"" Writer's Wanderings: A Look Back: Beginning the Mount Fuji Climb

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Look Back: Beginning the Mount Fuji Climb

 [If my Florida grandson had known we were visiting another active volcano, he would have lost sleep over it. We didn't tell him. He had lectured us when we visited Mt. Etna on how dangerous it was. We didn't tell him until we got home.]

Mount Fuji is a volcano. Yes, an active volcano. There are notices that if an alarm should go off you should immediately change direction and descend. This gave my granddaughter pause for a moment but actually bothered my young Florida grandson thousands of miles away even more. He had lots of warnings for us the last time we were visiting a volcano and his dad said he was worried when he found out about the Mount Fuji climb.

Standing in the center of the plaza at Station 5 on Mount Fuji we listened to our tour guide introduce our mountain guide, an older gentleman who began by telling us several things that seemed contrary to what I had learned previously about higher altitudes. Don't drink too much water and don't use the oxygen that we had purchased in the event of altitude sickness.

Our mountain guide.
A few days previous to our climb we had visited a sports shop in Tokyo and purchased oxygen in a can that resembles an air horn only doesn't make more noise than a hiss when you hold it to your nose and press the release button. The use of that oxygen, our guide said, would fool your lungs into thinking you were at a lower altitude and you would not breathe as deeply as necessary. I took his word for it but thought that at least if we really felt bad, we would use it.

The water issue was hard to believe though and I wondered if something had gotten lost in translation. I'm a big water baby. I drink a lot normally. And when we visited Quito, Ecuador, we'd been advised that we should drink an ample amount of fluid, mainly water, to fend off the effects of altitude. All the preparation lists had said to take plenty of water or be prepared to buy it along the way at the huts. I figured we'd see how it went but I wasn't backing off my water.

It was expected that we would climb for six hours. Wait! Six hours? What I had read and saw on YouTube said it was only a two hour climb to Station eight. So I figured we must be going very slowly. Good news for me. I knew I'd be slow.

We started down. Yes, that's right. Down. The first part of the trail actually went down for a spell before starting it's incline. Once we started climbing there was no more level ground except around the stations and huts. It wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing and falling behind. The trail wasn't bad and had some steps in spots but it was unrelenting in its incline.
This was the easy part.

The tour guide who was bringing up the rear of our group to be sure no one was left behind came up to me with all the enthusiasm of the college-aged kid he was and asked if he could carry my backpack for me. I declined. I know. I'm stubborn but I hated to put my burden on someone else. I persevered.

And I drank more water.

And then I was promoted -- to the front of the line.

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