Named after Ernest Giles, the English-born explorer of the rangelands and western deserts of Australia in the early 1870s, Mt Giles (or Ltharrkelipeke, pronounced ool-dar-ka-lee-pa-ka, in Arrernte), at 1389 metres above sea level it is not only the third highest peak in the Northern Territory, but the third highest west of the Great Dividing Range. It stands on the eastern rim of Ormiston Pound and inviting views of the peak and its ridges and gullies and alluvial fans can be had from the lookout ridge on section 9 of the Larapinta Trail. I have spent a night bivvying under the stars on top of it. A sunrise spectacular!

Franz treats his 70-litre backpack like the tray of his four-wheel drive truck
and equips his peripatetic adventures as if his legs were hardcore shocks
and this is a week-long expedition across the Simpson Desert
instead of a weekend walk across the pound and up Mt Giles

His overload bounces over the undulating fans and tilted rocks and spiny spinifex
I don’t think I’ll be able to make it up there
Franz announces
this pack is too heavy, I’ll just slow you down

On the soft white sand of Ormiston Creek we drop packs for camp
The drooping hands of river red gums wave away flies
as Franz conjures the dead objects to emerge like a litany:
One dozen 12-inch unbendable solid steel tent pegs
A mallet with which to hammer them in to compacted clay
A Tupperware container with enough fruit cake to feed the cast of The Sound of Music
A satellite phone and spare battery in a waterproof pelicase
An army issue shovel to dig a pit or foxhole
A choice of five double-serve dinners for this one night
I didn’t know what I would feel like eating tonight, he concedes

It reminds me of another time, another friend
who struggled with a heavy pack for three days
during summer in the alps
then during an afternoon respite beneath snow gums
her pack conceived not a piece or a half but a whole …
Anyone for watermelon?


Overnight with Franz Near Mt Giles