“So, are we ready?” The day of the Seven Peaks Challenge had finally come. We were a team of six and we had talked about this for months. The challenge was a tribute to the choices in life that had somehow lead us to this little island in the middle of the Tasman Sea. So on 16th of May 2018, we decided to take it all a step further and share the experience of walking all the peaks on Lord Howe Island in one day – as a team, as friends.
Officially, Lord Howe Island has seven peaks running from south to north. Each peak has walking trails with magnificent views. Transit Hill is the lowest hill with its 121 metre peak. Mount Gower is the highest with its summit reaching 875 metres above sea level. Mount Lidgbird peaks at 777 metres but there’s no trail to the top – its steep terrain and vertical cliffs are to be watched from a distance, which is much safer! However, there is a trail leading up to its volcanic caves some 440 metres above sea level. This walk is called the Goathouse walk and is famous for its photogenic views. As this is the furthest up Mount Lidgbird we can get, the cave is considered a peak. As such, the seven walking peaks on the island are: Transit Hill (121m), Mount Eliza (147m), Malabar Hill (209m), Kims Lookout (211m), Intermediate Hill (250m), Goathouse (440m) and Mount Gower (875m).
After a few months of talking, training and keeping our spirits high, we set a date. We all agreed to start with Mount Gower. Of the 30 km we were to walk and the 2000 vertical metres we were to climb in total, Mount Gower including the Little Island walk would be half of the whole challenge. From there we would go straight to the track that leads to Goathouse. This would be our second peak followed by Intermediate Hill. Rather than continuing to Transit Hill, we decided to climb Mount Eliza, Kims Lookout and Malabar Hill next. Pete from Islander cruises had agreed to take us across the lagoon to North Bay on his glass bottom boat. We saw this is a splendid opportunity to take a lunch break and eliminate the risk of being stuck in the remote and isolated northern part of the island after dark. We wanted to finish with Transit Hill, so that we could take our time, not worry too much if it got dark and have the finish line at Pinetrees Lodge: our home.
As with everything else on Lord Howe Island, the weather would ultimately decide if we would go. It had been raining a fair bit so we were worried that the trails would be too slippery. We decided that if the waterfalls were running on the slopes of the mountains, we’d abort the mission and go for a champagne breakfast instead. Win-win at its best!
We set off on our bikes at 5 AM with stars still shining bright in the fresh autumn night sky so there was no sign of a morning shower just yet. Mother nature was on our side. From the very beginning we decided to take it nice and slow, as the tracks were indeed quite slippery. This ended up adding some spice and sugar to the adventure but everyone was able to cheer through to the finish line with just a few scratches and backside bruises. It also meant that we finished our challenge at 7 PM, 14 hours later.
To challenge oneself and achieve something extraordinary as a team is something to cherish forever. We watched the morning sun from a rock on a mountain on the first peak. The morning shower came as we reached the summit of Mount Gower and we sang in the rain on our way to the second peak. We pushed ourselves to keep going – hill after hill – one step at the time, as we reached the third peak. We had a hot cup of tea and a sandwich and a rushed change our clothes whilst crossing the shimmering waters of the lagoon on a boat. We watched the sunset between the fifth peak and the sixth peak, and when it got dark, we felt the peace of being so remote, and so far away from all the stress and chaos in the world. We hugged and celebrated as we reached the seventh peak with stars in the sky above us and glowing mushrooms in the soil beneath us. And as we approached our finish line, all our friends were waiting for us, cheering and clapping. We popped a bottle of champagne and got a lavender footbath. We had one of the best days of our lives.
Truth is that we don’t really know where life will take us. But if we never try, we’ll never know.