Max and Hugh ready for the climb, July 15, 2014
As much as I wanted to remain on the couch, I decided to spend 15 minutes getting back to the blog. I do not know what lies ahead but I know I have wanted to get in my story of finally getting to the top of Mt. Fuji. As I looked back at the photos, I cannot believe that it was exactly one year ago this week that I found myself on top of the world. The past few weeks have been a challenge for me. As I had posted – life changes. I made some more changes in my life. Ones I hope are for the better. I think they will be but change is hard. And I do not like the unknown. The unknown is scary. Funny as I write that I think how I have come to be able to jump into a river, ocean, lake that is filled with the unknown. Why does life scare me so much then? All these thoughts as I look back on Mt. Fuji.
I promised myself I would capture this. I decided to tackle it as I tackled the mountain itself. It bits and pieces – writing for a moment each evening. It will be fun to relive it.
So … how does one climb Mt. Fuji? Mt. Fuji is the heart and soul of Japan. I have a friend who teaches Japanese and has traveled around Japan numerous times , but has yet to even see Fuji-San. Yet you can travel into the heart of Japan and gaze out the window of a train to see her rising tall above the clouds. Fuji is amazing. Formed from a volcano, Mt. Fuji is the perfect mountain shape. Reimagined over centuries by artists, poets, writers, and photographers. Hugh had climbed Fuji is the 70’s while in the Navy visiting Japan. His tale of reaching the summit is nothing short of hysterical. How three novice navy guys managed to make it to the summit wearing shorts, sneakers and very little else. It is a great tale. When we visited in 2012, the year after the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami, we had gone to Mt. Fuji to climb once more. Hugh, Max and Lauren had made it to the top. Mary and I had made it to the 8th station and then collapsed in one of the mountain huts to sleep, eat and consider why anyone would climb a mountain.
Hugh knew I wanted to reach the summit. Knowing that we had already been gifted with the best climbing weather in 2012 – we dared to plan a return to the mountain on our 2014 trip to visit Max in his home away from home in Japan.
I wanted to get to the top this time around. Our Fuji adventure began the afternoon following our open water swim with Roger. Our plan was to leave Suruga Bay, return to Mishima , grab our luggage and catch the local bus that would take us north to Mt. Fuji. We had made arrangements to stay in a youth hostel for the evening and set out for Fuji the following morning. All was going according to plan until we stopped for lunch – at which point Hugh excused himself and proceeded to spend the next hour in the bathroom becoming violently ill. We all managed to finally coax him into the car for the short drive back to our hotel in Mishima. Roger, Lindsey and Ishii wished us well for they had their own plans to head north for Roger’s swim. Max and I headed into the hotel with Hugh staggering between us. Hugh’s condition deteriorated to the point that I suggested perhaps we needed to get to a hospital. Max reminded me that in Japan, trips to the hospital are typically reserved for those who are about to die. Indeed, when we inquired at the front desk about the nearest hospital, the 2 attendants stared at me as if I were from Mars. Ok, no hospital. We made arrangements to stay another night, cancelled the youth hostel at Fuji and got Hugh upstairs to the room so he could collapse under the pressing weight of food poisoning. I was sure it was the breakfast ham that did him in. Assured that Hugh would not die, Max asked if he might go exploring the sights of Mishima and off he went. I took advantage of the down time and slept. Fuji would wait.