• Ness Hinneberg

Mt Buller - 1805m: The Soul Diva

At some stage in everyone's life, there saunters in an individual with captivating presence, exuding confidence, strength of character, attitude, beauty, and an unwavering sense of pride and an overwhelming personality. In our neighbourhood, that individual is Mt Buller.

Accessorised by humanity, Buller's summit is resplendently blushed by the pink hues of sunrise alpenglow

She's the first and most eye-catching thing you see on the approach to Mansfield from every direction. She stands tall, proud, compelling you to come nearer, to see her up close, daring you to make your own judgement of who and what she is. The most incredible thing about Buller, though, is that at the end of the day, she couldn't care less what you think.

She knows she's stunning. She knows how to use that to lure people into her embrace. She knows that everyone who sees her will fall in love with her at first sight. She knows that what she is, what she has, what she can show is unique and totally unrivalled by the others around her. She knows that her colours, her aspects, her angles, her lines, her shapes, evoke emotions that are almost crippling.

Summertime sunset silhouettes being cast over Buller's iconic West Ridge

She is also capricious, even fickle. She snaps at a moment's notice. She transcends from friendly to ferocious and back again with no provocation, no reason, no rhyme. Of all the mountains in our community, she is the most unrelenting, unforgiving, and unapologetic.

This is not a flaw, though. This is a reflection of what we as her visitors and followers and fans demand of her. In summer and winter, she attracts thousands of people who expect her to show her "best" - a term that is, in itself, arbitrary. Does her best mean she needs to put on the pretty? Does she need to shine bright and clear? Does she need to show us postcard perfection? And if so, why? Who are we to make environmental demands of an ancient entity?

The answer is, many of her visitors are paying. And money talks. They want to witness perfect bluebird days and ski dry, fresh powder in winter. They want her trails to be open and littered with wildflowers in summer. They want to see golden sunsets. Don't we all?

The Buller Summit sunset is honestly the most captivating, hauntingly spectacular sight you'll ever see

Yet there is no guarantee of any kind in the mountains, and Buller is the ultimate guardian of this truth. Some days, she can unleash her fiercest of winds irrespective of how many people wish to ride the chairlifts. She can drape a heavy white blanket of soaking, blinding fog over her devoted visitors who have made the pilgrimage to see her sights. She can sprinkle us with snow in the middle of summer, and boast naked skies in winter. She can make it rain when it's not expected, and definitely when it's not wanted.

Even when she's covered in a blanket of fog, Buller is still beautiful

She has been dressed up by humanity. Her natural beauty has been augmented by something of an airbrush. Her talent and character has been capitalised on by human power, for human enjoyment. And in so doing, mountain life has become accessible to humans, which is a beautiful privilege and one that allows a gateway to the mountains that many would not otherwise be able to access. What we have to accept alongside this, though, is mountain reality. We have to take the bad with the good, at least according to our own discretionary definitions.

Because when she shines, she radiates. She is a beacon of unrivalled beauty. She rewards perseverance and respect with views that give me goosebumps just thinking about them. Her alpenglow, her sunsets, her snow gums, her wildflowers, her wildlife, her weather, her ridge lines, her spurs, her peaks and valleys...as a whole, she is exquisite.

Walking the West Ridge of Buller reminds you that this mountain is still truly wild

Despite her very deliberate makeup, she is raw, and an exemplary showcase of Australian alpine awe. She is beautiful, objectively and in her own unique way. Part of that beauty is her relentless honesty, her headstrong demeanour, and her total refusal to display a pretence or try to be something she's not. She is a mountain, an ancient alpine being, whose soul and wisdom outdates the resort that has been constructed and expanded by human power over several decades. To understand that is to understand the power of nature and the power of the alpine world, and is an equally important message for the rest of us: whatever facade or costume we sometimes have to wear to get things done in life, we must not lose sight of our true selves.

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