It's on at last!
It's on at last! My wife, Melanie, has been trying for 2 years to arrange for someone to look after our 2 boys who are both under 4, while we climb it. Getting a baby sitter to start at 5 am is no sure thing. Finally my father who is visiting from interstate, assumed the role of nappy changer.
The three of us, including a long time friend from Melbourne, have agreed that tomorrow, the 4th of January 1999, will be the day that we scale the spectacular Mt Warning. Mt Warning, Wollumbin*, the cloud catcher, is the basalt plug of the world's largest and oldest extinct volcano. We have been sitting around for days on end, hoping for a break in the weather. We've become so impatient that we are almost prepared to climb the mountain in the rain.
Hopping into bed the night before a climb is quite exciting... knowing that finally the weather is looking good, and if all is fine in the morning, Mt Warning will feel my footsteps and the rainforest and its teeming wildlife will see me for the 8th time!
Australia's best views
One of Australia's earliest and most famous explorers, Captain James Cook, named this magnificent land mark Mt Warning in respect of the dangerous shoals he encountered off shore. Mt Warning is, in my opinion, one of Australia's best climbs and walks. If fine weather prevails, it rewards its lucky climbers with unquestionably Australia's best views.
In the distance to the north you can make out the skyline of the urban, electric Gold Coast, and to the south, Australia's most easterly point, Byron Bay.
To the east is the great South Pacific Ocean and to the west, the green mantle of the rainforest. The viewing platform provides 360 degree views and takes in some truly spectacular land marks.
The unfortunates who have never made the heart pumping hike to the top think I'm crazy for having climbed this awe inspiring piece of history so many times. What they don't know is that this mystical mountain has strong connections with the inner psyche and incredible powers that seem unexplainable.
Take the name 'Cloud Catcher'. One might think that Wollumbin got its name due to it's sheer height alone. On just about any given day in our lush tropical and sunny region, even if there are no other clouds in the sky, you will find a smattering of clouds hovering directly above the massive core of Mt Warning.
When my batteries really need a recharge, there is no greater source of power to be tapped into than making the arduous trek to the summit.
Photo right: © David Palmer. Mt Warning looking east
I've never felt more alive than when I'm sitting perched on the very peak of the mountain, over 1000 metres above sea level and I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, before any one at any other place in Australia.
Due to it's height and position on the east coast, Mt Warning catches the first rays of Australia's morning sun.
It's Monday the 4th January 1999, 5.30 am. I awake to the sun streaming in through my bedroom window. My feet hit the floorboards with a feeling of excitement. Today is definitely going to be the day! I quietly wander outside and take a better look at the weather. My 80 foot verandah which over looks the Tweed River at Tumbulgum in the far north of NSW gives me the opportunity to see all of the morning sky.
We were hoping to be up early enough to catch first light at the top of the mountain, but to do this would mean a climb in the dark starting at 3 am. To the inexperienced bushwalker I would strongly recommend not attempting this on your first climb. In any case, only attempt to climb the mountain in the dark if you have adequate flashlights and spare batteries as well as a couple of buddies.
Andy and Melanie are soon up and we sip fresh coffee on the verandah and down a substantial breakfast. Then we finalise the preparation of our gear and supplies. To go unprepared is like swimming against the tide. It can be done but not by non swimmers. If you have any medical illnesses such as heart problems, back problems or are just plain unfit I would suggest you consult your doctor before setting out. This climb, after all is over 1000 meters (3,280 feet) and very steep!
What to take?
Water, water and water. I would not consider taking any less than 2 litres unless you have good rationing skills (willpower) and you enjoy being hot and thirsty. After heavy rains you can come across fresh mountain water but don't count on it. Carry a day pack on your back for water, camera and film and maybe lightweight binoculars. A hat, sun screen lotion, and some fresh fruit or something else light to eat are essential. Depending on your experience with bush walking and your capacity to carry weight over a long distance I would travel as lightly as possible.
Wear strong, comfortable, lightweight shoes such as bushwalking shoes, cross trainers (not tennis shoes) or walking boots. Blunnies (Blundstones), Australia's legendary work boots are fine. Loose clothing is a must and depending on the weather a light raincoat. Please remember there are no bins on the way up or at the top so what you take in with you MUST come back.
It amazes me each time I climb, the number of people who attempt to climb the mountain un prepared. They start out in dress shoes, thongs, or flimsy sandals and wearing heavy clothing like jeans. If you cannot start the climb by lunchtime give the hike a miss.
Due to the density of the rainforest it gets very dark very early. Our local rescue teams do not delight in saving ignorant unprepared mountain climbers who set off at 3 pm with no flashlights, no water and inadequate experience in the bush. The walk is 8.8 kilometers (5.5 miles) and you have to allow 4 to 5 hours for the round trip. Being halfway down, surrounded by dense rainforest with no food, no water and no light is not much fun, especially if it starts raining as well.