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.