Actually, there’s no such place, but I was reminded of a trip to Scwd Einion Gam, a waterfall in Wales, when I was struggling to conquer a certain mountain in northern New South Wales.
Many years ago I was desperate to photograph that elusive waterfall known as Scwd Einion Gam. As all followers of Welsh waterfalls will know, this particular spectacle is rather difficult to reach at the best of times involving numerous river crossings on an undefined track through brush and woodland and only accessible at relatively low water. The appointed day came along and armed with full photographic kit in my backpack, Wiffs (you know who he is!) and I set off for the one and a half hour trek along the glorious river of the Neath Valley. Eventually we came to the final hurdle, the ten-foot-high scramble up to the ledge below the waterfall; it had been raining the night before and the bank was extremely slippery and I have to admit I failed in the last few yards of our lengthy walk and had to contend myself with a view of the fall from down below. I was satisfied though, I had almost made it and the photos I took I was relatively pleased with.
And so it was that we, my brother, sister-in-law and myself found ourselves at the foot of Mount Warning, a spectacular tump of a mountain protruding out of the landscape near Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales, a short distance from the Queensland border. The notice at the foot stated it was 4.4 kilometres to the top and the last 200 metres were almost vertical climbing up the rock face face using a chain and footholds. The notice also advised to allow five hours for the round trip and only experienced hill walkers should contemplate the trek, particularly the last section. The managed footpath was all uphill, rising sharply up steps and steeply-sloping footpath over rock-strewn sections and tree roots to hinder one’s progress. As I was climbing, at a steady pace, I was thinking constantly of the summit section and whether or not it was going to be like my Scwd Einion Gam trek and I would be unable to find the strength to clamber the section. Eventually, after two hours or more of difficult uphill walking, past the four helicopter emergency rescue pads, only four seats on the whole climb, we reached the foot of the chain climb where we rested whilst waiting for a group of clamberers to descend. I forgot to mention that I had decided to take my camera with the 17-40mm attached and the 70-300mm in the bag. This really was a hinderance as the weight was bearing down upon my shoulders, my brother carried it for the second half of the walk for which I was grateful.
Right then, time to tackle the summit! No amount of words can describe the effort required to haul one’s self up that chain in the humid heat of an Australian afternoon in the springtime. Not quite vertical but probably 20º the path, if you can call it that, was a series of natural rock protrusions interspersed with shallow indentations carved by hand out of the granite with a chisel. Without the chain it would have been impossible and the photographs I took on the ascent really don’t do justice to the awkwardness and difficulty of the final assault.
Was it worth it? On arrival at the top there are a number of viewing platforms, a super-human effort to build them I’m sure, and the view under clear conditions would have been superb. It was very hazy so I fired off a few shots whilst fending off an army of flies all anxious to get at the sweat which was pouring down our bodies and realised that my (and my brother’s) efforts to carry my photographic kit were probably in vain as the little Canon G12 would have done equally well up there and only weighed a fraction. I’m satisfied though, physically it was quite an achievement and I’m pleased I did the walk. The extremely slow and laborious climb back down though was something else!