Mt Picton, Feb 13, 2012. The first mountain in my peak bagging “career”.
Of course, I didn’t know what peak bagging was at this stage, but this was the first mountain where I consulted the Abels book and steered us up a mountain that didn’t have a track. Much, much later, I would begin ‘collecting’ them. At this stage, I ticked this mountain in the back index: an act that led me down a path on which I wanted a dirty page full of ticks.
I had decided I wanted to join a walking club so as to get to know likeminded people, but, having a husband who has Parkinson’s disease, I was a bit scared about making this move. Perhaps he would be far too slow and clumsy for a bunch of experts. Maybe I, too, had lost too much fitness to belong in such a group. I phoned the leader and suggested that Bruce and I arrive and climb early, so he couldn’t slow anyone down, and that we’d meet them all at the top of the mountain.
I needn’t have worried, but it was good to be sure. I don’t like putting others out. However, Bruce made it up the quite difficult mountain without disgracing himself or imposing on the good nature or patience of the others. In fact, given the description of the track, and the characteristics of the terrain, his first hour and a half had been exceptional. The ground had been slippery and very steep, muddy in places. Some sections were so steep that there were ropes in place, and the obstacles were many: the “path” was strewn with fallen logs, which were decked in a thick coating of moss and lichen and which had to be climbed over or under or along – each method containing difficulties when carrying a pack, and even more problems when one has Parkinson’s. The final half hour – just pushing through bauera scrub – was easy for me, but Bruce found it challenging, as he couldn’t see the ground, so lost confidence. We pitched our tent and enjoyed the scenery, and at some stage later, the others arrived, just as we were ready to do the final leg to the summit. We arranged to meet on the very top.
I had never thought it would be at all possible for Bruce to reach the summit trig, and was shocked when he looked up and said he could do it. We ran into trouble near the very top, when the huge boulders formed what seemed like a maze that couldn’t be solved from the inside. In fact, I was making plans about where best to spend the night (there were some rocky caves) as I could get him neither up nor down and the mist was closing in rapidly, when we heard the voices of the others in our party who were now climbing behind us. Encouraged by the fact that hope lay in joining up with them, Bruce found energy and expertise from somewhere, and got over the impasse to reach the base of the final, doable climb. It was fun sitting up the top with club members, chatting, sharing chocolate and watching the mist swirling around the rocky forms surrounding us. We descended as a group, arriving back at base in time to cook a leisurely meal while the sky turned pink, the mountains purple, and the tarns took on an incandescent light in the foreground.
It was a cold, dark night following this beautiful sunset. I had hoped that Picton would be a shapely dark presence – like a black hole – in a star-studded silvery sky, but there was too much mist for that. Even so, just being up there surrounded by tiny tarns with the summit so close and the knowledge of the endless ridgelines of other mountains beyond imbued the whole night sky with magic. There is a special feeling created by sleeping up high in one’s tent with friends in their tents nearby. I drifted off into a happy sleep, well content with the day.
We had enjoyed being with the club, but Bruce was very, very slow on the way down, and we were sure we’d never be allowed on any future walks, which we both agreed was a pity. The forest had been superbly magnificent, and it had been fun to share our experience in the bush with others who loved it too. We both felt as if we’ve had a several-week-long holiday, and not just a weekend away.
Driving home I was dangerously exhausted. However, thanks to stops for food in Geevestown and Campbelltown, and a snooze while Bruce bought out a roadside fruit stall, making a life-long friend of the fruiterer (who even gave us a present of a CD he’d made as a parting gift), I made it safely through. We played our new tape, its songs being so lyrical that we sang along with it while I drove. The music remained a happy reminder of a trip that we both now treasure, despite its difficulties.
For a gpx route, see my next post on Picton (2017). I didn’t own a gps for my first couple of years of this new game, but relied on good old map and compass.