Mt Fuji Microfilm
Fuji-san, an iconic symbol of Japan. For many Japanese, climbing Mt. Fuji is considered the capstone of one’s adventures in Japan or a cultural pilgrimage, but for us, it was the foundation for our international experience.
Following the landing of our flight in Tokyo at 1:00 A.M , our journey commenced almost immediately after a three hour nap on the airport floor to recharge our already depleted batteries. At around 7 A.M, we hopped on a bus to Kawaguchiko Station - the closest town to Mt. Fuji - and then caught another bus to the base of the mountain.The word “base” is used in relative terms, as we were shrouded in clouds from the very beginning of this test of endurance. A renewing and warming meal of soup and noodles prepared us for the climb as our bodies adjusted to the altitude.
At noon, the hike began. The initial leg was deceptively easy as we meandered through a forest with fog swirling around our legs. As we gained altitude above the tree line, the intensity increased incrementally. Soil turned to rock and rock turned into ash. Our ascent was slow but relaxed as we anticipated a night of rest at the mountain hut we had reserved prior to our hike. Upon arriving at the seventh station, which was nearest our mountain hut, we were warmly welcomed by the hut’s staff.
In addition to complimentary postcards and tea, a simple yet hearty meal of curry and rice was offered. Following this feast, we attempted to sleep, although our sleeping bags were crammed together like sardines. At midnight, we awoke to begin hiking again in order to reach the summit by sunrise.
What followed was five hours of steep and rocky trail. While physically challenging on our already weary bodies, the most difficult element of the climb was having to navigate the delay of hundreds of other hikers crowding the narrow trail.
With only a week remaining before colder temperatures turned Fuji’s trail into a treacherous slope, a huge influx of hikers congregated at the same time. The painstakingly slow pace which resulted left us at the mercy of the biting winds, which often cut right through our coats and chilled our noses. However, we never considered turning back. The summit was to be reached. The winking lights from hundreds of headlamps mirrored the stars on the crisp and clear night. Every step blurred together in the darkness, except when we stopped at each station to adjust to the altitude and brand a plain wooden pole with unique stamps which catalogued our progress up the mountain.
Although every hut seemed the same, we plodded on. Slowly, we closed the distance between us and the top, until at last - 3776 meters. Summit. For more than an hour we huddled together, celebrating our accomplishment with a grin frozen on our faces. Ever so gradually, the sun peeked above the clouds, dousing neighboring mountaintops in the warmth of an orange glow. We marveled at the most expansive view I’d ever witnessed. Every tough step, every chilling gust of wind, every moment where I had wished for nothing more than the sweet embrace of sleep - each of these was forgotten, evaporated by the sun’s rays. We did it. We climbed Fuji-san.