Luckily Projection Bluff is not far away from our intended mountain for the day, which had been Rats Castle, for we piked out of the latter. The story goes like this:
We stood at the base of Rats Castle, feet crunching the icy snow, wind howling ominously around our ears, numb, aching hands held close to our bodies in a vain attempt to warm them – and we hadn’t yet begun clutching icy vegetation. Our overpants seemed ineffective at offering any kind of help in protecting us against this blast. I gazed up to where our goal lay, up there beyond the couple-of-kilometre-long band of frosted scrub, and up above the blocks of now white dolerite. Dark clouds were swirling on the tops. It would be slow work along the ridgeline, making sure we didn’t slip on the thin ice carapace that covered each rock. Snow started falling again as we considered. This worsened matters.
“If this snow continues, it may make the road undriveable on the way out,” I mused aloud. I was beginning to feel decidedly wussy about this whole venture. Luckily for me, Angela agreed to a change in plans. Let’s do nearby Projection Bluff instead – short, sweet, a pad with markers hopefully so that we didn’t have to bush bash and could move quickly enough to maybe even warm up. The path would debouch us onto the rocky area much more quickly than the alternative in front of us, and if the rocks were treacherous, well, we’d turn around. The trouble with our planned Rats Castle was that we could work for a few hours and only then discover the rocks wouldn’t admit passage under these conditions. By choosing the shorter Projection Bluff, we’d at least get a mountain in for our drive.
So, here we were at the startling line a second time, ready to push through snowy bushes, wondering where the “pad” was, buried somewhere there under arching bushes and covered in white. We had trouble locating it at first, and decided it wasn’t there, but then some markers appeared, then disappeared in a frozen lake, but eventually reemerged in icy rainforest once we happened on the right spot out the other side. After that, it was plain sailing – just the normal game of “spot the marker” as we climbed, being careful not to be caught out on slippery ice.
The exercise even warmed us up enough for me to shed my ridiculous oversized goretex mittens that made me shockingly clumsy and that fell off every few metres. I had enough feeling in my fingers to plait my hair at last so I could begin to see. I even had enough movement in my fingers now to tie my shoelaces properly for the first time that day.
The views from the moment we popped out above the tree line were worth any discomfort we may have felt earlier on. I was in love. Click, click. Two or three metres’ progress. Click, click. Poor Angela. She waited with great patience as my photography slowed us down far more than the icy rocks. What a privilege it was to climb something, even as small as Projection Bluff, in conditions such as these, and to witness such enormous stretches of beauty laid out before us.