There is nothing attractive on Mt. Kosciuszko in Austral summer for a visiting mountaineer. But getting to the summit is not unpleasant: a four hour hike from base to summit, through lush wildflower-filled valleys that eventually give way near the summit to delicate Alpine bogs containing rare, albeit tiny, plant species found nowhere else in the world. I climbed Kosciuszko with my son Bo, who was then ten years old and already my favorite travel companion. After snapping a few photos of him at the top, we buried the sixth of seven crosses I would leave on every continent after reaching the highest point. Only Everest remained. [/stag_one_half][/stag_columns] [stag_columns][stag_one_half_last][/stag_one_half_last]
We took the chairlift back to the base, ate a quick celebratory lunch, and then travelled north to Queensland to explore a new world for both of us: underwater at the Great Barrier Reef.
While on the Great Barrier Reef, we visited Lizard Island and climbed its highest peak. While it topped out at only 359 meters, the rugged, stark beauty of Cook’s Look—named for the adventurous character Captain James Cook and populated by monitor lizards —captured our imagination far more than Kosciuszko had. Bo made this certificate to help us remember our ascent.
Within a month after leaving the one on Kosciusko, I received a handwritten letter from a college student in Australia. It said that he had to read the note inside the bottle several times before he could believe what it said: that the solid gold cross was his to keep and, since it was a gift, he could do anything he wanted with it. After thanking me, he went on to say that he’d sold it to a fine jewelry shop in Sydney. And he hoped I didn’t mind: the money would pay for the final two years of his college education. Mission accomplished; I hope that the others went toward causes equally imaginative and useful. (This is the only one that I know to have been found. If anyone reading this story knows anything about the others, please share the information in the comments!)
Picture 1: Bo’s certificate to mark our ascent of Cook’s Look
Picture 2: Von Guerard painting of Kosciuszko
Picture 3: Bo snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, Photographer: Sandy Hill
Picture 4: Fish in the Great Barrier Reef, Photographer: Sandy Hill
Picture 5: Our route up Kosciuszko
Picture 6: Looking up to the summit, Photographer: Sandy Hill
Picture 7: Wearing Barry Kieselstein-Cord’s crosses, Photographer: Patrik Andersson, published in Vogue
Picture 8: Kieselstein-Cord’s crosses, Photographer: Sandy Hill
Picture 9: At the summit, Photographer: Robert T. Pittman
Picture 10: Alpine daisies, Photographer: Sandy Hill
Picture 11: The summit, from a vintage postcard, Photographer: unknown