I was six years old when my spirit for mountaineering first revealed itself. It was an event that nearly ended my life.
Surprisingly, when I return in my mind to the memory of that crisp winter morning, I encounter no pain, only a mechanical sequence of events. The emotion from that day has been drained over the course of the last 20 years, leaving only a dry visual reel.
It begins with my brother and I walking through the woods. It was cold, being the beginning of winter and we could see our breath in the air. Our hands were in our pockets, in an attempt to keep them warm.
I can no longer remember which one of us got the idea first. The cliff towered over us, sticking out high above the forest floor. Our feet kicked up the dry leaves as we strode through the trees, strangely attracted towards the sheer rock.
We both knew we were going to climb it, even before we agreed to it. Our sense of adventure was burning high and we were keen to pit our muscles against the cliff to see if we could conquer it. Our task was simple; we had to get to the top.
We commenced the climb strategically, me climbing first, my brother spotting from below. Being much stronger, he had no trouble supporting some of my weight as we began moving up. Soon we were hanging onto bare rock and the ground was far below.
I remember that it was difficult, and that I was scared. We were less than halfway up, yet my arms were tired and I was relying more and more on my brother to hold me up from below. With his help, we climbed on.
My brother slipped without a sound. Without his support underneath me, it was as if I was trying to cling onto thin air. I fell swiftly and tumbled to the ground in jolts.
My head hurt and my brother had a scared expression on his face. He picked me up but I screamed too loud about the pain in my head. There was blood on the rocks.
I spent five days in hospital after my head was stitched back together. I remember Mum sitting beside my bed. On the second day she brought me a plush puppy whose collar said ‘I love you’. I didn’t speak English at the time, but I knew what the words meant.
I was released the day before Christmas with an impressive scar on the top of my head that I will always carry around with me.
My scar is a personal reminder that venturing into the unknown always entails an element of risk. By acknowledging and assessing these risks, we are able to reduce the danger they pose to us. If we ignore them, the consequences may be serious. I was lucky enough to learn this lesson when I was six years old.
Although the risks associated with any mountaineering venture may be great, the reward is even greater; discovery. Through stepping outside our comfort zone, we not only discover new places, but also come to appreciate the inner workings of our own minds. Often, the greatest obstacles that need to be overcome are not physical, but hidden in our own heads.
The stories you will find here on Mountains of Australia speak not only of exploring mountainous wilderness, but also about the process of self discovery. I hope to share my belief that we have a lot to gain by pushing our own boundaries and stepping outside the world we are comfortable in.
Please, take a look around and welcome to the wilderness.
Snowgum at sunset, The Bluff, Victorian Alps