Wednesday 18 November 2015

Lord Howe Island Trip - Day 4

Day 4 - 18/11/2015 - Mount Gower Climb

It was an early start for me this morning as I was doing the Mount Gower climb and was meant to be catching the pickup bus at 7am for a 7:30am start of the walk. I was going by the clock in the Treehouse and I hadn’t realised that it was about 15min slow! I only realised when it was showing 6:50am and I happened to check another clock, so this made me already 5min late for my pick up. Luckily I was the first person to get picked up but I still had to sprint about 200m to meet the bus at the pickup point! It was already there waiting for me. So not a great start to the day. The legs were going to get punished enough without having to do a 200m uphill warmup sprint before the real work even started.

We picked up the other 12 people that were doing the walk and arrived at the southern most end of the island where the walk starts from at about 7:40am. After meeting the walk guide, Dean Hiscox, picking up our helmets and getting the formalities out of the way, we started walking at about 8am. Due to the heritage listing and nature of the island, you are not allowed to climb Mt Gower without a guide.

Looking North over the Lagoon from the start of the walk
The walk was going to take 8 to 9 hours to do about 14km. The reason why it was going to take that long to do that distance was because we were going to be going from sea level (0m) to 875m at the highest point on Mt Gower. There were about 18 sections where ropes are used to help you climb up over the rocks.
The approximate track we were going to take. The dashed line is for the path behind the ridge
The end of the flat road, let the punishment begin!

The reason why we had to wear helmets for the next section of the walk. Not that it would do anything if one of these rocks fell on you. 
Looking back towards where we started the walk on the beach.
Looking to the south
The views were just amazing
Where we were heading to. Still a long way to go!
Smoko break and a chance to refill water bottles.
Along the way Dean talked about some of the history of the island and the unique features of it and Mt Gower. The forest on top of Mt Gower is actually a mist forest and not a rainforest. The top of Mt Gower tends to be in cloud most of the time, hence it is a mist forest. The weather was good to us and it was the best weather we had had so far on the island. There was not a cloud in the sky and and Mt Gower was not in cloud so we were rewarded with some spectacular views.

Slowly getting higher
Mt Lidgbird
Ball's Pyramid
Just a photo trying to show the steepness of the climb.
Another one of using the ropes to help climb up.
I was carrying 3 litres of water, my camera which weighed in at about 2kgs, lunch and snacks. So I wasn’t exactly travelling light. At about a quarter of the way up I was starting to wonder if bringing the heavy dslr camera was such a good idea. Even though it was only about 2kgs it was starting to feel a lot heavier!

We made it to the top of Mt Gower by about 12:30pm. We had lunch with the best views that you could have imagined.  Click on the images to view larger versions of them.

Panoramic view from the top  
A zoomed in panoramic of about 6 photos. It gives you a good idea of how short the runway is!
Another one just because I lugged the heavy camera to the top. It was well worth the extra weight to get photos like this!
Our welcoming party - a Currawong
The steep clearing where we had lunch wasn't all that big and the 13 of us only just fitted in
A Lord Howe Island woodhen - flightless bird only found on LHI, hence one of the reasons for the World Heritage listing.
The mist forest
After a decent break we started the descent. The descent can take just as much time as the ascent, and it also tends to be a lot harder on the knees.

We stopped again at the creek where you could refill your water bottles. Even though I was starting to ration the water I had left by this stage I didn’t refill mine as it was too hard to get the bladder out of the Camelbak. We only had just over an hour to go from this point. However I did have a few handfuls of water from the stream. There are not too many places left where you can drink the water out of the streams without treating it nowadays. Some people did fill their Camelbak bladders but the design of mine wasn’t the easiest to get it out of the pack, and with my camera in the pack I didn’t want any chance of water leaking into the pack. If I was to do it again, then I would also take a small 500ml plastic water bottle that I could use to refill the bladder and it also would provide a bit more water capacity.

After the final rest stop beside the creek it was time to start the descent beside the rock face. Because it was now the afternoon and the sun had changed position, it was a lot hotter walking beside the rock face compared to in the morning.

We arrived back at the car park at about 5pm with weary legs. Everyone was glad that they had booked the bus to drop them back to their accomodation. Initially I was thinking of riding the bike down to the start of the walk, but now I was so glad that I hadn’t. The $10 return bus trip was money well spent!

On arriving back at the accomodation I found that Jodie was still out and about exploring the island. So while I was waiting for her to return and even though the legs were staring to stiffen up, I managed to walk down the hill to the shop to get some beers for the night, which were well earned! It also appeared that any sort of inclines/declines and steps weren’t going to be my friend for the next couple of days.

Because there was still plenty of light left in the sky by the time that Jodie retuned, we changed into our togs and rode the bikes down to the beach for a swim. Floating in the salt water helped my legs a bit. The ride down to the beach was easy as I was able to coast most of the way, but the trip home was a bit more challenging with the sore legs. At least by riding it was helping to keep my legs moving and stopping them from totally seizing up. The hardest bit was the hill back to the Treehouse accomodation. The locals dub it Cardiac Hill. With my legs the way they were there was no way that I was even going to attempt to ride the 1/2 way up it to the entrance to our accomodation. By the end of the week I was able to make it to our exit without having to get off and push the bike up.

That afternoon had the best sunset we had seen so far. It would have been good to be down at Signal Point again, but there was no way my legs were going to be able to make it down and back again. So I had to be content with the views from the deck while enjoying the well earned beers.

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