My First (and Last) Time Climbing Mount Fuji: Part Two

If you missed part one of our Fuji climb, then you can find it here.

After the aforementioned curry rice dinner, we decided it was time to get a few hours shut-eye. We’d been told that to get to the top in good time for sunrise we’d need to leave around midnight, which gave us about four hours of downtime.

As I said before our bed for the night was not so much a bed, but more of a wooden ledge with a bit of matting on it. We were provided with sleeping bags and a pillow that was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. In fact, it wasn’t a pillow at all; it was a fairly small, and particularly hard beanbag. As if this wasn’t uncomfortable enough, it was kept in what appeared to be a sandwich bag which we were told in no uncertain terms was not to be removed. Lovely.

It's all fun and games until you realise just how many people will be 'sleeping' next to you.

It’s all fun and games until you realise just how many people will be ‘sleeping’ next to you.

If you watched part one of the video (if not, why not?), then you’ll be aware that I need to pee fairly regularly. When climbing Fuji, for the privilege of emptying your bladder you’ll pay a cool ¥200. Now it’s not much, and I understand that the toilets have to be cleaned and maintained by someone. I’m all for the mountain huts charging people who aren’t staying there for the use of their facilities, but must this really extend to the guests too? As I mentioned in my previous post, we’d paid almost ¥10,000 for a few hours at our mountain hut; can you imagine my face when the member of staff told us that we also had to pay ¥200 to pee?

Thankfully, there was no one patrolling the entrance to the toilet and the payment was done on an honesty basis where the coins were dropped into a box. It’s amazing how similar two ¥1 coins sound to two ¥100 when dropped.

Nah, you're alright.

Nah, you’re alright.

As well as being an exercise in bladder control, it was also one in counting sheep as the lot of us found it impossible to even get a second of sleep. Adam and I were being kept awake by the perennial snorer in the room (there had to be one, right?) whilst Conor found himself battling altitude sickness. Having experienced a little bit of dizziness myself, I thought I could relate until Conor told us that the entire room was spinning and he had to leap off the bed multiple times to be sick in one of the bowls provided by the hut (at no extra cost, believe it or not).

The hours ticked slowly by and two things became clear: a) That we wouldn’t be getting any sleep and; b) That Conor wouldn’t be joining us on the rest of the climb. In fact, by around 11pm Adam and I found ourselves so sleep-deprived that we burst into an absolute giggling fit when one of us did a fairly sizeable fart. To think people thought all this travelling had helped me grow up!

Midnight rolled around and it was time to start the second half of the hike. As expected, Conor sadly couldn’t continue as his altitude sickness still had him in a headlock so it was with a heavy(ish) heart that Adam and I left him to sleep at the hut whilst we joined our two new American mates – Zach and Dan – on the final leg.

For those of you currently cursing the pair of us for leaving Conor behind, we were assured by the hut’s staff that they would help him get to the downward path so he would make his way back to the 5th station in the morning. Who were we to question the word of the people who saw fit to charge their paying guests ¥200 for a piss? Nope, not bitter at all.

Just a few of the thousands of likeminded people climbing to the summit. I wonder if they whinged as much as I did.

Just a few of the thousands of likeminded people climbing to the summit. I wonder if they whinged as much as I did.

The hike to the top carried on much in the same fashion as the first leg ended. The air was getting thinner, and the night was bitterly cold. The stops for oxygen were becoming more and more regular, and the lack of sleep meant plenty more general rest stops were needed.

Thankfully, as we had two new mates the time passed relatively quickly as the conversation flowed steadily between the ever deepening breaths. We even had a few stops to admire the starry sky and, although we may have been hallucinating due to lack of sleep and oxygen, we were pretty blown away by what we thought were a few shooting stars. In fact we were so blown away that Adam and myself seemed to be in a competition for who can come up with the wankiest quote. I’ll leave it up to you to decide:

Option A – Me: It’s times like this that make you realise what an amazing world we live in.

Option B – Adam: Things like this make you realise just how small and insignificant you are.

Feel free to let me know in the comments section which is the most cringeworthy.

Waiting for sunrise. Never has a facial expression said so many words.

Waiting for sunrise. Never has a facial expression said so many words.

Finally, at around 3am we reached the summit. As was expected, the place was already rammed as sunrise was due in around an hour. My priority at this moment in time was getting a hot drink (a can of coffee which burnt my hands – ¥400) and sitting down.

I was in an absolutely foul mood and I’m almost certain I was terrible company at this point (Adam, Dan and Zach – SHHHHHH!); to be perfectly honest I was so miserable, sleep deprived and lightheaded that I would quite happily have just lay down on the floor and slept for a few hours. Sure, I’d have missed the sunrise but I could always watch the Go Pro footage back, right?

Thankfully I decided against this and entertained myself by people-watching until sunrise. My personal favourite was a pair of blokes from Indonesia who deemed it necessary to take photos waving their country’s flag at every single stage of the sunrise. Not only this, but one of them was also wearing a t-shirt with the words ‘PALESTINE WILL BE FREE” on the front so he also posed with a Google image of the Palestine flag at every opportunity too. I’m sure the people of Palestine really appreciated his noble act.

Literally every single photo I took of the sunrise had that tosser's flag in it.

Literally every single photo I took of the sunrise was photobombed by that flag-saving tosser.

Sunrise came and went and was truly spectacular as you will see from my Go Pro video further down. Sadly, my battery lasted for the large majority of sunrise but cut out just as the sun itself came into view but you get the picture anyway! It was totally worth staying awake.

At around 5am we decided it was time to start making our way back to the 5th station. Unfortunately if the lads thought my mood was bad at the top then they’d seen absolutely nothing yet as the walk down turned me into a full-on brat; the toys well and truly came out of the pram.

Just another few thousand metres to go.

Just another few thousand metres to go.

Somehow it was possible for the walk down the mountain to be considerably worse than the walk up. Once again, we were completely unprepared and were taken by surprise when the downward route turned out to be about three hours of loose terrain, dust and sand that just zig-zagged all the back back to the 6th station. All the locals seemed to be running down with their sticks and even enjoying themselves – imagine that! I, on the other hand, felt like my knees were about to give way and would happily have just dropped everything and lived on the mountain for the foreseeable future if it was an option. I really didn’t want to carry on.

Three hours, countless never-ending zig-zags and even more moans later we found ourselves on something that resembled straight and narrow land; we were on the final stretch. I was toying with the idea of forewarning those just setting off and telling them it wasn’t too late to reconsider, but I decided that if I had to be in agony then it’s only fair they experienced the same thing 24 hours later.

Smiling to hide the fact my knees were about to give way.

Smiling to hide the fact my knees were about to give way.

We arrived back at the 5th station and found Conor looking a lot more human than when we’d left him some nine hours earlier. It was 9am; we said our goodbyes to Zach and Dan then set about swapping our 5pm bus tickets for something much, much sooner as we wanted out of there as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, all the buses for the day were fully booked so we ended up heading to the nearest train station and taking a massively inconvenient train back to Tokyo despite having already paid for the bus. We didn’t care – we just wanted to be home as soon as we could.

Now – a month later – I can look back at it and with a much clearer head than I did straight afterwards. The sunset was incredible; we had a good laugh (at times) and it’ll be a story to tell for years to come.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Would I do it again? Never in a million years.

Enjoy the video!

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5 responses to “My First (and Last) Time Climbing Mount Fuji: Part Two

  1. Pingback: My First (and Last) Time Climbing Mount Fuji: Part One | Rambling Northerner·

  2. hi mate,
    My friends and I completed the climb last month too and also were witness to the famous goraiko at the summit. Thanks for the laughs! Your two pages on the climb were an awesome read and hilarious. Can relate to most of it. Loved the honesty box trick and FYI, you win the shooting stars quote comp. Yours was the runaway winner lol. Thanks again! Ever think of doing it all again like I am? Cheers. Toai

    https://fujisunrisegoraiko.wordpress.com

    • Hi Toai!

      Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed and I hope it brought back some good (?) memories!

      Thanks for being the decider in the quotes competition. Yours was the only vote so I guess you’ve just chosen the winner…or should that be loser?

      Right now I have no intention of ever climbing it again. Have you?!

      • hi mate, actually I’m the fool they speak of as I intend to do it again someday. Will bring my boys then, when they’re older. Or is that child abuse lol. so yep, I must have really forgotten that awful descent where I couldn’t walk the next day.
        Sorry I changed my site name. Here it is. Nothing as entertaining as yours though.

        https://mtfujiclimbtoai.wordpress.com

      • Haha – absolutely no chance of me doing that any time soon! I class myself as pretty fit, but there’s no way I’m putting my poor legs and knees through that again!

        Had a good read of your post, have to say it brought back some nice (not sure that’s the word…) memories and suddenly it doesn’t all feel so bad. You seem to have taken a much less cynical approach to it than I did haha! When’s the next climb then?!

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