As we left Boonah on our bikes I assured Liam that there was no need for a map, "I knew the Barney area well". Seven hours later on a moonless night as we forced our way through heavy scrub looking for a route down Mt Ernest this seemed ridiculous. It had been many years since I'd been on Mt Ernest and that was on a nice sunny day with visibility for miles in all directions.
I reckon the ride from Boonah down to Mt Barney is one of the nicest road rides around, with views of all the big scenic rim peaks and very little traffic. My GPS read 54km by the time we rolled into our bike drop on Cronin creek, a bit further than estimated but no big deal, we had time and we were glad to get a 100k plus day on the bikes. What did concern me though was that my knees, mostly my left as usual, had already started to hurt less than two hours into the ride.
As soon as we left the bikes I made the first nav error by climbing the wrong spur, we weren't too concerned though, instead of backtracking to the correct spur we just continued upward on a route which took us almost directly to the summit of Mt Ernest, arriving just on dark. I almost killed Liam for the first time here by dislodging a 50kg block on one the tricky scrambling sections. It wasn't long before we lost the vague footpad leading down the east ridge and started to scrub bash. And so it went for the next several hours. Here and there we picked up trails, climbed and descended knolls, stumbled, slipped and fell down steep slopes and eventually made our way down to the Logan river by which time my knees were very unhappy. I tried to kill Liam again on the lower slopes, this time the rock, much smaller, caught him in the ankle..sorry mate! Nothing broken though so we hiked back to our bikes along the Cronin creek firetrail and discussed whether or not we would climb Mt Barney as well. I decided my knees were in no shape for another steep 1000m climb and descent.
Back at the bikes we fueled and put on another layer which we figured would be enough once warmed up. We were wrong! Over the first few ks several stops were made and eventually we were wearing everything we had. The biggest mistake was fingerless gloves, for a while I improvised with my spare socks over my gloves but when I lost the feeling in my toes (I had wet shoes and socks, too embarrassing to explain how this happened) I had to put them on my feet. It was f'n cold!
We cruised back into Boonah at around 3am, jumped in the van and cranked the heater up. Even though we cut the foot portion short, this was still a very tough worthwhile mission.