Tyndall 2012 Apr

Tyndall Range   28 Apr 2012
(All photos are taken at the end.  It was impossible to photograph up the top)

The day had begun well enough, although mist and light rain attended us, even as we donned our boots, coats and packs. We all set out in good spirits up the mountain shrouded in mist, its soft-grey rocks melding with the moss colour of its greenery. The rain wasn’t too bad, and the wind was a lot less strong than we’d been promised. Down there. Up we climbed. Even by half way up, people’s wraps for morning tea had become sodden balls of pudding that disintegrated in the hand. I was too cold and wet from long periods of waiting to be interested in eating, or in taking off my pack to find my food, even though it was in the outside pocket. Pack on was warmth on.
At the very top, the force of both was something we’d never experienced before. This was WILD, WILD nature, and it was awesome, a privilege to be part of. Water was blowing UP the waterfalls. Rain was horizontal, of course. The whole mountainside had turned into an almighty waterfall, as the mountain spewed its excess water. The track was a flowing river, sometimes over knee height in depth. We sloshed up the waterfalls and newly-made creeks.
 As we walked along, slopping through the “track” that was 15-20 cms underwater – as was the surrounding vegetation – I began to wonder where on earth we could pitch our tent. What tent, however brilliant, could stand up to being pitched in the middle of a wading pool? And then, there was the wind factor. Each gust sent me “dashing” several metres sideways as I lost control of my footing in the gale force.
I pictured the pitching process. We would stop and try to undo our packs. This would be a challenge, as not one member of the party had any feeling left in his or her fingers. We would struggle with the clips and presumably eventually undo them, putting our packs down in the pool. Opening them would be the next almost insurmountable challenge, but hopefully with perseverance, we’d accomplish that if given enough time. Our unfeeling fingers and weakened arms would grope ineffectively whilst attempting the Herculean task of pulling the tent and poles away from their wedged-in niche. This achieved, we would then spread them on the ground below the water, saturating them, of course – and meanwhile, the driving rain and gale-force wind would be working at lowering our core temperature whilst we, stationary, tried to do what senseless hands and limbs were ill-equipped to accomplish. The wind would quite possibly lift the tent and blow it off into the distance while we tried to get the poles ready for insertion into the tiny holes allotted them (if we could catch the run-away tent). I then pictured us struggling as we tried to put the poles in, a job that can be challenging even in clement conditions, the wind buffeting both us and the tent as we did what you needed strength to do.
 The next interesting job would be taking off the wet gear and putting on a new set of clothes, hopefully dry. We would sit in water that came up to near our hipbones, wrestling with boots and laces and sticky, sodden clothes, pulling, grunting, tugging but achieving little. We would by this time be shaking, if still conscious. And if we did get the waterlogged gear off, and withstood the gelid temperatures long enough to put on something dry, our saturated skin would soon ensure that the once dry clothes were dry no longer (all of which was assuming that the dry clothes in the pack had managed to remain dry). Apparently my husband was also running the same mental video as he walked along, although he had added the detail that the position of the tent in his pack was below his dry clothes, so he pictured himself removing the dry clothes to free the tent, and standing there stranded with them as they became drenched with rain. My reverie had just had us kind of pushing the clothes to the side while we struggled to release the tent. The reality was that any opening of our bags welcomed a mini-flood to the gap created. The top pocket of my pack was already sodden because someone had kindly pulled out my gloves for me, allowing water to enter while the gloves exited. (Pity that’s where my camera was). We all had to get gloves and beanies for each other, as none of us could take off our own packs.
Our leader for the day called us all in to make an announcement. She had decided that we should head back down the mountain. Her decision was met with hearty approval by all. She said we should have lunch before descending. However, the skinnies amongst us were too cold to eat, and had no feeling in our hands to begin to attempt to retrieve food from our packs. We had also lost all appetite. I couldn’t release my main clasp, and I realised that if I did take my pack off and lost the protection it was lending my back, that could be a fatal mistake. Luckily I had muesli bars that could be reached by someone else in a side pocket. The skinnies huddled together while the not-so’s went off and ate elsewhere. G stood there shivering. I got him to get a bar from my side pocket and then told him to eat it. He was grateful. I got him to get B one, too, of course. To S, I gave lollies, as I noticed she wasn’t eating either. L tried to eat, but she said her lunch just mashed in her hands, so she gave up. K said she’d lost all interest in food, but needed the toilet, so disappeared, before she left, instructing me to eat her banana that she’d managed to get out. I had two bites – magic!!!! Just what I needed to keep me going. We waited some more.
K came back from the toilet shaking furiously. She’d been going really well, but pulling her pants down had undone her. She was now possibly the coldest, though the other skinnies were now getting worried about B, whose shakes were quite grand mal. He was too cold to get gloves or a beanie on, but the skinnies combined forces to shove them on him. Meanwhile, G was also finding the task impossible, and, sweetly, B, who couldn’t do his own, joined with another to push and pull G’s hands and gloves to get them back on for him.
Down we went, but the first time I looked back, I could see B was struggling. The wind ripped his coat away from him as he hadn’t done it up properly, and I had no feeling to improve on what he’d done. A few of us stopped to try to help him, but we failed. He just had to put up with it. K’s pack cover blew off and danced back up the mountainside. She gave chase. B’s cover then blew off, but it was clipped to the pack, so made a brilliant spinnaker. My coat was trying to blow open too, so I clutched it with one hand while I walked. B looked so cold I started to really worry about him. I went right to the back to make sure I had him covered. A-M and L were also there. The others went on ahead, all of a sudden the insistence that we all stay together and travel at the same pace no longer being in force.
Now B encountered a new problem – his trousers were so wet that they started falling off. The two with me suggested that we stop and help him change them, but I pictured the impossibility of getting his pack off, of getting his shoes and gaiters off, and a new lot of clothing on, and said it just wouldn’t work. Our best bet was to get him off the mountain as quickly as possible. I thought he should just take the pants off. “No, no”, they cried. He’d freeze. They helped me try to get them back up to around his waist, joking that he was just doing this to have three women playing with his trousers. We were all – then and throughout – very jolly despite the conditions. B and I would at times burst into song and dance (to keep warm, but also to try to help keep everyone happy).
Getting us off the mountain and keeping everyone safe was a real group effort. We all needed each other to survive this one. Anyway, soon enough the trousers just dropped off into the mud; B walked out of them and kept going. I picked them up and popped them into a sort of pouch made by my pack cover, heavy as they now were, so as not to litter the wilderness with rubbish. Once he’d got rid of their impedance, his pace picked up nicely. We’d now dropped low enough for the worst dangers to be over, and I grew in confidence that this adventure would have a good outcome. As it all drew to a close, and we waded through knee-deep slopping mud before joining the road that led back to the car, we could reflect on the mighty power of nature, and the fun of the adventure we’d had.
The road was a mighty flowing river, sometimes so deep and strong that we had to link arms for safety – a symbolic ending to our reliance on each other to complete our epic. It was a very happy group that dived into the Tullah pub, ordered hot drinks and warmed up by the welcome fire. I wasn’t to know then, but the next time we tried to summit Mt Tyndall, we would encounter a blizzard, with snow and ice replacing rain; the wind was similar.

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