At the Top!
The 8.5th Station at 3450m! I arrived here at 12:09am. Notice only 900m left to the top of Mt. Fuji!
And P.S., this hut is the last resting spot to the top.
The sign marking the 9th Station at 3600m. I arrived here at 12:46am. There was nothing here! I was the only person here! There was a shed here, but nothing else. No where to sit except the rocks and no lights except my flashlight. Only 400m in 30 minutes (according to the sign) left to go to the top. (although it took me a little longer than the signs said to get here).
As I rested in the night, with a gorgeous view of all the stars in the sky like you've never seen before, a woman paused to ask if I spoke English. Her headlamp had died and she didn't have any extra batteries. So she would follow me up the rest of the way. It was nice having someone to talk with to the top.
There were a lot of Japanese making the climb, though I hadn't seen many hikers in a few hours... There were also a few Europeans making the trip. Back at one hut along the 8th Station, a French couple who spoke a little English went inside to rest. (Shame none of the hut employees on the mountain speak any English.) There was also a German couple I had passed a few times, though again I hadn't seen them recently. I had read online about one journey that hadn't made it to the top because of the cold and rain and another who made it up after the sunrise. I was absolutely deteremined to make it to the top before the sunrise! Thankfully the sky above was clear (though cloudy below) and it was not too cold. The last thing I wanted, though, was to get too comfortable resting in a warm room to sleep instead of getting to the top before that sunrise!
Here it is! The top of Mount Fuji! It's 3770m above sea level and I arrived at 1:30 in the morning! There was almost no one else up here! (Everyone else was resting at one of the huts further down.)
There were a couple of vending machines and a building that was closed for the night. There was nothing to do now except rest in the freezing cold and stare at all the stars in the galaxy.
Come 3am, more people started to arrive and the building opened for business. We were able to rest inside to warm up a bit before the sunrise. None of the food appealed to me, though. There was one white woman running around who lived/worked there.
The early light to the east looking down onto the clouds from atop Mount Fuji!
A large crowd was gathering to watch the sunrise. As the clouds moved and the sun rose, all the Japanese would go "oo! ah!" It was a beautiful sight. First light did appear at about 4am and I waited outside watching the sunrise for nearly an hour.
A little sliver of the sun over the clouds at 4:34am from the top of Mount Fuji
The Sun fully risen above the clouds at 5:15am from the top of Mount Fuji.
After the sunrise, there was only one thing left to do: mail postcards from the highest post office in Japan. they charge for both the postage (one flat rate to all non-Japanese destinations) and for taking the post cards from you... But, a few days later, everyone gets a card that was stamped from atop Mount Fuji!
One point: it could rain unexpectantly on the summit, I read, so I made sure to secure the cards in a ziploc bag for the hike up :)
Come 5:30am, after a short bathroom break that cost ¥200, it was time to climb back down. Mount Fuji looks really different in the day. At night, everything's black. But now you can see the red of the mountain everywhere. You can also see all the swarms of people I had beaten to the peak! Their trudge in a hateful queue is exactly the fate I avoided by rushing to the top as I did :)
Everyone still trying to get to the top, albeit too late for the main reason they were climbing at night.
Down the mountain a bit, back into the clouds, are these little plants growing in the lava rock.
We finally arrived back at the busy 5th Station at 9:30.
It took six and a half hours to get to the top and four hours to get down, but the trip down seemed longer. It's never fun to climb down a mountain. I was in pain walking down, so it took me even longer as I took small, slow steps and took a few minutes to rest at each bend of the zig-zagging trail down. When I finally made it back to my hotel in Tokyo, I went straight to bed. I slept all afternoon and night.