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24th February 2009 - Fun? Mountain Climbing

So today I drove out two hours to a dirt road off the Extraterrestrial Highway that butts up alongside Area 51.

I've been tasked with getting some low level shots of the Australian Air Force F-111s as they enter the range.

I decided to try a new spot dubbed Telegraph Road which is a four mile 4x4 track up to a small mountain peak.

All was grand getting to the spot - wet in places as the snow has only just melted but not a problem.

The spot seemed ok except that there was another peak spoiling my view. Hiking down and up was out of the question as it was very nearly a sheer drop down. A quick reccie and I found that there was a track right next to it.

I navigated the new rougher and looser road ok - well it's always easier when gravity is lending a helping hand. I got into a little trouble half way down so I did a million point turn and tried to go back where I'd come from. Nope too steep and too loose. I'd reached the point of no return.

Finally at the new parking spot a steep 20 minute hike to the top confirmed this was a better spot and very much out of breath I took a 10 minute "heart attack" break.

Ok now to make sure the camera settings are good. Crap it has no battery!! So back down to the car to pick one up. Another 40 minutes and another heart attack later...

When the aircraft finally arrived they flew low but directly over the top of me. Arse!

While at the top I saw two possible ways out.

Back tracking the original way it split into two and the previously unseen part looked a better bet.

Continuing down it looked like the track met up with a normal dirt road. It was the former that I decided to try.

On my second step on the hike down to the car I rolled my ankle dropping the 500mm lens and camera while breaking my fall. Later inspection would reveal only cosmetic damage and both still worked fine. Phew!

Half way back to the split it again became seemingly impassable. So down looked like the only way out now.

The new route seemed ok except of course it was downhill - always easier.

Part way down on stopping to move a rock that threatened to do damage to the underside of the vehicle, I decided to put my sensible hat on (first time today), so I hiked about 20 minutes downhill clearing rocks and assessing if I could make it. The track ran out! Lucky I did this, as it had become too steep and too loose to turn around and there was no chance of backing up the whole way.

By now of course I'd been in 4x4 low range all this time.

The only way out was back the way I'd come.

This was when I started formulating a plan if I couldn't get out.

It would take a very long time to hike to the road and it would probably get dark by then. I had water and a duvet in the SUV so I'd sleep in there overnight and set off first thing in the morning. There is no cell signal for a hundred odd miles so I'd have to hope someone would pick me up miles from civilisation.

So onto the final attempt back...

I had a little difficulty getting back up to the parking spot but I ended up having to pretty much gun it to keep my momentum forwards and upwards while the bouncing due to the non crawling speed helped the tyres to grab onto odd rocks and get some grip when all looked hopeless.

So I had the final seemingly impossible climb to do to get out of here.

Again gunning it with disregard to any knocks I would pick up was the way to go. Free!!

I was SO glad to be back on tarmac and the SUV seems none the worse for wear.

The only damage was a ripped off front licence plate and some dings on the camera and lens - everything still worked!

So these are sometimes the lengths we push ourselves to get THE SHOT.

In retrospect I should have stayed at the original spot which was easy to get out of, but I backed myself into a canyon and was lucky to get out.