Phil began January by yelling from the open door that she was just popping out to climb Mt. Fuji. This seemed unusual as we are in lockdown and not supposed to leave the house more than once a day, never mind fly across the world to scale the north face of an active stratovolcano.
Before I could question my hearing the door slammed shut and she was gone. I quickly wiki’d the relevant entry and found that it hadn’t erupted since the early eighteenth century so figured she would be safe from pyroclastic flows. As I put the kettle on it struck me that these could be her memorable parting words in the manner of popping out for a packet of cigarettes.
I was worried our daughter might not buy the Fuji story, her mother never having shown much interest in mountaineering before now. It would sound much more likely that living in enforeced close proximity to me for almost a year had driven her to distraction. Scrabbling up the north face of Mt. Fuji in inappropriate footwear and a coatigan would be preferable to, “Spending another day trapped between those four walls with that man.” Not an actual quote. Honest.
To my relief Phil reappeared an hour later with ruddy cheeks, observing that it was cold out. My offer of oxygen was refused and confused babble about the bends ignored. I was wise enough not to crow that she couldn’t live without me after all and made her a cup of tea. Asking after the majestic views and natural beauty she had encountered I was informed that Gheluvelt was flooded again.
Phil eventually made it clear to me that she was virtually climbing Mt. Fuji throughout January. No crampons, oxygen or space blankets would be required. Each daily walk past local landmarks in Worcester would count towards the 46 mile ascent to the top of Mt. Fuji and be transformed by the magic of technology into an adventure via an app. Travel, challenge and exercise rolled into one. You also receive a pretty cool looking medal.
The app promised a breathtaking journey and the interactive progress map made it look like an epic trek across Middle Earth. I joined Phil on one of her walks lower down the mountain/past the duck pond around the corner. When we arrived home I was eager to see the stunning views over Honshū but was disappointed to find the street view revealed a dual carriageway with a lorry about to run us down from behind. It wasn’t the Hiroshige-like image I had pictured in my head.
On the last Saturday of the month Phil strode forth in spite of inclement weather to complete the challenge. My inner Wolf Watson was restless but I ignored him, put the kettle on and consulted the pedometer on my phone. 5,000 steps. Not for the day. For the week. Impressive, I muttered to myself.
Phil returned with ruddy cheeks and a report that it was still cold out. She had done it. She had completed the full 74km climb and triumphantly reached the summit. I asked what it looked like from way up there at the top with views over all of Japan.
“Hard to tell.” she said. “It looks sort of like a strip mall.”
Cool medal, though.
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