Three-quarters of the way through the 100, even after going up innumerable mountain roads from Yakeshima in the far south to Rishiri in the far north, I still do not feel at ease driving up hairpin bends in the dark to an unknown route on an unknown peak. What possesses men and women to scale near-vertical ice faces at night in a quest for new routes and their souls?

But the dark means no face-off with a ranger or obstructive warden. With nobody about, I can prepare at leisure, and feed the dog to make her complete her ablutions now, rather than having to collect and carry her feces back down the hike. And once on the trail, the altitude ticks by steadily, 15 minutes, 200m, 15 minutes, 150m, a surreptitious glance at the altimeter after 10 minutes. Darn – that section must have been flat! With only the dog to talk to, I play the usual mind games.

Approximately half way up, I could feel the chilly air descending before I saw the cause and stepped onto a steep snowfield. From under the snout, a river was pouring forth. I followed a skinny overgrown track up the left side, but it petered out and the GPS showed I was taking an impossible, direct route to the summit! In the dark, without the GPS, it would have been tough to backtrack and find the necessary river crossing.

Petzl headlamps have a great reputation, but why? More on torches that work another time.

Relieved to be back on track and ascending comfortably, I was soon on the ridge, brushing through the long sasa grass which deposited its silvery coat of night dew on my legs, which ran down and quickly filled my shoes. Oh for those rocky, dry ridges of the Southern Alps!

At the summit, there was a box for donations to help maintain the route, the first I have seen at any summit. A rattle of the box suggested no one had been to collect for quite a while (nor cut back that sasa).

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