Soon enough it was Wednesday evening and a feeling of trepidation spilled across the group. Thursday morning was to be the walk up Mt. Sonder…in the dark to view the sunrise. The briefing spelt out our schedule, “so going backwards from our sunrise at seven-thirty” Jordie announced “means I will wake you all at two fifteen…..” Any special requests for the wake up call ? We’d already had a very lifelike rooster. Most were too stunned to answer, all gulped the last mouthfuls of their dinner down and excused themselves to squeeze in an extra few minutes sleep before the human alarm clock.
Not long after our wake up call ? zips started to pierce the silence and the cold confirmed it would be many hours till the sun rose. Clad in every layer of clothing I could put my hands on and with a cyclops-like head-torch blinding anyone I looked at, we stood in a circle sipping piping hot coffee before boarding the bus for a short trip to the start of the climb.
Seventeen lamps lit the night, the clarity of the head lamps defining every rock along the track. We walked briskly even though it was a fairly steep start, as much out of need for warmth as enthusiasm.
We stopped regularly to reconnect and to watch in bewilderment as Ben stripped off layers of clothes till he was down to a t-shirt and a short sleeve summer shirt. He made me shiver simply looking at him. His exposure was surely challenging the intensity of the icy winds or his sanity? Our stops were to align our arrival at the summit with the first beam of sunlight peaking over the horizon. This also ensured we simply didn’t shiver to death waiting for the sun to show its face. Our guides timed it perfectly, a thin line of red, orange and yellow heralded the new day.
We shared the summit with no others. We celebrated our arrival with broad smiles or was that teeth chattering? Our climb in the dark had given us little understanding of our climb and as we stood there the surrounds slowly became clear. The shadow of Mt Sonder began to stretch out like an upturned ice cream cone across the plains below. We celebrated with a thermos of coffee and chocolate Tim-Tams, such an Aussie salute.
Photos taken, high fives complete we turned our backs to the wind and started our descent back to camp. A very different walk, we could see for gods sake ! There was a feeling of a much longer walk, remarked most back at camp. It was if the darkness had played games with our ability to measure distance with no points of identification just one foot in front of the other.
Back at camp the smell of a cooked breakfast greeted us, add the fact that we’d finished our days walk mid morning had everyone wearing a grin full of achievement. Breakfast disappeared faster than a wedge tail eagle demolishing road kill. Another great day on the trail.
Special mention to our guides, Ben, Michael, Andy and Jordie for letting us focus on walking whilst they took care of the other business, always with a smile. Thanks guys.
I travelled with World expeditions on this trip. A truly memorable experience.