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Aug 22 2011

The twelfth week

Here comes the San…

Fuji San

Fuji San

It’s time for a countryside trip again! This time to Japan’s highest mountain, Fuji San. And I already found the perfect partner for this hike. Andreas, my school friend whom I introduced last week. He has already climbed the 3776 m high Fuji San three times from the very bottom to the very top! The main starting point for hikers however starts from station house five at 2300 m altitude. This is the final destination for buses to Fuji San. However, Andreas and I have decided for the long route. We are starting at 12:00 p.m., and want to reach the summit around one or two a.m. Pleasant, until Station house 5 most of the route leads through a forest so that we always walk in shade protected from the burning sun and don’t need sun screan at all.

The following equipment should be packed into your backpack for climbing Fuji San: The gear can vary strongly depending on the season. Weather-wise July and August are best suited for a less challenging climb. Furthermore it should be mentioned that the so called station houses there are closed in the winter season thus you can’t by any supplies then. However it’s summer. And for this time following items shouldn’t be missing:

Torch/Flashlight (even if you plan climb it during the day you never know what happens and for how long you will stay at the end )

Batteries

a little towel to wipe off one’s sweat.

Four litres of water. Sounds like a lot but it will not last to the summit if you start from Fujis foot

Advisable but not essential: walking sticks.

Depending on the climbing time: sun screan and sunglasses. – Even on cloudy days.

Lifesaving: rain-protection and good weatherproof clothing!
Depending on the starting time of your tour a good torch/flashlight is recommended. The last passage is steep. So walking sticks can be very helpful some of the time. From station house seven on the route gets very steep and it is recommended to have both hands available or to make good use of the walking sticks. Thus a headlamp is recommended. One does not essentially need good walking shoes. Many people climb Fuji with trainers/sneakers and come back alive and without blisters on their feet. I got myself polyester trousers/pants however Andreas decided for regular jeans. But weatherproof clothing should never be missing. Even if Fuji San has its very own and quite reliable weather forecast one should be prepared for a change in the weather. It is necessary to have a good raincoat. Also gloves are very useful. Temperatures of minus -5°C (23°F) can be reached during the summer months. So the jacket should have a good lining. As one can easily break sweat on the ascent fleece shirts are to be preferred over cotton ones. As the cotton quickly gets soaked with the sweat and one quickly risks an under cooling depending on the wind and altitude. Those climbing Fuji during the day and who do not have the best melatonin balance should carry sun screan with her or him. Those who turn the ascent into a two day adventure should also think about toilet paper. And of course a lot to drink…

At our first break after approximately one hour we meet a retired Japanese couple who offer us self-harvested peaches. It is hard to believe but I already drank two litres of my four litre drinking stock.

On to station house no. one. On the way to it, not a single soul. Shortly before the second station house there is a small parking lot. On our walking route the last access point for cars until station house no. five. Here we meet two Polish people. Well, even Germany’s neighbours appreciate high mountains.

It is already 4 p.m. and we have just reached station house no. 3 at 1700 metres (5577 feet). By the way for some time now Japan has been trying to get Fuji San into the Unesco world heritage. So far the applications have been rejected due to a lot of garbage lingering on and around Fuji San and due to the fact that the mountain does not have enough plants worth protecting. Andreas and me are finding relatively little bottles or plastic bags – there are some walking routes in Germany which are far dirtier than those here, however the so called station houses starting at no. one until no. five are anything else but eye candy to me. They are rotting hut ruins, collapsed, shrunken and abandoned. Even if I am not a Unesco juror I am able to relate to their reasons for their rejections very well. When a street to station no five was built all lower located station houses became less important. Since then a lot of hikers don’t start their route from the very foot and so it became less lucrative for the landlords to keep up the huts. The supplies were carried to the huts after all. Which is still valid for all station houses above no. five by the way.

We are lucky with the weather. Not a single rain cloud. But around 7 p.m. the dusk slowly arises and Andreas and I are fishing out our torches/flash lights. Mine is way brighter but despite four A batteries it’s dead after less than an hour. The starry sky and even the shining moon do not really help us here in the forest. We are both hoping that Andrea’s batteries will last a little longer at least. We turn the flash light on and off several times, testing to see how it would be if the second torch/flashlight died. Even in somewhat brighter clearings with moonlight we are stumbling immediately on the stony ground. Not to mention the possible danger of taking the “wrong fork”.

Tired but not completely exhausted we are reaching station house no. five. My stomach has been aching for a while now. The first one which is not a collapsed ruin. My drinks did actually last until here. Still I’m running low. I’m getting myself a two litre bottle for 1.000 yen.

At 9:30 we are moving on. The route is getting steep. Very steep. A lot of tourists are accompanying us now who came via bus to station five and started their tour from there. Many tourists have an American accent however for the most part are Japanese people. It’s holiday season after all. That means that one should book the trains or buses to Fuji San at least two weeks in advance.

About 10:00 p.m. we are reaching station no. 6. The thin air is giving us a hard fight. My stomach pains are getting stronger. Even Andreas is complaining about slight stomach aches. As he climbed Fuji San already three times without having had any stomach problems we can’t see any reason for them. Even though I slept for five hours last night so I want to preclude exhaustion as a reason, hehe. So what is it which is giving both of us this hard fight? Hm there was this nice couple with the peaches… But they were really tasty. Could they have upset our stomachs? However it is the only thing we both ate together today.

About 11:00 p.m. we are reaching station house no. 7 at almost 3.000 m as my stomach aches are becoming unbearable. It is a cloudless night sky. Up I can see what I haven’t seen since my arrival in Japan: a marvellous swath of the heavens with thousands of stars and even the milky way! We’re even spotting three shooting stars! But unfortunately I can’t really enjoy it because in addition to my aching stomach the thin air affects my circulation so strongly that my face is turning ashen. Even a one hour long break does not improve my constitution. We are lucky with the weather. A slight breeze prevails. But despite two sweat shirts and a jacket we both begin to shiver. What would one expect if you don’t move any more. My stomach aches are getting even worse! I’m completely prostrated and am telling Andreas: “I’m sorry I have to give up!”

I’m astonished by Andreas’ reaction. He is not disappointed at all! Well okay, he has been to the summit several times already.

So we are setting forth on our way back. After two hours we are reaching station 5. But it’s not even three a.m. The first buses back to Tokyo are leaving at 10:00 a.m Until dawn we persevere on two hard wooden benches. As compensation for this we are being rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. It is almost completely fogless. Which is a rare event on and around Fuji San. Often thick morning fog gathers and remains, especially in the lowlands, relatively long.

Fuji San rise

Fuji San rise

Fuji San rise part II

Fuji San rise part II

As the first shops are opening their doors at around 6 a. m. (officially most shops open here at 8 or 10 a.m.) there is only one thing which will help my aching stomach: Whiskey. And even this you can get here. So my dear alcoholics. You won’t run out of booze, even here at 2300 m (7545 feet) up Fuji San. Very calming isn’t it?

Diverse hiking routes: http://www.city.fujiyoshida.yamanashi.jp/div/english/html/climb.html

Special thanks to: Hubertus Neidhart from Webspace Provider Network for excellent web page hosting services; Lilith Pendzich, Germany; Brandon Lamb, U.S.A.;

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