On July 12, 2016, 25 Filipinos belonging to the Pinoy Mountaineer Fuji Mt. Expedition 2016 reached the summit of Mt. Fuji in time for the goraiko, the glorious rising of the sun as viewed from Japan’s highest point.
Mt. Fuji, of course, requires no introduction as one of the most famous mountains of the world. Truth be told, this mountain was one of my motivations to do some medical training in Tokyo’s St. Luke’s Hospital way back in 2008, and back then I had a very successful ‘bullet climb’ on the first day of the climbing season (See Hiking matters #16: “Finally, Fuji!”)
There is a Japanese saying: “A wise man will climb Mt Fuji once; a fool will climb Mt Fuji twice.” This saying notwithstanding, I was excited to go back to Fuji as I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the first time around – with too much excitement and too little time. Besides, I stick to my personal proverb – based on Heraclitus – that “you cannot climb the same mountain twice”.
So on the 11th of July, after warming up with a Takao-Jinba Traverse (see Hiking matters #515), we found ourselves in Shinjuku waiting for the bus that would take us to Suburu Line 5th Station (also known as the Kawaguchiko 5th Station). It was already past noontime when we managed to start trekking, taking the Yoshida Trail with its initial forested section (to 6th station) and the never-ending slopes of volcanic sand.
The trail was really easy, the only challenge was the moderate altitude (the trailhead was at 2400m and we had to reach the level of 3400m for our lodging for the night). Fortunately, the weather cooperated and the entire team was able to reach the hut (Tomoe Kan) in time for dinnertime.
We only had a few hours to sleep, as we had to start trekking at 0230H in the hope of reaching the summit before the sun rose at around 0420H. Pacing us more briskly compared to the previous day, our guide was confident that we would have a great sunrise, given the multitude of stars we could see on the way up.
Some of my teammates experienced mild symptoms of altitude sickness, but the few hours of sleep helped a lot and everyone did very well on final assault, and out of the 1000 people reported to have been on the mountain that day, we were one of the first groups to reach the summit – a good half-hour before the sunrise.
When the sun rose, it was truly rewarding, and much more beautiful than I remembered.
After the sunrise viewing we made our way down this time taking the much more straightforward descending trail back to the Subaru Line 5th station, taking just two hours from our hut. The brisk descent was made even more joyous by the beautiful views all over – including some of the mountains north of Fuji.
The hike ended quite abruptly, and perhaps so should this blogpost. But before I say ja mata ne, I would like to thank all the participants of the team that turned out be known as ‘Team Kampai’ – and the three teams – Team Gido, Team Javi, and Team Coby – for this unforgettable adventure!