Climbing Mt Fuji

I know I have already expressed gratitude for this majestic mountain of Japan, but it is a whole different type of gratitude to have summitted her.  As one might imagine, this is no small feat and was the reason I was so exhausted yesterday.

The Japanese say that a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, and only a foolish man does it twice.

I guess that makes me a foolish man.

I was able to climb Mt. Fuji last year but was unfortunate enough to have terrible weather at the top and really was not able to enjoy the experience.  I was still proud of myself for accomplishing the feat, but it left me with a desire to do it again.  So when the opportunity arose to go with some friends, I had to take it.
It was not looking promising in the days leading up to our climb with a typhoon coming through and rain forecast for the entire week.  With the way schedules aligned, yesterday was the only chance we had so we decided to just go for it.

When climbing Mt. Fuji almost everyone starts at the fifth station, which is around 7,000 feet in elevation.  As we started up the mountain we were essentially at the same level as the clouds, but they were also climbing the mountain.  

It is actually a pretty cool sight to see as the wind pushes the clouds up the mountain and you go from blue sky to overcast in a manner of minutes.
Fortunately, as we proceeded up the mountain, we were able to outpace the clouds and broke out into blue skies for most of the way up the mountain.  It was actually fascinating watching the clouds climb up after us wondering if we would make it to the top before they did.  Which we did.

The climb itself is only about 4.1 miles to the summit, but as it is also about 5,000 feet of vertical elevation, it is not a quick jaunt up the hill.  It took me just over six hours to reach the summit but I am glad we took a little bit of a slower pace because we got to enjoy the beauty of the mountain more, and we were not dying when we got to the top.

Beauty is an interesting word to describe the terrain you climb through because it is mostly volcanic rock everywhere with no vegetation or life of any kind once you get above about 8,000 feet.  And yet, it is truly beautiful.  

The sheer magnitude of its size, the dramatic pitch of the climb to the summit, and the feeling of comeplete remoteness of the mountain provide an incredibly peaceful feeling as you climb.
It is no wonder that this incredible mountain has such spiritual and religious meaning to the Japanese people.  

As I summitted the mountain for the second time, I was able to really take in the magnitude of the sight I have admired these last two years from down below.  With bluebird skies overhead, and only a light breeze.  I was able to walk to the edge and admire the crater of what is still an active volcano.

It is another one of those things that you truly must witness for yourself to fully appreciate it.  I was with great people witnessing a great sight, and there is not much else I could have done to better enjoy the day.

The one thing that would have made the day truly perfect would have been having my Queenie there with me.  She wasn’t able to climb the mountain while she was here due to a bum knee and then leaving before climbing season started, and it just breaks my heart because I know she would have loved it as much as I did.

As I sit here on the eve of my Japanniversary I can’t help but be grateful for the experiences this amazing country has given me.  I have met people that have changed my outlook on life, I have been to some of the most historically significant sites in the world, and I have witnessed some of the most beautiful and majestic sites one could ask for.

After climbing the mountain last year I was certainly left wanting, and having now witnessed her, in all of her glory, I better understand what I was missing.  Having now been witness to it, I feel fulfilled and enriched.

Life is full of incredible opportunities that change us in ways we don’t fully appreciate until later, and after waiting a full year to get the complete Fuji experience, I can honestly say with all my heart that I am grateful for climbing Mt. Fuji.

What are you thankful for?


Mt. Fuji

There are few things more iconic in Japan than the majestic Mt. Fuji.  At 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) she is the tallest peak in Japan.  What makes that even more stunning is that the summit is only about 15 miles from the coastline.  

During the nearly two years that I have lived in Japan I have been able to forecast what kind of day it would be based on how well I could see Mt. Fuji from my work about 50 miles away.  Part of this could be because I fly for a living so if you can see something 50 miles away the weather must be pretty good.  

However, there is also something energizing about seeing that stunning peak rising up on the horizon, generally covered in snow.  She has a very spiritual influence on the life of many Japanese people and it is easy to see why.  

Today I had the opportunity to once again drive out to the mountain to enjoy her beauty up close one last time before my family leaves.  To give you an idea of just how large and steep the mountain is, it takes about half an hour to drive from the base to the fifth station, the highest you can drive, about 7,000 feet up.

The climbing season to the summit is only about two months long because it is so cold and covered with snow the rest of the year.  Here on June 11 there is still a ton of snow all over the mountain, and the temperature on the summit at 1pm was -3°C or about 27°F.  Not exactly a warm summer afternoon.

I had the opportunity to sneak up to the summit right at the end of the climbing season last year and it is in my top five favorite things I have done in Japan.  The Japanese say, “a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, a foolish man climbs Mt. Fuji twice,” but if I am lucky I hope to sneak back up to the top one more time before I leave.

I have always found joy from being in the outdoors, and there has always been something special about summitting tall mountains and passes.  I think it is the reward you get at the top of knowing how hard you worked to get there and then the view you get to enjoy while you rest.

I know there will be dozens of other mountains I will climb during the rest of my life, but Mt. Fuji will be a tough one to beat in terms of meaning.  I am just grateful I have gotten to live in her shadow for the past two years.