Fabulous photos here are from Eric. Visit his site – http://flickr.com/photos/akumach – for more!
I am not a mountaineer. I have never climbed a single mountain either. But I am so up for adventures. That’s why when Nila-San proposed this activity I agreed to join. There are some hesitations at first, since I am really concerned with the budget. But later on I thought it’s all worth it.
Climbing Mt. Fuji comprises of 10 stations. The first five stations can be reached by bus. The first bus stop is the 5th station. And the next stations from thereon, by foot. Plainly there are only 3 station stopovers – the 7th, the 8th and the 10th (the summit). The 7th and 8th includes those 7.5th and 8.5th , a few meters away from the 7th and 8th respectively. These are where climbers stop to take a rest in the benches provided, sleep in the oh-over priced lodges, eat or just answer the call of nature. The 6th and 9th comprise of only just markers. I am not sure how distance was divided among these stopovers, but I must say, it was really really far from one station to another, so I had to force myself to pee on every station stopover. Most climbers start at 6pm, and get on top at 4-5am to catch the sunrise. They say it takes 8 hours to get there. But since we are all beginners, we chose to start climbing at 4pm.
Here goes my climb experience…
Climb Date – August 18-19, 2007
After roughly 7 hours of travelling by train/bus from Musashi-Nakahara (hence, The team name “Musashi”), we reached the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. This is the starting point.
We rested there for a while.. took some pictures and bought our “tungkod” (will be referred to as the magic stick from hereon) from the souvenir shops there. I would say, this magic stick is my authentic proof that I’ve been to the top since this stick is stamped as we reached each station.
It was, as said by many, the Mt Fuji climbing season. We saw a lot of people lying around the station (after a tiring climb the previous night). It’s also fun to even see some not-so-young crowd climbing with us.
Jess told us that we should join this one group near us, whom call themselves as Group 116(?). I am not sure – it was Jess who always does the chismax task with the climbing groups and their Japanese leaders. Hehehehe. When we saw the group getting up, it’s time to head for the climb.
It was 430 when we started to climb. We’re so lucky to have Eric with us, we got a lot of photos 😀
7th Station – The Dark Climb
It was getting darker and darker so we held our flashlights out. I already felt my legs complaining when we are walking in the steepy muddy road. When we saw the 7th station marker, it felt like surviving the 1st stage of some test.
Here comes the rain
Then there it was, the unpredictable weather condition as told by the friends. After we had our magic sticks stamped, we felt little raindrops. And after a series of arguments (like we were ready to go on and wear our poorly prepared 100yen-worth rain gear), we finally decided to stay in the lodge, rather than get our legs wet and let hypothermia attack us. It was a good decision coz while we were enjoying our dinner in the lodge it rained pretty hard.
The Overpriced Lodge
I felt the Pinas’ style of overpricing some things when peak seasons arrive. It was a bit overpriced. I have to borrow money from Nila-San since it never occurred to me that the money that I thought was more than enough is clearly not enough (story of my life). However, as said, it’s a good decision we stayed in the lodge. Because aside from the fact that it saved us from the heavy rainfall, it gave us enough time to rest and get ready for the “battle” waiting for us above.
It was not your typical hotel-type of lodge with bed and bath and aircon or fan (that’s already soshal compared to this one). We had our dinner Japanese style in a small common room. Think of Mr. Miyagi’s (?) Japanese house in Karate Kid. Here, there were like a couple of adjacent double deck (again) Japanese-style beds (that is, double deck with under bed that has no bed feet, in other words, “lapag na merong taas”) covered by curtains around. And from our place, we could see a lot of feet below the curtains, which means, those are our sleeping areas. And I assumed too much, we’re not going to sleep there. My hopes got up when the owner lead us to this door. And I thought inside would be our bigger better sleeping area. But again, I assumed too much. The doorway is just the walking space. Right after that mysterious door, are again series of Japanese double decks where hundreds of people were sleeping, like sardines! I didn’t bother to count those people, there were just a lot of people inside that big dark room. And straight into this door is our sleeping area – an area for sleeping – just sleeping – no standing, no sitting (you can sit but your upper body should bend forward). No other normal human activity that is done in a normal sleeping room can be done in there – just sleep. We were four yet we were provided only 3 sleeping place! Ms Nila and Jess didn’t sleep. Eric, on the other hand was the first one to lounge our humble sleeping area. I, trying not to care at all, followed. But truly, I didn’t care on the sleeping area. All I wanted that time was rest and a good night sleep.
8th Station – Starlight.. Starbright..
But my ride to dreamland was suddenly cut short by Jess and Ms Nila. When I woke up, I could hear clutters from our next bed neighbors. Jess said that we have to get going, since most of the climbers around us are going.
When we went out, there’s no more rain. And I thanked God for answering my prayers. Yes, that was the time when this whole spiritual me started. I looked up the sky, and IT WAS ONE OF THOSE RARE MOMENTS WHEN I TRULY APPRECIATED THE STARS.. They were soo beauuuutifuul shining up there! It was like I was so near them and I can hold them. And for the first time in my life, I saw a real falling star. It was short though, and really brief, wasn’t even able to make a wish. Coz it was gone when I realized I have to make a wish.
I want to stare at the stars a little longer. But the pressure of the many people around, lining up the trail didn’t allow me to appreciate the beauty up above.
The Rocky Roads
On a computer game level, this is the start of the difficult stage. This is where the steep small trail becomes steeper and smaller, and the big rocks start to participate. Since I still had a lot of energy after the 1 ½ – 2-hour rest, I loved this rock-climbing portion.
Full Battle Gear
Here, I felt that the temperature was beginning to drop to below-zero. It was getting really cold. This was the part when I wore that leggings I wore last Christmas party (good thing I brought it) under my maong pants. I also wore the extra socks I had as second layer for my feet. Before this stopover, I also felt that my breathing becomes really really slower.
This was the last stopover before the summit. Which means, after we take off from this stopover, there is no turning back. So I inhaled some oxygen from my portable oxygen, ate some kitkat (for energy they say), put on the last jacket that I have. And then, there, we’re off.
9th station – The Agony begins
It gets colder and colder as we went up. I never really had first hand experiences on this kind of almost zero-degree coldness. For tropical babies like me, the winter setting is like by far, so unknown. I couldn’t even tolerate cold waters (unless I have no other choice) when I take a bath in the morning. This station somehow told me that I have a cold-phobia (is there a word for that? I think there is, just didn’t bother to research). My uber longing for snow faded at those moments.
I could hear the Japanese cheerleaders along the way. I think they’re the “tour” guides of those groups of climbers that we saw earlier. They were really great. While almost all of the climbers, myself included, don’t have all the energy anymore to talk and speak, they were still there, shouting and cheering (in a high voice) “gambarimasu achuchuchu..” to the climbers. Though I really don’t understand what they’re saying, just the “gambarimasu” (“do your best”) obviously.. Their cheery voices helped somehow.
But after some time they stopped. And again, I felt so tired, sleepy.. and I was really losing my breath. The trail’s traffic becomes heavier. The heavy traffic was a good thing since it slows the pace, therefore an opportunity for rest. But during those traffic times I found myself sleeping right there! Standing position! OMG! That feeling of heavy sleepiness (like that thing that I felt on college days when I was cramming for exam the next day, fighting sleep, and still end up sleeping) – I felt it right at those moments. It was really a dangerous one. I was already sending “I hate Harry Potter” signals everywhere (just that time, but I love him still) ..for making my nights before the climb never-ending, thus causing my lack of sleep. And there, I regretted my refusal of Ms Nila’s free coffee offer.
I was closing my eyes along the way, but, as Eric would say it, we’re holding on for dear life now, since the dark cliff on the side awaits us otherwise. So I forced my closing eyes to stop closing.. At first I started thinking about the energy-boosting thoughts, like cheering, badminton, basketball, volleyball.. but then it would still end up on looking forward to sleep again (since these activities are always followed by sleep).. Then I thought about my current issues.. and the sad issues.. just to keep my mind busy thinking (just like those thoughts that float around when insomnia attacks).. BUT NO USE.. After all those “cheering” thoughts, I became really spiritual. I took my rosary from my pocket, put it in the side pockets of my jacket, and started praying the rosary! OMG! (Oh My God..). I was really calling God that time. I was calling the Saints, my Dad.. asking to give us strength and asking for help and really begging to grant me back my always-energetic mind and body.
I was really really praying so hard because, I felt that I could not move on any longer.. This was not an exaggeration. It was like the freezing temperature really sucked up all the energy left in me.
Ms Nila noticed my sleeping eyes. So she called my attention and asked me to look for her camera on her backpack to keep me occupied. We could already see the horizon. And we could see that it was getting brighter. I thought of the clouds as a soft fluffy bed. We were already on top of the clouds that we could see the fine line of yellow and orange and whatever color in between. And we could sense that the sun will be rising soon.
At that moment we could already see the summit right above us.. and we could see people lined up like ants going up the hill. There were however, people on the trailside, resting and probably just waiting for the sunrise. The trail traffic gets even heavier, until it halted.
I heard the crowd in their awwws and wooows.. I turned around and there it was – the upper portion of the sun starting to go up the horizon. Most people started taking pictures, videos etc. I didn’t bother to bring out my palm cam because of its inability to take pictures with the light of the sun in front (I am not sure of the photography term). We stopped to enjoy this moment.
10th Station – The Final Chapter
As soon as the sun settled in its position, we continued to ascend. Up there we reached the summit marker. Haaay.. I finally sat down for a while. Eric was taking haggard pictures of us.
We entered the gate-like marker entrance. Saw the temple, but we were so tired to enjoy the view. We just had our magic sticks stamped, then looked for a sleeping area. Amidst the impossible location, there were still establishments above. There’s a resto and lodge(?) and some vendors on the side. It was like Hogsmeade (hehehe.. see, the Harry Potter fever is still fresh to me).
Then there’s this resto with a rather unfamiliar setting. Instead of tables, it has square bed-like seats (just seats and no tables). We thought we could take a rest there. We didn’t even bother to buy food. We just sat down and took a rest. I saw Eric comfortably lying down on the other square-bed.. I got jealous so I took the other square bed and slept.
After barely unknown hours or so, I thought I dreamed about someone was hitting me. It’s not a dream. The storeowner was tapping my foot so annoyingly strong. Jess was laughing it off on our way out. He said that he and Eric received one “tapping” only, and I had to get a lot.
That lovely rest gave us energy to enjoy the summit. You know, pose, take pictures and just spoil ourselves with the view above.
Now I know why they say that once is enough. I thought I could do it more than once, but now I am not sure. Maybe I could, with enough rest and enough preparation, I think I could do it. But again, I am really not sure.
Epilogue – The sliding path
The path downwards was different than the one up. It was plainly like a steepy zigzag dirty road. I thought I had a lot of energy going down. I also didn’t bother to worry about my color. Though I had put some sunblock on before our descent. As cosmo beauty editors say, Five hours (or more) of sun exposure should be accompanied with sunblock re-application – especially on the face. Oh I didn’t worry anymore, I embraced the sunlight and the melanin (and warmth) that it sends! Woooh! I JUST LOVE THE SUN.
10 years later – I am just glad I did it and I want to do it again! 😀