Friday, August 31, 2007

Climbing Mt. Fuji: The Descent

-Strange Pilgrims
-Lights Above
-Into Sleep
-The Summit
-The Descent

After the 11 hour hike up, and the non-existent "mountain-top experience," I began my descent. I imagined it as a gently sloping path that would take twenty minutes to go down.

I don't know what I was thinking. I reached the half-way point over an hour and a half after departing from the summit.

The descending trail is longer in distance than the trail up. It makes long zigs and zags across the slope of the mountain. The ground was made up of that volcanic gravel (basalt I think). It was wet, rough, and red underfoot. There was almost no vegetation on this path.

The path was wide and at just enough slope to allow for these huge tractors to ascend to bring supplies to the summit. A few times, I had to hug the side of the trail to make room for one of these tractors. Watching one of these huge vehicles ascend was amazing. They didn't have enough room to turn through the zigs and zags, so they have to alternate going forward and then reverse up different sections. They would go forward on a "zig." Then, when it came to the "zag," it would go a little past the intersection, and then go reverse up the "zag."

About an hour into my descending hike, it began to rain, hard. It didn't take long for me to be soaked through. I felt like a big idiot. The few people on the trail with me were all properly prepared with rain gear, and boots, and plastic bags to cover their backpacks. I was wearing a fleece "hoodie" and jeans. I think the water added twenty pounds to the weight I was carrying.

Sometimes though, I was alone on the trail in the rain. Being in the cloud was cold and hindered vision. I could see only about halfway down one of the sections of trail (a zig or a zag). So, I never knew if the next one was where the trail leveled out and lead back to the 5th station. It was like a maze or something. Endlessly going forward, but never leaving. Unlike the trail up, the trail down was three hours of the same. The gravel all looked the same, each zig looked like the other. I felt like I was in limbo.

Finally, the trail leveled out back to the 6th station, and then down to the 5th station. There, I found my mother and my brother waiting for me. They had arrived back down at the 5th station around 7 am after their botched attempt up the mountain. I arrived at 1:30pm.

We hugged as if we hadn't seen each other in ages. We bought some clothes for me so I wouldn't have to wear my soaked clothes through the long bus ride back to Tokyo. I was spent, but pretty proud of the accomplishment.

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