March 4, 2020

When Jeffrey Clark visited Japan many years ago, he was drawn to history…

When Jeffrey Clark visited Japan many years ago, he was drawn to history and cultural significance of the nation’s most popular attraction, Mount Fuji.

Affectionately known as Fujisan, the Fuji volcano is regarded a sacred kami or spirit in the Shinto religion, or more specifically a symbol of Konohanasakuya-hime – the blossom princess. She is the figure of earthly life and volcanoes.

Many Japanese residents share a sense of personal connection with the mountain and each summer thousands of people climb its graceful slopes as part of a pilgrimage to the shrine at its peak.

Jeff resonated with this and wanted to understand further the significance of this impressive volcano so he rallied his partner, Nadia McPherson, along with two friends – Linda and Robert – and headed to Japan in September.

The four travelled to Kawaguachio Station near the base of Fuji and stayed the night before splitting to take on the trek the following morning.

Jeff and Nadia, who are have been members of The Gym Glenelg since 2009 and 2012 respectively, departed from Station 0 near the foot of the mountain, while Linda, who is also a member, and Robert began from Station 5. They agreed to meet at Station 8.

With mist in the air and temperatures sitting around 24C, Jeff and Nadia arrived at the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine – the traditional starting point for climbers – and began their journey about 6.40am.

The duo walked at a leisurely pace, arriving at Station 3 around 11.40am. They were greeted by an older couple, which told them they had climbed Fuji three times. The four drank tea and signed the guest book before Jeff and Nadia continued on.

Within a few hours, the pair reached Station 5 Satogoya and breaked at a small hut run by a local family for lunch – Katsu curray, nibbles, beer and water – before Fuji’s elevation was due to dramatically increase.

“The climb to Station 7 was tough,” Jeff said. “The terrain over the lava fields seemed to go on forever and both of us were feeling the affects of altitude sickness. We rested frequently, drank water at each rest spot and took it slowly.
We arrived at Station 7 Hanagoya where we rested for a few minutes. It was interesting looking up to the top of Fuji san it looked a long way away.”

About 14 hours into the trek and the pair finally made it to Station 8, where they met Linda and Robert, as promised. The friends had curry and rice for dinner, complimented by another refreshing beer.
It was time for bed around 10pm and at this point, Nadia’s altitude sickness, coupled with a virus and fatigue, was starting to take a toll. Unable to sleep, Nadia went down to a larger room in an attempt to recover.
“She tells me she then went up the wrong stairs and laid down next to a Japanese guy!” Jeff said. “She suddenly realised she was in the wrong place and returned to the large room. We had a laugh the next day when she told us of her adventure.”
The following day, the group departed the hut around 1.45am to finalise their climb. They reached the summit at 4.30am, just in time for the sunrise.
“We took the obligatory photos,” Jeff said. “Nadia took a photo of me in the training top Billy Stretch from Melbourne Football Club signed and gave to me. I promised his Dad I would wear it at the top of Fuji.

“Nadia looked exhausted, she had not only conquered the great mountain, but did it with a bad virus and severe altitude sickness. If they gave out Brownlow Medals that day for climbing Fuji, she would have won both it and the Norm Smith Medal.”

After about an hour, the team began their descent down Fuji. When they reached the bottom, they celebrated with a bite to eat and drink at a local restaurant before catching a bus back to Shinjuku Station, arriving in Yokohama around 5.30pm.

Jeff was proud of the team’s effort and credits their physical abilities to consistent training at The Gym Glenelg in the months leading up to their expedition. Great work to all.

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