As we get older adventures might change, but our needs rarely do. Tim returns to a route he’d hiked years before to remind himself who he can be.


As I traversed below the summit I was humbled by the powerfully cold embrace of a strong southerly. The wind and rain were relentlessly sapping my energy, they made short work of my Gore-Tex jacket, now they were making short work of my stamina and resolve. The storm had tested me for the past four hours and it felt like I was failing; making poor decisions, taking wrong paths. Yet there I was, on my first summit, not giving up.


Hiking Koi Kyenunu-ruff (The Stirling Range Ridge Walk): Three days on WA’s hardest hike, Tim Newtown - The Stirling Range Ridge Walk, Western Australia, Hiking, mountains, sunset


I descended through the driving rain, knowing that stopping wasn’t an option until I could find somewhere to lay out my bivvy and crawl into the sleeping bag that would be my ticket back to life. On the ridge, I found a spot, I laid out my bivvy and my sleeping bag, I got out of my drenched clothes, and I crawled in – to wait out the storm and bring the warmth back to my bones. 


A world away from the adventures of my younger years, I’m on a different kind of adventure right now. The kind of adventure that involves school drop-offs rather than alpine helicopter ones. The kind of adventure that necessitates navigating parental small talk, feeding times, nap times and emotions rather than navigating unforgiving terrain. I’ve arrived in my 30s with an amazing wife, two inspiring kids, a couple of dogs, a cat, and a mortgage.



It’s an adventure by anyone’s standards and a privilege to experience, but with five years of parental responsibility under my belt, I find myself yearning again for the challenges that helped define me in years past. I find myself looking for a challenge just for me.

The wind and rain taunted me from outside. I listened in awe as it battered the walls of my bivvy, every powerful gust a reminder of my place, a message that nature has no thought or care for my life in the grand scheme of things. Eventually I shiver myself to sleep, somehow comforted by this existential disregard.


It’s easy for parenthood to define you, to become the default by which you measure yourself and judge yourself; it’s an all-encompassing journey that touches every facet of your life. And so it should, it brings so much meaning and purpose to life. But it’s not the only meaning to be found and falling into the trap of thinking it is, seems to be a common dilemma.

Meaning can be found in many places; for some it’s in a simple game of netball, for some volunteering, for others it’s work and for more it’s all of the above.

For me, the meaning that I was missing was in the mountains. It was in the places where I’d learned self-reliance through success and failure. It was in the journeys whose importance hadn’t become apparent to me until they disappeared.

I woke to something strange, something I hadn’t heard for 24 hours. Quiet. The bullet-like impacts of the rain and howling of wind had made their point and moved on.

The gentle crackle of my bivvy in the light breeze was all that remained. I was still cold, but not the kind of cold I’d been the day before.

Crawling out of my cocoon, I took in my first view of the ridge and surrounding beauty, unsullied by storm clouds. I felt immediately more clear, more positive. I’d made it through this, I could make it the rest of the way. 

Ten years ago, I arrived at the top of Bluff Knoll with a group of friends. It’s an easy hike in the scheme of things and it reminded me a lot of my childhood; days spent exploring nature in my home of Scotland.


The author as a child in Scotland


The rugged Cairngorms Range and the numerous lochs and hiking trails were a mainstay in my early memories. Moving to suburban Perth as a youngster, my hikes became fewer and further between. While some adventures came my way, a combination of geography and teenage confusion had kept them to a minimum.

On top of Bluff Knoll, I wondered why, as I watched some curious, bedraggled figures trudging towards me. As the figures arrived and we chatted, the sense of awe I felt at their fatigue and struggle became apparent, I wanted to know where they’d been. This was when I first heard of the Stirling Range Ridge Walk.

I assessed the situation in the light of the morning. Soaked through, I changed into dry clothes and squeezed into my drenched hiking boots.

I could have turned back. I was weak from cold and demoralised, but forward was the choice; the hard bit had been done, I needed to see the rest through. So off I ventured into the thick scrub, quickly drenching my new clothes with the remnants of last night’s storm.

It was a couple of years before I committed to doing the ridge walk. But once I did, I was hooked. That experience, the feeling of being 100% self-reliant, the things I learned about myself and my capacity to keep going were like a drug. And, back I went for a second time, and a third, and from there a mountaineering course and a summit of Mont Blanc.

Then my amazing daughter was born and after some time adapting to parental life, I went back to the ridge for a fourth time. But that was to be it. Parenting became my priority, self-care and hobbies had to shift. New hobbies took hold to try and satiate my need for adventure; rock climbing and trail running became my outlet, but over time they too dwindled.

Pushing on, uncomfortable, unsure, constantly damp. I was rushing, not because I needed to, but because I felt an urgency to return to my girlfriend, who was sitting by a fire somewhere near Albany with our dog.

I was drinking-in the experience, but self-doubt was growing and the comfort of seeing my girlfriend eased it a little. Poor decisions set in again, lost trails and mild moments of panic. But still I was moving forward. 

Fast forward four years to my beautiful son being brought into the world. Four years of learning how to be a parent to one child were barely adequate for the prospect of a world with two. Work life balance was a journey, I went part-time to claw back family time and offer what equality I could to our household. I committed to being the best father I could be.

But was I truly being the best father I could be while holding one of my passions at bay? My own father had told me of times past when he’d enjoyed ice climbing and rock climbing in the UK, ‘Why did you stop?’ I asked, ‘Because I had kids’, he responded.

It’s such a common story, outdoor social media pages are flooded with men and women selling their beloved gear to make way for a new addition to the family, a beautiful story of redefining oneself to offer a child your devotion, but at what cost?


Hiking Koi Kyenunu-ruff (The Stirling Range Ridge Walk): Three days on WA’s hardest hike, Tim Newtown - The Stirling Range Ridge Walk, Western Australia, Hiking, mountains

Staring down at a sheer drop I realised I’d taken the wrong trail. A heartbreaking backtrack up the intermediate ridge beckoned. But once again, I found my way. I was through the hardest bits now and my second campsite was a couple of hours and a few peaks away. It gave me time to reflect, to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, to feel a sense of independence and self-reliance I hadn’t felt before. As much as I knew my trek had not gone exactly to plan, as much as I knew, I’d made mistakes, I also knew that I’d overcome them. 

Something we don’t always realise as parents is that we are fallible and being a parent isn’t the only thing we are – we’re individuals with hopes and dreams and those individual goals help shape us as parents.

There are persisting ideals of what a perfect parent looks like, but placing ourselves on this pedestal can lead to a lot of problems.

Prioritising our own passions and interests shouldn’t become a negative thing, self-care isn’t a dirty word. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’ll always be able to prioritise ourselves and our interests; there’s a balance to be found, it’s a hard balance, but between work, family life, and hobbies, it’s there.

With this realisation, I forced myself to commit to a goal. I’d return to the ridge walk that’d given me so much meaning and, after six years, I’d repeat it for a fifth time.

In warm sun and gentle wind, I arrived at my last camp spot, a gentle Sheok col that made music from the breeze as it blew through a multitude of branches.

It was the most peaceful I’d felt in days, I was camped below my last hurdle in relative safety, the warmth had returned to my body and my confidence was up. That night I slept under a blanket of stars, the most inspiring night sky I’d ever seen, full of nervous energy for the next day and seeing my girlfriend.  

My preparation went well, I hiked regularly with a close friend to build endurance and found my passion for hiking re-emerging. I joined a gym to help rehabilitate the many injuries a life of sport had bestowed on me, I started to care again about striving for a level of physical fitness and strength that would meet my goal.

And, more importantly, all of these things helped me feel more inspired and accomplished, which reflected in family life too. The goal I’d set myself was ultimately for me, but you can’t separate the individual from the family or vice versa, so the family would enjoy a better version of me too.

We camped together in the days leading up to my trek, then they dropped me off and waved goodbye. The family picked me up at the other end, a proud and changed father, husband, and person. Six years after my last trip to the ridge and ten years after my first trip there, the journey still meant the same to me.


I trudged down the well-worn path that is Bluff Knoll, passing families and couples who were on their way up. They looked at me with curiosity and confusion as they took in my large pack and bedraggled appearance. The same look I’d given the ridge walkers when I first heard of the hike.

I’d been alone for three days, but passing all these people I felt more alone because the only person I wanted to see was my girlfriend.

I arrived at the car park and she was there to pick me up as a proud, but fundamentally different partner and person. This had been my first hike here, I knew it wouldn’t be my last.