Two words – Absolute Hell.

And yet, totally worth it.

My climb started at 11am on Monday morning from the 5th station of the Yoshida Trail.

We started off slow and just got slower. On average we walked for 5-10 minutes and stopped for 2. We didn’t stop at the 6th station because it was soon after the beginning of the climb, however, after that we stopped at every hut for around 5 minutes until we got to the 8th station around 4.30pm where we would set up camp for a few hours in the Taishi-kan hut until the early hours of the morning. Dinner was a simple meal of rice and lentil curry and we attempted to sleep thereafter in a row of sleeping bags and bunks. That’s when I started to feel like crap.

The altitude sickness creeps up on you and whilst I had felt the mild affects of altitude up to that point (e.g. plugged ears and a little headache), I was not expecting to feel this bad. I woke up only after an hours worth of snoozing to an uncomfortably tight chest, and a awful headache. I was struggling to breathe but would not let this stop me and tried to go back to sleep. After another couple of hours, it had gotten much worse and I texted my dad in a bit of a panic (yes, there is 3G all the way up Mt. Fuji and wifi in some of the huts as well). At this point it was 12am and I didn’t think I was going to make it to the summit. Thankfully, dad was awake and seeing as he had climbed Mt. Fuji 5 times before, knew a thing or two about how to help altitude sickness and what I should do next. He could tell I was panicking at this point and made every effort to get me to relax and recommended that I buy an over-priced bottle of Pocari Sweat, to sit outside and breathe deeply. So, I sat outside for an hour and a half breathing, drinking and staring at the lights from the cities below in the cold – it was a beautifully clear night.

After that time, I was beginning to feel a little better and had calmed down. I had also perked up a bit and decided to carry on – after all, if I began to feel any worse again I could just stop as there were quite a few huts on the way to summit from where we were.

We went even slower than before, stopping regularly in order for me to catch my breath and ensure that I didn’t allow the altitude sickness to return. It took us 3 hours to reach the Original 8th Station where we stopped to watch the sunrise. Initially, we had hoped to have reached the summit for this but you can see the sunrise from anywhere on this side of the mountain.

It was amazing to see the sky go from a dark midnight blue to bright orange. A memory I will never forget.

Now for the final part of the climb… although not much higher than the Original 8th station, the last bit of the climb takes forever as it is so steep. At points you have to use your hands to haul yourself up the rocks and there are also several people in front of you so you have to wait in a bit a of a queue. At 7am we reached the summit!

The view was spectacular and worth every ounce of pain that I endured. It was so clear that we could see for miles and were even able to see the bottom of the crater – which my dad, even after climbing so many times, never had the privilege of seeing. At the bottom of the crater there is a massive black rock which apparently is the size of a medium house which puts into perspective the scale of it. There was still lots of ice as well.

After some breakfast and relaxation we climbed to the highest point of the summit and then made our way down the mountain – this part was probably the worst.

The climb down is endless and unbelievably dull. It takes half the time but is incredibly slippery on the reddish gravel. I fell on my bum at least 4 times, ripped my trousers and cut up my hand.  I now know how it feels to walk the surface of Mars; nothing to see and no end in sight. This was made worse by the fact that the clouds had creeped up from below so you couldn’t see the bottom. Once we reached the end, we were covered in red dust and absolutely exhausted but completely thrilled with our achievements.

When people say that ‘anyone can climb Mt. Fuji’, they are telling the truth but it is a particularly uncomfortable experience and you have be prepared to go slowly. Annoyingly, there were a few people who looked completely at ease running past us (by the time we got to the summit they were running back down) but you don’t have to be that fit – I’m certainly not.

Understandably, I have mixed feelings about the whole experience but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can now say that I have climbed Mt. Fuji… and I will never do it again.

All of this was in aid of Epilepsy Society, a cause which is very close to my heart as one of my best friends has only recently been diagnosed with the condition. The fight I endured climbing to the summit is nothing compared to the fight with her brain that Liv goes through everyday. Even though we have only known each other a short while, I am so proud of her. You can still donate to the cause here as I won’t be closing my page till the beginning of next week. Please help me reach my target – I am so close!

Thats all for now.


Climbing Fuji-San

Ilsa Jones

2nd Year BA Film & English Student. Studying at Doshisha University, Kyotonabe Campus, Japan.

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