and we climbed 富士山 (Fujisan)

Brooklyn Museum - woodblock print of Mount Fuji

Brooklyn Museum – woodblock print of Mount Fuji

……………………………….

“I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide arch
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered midway round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.”

………………………………..

……………H W Longfellow; Sunrise on the Hills

If that doesn’t describe it, then nothing would!! Perched on top of Mt. Fuji, looking far into the skies, where the rising sun was painting a magic of colours; streaks of gold, yellow and red through the deep blue-black of the night, the whites beginning to bathe off every other thing, the blue of the fresh morning… The cold of the air, and the heart racing from the climb, the sore foot, and the aching back; all history, not a nudge any more; the crispness; the magic; ushering in a new vigor into every cell of mine.

The climb up, was not easy a task; the darkness shrouding the jutting rocks, the chill of the night aggravated by the never ending winds and the ice cold rain; the sore muscles and the thumbing heart, the head pounding from lack of breathing air, the hurdles almost making me to stop and return.

The story begins, some 2 years into the past. Don’t know when or why this came into the mind. A vague memory of an argument with some friends, when the idea of climbing Mt. Fuji got shaped, still exists; the facts though are super twisted and I am not very sure how much of that are real, and how much imagined. The idea, later became a mission; ‘climb Mt. Fuji before you leave Japan’. Then all of a sudden, last Feb, I started asking people if they wanted to go with me. Many nodded yes, most thought of it, as a joke. But, by then, I had decided, booked mountain huts for the stay and heeding to an Alpiner friend’s advise, bought a bunch of hiking gear, and started training.

The clock kept ticking, bringing the D-day closer by the second. With that the questions got bigger. The fear factor grew in all dimensions and evolved into this, ever changing, ever following cloud of a formless monster enveloping me from all sides. The cheeky comments and the constant remainders from colleagues and friends did not help it either. Even the comforting stories and suggestions from friends were shrouded in the dark cloak of doubt. Shades of grey were visible even in passing glances. The big question, ‘Would I be able to do it?’

Summer came, with that the climbing season. We had decided on taking the Fujinomiya Trail, starting from the fifth station, at around noon, climbing up to the eighth station, spending the night at the eighth station, and leaving for the peak early in the morning for the sun rise.

Easy drive to Fujinomiya Mt. Fuji first station parking grounds, shuttle bus ride up the windy Fujisan Skyline, to the 5th station at 2400 m above sea level, pretty smooth and easy till then. Then began the climb; station 5 to station 6 was easy, 6 through 7 was ok, a couple of slippery stretches, kind of difficult to get a foot hold, but once u master the act of balancing on loose gravel, it becomes fun. Then began the cold winds and the rain, mild drizzles, which turned into a down pour right before we reached the 8th station. The warmth of the mountain hut and the aroma of hot food, welcomed us in.

Warm dinner, good sleep, and a very very early start the next morning, the plan looked good on paper, but even a 3:00 a.m start welcomed us with a trail of head lamps shining against the mountain wall; groups of people young and old, lining up the entire length of the trail. Snuggling up in wind breakers, and cuddling to each other to protect us from the wind, (too hard, that we felt flying off was a near chance), we joined the slow moving line, up the trail. From up here, the trail was more rocky, and the darkness of the night was not good company and the head lamps were of little help.

Finding foot holds among the jutting rocks; not easy a task in the darkness, much more difficult when you have the backpack of the person in front of you on your nose; the flickering head lamps proving weak against the darkness and the clouds; the cold biting ever more deep into the body, the only bright hope, the view, that was promised from up above. Not before have I witnessed, such a huge group of people; young, old, men, women, from different countries, speaking different languages; all striving hard, fighting the hurdles together and helping each other; the mission; the hope; uniting them! 

The final tori gate on the mountain, came as a welcome sign. The streaking lines of gold and red across the sky, shined as a new hope, a new beginning; a promise that together WE are strong to beat any stumbling block thrown up our way.

Here are some pictures from the trip. Click on pictures to view big images

The panting heart and the aching muscles were soon forgotten, and clicking pictures and exploring the crater became a higher priority. A short hike up Kengamine the highest point on the mountain, a visit to the shrine, some time to rest, couple of cups of coffee and cup noodles, we were ready for the climb back. Less tiring and more fun, with frequent photo stops, we were at the base by mid noon. A late lunch and a nap later, we returned with a promise that, we are coming back for a different view of the Fuji in a different season.

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