Eldon Peak, Jan 2018
Several times on the Eldon Peak adventure, I was reminded of an earlier trip I did to Mt Emmett. The two trips may well seem worlds apart, as one (this) was done in extremely hot temperatures, while the other (Emmett) was done in a blizzard. On the Emmett trip, only four turned up, so Bruce and I comprised half the number. We didn’t make the summit on that day, but it was one of the prettiest outings of my life, and we spent the whole time yelping like little dogs: “Wow, wow, wow”, as we wended our way through the white witch’s wonderland, taking myriad photos. Steve, who is ever fond of quoting an adage, noted, correctly: “You’ve got to be in it to win it”. We four had braved the elements, taken the chance, and had won. If you don’t turn up, you can’t luck in on wonder. Of course, you can be in it and not win it, like the time we took a friend to sleep on Walled Mountain and received nothing for our efforts but a view of close-range, very thick mist. But if you’re not there, you won’t ever luck in on the times nature grants you – sometimes unexpectedly, of you are a reader of forecasts – a magic evening. (And even on the Walled incident, Elin kept saying she could feel she was on a summit, and she was exhilarated by the sense of space she could feel.)
Fun times chatting and chilling out on this trip.
And as I sat on the pebbly beach beside the Eldon River, enjoying the fact that I was greatly refreshed from a wonderful swim in one of nature’s magic gifts – a three-metre deep, crystal-clear waterhole – and enjoying chatting to my fellow walkers, Steve’s words came back to me. All of us present were prepared to get out in the bush, not really knowing what it would bring on this scorching weekend, yet just being there brought rewards that filled us with joie de vivre. Not for the first time, I was so happy down there by that river that I didn’t care at all whether we made the summit – which was naughty of me, as this trip was a promise by Paul to help get me to that very summit. The year before I was supposed to be on the boat, bouncing my way to the end of Lake Burbury with the others when, literally as I was about to quit the house (all my gear was in the car), Bruce started acting very strangely and I had to call an ambulance. He had a temperature of 42 degrees, and had sudden onset pneumonia. (Not a single cough did he make). He was in intensive care for the next six days and we were very lucky not to lose him in that episode. In the wilderness eight months later, doing what he loved doing, was a far, far kinder way to go. His whole body was failing him, but he fought on valiantly. Thanks so much Paul for keeping your promise. It means heaps to me. Without a boat, this mountain becomes a formidable task.
Half way up.
And so, the trip to the summit began with a journey by boat up Lake Burbury to its northern end, followed by a walk along an old road that was pure bliss, as this former route for wheels is now a bed of spongy moss that traverses an area that could be parkland. It reminded me of the Blue Gum Forest as it was when we all loved it, with pale-trunked silver wattles instead of blue gums.
As we had no intention of climbing that first day – this day was all about getting to the startline to be ready for an early departure the next morn – the rest of our time was spent swimming in the glorious pool mentioned and pictured above, or sitting around on the pebbly shore (or in the rainforest, for some) chatting and eating. It was a wonderful time to savour being in the wilderness.
Day Two, summit day, was scheduled to be very hot, so we were ready with our packs at 6.30 for a departure that would give us plenty of climbing time before the heat advanced. There were a lot of contours to get through this day. Although this mountain has a huge climb, it seemed to me that most of it was in wonderful rainforest that was a sheer delight to traverse. The patch of scrub above this line didn’t last long, and then the rocky final ascent was pretty quickly dispensed with. The three earliest to the top were there before midday.
I had the fastest “touch and race away” of my life (something I normally never do) at this summit, as it was aswarm with a black cloud of galvanised, flying Jack Jumpers, and I was terrified. There is no point telling me they’re not interested in me. I am very interested in them, and I don’t like pursuing that interest at such close range. (For mainlanders and foreigners, these ants sting with a mighty punch. It is impossible to be bitten and not yell violently with pain.) They do not always swarm this or any other summit; it just happens to be mating season right now, and they like a good view while they select their partners and secure the next generation. At least they have good taste.)
Standing near the summit of Eldon Peak, it seemed I was on a huge monster of a mountain that totally dwarfed surrounding, otherwise-impressive peaks. Mount Lyell, Marble Bluff, and Mount Owen all seemed quite dominating down at lake level, but were transformed into silly pimples from the top of this giant. Even in midday glare and with Jack Jumpers for company, it was a great place to be.
That said, it was so hot and glary up there I was pleased when we started our descent. A swim at the bottom was calling. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to camp, hunger was stronger than the need for a dip, so cooking dinner on the beach and paddling had superior claim on my priorities.
The boat trip back on the final day was magic, but unfortunately I can’t show my own photos, as my camera refused to open. I fear the heat of the day may have cooked it. (Because of the heat and climb and boat trip, I didn’t have my normal full frame DSLR). Once more we had an early start, so walked out in golden light. The water at that hour was pure mirror. I felt very lucky to have been part of the group.