Alas my parents returned to Germany this Thursday, otherwise they would have been able to climb Mount Fuji (富士山) with us this Friday. We wanted to start on Friday, so we'd be able to see the sunrise Saturday morning.
First thing we did was to split into two groups. One departing early afternoon and make up for the work time they'd miss somehow. They'd have plenty of time like this to reach the top in time, can take a longer route and many breaks. The second group would leave right after work (5.45 pm) make directly for Tokyo board a bus to 富士山 and take a shorter but steeper road to the top. They would need to hurry, since they will only have about 6 hours for the climb.
I was in the second group with the friends I went to 金沢 (Kanazawa, see other Post) with, except Tor and with Pedro, which you might remember from 逗子 (Zushi) beach party post.
and the other team in front of Mt. Fuji
We arrived at 五合目 station five and started from there. What I only learned during climbing was, that 富士山 is separated in 10 stations all the way up to the top. But rather than being actual stations, like in houses and facilities, they'd refer to height levels. Thus when we reached actual facilities which read station 8, I was so happy we'd encounter only two more. However we did encounter about 4 more stations which all still read station 8.
Equipped with headlights and/or torches, we started climbing at station 5 at 10:30 pm. I already wondered how many people were here and crazy enough to climb 富士山 during the night. But I'd be even more amazed later.
A station with a height sign
登山 Climbing Up
Apart from the light we also packed warm cloths, since it would be very cold at top, while being still somewhat hot, where we started climbing. So at first I stuffed my jacket in my backpack. However I did not close it properly and only after the first two "facility-stations" (in contrast to height stations), I noticed that my bag was open and the jacket was missing. I did not want to go without a fight, so I'd asked the others to wait for me at the next facility-station for a bit and tried to run the way back looking for my jacket. However in the meantime it was close to midnight and almost completely dark. I sped almost all the way back to the last facility-station, but I could not find it anymore. So I gave up and tried my best to match up with the others again. Luckily I managed to reach them before they left the next facility-station and they granted me some minutes of rest.
About the facility-stations, they are located all the way up along the way and can be used for toilets, buying food and drinks, for emergency treatment, for calling for help and for simply having a rest. Some of them even provided beds, which you could rent and then continue climbing the next day. My parents always joked about how nice it is in Japan to really find public toilets everywhere, and they were just, even on 富士山 will you find them.
The path itself is clearly marked with chains and signs, so it is not hard to find them even during the night. However in our case that was not even necessary, we just had to follow the great queue of people. In fact after about half way up, I could even turn out my own head light, which Tor kindly borrowed me, since he wasn't coming, because the light of all the people was more than enough to light up the entire way. With so many people climbing it, you'd expect an easy path, but in fact it had pretty though parts in it, where it clearly paid of to have a headlight, since you needed both hands to climb.
many people were climbing up Mount Fuji that night
交通麻痺 Traffic Jam
As we moved closer to the top the number of people kept increasing, until eventually we run into the first traffic jams. Yes you read correctly traffic jams as in caused by too many people walking tight pathways. So we really had to wait and slowly get across step by step by step. On the one hand we were glad for these breaks, because since we had so little time to reach the top and really wanted to see the sunrise, we had made no real rests until now, but on the other hand it was already getting cold and we were very very tired (it being the middle of the night and all), so resting only made us only more tired and cold.
Luckily we did not need to wait long in this jams , as sooner or later we would find much more steeper path next to the people, which would allow us to get in front of the queue again. Traffic Jams while climbing a 4.000 meter high mountain, such a thing can only exist in Japan. What also amazed me, is that nothing happened as in nobody got hurt. Because as I already stated the path wasn't that easy, and with so many people something was just bound to happen, but it didn't. I think this is also a magic about Japan.
What I was personally afraid most, was that something like an earthquake, a strong storm or a land slide would happen while we were stuck in a traffic jam. Because this would have resulted in a mass panic, with everybody rendered unable to move.
But as I said nothing happened :)
And so tired and frozen (without jacket) we moved on and on until finally short before 4 am we reached the top. We had climbed for over 5 hours without rest and were so glad, we made it in time.
頂上 The Mountain Top
As you know 富士山 is a volcano, so luckily it is not very pointy at top but provides a huge flat area, huge enough for all the people that moved up. There are several soup restaurants selling hot soup to frozen mountain climbers. Alas no vegetarian soup. Apart from that they were cooking cans, to be able to sell the can's contents hot. So I at least bought a hot drink chocolate. Well and the the sunrise began. I did not check my watch, but it must have taken somewhat between 1 and 2 hours, until the sun finally appeared completely. We were really lucky, because often it would be hidden by clouds, but wasn't today.
the five of us on the mountain top
the really had a drink machine on top
people waiting for the
However what I most loved about it was less the final complete sunrise, as the whole process leading to it. The slow rising would render the whole landscape in colors of green, blue, yellow and red leaving many areas still completely dark or grey. It looked like a green sea would appear just above the layer of clouds, with bright yellow shores and red burning fires on top. The sea would grow larger and larger only to vanish again and then res of appear. On the horizon we could see other shapes breaking though the green sea, it must have been other mountains, but it sure looked like islands on top of the a. I imagined steering a wooden galley on top of the sea trying to outmaneuver the red burning areas and making course for the mystical island, which lay in the mists of Avalon just yonder.
It was so romantic and dreamy I almost forgot how cold I was, and that couldn't feel my fingers anymore.
I just stared in awe as thick yellow rays were suddenly breaking through the azure green sea like the light emitter of discos at night. Those rays would tear the sea slowly apart and make it boil away by more and more areas of red burning sea. Until finally the god itself emerged from the layer of clouds and made all the people scream out of pure joy. Everybody looked in each others faces filled with joy and tears of happiness. The Japanese people were starting to scream OHAYOU お早う (Good Morning!) and BANZAI 万歳 (10.000 years/lives). Of course we all joined in to their screams. =D
pictures of the magical sunrise
After the sunrise we decided to explore the rest of the top of 富士山. I already told you, that is was huge. Well and as you also know it to be a volcano, you will not be surprised, if I tell you that we had a walk around the main crater of the volcano, which took us over an hour! Though like this we were on the highest spot of 富士山 and see the mystic crater from above.
where people watched the sunrise from
sorry ... where many people watched the sunrise from
pictures from the volcano
下山 Climbing Down
All that remained now, was to climb down again. Luckily there are different paths for climbing up and down. These has two major advantages: people only move in one direction, which makes climbing easier, and you see different parts of the mountain. OK granted, we didn't really "see" anything climbing up, still I welcomed a different path.
Right after we started climbing down we actually met the other group! After a joyous unison we were able to climb a part of the path together, until we already had to part again, since they made for a different ground station, than we.
Also the others did not, I liked they way down. It felt just like in a dream of an alien planet or an alien landscape of a parallel universe. The ground was completely red, even the dust and everything was pure red (look at the picture). On the red ground you could find big and small red rocks intermingled with dark black ones. In between plants would grow. It looked so damn symmetrically, that it just couldn't have been earth. We must have walked through different dimension on the way down. The landscape did not change for 2 full hours and we since we really could make out no changes in it, we felt like we didn't move at all and maybe were caught in some loop trap. Only thing that changed was our weariness and the red dust on our shoes cloths and body. Eventually the path moved eastwards and the landscape changed a little bit. A new kind of plant appeared, even more alien than what we had seen before. The "wooden" stem of this bush like plant was made out of pure silver. It glinted in the sunlight. I wanted to get some, but Pedro wouldn't let me, it was too dangerous to leave the path. I wish I had made a picture...
Finally the landscape completely changed and the red faded away into familiar brown dust. It was then I knew we had successfully passed the alternate dimension and returned back into out own one. The last thing that made my doubt go away, was when we encountered a horse moving down along the path carrying a wary climber. Going on this path for about half an hour even nature made its return and we walked in the midst of trees, bushes and all the nice things forests (of this dimension) have to offer. After asking some Mountain Guards we were able to find back to our bus stop station. We made the way down in a little more than 3 hours. Apart from that climbing down being faster and easier (though not less dangerous) than climbing up, the downwards path was a lot easier to walk on.
the alien landscape on our way down
So we spend half a day climbing around and successfully climbed the highest mountain in Japan! It sure was a hell of an adventure, but so exhausting that I am not sure to undertake it again!
Reporting from where the gods must rule over the land
and from alternate dimensions