Date: Sunday 13/07/2014
Weather: Cold and Wet (25mm)
Distance covered 15.8km
Start: Redbank Gorge
Finish: Redbank Gorge via Mt Sonder
Did we mention that it was forecast for rain? Lets put this into perspective. The Milford track in NZ has an average rainfall of just under 600mm during the month of April (The month we were over there). Alice Springs only has an average of less than 16mm for July!
At 4am with headlight torches ablaze (due to a thick cloud cover, there was no sign of our full moon!) we made tracks. Whilst we carried extra clothing and wet weather gear, we had headed off in mild temperatures wearing only a T-shirt and spray jacket.
An hour into our ascent of Mt Sonder the cold front came through. The temperature plummeted and the rain came with it! With poor visibility and no place to shelter, we made the conscience decision to push on, if anything, just to keep warm. My original estimates of the 3.5Hr climb had us pushing to make it before sunrise. Sunrise? For some warped reason, I still thought we had a chance of seeing something? We kept on with the rain stinging our faces and the cold creeping through our extremities, estimating we still had a good hour of climbing ahead before reaching the summit and nothing but a black abyss surrounding us, Jenny was informing me that she didn’t think we could go any further and we must be nearing the top!
In the pitch black (where was that moon! or sunrise for that matter!) we had reached the summit of Mt Sonder in less than 2.5hrs. It was then that we felt the full impact of the cold. Taking what little shelter was on offer, we layered up with all available clothing and battled for 10 minutes just to get our merino woollen gloves on our frozen hands before stuffing our faces with trail mix. Whilst the original plan was to cook up our breakfast at the top, this was quickly dismissed as it became completely inpractical when one cannot feel their hands. We needed to get food in fast and then get moving again.
From pitch black to a misty wet morning, it was like someone flicked on a light switch! We descended the mountain in the light, now seeing how close the track was to the edge of cliffs! It was a novelty to see where a few hours before we had ascended without any visibility!
Spurred on by the thought of a hot chocolate and hot porridge we made it back to base alive and with most of our extremities now defrosted!
Now that was adventurous! It was time to return back to Alice Springs to catch up for our last decent meal with our tramping party and check in to a warm hotel where we could dry everything out before we hit the trail proper!
Note: Alice Springs had over 25mm of rain (more than the monthly average) and the top temperature only reached 10DegC making it one of the coldest days on record!