This was the third time I’ve hiked this trail. In July 2019 Sampukutoge (三伏峠) was the goal but back then I was unaware that an additional 40 minutes southwest to Eboshidake (烏帽子岳) would, on a clear day, present me with a clear view of Mt. Fuji.
So in September 2019, together with my wife, I went again. We stayed at the hikers-packed-like-sardines-in-a-tin lodge at the Sampukutoge ‘junction’, left early and climbed the remaining 40 minutes in the middle of the night arriving before sunrise to blistering views of Mt. Fuji (富士山) in all her sunrise splendor.
It was spectacular.
So spectacular that I spent 2020 hoping to go again. I nearly did but the pressure of the Covid restrictions and the needs of our daughter put a stop to that. But last weekend was perfect – the weather looked good and I had some free time, so barring a typhoon or serious injury I vowed to go again.
I arrived just before midnight at the trailhead east of Iida in southern Nagano. Surrounded in absolute darkness and a cloudy sky obscuring the stars, I saw 10 or so other cars parked up – hikers either already on the mountain or sleeping in their cars planning to climb early morning. My initial plan was to arrive earlier than I did, sleep for a few hours and then begin the hike timing it to arrive at around 4 am. But I scrapped that idea on arrival and instead left there and then.
That meant a three-hour night hike to the summit of Eboshidake in darkness, arriving well before sunrise. As I already knew the trail and it’s level of difficult and potentiality for getting lost (not that considerable for either) there was little to worry about as long as I didn’t twist an ankle or slide off one of the sketchy ‘ladders’ that scatter the climb. And if all the stars aligned and fate was on my side I expected to see Mt. Fuji once again popping out above the clouds into the early morning sky. But as anyone in Japan knows, Mt. Fuji was under no obligation to cooperate.
Thankfully the morning didn’t disappoint. The sky gradually changed from deep morning blues to subtle oranges and pinks as the sun slowly came into view and Mt. Fuji’s majestic presence became unmistakable. And it wasn’t just Mt. Fuji looking spectacular either, the clouds above Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳) in the north were also putting on a superb show.
As the colours changed and the mountain-top silence overwhelmed (before the wind picked up in tandem with the rising sun) I realized that this was it – this, right here and now was what life was about. I could feel the geography and history of Earth. I could see the sun rising as it has done for 4 billion years, 200,000 of those with Mt. Fuji present. A three-hour hike for that privilege was nothing.
And once again it was spectacular!
It was cold and windy, and I was exhausted. But I didn’t care, it was worth it.
But what I don’t understand is why -why!- was I the only person up there?
There’s a short video below. A note on my YouTube videos – yes, I could spend more time recording and producing more polished pieces but I have no desire to do so. For me that would take all the fun out of the hike. What I see is what you get.
The route and other data can be found here on my YAMAP account.
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