Mount Field Tasmania, April 2018
The wind across the plateau scarifies. We wrap the baby’s head and bury him deep in a carrier attached to his father and walk to shelter under snow gums on the shoulder of the mountain. We’ve climbed to see the deciduous beech, fagus (nothofagus gunnii), in autumnal costume: beryl-green, crimson and turmeric; but today, at Tarn Shelf’s gallery, wind has stripped the stand and so we descend, disappointed yet elated to be once again in this elemental fury and alpine beauty. The northern horizon is a spine of blue and the forested ridge to the near-east is scarred with escarpments. We prop under the trees, beside boulders with lichen etched into surfaces: white, black, orange. I stoop to photograph a circle almost perfect in perimeter. It glistens like a moon. Snow gums startle with palettes of bright-red, saffron, and magenta and we moisten bark patterned calligraphy for better photographs.
Out of the wind we relax, bounce the baby on his new legs – now he knows walking is not far off – and drink warm tea with our sandwiches. Near the summit, in the roaring gusts, tradesmen push the new information centre into the levelled clearing beside abandoned ski slopes. The concrete curves present a formidable edge to the alpine world. The edifice will survive, perhaps long past the climate-change age and the demise of snow sports.
After lunch we descend the long trail in the spinning wind, through a quiet grove of pandani (richea pandanifolia), hair-like fronds trailing beneath its strap-leaves. At the huts we cluster near the fire, and wait for abatement. It comes at midnight, a whisper. At sunrise, stillness. A mist cousins the pearling of the gap between the hills. We smile in wonder and delight.