He said one of his favorite runs was Mount Fuji. I totally get that and understand it in the perspective of the panels “The Agony” and “The Void.”
I can remember trudging up this most famous mountain all because we wanted to see a sun rise. It sounds so absurd. We see the sun rise every day. It’s not new. It’s not really that different. I knew about hiking. I dismissed the difficulty of the mountain but admired its presence, its height.
We even started about halfway up the mountain. It was difficult. It was arduous, and the guide had no compassion for slow movers. He knew Fuji-san as well as he knew himself. You could see it in the way he moved, without gear, because he didn’t need it.
It was near the end of June. It was supposed to be hot and humid. It was cold, and the wind wild and biting. We took a rest at a small station. There really weren’t beds there. We were packed together (as tired as the phrase is) like sardines. We didn’t move and hoped for a brief respite for the 2:30 a.m. hike was set to begin.
No one had a well-rested feeling so early in the morning. Camera crews asked us about the first hike of the season, typical, simple things you might ask foreigners about their trip to the heralded Mt. Fuji.
And we set out, following this trailblazer of a guide who said he went up and down Fuji-san multiple times a day. That kind of endurance made him admirable, and it made him strong. He was a small man, muscles sinewy from his love affair with the quiet volcano.
And this is where the “Agony” sets in. The guide’s pace was difficult to match. As the air got thinner, so did my stamina and my drive to continue. The path was dark, the edges thin. Certain instances required us climbing up ledges to continue. It was a far call from rock climbing, but I wasn’t prepared for it. There nearly 2,000 feet to cover in elevation alone.
I had compared the climb to the only mountain I knew well enough to mirror the guide’s intimacy with his mighty lover. Standing Indian in the Nantahala National Forest sat tall at 5,200 feet, nestled in the North Carolina mountainside. Mt. Fuji towered mightily over the Standing Indian of North Carolina. I definitely couldn’t fathom climbing 2,000 feet so rapidly.
It didn’t matter if I could do it. I -had- to do it. By this point in the hike, the buzz of the sunrise had grown too loud to ignore. We were almost there and losing time.
The final steps before the large gate were not far. Sudden burts of energy sent other hikers, including myself running. We couldn’t miss the sunrise.
I could see the rays of the rising sun piercing the heavy clouds as it approached the horizon, and in a miraculous moment, there it was. The clouds parted, and the sun rose above them. It was nothing short of magnificent. We cheered and took pictures, and the splendor, or as Inman called it “The Void,” subsided as the “Agony” returned. I had to get back down the mountain.
It was nothing but steep switchbacks, zig-zagging down the backside of the mountain. The ground was loose, and the air was getting thicker. I couldn’t breathe. Everything felt so heavy. I wanted to vomit. I thought my head was ready to implode.
After the agony of the trip down back to the bus, the void returned. The triumph made me feel human. It made me feel more alive than ever before. I had conquered one of the most recognizable natural wonders in the world, and at the top, I witnessed the sun rising, unobscured by anything man-made. It was all natural, and it was beautiful.