Yes, it’s been over a year since I last posted anything! But this latest adventure up Queensland’s tallest peak was worthy of a post.
The short story is we made the summit, but there were certainly unexpected difficulties along the way – the worst was the blood sucking leeches and a wet, slippery trail that went on and on through dense tropical rainforest.
We started from the Josephine Falls trailhead (an hour’s drive south of Cairns) and finished at the Gourka Rd trailhead near the Atherton Tablelands – a distance of 15 hard km and some 1500m elevation gain and loss.
Even though it was supposedly the “dry” season, we were soaked in sweat only 10 minutes down the trail. The humidity was intense! The gradient started off pretty flat until we reached this incredibly picturesque creek crossing.
But as is usually the case, with good comes bad, and our bad came in the form of one small, black, wriggly creature – our first leech encounter…
I was slightly disgusted and definitely grateful that I’d packed the salt. Thankfully we found that the higher up we climbed, the less of an issue the leeches became.
The trail really steepened up between the 3 and 5km mark (note that the trail is marked in 1 km intervals, and regularly with orange arrows or tape), and left us gasping for air. Especially since we were lugging up 15kg packs. The kilometres seemed to go by at a snails pace.
Towards the upper slopes we entered into the clouds which was cool at first – turned out they never left us though and we didn’t get a view for the entire trip! Unfortunately this is apparently quite normal.
With several more stops we reached eastern summit camp (7km) after 6 hours, which we thought was pretty good…until we met another couple of guys who did it in half that time! And they made the summit and back down in the day.
Rain looked ominous, so we quickly set up the new tent and bundled into it for the night.
Unfortunately the weather deteriorated overnight and we woke to rain lashing sideways at the tent. The decision was made to stay put for the day in the emergency shelter, and we boiled the water that ran out of the shelter’s drain pipe for drinking.
Also worth mentioning is my phone got reception at eastern summit camp so I could advise of our change of plans.
The final day on 15 July was a solid one. Light rain lingered around all day and made the rocky section between eastern summit camp and the real summit painfully slow! Every step had to be taken with such care so not to slip. The rocks were large in this section and scrambling skills were definitely necessary.
The summit was made 1.5 hours up the trail and then it was all downhill. The trail was less obvious on this side of the mountain, but we never made a wrong turn. And we didn’t make many stops cause we didn’t want to become leech lunch! Still, we both became lunch at some point…they got everywhere!
All in all, it was a successful trip full of new climbing conditions.
Funny thing was Matt found two leeches on his dirty clothes a full two days after the climb, 150km away from the mountain, after having gone through a washing machine…and still alive!