Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rock Climbing at Kuji


This past June a couple of our friends (Scott and Jen) invited us and a couple of others to go rock climbing with them. Amy had done some before on a climbing wall, but I had no previous experience. So, this was our first experience up a true rock face.


Several of them were experienced climbers, so they had all the necessary equipment we needed. The location was just outside of a town called Kuji on the east coast of Japan. It's definitely a beautiful location (a large stretch of nearby coast has been designated as a national park).



It was amazing how steep a face you could climb up and how much energy it took. Amy and I couldn't make it to the top on the first try, but on the second one we made it. One piece of advice I would give anyone doing this is to wear pants. It pretty much trashed my knees.



The method was quite simple. The climber wore a harness around the waist/legs and you tied one end of the rope to the harness (which was double checked). The rope was put through a ring at the top of the cliff and the rest of it was controlled by someone sitting on the ground. The person on the ground pretty much had your life in their hands, so you didn't spit on them.


Once you got to the top, you were rewarded with some amazing views of the coastline. Fortunately, no injuries occurred and fun was had by all.


The only time there was a risk of injury was when I tried this "Cliffhanger" move to start my first climb...I almost landed it

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Mt Fuji

This past July Amy and I decided it was time we tackled the iconic Mt Fuji. We caught a bus from Tokyo in the morning and arrived at Lake Kawaguchi at around lunch time. We took a shuttle to our hotel and tried to sleep the whole afternoon. During the summer months, view of Mt Fuji are rare. So we were excited to see this view from our hotel the night we were to hike it.
We had debated whether or not to hike at night or during the day, but decided to go with the former to catch the sunrise from the top. We caught a bus from the train station to the starting point of the hike. There are several routes up and down the mountain. We took the Kawaguchiko trail starting at the 5th station at about 2,200 meters. For most of night we were alone on the trail, only occasionally passing or getting passed by someone. There were large amounts of people at the huts along the trail (many people hike part way, stay the night, and hike to the top in the morning).

We were zipping up the trail at a pretty good rate. The weather was perfect, with barely a cloud in the sky. It was a little choppy sometimes with the visibility (we only had our headlamps), but for the most part the trail is very easy to navigate. There were only a few times we had to climb hand over foot.


Things were going great...until a little thing called altitude sickness jumped on Amy's back at about 3,200 meters. At this point our pace slowed a bit to allow Amy to let go of some of her lunch/dinner and to rest. After our break the throngs of Japanese climbers had already emerged from their slumber from the mountain huts, and we were forced to get in line for the final ascent.


Despite Amy's bad fortune with the altitude sickness and the slow line to the top, we still made the 5,000 ft climb in a little over 5 hours to 3,776 meters (12,388 ft). And we made it in time for the sunrise. I wasn't sure it was worth it to climb at night (Amy still doesn't think so), until I saw it...I really don't know if it was that beautiful, or if I was just happy to be at the top.


After taking a two hour nap at the summit in one of the ramen huts, we started our descent. Fortunately we had little cloud cover, so the views were great. Once again, we had to take it easy on the way down since Amy was a little dehydrated from the extraneous efforts altitude put on her. Despite that, we still made it down in three hours.


Going down the trail was a little more crowded. As all the mountain hut sleepers were now making their way down. The down trail was a little different terrain than the up trail, too. While on the ascent you were hiking on pretty solid rock, the descent was pretty much on sand.

It felt like I had corneal abrasions by the end. It was like we were hiking at the beach. We had sand in every bit of clothing we had on.


Although Amy had to take it easy, I found it much more fun (and annoying to other hikers) to run down the sand switchbacks. I could then catch my breath while Amy came down, then I would run by the same before mentioned annoyed hikers. This sequence lasted through the first 1/3 of the descent.


When we got back to the 5th station, we caught a bus back to the train station and then a taxi back to our hotel. There we enjoyed a nice dip in the onsen to soothe our weary muscles. I must add that our hotel had one of the coolest things I've ever seen...just watch the video to find out.

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