After a half-day of hiking the first half of Mt. Fuji, I was surprisingly not too tired the following day. However, I knew the final day was going to be the toughest part of the whole hike. The goal was to start early, hike all the way to the final mountain hut, Goraikokan (in the 8.5th station), rest until early morning and climb to see the sunrise. After that, we were going to hike all the way back to the 5th station and catch a bus back to Tokyo. No prob, right?
We woke up early to get a nice start on the day. Despite weather forecasts saying it was going to rain, the weather was perfect and sunny. We were off to the 7th station.
Starting from the 6th station, the scenery starts to change. You come to realize that you are climbing a dormant volcano the higher you go up because wildlife begins to disappear and you just become surrounded by rocks and gravel. And yet bees are still happily flying in front your face. Do they ever go away?
There are many trails that all lead to the top. The most common/easy one is the Yoshida Trail, which we decided to take. It had the trail with the most mountain huts/pit stops so we figured it would give us chances to relax when we needed it. The trail to the 7th station turned into a large zig zag path with nothing but gravel and awkward big steps in your way. The steps were a pain because you had to awkwardly get over them while carrying all of your stuff on your back. Unfortunately there’s no other way around it. However, it was a pretty easy walk since they really went out of their way to make it a path for anyone to be able to hike.
After awhile, the nice paved road turns into a completely steep, rocky path that you have to climb your way up. This was my least favorite part of the overall hike. I’m not good at balancing myself so jumping from rock to rock with a huge backpack on me was a little nerve-wracking. The walking stick I acquired yesterday though helped wonders.
After a little bit of uneasy climbing (just mainly me being nervous though), we hit the 7th station area. We took a break and ate a little snack while I drank some water. We also started to get our walking sticks imprinted by the various mountain huts we would run into every half hour or so. While the 7th station was rocky, it was nice a decent amount of pit stops scattered throughout the area. The clouds were starting to form around us but luckily we avoided any rain.
The path to the 8th station was a lot more easier than the rocky area. Still, several factors had begun to kick in. First was the elevation. We were 2,700 meters above and we were starting to feel it. I was getting out of breath a lot faster and needed more breaks. Water was being consumed at a faster rate. My friend was getting a little headache. Then there was the temperature; it was starting to get chilly. The wind was picking up too, which wasn’t helping. I decided to finally put some warmer clothes on as did my friend. It wasn’t too bad but I definitely couldn’t continue the hike with just a shirt and shorts on. Finally, there was the distance between stations. Up until now we didn’t have to hike too much (around 30 minutes to an hour) to get to the next area. From here on out though, it was going to take around an hour and a half to get to the 8th station and another 80 minutes or so to get to the real 8th station.
Maybe that doesn’t much to a seasoned hiker but for the average person like me, it seems like a big hurdle. Not to mention that we had been hiking a nice chunk of the day before too. Luckily, I’m a pretty optimistic guy so I continued without any complaints.
One thing I can say is the higher you go up, the more majestic the view gets. Even though it was pretty cloudy, it felt amazing to be within the clouds. It’s relaxing and reminded me there is a lot I still had yet to experience from this world.
Heading to the real 8th station was basically just a battle of willpower rather than climbing the mountain. The path wasn’t anything terribly difficult but at this point of the hike, you are fighting against yourself. You want to stop, you’re tired of lugging this huge backpack with you, you’re short of breath and the trail seems to never end. These are the thoughts you have to fight the higher you go up. My optimism and the great panoramic views I was getting of the sky helped me forget about such negative thoughts though.
Once we hit the real 8th station, it felt like we could see a small faint light at the end of this long tunnel. It was only going to be around 20-30 minutes until we arrived at the 8.5 Station, where our mountain hut, Goraikokan, was. Our bodies were aching but our drive overcame any obstacle at this point. Once we hit Goraikokan, we just collapsed on our beds. We were so worn out and the altitude was starting to get to us. I was getting light-headed and dizzy. My friend had a bad headache. We did our best to try to relax for the rest of the day until we continued the last stretch of the hike early tomorrow.
Goraikokan was somewhere I wouldn’t want to stay but one literally doesn’t have any other options. It was the closest place to the summit. You are forced to sleep next to strangers with next to no space for yourself. It really feels like you’re in a can of sardines. The food there was mediocre at best as well. But like I said, there was little we could do about it.
The end was in sight. We were in our worst state. Just how bad was the rest of the hike was going to be?
Only time would tell…