We made it! On Monday, team Monkey headed out to the bus stop to catch the 5:50pm bus to Fuji 5th Station. The drive through the countryside in the dusk was beautiful in itself, and by the time we arrived, it was pitch dark. The 5th station was all closed, bar the main shop. We bought our Fuji climbing sticks (which turned out to be the best 1300 Yen I spent this holiday by far), as well as some Sake to drink when we were done. After a brief bit of messing around with torches and gear, we were ready for the off! The first thing we noticed was that we were going downhill. It turns out that in order to climb Fuji, one must first climb down.......
After an hour or so of trekking through the woods in the dark, we reached what we thought was the first station, but turned out to be the safety station. The marshals gave us some handy maps of the mountain and its various rest stations and we headed on. We passed a few small groups of folks heading back to the 5th station who'd been up for the sunset and come back down, who kindly wished us good luck.
We were starting to notice that the altitude was making things harder going than we expected, but we pushed on up some fairly tough ash tracks, until we reached the 7th station (there is no 6th station any more), and got our first stamp on our climbing sticks. The asthmatics among us were struggling a bit, but reaching the first rest point made me feel quite giddy and gave me the energy to rush on for the next station. Rich was starting to feel a bit ill at the next station from the altitude, but fortunately a friendly chap from LA gave use one of his prescription altitude sickness pills which eventually seemed to help.
The further up the mountain we got, the harder things became, and by around the 8th station, we started to encounter terrain that was more of a scrambling climb than a trek. We were also encountering large groups of other climbers. Looking down the mountain we could see long lines of torches down the mountain belonging to all the people behind us on the mountain, like a snaking trail of fireflies casing us up the mountain.
Eventually the altitude started to hit me quite hard too, I had a pounding headache, and my limbs felt like lead. A few times I had to be forced to stop, as my legs were literally giving out beneath my feet. Around the 9th station we joined a huge throng of people trudging up the mountain. We had started off full of energy, but by this point we were just trudging, one foot at a time to try and get up the last bit of the mountain.
Suddenly, we were at the top!!! I collapsed in an exhausted heap and we waited for Rich and Jo to catch up, which they did around 20 minutes later. We settled down on one of the viewing platforms, and waited the hour or so for sunrise. We had clear skies, and I can hands on heart say that the sunrise we saw was one of the most beautiful things that I've ever witnessed.
After a quick wonder round and a few comedy photos, we headed back down the mountain which was much easier (although quite dull compared to the ascent) and only took 3 hours. We then collapsed in a sweaty heap at the bottom, which was now a thronging hive of activity and waited for the bus back to Shinjuku. We finally got back to the hotel, almost 245 hours after we left, having been up for around 36 hours straight.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated, I appreciate it more than I can say. I'd also like to thank Jen, Lisa, Andy, Rich and Jo for being crazy enough to come with me on what has been one of the most challenging adventure I've ever been on!
You can see the photos from the trip here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151109559864808.498068.566604807&type=3