Monday, October 6, 2008
To the top of Japan and back
Sunday I woke up at 4:30 at sea level. Outside my house is the Samida River. My apartment is left of the small building that is lit up nicely in the middle. And next to the river is a nice river walk in which i run, bike and just hang out. Well, there is monument that marks sea level, directly in the middle of the photo. This point is the historical marker that represents where Japan measured sea level in Japan and around the world. So, it is safe to say I live at 0 ft. or sea level. My plan Sunday was to take a train to Shinjuku from Hotchobori (my station) and then catch a bus to Fuji. By now you have realized, or not, that I planned to climb the tallest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji. Mt Fuji's summit is at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet to you Americans). We finally arrive to the mountain after a 2.5 hour bus ride. It was nice because I met some really nice people and hopefully they will become friends after our trip. We got the the trails at 9am. I picked up a hiking stick that usually is used for the trip down to help with pressure on your knees. This stick can be marked for all the stations you pass with brands, however the mountain is officially closed due to repair of safety stations and amount of ice and snow, but we went anyway!! So needless to say there are no mountain men to mark are triumphs at each station. We jump several gates and barricades to get to the path to take us up the mountain.
Now many people believe that since so many people climb Fuji that it is easy. I am here to tell you it is not. People die up there. Falls, slips. depleted oxygen and many other reasons. It is a high mountain and needs to be taken seriously. If you plan to get the top in October then you need to be prepared for many changing temperatures. Hot, Warm, Cool, Rain, Ice, Snow and just friggin cold. All in a few hours. So layers are essential. I think the temperature was about 10*C when we began. The hike started out great. Beautiful day with no wind and very few clouds. Picturesque view of the smaller mountains below and a grand lake resting in the distance. We started the journey up the mountain at a good pace together with about 30 people. The pack quickly separated and us faster climbers moved on ahead. We were given oxygen cans to help with the acclimation of the climb into higher altitude. You may laugh but if you don't use the Oxygen...you could begin to lose you mind. You climb too fast with out taking in oxygen and you are done. They will have to carry you done the mountain.
At time the pathways up were quite easy but most of the time is was zig-zaggin and I was climbing straight up to make it to the next station. Now, like said it is not an easy climb but it is not difficult either. You have to pace yourself and give yourself the right amount of time to make it. At times I doubted that I was going to make it to the top, like everyone else on the trip. You bust you ass up the first 4 hours and realize now it gets hard. SNOW, rain, ice, and sleet slap you in the face. Ice forms on your backpack and flakes off when you reach for water. Looking up makes you feel like you have gone nowhere and gives you a quick feeling of dizziness and forces you to look down again. At times for me I felt strange. I could hear and feel my heart beating outside my coat and that was with 5 layers of clothing on. It was tough but worth every bit of the mental strain and physical. Sometimes I swear rocks were growing legs and walking away. That meant I needed to get some more O2. After the 3000 meter mark I felt like It was going to be no problem. I thought only 776 meters to go. Easy, right? Wrong! Then the rocks and the steps came with ice, wind and more snow. Finally it all paid off. They final gate was just ahead and then if felt like a surge of power came over me and I knew I was at the top. What a beautiful feeling it was. The view was not good at first cause there was
only about 20 meters of visibility. So we had to wait for the clouds and snow to clear to see the crater at the top of Fuji. We went on to the summit after viewing the crater and that was the pinnacle. I brought along my Emporia State University Pennant to show props to my university. I may be one of the only ESU alum to climb Fuji.
Next was the the hard part. Coming down. Because for everything that goes up....it must come down. You may think that coming down is easier but it's not. Gravity does help but the pressure you put on your knees, quads and hips is intense. Not to mention that we had to be at the bottom earlier that expected. So that meant we had to run down. Yes... run down. Not an easy thing to do for a fella with bad knees and hips. I kept singing Jane's Addiction while running...."Coming Down the Mountain" it reminded me of a road trip with some fellas from Warsaw. We were told we had to get down in 2 hours from a point in which it usually takes 3 hours. Of F*** we said and that's when we took off in leaps and bounds never straightening our legs for 2 hours. We stopped a couple times to rest and many times I felt like staying on the mountain and really had no will to continue but I knew i had to get down or I would miss the bus. We all were in the same boat and just pushed each other on until we finally reached the bottom. But, the wait was not over.
We found out the bus had been called and was going to be late because some people we hurt and too far away. One woman had to be carried down the mountain piggy-back on Ricky, the organizers back. So we waited in the cold wind and freezing rain. Now heat and standing still. Toes beginning to get numb and body shutting down from 8 hours for intense strain. All layers of clothing soaking wet but not from the rain and snow but from the sweat. Drip, Drip, Drip off my brow. My stocking cap was like a leaky pipe. I couldn't take it off cause it was the only thing keeping my head from freezing. We waited 1 hour and 20 min for the bus. I was pissed off cause there was no need to run down the mountain. I was going to pay for running the next couple days.
When the bus finally arrived I felt like I was in high school again. It was just like finishing a football game on a trip to Beloit,Kansas knowing you just played you heart out and now you have to sit for 3 hours to get home and rest. But this time it wasn't my 18 year old body recovering. It's a damn near 33 yr old body (Oct 9). But like I said before, it was worth the pain I am suffering today. One of the best things I have ever done. And I met some great people along the way that I know I will see again. Thanks alot Ivo, Mike, Andy & Tim. It was a great trip. Now back to Sea Level.