High-point of my year – Climbing Mount Fuji
As the year winds down and new year begins, a good idea is to take stock of ‘hits’ and ‘misses’. Each year has some unique experiences to offer and reflecting on these can yield a high learning payoff . I had the fortune of experiencing a unique journey this year – Climbing Mount Fuji!
‘Fuji-san’ as it is commonly called in Japan is an active volcano about 100 kilometers from Tokyo. It is the country’s tallest peak at 3776 meters and one of Japan’s holy mountains. It takes the average person between seven and nine hours to climb Mount Fuji from the Subaru Station. It takes another three to five hours to descend. Climatic temperature during the trek ranges between +3 degrees C to -3 degrees C . Slippery volcanic terrain and air thinning tend to accentuate the burden of climbing. Despite all the odds, watching ‘Goraiko’ – the spectacular sunrise at the top of Mt. Fuji is truly a liberating experience. Moreover, the mountain silently offers many life lessons about leadership and excellence.
Here are the top six lessons I learnt from the trek-
Rhythm is more important than speed.
One of the major deal breakers in the long and arduous trek is inconsistency in breathing and strides. If you can synchronize your breathing with slow but consistent steps, the journey becomes bearable .
‘This is the reality of the journey in professional and personal lives too. Consistency in efforts is more important than the speed.’
Focusing on the next fifty steps makes the climb more manageable.
Often when you look at the peak, it appears too overwhelming to conquer. The best way to overcome this mental barrier is by focusing on just the next fifty steps. This shift of focus gives you a feeling of control and it does help in reducing restlessness.
‘The way to attack a complex problem is by breaking it into smaller, more manageable parts and then focusing on one smaller part at a time till the problem is solved.’
The trail meant for climbing up Mount Fuji is different from the one meant for climbing down.
This is an interesting aspect of climbing Fuji-san. There are multiple trails and we followed the Yoshida trail. However, it’s only when you start climbing up that you realize that the same trail can’t be used for coming down in case you decide to chicken out of the trek. The one meant for descent is a different one and hence the only option you are left with is to hang in there.
‘Burning your ships on the shore before getting into the battle field eliminates the option of retreat.’
Rest at every station to relax and recharge.
There are multiple stations along the trail that serve as pit stops for resting and recharging your energies. Although every stop adds to the travel time, it gives a big boost to the energy reserves. One interesting fact is that there are no trash cans on the way, hence all the garbage that you generate has to be carried on the back till the trek is complete. Certainly not worth it !!
‘Slowing down to reflect and refuel is a very critical element of the growth journey in life. While you are on the growth path, limit the amount of psychological trash you generate. This litter makes the journey cumbersome.’
Scaling a mountain peak doesn’t involve competing with others.
Climbing a mountain is truly about competing with yourself and overcoming mental hurdles. There is no contest with others and thoughts of surpassing others don’t cross your mind. You are only focused on bringing out the best in you. In fact, it’s motivating to see the others climb since it forces us to program our thinking to – ‘If they can, so can I….’
‘Often competing with your own self brings out the best in you.’
Spectacular views are in store as you climb up.
Views from various points while climbing up are spectacular. Entire vastness and scale of mountain makes you feel the power of elements. In the quest to finish the climb you must not miss them. Watching sunrise at 4AM in the freezing cold is very liberating. Drinking hot coffee at 4776 feet is priceless !
‘Appreciate the journey and celebrate big as well as small achievements.’