Saturday 31st March 2012
9:00 am - Started in the rain, accompanied by a bushwalker setting off on the Horse Track for a day walk. The weather soon cleared up and we soon parted company at a junction, as I laboured up to Crater Lake. One thing was abundantly clear; I was going to struggle!
Many would argue that an ambulance ride to the hospital, complaining of chest pains, is not the ideal preparation for a long distance walk in an alpine environment, and I would agree. Yet there I was a Saturday night, a fortnight past, sampling the delights of Hillingdon A&E. Supporting cast to my “episode” were a stabbing, a mugging, an allergic reaction, and a guy in handcuffs wearing just his boxer shorts and a pair of police officers as accessories on each arm; it was all quite captivating!
Fortunately, after five hours waiting to see a doctor, I got the all clear; ECG was normal and the pains were muscular and stress related, which eased the mind a little. Subsequent trips to my GP were also made, including a NHS Health Check, now that I am considered to be in that risky age bracket. The outcome was nothing that would come as a surprise to any that know me; cholesterol could do with lowering, and some weight loss would most definitely not go amiss.
So here I was, taking a break at Crater Lake, pondering my next move. My pack, at 19kg, seemed a burden too far for someone in my physical condition and i wanted to turn around.
“OK” I thought; “I can go to the foot of the climb of Marion’s Lookout and see how I fare.” That would, at least, allow me the option to nip down to Dove Lake car park if I was still in this negative frame.
There she was, the infamous climb; reputed to be the hardest obstacle on the track. I might as well take a look. I took it gently, steep steps, many stops to look back and admire the view (and the occasional gasp for air!), before reaching the chained section. Negotiating up this section was a boost, and before long I was up on the lookout, at 1223m.
I had my first view of the terrain beyond. Seven years ago,I could see nothing but cloud. Now I could see Cradle Mountain, Dove lake, and in the distance,Barn Bluff.
Onwards, across the Cradle Plateau, the Horse Track walker passed me on his way back, and wished me luck.
Stopped at Kitchen Hut for lunch, the scene of my little hypothermia incident many years ago, no such worries today!
I saw many day trippers heading up the path to the Cradle Mountain summit, but as I went on around the western shoulder, the cloud closed in and the temperature began to drop, and I hoped that all of them had the sense to turn around and call it a day. The rocky traverse through low level bush went on for an age, and I longed to be back out onto the open moor.
At a junction for the Scott Kilvert Hut turn off, a sign said Waterfall Valley was one hour. Across Cradle Cirque with a renewed vigour, on a stretch of welcome boardwalk, and within ten minutes, I saw another sign that said only half an hour! At this rate, I would be there in another ten!
The descent down was as I remembered; uneven, muddy, slippery and jarring on the knees.
I arrived at around 2:45pm, the first for the day. In all, I was joined by five others that night. As it turned out, it was to be the only night where I had to endure the delights of others snoring…