Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Redefining Mount Barney

I've always thought of Barney as one for the hikers, climbers and mountaineers; Definitely not a runner's mountain. It's just too steep, too technical, too big, and involves too much scrambling.

Without any intention of changing this perception, Ben and I set off jogging from Yellowpinch reserve at 3:45am. Soon enough, we turned right, on to the South-East ridge. Ben was keen to continue running while we could, but I knew what lay ahead. Better to leave it in reserve! He pulled away a few times, and I got a little frustrated; the conscious reason being that he could quite easily pick the wrong route, the subconscious being ego.

"OK, I admit that this is biomechanically unrunnable"; he let me take the lead and find the way. Before we knew it, we were high up on the exposed ridge, with the sun poking its soft rays through the clouds behind us.

Every so often, we just had to stop to take it in:

The ridge narrowed and widened and steepened and flattened, rolling along with an endless series of variations. The clouds were moving in and the rock ahead was wet. For now, it was calm and quiet.

Pretty soon we'd reached fun city; 300m drop on the right-hand-side obscured by a thin row of montane heath, sketchy looking slabs directly above. Up.

"Ah yes, this must be the really exposed bit"
"Oh no, wait, THIS is the exposed bit"
"Hang on, this is definitely it"

Out of nowhere, the wind picked up to a violent gale and with it came a surge of droplets. The vapour rushed before our eyes. Clearly, we'd reached the hallowed ground of the East Peak summit cone.

The ridge flattened. We passed the weather-beaten campground, and a crop of rocks lay ahead. I went in for the customary ground-kiss and pressed the split button on the Timex.

1:45:07.

I really didn't think that it was possible for us to climb Barney that quickly, especially considering that we were hindered by various factors; the weather and my lack of fitness/residual fatigue. Sub-1:30 is the new goal.

After a quick peanut butter sandwich, we resumed. The route down to the saddle was what it always is; steep slab-hopping, sketchy trail-following, and the customary off-route bush-bashing. This was where I hit my stride, brushing past and through spikey plants as if they weren't there. The tables had turned, and I was glancing over my shoulder, ensuring that Ben was close enough to follow.

We came out just North of the world's greatest picnic spot, and reached the Rum Jungle after about 45 minutes from the peak...about 20 minute per k pace.

Now, on to Peasant's Ridge, curious to see how much we could run. Again, my experience on this type of terrain gave me a large advantage; I slip-scrambled quickly down the rocks, pausing every hundred metres to ensure that Ben didn't get lost. Down the chimney, and Peasant's portal.

Before I knew it, were were back on entirely runnable terrain. Weaving through the dense forest, cautious foot placement gave way to reckless abandon. We were going to go under four hours; but the question was, by how much?

We crossed mystery creek and the landslide. The jungle thinned, the eucalypts reappeared. single track became fire trail, and Ben flew past. It was a joy to watch this master of the dirt road open his stride, and I was enticed to follow. I ran as hard as I could to keep close, but with only a few kilometres to go, I knew I was at my limit. I let Ben go ahead, and slowed to a jog.

Across the Logan River, over the cattle gate. As I entered the paddock, the entirety of the mountain presented itself on the left. Its peak was obscured by clouds, but its majesty was still undoubtable.

I passed some hikers, grunting hello above my laboured breath. The final uphill was ahead, and then the final downhill. I took it pretty gingerly; the quads were veritably pulverised.

The car park now lay directly in front, with Ben perched atop a rock.
Touch the gate.

3:26



Another great experience in a very special place.

On the drive back, Ben and I discussed what sort of time was possible. Although we were going at a fair clip in places, much time could be shaved.
Carrying a backpack instead of a handheld: ~10 minutes.
My lack of fitness on the uphill: ~15 minutes.
Ben's lack of confidence through the thick bush/down the rocks: ~15 minutes.
Getting off-route down from the peak: ~10 minutes.

So, with a bit of a taper, a little more experience and less gear, something around 2:30 seems feasible.

As it turns out, Barney might just be a runner's mountain.

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