Well it’s been hanging around outside my window since I got here. I could hear it saying ‘nya-nya-nyaa-nya-nya I`m taller than you-ou`, so on Saturday I was taller than Fuji, because I was on top of Fuji (thats my logic anyway).
It was a really nice climb…um well I actually enjoyed it. There were seven of us climbing in total though and I suspect I’m the only one planning on climbing again. Myself, Bouncy (from Singapore), Sparkly Eyes (from Canada) and his girlfriend, Unprepared (from Manchester), Mixed Bag, Scottish Southerner and Louisianna Horserace. Me and Bouncy climbed together and stopped each other going mad. Sparkly Eyes and his girlfriend were way ahead for the whole climb and didn’t seem to feel any of the slopes at all; Mixed Bag, the Scottish Southerner and Louisianna Horserace hated pretty much every second from the seventh station up. Unprepared didn’t much like the going either and was suffering from the altitude/oxygen depletion (and I suspect the cold) but made the summit for sunrise which was our goal (it was so beautiful).
I was initially a bit worried about the climb and so I totally overprepared (better than underpreparing though), I had all the Andes gear that I brought with me, thermal underwear and as many layers as I could stuff in a bag, I also brought way too much food; peanuts and dried mango (hurrah for dried mango). On the whole though I’m glad I did have so much as I could share it with people and dry mango does wonders for peoples perkiness! (I bounced most of the way up Fuji).
Its been a long time since I climbed any proper mountains, its even been a long time since I climbed any in Britain, I mean I may have done the Crib Goch (is that even spelt right?) route up Snowdon but that was at least three years ago and as for Ecuador that was about…coming up to five now I think. I’m unfit and I haven’t been at that altitude for a long time, so I was worried.
But the climb was so sweet. Really gentle slopes from the fifth station to the seventh and then interspersed steep slopes with actual rockface climbs (nothing serious, no ropes necessary) I soon discovered that Bouncy was a brilliant pathfinder over the rockface (she has little legs like me so doesn’t go for huge stretches). I was quite impressed that my thighs didn’t start complaining until we got to the top, like I said it was a sweet climb.
At around the sixth station I must have taken my purple raincoat out of my bag and left it there, which is unfortunate as the thing is a remnant fom Ecuador and really good. It was about the seventh station that Mixed Bag was getting altitude sickness and looking really the worse for wear, I suspect Unprepared may have been as well though this seemed to surprise him as he’s quite fit. My first mountaineering instructor, Welsh Rarebit, popped into my head though and I found myself recycling his advice and information titbits; `its nothing to do with fitness levels, altitude sickness is a totally different thing, top athletes suffer from the altitude`.
From that point I seemed to become the groups ‘experienced’ mountaineer…which I am so not its not funny. I tried to point out that its a long time since I’ve been on any mountains and even then I’m minimal in knowledge about such things but that didn’t seem to matter. It was nice to be asked about stuff I guess. But I did feel like I was cheating; from the seventh station I was following Bouncy for the right paths, from the start I was trying to keep behind whoever was at the back so that I didn’t lose my stamina and I lost my raincoat through sheer stupidity on the mountain. I think the only things I did exactly right were clothing layers and snack food.
I do want to go again. When Bouncy and I reached the lions gates near the top and realised that first light was hitting and we only had ten mintues to get to the top before sunrise we both looked at each other and said lets go as far as we can. It was such a brilliant moment of double-determination that had been built with each other purely by climbing together. We don’t know each other inside out; I know she’s from Singapore and hyper as hell when not climbing a mountain and she knows I’m from Britain and fairly quiet when not climbing a mountain but I will happily climb with her again for the smiles of encouragement and for the *click* of minds as they roll in the same direction.
When we got to the summit there were a number of ‘viewing tables’ surrounding the post office/station up there and at the highest point there is a shrine gate. We knew we had to watch from the shrine gate, we couldn’t have got up Fuji and watched from the post office! But the path to the gate was full of people…so we did the obvious, we went around the edge of the crater and climbed up the `back` to the point the gate was on. This was probably the most difficult climb of the trip since it was an actual climb and straight up; it was probably the most dangerous too since had we fallen we’d have gone straight down into the ash filled crater. Ok the lack of oxygen might just have gotten to me!
In anycase we watched the sunrise from the gate. The photos we took will go up on the site after I get paid this month and can buy a new cable. (I left the last one in England!)
The descent was frankly, horrible. Really, really horrible. The mountain isn’t pretty, it being a volcano and all so it as quite nice not to have to look at it during the night whilst we climbed, having said that the views were amazing, the sea of clouds interspersed with openings onto the valley below, the huge azure pierced by bright orange sun. However, volcanic ash is not a stable substance on which to go downhill, nor is pumice stones and gravel further down. Most of my descent was an attempting to be controlled skid interspersed with falling. My thighs, which hadn’t moaned until they got up to the top, decided to start really complaining about a third of the way down and I don’t know who had estimated the distances on the signs but there is no way, even being sleep deprived that 2.5 km took Bouncy, Sparkly Eyes, his girlfriend and myself two hours! I hated the descent, but I felt refreshed by the climb and thouroughly enjoyed greeting the sun on the top of Fuji.
My legs really enjoyed the hot bath last night, I wanna find an onsen!