According to Japanese legend, “a wise man hikes Mt. Fuji once, a fool hikes it twice.” I guess that puts us squarely in the camp of the latter! But needless to say, we felt we must give this another go. As a military family, you never know where you will be next year!
With the hiking season quickly coming to an end, we chose a day in August, made reservations at Camp Fuji, and tried to gear up for our second attempt. As luck would have it, a typhoon was also predicted to hit the same weekend! We weighed our options and decided that, since this would be our last day to hike this season(due to other schedule conflicts), we should go for it. We figured we could beat the storm if we got an early start. Besides, how could the weather possibly be worse than what we already went through?
I was feeling dread as we pulled up to the fifth station, not really wanting to go through what we went through last time. I have never felt right about praying for good weather before, (it always seemed like asking for sun at Disneyland to me), but I sure prayed today! This is the gift shop at the fifth station.
As it turned out, the weather was actually ideal. We had a great cloud cover and the slightest hint of a breeze. It was perfect, actually. This is looking up to the summit, we could still see the top, so far, so good.
We made it to the seventh station and the beginning of the mountain huts. And here I got my first stamp (of this trip). This is also a traditional Japanese kitchen, with the fire pit in the middle of the room.
This is where the terrain gets a little more challenging, and you have to use your hands to crawl up in some areas. The girls were just like mountain goats, climbing with ease. Though, I guess when you spend your days, swimming, climbing trees, and trampolining, that’s to be expected!
Yes, even on Mt. Fuji, there are lots of nice bathrooms. The cost was Y200 ($2) per use, but SO worth it. The heated seat at the 8th station was heavenly! (Though, unfortunately, most of them were not heated. I’m getting SO spoiled!)
About this time, Ella started not feeling very well. When I asked her about all the symptoms of altitude sickness, she said, “no, I am just really tired”. So, we took her backpack to try and lighten her load, and forged ahead.
Ella continued to struggle, and after about an hour, she began to stumble a bit. I was really worried about her and had been praying continuously for her healing. I knew she needed oxygen right away, and asked some nearby hikers (English speakers, even!), if they had an oxygen can I could borrow. Miraculously, they had one, told me to keep it, and would not accept payment. These people were such a blessing, and an answer to a heartfelt prayer, just when we needed it most!
This is the oxygen can. The lid becomes a nozzle to breathe in to. I actually bought one before this trip, but it would not fit into my backpack. We figured, we didn’t need it the first time, so we left it home. But, there was a big difference between the eight and eight and a half stations! Luckily, the rest of us were not affected by the altitude at all.
The oxygen really helped Ella bounce back, so we continued on. Wow! The ninth station, we were getting closer! This was the torii gate for the ninth station, people slip coins into the cracks of the wood. It was neat to see.
The weather was now officially cold, misty and windy. The wind was really picking up now and we prayed for strength to make it to the top. This was an extreme measure of perseverance for all of us! But, every so often, there would be a short break in the weather and we could recompose. Another prayer answered.
We had not seen the sun the entire day, but as we walked our last few steps to the summit, the sun peeked out for just a few minutes. I knew this was God letting us know that even in the midst of trials, he was still there by our sides. Overcome with many different emotions, I cried.
After lunch, we briefly walked around the summit. There is actually a little town up there and a shrine. The workers live there during climbing season and supplies are brought up by big bulldozers. Interesting.
And, we also could not see into the crater, so this is what it would’ve looked like. (Coincidentally, Ella, my thrill seeker, was disappointed that there was no bungee jumping into the crater. She said she was looking forward to doing that. Leave it to Ella!)
We were dirty, wet, and exhausted, but satisfied. I am so proud of these girls and their determination during hardship. We hiked for eight hours on the ascent, spent one hour at the top, and hiked for three hours on the descent. They were both amazing! (Side note- these ice cream cone statues are absolutely everywhere around Tokyo; restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores- you name it. The Japanese love ice cream.)
I experienced almost every emotion one could experience today; joy, fear, pain, worry, exhaustion, the list goes on. But through it all, I know it was a character building moment for the whole family, and a great lesson in teamwork, faith, perseverance and carrying on when life isn’t perfect. I can only hope that one day Ella and Eva will realize the enormity of this accomplishment.
Though fools by Japanese legend, with God’s help, WE DID IT! And the wonderful thing about past failure is, it makes success all the sweeter!