There are many variables to consider when you hike. Some, like gear and company, you can control. Others like weather and ill health, you can’t.
I’ve hiked to the summit of Bluff Knoll twice and both times were entirely different experiences.
Bluff Knoll is a 6km return trip hike rising 1095 metres above sea level and it’s SPECTACULAR.
The first time I climbed The Knoll I tackled it with my folks. We arrived at the base at 10am ready for what we anticipated would take us 4.5 hours given that my mum has dodgy knees. Yep, dodgy body parts run in the family.
The initial track is wide and undulating and very deceptive given what I now know lies ahead. It lulls you into a false sense of security and for a while my mum and dad happily chatted away as we walked. The trail soon gets narrower as the incline really begins and looking up at the formidable formation the happy chatter behind me soon became exasperated “what have you got me into” sighs. That was when I knew they probably wouldn’t make it.
The moment when you let the gravity of your situation overwhelm you, you’ve lost. The people who succeed are those who have a healthy respect for the challenge but laugh in it’s face anyway.
Admirably, mum and dad continued until about the halfway point where you can look down at the carpark and laugh at the ant colony imitation that occurs with all the coming and going of vehicles. They admitted defeat but I couldn’t turn back.
Leaving my folks to wander back down at their own pace, I set my sights on the summit.
Bluff Knoll is known for it’s unique and fast changing weather conditions and on my first summit it didn’t disappoint. What started as a fresh, sunny day at the base suddenly changed once I reached the southern side of the knoll.
As soon as I turned that corner the clouds descended to the top of the knoll and I found myself hiking in heavy fog which soon gave way to relentless rain. I swapped my sunglasses for a rain hoody and I pressed on.
The terrain changes from red rubble and tall trees to black, slick slate and low-lying scrub. By the time you round the Bluff you’re thankful for the plateau on the other side and you can start to enjoy your accomplishment as the end of the walk trail comes into the distant view.
Sadly, on this occasion, given the weather I was robbed of the outlook and ultimately spent less than 10 minutes at the summit since I was concerned that my parents might get caught up in the rain so I descended back down happy, but not really satisfied.
As a side note I also jogged much of the southern section to reach my folks as soon as possible and as I rounded the top of the Bluff on the long, uneven steps I actually lost my footing and fell momentarily off the steep side of the trail, gratefully arrested by a tiny ridge.
Don’t be an idiot. Respect the risks.
The second time I climbed The Bluff was about twelve months after my first summit. This time, accompanied by a guy I fancied, I had a point to prove. Unfortunately, I also had an angry tooth and ill-fitting shoes.
My terrible footwear ensured that every step was heavy and abrupt and every time my foot contacted the ground my tooth jarred away from the gum. Pain. Incredible pain.
Being the pig-headed woman that I am. I wasn’t going to let that stop me and I hid my pain as best I could (read: I whinged a lot) and pressed on.
On this occasion the weather remained beautiful. My hiking buddy “The Overzealous Hiker” spurred me on and while his enthusiasm was infuriating in light of my pain it was the main reason that I overcame some difficult circumstances and made it to the top.
On a beautiful day the summit view was just perfect. We could clearly see out across the other peaks in the immediate area and all the way to the southern coast. We spent an hour at the summit enjoying the spectacular display, our pre-packed picnic lunch and small bottle of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay.
These experiences were both entirely different but were both great for different reasons.
Don’t wait for perfect circumstances before you set off on your hike.
I certainly don’t think that setting out on a 40 degree day is a good idea but if you are waiting for a mild 22 degrees, with minimal cloud cover, light wind speed on a long weekend where your hiking buddy is actually available and your lucky hiking undies aren’t in the wash… then you’re missing out on some amazing experiences.
Get out there. Today.