The team in minehunter HMAS Huon never miss an opportunity to test their physical and mental toughness, and even the fittest on board hit their limits during a recent visit to Lord Howe Island.
An eight-hour return climb to the summit of Mount Gower awaited eight brave crew members who were led by a local guide.
After a one kilometre walk along the rugged edge of the western coastline to the base of the mountain, it became apparent some members would find it more difficult than others and a team effort would be required to see all climbers finish before the sun disappeared that evening.
With helmets donned, the team began the first of four distinct inclines, each more challenging than the last.
At the steepest section, it took them about an hour to climb 300 metres, aided by anchored guide ropes.
With every metre of elevation gained the view became more spectacular, an encouraging distraction from the aches and pains.
After navigating some cliff-side goat tracks, where one wrong step would be greeted with a 600 metre vertical drop, they finally made it.
At 875 metres, the summit is frequently covered in low-level cloud, making for a unique environment. The volcanic clay is extremely slippery, and every footstep became a calculated one.
The path was lined with moss, the bird life intensified, and the world’s rarest palm tree - the Little Mountain Palm, which is only found on the summit of Mount Gower - began to dominate the flora.
The team was greeted with the most breathtaking 360-degree views. The entire crescent island stretched into the sea, the turquoise lagoon was sheltered from the breakers, and Balls Pyramid, far to the south, loomed menacingly from the ocean.
The descent, which somehow seemed steeper, more dangerous and difficult than going up was all that was left for the team.
With the motivation of a famous island burger awaiting all at the bottom, and with gravity on their side, they cautiously made their way down.
Huon was in the region conducting clearance diving team training at depth. The clear deep waters around the Island offered the perfect environment.