Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Journey of Epic Proportions


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Jason, Jayce, Grahm and I embarked on an epic journey.  We climbed Mount Fuji.  Mount Fuji is one of the worlds tallest freestanding mountains (no it does not even make the top 100 tallest mountains).  Mount Fuji is beautiful cone shaped volcano.  Its peak reaches a height of 3,776 meters or 12,388 feet.  There are around 300,000 climbers annually.  An interesting fact is that many Japanese have tried to climbing Mount Fuji but only about 1% of the Japanese population have reached the summit.  Check out more facts and history here.

Here is map of the different trails that you can hike.  We took the blue trail, Fujinomiya trail.  It is the shortest route.
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Each trail is divided up with stations/mountain huts.  You can buy snacks, oxygen, and even sleep at the mountain huts.

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OUR STORY: (warning over 40 pictures)
I decided awhile ago that I wanted to climb Mount Fuji for several reasons.  1. I crave a little geology in my life, especially one that involves hikes and volcanoes. 2.  I wanted to give my boys an awesome life lesson.  One of those life lessons about doing hard things and pushing through and how it is worth it at the end of the trail.

We started trying to catch a space available flight to Honshu (the largest island of Japan) on Wednesday.  We finally made a flight on Friday (our last day to try).  We arrived at Naval Air Facility Atsugi around 3pm.  From there we took 2 taxi rides and 3 trains to arrive at Camp Fuji at about 6:30pm.  We were staying on Camp Fuji and meeting up with friends who had hiked Mount Fuji the night before.  They had graciously offered to watch the girls for us.  We were trying to hurry and catch the last bus that left at 7:20pm.  We quickly realized that no matter how quickly we rushed that we were not going to be adequately prepared for the hike.  So we decided to slow it down a bit and spring for a taxi.  This allowed us to eat dinner and really get the girls handed off with their owner manuals.

It was very foggy as we stepped into the taxi.  I prayed and sang church songs and tried to not watch the road as we wound our way up switchbacks with extremely low visibility.  I thought we were going to die.  After paying about $100 to reach our starting point, Jason agreed that it was a nerve racking ride.

Here is our picture before we started our climb.  Everyone is smiles and anticipation.  This is at about 9:30pm

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This is the sign they had explaining their new eco-friendly toilet system.  All the hikers have started to leave their mark on the mountain.
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Early on in the hike, about an hour in.
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Jayce is getting done and discouraged fairly early on in the hike.  I work with him until he needs his Dad to go on. Jason figured out that when it got tough that the two of them could link arms and get through it together.  They had to link up just right.  It was fun to see them work together and Jayce's attitude change.  So proud of him for getting through is low moment.

Here the boys are at 1:30am, and at 3,010meters.  The boys are getting tired.
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Here we are at about 2am.  Jayce is doing much better and the boys take turns hiking with Mom and Dad.
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Snack break at 3am, nothing like a little Jerky.  After their first energy bar they wanted anything else.
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After hiking with his Dad for a bit, Jayce has a second wind and is enjoying the hike.  He is noticing differences in the rocks.  He found this spot that could be a fracture.
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At this station (I don't remember which one) there was a Torri Gate.  Torri gates mark the line between sacred and not sacred.  Mount Fuji holds sacred significance to the Japanese culture and Buddhist religion.  This was about 4am (about 30 minutes to sunrise).  I think at this point we could actually see stars.
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We are still on the slopes and we were able to see a bit of the sunrise before clouds rolled in and obscured our view.  Here we are between cloud layers.  You can see the unkai (cloud sea) below us.
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This is another picture of the unkai.  It was gorgeous.

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At about 4:30am the boys were really struggling.  Grahm who had been doing so well and not complaining had reached his low point.  He wanted to just be done.  Grahm and Jayce complained of feeling dizzy so we decided at the next station we would spend the $12.50 and get them a can of oxygen.  If it made them feel better it would be worth it.  Even I felt a short dizzy moment. I am glad we had the boys to keep us hiking slow.

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At 5:30am Jason and Jayce reached the summit of Mount Fuji via the Fujinomiya guchi trail.  A total of 8 hours.  Jayce looks thrilled.
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Here are Grahm and I reaching the summit.  
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Grahm posing for Dad, looking like he just wants to be done.
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This is our we made it to the summit picture.  I am so proud of my boys.  It was the hardest thing that either one of them have ever done.  Proof that they can do hard things.


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I had planned on hiking around the summit a little, I knew with the boys I would not be able to hike the entire rim.  It was windy and cold at the summit and no one was interested in anything but being done.  Jason and I walked over to the crater.

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Yup, that is all we could see in any direction.  Clouds.

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You can see how low the visibility was.  It would clear a little and then cloud up thicker again.  Here is the post office at the summit.  We didn't send anyone any mail.  We also didn't find the stamp for the climbing certificate.

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This sign explains some of the history of Mount Fuji.
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This was one of the shrines at the summit.

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We decided to go in the hut and enjoy some hot noodles.  I thought it would be cool to say we ate noodles on Mount Fuji.  Well those little cups of hot noodles (that cost $0.50) were a whopping $10.  Also the flavor was pork and shrimp (yes, mixed).  You can see how much Jayce and Grahm ate, at this point any time they held still they fell asleep.
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The rest of the pictures are of the hike back down, we headed down at about 6:30am.  The visibility would come and go, sometimes quicker than I could get my camera out and take a picture.  One of the souvenirs that you can purchase are walking sticks.  Then at each of the stations/mountain huts you can pay $2.55 and have it branded to certify that you made it that far.  Our sticks had prayer bells on them (I think).  There was still snow in some places.

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Here is a spot where is cleared up a lot.  Grahm is really tired.
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The boys letting me take a picture.
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This was the farthest we could ever see.  

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You can see the roof of one of the mountain huts.
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Here is a picture of our sticks getting branded at one of the stations.
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Here is a nice clear picture before the clouds come rolling back in.
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I am loving the rocks, I love the red scoria, pahoehoe flow, bread crust bombs, and more.
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This is a shrine.  There were two logs on either side of the trail and they are studded with coins.
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Here Grahm is showing you how rocky the trail is.  The trails are clearly marked with rope and are well maintained.
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I liked the rocks peaking through the mist.
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Here are the boys at 7:30am.  I like the barren rocky slopes with the dots of green.

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Jayce and I are about 30 minutes slower than Jason and Grahm at descending at this point.  So they had a good rest while waiting.

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You can see another little shrine tucked up in the rock.
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We past this guy at 10:30am, he was packing in food.  I wonder how high up he his going with his load.  I guess that explains the spendy noodles.
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This is a picture inside the 6th station. You can see the older gentleman branding our sticks and souvenirs to buy.
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Grahm taking a nap at the 6th station.  His little legs were shaking so bad that Jason tried to carry him for a bit but there is too much loose rock.

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Here we are finished and ready to climb into our taxi.  We reached the fifth station at about 11am.  We decided to spring for the cab rather than have to wait for the bus going to our area and then find a taxi to get us to the hotel.  When you have exhausted little boys you do crazy things.
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Grahm was asleep in about 1 minute.  Jayce would have been, but he started to feel sick.  The taxi pulled over and he got out and emptied what little bit he had in his stomach.  Poor guy.


We were at Camp Fuji for 2 nights and almost 3 days.  This was our view of Mount Fuji the entire time.  We never saw the mountain, not even a shadow in the mist.  My boys hopefully learned a life lesson.  It was not the one I hoped for.  I wanted them to arrive at the summit, see the sunrise, feel the love of their Father in Heaven, appreciate this beautiful Earth, see how far they had come and feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  Instead, they learned that they can do hard things and that some times you do hard things and there isn't anything great at the end.  A much harder lesson than I wanted them to learn.  Hopefully I didn't kill their desire to ever hike again.  
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It was an awesome trip.  I am so glad that my boys shared this experience with me.  I have a small sense of what we accomplished  that night, but I really want to go back.  I want that visual impact of seeing it all.

7 comments:

Katie said...

SO neat! I bet you were in geological heaven! Love that you have pictures of each step along the way.

Way to stick it out Jayce and Grahm!!

jayce said...

mom i can comment you soooo cool

Mike said...

Very nice! great job guys and good for you and Jason for keeping patient and positive. Looks like you guys are making the most of your Japanese odessey.

Jen said...

You and Jason are the coolest parents ever! Those boys of yours will never forget this experience and will probably relive those memories for a lifetime.

Amanda said...

I wish I was cute as you when I hiked. Brandon and I are jealous of your experience. It looks awesome!

Shalet said...

Wow! Great job you guys!

Amie Leavitt said...

I found your blog while searching for Mount Fuji information today. I am an author of children's books and am working on a Mount Fuji book. Would you be willing to do an interview about your family's hike to the summit of Mount Fuji with quotes to be included in my book? Let me know. My email address is amiejaneleavitt@gmail.com. You can check me out at amiejaneleavitt.com
Thanks,
AMIE