The Perfect 24 Hour Mt. Fuji Experience Part III: Oh, the Way Down

Climbing Mt. Fuji all night and watching the sunrise surpassed any and all expectations I had.  Tracing the great mountain’s unmistakable shape as it cast its own shadow upon the clouds was a magical experience I’ll never forget.  Just looking at the photos now transports me back to the very moment that I first saw the outline of Fujisan floating down at my feet.

P1130278But soon enough the sun was racing fast above our heads and we needed to start our way back down the mountain.  I did take a photo of this map so that I can get a good visual on where I watched the sun come up (the highest point: 3,776 meter mark) and us having walked around the perimeter of the crater (the photo was taken where the blue dot is).

IMG_5853The top of Fuji mountain… where you can say a little prayer and look down at the clouds below.

IMG_5854P1130295I felt drunk with all the excitement of the sunrise and the joy I felt from having had a successful ascent.  If I had any concerns at all before, it was mostly about the altitude; I hadn’t thought much about the second half of our adventure at all.  Not that worrying about it would have helped but the difficulty I faced in the next 5 hours took me by surprise.

IMG_5856Way above the treeline at 3,500+ meters, there was no place to shield oneself from the brutal sun.  At times we’d have rolling clouds that chilled our bones and then the relentless heat returned within minutes.

IMG_5857 IMG_5858But what I struggled with the most was the volcanic dust that kicked up with every step I took.  Or I should say each time I sank into what seemed like a bottomless pit of pebbles and ash.

IMG_5867 IMG_5872Within a few hundred meters my entire being was covered with dust and ash, and my feet sank at least 10 inches into the ground every time I took a step.  I have done a fair amount of mountain climbing and hiking in my life, but never experienced the earth just giving away to the weight of my body like this.  It was infinitely worse than running on the beach.  Sliding, slipping, tumbling, and tripping was unavoidable.  Falling down flat on your butt was just a matter of time.  How often?  Goodness me.  We lost count.  J later told me that someone he knew took this path to CLIMB UP the mountain.  It took us 5 very long painful hours to get down this way.  I couldn’t imagine the torture of sinking and sliding UP…. for 12 hours!  Really.  It took this guy 12 hours to ascend…  Not that I’d do this again but note to self: do not take the Subashiri trail to go up Mt. Fuji.

I tried to take in every little bit of something that the mountain offered to get my mind off the heat and the dust.

IMG_5861IMG_5864

IMG_5862For those who lost their lives on the mountain.

IMG_5863I remember thinking “this too, shall pass.”  And of course it did.  As we proudly walked out of the last stretch of the Mt. Fuji path we were handed little souvenirs to remember this day by.

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We’d missed the bus out by just a few minutes so we had to wait for an hour for the next one to come by.  We sat by the parking lot and made small attempts to clean ourselves up a bit.  I noticed that every single person who boarded the bus to Gotenba was from Mt. Fuji.  And I think every single person fell asleep sometime during the 55 minute ride, including me.  We were all hot, sticky, hungry, and tired.

IMG_5873As soon as we reached the station we hopped in a cab to Fujihakei for a hot springs bath.  Needless to say, the shower, hot and cold mineral rich baths, outdoor onsen, and the sauna were just amazing.  I couldn’t have asked for more…  but for,

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Some cold beer and yummy yum yums.

IMG_5875 IMG_5876A few hours later we were reunited with some of the other members of the group.  They had some terrible stories to tell, including how our leader H-san had to carry the youngest member of our group (the 10 year old boy) on his back for 5+ hours down the mountain.  H-san still had a big smile on his face and told us in all sincerely how much he enjoyed this weekend.  He thanked US for coming!  What a guy.

We left them to relax for a while longer and decided to head back up to Tokyo.  While we were having lunch at the onsen, a brief but roaring thunderstorm rolled by.  It drove the thick humidity and the heat away, and the fresh new air seemed clear and sweet.

I walked out of the onsen to this beauty, overjoyed and filled with gratitude for my blessed life.  I’m a very very lucky girl…  Thank you T & J for letting me tag along on this once in a lifetime adventure!

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RELATED POSTS:

The Perfect 24 Hour Mt. Fuji Experience: The Climb

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

Cradle Mountain Overland Track: Tasmania

Patagonian Adventure: Hiking in Argentina and Chile

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

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2 Responses to The Perfect 24 Hour Mt. Fuji Experience Part III: Oh, the Way Down

  1. Mary Norton says:

    Thanks Chris for sharing your MT Fuji climb, I did enjoy vicariously traveling with you. Well done! What an amazing big effort!!!! love Mary

    • Thank you Mary! I was incredibly lucky to have had such favorable conditions and great friends to share the adventure. Thought of you, your family, and our fun-filled hike in Tassie… sent a note to Simon & Ang after I came back. I hope all is well with you? I have some posts about walking trails & hikes I did in Sydney that are still in draft form. 🙂

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