Two generations of climbing Mt. Fuji

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2011

By Fleming Otey
For The Salisbury Post
On the weekend of 9/11, our adventurous daughter, Francoise, flew from her engineering job in Korea to Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan. She climbed in the off-season and alone. Her mother, Yoshiko, was a nervous wreck, translating by cell phone from Salisbury, while her brother, her Uncle Masaaki kept vigil at the bottom.
Masaaki had met Francoise at the Narita International Airport and escorted her by train to the base of Mt. Fuji. From there, they took a picture of the trail to the top, and Francoise set out on foot alone, climbing the 16,000 feet to the summit over-night. She was then able to take photos of herself and the crater at the top of the volcano. She was way above the tree line and the clouds. She watched the brilliant sunrise over the ocean and mountain range getting a spectacular photograph.
Communications were lost during her climb and until she got back down to the ski lodge at the base. Plus she needed to save the cell phone battery in case of an emergency. And she, like an experienced hiker, traveled lightly with only thin layers of all weather traveling gear.
When we climbed Mt. Fuji over 20 years ago, on my 55th birthday, we went with a church group during the regular climbing season. Even then the futons and sleeping bags at the mid-way rest stops on the eighth station were too wet and moldy. But the weather and high thin altitude left little choice. We could buy some small bottles of canned oxygen, which was helpful. You could see the sun rise from a lower elevation but to walk around the volcano rim at the summit required another 1,000 feet of climbing on volcanic ash cinders.
Some days, life may be like a roller coaster in a water park – exhilarating highs and gut wrenching lows.
Fleming Otey is a retired military chaplain.