Book Research: Climbing a Mountain
The lengths I go to, or in this case the heights I went to do research for my book.
The reason being is there’s a pivotal scene in Neveah, climbing up Fingerpoint Mountain. Which is why I felt compelled to climb up a mountain myself. I’ve never done it before. Sure I’ve hiked up steep hills and done my fair share of bush walks but never up a mountain.
I wanted to really understand what is involved in making that journey up a mountainside. So I could be able to draw on this experience for the story. I needed to climb up a mountain.
I am lucky, in this respect, because I live near Mt Warning, a mountain formed from the core of an extinct volcano. Located about 12-14km from the country town of Murwillumbah, in northern NSW.
Named Wollumbin by the Bundjalung people, which means “cloud-catcher” or “weather maker”.
Which I guess is why I felt compelled to climb this particular mountain.
Neveah is a fantasy story about weather beings who control the weather over the Land Below. She is also the daughter of the Sun and Moon.
So mid-morning, on Sunday 25th April 2016, my sister, husband and I drove out to Mt Warning to make the climb.
Our way, the sun was shining but the mountain peak was surrounded by clouds. Again it was like I was meant to be there that day. When you read Neveah you will understand why this excited me.
We went in the ANZAC long weekend. ANZAC day is when Australians and New Zealanders remember our fallen soldiers of past and present wars. Lest we forget.
Turns out a lot of people had the same idea as us, so we had to park a fair distance back down the road. Well not realising that would screw us over when we got back down.
The trail itself is 9km and they say to allow 4-5 hours getting up and back. How hard could it be?
Well the first 1.2km is man-made paths and stairs of concrete. Not too bad but legs were burning by the end of it. Stairs are a killer.
The rest of the walk up was awe inspiring. The reason why I decided to make this journey. I was at one with nature snapping away with my camera at the lush rainforests, steep rocky paths and mountain-side. All so I could later describe these settings in my novel.
At one stage I was just elated. The magic of the spirits and fairies that surrounds Mt Warning was in the air.
(If you’ve never seen Fern Gully, the animated film, I recommend you do so to get this reference).
I couldn’t even feel pain at this stage, such was the adrenaline pumping through me. So it was quite a surprise to reach the halfway point.
Yes, I was making it. The stunning views as we climbed higher and higher were just breath taking.
Overlooking the Tweed Valley.
Absolutely beautiful part of the world.
Then we reached the lookout before the chains.
Now for this part I couldn’t use my camera. In hindsight I should have taken a photo at the bottom just to show you part of it, but there were too many people around.
Privacy Act and all that. So the camera was stowed away in the backpack that my wonderful husband carried for us.
So I'm going to have to describe this part for you.
The first part is not so bad. Use the chain to walk up the sheer and jagged rock face.
To be polite to your fellow hikers, you let the people going down, descend first. So then you wait for the crowd to thin out to make your way up. As we waited, a friendly hiker thought it would be nice to tell us not to use the chain when we reach the steep part.
We weren’t at the steep bit yet? Just climb up the left side it will be easier he said.
(The chain is on the right).
What he failed to mention is that everyone descending uses the chain. So you have no choice but to climb the rock wall. So I climbed. All along thinking that it reminded me of my childhood. When I was younger we used to climbed the many rocks walls Dad had built around our property. So I had an idea of how to climb without ropes or chains.
After we finished the rocky climb, the last 100 metres is just a goat trail of steep path and rocks. Grit and determination was how I got through that part. I’ll never forget spying the purple puffy vest my sister was wearing. She'd gone ahead so was waiting for us at the peak’s lookout.
I knew I had made it.
And what a view it was.
Clouds, clouds and more clouds as far as the eye could see.
Not really worth the exhaustion and near vomiting stage I had by now. But as I sat back drinking water and eating to regain energy I realised I was staring into clouds. The Sky Realm is basically made up of clouds and moon rock.
I had gained valuable knowledge on the trek up which is what I originally wanted. So I took a deep breath in and make the journey back down.
Now this was the fun part. While we had been eating our lunch, it had started to rain. Another bonus in my research. The rain wasn’t too heavy but enough to wet the rocks making the surface quite slick.
Getting down was more sliding on your bum, grasping at the chain, then climbing down. At one stage I was praying that I wouldn’t injury myself or kick someone in the head as I slid down. Getting volcanic mud caked all over my pants and shoes.
When we got back to the lookout I was so relieved. I’m pretty sure I said “It’s good to be alive.”
The rest of the journey down was me putting one foot in front of the other while trying to control my jelly legs.
Eventually we made it down. The relief washing over me again. Until we realised we had to walk back to the car. About 400 metres down the road. Which was a lot steeper going down then when we were walking up towards the trail.
Slow torture is how I would describe that walk.
But I am glad that I did it. The knowledge that I received was invaluable. I will be able to delve into these memories to describe a more detailed scene. Even using the slips and stumbles for an even richer story telling.