climbing mt. fuji – 17th august 2018

So you want to climb Fujisan? You’re thinking, ‘I’m in Japan, it’s a great idea! A once in a lifetime opportunity’. Well I’m here to say, think again! Well, not really, it’s your life, but I’ll tell you what, I don’t have fond memories of my time spent on that mountain and if I could do it all again, I wouldn’t. I’d just go to station 5 and come home and be very content with that. If I haven’t put you off already, I encourage you to read on!

rental stuff

We rented our waterproofs and boots from here. It was good service and you can get everything you need. We took rucksacks, waterproofs, fleeces, Uniqlo down jackets, heat-tech, spare underwear, poles, socks, trousers that zipped off to shorts, t-shirts, wool hats, sun hats, gloves, sweat-towels (I think that’s it) and a change of clothes for going back. In terms on non-clothes items, we had two bottles of water each (500ml, so 1 litre each), hard-boiled sweets and cereal bars. We did have more but I left them at home 😐 I would recommend taking more snacks because we ending up buying them which you really get your hat nailed on for. Sun cream is a must!!

bus – shinjuku to station 5

We got a bus from Shinjuku and I think this was probably the best bit of the whole thing. If you search online, there are loads of companies that do this. I didn’t book it and I threw away every reminder of the trip before I wrote this, so I don’t know who we went with, sorry. I think maybe Sunshine something.

station 5 and food

At station five you’ll come across people dressed-up as monks asking for money. There was a sign up in Japanese and it said they were nothing to do with the mountain, so make of that what you will. We had lunch here – they had a vegetarian offering of a Fuji curry – it wasn’t great but at least they had an option. None of the food looked too clever though, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. It was to be my last meal for hours, so I think I might have savoured it more at the time had I known.

the climb

The climb starts and you’re all excited. It’s not too bad this, you’re thinking. Quite a lot of people but not too steep and I’m not in a hurry anyway. That’s how it tricks you. At first until about the 7th station, it was pretty crowded (and this was on a Friday) then it tailed off. We were queued up at some points but for me this was quite good really, as it wasn’t me holding people back. There were some bits that I really didn’t like climbing that were loose rocks and rubble with nothing but a bit of rope to hold onto, if that. I made quite a spectacle of myself and decided at one point I couldn’t go on, just standing on this rock looking around, worriedly. In the end I propelled myself up with my pole and then grabbed onto the nearest rock with both my hands, crawling over the stones like a crab. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever looked but I looked horrendous in my climbing gear anyway, so not to worry.

My husband and I were stuffing snacks down at every stop we made – stations and half way marks and for me, I think this is a really necessary thing to do. Bring snacks because you will need them. You can buy them, but they are more expensive. The weather wasn’t so bad until perhaps the 8th station and then I needed to put my long trousers on and hat, coat, gloves etc. It was really windy too and the feeling of not being able to breath hit me. So much so, I really wanted to buy a can of oxygen, but when it came to it, I was just too tight.

the overnight hut

We got to the hut area and one of our group was not doing well and refused to walk another step, so we couldn’t go to the hut we’d booked and we ended up at a different one. It was hell on earth. We we given curry (great) but if I thought the one at station 5 wasn’t much to rave about, this was in a shit league all of it’s own. I didn’t eat it – I couldn’t stomach it, I just had one of my bars that I brought with me. I needed the toilet, it was awful. I can’t even begin to describe the smell. It was around 7pm and everyone was tired, so we hauled our aching bodies up to the bedroom bit. My god! Maybe I’d led a sheltered life up to that point but it was grim. It was like one big, giant mattress that everyone shared and then you had your own blanket. Two layers of this, as it was a bunk-bed type arrangement. Everyone was just asleep in their climbing stuff. The snoring and the smell was unholy. I didn’t sleep a wink and just kept thinking how I wished I was anywhere but that bloody mountain. You know when you’re in a bad situation and you tell yourself, this time next week, it wont even be important, it wont matter. Well, that’s what I kept doing but it didn’t work. Then at around 3ish am, they came and shone a big torch in the room telling people to get up and get ready to go if they wanted to watch the sunrise from the top – we didn’t, so I got to lie in bed listening to the snoring for a little bit longer. At around 5ish, we got up and got given our shitty breakfast that none of us even bothered to open – it smelt vile. We went outside – it was bloody freezing – and waited to watch the sunrise. I decided to go to the toilet and when I came out, the sun had already risen and was hanging in the sky. Things can always get shitter. My husband had recorded it for me, which was nice, but just made me think, I could have watched a recording anywhere, I didn’t need to be on the actual mountain.

the top and the descent

We set off and we made it…to not the top. One of our group members just couldn’t cut the mustard so whilst everyone else was trotting off in the direction of up, we turned in the direction of down and started our descent. We did get looked at as if maybe we didn’t understand which was the correct way to go to get to the top. What a waste of everyone’s time that was! No one is interested in ‘oh I made it to station 8 and 3/4’. No, no one asks that! It’s all about getting to the top. I’ve got to say though, I really wasn’t that fussed. In fact, the closer we got to station 5, the faster I started moving. The descent was hard going and loads of people fell. I lost some of my toenails but didn’t fall. It was monotonous as well, you can only enjoy a view so much until it starts to annoy you.

We made it back to station 5, filthy and hungry. We got there really early because of course, we hadn’t done the full thing. It was rammed and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor sods who had yet to embark on their journeys to the top but also ecstatic that I’d made it back from hell alive. We waited for our coach back to Shinjuku in the designated area. We waited for ages, sitting in the sun, basking in our filth. It was getting really close to the departure time and our bus still wasn’t there. It turned out that the stop had moved so we had to run (run! after climbing the bloody mountain) to get it and we were the last ones! Great.

onsen and sanitisation

The bus stopped off at an onsen in a hotel on the way back. Unpopular opinion but I don’t like onsens – I’m prudish and I don’t like bathing in extreme temperatures either. Despite despising them though, I had to get clean. I had my little towel and was trying to drape it over my big, naked body – imagine trying to use a handkerchief as a towel and it will give you some idea how I looked. I washed with the shower and then scuttled back to get dressed. Women drying their hair in the nude – it’s just not necessary. One of our party wasn’t allowed in because of tattoos so there’s your warning if you are tattooed. We got back on the bus and got back into Shinjuku with our huge bags.

thoughts

So to sum it all up, I really loved it and thought it was one of the best experiences of my life. It made me a much better person, pushing myself to the extremes and overcoming not only physical obstacles but also my fears. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and in fact, I’m contemplating going for it this year too. No, of course not. I wish I hadn’t done it, it didn’t make me a better person and if I had my time again, I definitely wouldn’t make that same mistake twice. Looking at Mt. Fuji is the best and only thing you need in your life, Fuji-related. Having said all that, with little to no preparation, it really was easier than I thought but we deserved at least that I reckon!

If you are climbing it this year, have fun. Let me know how you find it or if you have climbed it before, let me know what you thought. Thanks for reading all this, if you have.

Emily

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