At 9 pm on a Friday evening, there was already a handful of hikers settling down in their cars for an early morning start on Ontake. I envied them, but I had to get back before my brother-in-law came to stay the next evening.As I set off up the path, the calm night air was periodically ripped apart by crackling lightning. I counted the seconds for the thunder rolls to reach, aware of the metal crampons strapped to the outside of my pack. They were surely an inviting target for the gods to point a finger at,
but mercifully the storm was not getting any closer. Besides, a god with a sense of justice would strike the vending machine that sits at the top of this sacred mountain.
After the calm of the start, the buffeting winds and thick wet mist at the summit were a shock. I could see no further than a few meters, and in the rush to descend, I took a wrong turn through the maze of huts below the top, and was only saved by the GPS clearly showing that I was heading in precisely the opposite direction from which I had ascended.