Sunday, August 22, 2010

I went to Mount Fuji and all I got was a stick (and some blisters)

K, so I'm finally back with some Mount Fuji pictures, although Missy already posted quite a few on her blog. We didn't take a ton of photos on our two cameras, so several of these are repeats from what she's already posted of their pictures.

So anyway, the original plan was for us to take a bus to the fifth station on Mt. Fuji (there are ten stations in all, I think the fifth is somewhere around halfway); stop and eat lunch, then hike to the 8th station where we would spend a few hours resting in a "hut", and then leave at about 2 in the morning to hike up to the top to see the sunrise. That's not what actually happened, as you'll see, but here we are at the starting point of our hike:

So even at the fifth station you're decently high up in elevation. This next pic was taken probably not even 100 yards into the trail:

See, there are already clouds below us. Well anyway, one thing that we didn't factor in to this little bout with insanity is that it was Obon (big Japanese holiday), which means big-time crowds:

If you click on the picture and look in the upper right hand corner, all those teeny tiny dots are more people. It was crazy-crowded, and that slowed us down a lot. Plus it's not all nice, even trail; for a lot of it you're literally climbing and clambering up and over rocks and it's crazy and you really need the walking stick.

Plus I'm very slow. K, so mountain climbing is not for those of us who have established issues with fatigue :p According to the plan, it was only supposed to take about four hours to get to the 8th station. In reality, it was more like 8, and we were all totally dead tired by the time we finally got there, and to add insult to injury, our "hut" was at the TOP of the 8th station!! Arrrgh!

Ah yes, I am thrilled beyond measure to be on Mount Fuji. By this point I was fantasizing about passing out and not regaining consciousness until I was off the mountain. Alas, that did not happen.

We knew that the hut would give away our reservation if we didn't make it there by 9 p.m., so Missy and Bennet went on ahead of Lee and me (since we're the weenies) to make sure that we'd claim our spot in time. Lee and I got there with maybe 20 minutes to spare, and that last little bit pretty much did me in. Lee too, since by this time he was suffering from a nasty headache due to the onset of altitude sickness.

So this is what our $90 per person got us:

Yep, we all four slept in this little cubbyhole that was roughly the size of a full-size bed. Poor Lee and Bennet were crammed up against either wall and I was squished up next to Lee. Missy hits people if they get too close to her when she's sleeping so she had plenty of room ;)

So since we got there so late and we were SO tired, we decided that night to just head back down the mountain in the morning rather than getting up at 2 to go to the top. What we didn't count on was the herd of elephants right outside our cubbyhole from about 12:30 to 2:00--all the crazy people who were going up to the top were not very quiet as they got ready. Lucky for me, I found a pair of earplugs in my coat pocket (what, you don't carry earplugs around with you?) so after a while I was able to doze back off. The hut proprietors did a 4 a.m. wake-up call to see the sunrise, so Lee peeked out but said it was all over cloudy so we wouldn't have seen anything anyway. So we got up around 5:30 or 6 and just headed back down the mountain.

There's the down trail, which is a bulldozed zigzag path of gravel and loose rocks. If it sounds treacherous, it is...I fell down twice fairly soon after we started, and then Lee was nice enough to link arms with me for the rest of the way to keep me from falling anymore, which was really nice of him since I almost went down another dozen times. When we finally got back to civilization and I was able to get out of my stinky nasty clothes and take a shower, we discovered that Mt. Fuji had literally left its mark on me--a lovely, huge dark purple bruise on my bum. If it were anyplace else, I would have been showing off my battle scar. As it is, you'll have to take my word for it as to how spectacular it was. I'm rather surprised at how quickly it's fading though, it's already moved from deep dark purple to wine-red. It's maybe the size of a drink coaster at a restaurant. Anyway, back to the pictures:

Still above the clouds. Oh, I forgot to talk about the walking sticks...we bought those at the fifth station, and then as you pass each station on your way up you can have the stick branded. Some stations had more than one place to do it, and it cost 200 yen (roughly $2 or a little more) for each one, so these could get expensive quickly. We did still get several stamps done on them, and they were very helpful in traversing both up and down the mountain. You also had to pay 200 yen to use the restroom at each station, so I bet we spent at least $20 just for Lee and me to tinkle.

Almost done! Hey, I look happier in the pictures the further down we get...okay, okay, mountain climbing is NOT for me!! I knew that before we ever started, but I did try to behave myself and not complain any more than everyone else was.

And here we are back where we started from. Right after this picture was taken, we headed back into the 5th station (which is more like a small town or a ski resort or something) and got ice cream, and then switched our bus tickets to an earlier ride. It's a 2 or 3 hour bus ride back to the train station, then we had to take a train or two to get back to our hotel, then we had to wait an hour to get into our hotel room so we had lunch in one of the hotel restaurants. I felt sorry for everyone else on the train who did not climb Mt. Fuji because I know we were stinking to high heaven. I think my shirt could stand up in a corner on its own when it was all said and done. Blechh!

So anyway, this was not my favorite "vacation" ever since I don't go for that strenuous outdoor physical activity stuff (Lee and I are polar opposites in that regard). Lee was really disappointed we didn't make it to the top despite the altitude sickness and extreme fatigue...and yeah, I do feel kind of silly telling people that we climbed Mt. Fuji but we didn't get to the top of it. Lee's already talking about trying to come back out here next year if Bennet and Missy attempt it again; as for me, my mountain-climbing days are through. At least they are if I have anything to say about it. Leave me in the nice cushy hotel room with the hot tub and a good book any day!!


Giffysk8s said...

I am really trying not to laugh since I am your friend, but I just cant help it! This was such a not-Christy trip. But you were a good sport to know that and go anyway!
At least you got some good pictures and cool walking sticks.

Thoughts by B and M said...

We are SO proud of you Christy and the fact that you did join us for this and the "Great-Wall" 5K - even though its "not your thing". The climb was tough - for all of us. Truly was a blessing to be able to experience this with you guys! Sure gonna miss you when you leave :') (that's a tear)!

CCsMom said...

Wow. All I can say is, "Wow". Incredible. Looks REALLY steep, you know. Lee, I was thinking about it . . . you guys being at SEA LEVEL where you live, and then YOU -- the scuba diving person. So yeah, you had every reason to get altitude sickness. Christy, I'm glad you did it. And so what if you didn't make it all the way to the top -- look how far you went!!! Incredible. Can't wait to see you. I am counting the days. Love you, love you!!!

Liz Guidry said...

Go Christy!!!! I would have been complaining every second - hahaha.