At an altitude of 1,672 meters, Mount Speculation is a reward to behold after an arduous ascent.
Located in the Alpine National Park of Victoria, in Australia; Mount Speculation is one of the many mountains in the Alpine region of this area.
That famous phrase "Walker, there is no path, one makes the way when walking" is perhaps one of the most convenient phrases when it comes to climbing a mountain. Each step counts to reach the goal, each breath of air, each strategic stop to regain strength ... all aimed at one goal: The summit.
As mountaineers and hikers we know that the great rewards are not only at the top, but every step of the way in every tree, every landscape along the way; and it is that the beauty of nature surrounds us, and although it may sound illogical, the path is what dictates how comforting it is to reach the summit.
First target: Koonika
After escaping from the daily routine of the city and work, we headed to Mansfield after about 2.30 hours of driving from the city of Melbourne; where we agreed to meet the hiking group for an energetic dinner now that more than 90% of this state's population has been vaccinated and restaurants have opened with far fewer restrictions.
It is a good opportunity to help entrepreneurs to recover their businesses and to relieve some tension from so many confinements due to the issue of the pandemic. And why not? A well-deserved beer among friends as a reward for a week of effort at work.
Our first night we have spent in a Trailer Camp in tents or in our vehicles, because the real task begins when the sun shines at 6 am.
A good breakfast, and a drive in our ATVs of about an hour take us through dirt and gravel trails after passing through the entrance of the tourist area of Mount Buller, until we reach Mount Speculation Road where we left the cars parked for the start of the day.
The flora of the area is perennial grasslands that last all year round, and thanks to the recent rains, it has grown significantly, which turns the path into just a tenuous line to follow, and that at times is lost if you do not pay due attention.
For the eye avid for colors and views, local flowers are not large, but what they do not have in dimension they have in beauty and aroma. The area is impregnated in the morning with a sensation of dew and perfume of small flowers such as the Anemone Buttercup, the Marigolds, among mosses and ferns that decorate and hang from Eucalyptus trees.
The weather, which had been forecast for rain, has given way to give us a cloudy morning, but with no slippery or muddy roads from the rain.
What happens when you don't stretch before doing intense exercise.
The initial ascent begins with a steep incline for several kilometers, and within the first hour, due to not having stretched before starting, I have suffered an abrupt strain on my calf.
The intense pain, and the muscular contraction are intense. So I decide to stop and apply a little massage to relax the muscle; and especially a few minutes of rest to let the muscle relax and return to its position.
The tour leader made the decision to take my backpack to lighten the weight for a couple of kilometers and redistribute the content among some members of the group. Although my ego doesn't take it well, my calves do.
In a short time, and after having applied a compression bandage and a little ibuprofen, the muscle responds to the rest of the challenge; and the focus of my attention is on the first challenge of the day: Koonika
Mount Koonika has an elevation of 1,522 meters; And while it doesn't sound like a big challenge, the ascent to its top is significantly complicated.
Cliffs on each side, and a trail that consists mainly of large rocks, make the path get lost at times while it complicates it. It is necessary at times to use a compass and map to ensure that the route is not diverted.
After a couple of hours, we suddenly find ourselves with an almost vertical wall of rocks, not suitable for those who suffer from vertigo or fear of heights.
The hiking poles are set aside, so that you have free hands and feet to climb and anchor yourself to every possible anchor point. Have good hiking boots having enough grip is very important to ensure the best support.
In single file, but keeping a safe distance, we have managed to overcome this first stone wall, only to find another new wall a couple of dozen meters later.
With almost the same degree of difficulty we managed to overcome this new natural obstacle to go around a hill with a mound of stones which obviously has no way of being overcome without ropes and anchors. We make this detour carefully because the path is only a few steps wide with the danger of a fall to the bottom of the mountain.
As we pass this segment of the road, about 20 meters of quite steep ascent brings us a little closer to the summit of Koonika, and after passing it, a winding route opens up to our view followed by a slight ascent to the top of this mountain.
The feeling of achievement when seeing the cluster of rocks that decorate the top of Koonika as a representative landmark, fills us with good adrenaline.
A well-deserved break for lunch in the middle of the mountains is rewarded by rays of sun that break through the clouds to warm us and dry our sweat.
The breeze is light and refreshing, the fresh air fills the lungs. The feeling of peace and silence is hardly broken at times by the laughter and joyful comments of the fellow travelers.
As a tribute to the mountain, I place one more stone on the pile that marks Koonika's highest point. A way to leave my presence marked by hundreds of years to come since I managed to overcome this obstacle, and as a north for those who want to follow this healthy lifestyle.
Viewed from Koonika, Mount Speculation gives us its side face; And although it seems to be close, we still have a couple of hours to walk to reach our base camp.
The most difficult has been overcome, the rest of the path through the Australian alpine range is winding, and although constantly climbing, it does not have the degree of incline or difficulty that we have overcome.
Skirting the hills, after a while the path gets lost again, and one of the hikers, Sal, must again use the map and compass to find a way back to the Speculation Track. A momentary descent through the dense bushes, we managed to find the road that will take us to the camp.
The pure water of the mountain.
One of the things that I personally enjoy the most when I go for a walk in the mountains is being able to drink water directly from the rivers. In particular, the water in the Australian Alpine region is refreshing and pure.
Being able to fill a bottle and see completely crystal clear and cold water reminds me that nature provides us with everything we need, and that we must protect the pristine and healthy of water sources for the enjoyment of generations to come.
After recharging the Camel Back with about 3 liters of water to hydrate during the night, and enough to cook; We walk uphill for another 30 minutes to what will be our home in the saddle of the mountain range.
It is already 4.30 in the afternoon, and we have walked since 9.30 in the morning almost uninterruptedly. The legs need rest, and the body a little support.
After setting up the tent and organizing the equipment, she decided to make an instant soup to warm up her body; because the temperature begins to drop abruptly thanks to the clouds that surround us.
The mist surrounds us and charges the environment with humidity. The change of coat is necessary, both of coats and gloves and a hat to warm us is necessary.
Lightly loaded, and a little more relaxed, we dined from our dehydrated food sitting on the edge of the stones overlooking the valley. There is no fancy restaurant that has a better view than this!
One of the members of the group has brought in his backpack some Shiraz wine, a luxury and a prize at the same time for the effort.
Night falls slowly, and before it gets completely dark we retreat to the tents. In the middle of the night it seems to rain, but it is really the dew of the clouds that condenses on the branches of the trees, dripping tirelessly on the roof of our tents. The sound is relaxing, the latent fatigue; the impending dream.
Mount Speculation: What a prize!
The mountain schedule is not dictated by the hands of the clock, but by the sunrise. And after a warm and relaxing night in the sleeping bag, they have removed the stigmata of muscle fatigue.
I personally have a rhythm to get up on the mountain. I like to stay inside the tent with the door open while I prepare breakfast, absorbing the morning smells and enjoying the silence of the mountain.
A hot coffee, and a copious breakfast for me are necessary to face the rest of the road that awaits us.
Unbeknownst to me, we had camped just a few meters below the summit of Speculation, and still surrounded by clouds, we left the camp and our backpacks behind to summit only about 500 meters away.
I have no words to describe the beauty and spectacle that I have had to experience: To rise from above the clouds to the top totally sunny, like breaking a thin cotton veil towards the sun.
The scenery changes radically, the temperature rises, the colors light up, the eyes must adjust to the intensity of the sun's rays.
The road to the summit is full of yellow and orange colors of the little flowers that decorate the floor of the mountain.
When you get to the top, the view is just amazing. 360 degrees around mountains and valleys, all surrounded by clouds that fall like waterfalls and embrace the tops like rivers of an almost ethereal, ghostly but magical material. I have never seen such an effect until now, and the feeling of peace is overwhelming: How beautiful is nature!
After taking some time to absorb a bit of beauty and heat from the sun's rays, we went down to the camp to collect our backpacks and start the descent that for 3 and a half hours took us abruptly towards the cars.
The use of hiking poles To avoid losing your balance and looking for support points on the descent is essential.
The knees hurt a bit. Going down calmly but constantly looking for footholds is part of the strategy.
Again the weather changes. The clouds dissipate, and the sun's rays penetrate above the treetops to warm us up a bit.
As we change altitude, the flora changes, notably in the size of the flowers that, as we go down, can be seen in greater dimensions.
Seeing the cars in the distance is inspiring, especially when you find yourself sweaty and without having bathed for a couple of days. Certainly the only mountain smell that I appreciate is that of nature, not mine after such a task.
This is one of the routes that I will certainly keep in my memories, and that I will repeat at some point.