it is very steep in some areas and freezing at the top, which makes for some difficulty. Considering Nick and I are active people, we weren’t that worried about climbing it, but we did not anticipate the rain, or the lack of oxygen. Because we went up the mountain at night, it was dark in addition to the rain, thus making the rocks slippery and hard to see! Scary! Fortunately the only battle wound any of us got, was when Nick tripped on a rock and it came tumbling down the mountain and stopped on my shin! Nick caught himself and didn’t fall, I caught the rock and therefore got an ugly goose egg on my leg! Other than that we all safely made the trip!

The worst part about the rain was that it left us soaking wet, and because it got colder the higher up we went, we were popsicles before we reached the summit! The top ¼ of the volcano is covered in snow, so even after it stopped raining, it was too cold for us to dry. The last hour of our climb, we had to push our way up the last leg against the wind, which was incredibly hard! At times it would approach faster, the strong wind would come rushing at us. We would have to duck our heads to not get the ice in our faces, and brace our legs so we didn’t fall over, which we all nearly did! At one point, the wind knocked off Chris’s hat and head light, but because it was so dark and windy, we couldn’t see to retrieve it!

For the most part, we refused to pay money to go inside the facilities on the mountain. Instead, we would just huddle outside of the buildings where we were partially blocked from the rain to get a little warmer. At the last stop before the top however, we finally broke down and paid to go inside one of the places and eat...we got hot chocolate and Japanese noodles.

The problem with going inside somewhere, was that we were able to go inside to dry and get warm for about 30 minutes, but it made it harder to go back outside and made it seem even colder!

Mari and I right before we reached the top of was so foggy and gross!

Around 4AM, we finally reached the summit of the honorable Fuji! Because we were up so high (12,388 ft above sea level) there were clouds and fog hiding the sun, but it did come out and shine on us for moments at a time. The view from the top was breathtaking! Though it was a long night up the mountain and it was not an easy ascend, the scenery and pictures we took were worth it!

Finally at the top!

After we started warming up from the sun, we finally started to enjoy the scenery and take pictures of the view.

On top of the clouds...
It was so early in the morning that the moon was still's tiny, but you can see it in the picture below.
Sitting on the side of the mountain, getting warm and enjoying the view...
As we were sitting there, Nick decided to take off his boots and give his feet a rest. All of a sudden, his boot went sliding down the mountain...if you look closely, in the picture below you can see his boot where it came to a stop by some rocks! It was very funny watching him try to retrieve the boot without sliding down himself!
Our shoes and pants were covered in sediments from the volcanic rock
We met some Australian girls on our descend...they were so cute with their little Aussie accents we just had to take a picture with them! The one closest to me works at Tokyo Disney as technically, we got a picture with Tink!

All of a sudden, my camera started acting funny and it did some weird effects to a few pictures.
Again with the weirdness of my camera...but here's Nick climbing down the mountain on one of the parts where there were lots of rough rocks!
One of the 1% of Japanese, climbing Fuji...
Loved this little man's hat...he kept bowing and wouldn't look up!
A mini shrine where people put their bells, as sort of a token to one of the god's.
We made it to the bottom!!!

Afterwards we went to eat at a little restaurant by where we parked our car. One of the meals on the menu was curry and rice shaped into a volcano, symbolizing Mt. Fuji!


  1. wow!! you got some great pictures!! I AM SO GLAD THAT'S OVER, RIGHT!?!?!?! ha! so glad you found a house---I can't wait to see where it is. :) talk to you soon

  2. Oh please oh please climb it again with us when we come visit!!

  3. My hubs got a flag just like that when he climbed it like 12 yrs ago! It looks like ya'll are having so much fun!