The leaves rustled in the trees above me as the breeze cooled the sweat on my skin. My shoulders began to ache from the full pack I was carrying as the ground under my feet began to steadily rise. It was time to take a break, and I dropped my pack down on the leafy ground and found a nearby log to sit on to rest my tired muscles. All I could hear was nothing but the sound of the forest, and I sat in peace and reflected on how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place.
I was currently in Mount Barney National Park in South East Queensland, Australia, and was on the trail to the summit of this rugged and remote mountain. So far I had trekked through farmland at the base of the mountain, before crossing the ford on the Logan River and entering the forest on the other side.
I stopped at the picturesque Cronan Creek for a bite to eat before entering onto the trail along the south ridge of Mount Barney.
The track had begun to rise steadily, first at a comfortable incline with flatter sections that wound through the forest. Now it was getting tougher and steeper, and rather than walking, it was more like climbing a rocky staircase.
I picked up my pack and continued on my way up the mountain, slowly climbing up the steep ascent, carefully placing my feet to avoid slipping and twisting an ankle. There were now no longer any flat sections of track, it was just straight up with lots of obstacles to conquer.
First up was a steep rock face with only a narrow crack to use for climbing. With my full pack on and my walking poles now packed away, I climbed the rock by wedging my feet in the crack and using my free hands to lean against the surface. It was tedious and tiring, but I soon found myself at the top.
Next, after more steep climbing was a chimney cut into a large boulder. It looked more like a steep natural stair case with steps that were made for ten foot tall people with tiny feet. Balancing on the narrow steps, I pulled myself up using what ever hand holds I could find, all the while fighting against my pack that wanted to pull me off balance back down the rock face.
My legs burned and my chest pounded as I reached the top, but there was still a long way to go. The track just kept climbing and climbing and seemed to get steeper with every step. Just when I thought that I had reached a flat section, I entered into another steep climb.
With the extra weight of my full pack, my legs now protested with every step. I was tired but determined to make it to my campsite.
Just when I thought that the climbing would never end, I finally reached a point where the track began to head downhill. I knew that I was now finally heading into the saddle between the two peaks of Mount Barney, and I was close to my campsite. With renewed spirit I almost bounded down the steep slope and entered into the pocket of rain forest known as Rum Jungle, where I would camp for the night.
The saddle itself acts like a funnel on windy days, and although the forest kept me fairly well protected, it still chilled me down to my bones. Even in the warm subtropical climate of Southern Queensland, I had to put my thermals on to keep warm as I sipped a hot cup of tea.
The sun went down almost instantly, the thick rain forest canopy blocking out any remaining light. As I sat on a rock and cooked my dinner I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned around to find a pair of possums approaching me to see what I was having for dinner.
The pair wandered around my campsite and disappeared into the forest on the other side, just as another pair of possums entered the campsite. Before I knew it the first pair was back in the picture, hissing and shewing the new pair away. This was obviously their territory, and they figured that if I was going to share my food with anyone, it should be them.
I watched in wonder as they investigated my campsite, seeing if I had left any food unattended. With no luck they came right up to me to check out what I was cooking. Both of them even came up and leaned against my leg and I was able to scratch one of them on the neck as if it was a cat. These cute creatures had no fear of me whatsoever.
Eventually they gave up as I packed up my gear for the night, and disappeared back into the forest.
I was tired from the hard day of trekking and fell asleep quite quickly, only to be woken up by the same pair of possums scratching on my tent. Later, I was again woken up as the wind got stronger, roaring through the trees and sounding like large waves crashing on a beach.
When morning finally came, it was too cold to eat my breakfast outside, so I had to cook and eat my porridge in my tent. There was no way that this was going to stop me from climbing to the summit though, and as soon as I was energised, I set off on the climb.
After crossing the stream near the camp, I exited the forest and picked up the trail that leads to the summit of the east peak of Mount Barney. From here the trail is much rougher and overgrown, though easy enough to follow by keeping an eye out for the bright pink tape that previous trekkers have stuck on trees and bushes to mark the way.
Although my legs were tired from the day before, I was energised and feeling much lighter without my full pack on. Again, the climb was steep and my walking poles proved useless as I needed my hands free for climbing. On several occasions I had to half rock climb up exposed rock faces, all the while the wind was relentless, threatening to blow me off balance.
Pushing through the scraggly wind swept vegetation and exposed rocks, I had excellent views across the saddle to the west peak of the mountain, and as I looked up at the east peak above me, the sun started to pop out as it rose from the east.
Although the climb was difficult, it didn’t take me long with my light load. Eventually, after more rock scrambles, I pushed through some overgrown vegetation to find that the terrain was flattening out, I was finally on the summit. I found the marker on a rock that marked the highest point and sat there, looking out at the incredible views with that familiar feeling of accomplishment. That feeling is what mountain climbing is all about, along with being in such a beautiful part of the world.
I could have sat there with those views forever, but with a long trek back home ahead of me, I soon had to head off back down the mountain to my camp, and then down the steep trail and rock climbs to my car.
By the time I got there I was truly exhausted, but felt privileged to have been able to experience this beautiful rugged mountain. This is a climb that I will never forget.