I thought I would pass out quickly due to the energy expenditure of the initial climb and being awake since 430 AM that day. But it was too fucking hot in that mountain hut, I didn’t even use my sleeping bag in traditional sense, it was more of a cushion against the hardwood flooring. I kept tossing and turning, maybe sleeping for about 30 minutes and then waking up. Luis seemed to be asleep alright, but the guy to my right kept moving around as if he was magikarp constantly using the move splash. Obviously, I was no different. After this constant sinusoidal pattern of maybe asleep to conscious states, 1130 PM finally rolled around. I figured that I wasn’t getting an headway with this sleeping business and might as well start making moves. Being rested for a summit climb is so conservative and too safe for this risky boi anyways, so we geared up and bought some more 4 USD mizu (water). Who can blame them for those prices at that altitude, can’t just drive a truck up those steep slopes. Fun fact though, they use mules to run supplies up the mountain.
It was around midnight, and it was advanced darkness outside, besides the glow of the mountain huts that ran all the way up the mountain and the cityscape glistening east of the mountain. I was glad we had rented the gloves, as they didn’t only serve as bouldering gloves, but also to keep out hands somewhat insulated from the cold. I was too excited to be worried about the herculean task ahead. I thought I would be since the estimate climb time to the summit from where we were was around 4 hours and the terribly resting session at the hut. All I said to myself was, just get through one part at a time, never think about when you are going to finish. That’s the best motivator, being the in present moment and soldiering on.
We began with some very steep inclines that required slow, spider-man like movements up. It wasn’t a complete 90 degrees/perpendicular vertical climb, but enough to where you felt like you were doing a legitimate climb as opposed to a traditional hike with slow incline. Mind you, we were also doing this in virtually complete darkness, and had to heavily rely on our headlamps to show us where had to place our hands and feet as we ventured further along the trail. I kept my body and center of mass low to the ground, using as much power in my legs as I could, and kept the utilization of my arms for ascending at a bare minimum, focusing them on stability instead. I wish I had more usable footage of this part, because it was a ton of fun due it being in the sweet spot of challenging events: not impossible, but difficult. I have some GoPro footage of it, and apologies for its quality, I was working with a lot of low light, and production value was the least of my concerns.
I have a bunch of GoPro footage of the hike from start to finish, but I rather not waste my vacation right now going through all the stock. Maybe if enough people COMMENT, LIKE, SUBSCRIBE TO STICKERFRIDGE AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES, FOLLOW ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, SNAPCHAT, PORNHUB, VIMEO, MYSPACE, INSTAGRAM, YOUTUBE, I might do a supercut of the Mount Fuji climb.
As we progressed further up the mountain, it became noticeably colder only when we stopped at a station to catch our breathes. It was an interesting balance between recovering our stamina green bar (holla at Dark Souls and Bloodborne fans who get this reference) and keeping warm with physical exertion. Remember that fun photograph of me at the airport looking cozy af? That sweater was more than comfort, it turned out to be an amazing thermal for the hike; just the right amount of warmth.
Once we arrived to the 8th Station, the number of climbers elevated, mind the pun, exponentially. Turns out that a lot of people were packed into multiple 8th station huts. We tried getting an 8th Station hut reservation initially, but of course, it was booked to the brim. It became increasing obvious as to why 8th Station was more attractive to staying in; after 8th Station, the bouldering inclines were gone, and you only have to do 3 hours climb to get to the top, as opposed to our projected 4 hour climb from 7th Station. Scratch that, there was some instances of bouldering after 8th Station, but not to the degree of 7th to 8th Stations.
I’m not kidding about how insanely packed the trail in those wee hours of the morning. The headlamps from all the hikers illuminated the trail, both above and below us. It was quite a sight to see, even magical. You can get some semblance of all the people climbing in the following video, but it only conveys so much. I wish I could have burned it into my brain of how it truly was so I could replay it over and over. But I’ll settle for this.
But sadly, as do all things, entropy takes hold and the magic fades away. The number of climbers got annoying really quickly and the hike turned into a Saturday in Six Flags Fiesta Texas in May. It became a single file line with trekking poles bumping into trekking poles traffic. Stick on stick action (good one Adam I’m sure everyone loved that joke). The the path was split between the slower, single file line, and the fast track with faster climber passing people up. Luis and I didn’t want to lose each other in the chaos, so we stuck to the slow track. Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the asshole climbers were on the fast track and they were forcing their way through people, even though some people couldn’t really get out of their way due to how packed it was. And maybe it was just me with selective bias, but I noticed the fast track assholes were actually the Europeans; so much for Americans being the douchebags in Japan. Maybe Americans feel guilty about that whole Donny Moscow thing and carry themselves with more politeness in an international setting, who knows.
Remember what I said earlier about being in the present moment and soldiering on and so forth to get you through the hike? Welp, all that zen shit and motivation were quickly fading away with each successive step. This was completely due to the fact that we were going incredibly slow up the mountain, too many people surrounding me, and my heart rate was down, and thus my heat generation followed suit coupled with external conditions rapidly declining near freezing. My hands were the first to noticed the difference in temperature with the gloves now rendered useless. We still had around 2 hours left till 4 AM; I wanted to get to the summit a good amount of time before the actual sunrise to find a great spot to post up. We only had one shot at this, so we absolutely had to make it count.
After waiting in line in near freezing temperatures, we finally made it to the top at around 4 AM. The theoretical time of 4 hours was on point. I was thinking we would get up there faster due to our rapid climb to 7th Station from 5th Station, but the packed single file line really kept us from progressing faster. Luckily, getting to the top 30 minutes before sunrise meant we had plenty of spots to choose from to view the event. It was a little cloudy in the distance, but not enough to deter the viewing. The Japanese term for the sunrise on the summit is called goraiko or “arrival of light”.
Here’s a time lapse video of the sunrising with different exposures. A truly once in a lifetime experience, despite my digits feeling like they were about to fall off.
We could have circumnavigated the summit, but we were too tired and cold to stick around for long. We just wanted to rest and get off this mountain. We thought that the hike down would be easy, as the estimate time to go down would be around 3 hours, much quicker than the ascent. But Mount Fuji is full of surprises, and going down was extremely annoying, to put it politely. Here’s a short video of what we were dealing with.
I hadn’t noticed the soil was looser than a prostitute in Thailand when going up the mountain, but it made the descent like walking on bananas constantly for around 3 hours. I kept tripping and almost falling, with other climbers around me suffering the latter. The trekking poles we rented were absolute garbo, they kept retracting and couldn’t handle my weight. Part of me thought it was maybe due to the trekking poles being for women instead of men, but I much more likely to believe that they were shot. Or I was just an overweight foreigner. Meh, they are crappy let’s go with that. The constant focus on my footing unfortunately handicapped any soaking in of the magnificent view of Japan on the mountain. It was up to the GoPro and few breaks to really breath in the scenery. At the very least, the sun was warming us up from the terrible cold at the top and could finally shed our thermals. BUT at the same time, my feet were getting really sore from all the slipping and sliding, I should have tightened my boots up more to prevent a gnarly blister from forming on the side of my foot. Don’t worry, I didn’t take a picture of the blister, and sorry to those who are into that kind of thing. (aside: are blisters like an actual fetish? I mean there’s some weird shit out there, but I’m not taking up my browsing history to find out if it’s a real thing.)
One of my favorite shots from the descent is this one below, it looks like I could submit this to Microsoft for a desktop background competition; pls internet ppl don steal dis pls.
A few more images of the ascent down, the lighting was nice. Looking cultured and shit
After almost tripping for 3 hours, we finally made it back to Fifth Station. It was noticeably hot with the sun beating down on us. It’s weird how in the span of 4 hours we’ve experienced near freezing temperatures to 90 degree weather. That’s physics for you. We then had to wait a bit before we could return our rented supplies since the store didn’t open for another hour (arrived at Fifth Station at 8 AM, with the store open at 9 AM). I didn’t much care that we had to wait, it was simply good enough that we had accomplished the hike and could finally sit down and revel in it.
After returning the supplies, we hopped on the bus back to Kawaguchiko Station. Again, I begun to feel drowsy with the descent down the mountain on the bus. I could not fall asleep though, because this college girl from Canada kept talking to everyone around here. Her voice was, well, it’s a bit hard to describe, definitely in the basic bitch spectrum, but deeper and a tinge of Chinese. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but man I couldn’t help it because she was so loud. I mean, look, I know she is Canadian, half Chinese, half White, is about to graduate college from a three year program. Remember folks, people can hear you even though you think everyone around you doesn’t exist. And then there was this asshole Australian guy that was talking up a storm about how he “hates everything about America”. Sure, there’s a lot I’m not proud of in America, in fact, I am ashamed to be an American in the current state that it is, but to have some punk ass Australian say that, kinda pissed me off. In my head I calculated talking points, like how sure, I don’t have any strong opinions on Australia/Australians, because it/they do not have much impact on the world unlike America. That would get him for sure. I decided to opt out or pussy out on rebuking him, since I wanted to do what the Japanese do and be none confrontational, besides I was too tired to rev up the energy for it. Anyways, fuck kangaroos and koalas. Nah we cool Australia, I like your accents and crocodile dundee.
We quickly grabbed our stored luggage at Samurise which within walking proximity of Kawaguchiko Station. We had to stick around Kawaguchiko Station to take a train/transfers to Minobu, a small rural town that had a shuttle to our next destination. While waiting for the train, we were approached by a old Japanese local man. He was curious of our trip and what we were doing. He was very nice and polite and seemed to want to just talk. It got me thinking about the differences between rural Japan and more urban Japan; in Tokyo, people look down constantly and are on their magrail track to their destination. They aren’t concerned with anything else around them. This old fellow reminded me how you can never judge any country by just one city; countries are filled with colorful people with different temperaments. Although the old man didn’t speak much English, it was nice to talk to him.
I had forgot to call to the hotel we were heading to for shuttle reservations; this place was out in the boondocks and there wasn’t any train stations that were incredibly close by the place for walking. The hotel and Minbu Station is about a 1 hour drive, so not being on that shuttle would be disastrous, or at least cost us a hefty penny to get a taxi there. But whether we liked it or not, we were getting to that hotel since it was already paid for AND was the most expensive hotel we were staying in Japan. I attempted a call to the hotel to get a spot on the shuttle, and just our luck, the receptionist didn’t speak much English. He said I had to call back at 2 PM for an English speaker, but that was no good, because the only time the shuttle leaves to our hotel from Minobu was at 140 PM and we would arrive at Minobu station at exactly 130 PM. Perfect timing huh? Wouldn’t matter at all if we couldn’t be on that shuttle. So I did my best to use simple terms to get the point across that we needed to be on that 140 PM shuttle. “Bus” “140” “my name is Adam for reservation”. At first he wanted to hang up because he had already explained that he doesn’t speak English. But I persisted and it seemed to understand what I was saying. Now it was a matter of being at Minobu and seeing if we communicated it correctly.
After transferring trains, we finally made it to Minobu station and now was the time we would find out if I was successful in communication. We asked the train staff at the station about the shuttle to the hotel and they didn’t seem to know what we were referring to. Okay, breath, no big deal, we will figure out something. Not like we are in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. As we left the ticket booth, there was an older gentleman that seemed to catch our attention, he went up to me and showed me a piece of paper with my name on it highlighted. Success! Looks like I am international man number 1! Or maybe the hotel knew I had my reservation way beforehand and wrote me down to be picked up. I’m going to go with international man number 1, prime communicator of all languages, first of his name, mother of dragons, twice removed, the third, esquire, PhD thanks.
Day 5 is not over by a long shot, but at this point, I had been awake for around 13 hours, which I will again repeat how I did not get restful sleep in the slightest the night before. The remaining day I’m going to cover in the next post, as I want to keep the descent its own post. To you purists out there, you can fuck off with the day conventions. It makes more sense to lump the rest of Day 5 into the Day 6 post- wait why the fuck do I need to explain to you, dear reader, why am I doing this? I can just simply end the post right no-