The Longest Descent Ever...or, 'Where's that stupid dog??'

Posted on Sunday, August 16, 2009 | 0 comments

When we started back down Mt. Fuji, we were thinking that the rest of the hike would be a breeze. After all, going back down is always easier, right?
Yuki even said that he remembered his grandma talking about this old Japanese saying, something about how 'the dog eats the return path', but he couldn't recall exactly how it went. Basically though, it meant that the way back always seems shorter than the way going. I always thought it was kind of funny to say that the dog ate it, but figured who was I to contest an ancient proverb, right? But we just tried to look it up online in order to get the exact quote, and there's no record of any such saying to be found. We'll have to ask his grandma next time we see her, but we're now wondering if maybe that 'ancient proverb' wasn't just something she randomly made up. Whatever the case, nobody benefitted from any benevolent dog on this mountain!
...It was supposed to be about 3 hours back down, no big deal. The return route was not the same as the ascending route, but it didn't really look all that bad from what we could see. And we could see pretty far down---lines and lines of people descending on the switchbacks, to be exact.

The view (note all the little people)

About 5 minutes into the descent, the sun popped out and we were all feeling pretty good. The rays through the clouds were spectacular, more than enough to make up for the lack of sunrise visibility. After a few minutes though, the sun again retreated and we continued down the path.

To be honest, the trip down probably would've been ok except for these couple of factors: the path was extremely slippery due to lots of loose volcanic rock; everyone was trying to function on no sleep; and, there were 3 bathrooms the entire way down. These 3 rest stations had 2 or 3 toilets each for men and for women. On one of the busiest hiking days of the season. You do the math.
Everyone's knees started to ache after 45 minutes, and we were all feeling quite old after seeing high schoolers (ok, and sometimes grandfathers) go running past us, skidding around the curves at high speed. How people could manage to add yet more force to their joints without requiring a knee replacement is beyond me.

The Evil Trail

Even with all of our precautions, I fell once, as did Yuki. I'm not sure about Tsuyoshi and Akane, since we lost them again around the halfway mark. I'm guessing that they were hating me by that point anyway, since I was the one with the bright idea to climb Mt. Fuji in the first place. So maybe it's best that they weren't close enough to shove me off some rocks.
To make a very, very long descent short, we finally reached the 5th station shuttle bus area at 10:30, having taken numerous breaks and waited in line for the restroom for about a half hour. I could definitely see why the Japanese have a saying that you're a fool if you don't climb Mt. Fuji once, but you're a fool if you climb it twice. I think the saying should be more like 'You're a fool if you don't climb Mt. Fuji, and you're a fool if you don't get a helicopter to bring you back down'!
All in all, it was a good hike, although I wouldn't really recommend hiking anywhere that you actually have to wait in line to move. It's not my idea of 'hiking', but maybe that's just me. My advice is: If you're ever going to climb it, try to go at the beginning or end of the season, when Mt. Fuji is less likely to resemble Tokyo Disneyland!

Finally back down!