A return to the land of the rising sun means another trip up Mt. Fuji to see sunrise from the highest point in Japan. This trip was the latest I've waited in the year to trek up, being the last week of hiking season before the mountain huts shut down and everyone living and working on the mountain for the past four months descend down.
Prime time for climbing in right when the mountain opens up for trekkers in late June through July. As we get into August, the temperatures begin to fall again and become uncomfortable for unprepared walkers and tourists coming directly from humid Tokyo via bus.
While Fuji will test your stairmaster and elliptical fitness over the course of three to seven hours, the overnight cold and drastic change in weather from Japan's humid summers often catches many off guard. Overnight treks will drop to O℃ and waiting for sunrise becomes a test of will against the freezing and often windy summit.
I've been unlucky in the past going up with cold rain and altitude sickness and this year made it two treks in a row for rough nights up the mountain. I got hit with a severe case of altitude sickness, likely egged on by the colder temps of September which made for a slow second half and slog up to the summit. When I arrived, I had the worst headache and breathing I've experienced since staring cross country in junior high as a fat boy. I took a seat on the cliff to rest and then quickly stood up and vomited into the abyss. I had to have set a record for furthest distance puked while standing on the highest point in Japan.
The night trekkers go up in search of viewing sunrise from Japan's highest point, but at the mercy and decision of Mother Nature. Seeing me puking on the holiest, sacred mountain of the land of the rising sun a few hours earlier, she decided against the glorious view and rewarded everyone with a taste of the coming winter as snow began to fall from the skies right around sunrise.
Despite the worst conditions on the mountain, I made it to the top a fourth time and brought home another summit flag. The number four in Japanese shares the same pronunciation as death, "shi." How appropriate that the fourth climb would be the worst, but knowing that I can't end on a death note, I have a feeling there'll likely be another shot at climbing to the top of Japan again.