Mt. Fuji July 14-15/Vladivostok – Fushiki Ferry July 18-20th

By Bryan • tokyo to paris overland, travel • 24 Jul 2008

Consider a 42 BC ferry voyage and you may develop an appreciation for the Fushiki-Vladivostok passage. Actually, it is not that bad, but both beasts move at approximately the same speed. But BC Ferries doesn’t offer beer, live music, free food, hair-dressing services, a duty-free shop and blaring Russian sitcoms. Maybe they should…

While I can’t quite date the d├ęcor and style, The MV Rus is a little like being transported back to the pre 90’s.

I neglected to purchase a proper electrical converter but was lucky enough to discover that the boat provides such devices free of charge (return of course) to passengers. It would have been a very disappointing weblog given that I was hoping to catch up on some entries during this time. Even though, I find myself suffering from writers block…I utterly despise that term as it assumes that the user considers himself/herself a writer – which I don’t.

It also isn’t helping that my laptop is officially past retirement. The hardware is almost completely shot with the most annoying problem being the power cord which barely connects to the socket. The slightest nudge will disconnect the electrons and then down goes little grey. In the past 30 minutes the power has been cut about six times. The internal mouse is also acting up – at times placing my cursor at random screen locations.

I am missing Japan though. Although I managed to accomplish all of my Japanese travel goals (with the exception of a night at Roppongi) I feel strongly that 12 days in-country isn’t nearly adequate enough. I cannot stress enough the sheer amount of things to see and do in Japan. It is just amazing. A month or longer would be more adequate. And while I should be anticipating my upcoming time at Kingston I find myself very curious about the concept of living in Tokyo. This feeling is a first for me…every previous country I’ve visited I’ve left satisfied that I’d seen and done everything that I wanted to and didn’t feel disappointed in leaving and that the time spent was just enough.

Mt. Fuji was interesting.

I’ll never consider myself a climber. Ever. Fuji is a sharp ascent – going from sea level to 3700m in less than a day. But I’m not a stranger to mountains, or even high altitudes (having visited both sides of Everest, and spent time in the Annapurna’s and the Tibetan plateau. When I was in the Himalayas I found that I acclimatized relatively well and would feel any attitude effects until I was above 4000m…so in terms of altitude I was ok. But I have never had my ass handed to me by a mountain like it was by Fuji-san. I like to say that Tokyo is a city that will knock you on your ass…figuratively. Fuji-san knocked me on my ass…literally.

It was neither the climb nor the decent. Fuji is the first scramble I’ve ever done at night with a headlamp. This is a very common approach as it is the most efficient method by which to place scramblers at the summit in time for the sun-rise experience. I started at around 6pm…which was a bit early than most night climbers who apparently prefer a 9pm start time. The plus to my approach is that I will be rewarded with a clear path, but I will be forced to wait at the top, or shell out for a mountain hut. No worries though, I had my tent.

A clear path I did receive and I felt like I was the only one on the mountain. Distant lightning storms from 3500m are quite something.

It was the summit that changed everything.

It was there that I had seriously miscalculated the mountain and first realized my mistake. Fuji-san is not like other peaks. Unlike other high points in other countries, Fuji essentially stands alone. There isn’t anything else around that is comparable. It is a very exposed peak, very smooth – you could even say symmetrical and rounded and for the most part lacks any vegetation. It also sits right next to the coast.

Wind storm is an understatement.

I hit the summit around 11pm and realized that the entire summit was a wind slate. Some how I managed to get my tent together but I wasn’t able to pitch it as the ground material is essentially a loose conglomerate of ash and volcanic rock. Pegs are about as useful as chopsticks under those conditions. Even protected by some buildings to my north and east I my tent was still knocked flat by the wind. Rock ballast was required to hold down the corners and contribute to the combined weight of myself and my bag. Even with my sleeping bag and extra clothes I had a very cold night. If heat wasn’t a problem, the wind would have kept me awake.

11pm to 5am. No sleep – after a 5 hour ascent.

Tent – covered in volcanic ash.

Bryan – very cold.

The morning – I managed to join the folks reaching the summit for a less than spectacular cloudy, cold and dusty sunrise.

Drank 3 cans of hot chocolate – that helped.

The descent. I have always considered descents much more demanding than ascents…even more so when you haven’t slept. Loose volcanic rock and dust the whole way down.

The verdict on Fuji-san. Don’t be a knob and use a tent. Just opt for the mountain huts or climb at a later time.

But definitely go. I loved the ascent and the hot spring bath at the bottom helped to make the top feel a bit better.

I was to have another interesting, although more pleasant tent experience in the Japanese Alps two days later.

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