Pokana Peak: 1-4 January 2021

Pokana GPS route. Yes, it looks like we camped in the Lake. We didn’t. We camped at the intersection of the three tracks and it was definitely dry land! Unfortunately it added a good 1.5km on to each way of the walk.

Pandani club walks to mountains I’ve not yet climbed are few and far between and so I got very excited when I saw Simon had put this one on the program. I nearly forgot to sign up in my newly developed forgetfulness, but was reminded by a comment from a friend. Fortunately there was still a spot for me AND I still had use of Graham’s kayaks, though it would likely be their final trip with me. As the date approached the fact that it was an awesome way to start the new year became apparent and my excitement grew further. As always, the more excited I got and the more invested in the possibility of climbing new mountains I became, the more I started to get concerned by potential barriers. For this one, I was concerned that we had a large group, nine in total. All were strong walkers, but that becomes irrelevant past a certain size, as more walkers exponentially increase the time things regardless of ability.

Getting unloaded and all packed up ready to launch. Just a few of us – what a great group to be part of!

The weather was looking ok, but not brilliant according to the forecast. There was talk of climbing both The Pleiades and Pokana in the one day, although the trip was initially advertised for just Pokana. Both might be achievable by a solo walker in 24 hours, but would be at least a 30km round trip according to the map, and longer in actual distance walked. The terrain looked mostly open, but with some scrubby pockets and some reportedly big button grass clumps. Together that felt like a big ask for a large group, and even Pokana alone would be a long day.

Clear Hill behind Bianca and Tim… stunning place to paddle

The wise thing was to acknowledge the wisdom in Murphy’s law and plan for the worst. I asked Tim, who’d asked me to give him and his kayak a lift, if he had the 4th of January off. He didn’t, but worked a bit of magic, managed to get hold of the right people between Christmas and the New Year and got a day of leave approved. And so we had ourselves an extra day to climb whatever we might not get up on the Saturday. Simon, as leader of the walk, gave us the nod of approval. With all eventualities controlled for I settled back to let the trip play out however it would.

The cliffs of Stepped Hills with dead trees in the flooded Lake Gordon. They were pretty, even if they were long dead.

We had a relaxed 9am meet up at Granton, and picked up the final two members of the party at Maydena and an otherwise enjoyable drive down to the northern end of Clear Hill Road, with plenty of philosophical conversation to keep us both awake. For a large group we were pretty efficient at unloading and packing our kayaks, had a quick bite to eat and then began a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable paddle out on Gordon Lake in the early afternoon.

Tim has a smile on his face most of the time, even when he’s pushing through scrub

The mountains were lovely, with Clear Hill and Stepped Hills dominating initially, but the sharp, craggy point of Center Star soon stealing the limelight. As we paddled through sections of dead trees Tim mentioned how weird it felt to be paddling through the forest, and he was right. It was beautiful, but slightly haunted in a desolate kind of way. If it wasn’t for the blue sky it would have been colourless seemingly lifeless. If you looked closely though there were lots of swallows, the odd spider on trees in the middle of the lake, and a whole heap of bees that I suspect had chosen one of the old trees for their hive.

There were some big trees in the lake.. and some that moved a lot in the water, waiting to fall over.
Center and South Stars as Simon and Mark paddle past. I do like the look of those cliffs!
And there she lies… Pokana Peak dead ahead.

The fact that the water level was something like 27m below maximum capacity meant all our maps were inaccurate and we had to navigate around raised bits of land that should have been under water. After one false lead, we pulled up on a flat and not too boggy spot that looked like it had been burned out in the recent fires. It would be about as close as we reckoned we could get to where we’d ascend into the ridge that would ultimately lead north to Pokana or south to The Pleiades. The maps technically had us camping in the water, 1.5km from where the edge of the water should have been! Out we hopped, and spent the next 30 minutes pitching tents and getting ourselves sorted.

This looks like a pretty good place to camp.
Sitting around at dinner time… chatting the time away while Pokana sits in the background.

‘Now what?!’ Jess asked. We lamented not having any cards or twister or even a frisbee, but entertained ourselves sitting round eating, telling stories, talking mountains and throwing bits of caked mud at a central cup. Time flew by, barely noticed. As the mountains and then clouds started to sport a bit of colour we migrated to the lake shore with our cameras and continued our conversations, almost as if uninterrupted. People stepped away every now and again to take a photo before returning to resume partaking in the chatter. It was a lovely way to bring an end to the first day of the year. I retired to my tent to read, but was too tired to keep my eyes open, so fell asleep to the pleasant chorus of frogs instead.

Evening light on Clear Hill from our campsite.
A last little bit of colour off the side of The Pleiades. Good night…

The day dawned bright with no sign of rain and only a few clouds. Much better than anticipated, but a bit too good, as it would turn out. The mornings entertainment began with news that something had stolen the power bank Ben used to take time lapse footage! It seemed there was a rascal about the place and it wasn’t the last we’d hear of it.

Early morning light on the ridge that we ascend in order to get to Pokana Peak
Looking the opposite way, towards Lake Gordon and Clear Hill. It’s a pretty morning.
Early morning sun on Goondie tents.
All lined up at dawn

We set off at 7, across the plains that were, on the map, supposed to be underwater too. Heading northwest we set our sights on a ridge that looked ok, and managed to weave a way there that avoided most of the scrub. Six black cockatoos flew overhead, calling as they went. It had all the makings of a good day. I felt light on my feet and happy in my heart. I was completely at home out here amongst the crunch of button grass and the occasional waft of lemon-scented boronia as the sweat began to run down our faces.

Setting off at 7am, we traipse across the plain that is supposed to be under water, heading for a clear ridge off to the left of this photo. Pokana Peak is the high point to the right.
Simon leads us through the first bits of scrub.

We made slow progress, held up mostly by all the photos we wanted to take and on occasion by discussions about our chosen route. Later, when we started to climb up the ridge, we were slowed by steep, uneven terrain with thicker than expected scrub and a day that was already proving to be hot.

It’s a long, hot climb and we take plenty of breaks and examine lots of different flowers. How cool is Bianca’s hat, btw?!

We had numerous rest breaks and lots of chatter about everything under the sun, as is bound to happen when you have experts in organic chemistry, physics, science, physiotherapy and IT amongst your numbers (and that’s far from an exhaustive list!). We pondered why button grass reflected the sun so well and where the tanins came from that stained the water, and I learnt that there are genetically different pepper berries, some that produce the peppery compound, and others that don’t have it (don’t collect your leaves from Mt Field if you want peppery ones!). We had questions about long legged flies, frogs, and why cicadas were so much smaller here than on the mainland. We enjoyed the blanfordia, which was looking stunning in its prime and even found a couple of isophysis (formerly known as hewardia). Clearly, we mused over and examined all the important issues!

We make it onto the first ridge, the hardest and steepest bit of the climb done, and reap the rewards of some stunning views. Pokana sits in the middel of the photo here.
Blanfordia, aka Christmas Bells. They were just pefrect!

In this fashion it took us two hours to reach the ridge we were attempting to climb on to. We turned along it to the right, where the walking wasn’t bad but equally wasn’t the easiest underfoot. We followed it all the way down to a river, which was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. Slogging back up the far side all the way to the ridge that would take us to Pokana was hard work, now in the heat of the day, although Mark chose a brilliant route and did the bulk of the bash. The reward was a late lunch in the shade of rocks.

It took us two hours to get here. Turning right, we walk along the ridge, always on the western side of the rocky and scrubby buttresses.
It’s stinking hot, but at this point we’re not sure where our next lot of water is going to come from. I’m grateful for the 3 litres on my back. Mark takes a swig from his bottle.
Tracey doesn’t like having her photo taken, but I reckon she looks pretty happy here, in amongst the mountains! You can see the less scrubby ramp we used to ascend on to the ridge on the left – it sits in the middle of the photo.
While the going wasn’t easy, it was pretty. Pokana Peak peaks between the rocks.
Jess leads the way forward. She has a particular knack of walking onto pads!
Looking back at the ridge we’ve just walked along. You can see why we sidled just under the rocky bits, it’s where the scrub is easiest.

I think we all knew we weren’t walking fast enough as a group, but it wasn’t easy to call it even though an early turn around and a swim in the lake may have been a more sensible use of time! Two turned around first, then a third, and finally, when we realised we’d be returning to camp in the early hours of the morning if we continued, the last of us also sensibly called it quits.

More sidling, looking back south. It’s not easy walking and we became rather strung out despite the regular stops. It was time to call it.

We all met back up at the creek and walked the rest of the way back together. We retraced steps except that we chose a different ridge to descend, which proved less scrubby and more direct. Dinner was at 10 followed immediately by bed. I got a glimpse of our cheeky furry friend that evening and thought it was a quoll. I was mistaken, but didn’t discover this till the following evening.

Having turned around we head slowly back, choosing a different ridge to descend. It’s a wise choice and we make it down to the bottom before it gets dark. We just had to walk the plain by moon or torch light.

I woke to find one of my clogs had been relocated, but was fortunately easy enough to find. I shook my head with a smile on my face, then got busy getting ready. The others had multiple items relocated as well. They were all due to paddle out, but Tim and I had our extra day. We figured we’d make the most of our bashed pad and head back for another crack at Pokana. Determined to learn from our very recent lesson in what not to do we’d decided to set the alarm early so we’d be ready to leave at 6.

The morning starts off well, a red glow to wake us up and plenty of cloud cover to keep things a tad cooler than the day before.

We said our goodbyes to those of the others who were awake early and headed off, noticeably fatigued from the 15 hours we’d been on our feet for the day before. We were sure we could move faster with just the two of us, but weren’t arrogant enough to be confident of this, and so we hit the slopes of the ridge hard. I was drenched before we got half way up because while it wasn’t a hot day yet, and the sun was still behind the clouds, it was humid.

We’re on the ridge in 1.5 hrs this time, drenched, but happy to have the big climb done.

We made good time along the ridge heading north to Pokana and found ourselves at the point we’d turned around after 4.5 hours of walking. We were almost moving twice as fast. This took a huge amount of pressure off and so we slowed the pace down and took longer rest stops. It was probably just as well, poor Tim had an unsettled gut and I can’t imagine how he managed to walk as he did in between loo stops. I was at my limit and I was fighting fit!

At the point we turned around in nearly half the time, we’re feeling good enough to slow things down. We decide to pop over the top of the ridge, then duck over to the eastern side. It proves to be a wise decision. Isn’t there a stunning rocky backbone to this ridge?

As it transpired, we’d turned around having done the hardest part of the walk. The ridge we were on was one with a rocky spine that hadn’t been any good for staying high. So we’d traversed under the rocky outcrops on the western side, which had been to that point a messy and slow process. But we were at a spot now when it made sense to climb on to the top of the ridge, and sure enough, the way forward was much easier. We scrambled down, crossed to the other side of the ridge, and then cut off the corner as we started heading more WNW on an intersecting ridge that would take us to the summit.

On top of the ridge, looking towards Pokana on the right. The going looks (and is!) easier from now onwards.

The scrub was mostly ankle to shin high, but in spots was deeper and thicker, making us lurch across the terrain like a pair of drunkards. It didn’t matter though – as tired and as ready as we were for some easier walking, the summit suddenly seemed closer and more achievable. Up we plodded, drenched in sweat and no extra energy in our legs, determination propelling us on. We climbed the final rocky outcrop to discover the summit cairn wasn’t a cairn but one of those concrete markers! It was 12:15 – we’d made it just in time for lunch.

Tim leads to just shy of the summit, then insists I do the honours.

We ate, let the others know we’d made it, chatted and enjoyed the views and the feeling of slightly drier shirts! It was hard to know what to look at: the Spires, the Dennison range, the POWs,or the more popular Western Arthurs, Frenchmans, Mt Anne and even Federation Peak. All were visible from the summit and it was understandably a tough one to drag ourselves away from.

On the summit, looking back along the ridges we’d walked. The tents are out of the photo to the left, where you can see just a little bit of the shore that should be underwater.
Looking towards the Dennison Range
North of Pokana the ridge looks like very nice walking. Pity we hadn’t had more of that!
The summit pillar of concrete. Lake Gordon and Clear hill in the distance

We had no choice though, if we wanted to get back for a swim before dark. The return is much of a blur. We took it in turns to lead, swapping after rest stops. Conversation came in short bursts, both of us focused on getting down and having very little energy for anything more than simple observations. We hadn’t done a huge amount of walking together, but were figuring out what worked in a relatively smooth way. Tim was another one of those easy to walk with kind of people (probably more so than me!).

A glance towards Humboldt on the way back.. I just liked the lines and patterns here.

We arrived back at the river at 5, all set for a 7-7:30 arrival back at the tents. It proved to be closer to the latter, largely because neither of us had knees that wanted to get up! We had entertained the idea of a flying fox on numerous occasions on this walk, but sadly one hadn’t materialised.

Plodding back, it’s a long way!

Across the ridge we moved, the slight incline feeling more than slight! And then finally it was time to drop off and down. We did plenty of sliding in the steeper parts, some bits more controlled than others. And then we were at the bottom, with just the open flat left. It had felt like an age the day before and it was no shorter this time round.

Finally, we just have the down to go!

A little red breasted robin greeted me at my tent as I set about sorting myself out in order of importance. Aching feet were keen to get out of boots and I couldn’t wait to get in some cold, cleansing water, even if it was now much cooler all round. It was absolutely wonderful! Dinner followed, and while I had plans of many grand things to fill the evening with I fell straight asleep for a couple of hours. I woke to the sound of the cheeky furry animal dragging one boot away and discovered it was in fact a Tassie devil! We had a few moments before he scampered off. I decided I’d best not leave anything in the vestibules!

We had entertained the idea of climbing the Pleiades before paddling out on our last day, but had called it off with Tim’s upset gut. Regardless, I’m not sure either of us wanted to see any more button grass and melaleuca for a while! So we had a lazy morning with no alarms to wake us, pottered around a bit, waited for the sun to peak out between the clouds and eventually packed up. All of this was accompanied by a chorus of frogs and the twitter of little birds.

The paddle back started off seriously, but part way along as the wind died down and the sun came out we drifted along chatting more than we paddled, neither of us in any great rush to leave the mountains for a whole heap of washing and packing away that we knew awaited us. A late lunch at the Possum Shed rounded off a pretty good trip – we can both recommend the Possum Shed BLT!

All up:

Day 1 paddle: 7.6km, 1:44hrs

Day 2 attempt: 16.3km, 14:55hrs, 1116m ascent

Day 3 actual summit: 19.7km, 13:21hrs, 1453m ascent

Mount Meredith: 28 December 2021

Mount Meredith GPS route

It always amazes me when something happens that you can look back and see all the little connections and moments that had to fall into place so perfectly so as to culminate in the present. On this occasion it was a chance meeting on the shore of Lake Curly (not often visited!) and another chance meeting on the Overland Track that led to Shelly and I hatching plans for future walks, the first of which was to tackle Mount Meredith as a day walk. I’m not sure I’d have suggested it, but when she asked if I was keen there was only one answer and a whole lot of excitement. More than usual, I think, because of what we were asking of ourselves…

Mount Meredith probably doesn’t feature on most walkers’ list of day walks. To be fair, it probably shouldn’t be undertaken in this manner except by the most determined and somewhat crazy of people! We were both of those things, so it didn’t faze us that we would be getting up and ready to start walking at 5am and would only turn around when we reached the summit, whenever that was. And we had no idea, really. We didn’t know just how bad the scrub would be, or for that matter if we’d even be able to cross the Whyte River. The last group I knew of attempting Mt Meredith hadn’t made it across. That would make for a very short walk indeed, but also necessitate a return trip, something we wanted to avoid.

We met on the side of Corinna Road, a short distance south of Savage River, where there’s an old (very old and overgrown) ‘road’ off the eastern side at the head of the Nine Mile Creek. This was where we planned to start our attack. John, who’d been on the above mentioned failed attempt to cross the Whyte River, gave us some useful intel shortly before our departure. He recommended continuing along the old road to the southern most drop off point, rather than taking the northern one. Shelly confirmed this using the Avenza maps, which made it pretty clear where the sand banks (or rather pebble/rock banks) were and therefore where the river might be more easily and safely crossed.

And so we woke at 0430 and started walking at 0500 on the dot. Head torches made the wet scrub glisten blindingly in the darkness of the early morning. Bauera across the old road set the tone for most of the day – it would be a wet (or sweaty) and scrubby one. The road continued for longer than the map suggested, and was more easy to follow than expected. However it also had off shoots that we hadn’t anticipated and we veered off to the right by mistake in one spot – catching ourselves before we dropped too far off the wrong side of the ridge. This sounds ridiculous, but it was surprisingly easy to do without even realising, such was the nature of the rather flat ridge.

Our error corrected, we continued south and then dropped off the ridge in a southeasterly direction, towards the Whyte river and the mapped sand bars. The going was much more open than we expected and we enjoyed a scrub free weave all the way down, where we popped out at the perfect spot. Without hesitation we strode across the river, surprised at the force behind the rapidly flowing but otherwise relatively low (shin deep) water. We chose our ridge line on the far side and climbed straight up a very steep but also open and this time well-defined ridge. 

We couldn’t believe our luck at how nice the going was – it was solid green on the map. It wasn’t to last though and we hit some ferocious scrub at the .219 highpoint at to top of this ridge. It was only a few hundred metres long and we tried to avoid it by contouring SSE to the next ridge that would connect us to a saddle and then another climb, but it was unavoidable. Thick, tangly bauera slowed us down for a very long time and it took us an hour to move 300m in a straight line. Our mood about the day took a similar hit and I started to wonder how hard the mountain was actually going to be and how late we might return. I knew the wondering was wasted energy, but I couldn’t help myself!

Fortunately, the ridge we arrived at opened up a bit and once we figured out how to stay on it (I swear, this mountain has lots of ridges that AREN’T obviously defined or easy to stay on!) the going was much faster. The saddle was also open and the biggest hindrance as we made our way up the far side was just the sheer amount of forest debris on the ground, that meant you were never quite sure how far down your feet were going to sink through the leaf and branch matter and whether or not they’d connect with a hidden, solid log. It was a minor issue and certainly the going was again better than expected!

After a short bit of thicker scrub, where Shelly coined the term ‘wombatting’ to refer to crawling on one’s hands and knees through the scrub, we finally popped out, exactly where the Avenza maps said we should. Just perfect! Five hours after having started out we had our first unimpeded views of the sky above our heads and of the line we’d take ahead. It was exciting especially because the next bit looked more button-grassy yellow than scrubby green!!

Finally, there’s nothing between our heads the the sky! This is the view we have of the route ahead. Straight ahead then up to the right to get onto that ridge.
Looking south as we weave through low scrub.

The weather was perfect, clearing overcast, cool but not cold, with minimal wind. We were still drenched from the wet scrub bash and the sweaty work we’d done so far but knew we’d dry off. A wedgie came to say hello, nice and close, as if we needed another excuse to smile some more.

Oh to be free to soar on the edge of the wind… It’s more rare these days to go on a walk and not see a wedge tailed eagle than it is to see one – but I’m not complaining!

We tagged in and out of the lead, working well to discuss preferred routes and expected scrub and making collective decisions with which we were both happy. It was just the style of walking I love – a team effort with easy and relaxed company and not too much phaffing around. 

There was some lovely walking, and the views weren’t bad either!
As we get closer we can see the summit of Mt Meredith (second from the left). You can’t see it in the photo but you could see the trig on top with the naked eye from here.

We opted for a direct route through the next bit of scrub, instead of a longer but potentially (and that was not guaranteed) less scrubby line. Some more ‘open’ button grass and tea tree to weave through and then the final knob before the ascent to the summit. Easier said than done, it would seem. We were over scrub by this point and had been walking for a good 8 hours, knowing we still had all the way to go back. We did as we usually do, automatically attempting to stay on the ridge at the .645 high point, intending on following the NNE ridge to the final saddle. It would be the sensible route 95% of the time. As it turned out, the scrub was just as bad here as the worst scrub earlier on, only we were much more tired with little reserves in our tanks.

Can you tell we’re excited by being so close?!

Ten minutes in I glanced at my GPS to find my watch was moving faster than we were. And then I noticed the route I had planned actually dropped off the ridge to the northeastern side and sidled around to the saddle. I never do this (preferring to stay high always), unless I was certain the satellite imagery showed a better line through the scrub. I mentioned it tentatively to Shelly, suddenly unsure of the accuracy of my preparation now that the stakes were higher. Together we figured we didn’t have much to lose and so we fought our way down off the ridge, encouraged as our heads, then our chests escaped the scrubby tangle. The further we went the better the walking became. How lucky we felt to have escaped the scrub relatively unscathed this time!

Heading up the final climb and looking back towards the very green, scrubby knob (centre photo) and the ridge that extends to the right. You can see where the scrub is lighter in colour much lower down, with a distinct line that we climbed back up (left of centre) to regain the ridge to the left of the knob. Definitely the better route!
Views south from the slopes of Mt Meredith.
Shelly makes her way up as the west coast mountains look on.

The scrub from the saddle and up was much kinder to us and we only had to contend with the steep climb on weary legs. It was slow, but progress was steady. You can only imagine the smiles on our faces when we found ourselves standing under the trig. Phew! 9 hours of walking and here we were on the summit. The Meredith Range stretched along the southeastern horizon and the Norfolk Range was directly opposite, in a northwesterly direction. Oh it was wonderful to sit down and relax!

Wooo! We made it. No holding back on the smiles… It was 9 hours after we started walking. We were both going to crack our personal records for longest day walks.
The Savage River mine is a decent scar on the landscape. I can’t remember having seen it quite so well from any other mountain, though I don’t understand how such a big thing hides so well.
Meredith Range from the summit of Mt Meredith. We did think it was funny that they were distinct, and that Mount Meredith was worth the points even though the range was the higher of the two!

We gave ourselves 15 minutes to finish off lunch send safety updates/check in messages, before the camera was packed into the bag and we turned to retrace our steps. As we descended our attention, which had been focused on the scrubby climb ahead, was stolen by not one but two wedgies, playing on the air currents, crying to each other in what sounded like a cross between an injured gull and baby kitten. Neither of us had heard sound like this before and once again we had cause to marvel. 

On the return we decided to stay even lower than our approach, contouring southwesterly along the green scrubby ridge. The going was even better and we made great time. We hit the line we had identified to start our short ascent back onto the ridge and again had a steep but relatively scrub free route, save for the last 10 or so metres. We couldn’t believe our luck and it buoyed us for the next bit of the walk back down.

The rest of the walk is rather blurred, as we took care to stick closely to our track so as to walk back on our scrub bash. It made for a mentally fatiguing but physically easier return and would save us 2 hours in total. Only occasionally did we walk off the bash and paid for it dearly enough that we paid even closer attention to the GPS. We were very pleased with ourselves, however, to have made it back past the really nasty scrubby bit before it was dark, both of us by now feeling like we were definitely going to get there, and in good time. 

The final climb up from the river to the road was long and steep, but we knew it was the last. We hit a small patch of scrub, courtesy of taking an alternative route, but in due course found ourselves on the old road shortly before we needed to retrieve our head torches for the final 1.2km of the walk. Back at the cars we shared a victory hug, then concentrated on stripping off, removing unwanted leeches and scrub, and heading our respective ways. For me, that meant making a dent on the return drive and for Shelly, another night car camping there before heading off to climb Parson’s Hood the following day (I have no idea how her legs had any energy left for that one!).

All up: 21.4km, 17:06hrs; 1618m ascent

Marble Bluff and Walford Peak: 18-20 December 2020

GPS route to Walford Peak and Marble Bluff

Since Graham’s death a lot of things have changed. For the time being, I no longer have as many barriers to leading club walks as I did eight months ago. And so I figured it is time to put back in again. One of the biggest barriers remaining is choosing somewhere new to go that’s not too horribly scrubby and is achievable in 1-3 days. This time I felt Marble Bluff and Walford Peak were appropriate candidates, although I knew little about them at the time of deciding!


It turns out they weren’t particularly popular with many other Pandani members, or perhaps it was the timing (the final weekend before Christmas), but only four people signed up initially. One pulled out with a few weeks to go, another on seeing some of the early weather forecasts and on having a decent nosebleed the evening before. 


And so there were just two of us, Tim and I. I’d not met or walked with Tim, but my intel told me he was a decent guy and strong walker. He’s now the first physicist I know too. We set off at the leisurely hour of 8am, me having completely forgotten it was a weekday and that all the normal people were trying to get to work at this time. It didn’t delay us too much though, and a smooth (caravan free!) drive to the Anthony River Road had us sitting in the car eating lunch just after 12, waiting for the latest rain shower to pass before donning our packs and setting off. 


I was unfortunately rather distracted by an important and expected, but not all that pleasant, email. While I’m sure Tim must have noticed, he was polite enough not to let on. I tried to put it aside, there wasn’t much I could do about it without reception after all, and I found myself disliking that it was taking me away from the present moment and one thing I still really love doing. A good friend sent an email and must have known – she told me to enjoy the walk! I tried to be gentle on myself, just letting the feelings pass, noticing them as they did so. And with a lot of help from some appropriately placed inclines that were steep enough to make thinking difficult, I slowly worked my way back to the present.

The whistlers were out, a bird of prey – perhaps a swamp harrier – flew off as we disturbed the peace with our heavy feet and laboured breath, and the rain threatened but didn’t eventuate. We’d timed our walk for a small, potentially dry window, although we weren’t taking any chances and were decked out in full wet weather gear. As it turned out it was quite warm and a few hours in we swapped jackets for sunscreen and hats. 

The walk in follows the Lake Spicer track – an old rocky 4WD track that’s locked at the start. You’d definitely want a 4WD, or a dirt bike, but the road is otherwise in good nick and not too overgrown. Even the rivers were remarkably tame (I had been worried on that front!). The biggest obstacles were actually the numerous pools of water that spanned the road in every poorly drained dip. They became more frequent the further we went. Some required short forays into the scrub to avoid getting boot-fulls of water. But we still made better than expected time and found ourself at Lake Spicer just shy of 3.5 hours after starting out. It was a bit early for dinner and bed, but neither of us were complaining! With the rain forecast to return there was nothing better to do except to lie there and listen to it while reading a book. 

Walking in to Lake Spicer, Eldon Peak in the clouds.

We woke to a cloudy but already much brighter morning than the day before, and were ready to set off before 8. My walk description on the program had been vague – it might have mentioned the possibility of some scrub, but also some open walking. Not having been in the area before it turned out to be a pretty accurate description.

The morning of day 2, we start to head up to Unconformity Ridge, Lake Spicer below.

Most of the walking was a mix of button grass, tea tree and melaleuca. On the ridge it was mostly a nice height, but not so getting up. And there was a bit of a scrubby creek to cross very early on. But otherwise the going was probably better than expected as we wove our way along Unconformity Ridge. It was appropriately named, we discovered, because it wasn’t a straight forward kind of ridge to follow. And it had some funny little features and scrub patterns that meant sometimes it was much better to be off one or other side. It wouldn’t be the easiest to navigate in clag. 

Looking back north along Unconformity Ridge (check out the scrub pattern!), Walford Peak to left of centre.

As we walked south the weather improved, the clouds slowly parting to reveal slivers of blue sky. And one by one they revealed all the mighty mountains around us. Frenchmans was still under cover when we arrived at the rocky summit of Marble Bluff, but Eldon Peak was impressive off to the northeast. 

Summit cairn of Marble Bluff, Lyell and Owen beyond.
Tim looking happy on the summit of Marble Bluff, Eldon peak behind
The Sedgewick and the Tyndal Range from the summit of Marble Bluff
Looking south across Lake Burbury from the summit
Barn and Cradle looking over the shoulder of Eldon Peak
Eldon Peak and that 6km stretch of boulder hopping!! 😀

We’d made such good time, it was just shy of 11, that we decided we’d head back, pack the tents and move to the foot of Walford Peak. A check of the latest forecast cemented the plan. It was now looking wet for our walk out, so if we could also climb Walford in the evening we’d have the best weather possible for it. We scrapped tentative thoughts of climbing the Sticht Range on the way out – there wasn’t much point in the wet with no view!
And so we wandered back, the gradual loss of height making it difficult at times to know exactly where the ridge was without consulting the gps. We made it back without many unfortunate or avoidable forays into unnecessary scrub, and remained snake bite free despite probably stepping on one of the three we saw (the total tally for the trip was four)! 

The Tyndall Range, and the relatively easy going through low alpine scrub.

We were back by 1:30 and packed by 2. I found it hard to walk at anything more than a plod – partly from cumulative fatigue, partly because it was a road walk 😜! But that was ok, Tim didn’t seem to mind matching my pace, and we arrived at the saddle from which we’d climb Walford in good time. We set up tents in the middle of the road and then, because we were only something like 600m from the summit, we set off with cameras, gps and a warm item of clothing. 

Heading back along the road to Marble Bluff (left). The Sticht range on the right.
Walford Bluff from the road.

It looked scrubby to start with, but we found it easy enough to weave a way through the lower bits, and then a short way in we discovered a very feint pad. I thought it was wombat at first, but it wasn’t littered with scats and it went exactly where we wanted it to. As the scrub got thicker and it became even more defined I grew confident that we could follow it blindly and it would get us to the top. And sure enough it did. One sharp uphill, and we stood on the shoulder, greeted by a stunning view towards Mount Tyndall and the lake nestled in below the cliffs. 

Walford Peak looks scrubby, but we walk straight onto a good pad in the most obvious spot you’d expect it.
Lake Huntley and the Tyndall Range looking pretty impressive!
Climbing straight up Walford Peak, The Eldon range still looking good!
Looking north along the ridge towards Mt Murchison

The summit was only a short distance south, with just a bit of rock hopping on quartzite to add to the fun. We were definitely on top of the world with this one, with views all around! Walford is a peak with great bang for buck if you happen to find yourself on the Lake Spicer track for some other reason. 

The summit of Walford Peak, looking towards Mt Sedgewick
The mighty Eldon Peak (again!) and Lake Spicer.

We slipped and slid back down in something that was more like controlled falling than walking, arriving back at the tents by 5, just in time for an early dinner! We heard the sound of some kind of engine/s and wondered if we’d see the source in due course, but there was no sign of anyone that evening or the next day.

Tim heads back down with Murchison as a backdrop.
We head straight down!

All up:

Day 1: 14km, 3:22 hrs, 593m ascent

Day 2: 19.7km, 9:15hrs, 914m ascent

Day 3: 8.6km, 1:55hrs, 171m ascent

We leave at 6am the morning of day 3 to avoid the incoming rain.

Mount Tor: 15 December 2020

Mount Tor GPS route

In the 8 years I’ve been walking in Tassie I’ve never been all that focused on ticking off Abels. I climbed quite a few early on because they came with walk descriptions. This was important for someone who was new to it all and still had to teach herself how to read maps, GPSs and satellite imagery in order to figure out the best way up the mountains that didn’t have widely known or publicised routes. Abels, therefore, fell into my ‘easy’ basket because they required little work on my part. I figured I’d end up climbing them whenever the time was right.

A few weeks ago I was reminded that there was a club walk to one of the final four I had to climb (Pokana). It was definitely the nicest of the four and so I began to wonder if perhaps I could engineer it to be my last. That way I’d have a great group of people to celebrate with. I had just enough days to make it happen, if the weather obeyed. The idea was scuttled almost as soon as it started, with the first five day walk (planned for either Nereus or Tramontane) called off due to horrendous winds and lots of rain. The next five days I had free was lovely weather, but a good friend and work colleague had a birthday to celebrate, and chose to head in to New Pelion Hut. That was much more important than a long solo scrub bash, so I readily accepted that I wouldn’t be doing the Abel thing quite the way I thought I might.

Mount Tor was the only Abel I had left that was actually a day walk, which it had achieved purely by having the inconvenience of having to call someone up to arrange permission. Or so I thought. As it turns out, permission is no longer being granted to access the peak from the west. In some ways that suited me just fine, it meant I was free to head in whenever the weather suited. It just so happened to suit for the day we were walking back out of New Pelion!

I got the ok to head off early, and so started walking at first light, shortly after 5. It’s not a long walk out from the hut via the Arm River track, and I was back at the car before 8. The drive to Loongana and the northern access to Mt Tor took nearly as long, despite the gravel road being in good nick. It was just shy of 11 by the time I was ready to start walking and already stinking hot.

Mt Tor from the road

Dempster creek was low and easily crossed in boots without getting wet feed. The Leven River was a different story. After a bit of dilly dallying at the edge figuring out whether or not I’d be able to get across with dry feet I came to my senses and realised what an absurd idea that was. Not only was it hot, and being cool and wet from the knees down might not be a bad thing, I was also wearing new boots that had only walked in and out of Pelion Hut. A good soaking on a hot day would really help soften them to my foot. So I ploughed through, shocked to find the water wasn’t all that cold!

Dempster Creek
Leven River

I then had an hour of walking on an old road, identified by using the LIDAR index on ListMap for the first time (thanks to the suggestion from a reader!). It was wonderful and made for some very easy going through what could otherwise have been a long scrub bash. Early on there was a section of over-and-under due to a number of fallen trees and one long boggy/pond-like bit, which had me wonder how good the road would actually be, but it cleared up to provide very open walking.

The road walk.. so lovely to be in shade!

Usually when I go walking by myself, especially in recent months and up scrubby mountains, I have an urge to rush, to get to the top and then back down. I’m not sure why or where it comes from, but it’s definitely related to a slight anxiety about actually ‘getting there’. It’s bizarre, because even if I take longer than expected I know I’m quite capable of walking back in the dark and am not at all nervous about that part. I never had a problem when I was walking with Graham, or anyone else for that matter. Then I was always really comfortable that we’d get there when we got there.

Anyway, I’d set an intention before starting out that I was going to do things differently this time. When I’d got over the rivers and was walking along the road I found myself with less to pay attention to and more time for my mind to wander. I found that slight anxiety creeping in: my thoughts raced from how tired I was from the last three days worth of walking, the fact that I only had 2L of water on me and I’d already drunk 2 it was that hot, and how bad was the scrub going to be anyway… would I have enough water and energy to get through?

I caught myself nearly stepping on a greenhood orchid, which halted me both mid-step and mid-thought. It took me back to a blog post I’d recently read by Danna Faulds (https://kripalu.org/resources/shift-focus), where she described riding along a trail, trying not to run over red-spotted newts. She experimented with shifting her focus back and forth from the immediate ground in front of her wheel to the larger picture surrounding her. With practice, she found it didn’t need to be a choice of one or the other, but she could hold both at the same time.

I figured I’d give it a crack. And yes, at first I could only pay attention to the ground directly ahead if I wanted to be sure not to step on the greenhood and the occasional bird orchids, the mushrooms and the cocoons made of leaves or young fern shoots. I realised I was blocking out the sound of the shrike thrushes and a kookaburra; the musical psithurism way above my head; the increasingly distant rumble of water over rocks; the oppressive heat which had sweat running down my face, back, arms and legs; the ginormous man ferns, cheese berry bushes and tea tree growing along the road side as well as purple foxgloves that stood as tall as I across the road, as if on sentry duty. With practice I could begin to hold both, and so began some of the most enjoyable solo walking I have done. I noticed much more, was much more grateful for it all and I wasn’t at all bored by or keen to move on from the road walk as I might normally have been. The challenge now is to apply this to the broader picture of my life :p!

Greenhood orchid, about to open
Bird orchid, not yet fully open
Foxgloves standing sentry

I filled up with water at the last creek before the end of the road, soaked my hat, buff and shirt again and prepared for the scrub bash. I’d marked out a rough route on my GPS back at home using satellite imagery to pick where the scrub might be lightest. Just shy of my departure point I found a cairn, bright pink tape and what looked to be a pad heading up the hill. Why not give it a shot?

Mt Tor from the road, not the summit, but you get a hint of the greenness!
The road continues down to the right, while the cairn and tape mark the ‘pad’ that heads up the hill to the right

Up I went, initially on the fringe between button grass and tea tree to my left and dry sclerophyll forest to my right. Occasionally I ducked into the forest. I saw about one other faded pink tape and then I was on my own – oh well! I wasn’t to have any better luck on the way back, so there may be a track there but I couldn’t stay on it!! It didn’t matter though. When the button grass looked to be closing in, I headed right, keen to get closer to the route I’d mapped out. The forest was largely open, so I headed up and to the right, finding myself either in the sparse, dry forest or on rock. I was surprised at how pleasant the going was, except for the heat, which had my heart racing faster than normal and led to frequent forced breaks.

About a hundred metres from where I expected the forest to break out into button grass the forest closed in, as it often does with the transition from taller forest to stunted alpine scrub. Bauera dominated, and instead of pushing straight up through it, I opted to head even more right, in an attempt to pop out onto the track I’d plotted at home. It was a thick 30 metres of bauera, but sure enough I found myself out of the scrub.

Out of the scrub and looking towards St Valentines Peak. Very grateful for the clouds that have come in here!

Another problem presented itself, however. The new terrain was bauera and button grass, but the button grass wasn’t the nice clumps that had channels between the clumps to make for easy walking. Instead it was the spongy kind, that would be really easy to walk down on but led to unstable footing and a whole heap more effort when walking UP. In the end I found walking on the bauera easier, because at least you knew there was solid ground underneath!

Wildflowers, button grass and Black Bluff peaking round the edge of the slope.

It was stinking hot by now and I had to really work hard to slow my pace from what would be usually quite ok, to something I could actually continue to do without having to stop every 20 metres. I’d been in a similar spot once before when I’d been caught out without enough water on Cawthorn, but hadn’t realised what it was then and had allowed it to get to the stage of heat exhaustion/stroke. This time I knew the warning signs and even though I’d had 2.5 litres of water already I suspected I was still dehydrated. I was being careful with water, not expecting any until I got back down to the road, so you can imagine my relief when I came across the first of many yabbie holes. I didn’t need the water immediately but it was nice to know it was there if I did on the way back.

From the summit ridge, looking NW.

Gradually the incline decreased and the alpine grasses and shrubbery became even more stunted, the views opened up and the top of the mountain appeared, all of which lifted my spirits even further. The heat wouldn’t get the better of me today! I followed a pad along the summit ridge, stopping first at a high point in the middle which was marked by a cairn. It looked the highest, but wasn’t where I had the waypoint on my GPS, so I also visited that point (the most southern point on the ridge) as well as one further north (the highest according to the contours on my GPS maps). And then I sat and enjoyed!

From the summit ridge looking south. Cradle appears in the distance.
So many pretty flowers, looking north towards the little peaks of the northwest.

Black Bluff stretched languidly along the eastern horizon, with Cradle and Barn peeping over the southern shoulder. The ‘little’, poorly known peaks to the north clustered together: Everett, Housetop, Loyeteah and Loongana. St Valentines stood out to the northwest. The breeze was brisk, matching the heat and cooling and drying my soaked shirt. The bugs were out and about, enjoying the brilliant array of summit flowers. It was a vibrantly happy summer day. I drunk greedily, enjoying the clean mountain water and savoured the snacks I’d brought up, feeling very lucky. A took a moment to think of all those still in lockdown around the world.

Cradle and Barn peaking out.
Barn Bluff – magnificent!

Despite consciously slowing down, I’d made it to the summit in less than three hours. I did eventually start the journey back, preferring not to be driving in the dark. It was much easier going downhill and I didn’t need to stop very much, except to enjoy how the hot pinky-red of the Christmas waratahs contrasted with the browny yellow button grass and the bluey-purple hues of distant mountains.

Tassie Christmas Tree

Back at the river, 2 hours after sitting on the summit, I walked straight through without hesitation, took my pack and camera off on the far side and went for a swim and a wash. How glorious the water felt on hot salty skin. When I cooled down to a goosebumps level I dragged myself out and headed the short distance to the car, which was looking very much in need of its own swim!

All up: 13.4km, 5:54 hrs, 786m ascent

Mount Shaula (the one that got away): 30 October – 1 November 2020

Mt Shaula GPS route

It’s been the hardest 6 months I’ve ever had and yet it’s also been a time of reflection, discovery and quite substantial growth, which is far from finished. When the core that you’ve built your life around gets ripped away, you’re kind of forced to reevaluate everything you do and decide how you want to do it now. Even in his death Graham seems to be teaching me things and encouraging me to be a better version of me. Everything has been in the firing line, ranging from little things like how frequently I floss my teeth to the bigger issues of work, hobbies, health and fitness. The only thing that’s staying pretty much the same is bushwalking (although even that might be being ramped up a tad, and obviously I’m back to solo walking too!). I haven’t been able explain why walking was the one thing that’s been working, but by the end of the walk I certainly had more of an idea.

I had 5 days set aside, but two weren’t looking flash with the weather and I had just planted out some tomato, capsicum and eggplant seedlings that were going to need more water than once every 5 days, so I decided to just go for the three good days . King William III, Shaula or Robert… hmmm. The decision was hard and I was going to go with KW3 for a couple of reasons, but then a message from a friend had me pretty keen on two nights camping high on the Western Arthurs. So Shaula it was. It was hard to believe it had already been 6 years since I’d last walked past the mountain and I was stoked to finally be returning :D! I’d first walked the Western Arthurs and all the peaks with Graham and Shaz on a magical 9 day trip. Before we left a friend said, ‘you won’t climb Shaula though, no one ever does on their first go’. He was right, we stood at the point you’d leave from, looking over at it and knew we didn’t have the time and energy to get there and back. So it had remained ‘the one that got away’ for 6.5 years. I always knew I’d be back and it was right near the top of the list for Graham and I, but we hadn’t got there together. So now it was just me. For a three day walk, the days were going to be long because there was a fair distance to cover (nearly 30km one way), but the going would be easy – tracked and open almost all the way, and the camping top notch.

The morning marking practical exams at uni flew by, as did a meeting at the tennis club and then I began a leisurely drive down to the southwest. I could have left the next morning, but I had a LOT of ground to cover, and preferred an early walking start without a ridiculously early driving start (or a mass of animals to avoid)! I wasn’t feeling quite as excited as I had been during the planning – courtesy of good dose of tiredness and feeling a tad under the weather, but that wore off as I listened to a new podcast (all about living with intention as it turned out!), practiced some breathing techniques (the specific episode delved a fair bit into breathing) and watched the sky turn lovely reds and oranges as the sun set. The colour hung around long after sundown and left me with a warm glow inside as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, keen to get at least 7 hours sleep before an early start.

I woke at 5:30 to the alarm, but it was light enough to not need the head torch. I boiled some water for my oats, popped the lot in a thermos for a brunch later on and packed the last few bits and pieces into my pack. It was feeling ridiculously light, a feeling I knew wouldn’t last long! By 6 I was on the track, each step stirring distant memories from previous visits. 

The sky was painted orange again, almost as if it had never left, although now it was a lighter, brighter shade. Again it hung around, reminding me all too soon how difficult it is to look at the views and walk on the track without stumbling! The track wasn’t much different to how I remembered it, perhaps just an extra sign telling unprepared walkers to turn back. Oh, and more of the typical southwest mud than I could remember, but that’s usual for me to forget!

The bright oranges from earlier settle into more subdued shades as the dawn grows stale

I set into a gentle plod, no need to race, and just went with the flow. It was going to be a warm day – it’s not often I have my shirt sleeves rolled up by 6:30! But for now, I was going to enjoy the pleasant smell and temperature of a fine spring day. Sometimes I thought about things, other times I just breathed and walked. I passed another solo female walker who had been in to the start of the range. That accounted for the only other car in the carpark, so I figured I’d have the range to myself! 

The cloud slowly burns off the back of the range.

I arrived at Junction creek at 9, remembering how Shaz and slipped on the little wooden ladder and bruised her tailbone – something to laugh at now but something that had given her grief for the rest of the trip! I had a refreshing drink and continued on along the plains. To this point there hadn’t been much sign of the 2018/19 fires, but that changed shortly after Junction creek and stayed around until my departure point (technically not Moraine K, I was cutting off the corner!). Here the ground was crunchy, although the button grass was coming back, as were some everlastings and the odd patch of sundews. The track was just as easy to follow – rocky underfoot with muddy and boggy patches, especially near rivers. The shortcut was perfect too. It was open going all the way except when crossing Seven Mile River, where there was a track (maybe an old route??). 

I’d forgotten how brilliant the colours and scenery was out here. Mt Shaula is the pointy thing on the right.

By midday I’d started climbing onto the range and didn’t take long to intersect the official route down Moraine K. It was a long slog up, made even longer by the fact I kept wanting to take photos. I’d really slowed down by now anyway, knowing I had all afternoon to travel what was now a relatively short distance and wanting to conserve my energy for the next day. 

Heading up Moraine K you can see where the fires started and stopped. There’s beauty in death here.
Slowly getting higher.
Looking towards the eastern end of the Western Arthurs, technically out of bounds still

When I did finally feel like I was up and on the range properly I started moving at snails pace, stopping repeatedly to take photos or even just stand and stare. I’d forgotten how much walking in the Arthurs fills you with awe and amazement. If ever there was a land of gods, this would be it. Every twist and turn or rise and dip presents a new perspective of folded ridges and dramatic, imposing mountains. To be able to walk in the midst of it all is just delightful. So I savoured every moment, moving only fast enough to keep from getting cold. Familiar bits of track and unique trees and rocks gave me déjà vu, and distant memories trickled back from a lifetime ago. I walked slower still. 

Finally on top, Shaula is the diminutive bump in the centre foreground.

There’s an old King Billy pine just before the descent to Haven Lake, which I’d forgotten about, and it was lovely to find it looking much the same as the last time I passed it by. Down to the lake I dropped. As tempting as the tent platforms and easy access to water might have been for weary feet, I’d been recommended an even better spot, which meant I still had a short walk to do. I partly filled an 8L dry bag with extra water (they do wonderfully as an emergency water bladder, so long as they aren’t too holey!) and continued around the lake. A short climb took me to a saddle in the ridge, which gave brilliant views NW along the range, directly towards the Beggary Bumps and Shaula. It was exposed, but the wind had died down and wasn’t going to pick up until after I was home, making it a perfect spot to stay!

Shaula up close. Looking pretty steep and scrubby from this side.
The eastern end of the Western Arthurs with Fedder in the background
The western end of the Western Arthurs. What a place to be!
Fedder!
Fedder, Aldebaran and some cool king billies.
One of my favourite trees!

While it wasn’t even 4pm I pitched the tent and got some soup and dinner going, and then settled in for an afternoon of reading, writing notes and simply enjoying being in such a lovely place. The sun had settled to a warming caress, and I watched as it turned the mountains different colours during its journey through the sky. Birds chirped in the distance and only the odd fly came to disturb the peace. It was a perfect afternoon, full of silence. To top it off I happened to glance behind the tent as the sun was setting, just in time to watch the full moon peak out from behind rock. And there I stayed, mesmerised as slowly it floated higher and higher, into the sky. 

Not a bad view from the bedroom?
Sunset that night
Followed shortly by moon rise.

I had no need to be up at any particular time so I set no alarm, what a luxury! My bladder had other ideas, and I read for a bit before dozing off again. It was close to 8 when I finally decided I’d best get moving, because while I might not have had a huge distance to go, I wasn’t sure how long the side trip to Shaula might take. If it was horrible scrub, it could be pretty slow! 

Sunrise the next morning.

It was cool and overcast to start and it took a while to shake off the stiffness that had settled in overnight. But the scramble up Taurus and then along the eastern end of the Beggary Bumps soon had me working up a sweat. It took a little longer to get over the disappointment of the morning – waking to find the SD card in my camera had suddenly decided to have an error. All the photos from the day before weren’t visible, and no new ones could be stored on it. I hoped it could be salvaged when I got home (It could! But it’s also getting replaced before the next trip)! Fortunately I’ve carried a spare with me on every trip for the last 8 years.

The Beggary Bumps are very up and down and my legs were feeling the slog up Moraine K from the day before, so it was with a fair bit of relief that I stopped just shy of one of the bigger ‘bumps’ and readied myself to plunge off track into the scrub. There was a little bit of a clearing where people had clearly sat before, so I made myself comfortable and enjoyed brunch – so yummy on a hungry tummy!

Heading over to Shaula, this one taken on the descent from Mt Taurus on the way towards the Beggary Bumps
The Beggary Bumps, aptly named!

When it came time to step down into the scrub I was pleasantly surprised. There was a little bit of a pad to start with, but more impressive was the vegetation. It was a lovely mix of low lying heath, pandani and moss. Later on a few more trees came into the picture but even here the scoparia was generous enough to be over head high so as to not cause any significant obstacle. What I expected to be a hefty scrub bash was more of a twist and turn through the lovely, ancient vegetation. Down into the dip and then back up the other side until I hit the ridge that runs out to Shaula.

Some lovely scrub to walk through on the way to Shaula
A curly haired pandani with a hairdresser who isn’t afraid of colour!

Even here the going was pretty good. There was a pad that wasn’t too branched and that didn’t have too many false leads and the further along the ridge I went the more open the going got. A final rocky scramble straight up a false summit and then the real deal. Ah, to be sitting on the summit of ‘the one that got away’…it would have been nice to have shared it with Graham and Shaz. I held them in my thoughts instead while I sat there looking back at the range, munching on a snack. 

On the summit of Shaula, looking back towards camp (the saddle in the middle of the photo).

The return flew by, even though I was moving no faster. I took great pleasure in the little things. The small tadpole filled soak on the middle of the ridge out to Shaula, the bumble bee a little further on who had chosen such a beautiful place to call home, the little spider dressed in Spider-Man colours, the characteristic flap of a startled Bronzewing, the grasshopper who was as stunned as I was to find him land in my mouth, and of course, the tree that appeared to be growing out of nothing but pure rock. I had just been talking to a friend, who had also lost his partner in the last 6 months, about how important the things were that filled us with awe (an idea from the book Phosphorescence). And here I was, in the middle of nowhere, completely alone, being bombarded by lots of little things that made me smile, sometimes even chuckle, and definitely filled me with awe and wonder. There was indeed so much to be grateful for.

Taddies!

Back at the tent I finished off a book Jess had lent me called Silence in the Age of Noise. It’s a lovely little book, easy to read, that sets out a case for the importance of finding silence in our lives. Right at its end, it puts into words the reason I go walking in a way I never could have. 

Which paths lead to silence? Certainly trips into the wild. Leave your electronics at home, take off in one direction until there’s nothing around you. Be alone for three days. Don’t talk to anyone. Gradually you will rediscover the other sides of yourself. The most important thing, however, is…that we each discover our own way…Sva marga: follow your own path. 

And so, in a world that may not be any more uncertain than it always was, but where I’m more acutely aware of uncertainty and transience, I am clear about one thing. I will always be able to find silence and rediscover myself when I walk in the wild. That is my path. I am not much one for the treadmill of commuting, working, earning and spending money, keeping up to date with the news, social media or the latest series on Netflix. But maybe I don’t need to be ;).

One more glance towards Fedder, with PB on the right

The following morning I woke in the middle of the cloud, as expected, but had a lovely show as I packed my gear, with the mountains appearing and disappearing just as fast behind the white veil. When it was time I said my goodbyes and made my way slowly off the range. I was in no rush, again I had the whole day, and there wasn’t anywhere better to be but here. I had a moment with one, and then two, currawongs, who made me feel like I was part of the landscape rather than someone simply passing through… then again perhaps they just wanted to see if I’d put down my pack for a bit!

Good morning world!
A brief reveal
Close up of the Western Arthurs summits
Haven Lake reflections
A misty Haven Lake
Still the cloud came and went.
A currawong came to check I wasn’t too lonely… and then his mate joined him. It was kind of cool.
Stunning walking, whether you can see the views or not!
Mt Scorpio is a stunning mountain for anyone who loves scrambling!

Down I went, then across the plains again. Still shocked at how beautiful the place was. I met several people walking in. The first, a pair of older women, who asked me if I’d made it to Shaula. I was delighted they’d taken the time to read and remember this from the log book, but even more at the fact that here were two women enjoying some of the most stunning walking at an age I can only hope I’ll still be walking at. The next was a guy who was part way through traversing Tassie from north to south. I was impressed, if slightly envious… it’s something that’s been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a little while now ;). He’d even been through the POWs as part of it. I could have spent much longer chatting, but he clearly needed to be getting on, as did I. When he left I was struck how clean he looked – I’d been out for 3 days and was covered in mud, he looked in mint condition in comparison! The final guy, who I met maybe 45 minutes from the car park simply asked me if there was anywhere to camp within 2-3 hours, so I mentioned Junction Creek, slightly puzzled by the question, and the fact that he was walking without a shirt on. Hmmm…

On the way down I figured this was as good a place as any to have brunch.
A last look back. I’ll be back, and it won’t be in another 6.5 years!

While I was glad to be back at the car to get off my achy feet, and heading in to town where I could get some salmon for a bit of a treat for dinner, there was part of me that could easily have stayed out there for a bit longer…

Day 1: 24.5km, 10hrs, 1437m ascent

Day 2: 8.4km, 6:51hrs, 993m ascent

Day 3: 24km, 9:17hrs, 862m ascent

I was surprised at how dry it was in light of how much rain we’ve had recently. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of boggy mud patches, but there was also a lot that was way drier that I expected!
I love these guys, they always remind me of SW Tassie, especially the Arthurs.
An ant on some everlasting daisies
Pristine
It’s spring time!
New growth. Love you??
Lots of young shoots post fire – it was lovely to see!

Raglan Range and Flat Bluff: 18-21 April 2019

Raglan Range and Flat Bluff GPS route

In doing some research for a trip out to Mary, Maude and Madge, I went in search of some photos I’d taken from the area during a trip to the Raglan Range and Flat Bluff. But I couldn’t find them here, and eventually realised I’d never written up the trip. So this is one very short post that should give you a rough idea of what the terrain was like, but I’m afraid there won’t be much fat around the bones because I can’t remember the little details (I imagine many of you are sighing with relief about now!). 

It seems we went in late on Easter Thursday, probably because we spent the morning packing and driving up. We parked at the Nelson River Falls carpark (thankfully, and you’ll find out why at the end of the post!), and hit the track at about 3pm. We picked our way across the River, taking time to keep our feet dry, and then wove through the very overgrown road. As we gained height the road was much less overgrown, but increasingly steep. I remember travelling slowly enough, finding our walking legs and lungs. 

Start of the track, just after the river crossing, looking back towards the road. Needless to say, there is no bridge. Apparently that makes it dangerous!
Heading up we start to get views, it had been a rainy morning but the sun was trying and it was quite nice!
Part of the road. At times it was much more open and gravelly underfoot. It was only really overgrown down low.

We didn’t have too much of a plan, and ended up deciding to camp at a flat spot by an old ruin because we weren’t going to make the summit of Raglan range before it got dark and we weren’t in any rush. This also gave us time to explore the ruins and take a few photos. 

Some of the ruins near where we camped.
An old drum
More ruins
Random machinery, no longer workable
It was clear that lots of drinking had been done here!

The next morning we had a lazy start, setting off at about 9:30. We still had a fair bit of climbing to do to get to the summit, but it seemed easier, still on the road. We didn’t stay long, keen to get further along the ridge to set up a high camp, and then duck over to Flat Bluff. We did just this, choosing to camp bang in the middle of the road at the intersection between the ridges to Flat Bluff and Wards Bluff. We then had all afternoon to eat lunch and wander over to Flat Bluff, which was a lovely walk with amazing views towards Frenchmans Cap. I don’t remember any nasty surprises in regards to the terrain

It was nice to have the views start to open up as we gained more height!
There were lots of stags, this one looking north-east towards Lake St Clair.
And then Frenchmans appears!
The view from the summit of Raglan Range, looking west. You can see how obvious the road is here.
High camp at the intersection between the ridges to Flat Bluff, Wards Bluff and Raglan Range. Not a bad view west!
Heading out to Flat Bluff, Graham weaves between low scrub. That’s the bluff to the left, pretty open going.

On the rather flat summit we had a bit of a look at routes towards Mount Mary and shared a chocolate Easter Bunny I’d been given – I figured we should have a little bit of Easter seeing it was that time of year ;). We wandered on back to the tent, and enjoyed dinner as the sun set. Nothing speccy, but nice all the same.

In the saddle leading to Flat Bluff there’s a lot of dead stags. Imagine what it would have been like!
Flat Bluff is exactly that…FLAT. There’s Frenchman’s from the cairned high point. We ate a chocolate Easter bunny and decided to wander out to the edge…
Checking out Frenchman’s Cap from the southern edge of Flat Bluff. Nice view. Mt Mary to the right… another day for her.
Frenchman’s Cap and a work colleague in the sky!
Mount Mary. Looks like you should be able to find an ok route through there.

The following day we had our eyes set on Wards Bluff, but it wasn’t to be. After a bit of a pad and then some old roads, we hit the scrub and the going was just awkward along the broken ridge. We realised we weren’t going to get there and I vaguely remember just not feeling it. I think we were both pretty tired from accumulated work and not enough rest, and so it was no surprise we only got 10km in 8 hours. We decided we’d come back again better prepared (it’s still on the list too!). On the return Graham made a new friend with a lone pandani. He reckoned it was a good dance partner, and it certainly wouldn’t take much to be better than me in that respect!

Not a great photo, but you get the gist of the ridge to Ward’s Bluff. A little broken and scrubby.
Fascinating the stuff you find in the bush! This was on the way to Wards Bluff.
Walking home from Wards Bluff, Graham with his new found friend!

Our final day was an easy 3.5 hours back down the road and out to the car, which wouldn’t start. This was, however, one of the rare occasions we were parked in a tourist carpark, and we found someone who was kind enough to spend 10-15mins to charge up the battery with jump leads. There were plenty of very remote places we could have been, that would have meant a very long walk out!!

All up:

Day 1: 5.4km, 4hrs, 506m ascent

Day 2: 12.1km, 8hrs, 684m ascent

Day 3: 10.1km, 8:11hrs, 581m ascent

Day 4: 9.8km, 3:38hrs, 115m ascent

Pine Knob: 14 October 2020

Pine Knob GPS route

There’s a wealth of evidence showing that the most meaningful contributor to life satisfaction is strong social bonds. Working on this premise, or simply trying to fit as much walking in as possible with different friends, I found time in my last week of leave to squeeze in a 3 day walk. It was the forth in a row, each separated by only a day or so, and it did seem to be keeping a smile on my face. I had also become as good at cleaning, drying and repacking as I was at ignoring the lawn that needed a serious mowing!

This time the plan was a little more set in stone. I was initially going for a walk with Bec, a fellow paramedic from the north-west. But she had other friends trying to organise a time to get in to Frenchmans Cap and it coincided almost perfectly with our three days. It seemed like the perfect plan to book it in and I’d walk in the day after them and meet them wherever they were. 

For once the weather was looking pretty good, which was just as well given we’d chosen our destination well before we knew what it was going to be! I’d have a sunny day, wet day, then a sunny day. The others would have an additional sunny day before I caught up with them. What wasn’t to like about that?

I finished up volunteering, raced off to a tennis meeting that went much later than expected and then drove to the Frenchman’s Cap carpark despite feeling abnormally tired. I arrived safely at 2300, having taken a little extra time to avoid the mass of wildlife. It was the one time I wasn’t all that thrilled to be spotting wombats! I set up a spare mat, sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the car so I could quite literally dress and go in the morning without having to pack anything else up. The stars were out and the night was crisp and cold. I was feeling excited for a big day of walking in the morning. 

My bladder woke me in the early hours of the morning, which proved a cold and brief but beautiful venture out under the stars. Then the alarm went off a few hours later and I started walking at 0540ish by head torch. The sun wasn’t due to rise till 0630 so it wasn’t quite light enough to see without the head torch, especially in the forest sections. I settled into a plod, knowing I had quite a long way to go. The birds were singing a soft but sweet morning chorus, as if in an effort to rouse the sun from slumber. 

First views of the range in early morning light

The sun slowly cast enough light that I could see without the head torch and the mountains gradually came into view as I wove through the landscape. It was cold, and the button grass plains were frosted over, the spiderwebs like white fishing line across the track. My fingers and arms were weak and numb, but fortunately they weren’t really needed. In one bit I could see where the fire had been through, round the corner there was most in the valley and then I was in the mist. Gradually it burnt off and the mountains of the range came into view. It was also nice to see the pink climbing heath and the bauera in flower. To the off-track bushwalker bauera doesn’t have much going for it, except that it’s little white flowers make it slightly nicer to look at, but no less of a trip hazard! Looking at the scrub on either side of the track I was most grateful for the clear walking ahead. 

The mist in the valley was just lovely
Having descended into the mist, it now starts to burn off

I arrived at Vera at about 0945 and feeling a bit peckish I had some oats for breakfast before heading off again just before 1000. I’d stolen some ideas from Charlotte on our last walk, so the oats had dehydrated banana, apricot, sultanas and cranberries with them, as well as dedicated coconut, cinnamon and a bit of peanut butter. Delicious! The walk around the lake then up to Baron Pass was longer and steeper than I had prepared for, even though every time I’ve climbed it I’ve had the same experience. You’d think I’d learn, but no, memories like that seem to fade with time!

White Needle at Baron’s Pass

I was glad to be on top by 1130, though my legs were pretty knackered. It didn’t take long to move along the ridge to Artichoke valley, although I was stopping now for photos and to just enjoy knowing I had plenty more time than I’d anticipated. The reason I’d been moving fast was because I wanted to climb Pine Knob on the way in to Tahune. It was the last mountain in the range that I had yet to climb and it was achievable to do on the way in while the weather was good. 

Looking towards Pine Knob from Artichoke Pass

I had some lunch, sent a message or two to let people know I was fine and then did a wonderful job of making the walk over the bumpy ridge to the summit a lot harder than it needed to be. This was largely due to my innate tendency to climb up and over things instead of sidling around them. There was a pad but it wasn’t always the easiest to follow as it was overgrown in spots and gave multiple options in others. I always chose to go high, which worked a bit, but at least twice had me climbing up two steep knobs and then sliding/falling down steep and scratchy scrub on the far side. Coming back it looked like you could actually climb up the rock, but when you were standing on top looking down it hadn’t been so clear and I was hesitant to get part way down the rock and come to a dead end. The scrub had definitely been the safer option, but sidling to the west on the return was even better. I was kicking myself for not bringing scrub gloves though. All my recent scrub had been through everything but scoparia and I’d forgotten how prickly it can be on hands when it’s close enough that you have no choice but to grab on to it. Fortunately it didn’t persist too much past the first knob, just enough to have me wincing a few times!

About to leave the track to walk along the ridge to Pine Knob. There’s a bit of a pad here.
Looking along the ridge towards Pine Knob from early on. I learnt the hard way that it wasn’t always a good idea to go over each ‘knob.’

It was early afternoon by now and the sun was warm. I’d not taken any water with me and was paying for the extra effort of my average route selection with a parched mouth. I started to look around for water and just before the final climb to the summit came across a whole heap of yabbie holes brimming with clear water. There was nothing to do but lie down and press my face into the ground and suck up as much water as I could. It was clean and deliciously cold, but I resolved to add a yabbie tube to my emergency kit so I wouldn’t have to face plant in the future!

You can see why it’s called Pine Knob. Fitting indeed.
Frenchmans behind, the ridge I’ve walked along in front.

The final ascent was nice and easy, and the view back towards the range was lovely. You could see why it was called Pine Knob, there were a lot of great big dead stags along the undulating ridge. Unfortunately I only came across a few little King Billy pines that were still alive. I took a fair bit of time on top and then was surprised to hear the voices of Bec and her friends from the summit of Frenchman’s. I could even see them! It was a cool little moment of connection, even if they were oblivious of me. The hut was visible too, as was a fire out at the King William lookout on the Lyell Highway, which I hoped was a planned burn off. Eventually I started to head back, shaving at least half an hour off the time it had taken me to get there by sidling round two of the larger knobs!

The view from the summit towards Sharlands and Philps/Agamemnon.
From the summit of Pine Knob looking back to Frenchmans. You could see the hut from here too!
Can you see the figures on the summit?

It didn’t take long to walk the last bit of track down to the new hut at Tahune, which is incredibly glamorous and a bit too warm (it even has a heated towel rack??!)! The warmth was nice after a very cold and brief dip in the lake, but quite uncomfortable in the middle of the night. You can’t adjust the heating as it’s run on solar and seems to be preset. So while I had the chance to sleep in ‘Gentleman Jack’s bed’ (named after Jack Thwaites) it wasn’t the nicest of nights and next time I’ll definitely be renting, even if it means packing up in the wet. The evening was otherwise a pleasurable one spent meeting new people, eating, sharing stories and lots of laughter. And we had the space all to ourselves!

Back with my pack I head the short walk to Tahune, casting a glance back at the Pine Knob ridge from the western side this time.
At Tahune I slept in ‘Gentleman Jack’s’ bed (they all have names), mostly to avoid packing up a wet tent in the morning! I quite liked some of his words that were imprinted elsewhere in the hut too (as photographed here).

The following morning three of our party were walking the whole way out, while two others and I had an extra day so we figured we’d stay an extra night at Vera. Three hours of walking in the rain was enough to enjoy the mist swirling around the mountains and the beauty of an old rainforest in the wet and it was nice to be able to get warm and dry and then have lunch knowing we weren’t going back out that day. We spent the afternoon chatting, reading, napping and eating more than we needed to. It was another of those times where you relax much more than you would have if you were home simply because there wasn’t anything else you could do. And it was just perfect. Later than night another group arrived, and even with 8 in the hut we had a better nights sleep, courtesy of the temperature being only 5 degrees!

Patterns in rock.

It was a busy affair with all of us getting ready the next morning but kind of nice and communal too. The blue sky and sun was back, though it had been a clear night so things were frosty and cold again. It took a little to warm up but once we got there we settled into a steady plod, which we held all the way back to the car. We chatted about all manner of things, many the kind you only talk about with people you know really well. I don’t know if it was the place, the fact we were all paramedics or just because we were us, but it was comfortable and enlightening. 

We passed three groups of three and one solo walker on the way in, and were glad we’d been in when we had! We made it to the Hungry Wombat by 2 for a yummy burger for lunch, which all made us feel like we then needed an afternoon nap. No such luck, we still had to get back to Hobart. A rollover on the way back and one incredibly lucky woman certainly made sure I was awake and alert!

Slightly distorted panorama of the Frenchman’s group from Pine Knob.

Pine Knob side trip:  3.5km, 3:12hrs (all breaks included), 340m ascent.

Scotts Peak: 10-12 October 2020

Scotts Peak GPS route.

How one thing leads to something unexpected… It always fascinates me how things somehow just work out and the results can be better than you could have imagined. A sore foot and therefore a desire not to walk much on 3 days we had set aside to do just that lead to a really cool alternative plan that involved paddling on Lake Pedder and revisiting two old friends of mine. As the plan materialised our excitement grew!

Charlotte and I had set aside Friday night to Tuesday morning to go on a walk, wherever the weather was good. Charlotte’s partner, and a work colleague of mine, asked if he could come too. I’m not sure he even needed to ask, there was only ever going to be one answer! The final arrangements fell into place smoothly, with only the small hitch that I could only find one set of kayak cradles for the roof racks. Never mind, we’d figure out a way. It proved as easy as inverting the single kayak and laying it alongside the double in the cradles. 

We cruised out to Lake Pedder, putting the boats in the water at the Scotts Peak boat ramp, and paddling into the moderate breeze for a bit over an hour. It was windy enough that Charlotte, who was sitting in the front of the double kept getting fresh water over the bow of the boat every time we smacked down over the larger waves. But her and Kenny’s wetsuit gloves and booties keep the extremities warm even if they were wet so it wasn’t a miserable affair. We had intermittent light showers, but nothing dense enough to steal away the partial view we had of the surrounding mountains. 

When we beached on the isthmus to Scotts Peak we set up our tents and had some lunch, sheltering from the latest rain cloud. Charlotte was pretty keen to climb her mountain and I liked that the first walk we were doing together was the first one I’d done in Tassie. Scotts Peak is a brilliant little mountain to climb, one where it’s got to be nearly impossible not to fall in love with the southwest. A small island in the middle of Lake Pedder, on a clear and still day it’s surrounded by blue sky reflected in tannin stained fresh water, with mountains in every direction you look. That was my first experience of Tassie bush. 

Photo by Simon Kendrick, taken on my first ever bushwalk during the paddle over to Scotts Peak. You get the idea about a mirrored sky and mountains all around!
Another of Simon’s images from that first walk, showing the Frankland and Giblin ranges mirrored in Lake Pedder
And a final one from Simon, as we descend. Clearly an appropriate walk for young kids, or even those without any real gear!

The weather was slightly different this time around and I was much more experienced as a bushwalker, but still it was lovely to climb to the top with two people who hadn’t been there before. It barely rained on us, and on the way down shafts of sunlight shone through the cloud some distance away, casting white patches on the surface of the lake. The wind whipped up waves in lovely patterns, the clouds were dark and moody. The terrain was much as I remembered it, a mix of low southwest scrub – button grass, boronia, tea tree and melaleuca at the comfortable level of ankle to shin high. The climb was short but steep enough to make you feel it. The rain made it very slippery underfoot, the ground was coated with that clear-muddy goop that often has you slipping back further than you just stepped forward. 

This time, the sky was moody, the sun intermittent, the wind whipped up patterns on the water. It was a different kind of beautiful (even if I only had my rather old iPhone SE to capture it with)!
Summit photo. It was cool, but not too wet! Clearly I’m in perfect company too :D!

Back at the tents we had a surprise visit from a sea eagle, who flew quite low to us, and continued on around the island! It shocked me that one was so far from the coast and it had us all feeling full of awe, I think. When the moment had passed, Charlotte and Kenny got busy preparing a delicious dinner while we had an entree of bikkies and cheese and quince paste. The benefit of kayaking over walking was that you could afford to be luxurious! The main course was couscous with falafels, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, chickpeas, olives, sauerkraut and a few other bits and pieces that I’ve already forgotten. Exotic, no? We shared a dessert of raspberry intense chocolate while we played cards and then called it a night.

Rainbows, clouds, mountains, fresh air, sea eagles… no where else to be!
One of the best dinners ever and a hint of blue sky!
Said dinner up close – photo by Kenny Yap. Yum!!

The next day we waited for the rain showers to mostly finish before getting back in the kayaks to visit Mount Solitary. I’ve written about this one elsewhere, so won’t repeat myself. It’s just worth noting that the same approach is now almost completely burnt out to the summit, sadly, from the 2018/2019 fires. It makes for a slightly spikier, blacker approach, that’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing. It was nice to see little everlasting daisies starting to regenerate though. 

The weather was better for kayaking, although still a little bumpy. Photo by Kenny.
An idea of the fire damage right near the top of Mount Solitary. Compare it to photos from my original post on the walk at https://rockmonkeyadventures.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/mount-solitary-22-23-march-2015/
Another of the fire damage, along with a rather dirty me! Photo by Kenny.
Kenny and I. Again, you can see how extensive the fire damage was. Must have been hit by lightening in 2018/2019. Photo by Charlotte Blake.

Another gourmet dinner that we nearly didn’t have enough gas for was followed by an evening lying on a tarp, wrapped in our sleeping bags, gazing up at the stars, chatting intermittently. It was one of those evenings that are just right and I had no desire to be anywhere else. 

Kenny cooks another delicious meal as the sun sinks low behind Mount Jim Brown.

This was a trip of a lot of reflecting, remembering, a little bit of missing, but also a lot of being grateful for what is. It’s interesting that I chose to start my blog post on Solitary with a paragraph on change and what it can bring. It was from 5 years ago, a time still near the beginning of my relationship with Graham, so the changes I was referring to were significantly positive. The changes over the last 6 months (yikes!) have been quite different, but it’s a fitting reminder that change does bring new possibilities. I’m trying hard to be grateful for the amount of time I now spend with friends, some old and some new; the personal changes and developments I’m making; and to be hopeful that somehow, at some point, I’ll look back and be able to identify what the experts call post-traumatic growth. We’ll see…

All up: 2.6km, 1:45hrs, 395m ascent (Just the walking part. Approximately 45-60mins kayaking depending on level and direction of wind!)

Mount Cattley, Parsons Hood, Mount Dundas and Mount McCutcheon: 1-7 October

School holidays were on, Jess had two weeks off school and seemed keen enough to spend a chunk of precious time with me, in the bush. We were hoping to check out Mounts Braddon, Legge and King in the southwest but the weather was looking horrendous everywhere, especially the further west you went. So we compromised. Another car camping trip where we would go wherever the weather was best!

Our plans were last minute and designed to be adaptable. We set off early on Thursday having settled on climbing Mountain Elephant and Byatts Razorback at only 10pm the night before. We were then set to drive to Cradle Mountain where some of Jess’ colleagues were staying and were happy enough to have us crash with them for two nights. It was ambitious, but the weather was fine, the company perfect and we found a much better route up Mt Elephant than the last time I went, saving 2.5 hours on our expected walk time and avoiding a whole heap of cutting grass! The sun was out, the breeze light, the world was good.

Climbing up Mt Elephant
Climbing up Mt Elephant
Jess on Mt Elephant summit
Jess on Mt Elephant summit

Byatts Razorback shocked us though, as we’d been unaware of the impact of the fires a year or so back and the whole area was burnt out. The only things that weren’t black and dead were a few new shoots on gum trees and the odd weeds growing out of otherwise sterilised ground. The walk, only a few hundred metres to the summit, took longer than in probably should have as we were being a little careful not to slice ourselves open on sharp burnt scrub or otherwise end up completely covered in charcoal. The only bit of green scrub was right near the summit. It was a completely different kind of walk to the first time I’d done it, reminding me of a back drop of an evil scene out of something like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

Byatts Razorback hit by the fires
Byatts Razorback hit by the fires
New beginnings
New beginnings

That night we caught up with Jess’ friends and their kids, arriving right on cue at dinner time! We shared pasta, played board games and had a genuinely fun time in each others company, thanks to their enormous generosity in letting us crash with them!

Mount Cattley GPS route

MOUNT CATTLEY

For day two Jess had the choice between Mount Cattley or Mount Stormont for her 200th peak. She chose the former, which looked like it had a road that might get us to within 2 km of the summit. This wasn’t entirely accurate, however! We turned off the highway and the road quickly became an overgrown tunnel that put new scratches down the sides of the car and cleaned the undercarriage all at the same time. When we got to where it crossed a river we were dismayed to see that the bridge had fallen in. The car wasn’t going any further!

The bridge across the river was very much not passable (in a car anyway). The road on the other side is clearly overgrown too.
The bridge across the river was very much not passable (in a car anyway). The road on the other side is clearly overgrown too.

We almost started to walk across a very wet and slippery looking log that reached across to the other side when we realised that we’d been so preoccupied by the collapsed bridge that we hadn’t realised that the scrub on the side was hiding one bit of bridge that still spanned the river and was going to be much safer and less slippery to cross. On the other side the road continued, increasingly overgrown. Celery Top pines were definitely the featured flora on this walk.

Over grown road, but easy enough walking
Over grown road, but easy enough walking

We made a mistake part way along when we decided there wasn’t much point being on the road after all, as it was more open off to the side. This was all very well until we got to the end of the open section and then spent a lot of time weaving through scrub only to eventually pop back out onto the road at a section where it was very open and easy walking! We decided we’d be following it back, thank you very much! We continued along it, grateful to be out of the scrub, until it came to its end at a clearing. But that was ok, because the terrain ahead was waist high tea tree and button grass, with the odd bit of bauera.

Fungi looking like vermicelli noodles
Fungi looking like vermicelli noodles

We headed straight up the short climb to the ridge line and then turned right to head along the top of the narrow ridge. It was a wise choice but was still certainly easier said that done in some spots. It started off open enough that you could weave your way through the scrub, sometimes in under the tree canopy, sometimes wading clear through shin deep bauera. But it seemed the closer we got the worse the ridge became. It started to break up, featuring big rocks with short, stunted, pretty solid trees growing out of the gaps. We wove from side to side in search of better going, but it wasn’t always to be found. After 4-500m of average going we broke back out and had a final ascent up button grass runs to the rocky summit. It had only taken us 3.5 hours to get there!

On the ridge, you can tell which way the wind blows up here!
On the ridge, you can tell which way the wind blows up here!
Jess makes her way along the ridge in a spot where the scrub is not so hard
Jess makes her way along the ridge in a spot where the scrub is not so hard
Finally on the summit! Enjoying sun and some blue sky!
Finally on the summit! Enjoying sun and some blue sky!

After some photos, much appreciation of the better than expected view and SUNSHINE(!) and a bite to eat, we set off retracing our steps. It’s fascinating how much easier it seems on the return – must be something about the uncertainty of the unknown that makes the going seem tougher and longer on the ascent. We made good time and even the worst bits didn’t seem too bad. The going was warm and at times the heat radiated up off the scrub and made us feel like we were in a tropical summer!

Heading back down, Celery Top pine in the foreground. This is the walk I think I've seen the most on in all my walking years!
Heading back down, Celery Top pine in the foreground. This is the walk I think I’ve seen the most on in all my walking years!
We had views we didn't expect. At one point we could even see Barn and Cradle!
We had views we didn’t expect. At one point we could even see Barn and Cradle!

We got back to the clearing and then had no problems following the road all the way back to the car, arriving 7 hours after setting out. The walk, which is thought would be a few kilometres each way, was over 12! The kookaburras had laughed at our antics on the way back down and I hardly blamed them.

There were some pretty awesome big trees!
There were some pretty awesome big trees!

All up: 12.8km, 6:57hrs, 354m ascent

We were hoping Jess’ friends had got out for a walk and enjoyed the views and sunshine in the good weather. They had indeed and had even seen close to 40 wombats! We shared another enjoyable evening chatting and eating a communal dinner, and after the kids had gone to bed we even did some craft as it was one kids 11th birthday the next day and we thought it would be fun to celebrate it. Those birthday celebrations included a breakfast of egg and bacon muffins, a sure upgrade from porridge! And then it came time to head off in our separate directions. They were heading to Derby, while we were heading into the rain of the west coast.

It was forecast to be pretty much 100% rain for days three and four, so we had a walking hiatus and decided instead to visit the Cradle Mountain wilderness gallery and then the Zeehan museum. Our legs and stiff bodies needed a rest in any case! That took all day and even then there was more information that we could process. A suggestion from a friend and a few messages then had accommodation sorted for us at Fraser Creek Hut, a place we’d both heard about but hadn’t been. It’s a short 4km ish walk up a steepish hill around the northern side of Mt Dundas, in some beautiful forest. The hut is maintained by former ranger Terry Reid, who happened to be heading up the same time we were. It was lovely to walk in to a freshly lit fire and have someone give us a tour on how everything worked with all the extra added bonuses that come with knowing the land like the back of one’s hand.

Heading up through lovely forest to Fraser Creek hut
Heading up through lovely forest to Fraser Creek hut
A friendly reminder in case you forgot about stopping for some chocolate!
A friendly reminder in case you forgot about stopping for some chocolate!

The highlight by far that night was going to see glow worms!!! A short walk from the hut, Terry told us to duck under a branch and we found ourselves standing in a crevasse between two rocky walls. When we turned our head torches off the sides shone with little blue glow worm ‘stars’! It’s the first time I’d seen them in the wild and it was just wonderful!!! You can probably imagine all our exclamations and laughter. We eventually dragged ourselves away and back to the warmth of the hut, where we watched a very cute swamp rat feeding politely on a small pile of muesli that Terry had put out for him. Eventually we called it a night and it didn’t take long to fall asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.

The hut from the top bunk. Mary and Terry going about their business in the morning.
The hut from the top bunk. Mary and Terry going about their business in the morning.

The rain had really set in overnight, as had daylight savings, not that it meant much to any of us except perhaps Terry, who had the radio on. We had a day of R&R planned, which didn’t need an accurate time at all. Just a good book, plenty of food, and the odd bit of chatter.

Fraser Creek hut - pretty no?
Fraser Creek hut – pretty no?

As it turned out, we spent our day of rest doing all sorts of unexpected but fun things. We chatted a LOT, screwed some castor wheels onto a steel Ventura box so it was easier to move around, helped cart backpacks of wood to the hut and learnt about the firewood rotation system in place, checked out some massive and old king billies and a few baby ones that are undergoing an experiment to see if they can be propagated from cuttings, learnt how to split wood to make palings with a froe, saw a ring tail possum drae, learnt how to tell the difference between plum and native laurel from their leaves, stoked the fire lots, ate yummy food and chocolate, listened to the local radio station, and eventually drifted to bed. It was a day of sharing, listening, learning and giving back a little. All the while the rain kept falling with a gentle pitter patter on the roof and the river raced by the front of the hut, the fire crackled and sparked, together making a comforting background noise that came to the forefront when the radio was turned off at night and our voices fell silent.

Split palings
Split palings
Just in case you need a phone signal
Just in case you need a phone signal
Parsons Hood GPS route

PARSONS HOOD

On day five we woke to the sound of the radio and Terry busying himself with breakfast, and one by one joined him at the table for our last meal together. And then it was time to say our goodbyes and slide our way down the mountain. The rain had stopped, but our gear was still a little wet and there was plenty of water on the track and falling from the trees that we didn’t dry out at all. We were back at the car in a little over an hour and made our way north to Parsons Hood.

This was a mountain that had long been in my too hard basket. My first experience was of being told our numberplate had been recorded and if we were found trespassing on the mining site we’d be in trouble. And so naturally I’d ignored it for a long time. But about a month ago word from a fellow bushwalker who also worked on the mines was that it was the perfect time to go for a walk as the current company leasing the site wasn’t active (and sounded like it had bigger problems to deal with!) but that there was a chance someone else might come along and start things up in a month or so. That got our attention at the time and it bumped Parsons Hood up the list a long way – almost to the top!

Gate over the road at the start of the walk. Jess washes her boots with the gear provided
Gate over the road at the start of the walk. Jess washes her boots with the gear provided

Today was the perfect day for it too, or so we thought. Light drizzle in the morning and then a clearer afternoon, with a mountain where it wouldn’t matter whether or not it was still cloudy when you were on the top because there weren’t views anyway. We started walking just before midday and were a good deal higher up when we got to the end of the mining road a bit more than an hour later. We’d found an abandoned mining hut on the way up, which was well built but revealed that miners these days don’t live in much more comfortable style than they did decades ago!

The road was in good condition
The road was in good condition
A miner's hut on the way up
A miner’s hut on the way up

We still had a kilometre to go to the summit, off track. It seemed to have stopped raining by this point but it was hard to tell because we were already soaked and we kept brushing against wet forest or bumping into saplings that would shower us in fresh, large water drops. Everything squealched. Jess reckoned she’s still be dreaming of squealching sounds that night!

The forest was nice, once you got over the fact that every second step sunk into mud or fell through whatever bit of rotten wood you were trying to stand on
The forest was nice, once you got over the fact that every second step sunk into mud or fell through whatever bit of rotten wood you were trying to stand on

We hit a hundred meters of horizontal very early on but after that managed to stay in the less climb stuff. A fair bit of ferny stuff, plenty of fallen and rotten tree trunks, myrtles, native laurel, leatherwood, sassafras (which was even in flower)… everything covered in lush, wet moss..probably plenty of others too if you did a better job of noticing than I did! We plodded, sunk and slipped our way up, slowly, playing a game of ‘is it solid or is it rotten’ each time we went to step on a tree or branch. I reckon it was about 50-50!

On top we found the small pile of rocks marking the summit in amongst slightly denser scrub, which even included some tall scoparia! It was cold, so we put on warm gear, ate a hurried lunch and set off back down. We found a better route down that avoided the horizontal and cut off some of the road walk too. We talked a lot about the warm dry clothes that awaited us and getting to the Waratah campground where there was hot water. That probably illustrates best how we were feeling… I certainly felt like I’d gone swimming fully clothed!

A small mossy cairn marks the summit of Parsons Hood
A small mossy cairn marks the summit of Parsons Hood

Back at the car, warm clothes on, Jess decided to see if attaching her gaiters to her roof racks would dry them out a bit on the drive to Waratah. I reckon it did but probably wasn’t as noticeable as it should have been given we drove through a bit of a rain shower just before we arrived! It was crazy how light it still was at 6:30 (we’d kind of missed it on the Sunday being in the forest), so we hung our wet stuff up to dry a little, cooked dinner, I had a wash (Indonesian ‘mandi’ style) with the hot water (so nice), and checked out some info on Mount Dundas (our selected mountain for the brilliant weather we were promised the next day). We called it a night and went to bed under a sky full of stars, with the frogs croaking away in the distance.

All up: 12.6km, 5:26hrs, 818m ascent.

Mount Dundas GPS route

MOUNT DUNDAS

Day six dawned clear and sunny, though the night had been cold and some of the gear we’d hung out to dry had frozen stiff! We took our time packing and sorting, in no rush to start walking before the sun had had time to dry of some of the forest we’d be walking through. And so it was 11:30 by the time we were ready to start walking up Mount Dundas.

The walk was accessed exactly as described in the Abels although the turn off to Howards road was a few extra kilometres further according to our odometer (not the 7.5km mentioned in the book). We had high hopes that finally we had a day and a walk that should have us staying dry and warm. Things departed from that plan almost before we’d even started walking. From the carpark, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, we walked across the bridge and turned left to cross the next river, finding it in spare thanks to the rain and snow over the weekend. Jess got a couple of boot fills of water, which was the end of her dry feet. I managed to keep the water out the top of mine, but they must have sprung a leak near the toes because the longer I was in the water the damper I could feel my socks getting. We looked on the bright side and figured things could only get better.

The old bulldozer track on Mt Dundas starts off openish
The old bulldozer track on Mt Dundas starts off openish
The dozer track becomes increasingly closed over
The dozer track becomes increasingly closed over

Not exactly so! The first part of the walk is on an old bulldozer track and while bits are open, it becomes increasingly less bulldozerish and more like an overgrown walking track. In addition, it’s pretty steep and slippery, but also has a number of flatter bits that were very boggy. None where the mud quite got over the tops of our boots, but they got close! This might be different in summer, but for us it meant poor Jess (who was leading) was drenched through and through again and we were having a repeat of the squealching thing from the day before. While it was a clear day, it was also pretty cold, enough that our arms felt like they’d been in a freezer due to their constant contact with wet scrub.

Everything did, however, change for the better when we left the dozer track and started on the walking track, which started off meandering through beautiful open myrtle forest. As we climbed the height of the vegetation shrunk and the variety increased, to the point Jess reckoned she’d seen pretty much every type of plant she knew the name for except perhaps one.

The track is infinitely more enjoyable when you get onto the walking track
The track is infinitely more enjoyable when you get onto the walking track

We enjoyed the twisting and turning walk through the delightful flora, although were definitely slowing down and feeling tired by this stage. When we hit the snow line the temperature dropped, although we were getting more sun which helped to counter it. A bit of open walking where the track was braided, and then we were briefly back in the lovely and varied scrub, before popping out for a rock scramble to the summit.

Out of the forest and onto the open top before the final climb, and we have sun and views!
Out of the forest and onto the open top before the final climb, and we have sun and views!

The going was a tad slower than normal, not just because of the fatigue, but also because there was enough snow on the rocks to make them slippery. And then there was the views to consider – pretty spectacular, although we were trying to wait to the summit to enjoy them in full! And sure enough we made it, tired but pretty happy, if still a bit wet. Boy was the view worth it!! You could see mountains all around, every one of the 360 degrees.

Scrambling up the rock, the mountains of the Overland Track keep distracting us
Scrambling up the rock, the mountains of the Overland Track keep distracting us
Snow on the rocks on the final climb to the summit
Snow on the rocks on the final climb to the summit

Jess remarked that it had been a while since she’d been able to sit and enjoy a summit like this and I also struggled to think of the last time. So we sat and ate, took some photos and tried to keep warm. The sun WAS out, but so too was a slight breeze which had a nasty bite to it, so much so it eventually drove us from the summit with numb fingers and toes.

On the summit. Which way should we face to eat our lunch??
On the summit. Which way should we face to eat our lunch??
Sun baking
Sun baking
Looking north towards the trig, and checking out Parsons Hood too
Looking north towards the trig, and checking out Parsons Hood too
One last look back at the summit as we're about to descend into the forest
One last look back at the summit as we’re about to descend into the forest

We made much better time on the way down and even found a log over the river which allowed us to cross without rewetting our feet. It did involve Jess learning a new skill – the straddling bum shuffle. It’s most useful for crossing logs that are too narrow or wet to walk across, and involves straddling the log and using your hands to inch yourself along, much like you do when using a gymnastic ‘horse’. It looks a bit funny, but it keeps your feet dry!

All up: 11.6km, 5:51, 941m ascent

Mount McCutcheon GPS route

MOUNT McCUTCHEON

We found ourselves in Strahan that night, Jess generously using part of her Tasmanian government travel voucher to book accomodation – what luxury to have a proper shower and bed! The main reason was so we could collect a key from the PWS office at 8:10am, that would allow us to access the McCall road. We did all that, got the car clean enough to eventually pass muster and made our way to Queenstown and then south past Mount Jukes, taking longer than expected to get to the locked gate. 

McCutcheon summit
McCutcheon summit

The guy from PWS had been spot on the money when he said the road was great till the last apiary site, then it became a 4WD road. It certainly put Jess and her Honda CRV through the test and there were times it was safer to drive in the bush on the side of the road than risk bottoming out. It made for very slow going and so it was 11am by the time we were ready to start walking up Mount McCutcheon. 

Checking out Frenchmans from the scrubby ridge up McCutcheon
Checking out Frenchmans from the scrubby ridge up McCutcheon

And wasn’t that fun?! It was even more horribly green and tangly and HIGH than it had looked on the satellite imagery and so the mere 350m of horizontal distance and less than 100m of ascent made for a 2 hour round trip, where the GPS reckoned we actually walked 1.3km! That meant we weren’t going to get to McCall, even though it looked wonderfully open and, more to the point, the road ahead looked to be in much better condition than what we’d already driven through.

Looking over to Mount McCall. Looks MUCH nicer than this one!
Looking over to Mount McCall. Looks MUCH nicer than this one!

But we had dinner booked in for 6pm in Hobart and we still had to get the key back to the PWS house in Queenstown, refuel and drive all the way back south. We got to Queenstown by 2:30pm and made it to dinner with 5 minutes to spare but no time for a shower or change of clothes!

All up: 1.3km, 2:05hrs, 113m ascent

Heading back down in one of the few spots where I could actually see Jess in the scrub! We did a fair bit of burrowing through it!
Heading back down in one of the few spots where I could actually see Jess in the scrub! We did a fair bit of burrowing through it!

Nescient Peak and Mount Oana: 27-29 September 2020

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.

GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana
GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana

Once again, some consistently snowy, wet and windy weather had thwarted a planned 5 day solo trip, so when a 2.5 day weather window popped up on days I had few other commitments I jumped at the chance. Especially knowing the first few days of another extended trip planned from October 1 were looking very foul as well! The choice was easy, there was only a small window and not many trips I could do something productive in such little time. As it was I wasn’t entirely sure I’d have enough time to get all the way out to Layatinna. It would all depend on the weather and how easy the terrain was to negotiate, which I wouldn’t know till I was committed. Oh well, it’s about the journey and having a crack more than the destination or success, isn’t it?

The 3.5 hour drive up was smooth and uneventful aside from a lovely sunrise and a swamp harrier. There was no one in the carpark, though people had been in recently according to the log book. I was off walking by 9, dressed in board shorts cos I figured they were going to get wet. Not so much from the light sleet that came and went throughout the day, but more from pushing through snow laden branches that were bent across the track. I didn’t see any point in getting both them and my overpants wet, so the latter stayed in my pack for the morning. Probably a tad silly, as the dry overpants came at the expense of my legs, that quickly turned bright pink from the double assault of the freezing snow and the scratchy scrub.
The track itself was hard to recognise from when I was last in. I’d forgotten about the fires and it had been hit hard. Someone had been through and chainsawed the worst of the trees, and erected track markers where the track was most indistinct but it was still easy to step off it in some spots. Some opportunistic lower storey scrub had started to grow back, but by and large the landscape was 50 shades of grey and rather barren looking. It was lovely to get to the pockets that had survived intact, so much so I couldn’t even get frustrated with the bauera or scoparia as it tried to trip me up and scraped at bare knees and thighs. It was as if even this walk, much like this year in general, was echoing the same sentiments about being grateful for what is, because you never know when it’s going to change for the worse.

I'd forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I'd been here years ago.
I’d forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I’d been here years ago.

I plodded along, eating a late breakfast as I puffed my way up hill. I wasn’t in a huge rush and I was happy to go at a continuous pace rather than trying to break records. I enjoyed the light sleet and sunshine both at the same time, the birds twittering away, and even the cold wet slushy snow as it ran down my legs, inside my gaiters and eventually had my boots squelching. It was good to be back out.

It didn’t take long to reach the open button grass plains and the turn off to Nescient Peak. It had evidently been a slightly green and scrubby climb, but now it was just a matter of avoiding getting too close to the sharp and black burnt remnants. It was easy enough to weave through an open route, although I did discover close to the summit that there was actually a cairned and taped route. I tried to follow it back down but it wasn’t easy since the fire had been through and I actually found it better to pick my own route. The benefit of the fires were a clearer view through the skeletal remains of trunks to some familiar snow capped peaks. It was a lovely little winter wonderland kind of walk, and it brought back memories of climbing Howells Bluff in the snow with Graham. There was a little less snow this time, but the terrain was similar.

Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it's a tad less green than it would have been.
Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it’s a tad less green than it would have been.

Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)
Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)

The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.
The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.

Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)
Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)

Reunited with my pack I set off on a much longer plod to as far as I could get towards Oana. I said hello and goodbye to Rogoona as I passed by Lake Myrtle, awakening more, somewhat hazy, memories. And then I was on new terrain for me. Just in time for the sleet to pick up and the scrub to occupy more of the track. By the time I got to Lake Meston I wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about heading off track at the southern end and climbing up through scrub onto Chinamans Plains. My fingers were cold and struggling even to undo buckles. I decided I definitely needed the overpants, and chided myself for not starting out in them. It would have saved me a lot of hurt, and probably time as well! They went on slowly – my fingers were moving at the pace I seem to move in bad dreams. But they warmed up as I walked, moving much faster now through the overgrown bits of track. I reckoned I had a couple of hours of off track walking, which should get me well and truely on the plateau. I didn’t like my chances of actually getting a tent up if I kept going much after 5pm, even though there would be almost two more hours of daylight – that’s how fast the temperature can drop in the late afternoon and being alone makes you realise how much more vulnerable to these things you are. I was also pretty knackered, even though I’d not walked as far as I hoped.

Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!
Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!

The hut at Lake Meston
The hut at Lake Meston

I’d be lying to deny that I thought about turning around as I stood on the track to Junction Lake at the point I was due to plunge into the scrub. I didn’t rate my chance of climbing both mountains the next day too highly anymore and momentarily wondered why go to all the effort for just one if I’d still have to come back. But I think that was more an excuse to avoid the cold and wet scrub bash with a full pack than anything else. After all I was out to walk as much as to climb peaks, and I’d return just as fresh regardless of where I actually got to. I chuckled at my stubbornness as I hauled my weary body up and over the scrub and rocks, and worked on enjoying it for what it was. I smiled at the small reprieve as I popped into a section of myrtle forest with a thin blanket of snow on the ground, and breathed a sigh of relief at finding a perfectly fallen tree across the Mersey River. And of course I cursed and swore as I was stabbed, tripped up or lost my footing in the scrub. I missed having company, it makes an especially huge difference in scrub.

I let out a whoop when I broke out, up and over the edge of the plateau, and checked my watch. I’d see how far I could get in 45 minutes. Probably not far enough, but I found a nice little spot tucked out of the wind next to a largish tarn that I couldn’t pass up. And then ensued the process of getting dry and warm, cooking a new dehydrated recipe for Moussaka (5 stars from me!) for dinner and discovering that I would have at least a 12 km walk ONE WAY just to get to Layatinna the next day… oh dear, another early start I guess, and a lot of playing things by ear.

After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?
After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?

I set the alarm for 5, but everything was frozen and I couldn’t bring myself to put on wet gear straight away. The world looked like someone had come along during the night with a great big sieve and dusted the land with a very generous layer of icing sugar! Instead I dozed a bit, made a cup of tea and then couldn’t put it off any longer. I actually put my socks in hot water and poured some into both boots. They weren’t frozen because I’d put them inside the tent but I figured I could at least be warm and wet. It worked quite well actually!

At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It's a painful, brittle world for a while.
At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It’s a painful, brittle world for a while.

I set off shortly after 6, crunching my way between tarns, contour lines and trying to stick to rock or alpine heath. It took a little while to read the landscape. The satellite imagery hadn’t been super helpful so I was relying a lot on reading the terrain accurately and a bit of guesswork. I ended up taking a decent route with only two slightly scrubbier patches, but even then it was the kind you could mostly weave through. It was nice to be accompanied by the frogs and lots of different types of birds. I was especially grateful to the olive whistler who made me smile when I was going through a tougher patch of scrub. They do have a pretty good wolf whistle equivalent!

The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade
The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade

More icy patterns on scrub
More icy patterns on scrub

From the southern end of Eagle Lake the direct approach to the summit of Oana looks horribly green and scrubby. I headed southeast first, climbing onto the ridge that leads to the summit where the contour lines were more gradual. It was a longer distance to walk, but again the going was pretty open. The final meander up the flat, rocky ridge to the summit was lovely. There were better than expected views too!

On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can't discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.
On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can’t discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.

Looking from Oana towards Layatinna Hill. It's a LOOONG way off. I'd planned to climb it this day, and while it was only 9:15, I'd been walking for 3 hours already to cover a similar distance. I didn't think I was up for a 12 hour minimum day. As it turned out, I made it into a 12 hour and 26.7km day - imagine how much longer it would have been if I'd headed all the way out there?The downside to this was that Layatinna looked awfully far away. And although the going is supposed to be pretty good (despite looking green!), I was still not moving fast enough. It had taken me 3 hours to get to Oana, and I had at least as far again to get to Layatinna. I um-ed and ah-ed over whether I should opt for an epic day or whether I should save Layatinna for another day. I’m not one to leave mountains I set out to climb, but I was feeling tired, and although I knew I could push through and walk as long as needed, I wasn’t sure how strong my mind was going to be if I had to route find in the dark when I was well and truely knackered. I’ve also been working on slowing down, so I went with the sensible option and sat on the summit enjoying the views. It was the first time I’d set eyes on Lake Malbena in person, and it was interesting to actually be there while thinking about the proposed developments.

After an hour on the summit I couldn’t feel my fingers and I figured it was time to head back. It would mean I would have time to pack up the tent and drop back to camp under Rogoona by Lake Myrtle, in turn making for a short third day so I could get back home and open up the beehive to see how the bees had fared over winter!

Off track walking can be very nice, don't you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..
Off track walking can be very nice, don’t you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..

In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn't see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few
In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn’t see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few!

It was a long walk back, and when I started stumbling over my own feet I was very glad I’d left Layatinna this time (and check out the distances at the bottom – I’d have been crazy to have added an extra 10-15km on!). I was back at the tent by 2pm, happy to find everything mostly dry. I wasn’t moving fast by any means. I was concentrating instead on not straying too far from the route I’d taken on the way up, so that I avoided running into drop offs or really thick scrub and so I managed to intersect the river exactly where the tree was down. It was wonderful to finally find my feet back on a track. I could switch my mind off completely and simply just walk. And so I did, all the way to Lake Myrtle.

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.
Back at the tent at 2pm and it’s a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hour walk out.

A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash
A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash

Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!
Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!

The evening was pretty, as were the little flies that danced in groups just above the ground, their bodies glowing gold in the low sunlight. I arrived at the campsite nearly 12 hrs after having started walking that day. There was still an hour of daylight but I wasn’t going to get anywhere nice in that time so I called it a day. I spent the hour pitching the tent, cooking home made and dehydrated creamy pasta and typing up some notes (have you ever wondered why there’s so many typos? Fat thumbs typing on my phone and a failure to proof read ;)!). I was so tired I got no more of my book read than I had the night before, going to bed at 8pm instead!

Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it's paws
Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it’s paws

I made the mistake of leaving my gaiters out on a log where I’d put them to dry the bottom halves out, and my boots in the tent vestibule. I woke to a tent that glittered on the inside and immediately knew what I’d done. My water bottles were frozen shut, the boots were solid and my gaiters blended into the silver log, sporting 1-2cms of frosty growth on their upper side. The whole world was clear and silent, the lake like a mirror with a layer of mist above the unbroken surface. The stars were brighter now the moon had set too. In time, as I set about making tea and porridge, the sun bathed the back of Rogoona in warm orange, and she looked more than ever like a lioness lying down with her head above front paws, calmly surveying the realm before her.

The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn't needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.
The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn’t needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.

Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam
Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam

More reflections
More reflections

I had the urge to move quickly, wanting to be back home in time to open up the beehive with a friend while the weather was still and warm. It would be the first time since Graham died, and given it was my first proper time, I wanted some assistance so I could ask all my questions. But the morning case a spell over everything, myself included, and so it took me an uncharacteristic hour before I was ready to go shortly after 6am. A few more photos of the reflections and I was off. It was an easy, mostly flat or downhill return walk on the track, with the major obstacles being my weary feet, the odd muddy section, and slippery, still partly icy roots. As I approached the final descent I expected to see the lake down to the left, and was delighted instead to see the top of low cloud hovering in the valley. It was spectacular, if a little deceptive, as it gave the impression the bottom was closer than it was!

I was back at the car in about two hours, and began the drive home. As I got closer it seemed hard to believe just how far I’d been over the last few days and how easy it was to be in the middle of nowhere and then all of a sudden to be back in the middle of somewhere. The bees were very happy, we found my queen and then I buckled down getting everything clean, dried, and packed for the next adventure (which looks like it’ll be rather wet!). Stay tuned!

A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.
A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.

All up:
Day 1: Car to Chinamans Plains: 8hrs, 19.3km, 1162m ascent
Day 2: Chinamans Plains to Oana and back to Lake Myrtle: 11.52hrs, 26.7km, 918m ascent
Day 3: Lake Myrtle to car: 2.15hrs, 7.5km, 101m ascent