May 23, 2016 (Mt. Fuji, Japan)
Latitude = 35˚ 21’ 38” North (Kita)
Longitude = 138˚ 43’ 45” East (Higashi)
Dear Odyssey Community Members,
Yesterday was an epic climbing day! Former Odyssey sensei, Hiroshi, along with 2 of his Japanese middle school students (and a father of one of the boys), all joined the Odyssey Mountaineering Team and our combined party of 24 spent the entire day ascending majestic Mt. Fuji. You might recall that Hiroshi and his 2 charges accompanied us on Mt. Whitney just a few months ago. At the base of the climb, we encountered signage indicating a major avalanche danger on the main route so we thought that we might have to turn around early during our ascent. Such was not the case because the avalanche happened much earlier in the season so our pathway to the higher heights was extremely safe.
The weather was near perfect with cool temperatures, moderate winds, and a mostly sunny sky. At the 8,500-foot level we encountered some snow patches and a moderate wind. At 9,000 feet we crossed the first small snowfield and began to haul ourselves up some long and steep rock pitches. The mountain was well appointed with fixed climbing ropes and chains anchored into rock so we used this system to aid our ascent. At 1:30 PM, 7 students reached the highest point of last year’s climb, the 10,000-foot elevation mark. The team members continued to haul themselves up some extremely steep pitches using a combination of rock climbing and fixed rope ascent techniques. At 2:00 PM, the 7 students reached a new zenith point and a new Odyssey record height – 10, 275 feet – before they lined up for a group photo. The other members of the class of 2016 could be seen heroically moving up the switchbacks at a comfortable pace near the 9,500-foot mark, about an hour below us. What a wonderful achievement for all of our Odyssey students on the 2016 Mt. Fuji climb!
At our predetermined turn-around time, we began to descend the steep slope in order to catch the last bus down the mountain from station 5. After 6 hours of climbing, we reached the bus terminal with exactly 2 minutes to spare. We enjoyed our celebratory banquet dinner in town and reconvened at the inn for the expedition’s final closure meeting. During the “go-around” portion of the gathering, students expressed gratitude to their classmates for making Odyssey the special school that it is. All in all, the members of the class of 2016 represented themselves, their families, and their school with honor and integrity during Expedition Japan 2016. They compartmentalized their pains and fears and kept pushing onward and upward – during the year, on the expedition, and on the final mountain climb. There are manifold life-lessons that can be absorbed while climbing to the upper heights and I think that yesterday’s phenomenal effort represented the best that Odyssey School can offer its students. Our experiential lesson in an outdoor classroom almost 6,000 miles from San Mateo delivered the important message that success comes from hard work, strategic planning, endurance of pain, and a “can do” attitude when one is in the topographical space of extreme mental and physical challenge. Most likely, students will remember the magic of this capstone event and the alchemy of the success that they enjoyed as individuals and team members. These memories will echo for many years into the future in the minds of the individual participants as well as around the halls of Odyssey School. Our team is fatigued and all members look forward to being reunited with their families on Wednesday. Enjoy the pictures below.
Steveo sensei, Climbing Sirdar
Doug sensei, Lead Guide
Madeleine sensei, Lead Guide
Aviva sensei, Lead Guide
“Eastward the dawn rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into guess; it was no more than a glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains”
- R. R. Tolkien
“When teammates climb on a great mountain together, the rope between them is more than a mere physical aid to the ascent; it is a symbol of the spirit of the enterprise. It is the symbol of teammates banded together in a common effort of will and strength against their only true enemies: inertia, cowardice, greed, ignorance, and all weaknesses of the spirit.”
Climbers at 8,500 feet
Climbers using the fixed chains
The group of 7 that reached 10,275 ft!
The long and steep descent to the valley below
The 2016 Odyssey Mountaineering Team with Mt. Fuji in the background