Mounts Henry and St John: 17 August 2013

Mount Henry GPS route

Mount Henry GPS route

Mid week, the forecast for the weekend was no different from the last few weeks: rain everywhere, and snow above a certain height. I’d been (and still am) dying to get out for a 2.5 day trip somewhere nice, but that’s not much fun in the rain. So I thought about a 2.5 day drip up northish, starting with some peaks near Fingal, and working my way further north. From what I knew, all were a matter of driving as close as possible, and taking to the scrub. I was anticipating very little view, and maybe a little bit of intimacy with the greenery.

Last bit of road walk, Henry in sight ahead

Last bit of road walk, Henry in sight ahead

I’d assumed I’d be going alone, given the weather and the unknown but likely not so nice nature of the walking, but Bec is as crazy as me, and I was very happy when she said she was up for it. That meant coming back Sunday night, or by 2pm on the Monday, but I wasn’t fussed.

Ascending Henry

Ascending Henry

So, after waking a half hour earlier to pack my bags last minute (we were going car camping so I didn’t have to be very organised, just throw everything into a duffle bag) I went to work, finished at 9, and met Bec at her place. As we drove up, we were a tad reluctant to speak of how good the weather was actually looking, but we did admire a snow topped Stacks Bluff!

Nice flat open walking through forest on top

Nice flat open walking through forest on top

With Bec navigating off my GPS, we found the roads to take us to Henry, and got a good part of the way there. The condition of the road, however, deteriorated enough to surpass my confidence in driving an AWD through, especially given we were unsure of where there might be spots to turn around. And luckily we stopped when we did, at the top of what was a steep enough hill that made me doubt that I would have been able to drive up without losing traction after a little bit of rain (or even without). This was confirmed as I attempted a 3 point turn in the middle of the road, flooring the accelerator harder than ever to get the car to move. Having said that, when it did move it conveniently didn’t just reverse backwards, but the front slid sideways, making the turn have considerably less points than I was anticipating!

Unimpressive summit? At least there was a trig...

Unimpressive summit? At least there was a trig…

Glad to have the driving over for the time being, we set off, down the hill and up to the point I had decided looked the best for an approach – least amount of climb, following a natural spur up. And would you believe it, at the very point we decided to head up, there was pink tape! So we followed it. While in some spots it was non existent, or we took a slightly different route up, we always seemed to come across it, sometimes only realising when we stepped over bits on the ground. It was a nice little surprise, completely unexpected, and rather reassuring too. The walk itself was also nice. No real scrub to contend with, and once you get the climbing done, there’s a pleasant wander over open flat terrain. You then come across the unimpressive and very flat summit, with a trig. It was a good thing the walk up was pleasurable, as we didn’t stay more than a few minutes on the summit, giving up on trying to get a view pretty quick.

St John GPS route

St John GPS route

On the way back down we did find a spot where you caught a decent glimpse of the Hazards, Freycinet and even further south to Maria. We didn’t stay long though, as we could see the weather coming in. Oh, I forgot to mention, all of this was done under blue skies and a few white clouds, but not enough to block out the sun!! So much for rain, rain and more rain! As I said to Bec, if we weren’t prepared to walk in rain, we wouldn’t have been walking in sunshine.

Walking up the road.. loving these guys at the moment.. such potential

Walking up the road.. loving these guys at the moment.. such potential

Anyway, I in particular wanted to get back to the car and off the worst bit of the road before it got too wet, but part way down we felt the first few drops and I gave up on that idea. However it was very short lived, and the jackets soon came off as we heated up on the walk back up the road to the car.

Open walking on top again.. on a road as well!

Open walking on top again for St John.. on a road as well!

All up it was a leisurely 5km, and nearly 2 hours, with a total ascent of 325 metres. And yes, we got out quite ok, despite a few unseen dips in the road :p! We then headed off to St Johns, to see what that held in store for us. And again, it gave us more than we expected or asked!

After the quite a pleasant little wander up Henry, we figured we were still on track for St John as well, and the weather had returned to blue skies, so off we drove, Bec once again in the navigators seat. This time, when we got to the road that forked off the ‘main’ road and headed for St John, we only drove a short distance. We decided it would be better to get out and walk after watching the saplings that were growing along the middle of the road, many between shoulder and head height, bend under the front of the car, and pop up out the back… whoops..!

First glimpse of a view on St John

First glimpse of a view on St John

It wasn’t as bad as it initially seemed, and having now walked the whole road, it would be possible to take a 4wd up, as long as the driver was confident. There was one spot where someone might need to get out and hold up the end of a tree that has fallen diagonally across the road, one end high, one end low. Oh, and a decent pool or two to have to drive through.

The white trig on St John

The white trig on St John

Though the road was longer than a more direct approach, it was easy to walk, and once up on top, it was really quite enjoyable walking through the open forest. Though my GPS showed that it petered out about one kilometre from the summit, we were very pleased to find that we could in fact follow it to within 80 metres of the top!

Looking left, west from St John's summit

Looking left, west from St John’s summit

But that wasn’t the only surprise we were to have! Approaching the summit, I let out a cry to Bec when I caught a glimpse of St Pauls Dome through the trees, the sun almost starting to set out to its right, sensing that we might actually get a view. That, and spotting the WHITE trig marker! Shocked by the news of a view, and wanting to see it, Bec took a tumble and kissed a rock, which didn’t take too kindly to her and gave her a split lip :(. Hardly very saintly.

Looking right, east from St John's summit

Looking right, east from St John’s summit

After checking that all teeth were intact, we went to check out the view. And it was great for that part of the state, perhaps all the better given the evening light. You stand out on a bit of rock, which just falls away below you to green expanses, and to your left and right the ridge stretches out, nice and green, tinged yellow by the sun. And St Pauls Dome stood nicely on the horizon. It would have been nice to sit there and watch the sun set, lining the clouds golden and turning the distant hills shades of blue, but given Bec’s attempt to find a cheaper alternative to botox (similar results, little more scaring), we figured it best to head down, as part of the way back was going to be in the dark anyway.

And an old old bit of tree on the summit

And an old old bit of tree on the summit

So we wandered back (10km total, just under a casual 3 hours), talking about teeth, dentists and all sorts of other things, then decided we’d better make up our minds about where to spend the night. We’d done no research, but Bec had a handy tourist map with her, and it showed some falls not far away, so we thought we’d give it a crack, or just find a clearing by the road somewhere.

That wasn’t called for, as we found a lovely little spot, complete with BBQ, toilet, tables and chairs, as well as the all important flat, non-rocky ground. And so we set up our tents under headlights, and jumped inside to get out of the wind that had started to pick up. I fell asleep before even managing to change my clothes, and slept for nearly 12 hours! Haven’t had that for a long time!

The following morning, which we’d planned to do Spion Kop and Foster, started a little drizzly as I sat in my tent, but soon cleared, the drizzle coming back every now and again. By 8.30 we wandered down to check out the falls lookout, which is stupidly positioned above the falls so you can’t actually see them, but the view of the river was quite nice. The sun came out, and with it the rainbows, and we thought we might actually get lucky with the weather.

It was short lived however, and as we went to check out Foster the rain had set in. After dealing with some escaped sheep who panicked every time we tried to drive past them, we found the road we’d chosen to take was gated, and we made the decision to go instead back to Avoca and have a hot drink and see if the weather would lift. We did just that, and on local advice that the rain was set in for the day, decided to save those few for another slightly less rainy day!

All up: Henry: 4.9km, 1.54 hrs, 324m ascent; St John: 9.8km, 2.48hrs, 309m ascent.

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