Lost on Liebig (1)
The Quart Can
[While Mr. B and his son, Matt stayed back at camp, three of the T-Team faced the challenge of climbing Mt. Liebig.
Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.]
Dad parked the Rover at the foot of Mount Liebig. ‘This will be our reference point,’ he said pointing to a rocky outcrop.
I took a photo of the mountain slopes bathed in deep orange reflecting the sunrise.
Dad hoisted the pack on his back and studied the peaks. ‘Now which one is the highest?’ He squinted. ‘I think it’s the one on the right, I’ll just check.’ He took out his binoculars and adjusted the focus. ‘Hmm, I think I see the trig.’ He lowered the binoculars. ‘Oh, yeah, you can see it without them.’
‘Where? Where?’ I grabbed the binoculars, and before I even lifted them to my eyes, I spotted the thin line on top of one of the peaks. I pointed. ‘Yeah, there it is.’ I gave the binoculars to Rick to look through.
‘I can’t find them,’ Rick said.
‘Come on, we must get a wriggle on, or we’ll be hiking back in the dark,’ Dad said.
Dad’s dream to climb this mountain was to be fulfilled. Ever since he had lived and taught in Hermannsburg in the 1950’s, he had wanted to venture way out west, to conquer this mount which is 1274 metres (about 4179 feet) above sea level.
We commenced scaling the hills filled with prickly spinifex and scrambling down the valleys of loose rocks. We reached the gully leading to the peak in no time.
‘Hey, Dad, this is easy!’ I said. ‘We’ll be up and back to camp in no time.’
‘Oh, no!’ Dad moaned.
‘But, Dad, I thought you’d be pleased.’
Dad turned around and peered at the ridges we had traversed. ‘I’ve lost my quart can.’ He tottered down the slope, his gaze darting at every rock and tree. ‘I put it down to get something out of my back pack…now where did it go?’
Rick rolled his eyes and then raced up the gully like a rock wallaby. Nothing was going to stop him reaching the summit for morning tea.
I called out to Dad. ‘Let’s climb to the top. Maybe we’ll find the quart can on the way back.’
‘Very well, then,’ Dad said as he paced back to me.
While Dad mourned his loss, we continued to march up the steep gorge that we hoped would lead to the summit.
Halfway up, we rested under the shade of a ghost gum.
‘The other side of the slope is a two-thousand-foot drop,’ Dad remarked.
Rick and I contemplated this fact as we sucked slices of thirst-quenching lemon and gazed on the foothills sloping up to Mt. Liebig. These hills shaped like shark’s teeth, were a miniature replica of the mountain’s formation; slope on one side, and treacherous cliffs on the other. Lemons, though sour, actually tasted sweet.
Refreshed, we continued our plodding upwards. My shins ached from hiking up this steep incline. My ankles itched from spinifex needles lodged in them. And the growing number of boulders around which we had to manoeuvre, proved to be a challenge. But we pushed on.
We reached the top of the gorge.
Dad peered up at the eight-foot high rock wall. ‘Hmmm.’ He looked stumped.
‘Now what?’ I asked.
Each side of us was a wall of rock blocking our way. One side, lower than the others, led to the precipice Dad mentioned before.
After studying the walls, Rick grasped a few nooks, and then mounted the rocky barrier. He wriggled up a hollow cranny.
Dad and I waited.
The wind whistled through the gap.
‘I hope he’s alright,’ I said.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Dad replied.
‘I hope he doesn’t fall off the cliff.’
‘No, he’ll be fine. Stop worrying.’
Rick poked his head through the hole in the wall above us. ‘I’ve found a way to the top.’
He then helped Dad and me up through the hole and led us through the labyrinth of a path between the boulders to the spinifex-covered mountaintop. A cairn of stones adorned with a rusty pole and barrel marked the summit.
‘Look at that,’ Dad said, ‘It’s only eleven thirty. Let’s stay here an hour and enjoy the view. We can have an early lunch.’
So, while enjoying our cheese and gherkin sandwiches, we sat on the cairn and feasted our eyes on the aerial view of the landscape below. The MacDonnell Ranges and Haasts Bluff far in the east were painted in hues of pink and mauve. And closer, south of the Liebig Range, Mt Palmer and her friends were clothed in shades of ochre. North, on the other side of Liebig, the land stretched out in waves of red sandy desert.
Rick decided to explore the summit. I watched him like a hawk, especially when he approached the edge of the cliff.
‘Don’t get too close, it’s a long way down,’ I said tottering after him.
‘What do you think I’ll do? Jump?’ Rick replied, with his usual hint of sarcasm.
He disappeared behind a bush.
In a panic, I followed him, making sure I stayed a good distance from the cliff edge. ‘Rick? Are you alright?’ I peered down at the land below, the shrubs and trees seemed like dots. The sheer drop gave me the creeps. ‘Rick, are you still with us?’
Rick emerged from the other side of the bush. ‘Can’t you leave me to do my business in peace, Lee-Anne?’
‘Hoy!’ Dad called.
We looked to see Dad waving at us.
‘Get back from the edge!’ Dad said. ‘We better get going. See if we can make it back to camp by two.’
We picked our way through the maze of boulders and climbed down into the gully. Rick, eager to reach the rover first, raced ahead. Dad stuck with me, offering his help as I negotiated my way down the gully.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature painting: Mt Liebig © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981
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