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Published January 7th 2015
See a fantastic sunrise from atop this mountain
Up early was the call to see one of the most majestic sunrises in Australia from atop a mountain. Only an 8km walk. Uphill. In the dark. Surely the alarm didn't really need to be set for 1am ?
1am came along with a wake up call. The cool August night airs near Alice Springs made cooler by the clear skies, still night and a super moon. On goes several layers of thermals, a quick hot drink, and in to the bus at 130am. A one hour drive to the Redbank Gorge car park at the base of the mountain provided an opportunity to catch a few more zzzz's. Backpacks on, hiking sticks extended, head torches beaming and we commenced our ascent of Mt Sonder at 245am.
30 minutes into the walk and a quick stop to take off one of the layers. The legs have woken, and the eyes have adjusted to the extensive moonlight that is intermittently broken by the head torches of the walking group seeking a view of the climb. We continue the climb, and reach the ridge after another 30 minutes. The trail is two people wide, and varies in soil / rock composition.
A short steep descent leads to a saddle along the trail, and another rest stop with a chance to de-layer and a chance to grab a muesli bar. Back on the trail the super moon finally sets in the west, pitching us in to complete darkness for the final hour of the walk. Anticipation and adrenaline carry the legs and body over these final few kilometres until we reach the summit of Mt Sonder at our nominated time of 6am.
As the sun rises in the east, firstly peeking at the horizon, before finally bursting through, the cameras are clicking constantly in an attempt to capture the memories. The extent of the climb becomes apparent as we look down from 1380m above sea level. The sun's rays then capture the sides of Mt Sonder, and the brilliant red and orange rocks are on full display.
As the sun rises further, we turn to the west and we observe the formation of one of the largest mountain shadows (estimated at 20km) in the world. Over time, as the sun rises, the shadow gradually shrinks. The backpacks are returned to the back and we then return to the trail for the downhill descent.
It is only on the descent that one realises the extent of the ascent, and the terrain traversed with assistance only from the head or moon light. However it is downhill, and apart from a few more compulsory camera stops to see the ever changing colours in the area, the walk is a bit easier. We await for the whole group to make their way down from the Summit, and then it is back in the bus and off to our glamping site alongside the Larapinta Trail for a well earned lunch, and a restful afternoon.
The 16km climb of Mt Sonder and return is known as section 12 of the Larapinta Trail. The climb and the trail can be walked at any time, albeit it is best to avoid the middle of the day due to the heat. Normal precautions of walking with friends and carrying water exist, as there is no support on the trail once you leave the water and toilet facilities behind at the car park.