April 28, 2017

Mount Fuji – Sea to Summit Round 2!! (How to be an Idiot)

3W2A3069To say that this past weekend was a hellish one, would be a complete and utter understatement.  It was filled with endless roads, trails, heavy rain and hail, and even snow a the tail-end of the trip. So what did I do? I climbed Mt. Fuji starting from the Ocean… AGAIN!  Yup that’s right, I decided to throw all reason and logic out the window and take on the challenge again this year. To make things even more interesting, the weather forecasts predicted heavy rainstorms and lightning storms. To top that off, Wind Chill at the Peak was -2℃! This year’s climb was going to be truly challenging. Read on to find out why!3W2A2985Retracing my steps from last year, I spent Friday the 18th in Fuji City. This time though, I had a friend of mine tag along on the journey. We arrived in the city around 4pm and promptly checked into our hotel and dropped off our stuff. From there we headed out to the ocean to do the ceremonial “Filling up a pet bottle with Ocean water” to bring on our trip to the Peak of Mt. Fuji. Needless to say, I got soaked stumbling among the waves trying to fill 2 bottles as the waves were not very accommodating to our cause. Once they were filled though, we headed back to the city to eat a healthy dinner and nap for a few hours before actually heading out.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYcerR-MGI4&w=640&h=360]

At Midnight, we headed out into the darkness of the night towards our goal. Thankfully, the weather was just hot and humid, compared to the forecast of heavy rain and lightning storms. Luck Out!  We followed the road all the way until the last 7/11 to stock up on drinks and food for the remainder of the trip. From here, we traversed the highway while avoiding the occasional cars and trucks that passed within inches of us on the road. We had reflective gear and lights, so we were in no true danger, but we had to be cognizant of any possible traffic coming from both directions to avoid being roadkill.

3W2A2934After several hours of walking, dawn finally broke and we came upon our first break area. An elderly couple, ready to set off on their own adventure, saw us approaching and signed for us to come closer.  As we closed in, they smiled and offered us their seats. Surprised and welcoming the break, we took off our gear and took a seat. We spent the next 15 minutes or so talking with them about various things while they made us some coffee. Talk about Hospitality! They were so kind and nice. It really brightened up our mood and all those warm fuzzy feelings and what not. After we said our goodbyes, we set off on our trail again…

3W2A2974In the next Episode of … The Walking Dea… er Kitsune. Yeah, yeah, Kitsune. The Walking Kitsune…  Well, we walked for 5 or so more hours from here. All the roads began looking the same as we winded here and there on the highway. At the end of the Highway was our first major destination: Station 1 of Mt Fuji. Unfortunately for us, it began to rain towards the end of this point. We were slowly getting soaked even though we were wearing waterproof gear.  We kept treading on though and eventually made it to the first station. At this point we began noticing the first signs of sleep deprivation starting to affect us. We had only slept 3 hours the previous night to wake up at 11pm, so we were slowly getting fatigued.

2014-07-19 13.27.29Not wanting to stop, we decided to take a shortcut through the southern forest of Mt Fuji. By this time, the rain was coming down in droves. Not helping the situation was the constant lightning flashes that occurred every other minute. The lightning storm was looming overhead with no sign of stopping as we “Lord of the Rings”‘ed our way through the forest. It was at this time that Mt Fuji decide to give me the finger. As I was climbing a few ledges, the loose, wet gravel gave out from under me and my knee went straight into a corner of a rock that was jutting out of the ground. Pain. Red, Pure, Pain. It hurt and I had to take a long breather just to recover from it. I popped a few pain meds that I had brought with me for the trip and after a 15 minute break, I continued to hobble down the path.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv2o5IkGpM4&w=640&h=360]

After a few more hours we finally made it to the 5th station and took yet another long break. We had another huge meal, but we were more concerned with trying to dry off our clothes. We took a few pairs with us, but we didn’t want to quickly change into them. We wanted to conserve what we had, just in case we were stuck out at night, or if anything else were to occur.  At around 6pm, we packed up again and headed up the trail to the 6th station. Of course, this was the easiest trail so far, so we continued up to the 7th station. At this point, exhaustion was setting in and I needed a real break to let my knee rest up. We called it a night here and paid the ¥6,500 fee (Each Person) to rest.  We totally lucked out though, because it wasn’t crowded! The owner gave us the ‘merican treatment and let us spread out over an area that would usually have 5 or so people. Comfy and still somewhat wet, we dozed off into the night.

3W2A3012The next day, we still felt like crap. The clothes that we hung up along the wall the night before had not dried at all and were still damp. Defeated, we put them on and went out into the morning. A 10℃ morning. It was cold and starting to permeate our layers of clothes.  Wanting to keep warm and trying to reach the top before sunset, we pushed onward onto the foggy trails. Not soon after we set out, it began to rain again. Heavily. No joke, it was difficult to see at times. By the time we reached the 9th station, we were completely wet. We took this time to settle into the small restaurant and grab a bite to eat while we changed clothes and added more layers. It was no use though. After we left the 9th station, it began to rain yet again. And to make matters worse, 10 minutes into the hike up to the 9.5 station, it began to hail. The temperature dropped to 3℃ at this point and whatever new dry clothes we had were soaked as well now. I was now going up at a crawl as my knees were not agreeing with the pace I was going at. Eventually though… we reached the 9.5 station.

3W2A3046At the 9.5 station we took yet another break. The temperature outside was starting to sting and the rain and hail was not letting up. We got some coffees and foodstuffs in order to warm up, then we went back outside and wrapped up the final trail to the top. At around 5pm or so, we reached the summit of Mt Fuji and by this time, it was sparsely snowing. The temperature dipped below freezing at the top and not a soul was in sight. Most of the shops at the top were closing up for the night and the sun was slowly setting in the west. We quickly managed to get a picture of both of us at the top, then unceremoniously poured the Ocean water we got so long ago into the caldera of Mt. Fuji. Once our task was completed, we high-tailed it to the Fuji Yoshida side of the mountain and began climbing down.

3W2A3055By this time, it was dark. Like, reeaaaally dark! We zigzagged our way down the paths and made it to the Fuji Yoshida 5th station in record time: 9:30PM. All buses were gone at this point. There was no where to lodge for the night. We were stuck… or would have been, if not for the taxis we spotted in the corner of the parking area.  The cost to get from Mt. Fuji back into civilization? ¥20,000. We split the Taxi cost to get all the way back to Otsuki Station in Tokyo. Luckily, we made our last trains and we split up at Shinjuku.  Thankfully, I made it to Chiba in time and dumped all my gear in the bathtub to clean the next day. I took a 30 minute shower and zombie’d my way into bed at 3am in the morning. Preparing for the aches and pains that my body will gladly let me know that I was ignoring the past 3 days…

3W2A3081

And… well, that’s that. I succeeded in climbing Mt Fuji again from the Ocean. I didn’t get a chance to take many pictures while on the climb. The rain was coming down so hard that I didn’t want to compromise my Canon 5Dmkiii unless necessary. I took the rest of the shots with my cell phone camera, but just like last year, it ended up breaking and I was unable to recover the majority of them. Goes to show you, Mt. Fuji takes no prisoners.

Overall, through the pain and constant horrible weather, it was completely worth it. It’s not often that you can say you went on a real adventure, while living each day working for jobs you are not fond of and making by until the next paycheck arrives. This is what really makes me feel alive and like I’m part of this world we live in, as opposed to trying to to desperately find a niche to fit into in society. Considering this, I have made a promise to myself to climb Mt. Fuji every year from now on like this. So, next year around this time, expect me to be complaining about a long hike on Twitter again!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed hearing me recounting my experience.

I want to give special thanks out to my climbing partner, Eric, for coming along and putting up with not only the hike itself, but me too.   I would also like to thank Kevin of BusanKevin for interviewing me on his Podcast. You can find his information below:

http://busankevin.com/2014/07/23/just-japan-podcast-24-climbing-mt-fuji-sea-to-summit/

Youtube: BusanKevin

You can find me online at the following places as well 😀

https://twitter.com/KantoKitsune

https://www.youtube.com/user/KantoKitsune

https://www.facebook.com/KantoKitsune

Thanks again! Keep tuned to my Youtube Channel, where I will be uploading the footage I was constantly taking on the GoPro of the ENTIRE trip. Expect it to be up by next week!

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