The signs were not good. A deserted carpark, almost no one else going up in the cable car, and gale warnings. The rain was starting to spatter the windows of the cable car and the mountain was bleak, not in the slightest resembling any of the photographs of sun-drenched mountains and flowers adorning the upper terminal building. But having driven 300km, there was no turning back.
While Kin stayed in the cafe and studied, Hana and I trotted out into the storm. A handful of hikers wrapped up in Goretex descended past us in silence, perhaps thinking I was cruel to be taking the dog – and perhaps they were right. For the relentless wind and driving rain forced Hana to take shelter on my leeward side. The rain pellets slapped us about the face, and the wind threatened to throw us off the crater rim toward the fumeroles below. The wind became so fierce as we approached the summit that I put Hana on the lead to stop her being blown off. And when we turned around to descend, at first I could not. The wind pushed me back a step. I crouched low and ran with momentum to escape that screaming summit storm.
We made it back to the cablecar just as the entire station was packing up early for the day. It was only 3 pm. Kin said that after we had come up, the lift had stopped running due to the wind. It was now about to leave for the last time today, with only the shop staff, lift workers, rangers and us. The car swung violently from the cables above, and side-swiped the first supporting pillar as we passed it, juddering horribly and putting a momentary look of panic on all of our faces.
That was enough for one day. Tokachi would have to wait until tomorrow. And as for Poroshiri, I have visions of being swept away in swollen river crossings.