Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mt. Fuji and the Fool

My second climb up Mt. Fuji (which they say only a fool does ;-) seems a fitting addition to this Hiking and Seeking blog that had otherwise been closed. The previous entry shows a warm-up hike I took on Mt. Monadnock -- 6 weeks before this climb. The good news -- I was trying to get into shape by carrying a 40 lbs pack; the bad news -- I went down even harder when I fell and as a result I severely sprained my ankle. So it is with lots and lots of adhesive tape, ibuprofen, and a little trepidation that I begin this odyssey.

OK, so here we are at the bottom. Like the good fool that I am, I convince my friend "Loose" what a good idea it would be to hike up Mt. Fuji from the bottom. This is not normally done. Normal people start at what is known as the new 5th station, well up the mountain. Only a fool starts at 1st station. And a globe-trotting fool starts well below that, and hikes his lazy butt up to 1st station. You might take a guess as to what we did.

Loose and Steve officially begin
[just click on any photo to enlarge it]

Entering the trail at 1st station

Map of Mt. Fuji from the bottom

This was Loose's first climb up Mt. Fuji (amazing for someone living in Japan -- he must be really lazy ;-), so he had to get a walking staff branded at each of the manned stations. This is, of course, a racket, but it is also a tradition. We did not get one in town before venturing out, so imagine our relief when the old 5th station sold them. It would have been a long walk across the mountain over to the new 5th station.

Loose gets his walking stick and the first brand from old 5th station

We begin to get some elevation, and enter into the clouds

You can see the others crossing over from the new 5th station -- where everyone else starts

The trials merge around 6th station. It has taken us over 6 hours to get to this point, but we still have a LONG way to go. Still smiling though ;-) And now that we are out of the woods (which is the prettiest part of the hike), we can see what awaits us ahead. The trail just gets steeper and steeper (after all, it is a volcano).

6 hours and still smiling

Is he giving us the finger? Not very Buddhist of him

Now we can see what awaits us

Up till now we've had the trail virtually to ourselves. Pretty amazing given this is the most-climbed mountain in the world! But now we merge with the mass of humanity that helps Mt. Fuji claim that title. And as the trail gets steeper, we will now be hiking switchbacks until we reach the summit. Oh yeah, and it takes so long, we will soon be hiking in total darkness. This is starting to sound fun, isn't it?

Let the crowds begin

Switchbacks all the way

Dusk arrives, and we see the many rest stations along the trail

As the sun sets, and darkness encroaches, you can see the city lights below illuminate (if the weather cooperates). So far, so good. It hasn't started raining, but the blowing wind makes its own hazard, and wearing goggles is a good way to protect your eyes. Oh yeah, and you need to break out the headlamp so you can see where you are going.

City lights come on

Those flecks are cinders being blown about

Loose begins "goggle-ops" -- a classic photo if I've ever seen one

So we head out for our final assault before a very short rest. No pictures of that lovely affair, but imagine crawling though attic rafters, careful not to step upon snoring climbers, all shoehorned in for maximum income. One hour of sleep after 12 hours of climbing. Sounds almost worthless, but it made all the difference. For when we came out, we found we would have to endure soaking rains and driving winds, all the while trapped in a human traffic jam. But finally, near the top, that's the last I see of Loose (after hearing him swear throughout the last 100 meters).

10 hours and still smiling, but a little colder

Finally at the top. Time to thaw out!

Clouds clear for some pictures

So of course I had to find some shelter to warm up for a few minutes. Then I go out and search for Loose -- but to no avail. As it turns out, Loose (and his gear) had all been soaked, and that is just not fun. So down the mountain he went (leaving his wingman behind - sigh). As the weather clears somewhat, you can still see the climbers coming up, delayed in the human traffic jam, having spent sunrise on the trail. Meanwhile, others, like Loose, are booking it down to the base. But I'm finally warm and relatively dry.

And still they come

And some head home

At the top and finally dry

So it's time for a little adventure. Though the weather is turning again, I thought I'd see what the rest of the crater had to offer. I didn't get all that far before the weather totally closed in again, with horizontal rain!

Looking down from the top

Walking around the crater

Rounding the corner in 60 mph winds

Once again, back in the shelters for warmth and nourishment. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Loose gave me the sake to carry (I'll do anything for a friend). But alas, no Loose to share it with. Somehow I'll manage ;-) Hey, this must be Loose's birthday present to moi. This was the day before my 49th.

Happy man with hot miso soup

Almost forgot Loose's sake

Since Loose is gone -- I have to share it with someone

Well, it is time to head down. It's clearing up again, and some of the best views are found on the way down (after all, it's a lot easier heading in this direction). Some of the trails make it look like you could fall right off the mountain. I wouldn't want to lose my footing.

Heading down

Starting to clear up

Don't fall off

The rain has now stopped for some time, so I guess it's time to rid myself of the giant baggie. It may look funny, but it was the difference between me and my gear staying dry, and Loose and his being soaked and having to head straight down. All in all, it was an enjoyable and picturesque adventure. But I'm still in search of the illusive sunrise on the top.

Steve considers cancelling "glad-bag-ops"

Where lava meets lushness

Rippling mountain tops

Which can only mean one thing ... third time must be a charm. Stay tuned for summer of 2007! Who knows -- maybe that's where I'll be on my 50th!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Warm-up on Monadnock Mountain

Grand Monadnock, Dublin, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/550 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Well, it was planned as a warmup hike in preparation for Mt. Fuji in July. As noted by my good friend Joe, "Going up Monadnock to tune up for a Fuji climb is like going out and getting a haircut to lose weight." Given that wisdom, I've concluded I need to shave my head ;-) More on that later.

So this is the destination. Most people call it Mt. Monadnock, but that is not its name. Either Monadnock Mountain, or Grand Monadnock. And it is either the #1 or #2 most climbed mountain in the world. The other is Mt. Fuji in Japan. Now to call these both "mountains" seems rather absurd. The peak of Monadnock is 3,165 feet versus 12,387 feet for Mt. Fuji -- barely a fourth in height. But anyways, that is what they say.

This turned out to be a solo outing -- we'll have to talk with the dedicated hikers off-line ;-) Best excuse I heard was contracting Lyme disease -- I'm going to have to remember that one (just kidding Bruce). Anyways, I loaded up my pack with about 40 lbs to see just what kind of shape I was really in (more about that later as well).

Let's Begin. The Dublin trail starts out very gradually in secluded woods for an ascent from the northwest. Though crowds are supposed to be a concern, this trail was virtually barren.

Rocky Ascent. The trail does get rocky rather quickly. Good hiking boots, with lots of support are recommended (more on that later). I also would suggest some trekking poles.

Granite Scrambling. Even more granite, and a little scrambling required. But nothing that presents any problems.

Training with a pack. I decided to hike with a bulky pack to make the hike a little more challenging. Hopefully I can take less up Mt. Fuji. But the only real problem was a hip-strap that was just too high.

View as you go. This trail does offer periodic views and some breaks in the trees for cooling breezes - very nice.

Getting above the trees. It doesn't take too long to get above tree level. I was hiking at what I thought was a VERY slow pace, but it turned out to take less time than advertised (about 1:50 to the top).

Summit Ahead. Then all of a sudden I heard people talking, and there was the summit, up ahead.

Summit benchmark. Here's my proof ;-) -- actually, you might be interested to know that the summit marker is not the highest point (but close).

Nice cooling breezes. Quite a breeze at the rocky summit -- which felt great on this moderately warm day.

Nothing but granite (and people). I expected actually to find it more crowded at the summit, based on what I had heard reported. But I guess compared to Mt. Fuji which only has a two month climbing season, we have lots of time to spread out the visitors. I even heard there is a local resident that has climbed Monadnock every single day for a couple of years -- wow!

Zen Monadnock. Tipping my hat to Mt. Fuji -- this arrangement made me think of the simple Zen gardens in Japan -- very relaxing.

Yes, that is my laptop. OK, here's the story: First, I needed a heavy pack for training. Second, I had taken my laptop up to the top of Mt. Fuji, so I thought this was the least I could do. Just call me a nerd and be done with it.

No doubt about the way down. They did a great job marking the trails -- no trouble making sure I found my car at the end of the trail.

Trail bottom. Almost down now -- only another 10 minutes to the car.

OK, so here's the rest of the story. You saw the trail on the way up -- somewhat rocky; it is even more treacherous coming down. At least that's what I was thinking as I was carefully navigating my way down. And I made it past all the rocks, boulders, and roots. This is what it looked like when my ankle gave way and I went down. Ouch! I heard something pop, and I knew it wasn't good. About 10 more minutes of hobbling to my car, and then about an hour drive up to our cottage. The end result -- torn ligaments (this has happened once before). Doctor says it is not broken, and hopefully, I'll still be good to go for Mt. Fuji in about a month. Needless to say -- be careful on the way down!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The End

There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don't disturb your mind with seeking.
While I can't tell you who said that, I consider it to be a reasonable conclusion to the Hi-Seekers blog. Let us no longer "disturb our minds with seeking."

There is nothing to seek; no place to go. We have everything we need, and always have. We only have to realize this. And the best way to gain this insight is by peeling back the layers of conditioning we have accumulated. In short, we have to "undo" this conditioning, and look inward. As such, all hi-seeker posts, and related future discussion, has moved over to my Just Un-Do It blog.

You might also be interested in my daily posts of photographs and reflections on my Reflections of Beauty blog.

I hope to see you over there!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Living vicariously

Haven't we all experienced what it means to live vicariously through others? Sometimes the circumstances are such that we cannot be in the same place, at the same time, or under the same conditions as another, and yet we can still benefit from their experiences. I had that experience today, when I stumbled upon this blog. As strange as their circumstances are (walking across India, getting by on less than $1/day, and living a life a service), I believe you will gain immeasurably from this blog, and I recommend it to you.

The story that I found very fascinating, and it represents a specific example of Paying It Forward, is called Unspoken Contract With a Rickshaw Driver. (Hence my photo, which is of a tuk-tuk and its driver, but perhaps you get the idea.) Anyway, I think you'll find his writing interesting, and the story compelling. Let me know what you think.


p.s., not willing to leave well enough alone, I read some more of this blog and came across a related story entitled 400 Rupee Tip At the Seva Cafe. You'll have to read it to believe it. This is happening now, in India. This is NOT the Hollywood sequel to Pay-It-Forward, the movie. Calling all idealists; calling all cynics ... Can you believe it? Can it happen here? Are you going to be a part of it?