Sunday 9th July – Mount Barney
I’m lost. I’m bleeding. It’s dark. I’ve been walking for over twelve hours. There’s an impenetrable wall of prickly plants every way I look. I’ve only my small torch to see where I’m going. This wasn’t quite where I’d intended to find myself around ten o’clock Sunday night.
Walking down the creek seemed a good idea at the time. I’d been up and down “Peasants” (or South Ridge) with Clint before, so taking a new way down made sense. I knew it would probably get dark before I got out, but presumably, once I was out of the steep country, it’d be a walk in the park. Besides, this was the very reason I bought my new torch, and I wanted to try it out. I quite enjoyed it to begin with—the country was just the same as that which I was used to in North Queensland, and there certainly wasn’t any exposure—I was walking down a creek bed after all. Sliding down the steep cliffs facing the creek to get around waterfalls was about as steep as it got, and it was nice and cool and all was going well, until it began to get dark.
A rainforest creek bed is comprised almost entirely of rocks covered in places with slippery fallen logs and palm fronds—all the soil having long ago washed away—and is usually on a rather steep slope. This makes it rather difficult to traverse, as everything is slippery and it’s all too easy to fall, and if I do fall, it will probably be a reasonable distance and not soft—my head will land on a rock a metre below me. This isn’t normally a big problem, although it makes the going a lot slower—but once it begins to get dark, depth perception goes to sleep and it’s nearly impossible to tell if something is slippery, solid, or if there’s a lethal gap just under a palm frond. With this in mind, as dusk begins to gather, I begin hurrying—walking along the small flats beside the creek bed, avoiding the slippery wet rocks whenever possible. As it gets darker and darker, it becomes more and more difficult, and the top of the right ridge looks more and more promising—it looks much brighter and clearer up there.
Climbing up out of the creek is the obvious way to avoid the slow rocky peril I’ve got myself stuck in, and hopefully will speed up my progress. The climb is very steep—the bank is a wall of near vertical loose dirt with just enough trees and roots to allow me to pull myself up—none of which snapped, plunging me to my death on the rocks below. The top, which had looked so clear from below, is as treed as anywhere else, but at least it isn’t rocky.
The going is much faster now I’ve left the creek, but I’m not sure where I’m going. Clint has his GPS, but it’s still impossible to say exactly where I am—to an accuracy of seven metres—or where I should be going. I don’t want to find myself on anything too steep, so I’m trying to stick to what I hope is the centre of the ridge, but it’s very hard to tell in the dark. I follow what looks like it could almost be an old road—there’s a small band where the trees are slightly thinner, and it’s scrubbier and eroded. Unfortunately, it’s also harder walking, with hidden holes I fall in and roots to trip me up—and of course, lots of nasty lantana, mixed with wait-a-while and raspberries. After a while, the erosion becomes more obvious and I’m confident it is an old road. Sadly, the undergrowth also becomes more obvious, and I’m forced to revert to crawling and smashing my way through. It gets thicker and thicker, until it’s all but impenetrable. After I stumble across a suitably large leg-breaking hole, I decide I need to get out of this cursed undergrowth that grabs my pack as I’m crawling through it, and trips me up. There’s only one way out—down into the creek.
I smash my way back down into the creek. It’s not so steep now, but in the dark it’s hard to pick holes from rocks—especially as they are all covered in palm fronds. Fortunately, I don’t twist an ankle or crack my skull on any rocks, and after only a short walk down the creek, I find myself on a proper slashed forest track. My legs, which up until now haven’t had time to complain, now begin complaining volubly, and the cold, which hadn’t been game to disturb me before, now creeps into my bones. I shiver my way through two creek crossings—both of which, by some miracle, are crossable without taking my shoes off—and finally find myself back at Clint’s car, which is not only still there, but hasn’t even been broken into.
It all began early in the morning—far too early, given my recent tiredness. I set the alarm for five o’clock, but it’s half past by the time I pull myself out of bed. I find that it’s rather cold too. I gobble a quick breakfast, and pack my walking gear. Clint turns up just after six, and we drive to Mount Barney, where it is icy cold.
There are cars parked everywhere—obviously a lot of people are out walking. I hoist my pack, and head off—happy to be out of the city, in the bush, and particularly happy to find that the creek crossing is doable without taking my shoes off or getting them wet. Barefoot on the frosty ice-encrusted grass isn’t an appealing concept. I spend a few hours climbing up a steep track, rather uneventfully apart from when I am hit by a Clint-dislodged rock. I climb across a narrow ledge, with three hundred metre drops on either side, and walk past where Bronwen and I camped last time. Last time I tried going up South East Ridge, I turned back shortly after where we camped. This time, I don’t. It turns out that I had been over the worst last time, and was probably only half an hour from the summit, but didn’t know it. I don’t enjoy the scrambling, climbing and exposed sections, but I don’t die, so all is good.
I lunch just before the summit, snacking on “Light and Tangy” potato chips—in a strangely swollen bag, perhaps by the increase in altitude—and “In a Biskit” crispy potato munchies things. I had been followed up by a group of four or five men, who had overtaken me while I was having a break just before the worst section, and I meet another man on his way down while I am eating. He has climbed up the next ridge—Logan’s ridge—which is apparently harder than this one. I’ve already been to the summit before, as have Clint and Bronwen, so I don’t spend much time there, and begin my descent down the other side immediately.
Photos by Clint Felmingham.
Solo on the way home
It must have looked a little odd to the bloke in the supermarket. I hobble in, half-frozen, shivering and covered in blood, and buy a large, cold, bottle of “Solo”—but that “Solo” is the best I’ve ever had.