Mt Saddleback 12 Sept 2013
Victoria and Albert in the distance
“How long does the book say it should take us to climb it?”, I ask as we near the parking spot for Mt Albert.
We have one hour’s light left. We can’t undertake a venture of possibly four hours if the book’s right with those statistics at hand. I slam on the brakes and do a U-turn. “Can you check Saddleback? Should be page 32.”
“OK. Let’s hope we cut the book time as normal.” There’re still a few more kms to drive, and the sun will set in an hour. This is ridiculous, but I’ve just driven for two hours, so I am intent on summitting something.
As we approach Saddleback, there’s a tree over the road so we have to walk from there, adding time to the ascent. Great. At least we’re underway, and I note with a little dismay that the cairns are as subtle as cairns can be, and the “track” is even subtler. We will be descending in the dark for sure unless we work miracles on a speedy ascent, and I don’t like my chances of finding these cairns in the dark. My husband has coordination problems. Is he going to be able to clamber over these big rocks in the dark?? These are questions to be dealt with later. Right now I have summit-angst and press towards the goal with my hapless husband in pursuit.
The gradient is wonderfully steep. What a fun mountain. We go straight up on all fours – but not for long. After 22 minutes I am cresting the flatter section at the top. Good. We may make it in the light yet. Unfortunately, however, B has dropped behind on the steep part and then got lost in the confusing section on the plateau, so I have to go back and dig him out of the thorn and scrub maze in which he had got himself entangled. More precious time lost.
Once it was flatter, however, he kept up and I slowed down, and we managed to mount some wonderful, dramatic rocks that would serve as a summit for him while I went on to the real one that still lay about 200ms further on (in length, not height).
Now it was my turn to waste precious time. I went to take a photo of where I was leaving him, which had wonderful views to the east and north, and realised that I had on my telephoto rather than my wide-angle lens. Stop, change (I had brought up three lenses). I kept taking photos … more time lost. Then, while forging on to the monstrous real summit structure, my camera jolted, just a tap, but the lens cap and polarising filter flew off and down a crevice. More time lost while I searched. I ended up spending far longer on the summit than intended, although even so, not nearly long enough for such a worthy mountain, but by now the sun was setting in earnest, and I still had to get my husband out of this rock and scrub maze.
Barrow and a small bit of Lomond
The forecast for Cradle was minus four over night; even Launie was expecting minus one. This was not a night to be trapped on a mountain. Haste, haste. But the sunset was sooo beautiful. I collected B and we began our way down, but I just had to stop while we were still high for one last series of photos after the sun had slid behind Lomond and Barrow, leaving behind a sky of gold, and Arthur became a purple silhouette with pink background. Even if we did have to stay the night up there, I decided, it was worth it to witness that particular sunset.
Bruce looked a bit impatient as I clicked away. Had I forgotten my great urgency? Well, it was a case of “might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb”. There was no way we were going to get down before dark – it was basically dark already – so why not at least take a few photos? He wasn’t exactly in a position to criticise me for holding him up, and soon enough we were on the treasure hunt that the trip down became – each cairn evoking a cry of victory as it was found. The dark grew darker, but I kept managing to find the next cairn. I was immersed in a world of extreme concentration as I read the bush for signs of usage. There was, however, only one spot where I was in doubt, thinking the land looked better to the left than either down or right. At that point I consulted my gps device for the first time, and a retracing of our tracks dictated that we should go slightly right instead, continuing to drop contours steadily. We obeyed my screen.
We did have head torches, but chose not to use them, as we didn’t want them destroying our night vision. They were there for a worst case scenario. On we went, until my victory cry. There was the road. High fives; smiles. Oh what a great adventure that one had been !!!! Bring on the next one.
Another two hour drive home made for a late dinner. I like at least a 1:1 ratio of driving to exercise. This trip was even worse than 2:1, but no matter. We love a grand adventure, and Saddleback provided that for us, for sure.
Bruce commented later: “I wonder what the doctor who told me to stick to flat surfaces with a handrail would say to that one.” (He has Parkinson’s disease).
“He’d never catch up with you to do the saying”, was my response.