The Descent / by Deborah Clague

Descending Mount Fuji was just as difficult as hiking up. It takes a different trail from the ascent; one that initially seems easier, but soon becomes torturous in its own way. Again, the path is littered with deep ash in which the feet sink. I had to empty the contents of my shoes every hundred metres or so and also fell down several times when I lost balance. It wasn't embarrassing though, as I finally acquired the smug aplomb of someone who just climbed a motherfuckin' mountain. Yeah! My personal issue with the descent was that it seemed endless. Everytime I turned a corner, I anticipated that the tree line would be near … but it wasn't. Mount Fuji teases. And if you foolishly don't wear sunscreen – like I did – it also burns. 

I continued bonding with Alaska. I've often daydreamed about connecting with someone during my travels. Not necessarily in a romantic sense, but moreso by just meeting someone in a foreign land who makes you feel less alone in the universe. An unbiased person who can provide answers to questions that have been troublesome. An ear to rest one's deepest thoughts and feelings, ideations we often don't share with loved ones for fear of judgement or rejection. Or perhaps just an individual to share extended periods of silence with, while feeling comfort in the sense of belonging to something bigger. It's the 'Lost in Translation' effect. Our conversation was deep and varied. When we finally returned to the fifth station, our meeting point for return to Tokyo, a part of me was saddened that I would probably never see this new friend again, although I was happy for the time that we shared as it were. It was brief, but life-altering. 


Out of a group of ten people, two quit on the way up … and two quit on the way down, hiring the tractor that brings supplies up to the various stations. This came at a cost to them of 30,000 Yen (or roughly $300.00 U.S. a piece). It is discouraged and often used only in medical emergencies but money talks. When I heard this, I felt for them. Climbing Mount Fuji is not easy, despite what people say. It requires not only physical strength but also the mental fortitude to make it through.

I am proud that I did it. 

But I am never climbing a mountain again.