Jade and a few of her mates wanted to be the first people in Australia to see the sunrise one morning, so they climbed to the top of Mount Warning near Byron Bay for Explorer Challenge #34. Here’s her story…
It was a 1am wake up call and a quick bite to eat and soon enough we were on the road heading towards the NSW boarder. Joining me for the adventure was my sister, my partner and best friend. Mount Warning was our destination and we aimed to be up the top of the mountain by sunrise. We wanted to capture what it was like to be one of the first people to see the sunrise in Australia; as it’s known to be the first place in Australia to be hit by the sun each morning!
We were making good time; it was sometimes difficult to see the road with the amount of fog around. It was roughly 3am, we were on a dirt road not suitable for my little Ford Fiesta, and fog surrounded us. We had just passed a shed that looked half abandoned. To be honest it looked like a scene from a horror movie. All we needed was the music to change dramatically! The road became a lot more ridged and suddenly my Little Ford became a 4WD. I stopped the car, wondering if I should continue or not. With limited mobile service we had no idea where we were. Shortly after we came to a dead end. By now we had no mobile service and things weren’t looking that great. In the distance another’s car headlights were approaching and fast. This is when the horror movie scenes started to creep back.
Luckily enough it was another family in their 4WD also lost. Thanks to Google maps! Where is this huge mountain? We were all left thinking. We turned around and started to retrace our steps looking for a sign we may have missed. Time was going by quickly. We questioned if we should drive to Byron Bay, the most easterly point of Australia to watch the sunrise. While retracing our steps my sister who was in charge of getting us there gained a little service on her phone, and apparently we were back on track.
It was just after 4am when we arrived at the car park. It was full! I didn’t think so many people would be up already. We were running a little behind, and of course we had to stop and use the toilet before starting. (Note: this is your last chance to use the toilet). Finally we started the long anticipated climb up.
Well something like that. It was still pitch black so we had torches in our hands and our iPhone flashlights (thank goodness for iPhones!) It’s a fair walk. 8.8 km to be exact. We got to a point in the climb where there were some rocks. I climbed the mountain with my parents as a kid. I remember their being some rocks we had to climb towards the end, so I thought this was it. I packed my phone in my bag, which meant packing my source of light away too. Turns out we just climbed over two rocks and still had a fair way to go, it was at this point of the climb I was wondering if we were going to make it to the top for sunrise. I was also wondering why I didn’t eat more carrots.
Lucky for my eyes it started it to lighter by the second, we surely have to be there soon. We came across a sign 400m to go! YES, we are nearly there. It was the longest 400m I have ever experienced, it was a sheer cliff face of just rocks. It’s a vertical rock wall, slightly slippery from the morning dew and the only thing you have to hold onto is a chain.
It was a timely climb, its pretty scary at points, and there was a bit of a traffic jam. This is where the real teamwork showed through, all of a sudden strangers are encouraging and supporting one another. Looking directly up I still couldn’t see the end, I definitely had forgotten about how long and steep the last part of this scramble to the summit was. Had we missed sunrise? I didn’t care at this stage; I just wanted to make it to the top… safely!
We finally reached the top, we achieved the climb together. Walking to the first vantage point to see if we had missed the sunrise I was shocked. The amount of people squished onto the platform, you couldn’t see a thing. I quickly moved past and found a vantage point. We hadn’t missed sunrise, we got our cameras out and got our settings ready struggling to move our dials, as our fingers were frozen cold. It didn’t take long to cool down from the venture up here.
It was a moment of awe as we watched and captured the sun rising. It was rather quick and I wasn’t ready to face the climb down just yet. Our stomachs were rumbling though. A few more photos were taken including some selfies and we searched to find warmth from the sun.
Soon enough we had to go down, so we faced it head on! I think going down was more terrifying, if you slipped you would fall. We took it nice and easy. Another member of the public was climbing down, he had music playing from a boom box in his bag, surprisingly the music made us all feel a little more at ease, I think it distracted us.
400m down, only 8.4km to go! We took a few stops on the way down to capture more from the vantage points, now we could see the breath-taking view. They say it takes roughly 5 hours to do the whole thing. Unfortunately, my best friend had a fall on the way down, not 1 but many and on her last one twisted her ankle pretty badly, she is a tough one though so we found a walking stick and she hobbled her way back to the car. So understandably we took a little longer. (Her ankle was black and tender for the next week.) Back by10:30am, what an adventure!
It was worth the climb and great to see people working as a team and encouraging one another.