From Tokyo we ventured towards Mt. Fuji. We started from the 5th station (at approximately 2200m) at 7:15pm. We were to climb in the dark!
We bought wooden poles for walking sticks and hard cleverly bought head torches before we left (thank god for ebay!). Despite this we were under prepared.
Night set in and we scrambled up. The temperature was dropping and we found it tiring. When stopping at mountain huts to catch our breath the chill started to creep in.
After 2.5 hours we reached the 8th station,?where we'd booked two 'beds'. This consisted of a long wooden shelf on two tiers, where climbers slept side by side )approx. 15 people per shelf). We were only going to get about 2 hours and this was made shorter by considerably loud snoring from our Japanese companions!
We woke at 1:30 to continue our climb. We intended make the summit for sunrise at 4:50. We'd made good time till now so stopped twice for a hot chocolate at the other mountain huts that we passed (1 order = 15 minutes rest). We didn't want to have to wait in the cold at the top. As we climbed higher the air was getting thin and we actually started to feel the effects of altitude sickness (headache, dizziness). From one of the huts we bought a canister of oxygen, to ease our climb. However we didn't think this helped very much, if only as a placebo.
We were still a way from the top when the horizon started brightening. Spirred on by this we were now racing to the top, not to miss sunrise.
Nearing the top our progress was slowed as we met the other masses of people - it was rush hour at the top. We pushed our way through, passed exhausted climbers and finally reached the top, our cameras poised, as the sun broke over the horizon. A cheer went up! We met a Swedish bloke as we neared the summit and we took photos of each other and lent us his sleeping bag the huddle in as we were freezing!!!
We stayed up the top for about 2 hours, taking photos and walking around the crator. We were exhausted!! And I am sure we were suffering from altitude sickness. A slight uphill would leave us dizzy, out of breath and tired. We were looking forward to the relaxing downhill walk back.
How wrong we were!! I know now why most people die climbing DOWN Everest rather than climbing up it. The downhill was hideous! Instead of the scrambly rocks we'd encountered on the climb up - we had to follow a back and forth path that had been gouged into the side of the volcano. It was made up of loose red earth and gravelly rocks. To get down it you had to carefully step your way of trip and fall. It took 3 and a half hours and by this time the day was heating up. Can you tell it made me grumpy?! (Flora!).
Coming in to the 5th station at 10:30 where we were to catch our 11:00 bus was a huge relief!