Sea level to Seventh



Speeding Up
May 29, 2008
formerly Kichijoji, now Portland OR
or, in other words, riding the crazy train...

So, I went into this thinking there would be me and a handful of fixie guys, potentially giving me a hard time for my derailleur and figured my tag line for the adventure would be something like, “You’re crazy, and I respect that, but we all need to ride the crazy train in our own way.” You know, crazy is as crazy does. I had no idea how true that would turn out to be…

Meeting at Rt 20, Kanpachidori intersection around 1030pm, Tim and I headed out at a comfortable pace. The temperature was perfect and the traffic not too bad. We stopped briefly at Takao a bit after midnight for a bathroom break (which took much longer than it should of because I had to get the staff to kick the drunk passed out guy out of the bathroom…) and snacks before continuing up Otarumi. I was a little surprised that Tim can still beat me up, but of course, it was my turn to wait at the bottom.

Though I wouldn’t recommend this route out to Fuji if you go in the daylight, it was nice at night. Not too busy, fairly well lit, easy to follow. It was sometime after Otarumi that Tim’s bike started to make some funny noises. We thought it might be that the chain or something needed more grease, or that his bottom bracket was failing—you know, small things. We stopped at Otsuki to investigate further and realized his frame was cracked!! The bottom tube was cracked about halfway through near the head tube and the top tube had smaller cracks as well.

Now, I try not to be a nay-sayer and I try not to be a ‘voice of reason’ or someone obsessed with safety. But, I kinda felt that this was the time that the plans get scrapped and we camp out at the train station and take first train home. I mean… the bike is literally breaking in two. But we all need to ride that crazy train in our own way…. so there was no camping out and no turning back.

Tim, forgive me for my lack of faith in your awesome McGyver skills and the chopsticks and tape that you patched your bike together with. I’m still in a bit of shock that 1) it worked and 2) you chose to ride it.

After the debate of what our next best move was and the time it took to patch the bike, it was about 330am or 4 as we headed down Rt 139 to Fuji Yoshida. At this point, my body is also not so happy with our decision and feeling a bit sleepy and a bit nauseous dampened my enthusiasm, but Tim offered lots of encouragement –primarily the important words of, Eat! Drink! which helped a lot. At some point, it became obvious that we were going to continue with the plan, though we hoped that Tim would be able to take a bus from 5th Station down, rather than ride the broken bike down the Subaru line. We stopped at the Jonathon’s before the Subaru line about an hour after daylight and ate some breakfast and downed some coffee.

And then the climb began. I’d been awake for over 24 hours at this point and not exactly feeling sprightly, hey… I’ve done harder climbs (or so I told myself. Kirifuriyama near Tochigi is steeper and maybe as long. This is ONLY 7%, I can do this…)

but despite trying conjure an ambitious inner monolog, I remarked to Tim, as cheerfully as possible, “This is going to be hard.”
“No it isn’t.” he countered as he switched his tire around to his easier gear and sped off up the mountain. I was not only getting beat by a middle aged guy, but one on a fixie. A broken fixie. :eek:

The first leg from the tollgate to first station was, by far, the hardest for me. I’ve fallen asleep standing before, and I’ve nearly fallen asleep driving a car before but this is the first time I have fallen asleep WHILE CYCLING. It was the scariest experience, I would be spinning along and *whoa* a car would drive by and I would be over the white line heading into the ditch or *whoa* over the yellow line into the opposite lane. Thank god there weren’t a lot of cars around. I was totally ready to quit and if Tim had been keeping pace with me, I might have given up right then but he was far ahead.

First station came to view and as I approached and saw Tim I was ready with a list of reasons why I shouldn’t go any farther. I was near tears and ready to fall asleep on the spot. But with a curt, “Ah, you’re ok… have some chocolate” and “it would be stupid to turn back now” Tim was off again and I was determined not to give up.

So I started to sing.

Now, I’m not really that good of a singer but it’s something I often do if I’m stressed or trying to keep myself awake. It’s not something I generally do in public, but exceptions can be made. Granted, singing while cycling is often interrupted by panting and trying to catch my breath, but it’s fun and gives me a rhythm and sure enough, started waking my brain up a little.

Nearing 2nd station I was feeling a little better but still needing something… so iPhone enabled as I was, I put on music to sing to. Nirvana. Smells Like Teen Spirit. So there I am, one curve at a time, singing and rocking out in between panting for breath, and if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, I started channeling my favorite cat in the world (a puma I volunteered with in Bolivia, her picture is below) and whenever the Subaru line went from it’s gentle grade to it’s full 7%, I would start growling and hissing at the road… and then gasp for breath, and then start laughing.

The crazy train had arrived and I was going to ride it all the way up the &%$$&%$ing mountain.
By the time I refilled water bottles at 4th station, I was onto Broadway musicals and though Tim took off ahead of me (perhaps good motivation to get out of earshot??) I passed the only other cyclist while singing Rent. The poor man was probably scarred for life, not only dropped by a white girl, but a white girl singing well well off key…

As the road leveled out around the parking lots, I was gaining crazy momentum and got a lot of friendly and slightly wary smiles from people who had just driven up the mountain.

Hurray! 5th Station.

We changed shoes but opted not for other clothes as it was pretty warm, locked up our bikes, filled our water bottles, I scarffed some yaki-soba and we were off. This put us at about 10am.

It didn’t take long before I was falling behind again and it became obvious that making the summit was not compatible with making it down the mountain in time for Tim to catch the 3:40 bus back. Tim was very encouraging, explaining our estimated speed and arrival time but all my body could hear was, “You are going to fast for me…” So, because enjoying the descent on the Suburu line in the light was very important to me and making to the summit was important to Tim, a bit before 7th station we decided to go at our own pace up the mountain. Tim was quickly up and away and I trudged on, dizzy, and not feeling great. A few huts past 7th station I sat down briefly and fell fast asleep. I woke up, tried to stand, sat back down and fell fast asleep again. Upon waking up a second time, I reckoned I’d been away 32 hours, with only 6 hours of sleep the night before, and didn’t have enough water or food to make it to the summit comfortably, let alone with enough light … so I called it a day and turned around.

I took about and hour and a half nap at 5th station, refueled with Ramen and coke, waited till about 4 in case Tim changed his mind and tried to make the bus and then headed down. The descent was, indeed, a lot of fun. A few too many cars but a very good time. I checked the train schedule and decided I was best off biking back to Otsuki, especially since it was all down hill. Note to self, just because the roads are nice at 3am doesn’t mean they are still nice at 4pm… so many cars… and then when I got to Otsuki, I thought I was so close to 200km that I might as well push on a bit more… Two stations later, I bagged my bike and headed home.

Clocking out with 202km. Sea level to 7th.

and after taking a quick shower and drinking another liter of water, headed out to my friend’s house party and managed to be social until 4am…

party on, wayne. What a great weekend! A million thanks to Tim and I'm glad you both made summit and made it down alive (and well?). Thank you for pushing me to make it to fifth and thank you for not pushing me to make it to summit. And forgive me for singing....:eek:

Hurray for the crazy train.


Feb 4, 2009
Great report Kori, and well done for getting to 7th base! Knowing when to stop is the sign of a sane person, despite the singing up the subaru line.
Amazed you went so far with zero sleep as well.

Definitely a good choice cycling down to Otsuki as well, When we returned from Fujiyoshida it was like rush hour with kids returning from fujihighland park.


Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
Awesome post, Kori! I was getting worried when you said you were falling asleep and figured the best thing was to get some chocolate and coffee into you, quick! Great you made it to the 7th station. I should have listened to you regarding getting off the mountain during daylight. I definitely burned one of my 'cat lives' by doing that in the dark. We have to try again after the memory of the pain has faded sufficiently and masked by my oyaji dementia.