What do you get when you mix a funster, his newly found Chinese hiking friend, and a millions of years old, 12,000 plus-foot inactive volcano? My August 11, 2010 (Happy Birthday Dad!).
I woke early today and headed for a three hour train ride from Fussa (the small suburb-esque town in which Yokota Air Base is located) away from Tokyo towards the mountains. After transfering four times, and hopping a bus to Mount Fuji (Japan's zenith) at its 5th station, which was another hour up a windy, scary road (especially when the buses coming the other direction came careening down the right side of the road, well, their left, our right), I was ready to summit!
Unfortunately, as I hopped off the bus, still talking to my new Chinese bus-friend Yeoung-si (seriously guessing at this spelling people) he informed me that to summit the mountain was another 5 to 6 hour hike from the 5th station which is 2,030 meters up. In other words, I had spent 4.5 hours in transit to get 1/2 the way up the mountain, vertically. So, of course, I second guessed Yeoung-si. After all, he was the guy I had helped get onto the correct bus at the train station because he didn't ready english or Japanese very well. I decided I still might try to summit.
As odd-bus new best friends, the two of us spent about 10 minutes walking the 5th station (full of shops and some serious looking hikers and equipment. Then we set off for the trail. We made it to 6th station, about a 1K walk (45 minutes), but still close to 2,000 meters. Apparently you need to go across the majority of Mount Fuji to the trail before you actually start to hike UP it. ALSO, apparently, you need winter gear, water, serious hiking boots, poles, pants, hats, gloves, the whole deal to make it to the summit. There was even a pre-recorded announcement just past 6th station that said, "if you are only traveling with light summer clothes don't even think about trying to make it to the absolute top". I was wearing jeans and had a long sleeve shirt in my backpack. I was severely underprepared. Meanwhile, Yeoung-si pulled out his hat with a hiking flashlight on it, a water camel-back, gloves, and everything.
So, about 10 minutes past 6th station, I told him I was heading back down, a 5K away (vertically) from the summit of Mount Fuji, but told him to go on without me and that I hoped the fog that choked most of the mountain-side and most of our view would clear for him, as he was staying on the summit for the sunrise the next morning.
On my descent, the clouds did clear away for portions of my down-hike and I will attach some pictures as my next few entries so you can see just how magnificent (hoping they do justice) and imposing Mount Fuji can be.
Fuji: 1, Nat: 0