As the bus reached the 5th Station it started to rain. This did not bode well. I stop off at one of the tourist shops nearby and pick up a torch just in case, and begin my trek. The walk between 5th and 6th Stations is pretty level in comparison to the rest of the mountain, but half an hour in I am starting to regret the climb. The volcanic sand beneath my feet gives way most steps, it is not easy going. But by the time I reach the 6th Station, at around 1pm, though I have developed a steady gait and making the summit seems possible. I do not have the speed of the more experienced climbers that pass me on the way, however I also do not have the stop/start nature of the tour groups, I make good progress. I am Aesop's tortoise, slow and steady mounts the Fuji. The gradient of the slope increases up to 7th Station and the mountain huts start to appear, between each there are solid rock areas at steep increments where I am no longer walking but actually climbing the rock. Not having heavy walking shoes, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the softer yoga shoes I wear, allows better footing, and a greater sense of the rock beneath my feet, letting me be more nimble in the rocky areas.
I learn quickly to stop briefly at each hut, in order to rehydrate and lower my heart rate, two things that are very important at this altitude. The going begins to intensify after the 7th Station, I'm not sure if the difficulty of the mountain has actually increased or if it is just my own fatigue kicking in. I realised that at this point it is not my fitness level, or lack there of, that is going to get me up this mountain, it will be equal parts pig-headed determination and stupidity. I reach the start of the 8th Station just before 6pm, attempting to reach the highest mountain hut before night fall. The whole journey has been a battle against constant drizzle and a furious head wind. Here and there I have to crouch close to the rocks so as not to lose my balance in the wind.
I reach the mountain hut that is second highest and weigh my options, it is almost dark now and is seems unsafe to continue in the failing light. I'm stupid, but not stupid, if you catch my drift. I stop in at the hut for the night. Cold and soaked it is almost impossible to get warm, I order some simple fare for dinner and a breakfast bento for tomorrow and settle in for the night. The wind screams its way around the hut, I settle into not only my own sleeping bag but the one offered to me by the hut as well, I feel double-bagged like heavy groceries, but fail to care, as I am no longer chilled to the core. I decide not to attempt the climb to the summit for sunrise, it is just folly in this weather. So I settle down to sleep, sardined in with fifty other happy campers, I'm sure the body heat is helping. There is another bunk above us at eye level like a mezzanine floor holding another 50 people. I am restless and barely sleep.
Sunrise arrives, the wind and rain have not abated. I meet a couple of other backpackers near the open fire pit at the front door of the hut. They are all turning back. The wind still howls. Seeing I have time, I wait for the weather to calm. It has not eased yet and at this stage I'm not sure its going to. I have to decide soon, if I continue for the top. or start the trek back down.