To get a good start for this summit trek we decided to stay in atmospheric Whitfield Hall situated above Hagley Gap. There are better equipped places to stay but then you would miss the old world charm of having no hot water and no electricity. Neither would you have a Rastafarian gentlemen like Everton to look after you and provide the exquisite Blue Mountain Coffee. This a coffee that can only be enjoyed black, as to milk it would destroy its subtle flavour. Getting up here was even a challenge. We could have walked up but with all our gear for a month, it was not possible. We relied on serious 4x4 vehicle transport.
We were joined at the lodge by a young German couple and enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by Everton on an old gas stove. It was a real treat to sit at the enormous teak/mahogany table beneath a pressurised oil lamp which gave a homely warm glow while emitting a gently hiss. Without prompting Everton filled and maintained the lovely old oil lamps that lit the bedrooms and toilets. We were really well looked after by this gentle Jamaican. At 1:30am we got ready to depart. Since we had been up at 5.15am that morning, as part of our volunteering work, we were worried about sleeping past our departure time. So as not to miss out, Everton reappeared in order to advise us and wish us a safe journey.
It was a crystal clear moonlit night. With no lights to affect our vision the stars crowded the heavens. The temperature was pleasant with no wind and the track was easy to follow. That is not to say it was an easy trek since there was a constant incline over rough terrain. We took the odd rest break and eventually arrived at Portland Gap (1,675m) about 3:30am, with 5.6km yet to go and expecting to summit (2,256m) by 6:10am, in time for the sunrise. Before long the wind increased and clouds swirled about us which dropped the temperature considerably. We pushed on and did not have any trouble following the track. We reached the bleak, damp and windswept trig point just after 6:00am.
Our chances of seeing our sunrise were extremely slim. It was not possible to shelter on the summit so we found the remains of a "long drop" toilet nearby where the three of us crammed in and enjoyed a little respite from the weather. Snoozing was out of the question as some loose galvanise sheets flapped and banged about in the gale. Having waited for about an hour with no let up in the very poor and cold conditions we exited our shelter and retraced our steps down. Within an hour the weather system had passed and the summit was bathed in sunshine! Such are the vagaries of the weather and it seemed as if the mountain definitely wants us to return for another visit. What a lovely welcome awaited us when Everton, in no time, produced a healthy brunch ready to enjoy ... along with plenty of that glorious Blue Mountain Coffee.