Archive for the ‘mt fuji’ Tag

A Hellish trot downhill

 

 

45 degrees steep

45 degrees steep

Random Observation/Comment #89: Conversations tend to die off when you barely have energy to stay awake, let alone climb down a mountain.   “So… what’s up?”  “What’s up? What’s up!?! Shut the hell up! I’m going to rip your head off and crap down your neck! – Oh, Sorry! I’m really not a morning person…”

 

I urged my followers to begin our next journey down the mountain mostly because I would have needed a Phoenix Down if they didn’t move in the next minute.  I knew that my Sun God would help warm me with its love and clemency.  Continuous movement is essential during the ascent and descent to maintain blood circulation.  If you stop for too long, you just fall asleep and won’t move for a really long time.  You’d probably start hitting people who try to convince you to continue, but think otherwise because it would require exerting an amount of energy that just didn’t exist.

At one point, the mountain angered me.  I wanted to jump up and down to stomp it and then verbally abuse it with “your mom” insults.  It really didn’t help anything except for my insanity case.  It was so cold and I was so tired that I just didn’t want to be there anymore.  I wanted to sit down and fall asleep on the side of the mountain.  The sandy, gravel made my socks brownish red and every hair on my body felt starchy – covered with a mixture of frozen sweat and random debris.

The descent had a completely different terrain and method of walking.  I was used to slowly conquering one step at a time, but here, you should do this really weird horse trot to efficiently use your energy.  Walking slowly down the 45 degree slant in wavy beach sand will quickly tire the back of your legs and take you forever.  However, if you pretend like you’re skiing down the gravel with a few skips and small jumps, you’ll get down the mountain much more quickly.  Be sure to walk in a zig zag path to get the most surface area on your shoes and to prevent rolling down the mountain from the momentum.  Don’t be embarrassed if you collapse.  You will definitely be exhausted and the new style of walking will take a little time to get used to.  Luckily for you, there is plenty of time to practice before you reach the bottom.  The layers of clothes were very important at this point because my clothes were completely drenched. I remembered advice about sunscreen, but I was too lazy to do anything of that sort.  The main thing to keep in the back of your mind about the hike down is the lack of stations.  Rest a little more often because you won’t be able to just rush to the next station to rest. 

I felt terrible, but every time I looked up and outward around me, I was overwhelmed with the beauty in front of me.  I couldn’t stay angry at the mountain when it gives me those puppy eyes.  As I stumbled down the mountain like the undead, I looked to my left to see the path of our ascent.  It was scary how much we climbed that night, and I was surprised that we made it that far. 

We eventually made it back to the fifth station by 10AM.  It’s actually quite a good feeling to see your accomplishments, but when you finish, you’ll be thinking “I’m never doing that again.”  After thinking about it for an overly extended period of time, I feel exactly the same way.  Let’s just keep it as a check off of the to-do list.

~See Lemons Wish for flat ground

 

the mountain is red?

the mountain is red?

the view

the view

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Another World Above the Clouds

worship the sun

worship the sun

Random Observation/Comment #88: It’s easy to glimpse over sayings like “breath-taking” and “once in a lifetime” in a blog, and take them as a bit of literary exaggeration.  As I think about the words I’ll use to describe such a beauty, I find these fluffy adjectives and metaphors passing through my vocabulary.  I can’t quite decide which examples best paint the picture.  These feelings of excitement, happiness, admiration, and amazement mix differently in everyone’s mind when faced with G-d’s painting of the world (wait, when did I become religious? ).  It’s the same interpretative openness given to works of art – be it paintings, writings, sculptures, or designs, everything can be seen in their own unique way.  I found that sometimes the best way to explain something is simply, “Wow.”

 

I was an ice sculpture 3,800 meters above sea level.  I couldn’t feel my fingers, toes, or calf muscles, yet the frozen pose and facial expression was one of peacefulness and satisfaction.  All of my stress, pains, and worries had been dust in the wind – completely cleared from my mind.  I tried my hardest to absorb the moment by focusing on my senses.  I had a bit of a sniffle from the gusting winds, and I couldn’t exactly feel anything.  Plus, my eyes were a little tired from climbing for 7 hours straight.  Never the less, I tried.  I had climbed so far – I wasn’t going to let something like sleep deprivation and exhaustion stop me from reaping my benefits.  The photographer side of me took over and spent the full 30 minutes of the sunrise sequence snapping shots left and right.  I even used the walking stick as a makeshift tripod to get some steadier shots.

Before the sun showed its body through the clouds, the entire sky lit with a gorgeous rainbow that devoured the horizon.  We were looking from above the gloomy clouds into another world.  The contours in the distance aligned to create a lake of orange inhabited by a shadowed sea monster.  It was a land of magic and mysteries.  It was a castle in the sky that would always stay in the distance – an unreachable beauty.  The clouds looked so soft and solid.  I wanted to have them surround my feet and gently lift me closer to that place. 

I thought about flying, but I thought it would take too much effort and I wouldn’t enjoy myself.  I mean, we can all run as fast as we can, but we rather walk or not move at all.  I feel if I had the power to fly, I’d be too lazy to use it efficiently.  Anyway, I would rather have those soft clouds take me around.  They would have to go really slow and include seat warmers and windshields because I don’t want to be cold seeing the whole world from the sky’s perspective.  Maybe I’ll just get a helicopter while I’m wishing for a magical cloud that lifts me to space at my whims.  It would have to be a silent helicopter, though.  I think I’m too realistic in my imagination.

The full view had so much information to analyze.  We were so far up that I could distinguish a little bit of a curvature in the horizon.  I probably made up that curvature because the horizon was very difficult to see with the clouds blurring the line.  Either way, I was overwhelmed with ideas.  The first glimpse of a ray of light looked like an egg slowly emerging from the ground like a lava-lamp bubble.  I spread my arms to embrace the warmth and welcome the bringer of life.  Thank you, Sun – I can see the miracles you perform and your direct influence to my everyday life.

The top of the mountain was such a relief to reach.  I felt like dancing, except I was way too cold and tired.  I think if I jumped, the gusts of winds would have blown me away.  The red stamp on that walking stick (not to mention those millions of pictures) proved my presence.  I’ve never felt so many mixed feelings of happiness, successfulness, tiredness, and coldness in my life.  I screamed, “Yattttaaaa!!” and then immediately after that, “Totemo samui!! Oyasumi!” (which means, It’s really cold! Good night!)  I really wanted to walk around the crater area and take more pictures, but I couldn’t even keep my arms still for the image stabilizer.  I was running on empty.

In my most desperate time, I saw a glowing savior.  It was beautiful and made me chuckle.  I ran over to it and gave it a hug.  I couldn’t fit my arms around the entire body, but I was so happy to see civilization.  I prayed and gave my donations to receive my well deserved reward – a steaming, hot cup of coffee.  Wait, what?  They really do have vending machines everywhere

~See Lemons Simply Amazed

 

I didn't know it was red...

I didnt know it was red

 

distant heaven

heaven at eye level

The Moon Never sets

 

 

yay wearing shorts on the mountain

yay wearing shorts on the mountain

Random Observation/Comment #87: Thank you, Chris’ dad, for convincing Chris to bring a head lamp on these escapades.  Thank you, Chris, for lending it to me.  Thank you, Clemens, for lighting the way for all your new friends.  Thank you, newly- found friends, for allowing me to contribute in the penguin huddle.  That was an unprecedented way for me to meet new people – freezing our asses off on a mountain.

 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a headlamp.  One of my hands held a stick, while the other was used to balance myself on rocks.  You’d be surprised how much less tired you’ll be if you alternate the stick-holding hand.  The only thing annoying about the head lamp is the inability to look at the people you converse with.  At first, your conversation will just put their hand up blocking the light like a vampire avoiding the equivalent levels of third degree burns, but sooner or later, they’ll just say “look at me again and I’ll knock you out with this rock.”  As you could imagine, my bad “wandering-gaze” habit became quite useful in this situation. 

Isn’t it just awkward to look into the eyes directly of the opposite sex and talk about any topic without breaking that animal bond every 3 seconds?  I guess it would be even more awkward for the same sex.  Yes, it shows I’m paying attention or not lying, but I get a little uneasy when the person starts staring at me during one of her monologues and licks her lips.  Maybe she had dry lips?  It makes me (the person paying attention) feel like she’s not even completely invested in her next words.  Her distraction instigates my distraction.  Get your mind out of the gutter, and finish a coherent sentence, please.  To avoid this, I try not to keep more than 5 seconds of constant eye contact.  I think I might be putting too much emphasis on what my body language conveys, but I know some people that would say I’m not looking into body language enough.

Anyway, the climb started quite enjoyably with a red moon in the cloudy sky.  The city was lightly highlighted through the misty clouds.  I stood at the edge of the path completely captivated by its beauty.  This was an image only seen through paintings and pictures.  I never imagined how much of a difference it would make to actually see the canvas before my eyes.  I felt my artist-within smile.

We walked for 5 hours, stopping at every station for a special stamp.  The walk started with a camping hike feel through a few woods, but soon transformed into a sandy terrain.  The wind blew sand into my eyes and mouth, leaving this gritty, bitter taste in my mouth.  I wound up spitting every few minutes and stopping to get sand out of my eyes. 

The climb up the mountain follows a zig-zag formation, like a bad NES Donkey Kong map.  Every upcoming station is always clearly visible from your current location on the mountain.  At first, this view of that light in the cabin was my salvation, a sign of hope, which pushed me to climb a few more steps before stopping for a rest.  However, after I was exhausted, the light in the sky was taunting me.  No matter how many steps I climbed, those stations still seemed the same size.  I felt time sluggishly pass, and I realized how much I missed being horizontal on my bed.

The climb from station 5 to station 8 to the peek sounds like there are 4 or 5 places to stop to rest.  In reality, there are at least 20 stations to pass for bathroom breaks or resting stops before reaching the top.  I know this because I bought a 200 yen stamp at every single one of these stations (which led me to spend $50 on a walking stick).  The major stations provide sleeping arrangements if you pay for them, but I would rather use it for heating.  That heating was essential to my survival.

The walks between stations are approximately 45 minutes long, which is about 45 times longer than I wanted to be away from the warm station rooms.  It definitely didn’t help that I was wearing shorts.  Some website said that shorts would be a good idea because the walk down would be so sunny that I would need multiple layers and applications of sun screen.  The shorts may be a good idea on the walk down, but I couldn’t feel my legs for about 7 hours when I was walking to the top in pitch, black darkness.  Those hours of numbness were probably really bad for my health.  Oh, and if it rained and my socks got wet – wooo, it would have been over – loss of toes and fingers: Inevitable.

Luckily, I still have all of my limbs functioning properly.  Aside from the entertaining talk with my new friends, I found this walk torturous.  If you want the first-hand experience of a hobbit on a long journey to destroy the “one ring to rule them all,” then climbing Mt. Fuji is your cup of tea.  The unlucky ones leave 3-feet tall with hairy feet.

To keep warm, huddle with your friends like penguins in the corner of a cabin.  (Aside: Penguins are so smart and cute.  I want to put one in my pocket. ) Most cabin stations will tell you to wait outside so you don’t disturb the tourists that sleep before they start their walk to the top at 2AM.  But, if you look like gai-jin, you’ll be able to sneak your way in there for a minute of heavenly warmth.  They’ll eventually yell at your with some slur of incomprehensible Japanese, in which case, you just point around and speak Spanish or something.  After a while, I stopped feeling bad about this because I was so frozen that I would argue in any language to stay there for a few more minutes.  If that didn’t work, I just pretended to buy something, like cup-o-noodles, so you can wait inside while the food cooks.

All of my pictures from this “stock market depression” of my life showed me with that same happy smile.  I wish I set my camera to burst shots to show the completely numb faces I had before and after that one, 5 second window.  Truthfully, the total of 2 minutes of posing for pictures in that 5 hour period was the only time I smiled until 3AM.  It wasn’t until a little bit of light hit the horizon, did I actually change my facial expression to some grateful expression welcoming the sun.  (By the way, use the walking stick as a tripod to take steady shots of the moon at night – it will probably come out dark and unnoticeable anyway).

~See Lemons Thankful for his limbs

 

this took forever to get right

this took forever to get right

The day of The Climb

that's the best picture I could get in a dark movie theater

that's the best picture I could get in a movie theater

Random Observation/Comment #85: The movie theater in Shinjuku is gi-normous and literally has a stage with curtains.  It had fancy, soft, red seats made for a Broadway show.  I probably just picked a nice theater in the area, but I was still very impressed.

 

After checking out of the hotel, I slowly walked around Shinjuku to prepare myself for the long day ahead.  I had 4 hours to kill before leaving at the station so I decided to indulge in a theatrical experience for the first time in Japan.  I was reluctant to go to the movies because of the outrageous prices.  Who pays 2000 yen for a movie?  What a rip-off!  The student price is 1500 yen, which is a little more reasonable. After all my reasoning and weighing, I figured that spending $15 for two hours was a pretty economically sound decision.  I could have been window shopping and accidentally bought something $150 in those two hours, so I’m pretty glad this forced me to stay away from temptations.  Luckily for me and my wallet, Japanese clothes do not fit my style (or my size).  There’s way too much excessive junk and extreme scenester status.

I was forced to watch The Mummy 3, kicking and screaming.  My nails latched onto the carpet and my hands grabbed anything to keep me from that room.  The Japanese crew was surprisingly strong for their size.  They threw me into the theater and locked the doors with a thunderous thud.  My neck twisted, and my body flailed as I rolled closer to the screen.  As I slowly lifted my body in a pathetic pushup, I heard the opening scenes of Paramount pictures.  Sigh.  This is going to suck.  Why did this have to be the only movie playing in the theater? 

I love previews.  It’s the only time I get to be a critic for a movie and share my thoughts with the whole row in front of me and random strangers beside me.  I become so judgmental when I’m in the zone.

My eyes were glued to the screen.  The contrast between the Japanese and English methods of portraying a movie was fascinating.  The Japanese didn’t use any of the old fashion techniques to make the movie interesting, which to me, made all of the previews completely bizarre.  We don’t normally notice it because it’s so overdone, but the deep voice narrator and the carefully chosen cut scenes along with the action music is essential to the preview, and thus, an increase of the probability I will remember the movie.   Leaving out the prequels and sequels they’re trying to pull off these days, the previews need to contrast the corresponding movie.  In addition, the movie that this preview is playing for should also correctly target the audience.  For example, if I’m about to watch Rambo, I don’t want to see “Music & Lyrics” as a preview. 

Chick flicks and Masculine Action movies should be an obvious split.  The phenomenon is when this split is not taken into account because of a language barrier.  The Japanese previews were for TV soap operas and prime time series with that TV commercial flair to it.  It reminded me of a preview to an episode of “Friends” or “Seinfeld.”  There was upbeat music and very comical lines that stood out in the fade.  It completely caught me off guard and actually made me put my hands up in confusion.  I wanted to just say “what the hell is going on in Japan?”  I would think that people would also understand what I’m talking about with the obvious back-and-forth switch between preview types, but no one gave a surprised reaction.

When I scanned the theater again, I understood the reason.  Everyone around me was either 65 or 21 years old.  There was no intermediate age range and it left me puzzled for quite some time.  I get the dating scene, but why old people?  Were they really that bored? Or perhaps they wanted to learn some English?  It was so odd that I started to count.  I wrote it in my notebook – 12 couples, 16 old people, 6 singles, 3 pairs of girls, and 1 family.  I’ve never been so observant at an American movie theater, but this seems like a very odd distribution for a action movie.  It crossed my mind that some of them could be homeless and just spending 2 hours sleeping in a nicely air-conditioned theater, but most of them seemed to be intently reading the translations.   The only thing that fit was the practice of the language or a way to waste time.  Whatever the reason, it confused me.

Well, the movie was exactly what I expected given the high bar set by Mummy 1 and 2.  I guess it was entertaining to see people get eaten by beetles.  I admired the extremely intricate CG with all the fighting sequences, but this is the case with all movies these days.  All in all, it wasn’t painful to sit through, but I wouldn’t go watch it again.

After the movie, I walked around town for two hours waiting for the bus.  I purposefully had a late lunch to ensure that I wouldn’t be starving by 7PM.  Guess what? I was starving by 7PM.  I think my body just likes digesting food in relation to the time because I always get hungry during the allotted time slots in the day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It almost doesn’t matter what I ingest during the intermediary hours because I’ll always be able to eat during the designated times.  I must be very faithful to my schedule.

I bought the tickets at the station a day in advance, but I think it would be fine to buy them 4 hours ahead of time and then walk around the area for shopping.  The bus station is across the street from Yodobashi Umeda.  It’s easier to just ask someone for directions to the bus for Mt Fuji when you get there.

The bus ride starting at 5PM passed a lot of beautiful scenery along the way.  The setting sun gave the clouds a mysterious glow that made my eyes glaze.  Despite my picture taking efforts, I only got indistinguishable blurs.  Sometimes you just have to give up with the camera and just keep it in your memory.  This is something I will not be able to share because I am not (yet) telepathic with my words.

Along with the bus came a majority of Japanese tourists and a few English speaking college students.  The English was music to my ears.  All of the sounds were filtered and I overheard all of the conversations that I would normally probably ignore.  After months of struggling with deciphering Japanese, it was a rewarding experience to fully understand conversations.  We naturally made conversation, and eventually became hiking buddies.

~See Lemons Start the Climb

 

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Climbing mates 🙂

Mt. Fuji – you leave me confused

 

What a beautiful sight

What a beautiful sight

Random Observation/Comment #84: Don’t wear shorts when you’re climbing any mountain.  It’s freakin’, ridiculously cold up there at night.  The guide books do not lie, and you are not superman.

 

I’ll keep the first entry of Mt. Fuji as a general overview of my impressions of the climb, an insight on what to expect, and a few suggestions for future climbers from my personal experience.  I’ll use the subsequent entries to go into the little details that I fondly enjoy expressing.  I’ll skimp a little on the historical facts that you’d probably find on Wikipedia or travelwiki page.

I did not follow a tour guide, nor did I start the travel with the friend.  All I knew before the trip was a very general idea of what I wanted to do and the location of the bus stop that would take me to the fifth station.  I followed a route suggested by Yuka to start from the 5th station at 7PM and climb to the peak to see the sunrise at 4AM, and then climb back down for breakfast at 9AM.  I had been walking 10 miles every weekend and working out for the two months in Japan, so I thought that I could do the whole thing in one 12-hour stretch.  Now that I think back, I see that I was a dumbass.  It’s completely doable, but you’ll be complaining about the cold temperature, windiness, difficulty breathing, hunger, and exhaustion after about 30 minutes (two hours max).

For those that do not want to do the full 12-hour stretch, there are cabins at all of the stations that provide lodging along the mountain.  You can climb the first 5 hours to station 8.5 and then sleep until 2:30AM and climb the rest.  I warn you that the top of the mountain is ridiculously cold and you will probably not last longer than 30 minutes waiting.  It might seem okay while you’re going up, but remember there’s nowhere to climb at the top and there’s no side of the mountain to block the wind.  Not to mention that the cabins at the top don’t open until 4AM, so if you get there early, you won’t see anything in the dark and you won’t feel anything from the cold.

For those that don’t want to walk in the freezing night, there is a nice afternoon walk to the top to see the sunset.  You should be back down the mountain by 11PM and ready for a good night’s rest.

For those hardcore walkers, you could do a full day hike from the base of the mountain with bears and other wildlife craziness.  I thought about it, and chose to play it safe (let’s not become another freak accident bear mauling statistic).  It would be a bit of a buzz kill if I died from this hike.  If you’re crazy enough, you’ll bring a bow and arrow to protect yourself.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll rub honey all over your naked body and aggravate bears with distasteful “your mom” jokes.  Well, whatever floats your boat.

I climbed Mt. Fuji in mid-August, where it was normal to have sudden urges to strip and wish for someone to throw cold Gatorade on your hot, sweaty body.  It was only a 10 minute walk to the train station and my entire chest was already drenched.  I couldn’t imagine wearing anything but shorts and bring a few layers of shirts to fight some of the winds up the mountain.  Boy, did I grossly underestimate the weather.  I was on the verge of frostbite on my calves, toes, and fingers.  It was almost as bad as that time I went skiing double blacks without gloves on (yeah… ouch).  This leads me to my first tip…

Tip #1: Dress appropriately.  You must have a windbreaker and long pants.  It’s a good idea to dress as if you’re going skiing.  I would even suggest the goggles and face mask because the wind blows up sand and gravel that gets in your teeth and eyes.  It’s definitely not a pleasant feeling to have that gritty chew.  Wear a lot of layers because it will start off in the fifth station with a gentle and relaxing breeze.  This will quickly advance to an unforgiving wrath.  It’s better to put on the layers while you’re still warm, instead of waiting until you’re shivering.  Don’t forget the gloves because there will be times where you have to support yourself climbing over large rocks.  I bought two pairs for 100 yen and they worked out really well.  The flashlight is also essential because it will be pitch black along the paths.  I would recommend one of the head lamps because it’s much more convenient, less tiring for your arms, and generally one less thing to worry about.  Bring comfortable shoes with traction that you don’t mind getting dirty.  If it rains, you’re basically going to be trekking all the way up in mud.  Which brings me to my next tip…

Tip #2: Pray it doesn’t rain.  Check the forecast and plan well.  I’ve never actually climbed in the rain, but I could imagine partly Hell with a chance of Damnation.  I think if it rains, it would just freeze on your face along with the sand/pebbles pelting all of your exposed flesh.  I would suggest an umbrella, but I think you would fly away like Mary Poppins.

Tip #3: Bring food and a lot of water.  You may not feel thirsty, but it’s probably a good idea to stop every 15 minutes to catch your breath and replenish some fluids.  I brought two 2L bottles of water and I finished it when I got to the top.  The cups of noodles are double the price from what you buy at the convenience stores, but it’s better to spend $2 than to be starving and cold.  Be aware that the beverages and food gets increasingly more expensive as you go up the stations.  If you bring bananas, make sure the water doesn’t squash them.  They will probably be frozen and gross when you get to the top, but you’ll really want to eat them anyway.

Tip #4: Don’t travel alone.  I was lucky enough to meet three very fun people on the bus ride up.  Not only were these people great for random conversation, but they were also really warm when we huddled together like a flock (?) of penguins to keep warm.  I could imagine a faster walk up the mountain, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without good company.

Tip #5: Plan accordingly – this is at least a two day event.  Let’s say you do the actual climb Monday night to Tuesday morning.  You will need a well-rested, alcohol-free night on Sunday and a two hour nap for Monday afternoon.  Take a 5PM bus up to the fifth station by 7PM.  Get up to the 8th station by 2AM and then slowly make your way up to the peak by 4AM sunrise.  See the sunrise and rejuvenate yourself by 5:30AM and start climbing down to get back to the 5th station by around 10AM.  After the exhausting 13-hour climb up and down, you will be completely gone Tuesday and probably messed up in sleeping pattern for Wednesday.

Tip #6: Buy a stick at the 5th station.  It’s a bit of an annoying souvenir to bring home, but it’s definitely great to have when climbing.  You don’t need the Japanese flag and you’ll probably want to take off that silly bell because it gets annoying after 10 minutes.  The stick itself is about 1000 yen ($10), but there are these 200 yen ($2) stamps that every station sears onto the stick.  It becomes quite an expensive souvenir – I should know because I tried to get every stamp at every station and spent close to $50.  If I were to do it again, I would only get 3-5 of the normal stamps along the way and then get the main one at the top of the mountain saying that you’ve completed the climb.

I think the idea of climbing a mountain is scary, and generally brings to mind images of athletic guys and gals wearing under-armor and really cool sun glasses scaling a large boulder on the side of a dessert.  Although this is an accurate representation of some hardcore climbers, climbing Mt. Fuji is a different monster.  It’s not as extreme as hiking in a huge snow storm through patches of ice and gravel that do not show a definitive end.  Instead, you will see a lot of other tourists climbing beside you.  In a large group, you may even have to queue behind the slowest climbers to reach the top.  Try to beat the rush hour traffic climbing up, but don’t get there so early that you freeze to death waiting.

Climbing Mt. Fuji should be approached with the mindset of conquering any obstacle.  You’ll start off ecstatic and energized for the walk ahead of you, but this feeling will soon be replaced by exhaustion.  You will need to exert some effort to be successful, but your reward will be a once in a lifetime beautiful sunrise.  It’s a surprisingly tough hike, but you should be fine if you don’t take it as a competition.  Take your time with a steady pace and you’ll make it there with time to spare.

~See Lemons Climb Fuji-san

Above the clouds

Above the clouds