There is something about climbing a mountain. Remember the Abottess in The Sound of Music singing to Julie Andrews, “Climb Every Mountain….”.
I am not sure what all the reasons are for climbing a high peak, but recently I accomplished this and figured out two reasons why I did it and enjoyed it.
I recently made the journey to ascend the tallest peak in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia. I love the place. I and my family have often been through the ranges and camped there on several occasions over the years. That red ochre coloured ancient rock and the river system with all it rugged beauty and harsh history has been a great source of enjoyment and reflection over the years.
The famous circular crater looking part of the ranges is at a place called Wilpena. It is called the Wilpena Pound because it was used as a natural ‘pound’ for livestock by the early settlers.
One thing I have never quite gotten around to doing was climbing the highest peak in ‘The pound’. St Mary’s peak (Ngarri-Mudlanha) is 1,168m (3800 feet). I know that is nothing compared to the great mountains of the world, but for me, it is high enough, and the view from the top is stunning enough too!
It was an early start. Near 0 degree night in the one man tent. Up at dawn for a quick cup of tea and some porridge and a banana. On the 19 km track by 6.45am. Beautifully still. Sunny morning. Green tinge from recent rain. Ice melting, Kangaroos feeding in open country. Birdsong in the wooded areas across the 12 km’s of The Pound to the start of the climb proper.
I could see how the early settlers thought they has struck gold when they came across this place when it was in a seven year abundance. It reminds me of all that vision I have seen of Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks in those US movies and TV shows. This place at full bloom without the damage of introduced animals and livestock would have looked as stunning. But, it has another side. They found out that harsher side. The usual cycle of drought came. Not so good after all! It is a harsh place too.
Easy walk. But now harder. It was a long 5km ascent. A couple of times I wondered why I was doing this! I guess any attempt to see or know something good has this moment attached to it.
It was all worth it. What a view. I could see the whole northern Flinders Ranges from up there – in full sunlit early Spring view. I took my time and savoured the achievement and the view. And maybe they are the two things we like about mountains?
I knew the trip was only half finished. There was a hard part to come. Coming own is often harder on the body than going up – or at least it is for this body – especially the knees.
The shorter track down is short because it goes straight down! 8kms of hard rocky descent that really got this old body groaning. I had that moment again – the one about “Why am I doing this?”.
But I got to the easier flatter last part of the trek and back to camp.
Why do I like climbing mountains? It is the achievement of pushing one’s self to some kind of limits and it is the view.
There is something good about choosing to test yourself out. You choose it. It is not forced. There are no excuses and you cannot hide from yourself. You find things out about yourself when you subject yourself to a test – where are my comforts and how much do I rely on them and is this good for me and my relationships? What can I actually achieve? What can I actually do? Somehow the challenge is a learning thing.
And then there is the view. Somehow you are lifted out of your little life and shown a big one. You are taken from your individual self-absorbed way and placed within a much broader longer life that many have lived. You are re-introduced to the magnificence and the diversity of life on planet earth as you watch the hawks glide in the thermals looking for their next food target – but from way up high; from their view, not yours….
There is something about climbing mountains, whatever they be – small, large, actual or internal or relational. Testing yourself in that ‘climb’ shows you things about yourself and gives you a view you could not have without summitting that peak.