Part 3: Mountainside
For better or for worse, Michiko and I took an unusual and abandoned route down the mountain that eventually connected with our original route. (It is important to take the same route descending and ascending, otherwise you will end up at the wrong parking lot!) It was secluded and exhausting, but a great way to see some spectacular views.
On my two previous climbs of Fuji, it had been so cloudy that it was hard to appreciate the views. This climb was different. Although it was cloudy, there was enough blue sky that we could clearly see Japan's distinct geographic features. As we descended, we saw spectacular views of the mountain itself and of the plains to the south of the mountain.
To the east we could see Enoshima Island, the Miuru Peninsula, and Tokyo Bay.
And to the south, we could see the mountains of the Izu Peninsula. To the west were the cities of Fuji and Shizuoka on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
The views as we descended were fantastic and romantic. Here is a picture of Michiko descending along the dusty and abandoned path down.
Sometimes we even left the path to shorten our route. All things considered, this wasn't a very good idea.
Eventually, our route crossed west and connected with our original route up the mountain. Our detour had been fun, but the sandy nature of the path made it difficult to descend, and we found ourselves exhausted.
Mt. Fuji is 3,780 meters high, and the tree line ends at about 2,000 meters. However, as we descended we began to see signs of plant life. This was the first greenery that we saw, peaking out from the rocks.
And eventually, we approached the actual tree line and the parking lot, where all of our fellow climbers were waiting for us. We spent the afternoon at an onsen, and we even found a restaurant where all twelve of us could share a table.
What was Michiko's conclusion? She didn't get altitude sickness but was exhausted at the end, and while she was glad to climb once, she promised to never climb again. I know how she feels. But I also know the strength of that conviction fades over the years. I wonder if she'll be as true to that promise as I was...