August 16 2001 at 1:04 PM

Well, call me lame in the j-babe pulling arena - but I managed to climb to the 3,776 summit .... just. Let me tell you that this was undoubtedly the WORST experience of my life, second to none.

Recently a lot of mates have come back from Fuji with stories of "oh yeah you should go ... theres vending machines all the way to the top". Its nearly the end of peak-season and I had nothing better to do - so i thought, right .... Fuji. I only have to do it once, and the nearest thing to a mountain Ive climbed before is Glastonbury Tour in England. So I phoned my mate and the next day we got a train to Gotemba.

The travel guide book I was using told me, quote "a popular thing to do is the climb the mountain at night and watch the sunset from the top". So, armed with some sturdy feet attire, a jacket and top, with some bottles of water and some crisps we began out ascent at 6pm. We knew it was early, but - hey there were reastaurants and cafes everywhere, werent there.

From the base of the mountain we could see nothing, cause it was soo cloudy, we couldnt even see above tree level -- so we took, wot I believed to be the Sunabashiri route - we got the walking stick and paid our respects to the little shrine at the bottom and embarked. Little did we realise that 13 hours of sheer hell was about to be lived through.

It was odd at first, cause we were the only people going up the mountain - i heard stories of hoardes of travellers and queues - but we saw precisely no-one. For the first two hours the only person we saw was some people coming down the mountain. Then ---- it got dammn dark and the clouds closed all around us - even with our head-lamps we could see no further than about 2 metres. The wind picked up and we were starting to freeze. Where were the goddamn rest spots ??? It was horrible - the mountain is eerily silent and when we stopped and turned off our torches --- we could see nothing --- utter pitch black. The stars had been swallowed and there were no lights coming from anywhere. Our only piece of good news was that we werent lost --- there are signs everywhere and we seemed to be following the right track - albeit the less than popular one.

Finally we found a light and a small hut with some Japanese people in. So we knocked on the door and and uncertain looking Japanese woman said "hai?". I was like "thank god, could we come in and have something to eat or drink please?" And the answer was no - "go up to the next station" she said in basic english, "not far". We were astonished - it was freezing, damp and extremely dark and treacherous ... surely they would have something for us. So I tried again and finally she agreed to sell us some minature kit-kats and 250 yen a pop !!!!!!!!!! How disgusting !!!! Shed annoyed us so much that we werent gonna beg and ask us to let us in - so we braved it out and tried to find the next place.

Still, we were walking up and hadnt seen a sole - it was about 9.45 and not 1 goddamn person ... my friend was starting to panic -- he was knackered so he couldnt walk fast - and if we stopped we froze - he said something like "if we dont get shelter soon we're gonna die on this mountain - i think ive got hypothermia". Wed been climbing for nearly 4 hours and no resting point had been encountered - nor any people and I began to think we were in serious shit. Then we started shouting "hello", "help", taskute". For those whove ever been in a situation like this --- it is truly horrible and very scary.

Finally, we saw a light over the hill and we trudged up to a sign reading, "3250" metres. There was a small cabin and 2 people sitting outside -- "THANK GOD". I said - we said hi and they mosied into the cabin. We knocked and asked them for food/drink - a friendly girl offered us a coffee which we gladly took. But, it was only 10.30 and we on the brink of serious over-exposure. We couldnt make it any further - so we tried to get in the cabin.

5,500 yen each she said ..... ahhhhhh !!!!! We only had about 8 or 9,000 yen between us - plus we would need money for food/drink and transport later. We couldnt afford it .... but one of us could.

If youre interested ill continue the story next-time. Right now, im recovering -- i never want to be up that goddammn mountain ever again.

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