I’ve trekked over 700km in total through everywhere I’ve gone: India, China and the Himalayas in Nepal. I’ve suffered altitude sickness, food poisoning and damaged limbs at 5416m crossing the Throng La Pass, so you could say I’m not a newbie. Arriving in Japan, climbing Mount Fuji just seemed so touristic that it didn’t appeal to me all that much. I didn’t have any trekking gear with me and I had a pretty tight schedule.
Spending all day drinking 9% cans of cocktail with my Filipino friend outside a seven-eleven (I’m aware of my Irish stereotype but alas it makes life interesting), I was pretty twisted and struggling to put a cohesive sentence together. Being a Sunday this meant her return to Tokyo for work and so I stumbled onto a train from Hakone to Matsumoto in the hope of finding another night in my new favourite accommodation in Japan and crashing in an internet cafe for the night. The train was rammed with people standing all along the aisles of it’s length, so I camped in a spot where I wouldn’t breath stale alcohol onto people too much.
A group of young guys were sitting in grouping and made eye contact, I rolled my eyes as if to say “This is ridiculous” to which they replied with squeezing bags and lifting jackets before waving me over. Reeling off stories and trying to appear sober, they promptly ask am I climbing. Confused I replied with, “Fuji? Tonight? It’s already 10pm”. Trying to explain how unprepared I was left no impression and within 20 minutes, I’ve made a drunken decision to climb Fuji.
In what you may ask. Well, a pair of €4 shoes I picked up in Taiwan that are falling off my feet, skinny jeans, a floral shirt and….well that’s pretty much it. Stashing my back pack with everything in it, we chat to a guy on the street on how to get to the starting point. Several minutes later, we’re squished into the back of his car and hurtling towards Fuji. Getting out, we realise it’s notably colder. The check in guard looks at me, starts barking Japanese and rubbing his shoulders as if to say, “You’re a lunatic, it’s freezing put here.” My booze throttled courage kept me strong.
Good morning Fuji
Walking in the pitch black, barley able to step one foot in front of the other we started the climb. It wasn’t long before I realised that these guys were almost as unprepared as I was. Sure they weren’t wearing slippers like me but no light, water, provisions or trekking gear at all. Thirty minutes in, we lose our first member. Tracing the shear rocks in the dark was just too much. I’m on my hands and knees, trying to stay close to anyone with a lamp so I don’t fall back to my death. It starts getting pretty cold. I can feel every small pebble stab my feet through the paper thin soles of my shoes.
Now that’s a sunrise!
Three hours into the vertical assault. My ears are stinging with the cold, my hands are numb, my chest is frosted and you can be pretty sure, I’m the most sober man alive now! Roars in my head of “You’re an absolute idiot” are chiming their way around. However, at station 8, nay two stations from the bottom, I hit a wall. Barely able to breath, shivering uncontrollably and hair soaked from a cold mist that seems to just crawl under my skin. Not able to stop for more than a few seconds, I keep pushing on. I pick up speed, I can’t feel anything anymore, it’s too cold. I tear forward in an effort to keep warm and soon I’m over taking people. Making a race out of it in my head, each one staring at me in complete bewilderment but I’m beyond giving a damn at this point.
It’s dark but I’m there and that’s what matters…
Reaching the summit, snapping some photos, I stare at everyone around me freezing in their huge jackets and huddled together trying to get the Ramen for sale at the shack on top into them for warmth. I realise I’m not shaking at all. My body has actually snapped and forgotten to shake. Not sparing a second longer, I run down the 3 hour decent to the bottom. Knees cracking, hips clicking, shoes full with volcanic sand and rock, I just keep running and sliding the whole way down. After a few falls and scraped arms, elbows, palms and knocks from breaking impacts, I’m down of that god forsaken rock. It was a blast Fuji, we’ll meet again!