Japan day 16

Slept remarkably well in my cabin, but got up at half past two in the night to start hiking up Mount Fuji. It was pitch black except for city lights far below thinly veiled by clouds and the stars above. Soon some lights far up the mountain came into view, which apparently were stations/huts. There you could take shelter in inclement weather, stay for the night and/or stack up on snacks and sodas. 

At one stop there was a free helmet rental service in case of falling or a loose rock hitting you from above, so I thought why not? Later, it seemed that most people weren’t wearing a helmet or were just storing it on the backpack. 

The ascend started out incredibly easy as the path was broad and even, which was nice, as I could somewhat feel the ascent of Mount Yari some three days ago in my legs. But as I should have expected, it didn’t stay easy like that forever. It got steeper and rockier, though nothing felt dangerous. 

The sun gradually appeared. I was still far from the summit, but I’d actually never intended to be there at sunrise, as it supposedly get incredibly crowded around that time. Still the sight was an interesting one here as the first rays revealed a mostly barren volcanic landscape that now floated above a sea of skies. Fujisan was towering monumentally, far beyond anything in sight. 

I had told myself to take it easy to lessen the chances of altitude sickness, but failed quite a bit at that as the signposted time estimates for the summit dropped way quicker than time went by. 

Soon after, I got near one of the stations and could yet again sense the fecal smell from the toilets there. Maybe 15% of the ascent was a poop-smell-zone. It started to get more crowded, and many were sluggishly dragging themselves the last stretch towards the summit. Some were aiding the ascent with some canned oxygen that you could buy at the stations. 

Soon I hit the rim and was granted a nice view of the surroundings as well as the surprisingly colorful central crater. Nice! That was from 2300m to 3700m (7500ft to 12100ft) in three and a half hours. 

The crater rim was actually taller on the other side of the crater, so I walked round it just to dot the i. It felt nice to have succeeded and so far the experience had succeeded my expectations by quite a bit, though they admittedly were somewhat lackluster. Yes it is crowded, yes it is highly commercialized, and yes there’s even wifi at the top of Fujisan. But it is also a freaking cool nearly four kilometer high volcano.

I followed my GPS on the way down. The majority of the people were going the opposite direction, but not universally, so I figured it probably was just a coincidence. It wasn’t, and the GPS track I had downloaded was off. About a tenth of the way down I could cross over to the proper decent route. My apologies to Fujisan and hikers that I inconvenienced. 

The proper decent route was a broad series of bulldozed switchbacks and made for an incredibly easy, though it felt somewhat artifactual to essentially descend on a steep gravel road. 

First it was cloudy and the black volcanic rock made the landscape look almost monochromatic. Later the rock turned red and yellow flowered plants appeared all over the place. 

Not long after that, I had made my way all the way down. Mount Yari and Mount Whitney were cooler, but this was still great. 

I grabbed some stuff I had left in a locker before hopping on a bus and making it to Tokyo. I had plenty of time to also do some sightseeing, I thought, but tiredness finally caught up with me and the remainder of the day slipped by. 

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