Just for something different, I want to tell you all about my mate Rob. He is someone who I consider has all the necessary attributes of an outdoor adventurer (remembering that, in a previous blog, we’ve already established humility as the most important).

Those of you who went on last years’ hike have met Rob. He and his wife, Wendy, provided us with some great support with our transport needs. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that he is highly regarded in his local community. He is a man of faith, known for his service to others along with his humility, generosity, humour, work ethic and adventurous spirit.

Rob is one of those people who is just fun to be with. That’s not to say he’s not annoying in some ways. He looks twenty years younger than he is and, like Paul, he can blitz you in carrying a pack up a mountain even when you think you might have the edge on him in training. He’s lean, strong, determined and fearless. He’s always up for a challenge. Invariably, he will have weekend plans for some sort of adventure, even though he’s toiled on the job (as a builder) all week.

As a long-time local resident, Rob is intimately familiar with the Bogong High Plains. His knowledge and experience of the place is as good as there is. He’s probably forgotten more about this iconic location than what I’ve ever known. He lives and breathes this environment, hiking it in summer, skiing it in winter, four wheel driving or mountain biking it whenever there’s a chance. He does not, however, merely utilize the high country for his own purposes. He respects it. He understands the challenges, the impact of the terrain and weather, as well as the allure it holds for visitors. More than most, he is aware of how quickly plans can go astray. It is for this reason that he has a long history as a highly sought after (and successful) search and rescue volunteer.

Rob has been involved in numerous such operations over the years. Though not all have ended well, many have bordered on legendary status. In the winter of 2004, an advance rescue party led by Rob pulled off a heroic rescue of three men trapped in a ferocious blizzard near the summit of Mt Bogong. Those three would almost certainly have perished if not for the team’s intervention. Appropriately, the rescuers were later recognised with a National Bravery Award. In 2014, Rob was instrumental in locating the bodies of two back country snowboarders tragically killed in an avalanche in one of Bogong’s remote gullies. Rob, of course, would never draw any attention to such exploits. If it did come up in conversation, he would merely deflect credit to others.

That is why, apart from being a friend and peer, I also regard him as a hero.

The high country is not just a nice place to go and visit. It’s a place where men can have experiences beyond the everyday, friendships can be deepened, respect can be earned and God can be encountered; particularly if it is approached with an attitude like Rob’s. If you are interested, you can read a short story called “The Rescue” – an account of Rob’s amazing rescue event – in a book called “A Chicken can make a Difference”. I have a copy. I also have an interesting newspaper article written about the event.