Act of Kindness on Mount Bogong - Sponsored Athlete Sia Kindberg to the Rescue

Act of Kindness on Mount Bogong


Rachel Fulford

A beautiful, but humid and overcast day set the scene for an enjoyable hike up the Staircase Spur Trail to reach the summit of Mount Bogong, the highest mountain in Victoria. A check of the weather forecast predicted showers, however nothing to be concerned about nor turned away by. Shorts and t-shirt seemed like appropriate attire given the glimpses of sun, high humidity and stable weather conditions prior to leaving. Our hiking packs were filled with water, food, and everything in-between. Everything minus the gear needed to battle a storm should one roll in; no extreme weather predictions, no worries.

As we parked the car and threw our jackets in our packs, I caught a smile from a stranger parked to the left hand side of my car. I noticed she was decked out with an abundance of gear, it wasn’t hard to assume she was training for something in particular. My partner Matt and I looked like absolute rookies lined up next to her; believe it or not, we aren’t hiking rookies at all. We both have hiking experience, Matt in particular who has been around the traps hiking in all places of the world.

We soon set off on our adventure, anticipating a 4-5 hour round trip. Many laughs, deep conversations, and sips of water were had as we made our way up the mountain. The alternation of sunshine and cloud darted through the trees, we were sweating bullets. It was hot. We were having a good time. We neared the top of the tree line, coming to the last 1.5kms of the hike. It started to rain lightly, and we were almost relieved at the cool change upon us. We put our jackets back on to try and remain dry and kept going.

Once above the tree line reaching the exposed treeless plateau of land, we were now not dripping wet from sweat, but from the rain that was now pouring down, we were no longer protected from the trees around us and our jackets seemed non-existent. Little did we know, this point was the very beginning of a series of unfortunate events.

We stopped and assessed the situation about 15 minutes later; we were so close to the top, we weren’t backing out now. The rain felt like pin pricks on our skin it was falling that hard, and the head wind could’ve blown you over backwards. The cloud was thick and you couldn’t see 2m in front of you. The storm continued to roll in and the rain and wind progressed tenfold. To continue to walk was challenging, we were literally hiking through a river that was flowing over the rocks. Everything was beyond wet and cold at this point.

I recall stopping about 800m from the summit; my limbs were numb and mentally and physically, I was done. Although when you’re co-hiking, you stick together. Matt being the enthusiastic, non-quitting weapon he is, pushed us to the top. And we made it.

The view wasn’t what we had expected, in fact there was no view at all and the opportunity to eat didn’t exist because of the extreme weather conditions. We knew we had to wait until we made our way back to the hut to stop and consume food which was at least 2km away. I had no idea how I was going to make it back down this mountain.

Act of Kindness on Mount Bogong


We started the journey back pronto. The weather kept progressing and now, so did my symptoms of hypothermia. My mind ran in and out of complete consciousness and my body began to go stiff as we attempted to get to the hut; to paint a picture, Matt told me I was moving like Tin Man. I couldn’t gather my words, Matt ensured I stepped over and down the never ending rocks without slipping, it was a slow process. He was also suffering from being extremely cold but he didn’t complain once; we were both in poor shape.

Still above the tree line, the trek back down was awfully slow, we had to be careful. I kept telling myself one foot in front of the other. I lacked control of my body, and I honestly had no idea how I was meant to keep going. Next thing I know, a quick hit of unconsciousness had me falling and rolling down a small cliff edge. I busted my lip, and the shock/state I was in sent me into an emotional wreck.

God bless Matt. He did everything he could to keep me putting one foot in front of the other until we made it back to the hut. The hut that never seemed to get any closer. I remember Matt’s continuous questioning to ensure my physical state remained stable. I was concerned, he was concerned, the situation we were in was insane. What the hell had we gotten ourselves into.

I’d almost come to a complete stop with my movement, and Matt was getting ready to speed dial SES. And then fortunately, a little pocket rocket appeared out of nowhere; the stranger I caught a smile off in the car park. Initially, Matt had asked her for a box of matches to which he hoped to get me back to the hut to light a fire until we could get further help.

But for Sia, a box of matches was the last thing she was going to pull out of her pack. She had matches, warm, dry clothes, food, hot water, a sleeping bag, and a magnitude of wisdom and kindness. She was genuinely a guardian angel for me that day. I defrosted in front of the fire where good Samaritan’s had left kindling and fire wood. The writing on the wall inside the hut states, "replace the wood in case of an emergency, dry wood may be the thing that saves a life."

Well isn’t that the truth.

Undressed of the soaked clothes, wrapped in a sleeping bag and sat near the fire, I was in the capable hands of Sia, her friend and Matt. They supplied Matt and I with so much gear and care to enable me to return to a conscious and able state. They rallied around the both of us and shared every bit of their adventure gear to make us feel comfortable and safe. We accompanied the hut for just over two hours until I was in a position to hike the remaining kilometres down the mountain and back to our car.

To say I’m lucky would be the biggest understatement I’ve made this year. Although I wasn’t in a position to communicate with Sia to the best of my ability, her and Matt remained connected; despite the situation itself being dreadful, it allowed Matt and I to embrace a new friendship with someone we admire and share so much gratitude for.

To Sia and her friend, thank you for going into absolute lifesaving mode and being so generous and compassionate towards us both, I did not think I’d get out of the situation the way I did.

To my partner Matt, thank you for being so selfless and prioritising my safety and well-being over your own. You are very loved. 

And to anyone wanting to hike Mount Bogong, or any mountain, please be prepared with the correct clothing and gear. It makes a big, big difference.

Act of Kindness on Mount Bogong

 

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