9am – 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.
I 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.