We wake early, 4:45AM. It’s alright, we went to bed early. Rest is the best preparation. Today, we climb Mt. Bartle Frere, the highest peak in all of Queensland. 1,650 meters of granite and cloud forest. It is a formidable challenge, but our minds are focused like honed steel.
It is quiet as the solemn faces roll into the Center to feed. In silence, bellies are filled, bags are packed, boots laced and tied. It is early, but there is no sleep in our eyes; anticipation shines through them like spotlights.
We file into the vans like firefighters under siren. As the cars pull out, the eagerness sharpens. We are Vikings in their longboats, rowing towards their next pillage. We are marines preparing to storm the beaches of Normandy. We are cosmonauts rocketing through the stratosphere.
We leave the trailhead and don’t look back. The climb is treacherous to say the least. Hand over hand, foot over foot. We cling to roots and vines as the earth gives way beneath our feet. It’s a steep climb, vertical in parts. We scale fallen tree trunks and cut our way through vines. Leaping from mossy boulder to mossy boulder, we scarcely have time to look down into the dark chasm below. Sweat pours down our faces, mixing with rain. Wait-a-whiles and razor grass grab at our flesh as we charge through seemingly impassible thickets. We lose more blood to the leeches, which we stop to remove every twenty paces. All the torment passes by unnoticed. Our heart and our feet stride towards the goal. “We have a mountain to conquer,” I think as I swing across a highland stream on a dangling liana.
There it is: the summit. We drop our bags and scramble to the top of the boulder that sits atop the peak. This is it. The highest point in all of Queensland. The edge of the world. The culmination of all our effort. We stand to peer over the edge to behold the wonders of tropical Queensland from its most Olympian peak. This is the seat of the gods, the pinnacle of rock and earth, the zenith of our world and existence! Our eyes turn up and out, dilating in preparation of the most tremendous view our young eyes have ever beheld!
I guess that’s where they get the “cloud” in “cloud forest.”
Photo: Drew Sorenson