Monday, August 23, 2010

Kicking Some Mt Fuji Butt

As Dora would say "We did it!  We did it!" Matt, Emily, Chris and I, along with 16 other people, climbed and conquered Mt Fuji. What an amazing experience.

We left on the "Team Caterpillar" bus around 11 am. We stopped several times along the way for food and bathroom breaks before finally arriving at the 5th station around 7:15 pm.

My family at the rest area

It was recommended to be at the 5th station (2,305m) to get your body adjusted to the elevation change for at least an hour before starting. So we all grabbed some noodles, drinks, got all our gear ready to go and took lots of pictures. You could feel the adrenaline pumping through the 20 of us, and the other hundreds of people there.
My family at the starting point.
Our crew of 20!
 Our plan was to hike the Fujinomiya route, but somehow we wound up at the Fujiyoshida route instead. Little did we know that this was the most popular, most crowded, most steep route. We had figured 5 hours to the top. It took us 8 hours.

There were little stations several places along the way. At these stations you can sit and rest and at some of them there are people stamping walking sticks and selling food. Some had sleeping mats. Each of these places were so crowded.

Man stamping walking sticks at one of the stopping stations.
The 7th station. Only 1076m to go!
We climbed through the night. At the bottom it was a very comfortable mid 70s temperature. The higher we went the colder and windier to became. By the time we reached the top it was freezing. I am very glad we hiked at night because we had no idea what was next and what we were in for. It was pitch black besides the light from people's headlamps. Of the 8 hours, probably at least 3 of them were scaling up different rocks and boulders. It was hard. One of the coolest parts of hiking at night was looking ahead  or behind you and seeing nothing but lights and the outline of people. It was like a scene from the kids movie Antz.
Hundreds and hundreds of people hiking the Fujiyoshida trail.
At the 7th station Matt and the kids wound up in a different group than me. This was probably around 11 pm. In one way it was nice because I only had to worry about myself, but on the other hand I was always worried how the kids were doing, especially as you saw people throwing up along the way.

The part I was most worried about was the altitude. You hear horror stories of how sick people get from it. Surprisingly I never had an issue and I never needed to use my asthma inhaler or the oxygen we brought. The group I hiked with was very cautious though and when we started to get a headache or our hearts raced we would stop to adjust.

The whole goal of hiking through the night is to arrive at the top by sunrise. Sadly all the other thousands of people have the same idea. It was like being at a rock concert at the end trying to get through the trail to reach the top.
Almost to the top
Matt took this awesome picture at sunrise.
Sunrise at Mt Fuji
As we got closer to reaching the top, our group really thinned out. By the end I was just hiking with Mary Gail and I felt bad for her as I kept whining how I hiked all that way to not find my family for sunrise. The ironic part was we busted our tails to make it to the top to find Matt and the kids, to only have him stopped just below us. But it was okay, because Mary Gail is pretty cool to share the sunrise with too.

Just after sunrise I found Matt and the kids and boy was Emily and Chris tired. I really am so proud of them. How many 11 and 14 year olds can say they climbed all night long to the top of Mt Fuji?
Chris & I at the top
My family at the crater of Mt Fuji
The decent down took just under 3.5 hours. The ground was very sandy and rocky. It was killer on the knees, but the views were breathtaking.

Our decent down

The top is very bare and sandy. Once you hit about station 6, there is more trees and such.
All in all we climbed for 12.5 hours. It was a long, hard climb. People asked me if I thought this was harder than that blasted 56k hike. At first I said no, but the more I think about it, it is just different. They really can't compare as the surroundings for both are just so different.  I am glad I did it. I am glad my kids did it. It was an experience of a lifetime. But I will say this... NEVER AGAIN. 

You can see many more pictures here.


Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you and your family. What an amazing thing to say you did!!! Once you move back to the states not many people you will talk to have ever had that opportunity.

Cheers for you all! ps this is jamie going under anonomous I don't remember my password haha

Maureen said...

Alexis, what a fantastic experience! These are things that your kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives. The sunrise photo is just gorgeous, btw.