The short climb up Mt Ryokami did not exorcise the demons. Under the summer canopy the air was humid and still, a warm and comforting bath when what I really wanted to feel was cold and alive. It took a little under two and a half hours to climb the 3,500 feet to the summit, where I gazed out at the explosion of deep green life that the Okutama region had put forth. Fuji hid its head in the cumulus that poured off the Pacific and mighty crashes far off held the promise of thunder storms advancing through the thick summer air. Getting off the summit seemed a wise idea. Reversing my route would put me back at the Ryokami hut within a couple of hours. A good meal, a visit to the hot-springs, another tick on the Hyakumeizan list.. Instead, turning my face from the sun, I headed north along the ridge towards Higashi-dake and then east along the Temmusho ridge. On the map it is marked as a thin dotted line, copiously adorned with warnings of certain doom for those that wish to travel it. Four hours later as I stood on the summit of Tenri-dake, halfway down, I knew why. The rhododendrons grow thick along its spine, not only making progress painfully slow but also obscuring the edges of the cliffs; on more than one occasion my boot parted their branches and hung over hundreds of feet of air. The undergrowth whipped my legs like a martyr and the sharp granite cut into my hands and arms as I climbed down. From Tenri the ridge drops away and back towards the hut. The vegetation grows thicker with every metre descended. I decided instead to rapp into the Nagaiya-sawa gorge that leads from the summit, back into the valley below. The cool waters of the gorge washed the blood away from the earlier wounds, and added a few of its own as I skated on the slick stones of its bed. The Nanatakizawa course at the valley floor took me back to the trailhead, where my appearance scared the old woman and even the dogs gave me a wide berth. I felt better than I had in weeks, and the demons were nowhere to be found. Sometimes you just have to lose a bit of skin to let them out.
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