Hiking Fuji-san

Although it is still a blur of mood swings and temperature changes, last weekend, I climbed Mount Fuji. On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., a group of friends and I said goodbye to Hiroshima and hit the road.

With blissfully ignorant smiles and hearts of pure determination, we arrived to Mount Fuji at 10 p.m. Unfortunately, our arrival coincided with rain clouds and a thunderstorm. After watching an ambulance drive into the trail and witnessing a small lightning show, we eventually started hiking.

Then, we hiked some more. And, we hiked higher and higher. We hiked for approximately seven hours. I thought we would never stop. But, at 5:30 a.m., we did stop. In order to catch our bus, 5:30 a.m. was our upward ascent deadline. At this time, we were a football field’s length away from the summit—possibly within range for a field goal. However, the rest of Japan’s extreme insane hikers were in a similar situation. Further, there was no glorious, golden trophy sunrise luring us to the top—only a blur of gray, icy clouds. Therefore, as a result of the standstill line to the summit, the sleet in our faces and our impending bus departure, we started the four-hour descent.

Although I did not reach the summit and I often felt like jumping off one of Fuji’s cliffs, I think, with time, I will look back on my Fuji experience and smile. Through all the climbing, sweating and shivering, there were certainly some moments of delirious happiness. For a good two hours, I think I was actually drunk on the altitude. My friends and I were constantly giggling with one another and freely chatting with the multitudes of rugged Japanese mountain men, collectively deciding that if we were to start dating a Japanese man, we would want to meet him on Mount Fuji.

Then, there was the hilarity of falling climbing down the mountain—which is arguably more difficult than climbing up it. If only I had videoed the numerous wipe-outs, I am sure they would be much more entertaining than this blog post. To top it all off, on the way to the bottom, the sun began to shine and the rain clouds disappeared.  As a result, we could finally see the beauty that surrounds Mount Fuji.

Even though it was exhausting, I am happy I attempted Fuji. Prior to moving to Japan, I read Cathy Davidson’s, “36 Views of Mount Fuji: On finding myself in Japan.” In her book, Davidson continuously emphasizes the unchanging presence of Fuji-san. Ironically, when climbing this symbol of Japanese stability and permeance, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much my life has changed. I am still me, but I am now living in Japan and climbing Mount Fuji. I may have been unbearably cold and slightly miserable, but that simple thought reminded me of how truly fortunate and blessed I am.


4 thoughts on “Hiking Fuji-san

  1. Thanks for sharing the unique experience of “attempting” Mt. Fuji. I’ve read many, many stories/blog posts where they’ve always had the “happy ending”, you know, scaled to the very top, watched the sunrise, and went back down. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I read your post and discovered that you didn’t make it to the top, yet still have an awesome time nonetheless!

    P.s. I think hiking for 7 hours is downright INSANE!

    • Thank you! I do wish my climb had had a happy ending, but at least I got in a killer workout, right? And it really was a great experience–regardless of the terrible weather and complete lack of gorgeous sunrise! Luckily (or unluckily), I am in charge of organizing a group trip next year–so I will have another go at the summit! I will be slightly less optimistic if I don’t reach the top on my second go-round!

    • Lizzy–if it hadn’t been for your words of wisdom, I would have completely forgotten waterproof gloves and I would have lost all my fingers. So, all ten of these bad boys are forever grateful to you. Hope you’re having fun in Tokyo! I’m jealous.

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