Monday, July 23, 2012

In Which I Climb Mt. Fuji And Learn A Lesson. (1)

For this deployment, I've been experimenting with a new life strategy.  Rather than being my normal control-freak self, I've been trying to just go with the flow.  One of my friends is really good at this. She doesn't worry about things, she takes each day as it comes, and if something doesn't pan out quite right, she just shrugs it off and keeps going.  I kind of suck at all of that.  This past month- with non-stop visitors for four weeks- seemed a great time to just chill out and not worry about the details.

So far, I have learned two valuable lessons!
Lesson #1:  It's good to be able to flex and go with the flow.  It's good to be completely spontaneous.  I have been a lot less stressed.
Lesson #2:  Do not, Self, do not be relaxed and chilled out when planning something very important.  Something important...oh, I don't know...say, like climbing Mt. Fuji.

When it came to collecting my climbing gear, I was still super neurotic (old habits die hard).  My sister-in-law visited last summer and climbed Mt. Fuji by herself.  She took along a couple bottles of water, Little TF's goldfish snacks, and a couple mini boxes of raisins.  She did not wear hiking boots, pack a flashlight, or bring a poncho.  I, being myself, twitch every time I think about it.  But hey, she survived and had a great time!  Determined to pack everything I might possibly need, I dragged my brother to the free, base-sponsored safety brief.

Pretty much everything the climbing instructor recommended, I packed:

1. Outdoor, sweat-wicking jacket.  In fact, all climbing clothes should be made of quick-drying material.  At the climb's starting point, it's summer.  At the top, there might be snow.  So bringing layers and a warm-ish jacket are key.
2. A brimmed hat and a bandana to protect my face from wind, rain, and blowing dirt.  I didn't end up needing the bandana, but the brimmed hat was great for keeping dirt out of my face as I climbed.
3. A good backpack.  A friend lent me her backpack and its corresponding Camelback.  The Camelback saved us a lot of time (You'll see why that ended up being a lifesaver, further down this post), as I didn't have to stop to rehydrate.
4.  Hiking boots.  I had some from an old high school trip to Turkey.  You can see they aren't ankle-height.  This was ok for me, but ankle-height would have been nice.  The soil on the way back down is very loose and difficult to walk in.  Ankle-height boots would have given me a lot more stability.
5.  Sunscreen.  Even if it's cloudy, skin can still burn.  I put it on before I started climbing.
6.  Hand sanitizer (none of the mountain's bathrooms had working sinks), chapstick, and Advil.
7.  A camera, of course!
8.  Gloves.  At some points, we were almost crawling up on hands and knees, grabbing jagged rock to pull ourselves up. Gloves also helped to protect our hands from the cold.
9.  Clean change of clothes.  We didn't want to sit in sweat and dirt all the way back home.
10.  High-energy snacks.  Lots of trail mix and granola bars.  We could have bought all this stuff on the mountain, but the prices up there are eye-popping!
11.  A poncho or rain coat.  Even if the forecast around Fuji-san doesn't call for rain, it can still happen. I have had too many friends who had miserable and wet climbs.  Our base MWR had heavy-duty ponchos for rent...I think it was like $1 a day.  Don't buy the 100 Yen Store ponchos.  The powerful winds that can whip around Fuji-san will tear a cheap poncho right off your body.
12.  Plastic Ziploc bags for everything that we needed to keep dry.
13.  Toilet paper.  Sometimes the potties don't have any.
14.  And, since I'm a mom, wet wipes.  Those things are so handy, even though we're long past the baby stage.
15. A flashlight (I didn't start off with this item in my backpack. More on that, later).
16.  Update:  I forgot to mention that we also brought 40,000 yen in emergency funds.

The night before our climb, I skipped wine with dinner (I wanted to climb while as well-hydrated as possible) and went to bed early.  As I snuggled under the covers, I gave myself a nice little pat on the back.  Good job, Self.  You have stayed true to your control-freakedness by being fully packed the evening before your attempted climb; however, you are still being spontaneous. You still haven't figured out what trains and buses to take to Mt. Fuji tomorrow!  That's ok, you've lived in Japan for two and a half years, now.  This stuff isn't really that new anymore, right? Trains...yaaaawn...and buses are a bree...zzzzzzzzzzzzze.

In the distance, over the mountain range and in the direction of my slumbering apartment, Mt. Fuji laughed.

To Be Continued...

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!


  1. Hahahaha!! Glad I learned from you and didn't kill myself. I will definitely hike Fuji the next time I am in Japan :) Can't wait to see pictures from the climb!

  2. "In the distance, over the mountain range and in the direction of my slumbering apartment, Mt. Fuji laughed." I can't wait to read the next post!