I'd been chatting with a dude from Dallas, in the mountain hut on the side of Mount Fuji, he was of much the same mind as I was about the weather, and whether to continue upwards or go the long trudge down. We had decided that at 8am a decision would be made one way or the other, and that if we were going the same way we would go together.
At crunch time, I said 'down', and he said 'up', which totally guilted me into wanting to continue to the summit despite the horrific weather. So we geared up and began up the muddy ascent. Half way up the first hill of the day, already laden with an extra 5 kilos of rainwater, and fighting a headwind threatening to topple me, I changed my mind, yelled out my apologies to Dallas dude, and turned back. Piker.
This is true, but taking into consideration my hiking experience and fitness it was probably the smartest move. The heart, in my chest had already begun to rage in reaction to the altitude, even after that short distance.
The track for the downward decent is shorter, and consists mostly of red clay and rubble, that any experienced hiker would be able to slide down smoothly at a considerable pace, and many of them were. I however, am not an experienced hiker, and spent most of the trip down at an inconsistent hobble half way between a slow plod and a slip'n'slide. In fact, I'm very sorry to say that I ended flat on my butt on more than one occasion. So it was probably a good thing that Dallas dude had headed in the other direction as I really didn't need an audience for my less than graceful moments. The rain was torrential, and the wind harrowing, leaving me with very few qualms about my decision, but happy to say it was the weather and not the mountain that defeated me. The local birds, small honey-eater type things, chirped and sang, making it perfectly obvious how acclimatised they were to the conditions. Little bastards.
I stopped in at the emergency shelter station, which is barely more than a bunker, to catch my breath, but had to evacuate it quickly as one of the tour groups came in with one of their number tied up with a rope sling. Her broken arm solidified my surety in my decision of not trekking higher in this weather.
Just after midday I reached the 5th Station, stripped and bagged my soaking outer layers, and still wet, jumped on a bus. I promptly fell asleep. I awoke just before Shinjuku, to catch the train back to the hostel to retrieve the turtlepack, back on the trains to Tokyo station and onto the Shinkansen Nozomi bound for Kyoto, where I will hopefully still be on time to check-in.
So, I did not scale Fuji to its ultimate height, I am actually still really proud of the distance I did travel, making it just short of 9th station in that weather, will be enough to worry my family, when they hear about it. Adding to this, over the last couple of days I have reached new levels of backpacker-dom, as I'm not quite sure when the last time I showered was or what day of the week it is. I am now using non-western-style toilets like a local, not a small achievement. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm clearly carrying it on my back you might mistake me for a homeless person (its probably the smell). I experienced the thrill of hand-washing essentials with shampoo in a bathroom sink, and shortly I will have travelled all the way to Kyoto, from the 8th Station of the highest mountain in Japan within 12 hours.