F is for Fuji-san
The adrenalin pumped through me as I accepted the challenge of taking on a night climb up Fuji-san. For someone with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a vision disorder characterized by night blindness and restricted peripheral vision, climbing Japan’s highest mountain either showed great foolishness or a leap of faith — hopefully not one off the mountain!
To train myself, I trekked up winding roads to area shrines for weeks. On the night of the big climb, I donned warm clothing even though it was August. At 12, 337 feet, I knew I’d be thankful.
Wisely, I’d secured a mining light to wear on my head for extra lighting. Unzipping a pouch, I threw in some yen to buy soba, the steaming buckwheat noodles climbers slurp up just before the climb.
Lemon wedges, bottled water, a pack of cookies and an extra sweatshirt filled out my small backpack. Of course, right away I purchased a walking stick like many nationals did to aid them in their journey.
Hakone, 6:30 pm. 5th Station. The climbing started here.
My heart beat erratically at the challenge before me. I recalled the words of my Japanese boyfriend, the only one I’d told about my vision loss. “Chotto matte, kudasai” he’d said, “Vely danger. You no see good to put your foots. Maybe you fall. Maybe you lose the mountain,” he said, trying to talk me out of it.
I didn’t want to “wait a minute, please” and he couldn’t talk me out of it. “I can do this. Besides, how can I lose a mountain?” I teased. He looked confused. “I won’t get lost,” I reassured him.
At first the climb seemed painless. Bright lights shone on the pathway. Hordes of people milled about. Laughter abounded. Friends chatted. Old people jogged past me. I easily wound my way around the broad slope.
As the path grew progressively steeper, I slowed down and aimed my miner’s light at different angles. I’m so slow and clumsy. Everyone is passing me up! “I can do this,” I reminded myself.
About midnight, I became less certain. My legs wobbled and the eye strain was getting to me.
The pathway narrowed. Volcanic ash stood out like boulders looming ahead. With one hand I grasped onto volcanic sediment and bare roots, pulling myself up. The other clutched my stick.
A small Japanese man passed me, calling out cheerfully, “Gambatte kudasai!” Do your best! Buoyed by his support, I watched his figure vanish from view and continued on.
Fuji-san’s picture perfect. snow-capped image faded. Up close, it looked ugly–barren volcanic littered with rubbish.
In the wee hours, someone pushed me and I fell down between two boulders. I lay there for a few minute before attempting to move. No one even noticed I’d fallen! Shocked, tears welled up in my eyes.
God, you let me fall!
A brief check of my body parts told me I wasn’t injured, so I got up again. Please, Lord, let me pass the dangerous areas safely.
Sometimes when God answers prayer, He responds immediately. I found myself in the middle of a traffic jam on the mountain in the 2 am shadows. We all inched forward in unison like ants on a stick. It dawned on me, tightly sandwiched between climbers, that danger of me falling had decreased dramatically.
God, you crack me up!
I continued pacing myself. The altitude made me light-headed and I stopped briefly, fearing another fall if I got too dizzy. My breath came in ragged gasps in the higher altitude.
At around 7:30 am, the majestic peak of Fuji-san emerged from the cloudy vapor.
I crumpled my flag into a ball, touching the ground with the fiery red circle of Japan’s emblem and then to my heart before tying it back on the walking stick. It seemed fitting. I’d reached all 12,376 feet!
Sixteen hours after I began the climb, I arrived backto Hakone. Not only was it the base of the mountain, it was famous for natural hot spring baths. Steeped in the steamy muddied o’furo, I massaged my bruised and tender muscles. It was worth it!
God, we made it. I knew you’d help me if I only had faith.
When I closed my eyes, I imagined God saying, “Stay with me, kid,” jabbing me in the ribs. “We got a lotta places to see yet.”
Can you think of a time and circumstance when you wanted to do something and others tried to discourage you — but you went ahead and did it anyway? Was it worth it? Would you make the same decision?
You have just read, “F is for Fuji-san,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright Apri l6, 2015.You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.