Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs (author)

Sunday, day 2 of our amazing Aussie road trip, dawned sunny and cool, a perfect morning to start our next hike. They were predicting rain for later in the day, so we got an early start and set off with a light lunch and 3 l of water. I have to say I was pretty nervous as we approached the base of the trail. My legs were still a bit sore from Saturday's climb and this hike was rated at a level 4 predicting a 3-4 hour return time. But with some true Canadian grit and spirit we set off at a slower pace than the day before, determined to complete this hike. We hit the halfway mark and met a couple descending already. They felt the weather was about to change for the worse and felt they had seen enough view. Andrew and I looked at each other and figured we had come all this way and were committed to finishing. The views were becoming more stunning and magnificent the higher we walked and I just felt that this was Sunday worship at it's finest. A song by Robin Mark came to mind and if you wish, you can listen here. Watching eagles soar and soaking in the beauty of creation was breathtaking. We reached the 3/4 mark and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to summit. Andrew graciously took my pack, hoping to encourage me to continue. Well, because of some Nickerson genes and sheer determination to finish, I carried on and we proudly reached the top - 1095 metres (or 3592 feet)! It seemed we were sitting on top of the world, marvelling at the stunning vistas in every direction. After eating a little lunch the reality hit that we had to start our descent. It was hard - one of the most challenging but satisfying hikes so far. I'm pretty sure level 4 is my top level and I will leave the level 5 hikes for the younger generation. By the time we reached the carpark, the legs were feeling pretty rubbery and I was hobbling back to the car, only wanting to lay down and not move for at least an hour.
 Our approach to Bluff Knoll trailhead - looks a bit formidable.

 This path doesn't seem so bad.

 Or this one, but you can see in the distance it's starting to go up!

 One of many photographed plants along the way - a gravel bottlebrush. The spring flowers were in abundance.

Ummm, really? - we're going up there??

 The clouds started moving in - should we continue?? Most of the trail books we read warned of quickly changing and potentially dangerous weather conditions.

Stair-master supreme! 

 Andrew photographed beautiful flowers, which gave me a break to bring my heart rate down.

 Nearly halfway up!

 The views were majestic.

 But the trail was still very steep and another 90 minutes of climbing.

 One of the skinks we saw on the trail. Thankfully no snakes!

A Banksia species. Western Australia is noted for its diversity of flowering plants and The Stirling Range alone has over 1500 species.

 And we did it!! Disappointment in the size of the sign, but happy to be at the top!

Level with the clouds - such a gratifying feeling.

 View from the top - the 3 'lakes' that you see are actually salt lakes. About 80% of Aussie salt is produced in WA. Plenty of sun to evaporate the water!!

It was so incredible to see this first hand. It makes you stop and consider the majesty and grandeur of creation.

 And the descent begins - see the car park way, way down and the distant wheat fields? Our lodging was just on the edge of the wheat field.

 Stopping for a closer look at mountain bells on the way down.

 Darwinia leiostyla - commonly called mountain bells. The genus is named after Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Some Darwinias are only found here in the Stirling Range.

And the happy but tired Jamiesons at the end of a very long (4 hour), hard trek. Love this guy that pushes me to accomplish things I don't think I can. 

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