Last night over dinner, I got to talking with Risa’s friend’s husband, Steve, and we decided to go for an early morning hike up Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt. Bogon. It was a perfect morning (seriously, it couldn’t be better) and we were out of the house by 8AM (which isn’t really early…). We left behind the wives and the children and indulged in some physical activity, and I was quite excited.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I used to be quite fit/healthy and then suddenly got tired. Doctors tested everything they could think of (I even had an operation on my sinuses hoping that was the cause) but came up with nothing and diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I learnt to live within my boundaries and didn’t push myself physically and a form of life went on. But, it’s become so hard to know now if I’m better or not as I still think that I’m the invincible 18 year old that I was before I got tired, not the out of shape and soon to be 32 year old I am now. I can generally handle occasional severe physical exertion, but I have no recovery – it feels like I haven’t slept.

I didn’t really know how far the hike was, but Steve had about four hours to get up and back down before he started work. I couldn’t believe how much colder it was here than back in town – I could see my breath. It was a two-kilometre walk from the car park to the start of the trail to the summit (Staircase Spur), which was a nice warm up along flat fire-trail. Then I realised why it was called the ‘staircase’ spur… It was another six-kilometres of persistent, incessant climbing. I was hot, sweaty and getting tired from carrying nearly 10kg of gear on my back. The worst thing was not knowing how much further we had to go… But, we kept on with one foot in front of the other. Eventually we popped above the tree line and we were treated with the most amazing view of the mountains all around us. Even though it was still a reasonable amount to the top, and the trail was getting steeper, I felt re-energised.

I wanted one last break before the final push, but Steve instead grabbed my camera bag and told me it was just a little bit further… and sure enough, 100m more of climbing up steep loose rocks, we were at the summit! It wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I thought it’d be less of a plain.

20131030_RCH_5232 20131030_RCH_5233 20131030_RCH_5238Steve had to leave right away (he had to get to work and actually ran back down), but I stayed up at the summit for a while just taking it all in. It was incredible, I just felt so … good (I need to work on my vocabulary). It was so perfect, no wind, no clouds and beautiful clear skies and mountains as far as I could see. The only way it could have been better if the mountains were snow capped… At just under 2,000m, this is the highest point in Victoria, and I certainly felt on top of the world. Have I mentioned that it was incredible? Because it was, and for me there aren’t many greater feelings than standing on top of a mountain and looking out on the world below, especially when you’ve worked so hard for it. The temptation was there to explore further, as always, but I resited.

20131030_RCH_5243 20131030_RCH_5246The walk up was quite brisk (again, Steve was short of time) so I didn’t have a chance to take any photos (I was too sweaty to hold my camera, anyway). So, free from time constraints, I slowly descended with camera in hand. The top section of the mountain was free of trees, so the views were spectacular. There were still lots of pockets of snow up here, which I find amazing considering the temperatures were quite mild and the sun was incredibly strong.

20131030_RCH_5259 20131030_RCH_5260 20131030_RCH_5268Eventually the trees do take over the mountain, and the view is lost. But, in a strange way, the trees that were destroyed during an enormous bushfire in 2006 also look spectacular. There was a strange beauty to it. And, the scale of the destruction was unbelievable – a strip of naked grey trees scratching at the sky stretching beyond the horizon. But, even though it looks dead and destroyed at first, looking closer you could see that the entire forest floor was full of hundreds and thousands of new trees not much taller than me. Bushfires are a natural cycle of life here in Australia.

20131030_RCH_5269 20131030_RCH_5262Half way up/down the climb there is a small hut which people use on multi-day hikes. It’s also used by skiers who use this as a base for ski hikes. It might not be that big of an area that can be skied and not a lot of vertical meters, but on a clear day, and with enough snow, some of the chutes would be great fun.

The rest of the way down was long, hot and painful. I couldn’t wait to get back to the car. But, it seemed to never end. It was steep, slippery and slow going. Even though it was less physical exertion than climbing, it was still very hard. After an hour of descent, my knees were screaming, but I still had a long way to go. I sat down and rested a few times, but I found that it just made my feet/knees stiffen up. I even came across a rather large brown snake (not saying it was a Brown Snake, but that the snake was a satin brown colour) which made me worry a little – if I get bitten, it will be quite difficult for me to let anyone know that I’m injured (not to mention the difficulty of getting out). I jumped over the snake and kept a sharp eye out on the ground for any more serpents, stomping on the ground in a vain attempt to warn the snakes that I was coming and to get out of my way.

The most frustrating thing on this climb was not having any status indication on the way, like a distance marker letting me know how far I’ve come and how far I have left to go – it really made the time go slower having no idea how much longer it would last for. Eventually I got to the bottom of the Staircase Spur and joined the vehicle trail back to the car park (2km). I can’t tell you how great it felt to be able to walk along horizontal ground again – I was taking great big strides like the B.F.G. There was a slight mishap with a wrong path and I had to cross a small creek, but it felt amazing to soak my bare feet in the cold waters for a while (not so good putting the socks back on my now sandy feet).

I saw Deli-chan in the car park and I was almost as excited as I was seeing the summit of Mt Bogon the first time! It was over! But, I didn’t see Risa or Tomoko and the girls. I sat around for a while thinking that they may have gone on a walk. They still hadn’t come back, so I thought that they might have just left the car for me, since I know where the spare key is. The only problem, and something that Risa wasn’t aware of, the spare alarm remote wasn’t in the car… it was at Steve and Tomoko’s house with all the other stuff that I removed from my backpack. So, even though I could get into the car with the spare key, I couldn’t stop the alarm or drive the car… And again, it was one of those times that I wish I was with Telstra so I could call her (or receive her message telling me that she’d gone back in to town and left the car their for me). At least I have a Telstra data connection, so used that to contact her via Facebook (it comes in handy sometimes!).

20131030_RCH_5273I thought that we’d be back down and finished by lunch time, which would give us time to pack and get moving on our journey. But, by the time I was back and had showered (necessary) it was already after 4PM. Hummed and haaared for a while, and decided it’s probably better to stay another night with Steve, Tomoko and kids in Mount Beauty. My stomach helped make that decision – a tin food dinner, or something delicious like what we had last night.

I was sore (especially my knees), but not as tired as I thought I’d be for such a big day of exertion. I went to bed still feeling on a high from today.