Saturday, September 08, 2007
It's the iconic symbol of Japan. The perfectly shaped conic mountain that is on every foreigner's list of things to do. I had planned to climb it a few times, but plans kept falling through. There is only a short 2 month season where it is readily accessible. Outside of the hiking season, the huts on the mountain close, the buses stop running, and the mountain becomes very cold and dangerous. We decided to hike it 2 days past the official end of the hiking season. This meant that there were no crazy lines to get to the top, no really young or really old folks, and a more relaxed hike. But on the other hand, it meant we had about 24 hours to do the hike instead of the 7 that we needed. The bus schedule just didn't work out to our advantage. We took it really slow. You may think this is better, taking it slow and easy. But in reality it just meant a lot of time freezing our asses off when we weren't moving.
Famous Mt. Fuji peach ice cream.
The shadow of the mountain as the sun was setting. As you can see, the weather up on the mountain was clear and perfect. There was a sea of clouds covering everything in the distance. Beautiful.
The route we took up, on the north side, still had plenty of omiyage shops open.
You can buy a crappy wooden hiking pole and get stamps burnt into it at every station. I'll settle for a photo of some random person's.
So we passed hut after hut, stopping at each one to rest and chat with other people. It was hot and we were feeling good. Then the sun went down. We kept warm by hiking, but the top wasn't far away. This was a very easy hike. Not technical at all. The lack of oxygen is noticeable near the top, but not enough to warrant the overuse of portable oxygen containers that every Japanese person had with them.
We tried to sleep for a bit around the 8th station. You can actually sleep in any of the many huts along the way, but we were being cheap, and $60 to sleep for a few hours didn't seem worth it. To sum up the night... it was very cold. But we did get to see a red moon rise, and we had a nice time with some astrophysics grad students trying to point out the different constellations.
On top dawn was spectacular. Like a rainbow on the horizon, a few hundred people lined the rim of the mountain's crater to watch the sun rise. Screams of "Banzai!" were shouted when the sun finally rose.
A short hike around the rim to the actual highest point, and the ups were done.
Time for the downs.
Taking a southern trail down held the promise of a giant volcanic sand dune that you could literally run down. I couldn't pass this up. But apparently everyone else could. I saw a total of 4 other people on the whole hike down. And then at the bottom we found out the bus wasn't running. But luckily we ran into 2 other foreigners with the same problem and we split a cab. We got to the train and I had a lovely 6 hour train ride back to Maebashi.
That's the sand dune in the distance. It was pretty amazing. You could run at full bore. There was no one around, so I was being dumb and doing tricks off of the larger rocks on the side of the trail. I had my hiking pack on, and was filming with my camera. All this and a little dehydration led to me slipping and eating it pretty hard. I managed to save the camera by sacrificing the skin on my forearm.
The huts on this side of the mountain were closed I think.
Here's my video of the trip!