Millers Bluff 2013 Nov

Millers Bluff Nov 2013


Epicurus said (a few thousand years ago – when no one had heard of Millers Bluff) that it is more important to have someone to eat with than to have something to eat. With the silly side issue of starving to death omitted, I absolutely agree. And I would add in a similar vein that, although sitting on a mountain is a wonderful thing in itself – solo or with company – it is often the case that the company we have on a mountain is more important in forming our emotional reaction to that mountain than the mount itself. I have summitted many mountains solo, but my favourite experiences are always ones where I’ve shared the mountain with like-minded friends.

And so we come to Miller’s Bluff, a bitch of a mountain, a horror fight through prickly hakea, stabbing scoparia, tangling bauera and impenetrable walls of green junk that muster superior defences to defeat our best efforts to push through it. How many minutes did we spend in our monster epic to reach the summit perched on a rock looking at a sea of attacking, knife-edged greenery wondering which would be the route for the next 20 metres that might allow us to progress to the next rock where we could do the same? The actual summit never seemed to get any closer. In a trip that covered only 16 kms, we took 14 hours 36 in total, 9 hours 41 of which were spent in movement, according to my watch. My gps says only 5 hours were spent in movement, but I guess that just means we were moving so slowly that the system failed to define what we were doing as “movement”. (I guess I didn’t stop my stop-watch every time we halted to make another terrain decision). It was the dubious progress of snails. Lunch was only short due to lack of time; we didn’t get any dinner, and snacks were few and far between. The blank time was spent a little in regrouping, and quite a lot in making decisions about how to move forward. And I was with highly experienced and competent walkers.


The shadows were already lengthening by the time we reached the summit, and we got to enjoy sunset from the top, as we took over two hours (in each direction) to travel the slightly more than two kilometres-long ridgeline connecting the “nearly summit” to the actual summit, a mere 2 metres higher. The descent did not begin before we had passed nearby the fake summit again. I think for a mere two metres, it would be well worth tampering with the environment and gathering a few rocks; however, the views were much better from the real summit, and my favourite views were had along the ridge line coming back to the false one. There was a lake in the distance, beautifully lit by the crepuscular rays of sunlight, and the tiers to our right made wonderful silhouettes. That was a sight well worth savouring, and luckily we had plenty of time for that. Had someone heaped rocks on summit one, all that would have been missed, as would the adventure of descending in the dark.

For me, to sit on a highpoint in the glare of the midday sun is a bit of a waste of a mountain; the fact that it took us so long that we got to see sunset from the top was a bonus. I am never going to climb this mountain again, or be in that spot in the middle of a bed of green nails at sunset again; it’s good that I’m satisfied with the photographic memories I have. The collection will not be supplemented :-).

As we began our descent through the rubble, on went the head torches ready for complete darkness. Now we got to fight “blind” like knights of old on some valiant mission. At some stage someone announced it was her bedtime. I looked at my watch. It was now 11 pm. No wonder I was hungry. And tired. I like to be in bed by 10. I’d arisen at 5 in order to at our meeting place on time. It was already a long day. Blood sugar was not miraculously rising in the absence of dinner. On we pushed for another hour and three quarters.

I was dangerously tired on the way home, and after a momentary blackout where I started veering off the road, I bumped up my music to a volume that could possibly be heard for a radius of a kilometre, and drove at a mere 50-60 kms/hr for safety, so did not get home until about 3.15 a.m., and was not in bed before 3.45, as my poor dogs wanted food and attention, and, despite the rather odd hour to be showering, I decided it couldn’t wait until official morning.
Today, Sunday, I am weary but happy. That was a grand epic and I am delighted that I have found a group of similarly crazy people to do things like that with.

I nearly forgot to mention a rather scary incident that happened while we were climbing up. There were two of us a tiny bit ahead, which turns out to be fortunate, as no one was yet directly behind me. The guy had chosen a path to my left; I had chosen to ascend via an interesting chimney arrangement that offered good handholds at the top, using a crack that was 15-20 cms in from the edge. I tested it, as one always should. It felt solid, so I put all my weight (not much) into it to lever myself up. Suddenly this seemingly sturdy rock mass split away from the parent and I felt myself falling backwards down a steepish incline, closely pursued by a hunk of rock as large as a man’s torso. I find it astonishing the way that in an emergency like that, the body is able to push off nothing, and do superhuman feats. I pushed off air to lurch myself sideways so that the rock just grazed past me as it careened down the slope past me. I then lived in absolute terror for a second or two as I didn’t know where the others were – the scrub was too thick to see clearly – and I knew with certainty that that boulder would kill anyone it hit. For quite a while after that, my legs were jelly at the thought of what nearly happened. I include this here as a reminder of what one should always know and do anyway, which is to avoid being directly below someone who is climbing.

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