Mt Emmett revisited 2018 May
Even as we savoured our summit views on Mt Emmett five minutes before our absolute latest turnaround time, I knew that the light was already a little too golden; the shadows, marginally too long. We would be descending in the dark: not a good idea when the forecast was for negative five overnight, and when we had several patches of very thick scrub to negotiate before we reached a path. I sure hoped we could dispense with all the tricky sections before we completely lost visibility.
Can you see my daughter climbing? The light is already a bit too golden.
Down we climbed, trying to combine haste with care – the need to get out of here with the equally important requirement not to break a bone or damage a muscle needed for movement. (I was, a bit later, to skewer an eye with a twig, but that didn’t stop forward progress, fortunately. I bled and kept going).
That’s Barn Bluff in the distance there.
It wasn’t just that darkness was rapidly approaching. My anxiety lay in the fact that the “Emmett-Lump saddle” ahead was very thick indeed, with the barest hint of a pad that was almost impossible to detect even in good light. One metre to the side of that adumbrated pad, and you were in a fighting wall of bosky resistance from which you would not necessarily emerge that night. My other angst stemmed from the fact that, already, one could see ice crystals forming in slightly more open areas. It was not a night to be outside without the protection of tent, sleeping bag and insulating mats and so on. We just HAD to get out of here, and fast.
Oh oh. It’s getting dark, and we still have a big descent to do. But when it’s this beautiful, who cares about the time? Not us.
Out the other side of the thickest of the patches, we safely reached a brief band of alpine grass in between two scoparia swathes. I quickly grabbed a couple of photos, because all around, the scenery was beginning to look absolutely magical, but I still had too much sense of urgency for carefully constructed shots. We still had this last band to negotiate, and THEN we could relax. After this next part, the rest would be easy alpine terrain and then a track. It wouldn’t matter then if darkness took control.
The dawn we climbed back up to see.
Mist rose to left and right in roseate, colourful swirls that chased each other across the slopes, obscuring and then revealing the mountains all around. Indelibly etched in my mind is the image of these wisps, my daughter’s silhouette and the setting sun behind Cradle Mountain just ahead. It took your breath away. At last, all the tricky parts were dispensed with.
Now we could relax and photograph and enjoy. We’d missed the best light, but the remnants were still floating us up in waves of pleasure. Behind us lay the mountain of our quest, Mt Emmett, which had entered the “blue hour” tones; leaning over its shoulder was a nearly full moon, piercing the indigo sky. In front lay Cradle Mountain , which was still sporting alpenglow pinks, yellows and burnt orange. The clouds swirled some more.
Pelion West and Ossa floating above the clouds.
“Hey mum”, said Kirsten, “Let’s climb down the mountain to our packs, eat, and then bring our stuff back up here to sleep.” (We’d left our packs at Rodway Hut far below.)
How I love my daughter!!!! I don’t know anyone else in the whole world who would say that to me. To say that, you need to love nature so much you’re willing to do it; you need to be fit enough for it to be a possibility (we’d already had a very full day, as you might imagine); and you have to be as zany as I am. Who else, but a daughter?
“Yes, yes. Fabulous idea”, I enthused.
Now, the job of descending from this realm of beauty was less depressing. We’d be back in a few hours.
Back at Rodway Hut (where it was surprisingly cold inside), we cooked and ate dinner, packed our stuff back in the packs, and off we set up the mountain for the second time that day (having driven from Launceston that morning). We left the hut about 7.30, torches on and climbed through the moody rainforest, with patches of silvery moonlight casting shadows every now and then.
When we arrived back on top, despite now being much higher, we were a great deal warmer than when we’d left the hut. Climbing had warmed us up so nicely, we could pitch the tent without frozen hands (yet). It was so beautiful, with a star-studded sky, we barely had time to even ponder the extent of the chill enveloping us. As per our previous adventure together at Easter, (see my blog on Mt Sprent), we squished both of us into my solo Hilleberg tent. THAT warmed us up, definitely. We made sure we put our water under our sleeping bags so it couldn’t freeze overnight, had one last gaze at our starry environs, and turned in for the night. It was cosy, to say the least.
“You wouldn’t want to do this with someone you didn’t like”, I mused, before we closed our eyes to sleep.
Sunrise was predictably lovely, although the cloud bank to the east prevented the rocks turning orange as the sun rose. Mist enveloped us completely from time to time.
We were pretty cold after the photo session. My feet were numb, but that didn’t stop us breakfasting al fresco. The day morphed into a cold, moist one. We didn’t care. We were buoyed by the beauty of the preceding sixteen or so hours since sunset had begun, and by the wonderful feeling of having been in the wilderness together.