|Rosevelt Peak- The
Last night after dinner
our guides came up with a new plan. Instead of taking all our equipment
to a 'base camp' at the foot of Rosevelt Peak we decided to take a gamble
in a bid to save a day, and travelling light with only our cameras,
try to make it all the way to the top and back in one day. We knew we
could do it if the weather stayed dry. If it were raining the rocky
surface of the mountain would be too slippery to make an attempt. Anyway
we decided to give it a go and went to sleep early for a dawn rise.
We woke to steady drizzle, the rain dripping off the tarpaulin of our
camp's roof. Things didn't look too good but we were up anyway and so
sceptically we began the trudge through the rain to the base of the
mountain. After about an hour and a half we were at the 'base camp'
.... and it was still raining. We carried on in grim silence, more because
there was nothing else for us to do today, than out of any real expectation
of reaching the top. When we flew from Kwamala to Palumeu we had flown
around the mountain. With its sheer granite walls in looked hard enough
to climb at the best of times, but with rain it looked too hard to contemplate.
We plodded on trying to put the memory of the sight of the mountain
from the air out of our minds, numbly suspending our disbelief in our
own venture. If we couldn't get up today then we would have to go all
the way back to the creek and try again tomorrow.
Soon we started to climb steeply through the forest to the first granite
outcrop at the foot of the mountain itself. We struggled to get a grip
on the slippery rocks of dry riverbeds, again vainly trying to dispel
our doubts as the rain continued to fall softy. It was wet, I was wet,
so wet that for the first time in this very wet adventure my camera
lens steamed up. This was a very low point for me. After all this struggle,
what if we did get up the mountain and I couldn't shoot?
By now we had reached first hill. I sat, my trusty umbrella shielding
the camera from the drizzle as I tried to let the air circulate around
it to clear the fog from my lens. Just then, as if by magic, the drip
... drip on the canvass of the umbrella stopped, and yes my back felt
warm and I could see my shadow...... the sun was coming out! Within
minutes the fog was gone from the lens...It was too good to be true.
Suddenly we were in a sunlit world, 'a land that time forgot' with steam
rising off the deep green canopy below us and curling up into the sky
We set off for the summit, which was still shrouded in cloud. Within
minutes the tropical sun dried the slippery rocks and we were skipping
up gradients that had had us slipping around like ice-skaters a few
minutes earlier. The climb to the top was spectacular as we slowly picked
our way up the eastern ridge of the mountain. The final approach was
steep, so steep that the rope came out and one of our Trio guides got
vertigo and had to descend. After days of sitting in the boat, with
them in their element and us all clumsy and unbalanced in comparison,
it was good to be able to show them that we weren't completely useless
as we led the way up and pulled them up after us on the rope!
From the summit the view was breath-taking - looking out over the blanket
of forest that stretched in every direction as far as the eye could
see the sacred Mount Kasikassima to the South and Tepu Top away to the
East from where we had come yesterday. Now despite the fact that I am
on this trip I am not an 'eco-freak' or anything like that, but standing
atop Rosevelt Peak I felt an overwhelming sense of the importance of
preserving this wonderland that we are travelling through. It seems
from up there that Man could never make a dent on this vast expanse,
until you realise that each year we lose an area of forest the size
of the whole of Suriname (way beyond the horizon even from the top of
this mountain). Every minute sixty hectares of forest are lost forever.
If there was one feeling that I will take with me from today it is a
strange sense of custodianship on behalf of my species. We must ensure
that this place stays as it is. The beauty of the last few weeks now
seems to be to be a legacy that we must protect. Maybe I'll become an
'eco-freak' yet! We had brought the sat phone to the top of the mountain
so I decided to ring home. My Mum answered the other end. She was watching
"The Jungle Book" with my niece, her granddaughter. I can only hope
that by the time Maudie grows up this place will still remain as pure
as we find it now...
We headed for home, a long way back through the forest. After a ten-hour
day we neared camp as the evening sun dappled through the leaves, highlighting
a palm frond here or a creeper there, a strange calm in my mind and
the rhythm of walking.... walking. And then a swim in the creek, drinking
the cool water I was swimming in......
My Trusty Umbrella
Nothing But Nature
A Different Angle