Well, the idea came a few weeks previously, but it was on Mt Hack, that we came up with the name and a few foundation rules. A website with the peaks listed can be found here: www.peakclimb.com.
Of those in the Flinders Ranges, we had done some back in July, when we hiked from Parachilna Gorge to Angepena Station. Others, we would tackle in 2010 when undertook the next stage of this trek towards Mt Hopeless. There were some though, either on or near Wilpena Pound, that we wanted to do. Having read an article in Wild magazine, and having talked with several other people, we decided to summit Mount Aleck, a peak of 1095 metres, the highest in Elder Range, just south of Wilpena Pound. Graham and I had gazed up to the peaks and ridges of the Elder Range back in August of 2008, wondering if, and how people had reached the summits.
We camped close by to our access road, leaving our cars on Moralana Scenic Drive we walked south along the Heysen Trail until we reached the Umberutna ruins. From here there is no track, but we headed west, aiming for a valley that would lead us up to the ridgeline, which we would then follow to the peak of Mount Aleck. This ridgeline isn't flat, to the north east there are sheer cliffs, to the south west the ground tapers back down to the plains below. The choice is to closely follow the cliff, hopping along the rocks and dodging the worst of the acacia scrub. Navigating by a route that follows the contour, which we tried when we returned, is hard work, as the acacia scrub is so dense. Along the cliff edge though, it was much cooler, a welcome relief on a very warm day. The first ridge peak we did quite quickly, but the rocks and vegetation became harder to navigate, and our progress slowed significantly.
Back when we had first reached the ridge, one of our members, overcome with the heat of the day, had decided to stay put, waiting in the shade of bush for our return. We had discussed our options at length, and had decided the remaining three people in our party would continue to the peak, returning via this point later. It seemed like a good idea.
What soon became apparent though, was that it wasn't really the right decision. In the shade of some rocks and larger shrubs, just one ridge peak from Mount Aleck - although the summit itself was still unseen - we realised how much cooler and shadier it was here, than where we had left our flagging person. This wasn't cool, re-assessing our time plan from our progress rate, it would be a very long time before we returned to him. We decided the best thing to do was to return. It turned out to be a prudent idea, as when we returned to that point and all of us were together again - something we should always have been - we were all running very low on water. The hot day had taken it's toll. This wasn't cool, we had a significant descent and distance to cover to reach the car.
I think we all really learned some things from this hike, about water, weather and keeping everyone together. I'm glad it didn't come to worse. We still owe something to this mountain, we will return, this time with a better understanding of ourselves and each other. We had other peaks planned inside Wilpena Pound for the following days, but with the weather forecast we have put it off. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Wilpena Resort bistro, as the hot sun disappeared over the pound horizon, and cooling winds blew through the eucalypt trees.