With the enticement of the hotel’s viking breakfast and the ferry booked for 8:40 am, I set off up the pitch-black trail soon after 2 in the morning. There are no bears on the island of Rishiri, so I had finally dispensed with the bear bell and could enjoy the enveloping quietness of the forest. On the ferry over here yesterday afternoon, the summit had been shrouded by a lenticular cloud, which the hotel manager said was a sure sign of changeable weather on the mountain, in spite of the shepherd’s delight of a red sunset. His words proved correct: by the time the tunnel of haimatsu pine opened out onto the ridge, the wind and rain were punishing us for the early start. And in shorts, it was cold.
But the dog was happy. At the start of the hike, she had panted heavily and struggled to keep up, then went on strike when I put the lead on to stop her dropping behind. I released the lead and used food treats to encourage her. Yet as the path got steeper, the temperature lower, and the rain harder, the happier she became! The panting stopped, she kept by my heels, and at the top, was not shivering as I was. I scuttled back down to food and warmth, relieved to have finished the 9 peaks in Hokkaido. Time for a rest for all of us.