A True Mountaineer

Hi everyone! Once again, very sorry about my gap in updating this blog; waiting in airports are pretty much the only time I’m immobile these days and forced to sit for a while. Can’t complain about that! My friend Kathleen and I have been traveling through New Zealand and Australia for 2 months now! We left end of February, and are currently on the beautiful east coast of Australia. We headed here after roadtripping around Tasmania, home of the infamous Tasmanian Devil (a rodent I actually find slightly cute) and one of the most rugged places I’ve ever been.

We did a bunch of hiking in NZ back in March, and “Tassie” was no different. The most challenging one by far that we’ve done (in my opinion) was in Tasmania: summiting Cradle Mountain. And I have a quick little story I want to share about it…

The hike was in the northern end of Cradle Mt – Lake St Clair National Park. It began with a vertical climb to Marion’s Lookout. Kath and I had to grip chains cemented to the sides of the rocks lining the trail to pull ourselves up to the top. From the lookout you can see Cradle Mt. looming in the distance; the walk through marshes and bush towards the mountain is flat and laid-back, only once you get to the shelter at the foot of the mountain do you realize how steep the trek really is about to get.

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Cradle Mountain, as seen from the start of the hike at Dove Lake Carpark

It was the first time during a hike on this trip that we both have been nervous to continue, even though we had done other similar tough ones. We just knew our hiking comfort zone was about to be seriously shaken up.

I’m not even scared of heights and I couldn’t look down while we climbed higher and higher. The mountain was not crowded but we did come across some hikers; most were in their own worlds like us, concentrating hard and making each step deliberately and carefully. We looked up and saw an older man coming down as we went up; we smiled and nodded at him. He continued moving, but spoke.

“I hiked this mountain on my 42nd birthday,” he said. “And today, I’m hiking it for my 72nd.”

We were speechless. First of all, this man was basically a mountain goat; his descend looked almost effortless. And secondly, he had the biggest smile on his face while telling us this. Despite the long hike, despite the boulder scrambling, sharp rocks and sudden drops, this man was 72 years old and had summited an over 5,000 foot mountain.

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The mountain’s rough terrain

Kath and I kept shaking our heads and just repeating “wow” for a long time. This quick but significant encounter made me think of my grandparents and how they are still seeking out adventures around the world, traveling with friends and having the best time doing it. I am so happy and grateful to have a family who loves and embraces the world as much as I do, and I am so thankful to have met this inspiring man. I hope he’ll be back at 82, just as cheerful, just as determined.

I will always remember him and hope he somehow knows how much he inspired two backpackers, who were not nearly as graceful, but just as excited as what lay ahead.

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Finally reaching Cradle Mountain’s summit, at 5,068 feet

Have you had any eye-opening experiences while on a hike? Feel free to share any stories in the comments!

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