Sunday, May 4, 2014

How Not to Climb Fuji: #2

So we've already covered How Not to Climb Mt. Fuji #1, Wait Until the Last Minute

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol /

Now it is time for #2

2.  Do No Physical Conditioning

Part of the reason climbing Fuji is so popular is because it is totally doable even for a beginner.

But that doesn't mean it is just a walk in the park.

It is a very long way up and a very long way down.

At high elevation.

We meant to prepare.  We intended to do some shorter mountain hikes near home in the weeks preceeding our climb.  We meant to be working out daily leading up to the climb.

But it was a busy time (see post #1) and blah, blah, blah.

The truth is, I was the only member of the family who was regularly working out at the time.  Oldest Girl was frequently walking home the 2 miles from school and the Professor walked a lot in the normal course of his work but... the other two were essentially couch potatoes.

"We'll do a lot of hiking during our vacation in Guam," we said.  "There are lovely mountains in Guam."

It is true there are lovely mountains in Guam.  But the reality of tropical heat and humidity hit us harder than we expected and the lure of the lovely beaches and snorkeling was strong--too strong for us to resist.

We started up that mountain about 6 am full of energy and enthusiasm.  We were hiking with several other boy scout families and we were a chipper bunch.  Many of the scouts and siblings had participated in our Vacation Bible School so we even sang some VBS songs as we climbed.

We had perfect weather, warm but not hot, sunny clear skies.  Most horror stories about Fuji involve rain, fog and cold temperatures.  Not us.  It was beautiful.

I hadn't really thought much about the experience of hiking Fuji.  It was more of an item to be checked off a too do list.  But I must say I really enjoyed the hike up.  Honestly,  I throughly enjoyed the hike up.  Way, way more than I expected to.

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down.  But more on that later.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How NOT to climb Fuji

There is a saying among westerners stationed in Japan that if you don't climb Mt. Fuji while you are there you will end up stationed there again.

Image courtesy of Aduldej /

Fuji climbing mishap stories abound as well.  It is a lot like birth horror stories.  When you are pregnant everyone seems to delight in telling you about how bad things went for them (or their cousin's cousin twice removed).

As soon as people hear you are planning to climb Fuji, the stories will come out.

Here's our story, or as I like to think of it, a tutorial in all the things NOT to do when planning to or actually climbing Fujisan.

I'm going to split it into parts and call it my "Top 10* Things Not to Do When Climbing Fuji"

Top 10 Things NOT to Do When Climbing Fuji

Number 1:  Wait Until the Last Minute

Very early on in our time in Japan we (that is the Professor and I) decided we wanted to climb Fuji.   But we wanted to do it with the kids so we decided to wait for them to get a bit bigger so they would be able to make the climb.

Our last summer in Japan was approaching and it was a very full one.  The window for climbing Fuji is small.  You can only go in July and August.  It was hard to see how we would fit this in.  Then the boy scouts announced a family trip to Fuji and it just happened to be at the only possible time for us to make the climb.  How could we pass this up?

The first week of July I was crazy busy preparing for the major event of my job, running a Vacation Bible School with over 250 kids and 100 volunteers.

The second week of July**, we went on a family vacation to Guam.  Great fun and very relaxing.

The third week of July was non stop motion preparing for VBS and asking myself what I was thinking taking a vacation the week before.

Then the crazy week of VBS itself.  All 5 of us were heavily involved including the Professor who helped out each day and then went to work and put in another full day.

VBS ended on Friday.

Sunday morning we went to the 8:00 am service and then drove the 12 hours down to Camp Fuji to meet up with the boy scouts.

Monday morning at 5 am we headed out to the mountain.

Tuesday afternoon the Professor took the train back home and the kids and I drove in to Tokyo so we could meet up with my brother and his family who were flying in for a visit.

So, tight schedule like I said.

'Cause when you're planning to climb a 3776 meters mountain it obviously makes sense to start out already exhausted right?
*Or however many things I end up coming up with.  Obsessive pre-planning is obviously not my problem or I wouldn't have this story to tell.

**Only time the Professor could go