Sunday 30th July – Mount Barney’s West Peak
The alarm went off at four o’clock. The back-up alarm went off a minute later. I thought I had been lying in bed awake for quite some time when I heard the second alarm. I don’t recall having heard the first alarm. It would seem my sense of time sleeps even when I don’t. Getting up at four o’clock after two solid weeks of late nights and very early starts should have been terrible, but I suppose it was only a little over an hour earlier than what I was used to, so it didn’t seem so bad. It also wasn’t as cold as I’d expected.
I woke Bronwen, and we showered, packed our lunches, and ate a quick breakfast. Clint arrived around half past, and we drove to Mount Barney, stopping at a servo for fuel and iced coffee. I cleverly packed my jumper in my bag, to save me having to take it off and pack it in later—which was not only pointless as I had to get it out as soon as we arrived, but left me cold on the drive down, while everyone else glowed warmly in their jumpers.
The recent rain had made the creek crossings—which last time we were able to get across without taking our shoes off—a little too high to cross with shoes. Shoeless through icy water at dawn is a horrible way to start anything.
We walked up “Savages Ridge”, which was steep and scrubby most of the way up, but not steep enough to require scrambling or climbing. It wasn’t until we were nearly at the top, where the ridge began to narrow, that it began to get bad—though I only got stuck on one death-defying rocky outcrop, necessitating a short detour. Once at the top though, the walking rapidly degenerated, scratching our way painfully through sharp shrubbery to the base of a cliff. Clint and Bronwen tried climbing up a scary looking chimney, and I went looking for an easier way, which I rather foolishly thought I had found when I came across another chimney not five minutes away. It didn’t look too hard from the bottom, so I began to climb it. This turned out to be a very bad idea, as not only could I no longer contact Clint and Bronwen to get help, but I couldn’t turn back when continuing up became terrifyingly difficult, the rocky handholds disappeared, and the chimney become nothing more than a slippery dirt filled crevice seeping water. My fingers went entirely numb, which felt rather odd and made it difficult to feel anything. As I couldn’t go back down, believed that Clint and Bronwen were climbing up another chimney and wouldn’t be coming to help me, and could see no advantage in staying still as I was never secure enough to feel that I wasn’t about to fall to my death, I had no choice but to continue up. There didn’t seem any point going slowly, so I actually made quite good time, climbing, scrambling, digging and pulling myself to the top. I came to love the all too few rocky handholds I found, having to rely on clumps of grass and digging my hands, knees and feet into the cold, wet dirt most of the time.
I arrived at the top—Mount Barney’s West Peak—wet, covered in dirt, numb, shaking, and alone. There was a lovely sun, which warmed and dried me remarkably fast, but there was no Clint or Bronwen. I walked to the edges of the cliff and cooeed but couldn’t get any answer. I figured they wouldn’t both have died at the same time, and I really had no other choice, so I sat on a rock and enjoyed the sun. Clint and Bronwen did eventually turn up, nearly half an hour after I’d arrived, having been unable to get up their chimney and using the one I had climbed.
We ate lunch on the top of the mountain before heading down the other side. After my traumatic ascent, I was in no shape to face a traumatic descent, so was very unhappy to find that the way down, while far easier than the way up, still involved some death-defying scrambling. In retrospect, it wasn’t too bad, but at the time, it was terrifying.
Once off West Peak, and after a short rest at the site of the old UQ Hut, we walked back down Peasant’s, which seemed like a highway after Savage’s Ridge.
It was just dark enough to need a torch as we made our way out of the brush at the bottom of the mountain and along the road back to Clint’s car, discussing the psychology of human relationships along the way. We met a man a few minutes after we began driving, who had left his mates up the road after one had fallen and hit his head, so we gave him a lift back to his car.
Photos by Clint Felmingham.
The drive home was uneventful, stopping at a supermarket for banana milk. Once back in Brisbane, we ordered pizza, which was hot and nice, and Clint read us selected excerpts from “Cosmopolitan” while losing his voice. Showering hurt, and the climbing portion of my walk was dreadfully terrifying, but now that it’s all over, I do have a nice sense of achievement.