Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan

“Japan’s national symbol is a phenomenon of nature. And yet, in its near perfect symmetry, the cone of Mt Fuji is so exquisitely formed that it seems more like the work of an infinitely patient landscape artist than a volcanic accident. The solitary majestic peak rises, 3776m into the heavens. It is in a word, simply beautiful.”

I would have to agree, this huge mountain was eye catching and today was the day I was going to climb up this gruelling trek.

Before leaving, I filled my bag with lots of clothes to layer up, food and drink.

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Trying to drive to the 5th Station was a complete failure in peak season. As we approached the turning, we were given a leaflet and pointed down the road to the Fujihokuroku. Here you paid ¥1000 to park your car, then pay ¥1840 for a return coach ticket up to the Fuji Subaru line. With along queue and windy journey up the mountain, we were finally about to start our climb.

The first part of the walk consisted mostly pavement and large stones, with the path mostly flat and straight. Easy if you ask me. When the trek started to ascend gradually on small rocks, I could feel my breathing struggle. I am a sprinter not a marathon runner. This applied to trekking up mountains: I did one stretch of the journey (usually 3 hairpin corners) extremely quickly, taking over a multitude of climbers, then rested for a few minutes before carrying on. On the trek up, we met two American girls, who commented that we were fast walkers.

After many winds in the road, full of large wooden steps, which meant you were climbing more than walking, we reached many wooden huts. These were small with a balcony looking at the indescribable view at times, which produced small, cramp beds for the night and expensive food and drink.

The view was changeable: most of the time we could see layers of cloud down below us and above us. This was much more desired as the sun wasn’t blaring down on us. When we looked down, we could retrace our route with our finger, feeling proud each time time.

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Even with the amount of exercise I was doing, I didn’t feel hungry at any part of the journey (this may have been because of the altitude) but every time I rested, I took gulps of water. However, when I drank the water, it wasn’t quenching my thirst because immediately after I would have a dry mouth.

One section was like rock climbing. We had large stones in a narrow area, where we had to find hand and foot grips as we manoeuvred through them. There were many slower trekker, so most people had to wait. I was slightly impatience plus they could see I was climbing quickly so they let me through, skipping the queue: very considerable people.

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The further up Mt Fuji we got, the more my legs hurt; the narrower the path; the steeper the trek; the windier; the colder it got. I started in shorts and a strap top but after each level I added an extra layer. While waiting for the others, I curled myself into a ball against the hut to act as a wind break as well as attempting to do star jumps.

When we came down the mountain, it was a very different situation. The road was steep and full of small rocks. For every step, you were sliding down as well. It was difficult to get balance but the best way I found was to lean back slightly, and let my foot go with the flow. However, my friends didn’t find it so easy due to having shoes with little grip, which meant she fell over a few times. The windy path meant that we kept turning so we couldn’t build up too much speed. As we were descending, I wasn’t losing my breath at all so we didn’t take any breaks. Some of the rock faces were a ruby red colour, which was pretty. The further we got to the bottom, the darker it got so it was harder to find our feet but this was all part of the experience.

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When we reached the bottom, I felt so proud of myself. What an achievement!

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