Have any of you climbed Mt. Fuji? My husband's stuck on it.

My husband, Todd, is in the US Air Force. We’re stationed on Okinawa, and he’s on a 2 week work-trip to mainland Japan right now. One of his friends has been stationed there for a couple of years and is leaving next week, and has never gotten around to climbing Fuji, which is about 1.5 hrs from the base. So Todd and his friend and two other guys rented a military van to drive up to Fuji and climb it. They left the base at 6 am Saturday. It is now 2 am Sunday here (and there) and he’s still there.

Two of the guys wimped out halfway up and decided it was too cold, and went back to “station 5” to wait for Todd and whoever stayed with him. Todd and other guy went to the summit and started down, following directions from someone. Turns out there are several Station 5s. They went down the wrong side of the mountain. (This is oddly common here…right by our house is the intersection of HWY 6 and HWY 6. I can think of 3 other roads just like that. It’s confusing.)

Anyway, long story kind-of short the wimps had given up on Todd and friend and had gone back to base and reported them missing. Todd has a cell phone; I’ve talked to him twice during this ordeal, but they didn’t try to call. They knew he had a cell. Since Todd and friend are now officially missing, Todd’s supervisor here is called and it’s a big cluster-fuck. Finally it was communicated that they were stuck on the wrong side of the mountain and the wimps are coming to pick them up. It will be 6 am before they get back to base.
Todd says he’ll never climb Fuji-san again. I haven’t done it and rather want to, but is it worth it?

Tell me your Fuji story!

Never had the chance unfortunately. It’s on my list though!

From what I hear, old Japanese ladies can make it to the top, so shame on his friends!

I’ve never been anywhere near Japan, but I now give props to the cell phone coverage there!!

I went with a group of friends. In retrospect, we probably should have canceled the trip when the typhoon rolled in, but we figured we could make it, even though no one had proper equipment, clothing, or experience.

We took the bus up to station 5 and were walking up the side of the mountain when the rains hit. The rain was blinding, coming down in buckets, and as we had chosen to go on a night hike in order to be able to get up see the sunrise, it was almost impossible to see anything, let alone the trail. The winds were gusting so hard that we (all young and healthy) were having trouble standing up. We were all wearing light mildly waterproof clothing, so pretty much from the beginning we were soaked and freezing.

Eventually we got to the part were we had to use cables to climb up the side of the mountain. We were all doing this by following a few flashlight beams in gusting winds and pouring rain. Also it turns out the cables weren’t particularly well maintained, as they were all rusty and the eyes (the places the cables were secured to the rocks) were shaky and prone to pop out of the rocks altogether. We talked about turning around but no one wanted to. Mass stupidity.

So eventually we get to the cabin, where we have reservations for dinner and a bed. We were so late that dinner was over and our guide had to practically threaten the kitchen to get them to serve us. Then it turns out that the “bed” we reserved was actually “spot on the wooden floor just wide enough for half a person.” We were crammed in like we were refugees or something and some old Japanese guy kept trying to spoon me. My backpack was insufficient for the weather and all of my spare clothes were wet.

I spent the whole night soaked, freezing cold, and trying not to cry. Plus the cabin managers insisted on keeping all the windows open “for ventilation,” so it was windy and I was getting rained on as well. I only just barely got to sleep before dawn and skipped the pre-dawn hike because it was still raining. We all came back down in the daylight, still wet and cold, and drank ourselves stupid once we got back home.

I did it twice when I lived there. Both times we had guides who knew the way up and down, though.

The climb is long, but nowhere near ropes-and-pitons difficulty. In good weather it takes about six hours to go up, and about two to go down. There are rest stations along the way, with food and water, and usually lots of people hiking along with you. Little old Japanese ladies making the ascent are a not-uncommon sight as you hike; it takes them maybe three days, sleeping at the rest stations along the way, but they make it.

The atmosphere is almost festive; everyone coming down shouts, “gambatte!” (meaning “fight” or “press on” or something; it’s a general encouragement) to the people going up. This is especially noteworthy because the Japanese almost never speak to strangers, or even make eye contact with them, in public. This is a different situation though.

The first time I did the climb, when I was 14, was dreadful: We drove about halfway up, as most folks do, then started hiking early in the morning. A horrible storm blew up, with the only wind that has ever knocked me completely off my feet. The raindrops blowing down the mountain felt like rocks hitting my head (or maybe it was hail). The crew was me, my dad, another father-and-son pair, and our guide who had grown up on and around Fuji; this was, he informed us, his 500th ascent.

About an hour from the summit the other kid, who was a year or two younger than I, started crying and said he couldn’t keep going, so he stayed at a rest station while the rest of us continued on up. I was feeling really horrible by that time; my face was numb, my legs rubbery. I wanted to stop too, having lost all interest in finishing the climb, and it was only mulish pride that kept me from staying there with him.

Eventually we got up to the top. We stood around in wind and rain and fog for a while, and ate something, then turned around and went back down. The whole thing sucked.

The second time I was sixteen, and the difference was night and day. We were in a group of about fifty people. About half were American, British, Australian, Canadian, and other native English speakers living in Japan; the other half were Japanese folks who spoke English, with a scattering of other nationalities such as French, German, and a couple of folks from the Ivory Coast. (It’s a long story how this group came together. Beer was involved.)

This time the weather was utterly beautiful. We started hiking at about noon; everyone was laughing and having a great time. Several people had big wineskins full of wine, and we all shared it and sang songs and stuff as we hiked.

We got up to one of the final way stations about an hour from the top, and settled in for the night; then the party began. Everyone drank and talked and had a big old time under lantern-light, and it was one of the Great Times of my life. I was sixteen, and the others ranged (at a guess) from maybe 22 to 65. I had always been more comfortable around adults than kids, though, so I fit right in.

We sacked out in bunks at about 10 p.m., and then about twenty of us got up at 4 a.m. to finish the hike in near-darkness. When we got to the top, there was almost no one there, and we watched the sunrise from the peak of Mt. Fuji. I’ve been told that’s the first spot in all of Asia that the sun hits in the morning; I imagined that for one moment my shadow stretched across all of China.

We hung around for a while, sent a few postcards (there’s a post office up there so you can get the uber-prestigious postmark on your mail), then hiked on down.

So yeah, my second ascent was terrific, one of my happiest memories. Sorry to ramble on here, but I had a rush of nostalgia when I saw the thread title.

I hope that he will be all right, but as it is known where he is, am sure it will work out.

When I lived there in 1950 for a couple of years, I climbed it three times. Back then one had to start much lower down than now, but still had huts all the way where you could eat and/or sleep.

Magnificent view from the top if, and that’s a big “if” the clouds, which you will be above, don’t block out everything.

Yeah, on top you can walk all around the volcanic crater, so it is important to be sure the trail you take back is the one you came up on.

Sure, school girls gayly trip up, little bent-over old ladies go up as does everybody in between. As it is a bit over 12,000 feet in elevation, obviously you should not try it if you are a couch potato. If you are in reasonably good condition, and realize it is a strenuous activity going up and down, usually taking two days, it is well worth it.

Living fast back then, were you? :smiley:

There is a Japanese saying, “He who never climbs Mt. Fuji is a fool. He who climbs it twice is a bigger fool.”

Make your own conclusions. :smiley:

Drat; I meant to include that line in my post, but I forgot by the time I got done writing it all up.

And yes, I’m apparently “the greater fool.” The second climb was the one I’d rather remember, though.

Isn’t it: “He who climbs Mt. Fuji once is wise. He who climbs Mt. Fuji twice is a fool.”?

My husband lived in Japan as a grade school aged kid when his dad was stationed there in the army (Yakota? He isn’t home for me to ask right now).

His dad is the classic military dad who wouldn’t tolerate wussiness in his kids. He took my husband, then 7, and his sister, then 8, to climb Mt. Fuji one day. Only when they got there did he realize my husband had not brought his jacket. Too bad! Consequences! That’s how you learn!

Off they go. I don’t know how far they got, but my husband got colder and colder and started lagging behind, receiving no assistance from his father other than “Keep up dammit!” Finally he just got really tired, laid down and went to sleep.

He woke up in a station feeling cozy warm, surrounded by concerned Japanese people, his father and sister no where to be seen. He says he assumed he would become Japanese now and wouldn’t see his family again :eek:

After quite awhile someone finally caught up to the white guy that they assumed was attached to the white kid and brought him back. He checked on my husband, then left him there at the station while he finished the climb and picked up my husband on his way back down.

I have heard my husband tell this tale many times, and I suspect it is one of his favorite memories. I can never get him to come hiking with me though.

Thanks for the stories; I can’t decide whether I want to bother with climbing it or not. It seems more like something I should want to do more than something I really do want to do. We’re here for 2.5 more years, so no rush. Todd is in no hurry to get back up there. He finally got back to base (Yakota) around 8 am, 26 hours after he left it.

When I lived in Japan, I was assured that this was some sort of western BS made up quote.

Only time I tried to climb Fuji, which is not a very tall mountain, I got rained off. I had the raingear and was willing to finish, but my girlfriend was getting soaked and we went back down.

Jeeeez…good luck getting him back! I’d be a little freaked out.

I never climbed it, but my husband did when he was in the Marines. He got a walking stick with the checkpoints burned into it, and a little flag. One of his climbing mates sprained his ankle and they had to carry him down.

I don’t think it’s considered a difficult climb. I don’t think it could be if my husband did it. He’s not much of an adventurer.

I have to say this. One of the best things about being a Doper is being allowed to share in the articulate and beautifully written posts that flow through here.

This is without a doubt one of the most poetic things I’ve ever read and I read a lot.

Thank you for sharing this. I now want to climb Mt. Fuji.


Heh, I was just about to post that saying!

12 years of living within sight of the damn thing and I’ve never gotten around to it. My wife has no interest in it, so I’m on my own. Maybe when my son gets older we’ll do it together.

Thanks, Cartooniverse. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

I’ve been considering participating in the Fuji Mountain Race sometime.


Since I’ve been trying to get a visit to Japan together and I enjoy challenges like this (I just ran the Pikes Peak Ascent for the third time last weekend), I think it sounds like great fun!

Definitely! I just hiked up and down Mount Fuji yesterday and the day before, in fact.

I’m in okay shape; I’m not an athlete and I don’t work out, but I walk regularly and try to hike as much as I can. This was my first time on Mount Fuji, and since I’m not used to high altitudes, I gave myself a lot of time. It took me around 10 hours to make the ascent, not including the time I spent inside a mountain hut. (Tourist brochures and guide books say that one can make the ascent in 5 hours, but I wanted to go at my own pace. It didn’t help that I was sleep-deprived. Believe me, I wanted to sleep the night before, but I couldn’t fall asleep for various reasons.)

Monday (the 26th) was a great day for making the ascent, not too hot and humid. I started from Kawaguchiko fifth station (2,305 meters up Fuji) and took the Yoshidaguchi/Kawaguchiko trail up. After 4 hours of hiking I stopped at a mountain hut above the seventh station for dinner and rest. During dinner I had a friendly chat in broken Japanese with the woman sitting across from me. (I haven’t had any conversational practice in 7 years, so I had trouble speaking. But she seemed to take an interest in me and gave me some candy. :slight_smile: ) I rested in the mountain hut for a few hours, and left around midnight Tuesday morning to get to the summit. I didn’t arrive at the summit before sunrise as I was hoping to do, but I was at least past the first torii after the eighth station when the sunrise really got going.

The ascent was amazing–the vistas I saw as I was heading up the trail, the bejeweled night sky that revealed itself as the clouds cleared up, the gorgeous sunrise, the camaraderie of hiking in the middle of the night with hundreds of other people doing the same thing–it was all totally worth the effort.

I bought a walking stick at Kawaguchiko fifth station and had it branded along the way as I reached the various stations. It had a bell hanging from it, and I did the hike accompanied by the jangling of bells, both of my own stick and the sticks of the people around me.

The descent, though, totally sucked. Not only was Tuesday hot and humid, the return trip killed my knees and felt anticlimactic. I realized why I had seen so many people wearing face masks on the way up: going down the trail descending to Kawaguchiko fifth station kicks up a ton of dust. But I guess I’ve got to take the good with the bad.

I also did a circuit of the crater. That hike sucked too. Starting sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 am the summit became completely blanketed in cloud. Imagine that you’re walking on a strip of land only 10 feet wide, on top of sheer cliffs dropping sharply into stark whiteness while constantly being buffeted by strong winds, with hardly any railings to save you from certain death. It was terrifying.

Anyway, hiking up Fuji is an endurance test, and if you’re well-prepared (wear warm clothing and a headlamp, bring enough water and money, etc.) you can probably make it to the summit like me. The ascent more than made up for the rest of the hike.

While I agree with Cartooniverse that it was a beautiful sentence, I in turn must say that the metaphor of a shadow cast from Mt. Fuji stretching across all of China has seriously martial overtones to me which are not positive. I know it wasn’t meant that way, but when I read it, a different sort of chill went up my spine.

Congrats to all who made the acscent. I will respectfully avoid making any kind of joke about a blimp coming to the rescue of stranded climbers. :wink: