As part of a project founded by Sri Chinmoy to dedicate countries, cities and natural landmarks in the name of peace, 20 mountains from all over the world were dedicated as 'Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom Mountains'. Asprihanal Aalto from Finland (world record holder for the 3100 Mile Race) and Vaibhava Kuschnow from Vienna, Austria have embarked on a project to scale them all. Here are Vaibhava's notes from a recent trip to Mount Fuji:
The captain just announced our descent to Tokyo Narita, and I am looking forward to finally stepping out of the plane where Akanda will (hopefully) pick me up. I feel excitement and am very curious about coming to Japan for the first time. I am also looking forward to meeting Ashprihanal and wonder what sort of experiences Japan’s highest mountain has prepared for us. Mt Fuji (3776m) is one of about 20 Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom Mountains spread all over the world. Being climbers looking for a challenge, Ashprihanal and myself have decided to climb all of them – if so is God’s Will.
Over 300,000 people climb Mt Fuji between June and September, and less then 100 during the rest of the year. This is for a good reason – in the winter months the winds exceed 100km/h on a regular basis and temperatures can easily drop below -25C, which will feel something like -45C in the wind. However, we also have Mt Logan in Canada and Denali (Mt McKinley) in Alaska on our list to climb this year, so we want to be prepared – climbing Fuji in winter seemed to be a great opportunity to test all our gear in “real-world-conditions” while being able to retreat quickly if necessity demanded AND to lop one more mountain off our list AND to visit JAPAN! So I am looking forward to new adventures.
Akanda picked me up from Narita and we drove to Tokyo to meet with everyone else to continue our trip to the foot of Mt Fuji where we stayed in a traditional Japanese house – a Ryokan – with tatami floor, low tables and a hot tub – all embedded in a beautiful forest. We were filming, checking our gear, eating, hanging out in the hot tub and just had a great evening together.
The next day, we drove to the 4th station on the north face of Fuji at 2020m and headed for the woods straight up. Our backpacks weighed around 20 kg and contained a tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, stoves, warm clothes, down pants and jackets, waterproofs, crampons, ice axes, a shovel, food and so on and so on... We started out around noon in fog and drizzling rain and as we left the forest the wind picked up. One problem we ran into was the diffiulty to find a place for the tent: the mountain is constantly sloping and we were very grateful to find a small spot with deep snow under some bushes by the end of the day.
Being in the mountains in winter is pretty basic: set up shelter, melt snow for food, dry wet things on your body (because this is the only source of heat you have out there) meditate and enjoy the view or hide from the storms (it depends...). We had some heavy snowfall and enjoyed our sleeping bags. Next morning we had side wind with wet snow, which makes staying warm and dry a challenge in spite of Goretex. Around noon the wind ebbed and the snow stopped and after cooking some ramen between rocks on sloping snow we drew new hope and made it to the top in the late afternoon.
We slept inside the crater and just made it back in time to catch the sunrise. We had a perfect blue sky, it was pretty warm (-7C) but windy and we meditated and enjoyed the scenery for a while before sliding down approximately 800 m on a snow slope. We made it down to the 4th station by noon and tried to catch a bus to Tokyo – which was not very easy considering that my knowledge of Japanese was limited to only one word, namely: arigato (thank you!) and the fact that their English was not much better.
To make a long story short: of course we somehow made it and spent a few wonderful days in the Land of the Rising Sun, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Ise and Kamakura, meeting people as well as different temples and last but not least the Great Buddha, which I was very very very very impressed with. We had problems getting vegetarian food, but loved the Shinkansen and we never ceased to be amazed by the kindness, politeness and helpfulness of Japanese people. Their helpfulness made up for all our incapacities and will remain the strongest impression I take back home, along with the overwhelming peace of the Great Buddha and the blue sky on top of Mt Fuji.