For years now I have been telling my family and friends that I wanted to climb Mt Warning in Northern NSW, just across the border from Queensland. My husband and kids have climbed this beast of a mountain a few times and told me I would need to be fitter before I took it on. So this year for me has been about getting fitter and healthier and I truly believed I was ready for the Mt Warning summit challenge!
The perfect opportunity arose whilst my daughter was staying with us during her holidays and the weather was still a little cool. So we decided to head off on the first day of spring day a month ago now, and drove the 60 km to the base of Mt Warning in the Wollumbin National Park. It is a pretty drive across the border into the lush “green cauldron” region of New South Wales. The drive takes you along the Tweed River, through cane fields, the town of Murwillumbah, past dairy farms and finally into a rainforest.
Wollumbin is the aboriginal name for Mt Warning National Park and actually has sacred significance. Mt Warning is an extinct volcano that erupted around 23 million years ago and stands 1,156 metres tall. The pointed rocky tip of the mountain stands out for kilometres and is somewhat of an icon of the Border Mountain Ranges.
Captain Cook named Mt Warning in May 1770 to warn future mariners of the offshore reefs documented. The mountain is now protected by the surrounding Wollumbin National Park and is an important area of the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia.
Believe it or not, climbing the mountain is discouraged out of respect for local Aboriginal lore, but thousands of tourists take on the ascent and it is a big tourist attraction for the region. Wollumbin – Mt Warning is for part of the year the first place on the Australian mainland to experience the sunrise, so climbing the mountain to watch the sunrise is ever popular.
Interesting fact: Mt Warning was named by National Geographic as one of the 10 Best Mountain Climbs in Australia.
The air was decidedly crisp as we started our ascent up countless stairs and my lungs were burning already, even though we’d only ventured a small way up. The walk is 9 kms return and can take between 4 to 5 hours with a 30 minute break at the summit. After hundreds of stairs the path becomes rocky and I needed to watch every step to prevent turning an ankle or worse.
As I wound my way up through the rainforest the temperature became cooler and cooler. I was walking under the canopy of giant trees and could hear the call of the Whipbirds every so often. As I scaled higher there were many spots where I started to get glimpses of the magical views back over the Tweed Valley and coastline. I began to wonder how much further we had to climb, so as people were descending I began to ask them how much further. Encouragingly, most said “not much further now. Keep going”.
Eventually, after an hour and a half I reached the bottom of the last little bit of the climb, and that was the 300 metre rock scramble to the summit. I knew this was going to be the most challenging part for me as the steepness of the rockface loomed before me! Fortunately there is a chain for support and you can virtually pull yourself up the rockface once you get the hang of it.
I think every muscle in both my legs and arms (from pulling myself up by the chain), were burning and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Eventually I made it to the summit, where my husband and daughter where waiting on one of the viewing platforms. I’m not sure of my exact words, but I think I said something along the lines of “Far out! That was absolute murder”.
But those 360 degree views from the summit were heart-stoppingly beautiful and very soon my adrenalin level surged and I marvelled at what I had just achieved. I was so proud of myself for overcoming my fear of heights and disbelief in myself as being incapable of climbing this beast.
I could see the Gold Coast Hinterland and Northern NSW stretched out before my eyes, as if I were a bird flying high above the patchwork landscape. The Tweed Coast and the blueness of the sea was also evident. We had chosen a perfect blue sky day for the climb. I found that the views from the top are made comprehensible by maps in each direction informing you of what you are seeing.
The summit of the mountain is strangely flat on top and is well equipped with seats, that are a welcome sight once you have spent an hour or more of leg-burning exercise! We rested for a while, drank a litre of water and ate some snacks, before starting our descent back down the mountain. If I thought walking up was hard work, then the walk down was even more intense on my tired aching legs. Once I reached the bottom carpark my legs felt like jelly!
So I had conquered the beast! We all returned home for a well earned rest and later on a soothing ‘Radox’ bath. Yes my legs were incredibly sore for about a week afterwards and walking down our stairs was murder! But I had this feeling of euphoria for days because I had challenged myself and taken my fitness to a new level.
Challenges take many forms. It can be climbing a mountain, running a marathon or simply embarking on a new career. Tell me how have you challenged yourself recently?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.