With only a few hours of trekking under our belts on day one we realized that making the summit of Kolambanga wasn't likely to happen in the time we had so we instead decided to climb to a viewing point on the crater rim (kolombangara is an extinct volcano) which would take about three hours each way and still allow some climbing in the famed cloud forests.
The climb was stunning, epiphytic orchids of all sorts nested in trees swamped by huge clumping mosses and ferns drinking in the moisture in the air, as clouds literally floated around them. Spider webs collecting droplets of water abounded and I wondered how long they had a chance to be used in the unusual climate. The journey was at times more like climbing a tree than walking on soil with the footing being mainly decomposing moss and plant roots with large pockets of air, some patches were even springy with the copious fibrous roots bellow. After aclimitising on day one we were making good time on this leg of the climb, we stopped for some dry two minute noodles and a view before getting to the rim and turning to head back down…. That's when it happened and everything changed.
Climbing over another outcrop of root my brother slipped spearing his leg on one of the stakes left behind by bush knife clearing of the path and had to hike back on the injury. Haha actually much more dramatic than that, let me paint the picture... So on slipping Chris gave a casual 'ow' then looking down the 'oh s***' followed. Then his Mrs noticed and out came the screaming. A 'Chris you've hit an artery' prompted Danielle to rip off her shirt and offer it as a bandage... Chris meanwhile quite calm, sticking his fingers into the hole and holding the blood back says.... How dirty is that shirt can someone give it a wash first... Anyway got out the first aid gear and, Moffat bandaged him up, meanwhile I gave Danielle my shirt to wear after briefly forgetting in the chaos she was now half naked haha.
We were all very concerned now of the reality of the situation, not sure exactly what damage lay under the bandages and knowing there was no way off the mountain other than to hike back down. So off we went. Chris was a machine for the first few hours of hiking on the injury and we probably got about nine or ten hours total for the day down before the pain started to slow him. We reached the hut at which we had slept the previous night at about 4 and Chris's reluctance to climb further on the wound was evident suggesting that perhaps we slept there again another night but really this wasn't an option, who knows what may have gone on with the wound overnight.
We knew it was only around three hours back down on good legs but Chris was getting slow by this stage and reality hit that we would be completing the trek back in the dark but it had to be done . The next few hours were hell for everyone, the path to small to assist Chris walking, so can't imagine what he felt. As darkness fell everyone has a different tale to tell. Chris and I were ahead while the girls and Moffat followed hand in hand with a single small led torch and at times nothing. Chris and I had a head torch but the severity of the wound was taking its toll and we were only doing a few meters a minute toward the end. To make things worse I had started to notice giant poisonous centipedes making their way down trees as darkness set in but thankfully no one got bitten.
The path was often lit by bioluminescent fungi glowing in the dark but we were in no position to stop and appreciate their awesomeness. Fighting back exhaustion and nagging feelings to rest or just give up we made it to help after a total of thirteen hours hiking for the day. The site of the glow of lights from the lodge coming into view after feeling like we had been walking in circles for a week was indescribable. There at the lodge Chris was stitched up on the picnic table by a logging company nurse in bare feet who had been to their credit waiting four and a half hours. So with that we slept, Kris had survived, we had survived and tomorrow was another day.