Today I reunited with fellow ICAer Bec for a climb to the top of Mount Warning. Situated just over the border from Queensland in northern NSW, it lay in our path as we drove home to Beenleigh, and since Bec had picked the weekend (after many aborted schedulings), I knew I couldn’t cancel on her.

Mount Warning is 1,156 metres high (3,793 ft) and is the first point in Australia to see the sun’s rays. Intrepid climbers walk the track before dawn in order to see the sunrise. And when we arrived at the car park very early in the morning, there were already cars in place — presumably with their occupants up the mountain.

Parked at the base of Mount Warning, October 2010
From the car park at the base of the mountain, you can see the rocky peak through the trees.

Indigenous Australians have long called their sacred mountain Wollumbin which means “cloud catcher”, but its English name comes from Captain James Cook who noticed treacherous reefs off the eastern coast of Australia at about the same time he was parallel with the mountain. (I wonder if Captain Cook might have had a more pleasant name like “Mount Sunrise” planned in the five hours after he first sighted the peak but before he had to change course because of the reefs.)

Delaney, 9 months old, October 2010
Dell came along with me for the ride, balancing my backpack of camera equipment and water nicely.

The walk up the mountain is a well-formed track with variable surfaces. It’s rated as difficult 9km trek with 4-5 hours needed for a full ascent and descent.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
The track started off with a series of steps that were quite steep.

By the time we had reached the first signpost that marked our passage of 0.4 km, I wondered if this climb was a good idea. But Bec and her friend K were accommodating, and we rested regularly.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
The leafy track wound around fantastic rainforest trees twisted with vines.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
It's very well maintained — fallen trees are cut and pushed to the side of the track.

Whenever I saw evidence of maintenance on the track, I silently thanked the individual who had carried a chainsaw up the track to benefit visitors like us! Some heavy materials would have been dropped via helicopter, but all the tools would have been carried up by hand (and then carried back down again at the end of the working day).

Scrub turkey, Mount Warning, October 2010
There's a certain bush turkey that lives around a rest stop about halfway up the track. Bush turkeys are very territorial, and whichever one conquers this section of the forest gets tasty morsels from friendly tourists.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
Other parts of the track were more treacherous, and we had to watch our feet carefully.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
Sections were clearly reinforced with rocks in order to prevent erosion.

I tried to encourage Bec to take lots of pictures so we would necessarily slow down. I didn’t take any photos on the way up — I was too focused on just surviving the ascent!

Mt Warning track, October 2010
I never tire of seeing moss growing in profusion. Australia is such a dry continent so it's relatively rare.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
As we climbed higher, the track got drier and the trees around us changed.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
Boulders covered with lichen, ferns and lianas — a beautiful rainforest walk.

The main track is four kilometres long. The last 400 metres is a near-vertical climb up the rock face of the the mountain’s peak. The rock is the remnant of a volcanic plug, and its surface is broken with lots of hand-holds.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
A chain is held by fence posts bolted to the rock to help with the final ascent.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
This weathered tree branch has been worn smooth by thousands of weary hands who have grasped it to help themselves climb higher up the rock.

By comparison with the last 400 metres of scrambling, the first four kilometres is a walk in the park. The final section is a very difficult climb — probably easier for small children than adults because you have to use all four limbs.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
Dell had a good ride, but the climb tuckered me out!

Mt Warning track, October 2010
The chain-climb is a form of prolonged-torture. You never know how much further you have to go until you reach the very end.

But the chain did finally end, and the final little twisting climb was easy in comparison. We were rewarded at the top with a beautiful, clear sky.

Top of Mt Warning, October 2010
What a relief! We made it!

At the look-out platform, there’s a camaraderie among the climbers. New arrivals are greeted with smiles and congratulations. Everyone agrees that they’ve done a marvellous job in reaching the top. If only we could bottle that good-will and distribute it to everyone at the base of the mountain, it would change the world!

At the top of Mt Warning, October 2010
What a view! We could see out to sea.

Mt Warning track, October 2010
Delaney wasn't as interested in the view — she just wanted to catch herself a bush turkey!

It was during the long descent that I finally brought out my camera and took some photos. (Some of these photos are from Bec, who was named a runner-up in the Capture Queensland photography competition — scroll down ‘Warringa Pool’ in the category My Queensland Life.)

At the bottom, we all enjoyed a quiet victory rest. We know that we would be sore tomorrow, but the sense of accomplishment was all we felt at the time.

David and I climbed up and down again years ago in about three hours, but I’m sure it’s grown since then… it took us five and a half hours to make it back down. We did take quite a leisurely pace, enjoyed several rest breaks and took lots of photos.

Thanks so much for sharing your walk with me, Bec & K! Shall we do it again next weekend, then?

Near Mt Warning, October 2010
While I was up the mountain, David and the three older girls played in this pretty valley.