Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mt. Fuji

I was easily up at 5:30am, not having anyone to go to the station with, and not wanting to miss the train, cause I am stupid and it happens. So I was the first to arrive, nearly an hour early at the north exit of Toyama train station. I just had a bit of extra time to read my book.

The bus ride was good fun. 7 hours of watching stupid movies and playing GHOST ( a word game that my sister and I used to play all the time when we were little). I was pretty jazzed about the climb, so I didn’t sleep at all. The bus took us the the middle of the mountain, otherwise known as station 5. We started climbing in a group of ten, a bit after 6pm. The sun was already starting to go down, and we figured we had a bit of light before we had to bust out our head-torches.

Sometime after the 6th station, we started losing members. I think it was around the time that Laura C. and Warren decided to go off the path and avoid a big group ahead of us. We didn’t really see much of them till the top. The 10 kept dwindling, till there were 4 of us. Bryan (aka Wisconsin), (old man) Dan, Richard, and me. We stayed together for the long hall, only breaking up once we finally made it to the summit. But I am getting ahead of myself here... A great part of the climb was more of a strenuous hike. It gradually got steeper, and right before the stations they made these god-awful steps that I had to throw my leg up and practically pole-vault on top of using my stick. I love my stick.

Obviously the temp kept dropping, and we were getting too close to the top too soon. We made it up there (dilly dallying as much as possible) around 2am, and had to wait over 3 hours for the sun to come up. There weren’t places for us to go to get warm, just a few cafes on the way up. They were strict though, you order your cocoa, and you have 10 minutes to drink it, then we kick you out. “Dude! I just paid 400yen for cocoa, cut me a break here”... NO! We went up a bit further and Geoff was nice enough to lay on our laps to keep us a bit warmer. We were, ironically, sitting right outside of a nice warm cafe, that was non-gaijin. Grrr... foreigners get cold too! So, instead, we decided to climb for about 15 minutes to warm ourselves up, then find a niche and huddle. We were worried about encountering a line around sunrise, however, so we kept truckin to the top.

We were crouching next to a picnic table, and behind the climbers who had made it up about 20 minutes prior to us. I slept intermittently. After a while, we noticed that people were getting up and not coming back. We jumped up and made a dash for the restaurant that was opening up. Joshie, Richard, and I huddled together on a long bench and watched as everyone packed in like sardines. Josh was translating the frantic angry Japanese into, “this is a restaurant, order or leave!” After they finished their steaming ramen, we pretended like one of us was ill and we had no idea what was going on, till they kicked us out. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Plan B was to go to the bathroom and then head-torch it up to the crater to warm ourselves up. When we came upon the bathroom, all plans in progress were halted. It was full of US marines. I mean full. They were sleeping on the floor, blocking the sink, huddling with our fellow JETs in the corner above the boxes of toilet paper. It was hilarious, yet very very warm. We ended up staying there and hanging with them till the sun came up. One from Alabama lent me his gloves, and the boys managed to get a hand-warmer packet. Yeah for US marines! We ran outside into the awful wind around sunrise and snapped a few shots before linking arms and running back to the safety of the loo. This pattern continued till the sun came all the way up, at which point we became the “screw the crater, let’s start the descent” group. We snagged Geoff, Tim, Bryan, Kate, and we thought Joshie, but somehow we lost him, and started heading down. Bless the sun, it was so nice!