Reflecting on Climbing Mt. Fuji – Part 4

The decent from the summit was more difficult than I imagined it would be. The steep angles combined with technical requirements were compounded by traffic moving up the mountain. Given the condition of my boots, I needed to be extra careful to secure my footing. The guide rope where available was of little assistance and use of the pole was critical. On less rocky portions, it was easy to begin sliding or slipping. Maintaining an even keel became quite the challenge.

The task placed great pressure on leg muscles and knees. Unfortunately, I did have a misstep and injured my right knee just before Station 8. We found at first aid station when we reached station 8 and received a role of duct tape. Keiko did a great job of taping the soles back onto the shoes.

After a brief rest, we proceeded at a slower but steady pace. The route never seemed easier going down and the duct tape did not hold. The jagged nature of the rocky path chewed it up and I was forced to removed the torn tape and soles at station 7.5.

Proceeding in my moccasin-like footwear we continued and were within view of station 6 … after which I new the route was much easier and of less an incline. Station 5, our start point was near!

At that point Keiko and I received calls on our mobile phone from the Rescue Service. Keiko had sent out photos of my boots from the summit and many friends and family members were concerned. The Rescue Service was alerted and met us at station 6.

Everyone seemed more concerned than I was and they insisted that I rest. I must admit the mattress the station staff arranged for me to lay down on felt really good. My only request was for a coke … and Keiko produced one.

Two young men from the Rescue/SWAT Service insisted on trying to carry me down to station 5. I reluctantly agreed to a piggyback lift but 210 pounds of “dead” weight on that trail was dangerous for both them and myself. Fortunately, they had brought a pair of service boots with them. By Japanese standards, I have large feet and they did not expect them to fit me. They were about a half size to small but I pressed into them and continued, with their assistance to head for station 5 under my own power. Except for one short extremely difficult section where they insisted on carrying me through, I reached the base station walking and smiling all the way.

After 17 hours, we were off the mountain. It was nice to have members of the Fujikawa family there to greet me and I was deeply grateful for the assistance of the Rescue Service.

It was quite the adventure; a thrill of my lifetime. I have yet to fully appreciate the totality of my experience. Without question, it was the most physical challenge I have ever endured. I had to dig deep down to get up and down that mountain. The constant support, encouragement and patience of Keiko and Kase were critical to my success. I needed to deal with a host mental and emotional demons –– and a sense of fear (potential physical pain and failure).

It took a few days to recover physically –– helped by the trip to the hot springs.

I conquered Mt. Fuji. In that sense it was a credit to the physical and mental shape of a 68 year old guy. More importantly, Mt. Fuji taught me a great deal about myself, and helped me understand and appreciate so many lessons of life.

I now understand why generations of Japanese have worshipped this majestic mountain and climbed its slopes to the summit. Renewed and energized by the experience, I look forward to the days ahead.

Reflections on Climbing Mt. Fuji – Part 3

Station 9 to the Summit ––

Reaching Station 9 was a major accomplishment and goal. We climbed through the final cloud layer, were able to see a moon-lite starry sky and then a beautiful sunrise. Getting there was not a simple matter as the incline of ascent was quite steep and rugged.

The photos accurately display my excitement, joy (and relief). We celebrated and rested.

Looking up we could see our next goal, the summit. As you can see from the photo, we were not alone. This was the first sense I had of the number of climbers. Previously, in the darkness I would see lights moving up the mountain, like so many fireflies.

The increase in the number reflected those who had climbed to the upper stations earlier and sleep the night in huts –– my recommendation for anyone thinking of taking on this adventure. At this point we had been climbing with limited rest stops and on the mountain for 7 hours.

The path to the summit (through rest station 9.5) was extremely step and the most technical part of the climb. I tried not to think about coming back down as a focused on making a steady progress. Happily, I felt more confident and refreshed at this point than earlier. The lack of sleep and food, pain from the boots that continued to deteriorate, and the increasingly colder temperature seemed to fade away as I continued to focus on reaching the summit.

Seeing Mt. Fuji’s remaining snow and glaciers as I climbed was a stark reminded of the hostile environment that enveloped me throughout the experience.

I cannot at this point really recall everything that went through my mind at this time, except the motivational memory of the message from the book “The Little Engine that Could” –– “I think I can …. .”

Reaching the summit was an unbelievable experience. Fist pumps, high fives all around …. we did it! Nine incredible hours

On the summit we took photos and laid down (albeit on magna rocks) for the first time and rested. Despite the cold temperature, the bright sun was warming and calming. We consumed water, trail mixes and energy gels to reenergize our bodies and tried to not think about getting down.

I had the added complication of the condition of my boots. Both shoes had lost the soles. The tape was gone. I recognized I would begin the decent with my feet essentially protected by my socks and a lite layer of leather. The image of a Samurai from an earlier age making the quest in sandals or barefoot popped into my head … and that is how I prepared to navigate a way down Mt. Fuji.

Reflections on Climbing Mt. Fuji – Part 2

From Station 7 to Station 9 ––

I will let the photo gallery tell most of the story.

Two points worth noting.  First, upon reaching Station 8 the sole of my left boot fell off the shoe.  Desperate, I asked another climber if he had any tape?  To my surprise, he offered up a small role of adhesive tape and Keiko did a great job of securing the sole back onto the shoe.

Second, reaching Station 9 and being able to see the sunrise and having the summit in view was a deeply emotional moment.  I was both proud and thankful of safely reaching this point.

Keiko, Kase and I celebrated and rested, seeking renewed energy to make the final push to the summit.

Reflections on Climbing Mt. Fuji – Part 1

The Japanese people have regarded the majestic Mt Fuji as an important cultural and inspirational symbol for centuries. Since the Edo period, Fuji worship and climbing to the summit has become a common practice.
The mythology holds that because of her numerous great eruptions over the centuries, the Japanese, in order to appease the anger of the mount, built the Asama Shrine at the summit (Asama Taisya), with the main god named Asama no Oogami (which is the Mt Fuji herself), and regard Mt Fuji as the Goshintai.
For the past ten years I have been fascinated with the image and wonder of Mt. Fuji. This year I was determined to experience Mt. Fuji by making the climb and witness the rising sun from her summit. Fortunately, Keiko and our good friend Kase agreed to accompany me on this quest.

The Start ––

Keiko, Kase and I began our Mt Fuji adventure at 10:30 PM on Saturday, August 4 selecting to use the Fujinomiyaguchi Tozandou track. Our start point was Station 5 (a gokome or gome) located at an altitude of 2400 meters; the summit Station 10 is at 3777 meters (12,391 feet).

The Fujinomi track, one of three routes, is a popular but an extremely difficult route. It is all volcanic lava rock and magna (from ashes to small, crushed pieces to mostly large, jagged rocks of various sizes and shapes) with the trail roughly bounded by a guide rope.

The distance from Station 5 to the summit transverses five kilometers (3.1 miles) with an altitude change of 1377 meters (4518 feet). The average incline from Station 5 to 7 was about 55-60%; from Station 8 to 9, 70%; and from 9 to the summit 80%.

The ascent (and decent) required constant focus and attention to secure your footing on the proper approach and the use of gloved hands, a sturdy mountain pole and the guide rope, where possible, to safely complete the climb. The uphill track shares the same route with the downhill track makes the situation even worse.

Our plan was to climb through the night, reaching station 9 or the summit for the sunrise.

At the start, there was a full moon with a partially cloudy sky. The temperature was about 26C (80F) with a high level of humidity. It is important to note the temperature element. It can be exceptionally cold on Mt Fuji in the summer!

As a general rule, the temperature falls 0.6℃ for every 100 meter above sea level.
Mt Fuji is at 3776 meters above sea level, so the temperature of the summit can be about 20℃ lower than sea level. Since the weather was not so great, we were told to expect the temperature on the summit to be around 10℃ (50F). And the temperature at night can be below 5℃ even if it is in the middle of summer!

Armed with this knowledge, we were dressed and fully prepared for facing the track and elements ….. or so I thought!.

Station 5 to Station 7 ––

Whatever I expected it to be like quickly changed as we began to make our way up the mountain. Climbing with the path lit only by our headlights, the darkness, wind and fog, varying temperatures and most critically, the changing altitude on the extremely complex terrain made for slow and difficult progress. As the “senior” member of our expedition team I certainly caused a far slower rate of ascent. Frankly, I needed to overcome considerable physical discomfort, fear and a lack of confidence in my ability to take on the challenge. Having completed four marathons, I could not believe how difficult it was to make forward and upward progress!

When finally passed through the cloud level to be greeted by a full moon and a clear starry sky, we arrived at “old” Station 7 (having passed through “new” Station 7) I was exhausted. The period of rest was a welcome change of pace. A change of clothing was in order as we began to experience far cooler temperatures.

It was then that I notice that my left climbing boot was losing its sole. Little did I realize what this foretold.

….. To Be Continued …..

Brand You … Practice What You Preach

Keiko’s family operates a school and businessmen’s shirt company. Last year they were asked by a client to design and produce a very high-end shirt product. I was indeed honored when told they had branded the shirts “The Paul Myer Men’s Collection.”

The shirts were very popular and the complete production run was sold through the firm’s retail business partners. No word yet on the additions to the “collection.” I have offered to return to help promote “my” brand.

Brand You really works ….. and I now have another interesting international marketing lesson to share with my students.