Not quite sure if you’re up to an overnight hike but dying to give it a go anyway? You’ll feel just like Lisa Owen did before her first overnighter. Let her honest tale of challenges, euphoria and the importance of lolly breaks inspire you to give it a go. 

My First Overnight Hike

I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous before my first overnight hike. I felt like I’d bitten off more than I could chew signing up to hike up 1,354m high Mount Barney with 15kg on my back.

After cramming my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, thermals, food, first aid kit, head torch and five litres of water into my backpack, I lifted it up to feel the weight. F***, it was heavy!

(Not sure what to take on your first overnighter? Check out our packing list for an overnight hike.)

Since I only weigh 50kg, a 15kg bag was a pretty big proportion of my weight and it looked ridiculous on my small frame. But there was no backing out of this one. I’m stubborn like that with a challenge in front of me.

My First Overnight Hike // Mt Barney (QLD), Lisa Owen, Sunset View, orange sky, mountains, distance

Mount Barney National Park

At 9.00am I rocked up to the Yellow Pinch Reserve in Mount Barney National Park, teaming up with 6 fellow explorers for the overnight hike.

With more than a little trepidation, I hoisted the pack onto my back, made some adjustments, and off we trudged along the fire trail to the beginning of the hike up Mount Barney’s South East Ridge.

On flat ground, I felt surprisingly good with the weight. It was sitting on my hips and I was feeling strong. After 4 kilometres on the fire trail, we hit the trailhead for South East Ridge. A few other hikers passed up by on their way to South Ridge, saying we were keen going up ‘the brutal way’.

Fortunately I wasn’t too put off yet. I’d gone up South East Ridge before on a day hike and knew what I was in for.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

The first uphill section was hard. It was a steady trudge through dry forest. It was hot, I was really sweaty, and by the time we reached the first rocky viewpoint, I already felt exhausted and like I was going to throw up.

I quickly got the pack off my back, and sat down, too tired to even check out the view. I ate a banana, downed a couple of lollies, and then we were off again.

The rock scrambling started and I felt uneasy with such a dead weight on my back threatening to overbalance me. I had visions of me falling backwards on my back and feeling like a beetle with my legs treading air – unable to get back on my feet.

My calves and knees were dying with the extra weight sitting on them and every step up felt like a massive effort. We took breaks often, which proved worthwhile to check out parts of Barney that I’d missed when speeding by on a day hike.

There were several times when I was pretty ready to ditch my bag and come back for it later but I persevered, pacing myself with frequent breaks.

A couple of times I had to pass my bag up ahead of me when facing a steep scramble because the weight threw me off balance and I didn’t like the idea of tumbling down the rock face.

Finding My Rhythm

Once we reached the full on rock-scramble chimneys of the climb I felt more in a rhythm and it was easier going with the pack because I could use my hands and legs to pull myself up the mountain. I also knew the summit wasn’t far ahead.

I felt like I nailed the rock scramble – owing to all the practice on day hikes in the weeks leading up.

After a steady 5-hour slog up, all of a sudden we were at the summit of East Peak! We made it! We unwrapped a well-deserved lunch, took a few photos and sat down for a break with a clear view of the Scenic Rim around us.

The hard part wasn’t quite over yet as we had to scramble down East Peak to Rum Jungle, our campsite for the night. We shuffled down, scrambling down rock slabs, not as agile as we’d like to be with our hefty packs.

Sunset And Sunrise From Rum Jungle Campground

Once at Rum Jungle, we set up camp and scrambled a quarter of the way up the slopes of West Peak just in time to watch the sunset over Mount Ernest and Mount Lindesay. The pink, purple and orange tinges in the sky were a great ending to a challenging day.

Back at camp, we prepared hot meals, coffee and passed around a flask of whiskey. We were in bed by 8.30pm after an exhausting day, some of us setting our alarms so we could be up in time to watch sunrise from East Peak.

Our alarms went off at 4.30am and we were encouraged by the clear, star-bright skies as we crawled from our tents. Donning head torches and warm jackets, we began to negotiate our way up East Peak.

My legs were still a little fatigued from the day before and I felt dehydrated, but knowing it was only an hour up kept me pushing on. Within five minutes of our ascent, we needed to strip off layers, heating up quickly with the exertion.

We struggled to follow the faint footpad up the peak and ended up taking the path of least resistance to the summit, scrambling up grooves in rocks and threading through shrubs.

As we headed up we could see the top of Mount Lindesay poking through the clouds and we were hopeful for an epic sunrise but about 10 minutes from the summit, the cloud swirled in. Typical Mount Barney with its own random microclimate. This wasn’t the first time I’d been socked in by swirling cloud up here.

As dawn broke, the misty cloud showed no signs of abating and chilled us to the bone. We couldn’t see any of the mountains below and only saw glimpses of the sunrise between brief gaps in the cloud. My hands were frozen even inside gloves.

Once we couldn’t take the cold anymore, we headed back down to Rum Jungle, which now resembled a cloud forest as the mist settled in. It made for some awesome moody shots!

Brekkie And The Way Back

We warmed up with coffee and oats, packed up camp and donned our bags again. I felt much better knowing downhill was ahead of me and my bag was a few kilos lighter with less water and food.

We made good time on the downhill with only short stops and were back on the fire trail in a couple of hours. Surprisingly I felt I could’ve gone on, a spring still in my step. I had done it, my first overnight hike.

Inspired by venturing up a mountain on my first overnight hike, I was off again with 15kg on my back the following weekend (albeit a much shorter and less steep version!). It wouldn’t be the last time that’s for sure!


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