We started of the day with a nice trip to the 5th station of Subashiri Trail. To get the most value of our JR Rail pass we went all the way on JR. Machida -> Shin-Yokohoma -> Mishima ->Numazu -> Gotemba Station, then finally a 1 hour bus trip up the mountain. On the way up we passed numerous army vehicles, everything from Jeeps, transports, a field full of tanks and a fuel tanker.
At the start of the trail we decided to eat our bento boxed lunch.
Mine was quite nice with a variety of meat balls and rice, presented in a nice balsa wood framed box to prevent it getting squished. I then experienced the first Bad of the day. No rubbish collection. Anything you take up, you need to take down, even if you are at the bottom of the trail. So I was carrying the packaging of our lunch until the next day back at Gotemba station.
We started the trail around 2:30pm and although a bit steep I found it really enjoyable. Probably one of the best parts of the trip so far for me. We started off in an alpine forest environment and gradually walked out of it into lower lying brush and then mostly volcanic rock, with a few occasional plants. The timing worked out really well as we avoided most of the sun, being in the forest, and by the time we passed into more exposed areas the sun was setting so we didn’t cook. The moon was near full so we had plenty of light and there was only a light breeze.
As we progressed higher the time between breaks kept getting shorter, as we both stopped to catch our breaths. Surprisingly this is the first day in Japan I haven’t ended up with a headache in the afternoon. As we continued on Joel was getting affected by the reduced O2 and the unexpected strenuousness of the climb, so we decided to abandon our schedule to reach rim then look for a hut, and instead stay at 7th station.
Here we got a nice futon in a 3 man cubby hole, part of a large room holding ~ 100 people. We had a nice meal, which had some unidentified meat, some noodles, cabbage, rice and soup. Our table companions were 2 other late arriving walkers who spoke a little English and between Joel’s Japanese and Phrase book and my miming we found a little about each other. They were from Hokkaido and recommended the skiing there, they also thought Joel’s Mech Eng jumper meant he was a fan of Gundam.
After dinner we went back to our sleeping room (~8:00pm), and experienced another Bad. Lots of people in one room make lots of little noises, and different people will be snoring at different times. I had stupidly removed my ear plugs that morning when packing my bags, originally only taking them for the flight, so had no way to block out the noise.
Joel and I talked and he didn’t think he could make the summit, after looking at the map we realised 7th station is where the descent track started. So I could continue on around 1am to reach summit for sunrise, then head back down to 7th were we could both go down the descent trail.
Alas it was not to be as my night turned Ugly. Around 11pm I started feeling off, and a bit delirious. I went out and sat in the shoe room for some time (I have no idea how long) until someone opened the door to walk through. I was feeling really bad and discovered I was covered in sweat. I tried to go back to bed and found being in any position except directly on my back made me fell nauseous and I could just not sleep. Finally around 2am I had to go to the toilet and “worship the porcelain”. This made me feel a bit better but I was still off, although I did finally get to sleep.
Given my severe lack of sleep and still upset stomach I abandoned my plan to go to summit. I’m still not sure if this was caused by bad food (bento box, dinner, reusing chopstick that fell on floor, etc) or altitude sickness. As I did not seem to suffer on way up, and I was still feeling a bit off when we were on the train home I’m leaning towards food.
We did end up waking up around 4:30am to watch the sunrise, then we realised Joel’s iPod was on Sydney time and it was actually 3:30am, so I went back to bed. At 4:50am got up again and watched a beautiful sunrise from Fuji.
After packing up our gear we were ready to descend. This was one of the best downhill descents I’ve done. The entire walk up we had seen people coming down what looks like a 50-60 degree slope, it looks scary but can be lots of fun, especially if you are crazy enough to run down it. My family may remember me freaking them out when I decided to run down a steep descent in Switzerland. This was even better than that. The volcanic dirt and rocks are really loose so as soon as you put pressure on them they start to slide. This makes it really hard to stop once you start moving; I usually zigzag down the slope as I run to try to prevent building too much forward momentum.
The dirt that you are running down contains very fine black volcanic dust, which gets into clothing, bags and shoes. My toes in my socks got coated in a black layer of dust that squeezed in through the ventilation holes in my shoes.
On the downhill I had a real scare, I went to check my phone/GPS to find our descent rate, and discovered it was not in it’s belt clip. As I had just covered 200M down a 60° slope, with falling dust and dirt I felt my chances of seeing it again were slim. After yelling out to Joel who was still up slope of me we began searching around us before heading towards each other. Luckily Joel found it half buried in dust just above where he was standing. After this I placed it securely in my pack, however it no longer got as accurate readings, and the phone required serious cleaning back at the hotel.
Finally, on the bus ride back to Gotemba I discovered I had lost my return ticket, so I had to pay an extra 1,500¥.
Overall a great 2 days, I just wish we had been able to make the summit. Hopefully my stomach complaint will be gone by tomorrow when we go by train to Osaka via Matsumoto Castle.