Mountain Climbing in Bike Leathers

Luckily for me the weather after a typhoon is often clear and I was rewarded with perfect views of Mount Fuji looking particularly picturesque with a layer of snow blanketing the top third of it. No wonder Chris had looked slightly worried when I left his house last week announcing my intention to climb Fuji.

However I am not easily put off and pointed Thelma in the direction of the mountain- only to find myself not lost exactly but spending two hours searching for the road up it - not feeling roughty toughty enough to attempt the climb from sea level,I was opting for the "easier" route from the fifth way station which, according to my map is at the end of a winding mountain road.

This mountain road was nowhere to be found as I got increasingly peeved at the lack of sign posts- yes, I could see the bloody mountain but just could not find the road. I asked various people but to no avail as they gave very complicated directions in Japanese or just gave up trying to explain.

At last I saw a sign that said "Mt Fuji" and pulled off the highway onto a side road which had an automatic toll gate- which, naturally I dodged around, and how glad I was as it only led to a theme park called Fuji Land, I considered having a go on the roller coaster in an attempt to spot the road but in reality I am a total wimp with theme park rides and end up vomiting afterwards.

Back to the highway (once more dodging around the toll gate), finally getting to the visitor centre and a sign, but due to the two hours of searching I had gone onto reserve fuel tank and hearing that it's an hour drive up to the fifth station, I had no option but to turn around and go back to town to fuel up.

The woman at the garage was very friendly and presented me with a pair of gloves- pointing at the snowy peak and saying i would need them up there. a little bit worrying I thought.

 

Happy and relieved to be on the right route, I recognised many of the roads I had criss-crossed earlier in my long search, and couldn't help marvelling at the total lack of signs for the country's most famous landmark.

 

But Fuji was worth it- the ride up on the bike was just over 20 minutes, easily overtaking the lumbering tourist coaches as they toiled up the twisting road.

I parked up Thelma, posed for the obligatory photos with the local tourists there and set off. There was a fairly big sign stating that Fuji is closed from 1st October until summer next year - whoops I thought. And continued regardless.

I was not alone either, there are no officious guards preventing the climb and in fact not even any barriers to get past, just a gate which to me was a challenge if not an open invitation as well as for the other foreigners on the mountain. I met two Brits and a Spanish couple as I toiled upwards. All noting my leather trousers but too polite to say anything about how incongruous I appeared in the snow wearing full bike gear.

 

It was amazing, the views were breathtaking - with Tokyo clearly visible even at 60 miles distance. And the climb itself breathtaking as I realised how unfit I was though the low levels of oxygen at almost 3000 metres altitude was a big factor (or so I like to kid myself).

As long as one of the couples stayed ahead of me, i knew I had a safety net if anything happened, first to drop out were the Brits at 2700 metres. We had a chat and I waved them off,  40 minutes later I realised that not only had the Spaniards taken a different route to me but in fact they had also started to head back down and were now 400 metres below me.

The snow was getting deep and the climb up the rock was increasingly treacherous and slippery while the clouds were closing in with a menacing look about them.

I gazed up with some regret at the torii (buddhist gates) pointing the way to the final ascent to the summit. I realised that unless I took some silly risks I would not make it all the way. Using the self timer I took photos of me in the snow and then started my descent. Feeling a sense of achievement in getting to the height I had reached.

By the time I reached Thelma in the car park, my legs were aching. I freewheeled the several miles down the mountain and back to town, then following a small road around a lake I found a spot where I set up my tent on the lakeshore with perfect views of Mount Fuji as the sun set.