16 August 2011

More Trouble where the Rubber Hits the Road

On Sunday night/Monday morning, I climbed Mt Fuji with my younger son Henry, who is in good hiking shape after a 30 day NOLS trip in the Pacific Northwest.  They say everyone who lives in Japan should climb Mt Fuji once, if only for the experience of being high on a volcano with thousands of others.

Sunrise, from around 3200 meters' elevation on the Subashiri route.
We climbed the "Subashiri guchi" route, much less crowded than the traditional trip up from Fuji Yoshida just as the hill climb cycling event to its base, the 5th stage at the top of the Azamino Line, is much less crowded than the hill climb up the 5th stage on the Subaru Line, at the base of the Fuji Yoshida route.  Of course, the hill climb up the Azamino Line is nearly twice the grade of the climb up the Subaru Line, so that might have something to do with the relative lack of crowds.  Likewise, the Subashiri-guchi route starts climbing from around 1900 meters elevation, whereas the Fuji Yoshida route starts much higher, from around 2350 meters.

Henry and I watch the sunrise.

I highly recommend the Subashiri alternative, since it means that you only join the real mob scene at the very top of the mountain, for the last 400-500 meters elevation of climbing.  Otherwise, best to do the climb in early September, after the end of the "official" season but before all of the mountainside huts close.  Also, the Subashiri route has a sand field for much of the descending route -- you can wade through it in big rolling downward steps, as long as you are careful to avoid the larger rocks.
The collection of huts, souvenir shops, and pay toilets on top of Mt Fuji, at the end of the Fuji Yoshida route
Sand running (suna bashiri) in the clouds, almost sand skiing.  Fun, but tough on the boot soles.

Unfortunately, I had mechanical problems with my "wheels" even though not riding a bicycle. The Vibram rubber soles on my 14 year-old hiking boots started to de-laminate (i.e. come off) during the climb.  With repeated tapings, they did not come off completely until we were over half way down.  Fortunately, the inner soles were tough enough to make it back to the trailhead.  It reminded me of riding half a Brevet with a broken spoke ... or maybe in non-cycling shoes!  Maybe I should not have left the boots in the back of our car, parked in the mid-day sun, for the entire week before the climb?

In any event, I highly recommend climbing Mt. Fuji, once, to any expat living in Japan.

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