Former pliot shares memories

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    Warwick-George Johnson's profession as a private pilot has brought him to many exotic locations around the world. He has seen much of the beauty the world has to offer. This past summer, the 61-year-old achieved something he didn't get to do during his time traveling the world-he climbed Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain. "It's basically a long walk up a steep hill," said Johnson, obviously downplaying his achievement. "It was beautiful." Johnson's son, Timothy, spent several years in Japan teaching English and fell in love with the country. The senior Johnson decided to meet his son, who now works for United Airlines, and make the climb he has wanted to do. "You can only climb Fuji in July and August because the top is snow covered the rest of the time," said Johnson. Not only that, but the weather can be very windy and brutally cold higher up the slope. He was in awe of the beauty he encountered along the way, seeing small flowers poking through the rock near the top of the 12,300 foot mountain. He said he began walking in a forest. Further up the mountain, which is actually a dormant volcano, hikers walk on the lava that last flowed in the early 1700s. Just one-third of the way up the mountain, the view is mostly clouds. After the first day, hikers spend the night at one of several huts that are only open during the hiking season. A few remain open into September, but not much later. He said he slept until 2 a.m., then began the final 1500 feet by moonlight. It took four more hours to reach the summit-just in time for him to see the sunrise. "That was spectacular," Johnson said, "to see the sun rise over the Land of the Rising Sun." He was accompanied by about 25 other hikers, some of them Japanese. Most, he said, were tourists. "It's like living in New York," he said. "Most New Yorkers don't go to the top of the Empire State Building." Thin air did impact his climb, but nothing that would keep him from finishing. "Around 11,000 feet you had to discipline yourself," said Johnson. "We would take 10 steps, stop, and breathe deep breaths. We never really got out of breath." What's next for this adventurer? "My goal is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Someday."