The Perfect 24 Hour Mt. Fuji Experience Part II: The Land of the Rising Sun

Ah, to see the sunrise atop Mt. Fuji in Japan, The Land of the Rising Sun…

P1130261 P1130264 P1130269 P1130271We were perched above the rim of the volcanic crater to greet the morning sun’s arrival.  I was so excited that I barely noticed Mt. Fuji’s biting cold temperatures.

P1130259T and I had saved our last onigiri, and had our celebratory morning rice balls together while waiting for the sun to rise.  Of course I kept my favorite, mentaiko onigiri for the occasion…

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We shouted “bonzai!  bonzai!  bonzai!” with everyone who had made the difficult journey up the mountain to see this spectacular sight.

IMG_5831Everyone told me how rare it is to have the conditions we had (we later learned that the night we climbed was the warmest so far of the season).  Watching the sun slowly come up over the far edges of the crater made me smile and be once again grateful for my healthy body, for my kind and generous friends, and for the opportunity to experience this beauty in Japan.

IMG_5833After basking in the glorious new sun for a bit (and beginning to warm up) we walked the perimeter of the giant crater.

P1130289P1130285P1130284P1130287It was breathtaking everywhere I looked.  But when I happened to glance over my shoulder my heart skipped a beat.  It was the unmistakeable outline of the great Mt. Fuji hanging in the thin air, Mt. Fuji’s shadow floating on the clouds.  This was unreal!

IMG_5842Wow, wow, wow!

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And then this monk dressed in pure white whisked past me like the wind.  It was as if the laws of gravity or altitude didn’t apply to him.  I don’t know where he came from or where he was headed.  If I hadn’t taken this quick shot of him I would have believed that I hallucinated or dreamed this up.  A few hours later we saw a group of men making their pilgrimage up the mountain playing drums and flutes.  Mt. Fuji indeed is a sacred place for many…

P1130290Because I had such an easy time climbing the night before it didn’t occur to me that the second half of our Fuji adventure would pose a challenge at all.  Oh, was I mistaken!!!  But those worries and difficulties were still a few hours away…  For now, I was still filled with amazement and wonder looking at the brilliant rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds below.

P1130295Part III (and last) of the perfect Mt. Fuji experience tomorrow.

My Packing List for Mt. Fuji:
1. Day pack and pack cover – My sack was rather on the smaller size and I packed light because I didn’t want to be burdened by a heavy load.  I don’t think my backpack’s capacity is over 20L but it was sufficient for me.
2. Hiking boots – I saw people in regular sneakers but I’d recommend comfortable, broken-in, waterproof shoes.
3. Base layer – Rather than taking thermals like I’d done elsewhere (Patagonia, Cradle Mountain, Milford & Routeburn Track), I took a quick drying, thin, non-cotton long sleeve top and skipped a thermal bottom altogether.  Wool socks, definitely wool socks to absorb sweat and prevent blisters.
4. I didn’t take extra base layers but did pack a rain jacket & pants – definitely wore them both.  I could have probably used another layer, whether it was a fleece or a light down jacket.  I was lucky that it wasn’t too cold.
5. Gloves, hat, lightweight fleece – I took my Icebreaker zip-up hoodie.
6. Headlamp is a must for night time climb.
7. Water – I hydrated all day before the climb, took 1.5 liters of water with me.  Each station sold water so you can always get more but note that the price rose along with the elevation.
8. Food – pack enough food for snacks as well as breakfast, possibly for lunch as well.  I had enough to last me through breakfast (which was at 5AM) but I felt hungry when we finished at 11AM.  Think onigiri, nuts, chocolate, energy bars, salt candy, etc.
10. Trekking poles – I had just one but it was really helpful.
11. Towel and/or bandana, sunglasses, and sunblock.  There is next to no shade to hide under.
12. Cash and 100 yen coins – You’ll need 200 yen to use the bathrooms.  Credit cards are not taken at any of the rest  stops.
13. Disposable face masks – it got unbelievably dusty/ashy on our descent.  You will need something to filter that stuff from getting into your lungs.
14. Gaiters – I have them but didn’t actually take them with me.  They would have protected my pants from being completely covered with ash and dust on our way down.  It’s not a must but I’d recommend them.
15. First Aid (including pure wool, blister band aids, moleskin, etc), Advil, and wet naps/wipes.  I took some wipes but wished I’d taken a whole pack.
16. Plastic bags to carry your rubbish out.
17. If you’re going to a hot springs spa after the climb – a change of clothes, flip flops/slippers (you’ll want to take your hiking boots off and give your feet a rest), towel (but it can be rented from the onsen)

Helpful link for Climbing Mt. Fuji: www.japan-guide.com/e/e6901

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