You may remember a visit to a summit a year or so ago. On that trip we arrived at the summit of the appropriately named Mt Disappointment and had no idea we had arrived. There was no view and only a simple sign telling about some famous Australian explorers who had made the trip in our past. I wrote about how some mountain-top experiences only reveal themselves as such in hindsight and not because of any sense of achievement at the time.
Yesterday I went travelling with a friend to the top of a mountain that I have long admired from a distance but never visited. This mountain presents itself to the city of Melbourne as a moderately large hill with well defined and steep sides. However when approached from another angle it is just the last in a range of hills with the final peak of no great significance.
Well, we had decided to approach from the north as it was the more scenic drive for us. Throughout the morning we had the sense of gradually climbing all the time that we were driving. The disconcerting thing was that from this angle the mountain top was no longer terribly significant compared with other hills in the region (and when compared with the profile seen from the south) and so I was wondering continually if we were going in the wrong direction. It was only with the prompting of the road signs and the presence of other travellers that we were sure that we were heading to the summit.
Had we climbed from the south we may have a had a greater sense of “arrival” having come up a clear final “ascent”, whereas we arrived having had a continuous and uninspiring “slog” the whole way from home.
I wondered at the parallels with my previous mountain top experience. This time there was no doubt we had reached a significant mountain top – the view attested to that. And yet the journey from the north was one of continuous toil towards an unknown and possibly disappointing objective. The alternative route from the south would have been shorter and you would have known constantly that you were heading for a significant summit.
So when we have our mountain top experiences there will be some who have arrived knowing they have toiled mightily and with a known end in sight, and there will be others who arrive just as tired but quite surprised at the magnificent view before them.