The front door closed. Stillness. With our three energetic children out with their grandparents for the morning, a burst of freedom awaited. ‘To do’ lists nagged, but our local mountain, kunanyi, beckoned from the kitchen window. “Feel like a rock climb on the Mountain?” I asked my husband, Anders, as we packed away the breakfast dishes.
We were both tired, but this year I had promised to make more time for love, family, and the mountains. “How about walking the Exit Entry route”, Anders suggested. I consulted the local climbing guide, where I found the inventory for Exit Entry: ‘an easy yet exposed scramble’. A short walk then leads to the Pinnacle.
Perfect, I thought. And there would be no need to retrieve our rope and rock climbing gear from the upstairs storage. Backpack over my shoulder, thermos in hand and we were out the front door. I smiled quietly; we had escaped.
We parked our car on the Pinnacle Road below kunanyi’s spectacular dolerite columns, known as the Organ Pipes. As we ascended the rocky climbers track, I turned around to glimpse the bustling city of Hobart, far below us, through the eucalyptus trees. Responsibility, work and the chaos of family life swirled down there. But on kunanyi’s slopes there was a different rhythm. I breathed in the sweet smell of native flowers and marvelled at wonders small and large: the confetti of myrtle leaves across the track and the towering amphitheatre of rock above.
In the moment of commitment
I forgot about the 20 metre drop …
Black Currawongs circled overhead as we contemplated the exposed corner in front of us, our first challenge on Exit Entry. “You should go first, I’ll spot you,” Anders suggested. A sensible idea, I thought. Though I hoped he wouldn’t need to catch me. I calculated four moves at most before I could make easier ground. I placed my hands inside the crack above, wedged a foot high and pulled. In the moment of commitment I forgot about the 20 metre drop to the mossy ground below. I knew I wouldn’t fall. The dolerite bit into my platinum wedding ring and scraped the peak of my running cap. Perhaps I hadn’t worn the best attire for a kunanyi scrambling adventure. Before long I was smiling cheekily down at Anders from atop a pillar. “Don’t stand up”, he yelled. “I’m fine”, I called back. Though it was hard to contain the joy I felt from my solo ascent.
Climbing had been a shared passion many years ago. As friends we had spent weekends with taped hands and helmeted heads scaling the dolerite columns of the Organ Pipes. Then in the early years of our relationship we had travelled the world together in search of rocks to climb. We had spent more time in a tent than a house in those years. Anders even ‘popped the question’ atop a 300 metre sandstone cliff in the desert sands of Wadirum, Jordan.
And here we were nearly 10 years later, nattering, giggling and problem-solving as we had always done. Though perhaps a little more wrinkled, calculated and cautious, and definitely lacking any serious muscle power. Climbing was seductive. I loved the feeling of moving my body from one hold to another, the way it demanded your full attention, and the wild places and enduring friendships it had introduced me to.
Scoparia is renowned in Tasmania for
puncturing the packs and limbs of bushwalkers
As we scrambled up the final section of Exit Entry, I felt my foot slip. My hands searched the ground for something to hold. I felt thick leaves of Pineapple Grass and a spindle of Tea Tree but the sturdy root of Scoparia came to my rescue. I chuckled as I climbed past its prickles, for Scoparia is renowned in Tasmania for puncturing the packs and limbs of bushwalkers. The top of the Organ Pipes was almost in sight but as we rounded a boulder, another challenge presented.
I scanned the steep wall for a sequence of holds. Anders wasted no time. He started up the open chimney to the left and quickly gained the safety of a ledge. After a few exposed moves, he was topping out. My turn. “You’ve got this”, I whispered to myself as I pressed my body inside the chimney. Soon I was showing the ‘beached whale manoeuvre’; tummy over ledge, then body wriggling and flapping. I was laughing, though my confidence had melted. Noticing my unease, Anders talked me through the traverse and it wasn’t long before I felt my fingers grip the top of the wall. We had made it, all in one piece. Later we enjoyed a cup of tea, perched atop a boulder, just the two of us. It was magic. And the view from kunanyi’s summit always impressed.
As we meandered down the lichen-crusted boulders of the Red Dot Track to our car, I wondered whether our scrambling adventure had been a little brash. Would it have been worth it if something had gone wrong? It’s true, the game of rock climbing, is never certain, but the joy of overcoming fear and conquering a mountain is sweet. Taking risks also build resilience, trust and a sense of self. And I have learnt that taking risks is just as important as eating a balanced diet. Climbing mountains, whether rolling hills or alpine giants, is the risky endeavour that makes me feel whole.
My thoughts returned to the responsibilities of the afternoon ahead and snuggles from little arms that awaited. I had missed Lottie, Sidney and Arthur. Anders had too, for he talked excitedly about taking the kids up Exit Entry one day. Now that would be a family adventure.
I stole one last look up at the Organ Pipes as we loaded our gear into the car. I was sad to be leaving the stillness and beauty of this incredible place on kunanyi, but I knew we would return soon.
As we walked through the front door we were met with a chorus of “Mum, Dad …” Three children raced along the hallway to greet us and we all enjoyed a family ‘pile up’, snotty kisses and an excited banter of three- and five-year-old news. At that moment I knew our escape to kunanyi and scrambling adventure up Exit Entry had been worth it.
We had returned to our family refreshed, happy and fulfilled. Adults need time to exit the responsibilities of parenting and to play riskily (and I am not suggesting the bedroom variety). If not for the benefit of our own health, then for the benefit of our children, who need strong, confident and resilient role models as they learn to navigate the world. It may be awhile before they grant us another ‘exit’, just the two of us, to enter kunanyi’s playground. But in the meantime we will play outdoors with our children: climbing trees, exploring river beds and riding bikes.