MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — A small group of Marines with Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting stormed to the top of Mt. Fuji July 24.
Mt. Fuji, a dormant volcano, is the highest and holiest mountain in Japan, extending 12,355 feet toward the sky.
It is estimated 200,000 people climb Mt. Fuji every year, even during the night to see the sunrise at the top of the mountain in the early hours of the morning.
Lance Cpl. Tucker Roberts, ARFF crash crewman, climbed Mt. Fuji for the second time with ARFF.
Climbing the mountain more than once does not make the climb any easier, said Roberts.
“They say, the first time you climb the mountain is for fun, the second time is for health, and the third time is for wealth,” said Roberts. “The first time was definitely more fun than this time, and I could tell this one was definitely for health.”
ARFF took the Kawaguchi route, marked by 10 checkpoints where climbers can stop, rest and purchase snacks.
Each checkpoint is manned by Japanese locals who live in huts on the mountain for months at a time, providing various services including housing for climbers who wish to stay overnight.
Some of the Japanese locals shared experiences with the Marines about how they climb the mountain numerous times.
“It’s kind of fun to see all these Japanese people who do this on a daily basis,” said Roberts. “It’s impressive.”
Climbers can purchase walking sticks at the base or first station of the mountain and have special stamps, which are branded onto the sticks to mark each checkpoint.
“The stamps are very motivating,” said Clayton Begay, ARFF crash crewman. “When you get to the top, it’s covered and it becomes memorabilia. It holds a lot of personal pride for me.”
As the Marines continued to ascend to the summit, exhaustion, dehydration and depleting oxygen levels began to take their toll.
“The hardest part of the mountain to climb was the last stretch,” said Begay. “After station nine, I looked up and it just looked like it kept going to the very top.”
At the peak of the mountain lies a shrine, which belongs to the Sengen-Sama, Shinto goddess, who has been worship by Japanese Mt. Fuji climbers for centuries.
“The shrine at the very top of the mountain is cool,” said Begay.
Locals and tourists gather year-round to climb the mountain, but the official climbing season is during the months of July and August when the weather is particularly hot.
“Make sure you have enough water, but don’t bring too much and make sure to wear sunscreen,” said Roberts.
Once the Marines reached the top, the journey wasn’t over yet.
After hours of climbing the mountain, it was estimated an extra few hours would pass before the Marines reached the bottom.
Even though the path was meant to be less time consuming, the route to the bottom presented further challenges.
“Coming back down the mountain was hard because there are so many rocks,” said Begay. “It’s just as steep going down the mountain as going up and it’s very slippery coming down.”
The climb was dedicated to the Tsuta Children’s Home, an orphanage ARFF has sponsored for the past two decades.
ARFF supports the Tsuta Children’s Home by hosting regular and seasonal events, donating money and forming working parties to familiarize themselves with the children.
Originally published: Marines.mil