Photo credit: Ricky French

The alarm I’ve been dreading goes off and I give a well-practiced groan, anxiously fumbling for my phone to confirm the time. Unlike most mornings I’m worried not that I’ve overslept but that I haven’t slept enough. The time reads 1.45am. I don’t need to get dressed because I took care of that before going to bed, layering myself in hiking pants, thermals, thick socks, gloves and a beanie, pre-emptive strike on the sub-zero night that waits outside my sleeping bag.

Gradually our campsite in the Central Desert comes to life. Headtorches flicker inside safari tents, urgent whispers break into slightly manic laughs as the novelty (some would say absurdity) of our situation crystalises. We stumble to our central stretch-canopy lounge, where steam is already rising from hot coffee. This is the morning we’ve been building towards, where like mountaineers making the final summit push for Mount Everest, we’re prepping for a sunrise ascent. Our intended peak is not quite so high but just as beguiling: Mount Sonder, and the finish line of the Larapinta Trail.

To local Arrernte people, Mount Sonder (or Rwetypeme) represents a pregnant woman lying down. For the last few days we’ve been stalking her slumbering shadow, making our way west along the mountainous backbone and ancient river valleys of the West MacDonnell Ranges. We’ve seen her in the harsh midday sun from rocky riverbeds, and we’ve seen her in a soft evening light from our basecamp at her feet. In a few hours we’ll see the world through her eyes, as first light hits the ancient landscape we’ve been getting know so intimately. All things considered, I hold no grudges against my alarm…

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