Friday, March 16, 2007

Climbing Fuji mountain

Fuji mountain - highest in Japan (3776 m above sea level). I choose to climb Fuji , because it is easy accessible by transportation and I have never climbed volcano.

I started off in early evening just before dark, so I can be on the top by morning and enjoy sunrise. It took me some 6-7 hours to get to the top and 2 hours descent. I climbed slowly to avoid altitude sickness, which I was expecting.

Video starts with bus ride to the Gotenba entrance of Fuji mountain. I climbed over huge lava field, which looked like black sand. I could not get firm grip, so my step sometimes slided down. Landscape did not change much – all the way black sand. On the way up met Japanese soldiers, who were returning from mountain. I heard about crowds heading towards Fuji summit in summer, but since I did not saw other climbers, I was kept wondering.

As I ascended, air become colder and when passing through cloud zone it was difficult to see the path. Luckily there were clear signs indicating way to the top. Still, I did not meet any people and did not hear any sound, except for wind and sound of sand.

During the night I could follow path in clear moonlight. I used flashlight just temporarily to walk around some dangerous rocks. Around 3150 m high I reached mountain hut, where other climbers were sleeping. This hut was served by staff and I bought one soup and tea to get myself warm. We talked quietly, not to wake up other climbers. Most of staff working there were students. They ascent at the beginning of July and stay till end of August, which is climbing season for Fuji. It was very warm in the hut and I really did not wanted to go outside and to continue to climb in cold and wind, but somehow made my self to push.

Top part was most difficult. I have to find my way through the rocks and keep sight on path. It become much steeper and air get thinner. I made myself to stop time after time to get breath. I felt my hearth is going like crazy. After some half a minute rest everything became normal and I felt comfortable again, but during climb I got tired quickly. Altitude sickness doesn’t allow much physical activity.

When reaching top, I was relieved that I could relax, but soon it become very cold. I pulled out thermometer and it showed just 6C. I was big change, considering that at the bottom was 30C and very sweaty. Tried to keep myself warm with walking and talking with other climbers, which ascended via different route. Paths on the top are narrow around huge rocks and crater. It was not so pleasant to look inside crater in the middle of night. It looked black and without bottom in moonlight. I learned from map that crater is something like 300 m deep. Hard to imagine how everything was there when actual eruption happened.

On top were no mountain huts open, which was disappointment a little. Just one vending machine of soft drinks. Motor of vending machine gave constant sound, but it was nice to sit in the light coming from it. Some climbers were sleeping, while covering with blankets, others were slowly approaching top. I could see lights coming up like one long snake.

Actually, many Japanese came to see sunrise from mountain. Just before sun came out, mountain top became very busy with climbers. Everyone tried to get to the best spot for viewing and taking photographs. Some shops were open, which sold warm food and souvenirs. Mountain top suddenly changed and became like small city in the skies. When sun appeared around 0430 o'clock, all people seemed very excited. There was also number of foreigners, which shared joy with Japanese climbers.

People on Fuji mountain enjoying sunrise
Image: People on Fuji mountain enjoying sunrise

I decided to descend mountain soon after it became fully light. While descending, I saw mountain bulldozers again. They are used to bring up supplies for shops and mountain huts, as well as bring down garbage. Since face of Fuji mountain is flat it is convenient to use these machines. I could not imagine that they could be used on other mountains, where is steep rocks and trees.

Mountain buldozer on Fuji
Image: Mountain bulldozer ready to go

During descent, sun was shining brightly and I just run down the mountain. It was like sliding down one big sand mountain. Shoes were full and clothes were covered with ashes, but it was very special day. I got on the first bus to station.

Fuji mountain from the bottom
Image: From the bottom I had clear view of Fuji mountain and my path

I climbed again Fuji second time in year 2007. This time during day and enjoyed better views to surroundings. I also took smaller bag and clothes.

Here you can see satellite image of the mountain on Google maps. I climbed Fuji mountain from East side, which is long black stretch on the right from crater.

View Larger Map

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