Spion Kop, Young and Blackboy: 24-25 August 2013

Spion Kop GPS route

Spion Kop GPS route

With the weather the way it was all week, and news of the river we would need to cross to do the planned Ironstone with LWC on the Sunday being flooded, a plan B was formed, and took on a life of its own. It turned into a lovely little weekend away in the Northeast, with some nice weather, great company (really loving it and never more thankful), some more easy walking ;), yummy dinner (thanks Shaz!!) and a wedged tailed eagle or 3! It’s always fun exploring the unknown and delighting in the surprises that await.. if you can overcome the angst of the unknown and fear of the worst (trees down, nasty scrub, flooded rivers etc), which I find is usually my challenge, and better met with a friend or two by your side rather than solo.

Road walk up to Spion Kop

Road walk up to Spion Kop

So we headed up after I finished work on the Saturday at 9am, leaving Forcett at 10ish, and heading for St Patrick’s Head. I’d already climbed this one, but Shaz hadn’t, and we reckoned we’d have time to fit two in before finding somewhere to camp. Having decided to spend the night at the Griffin campground, we also thought we’d check out Spion Kop afterwards, as it was the only peak short enough and on the way. St Patrick’s Head was a nice climb again, and we ran into about 8 or so kids and a few parents on the way up. It was great to see kids out and about enjoying the mountains, and they were clearly having heaps of fun, with the older kids helping the younger ones up the tricky bits. Bushwalking certainly has a lot to teach all of us :).

Spion Kop summit cairn

Spion Kop summit cairn

We didn’t stay too long on top, wary of the time and keen to push on to Spion Kop, as we weren’t sure how long it might take. We went for what looked like the better road to approach the mountain, but as suspected, it was just a bit too nice looking – much nicer even than the main road, courtesy of coal operations and a locked gate! So we doubled back for about 1.5km, and took Valley Road. It’s quite a good gravel road, but when it came time to turn off we had to leave the car, courtesy of a tree across the road (which would have otherwise been drive-able, probably better in a 4wd though). If I was to do this again, I’d try driving further along Valley road to where another vehicle track turns off, and meets up from the south with the one we ended up walking along (see the map). This might save a fair bit of walking.

Reflections in puddles

Reflections in puddles

Not that the walking was hard. For us there was the initial straight up, lungs and legs complaining, nothing abnormal! Then a nice relatively flat and longer than expected walk along the top, heading west towards the summit. The final 600 metres is through light scrub and rock, though there’s open patches especially towards the top and it’s not bad going. The road walk took us 35 minutes, and the final 600 metres a further 12, with about the same on the way back – largely because once we were back on the road there was no longer any pressure to get out of the scrub before it got dark.

Camp fire fun

Camp fire fun

We drove to the campground, set up tents, and Shaz got dinner cooking (coriander, lime and coconut chicken with noodles for dinner, YUMMM) and then a fire started, while I was on firewood/sticks and bark duty. We had a lovely evening eating, drinking, chatting, trying to keep the fire going with green wood, and taking photos of it. Oh, and looking at other peaks to climb on my computer!!

Track markers at start of taped track to Young

Track markers at start of taped track to Young

Mt Young GPS route

Mt Young GPS route

The next morning we didn’t waste too much time packing up and breakfasting, and were on the road before 8. However we spent half an hour taking a detour thanks to a tree across the road we were on, which was only a few hundred metres from the road we were trying to get on! But it was worth it, because in having to backtrack and get onto the right road right from it’s beginning, we came across a wedge tailed eagle that was sitting on the side of the road. Neither of us saw it at first, thinking it was just a bit of wood or something, until we got close enough and it flew slowly and gracefully across the front of the car, to the other side of the road where there was a bit of a clearing, and just landed there, not needing to go too far. I’ve never seen one so close, and he was massive!

Summit View from Young

Summit View from Young

The detour now better appreciated, well tolerated ;), we continued, wary of more fallen trees (it was windy too). But though there were a few for the rest of the day, nothing that couldn’t be moved, and we arrived beside Young by 8.45. Driving up from the south it looks like Young might be rather scrubby, but on closer inspection, especially when you find the cairn and tags marking a route up, it becomes apparent that it isn’t at all. The first bit takes you through tall skinny trees, then you’re into some typical NE stuff, and towards the top more scree/rock than anything else. And before you know it you pop out on top, with a Sprent concrete pillar thingy and a trig. If you’re treated the way we were then you’ll also have two wedgies dancing their dance in the wind (quite strong on top), and nice views out over Tower Hill, Byatts Razorback, Saddleback, Albert and Victoria. Oh, and Blackboy, but it’s not as impressive as the others. We did notice it however, as it was the next peak on our ‘hit list’.

Interesting forest on the way up to Young

Interesting forest on the way up to Young

Young was much faster than expected, and we were up and back in all of 40 minutes (1.2km). The wind on top had made for a hasty departure! We figured if Blackboy was just as fast, we might fit both Albert and Victoria in as well (I’d done both previously, so they were for Shaz, and we had the benefit of knowing how long they’d take). But first, we had to find the road agreeable to a non-4wd car. And it was. After the removal of a tree or two, that is!

Blackboy's worst bit of scrub - very light on really

Blackboy’s worst bit of scrub – very light on really

Blackboy GPS route

Blackboy GPS route

The road actually goes to within 450 odd metres of the summit of Blackboy as well, and on arriving the scrub didn’t look to bad either. In fact, we followed an old bulldozer track for the first little bit, then very light scrub. Actually the thicker scrub was just before the summit, but it really wasn’t anything at all. Hardly worthy of the name scrub. We found the summit cairn, but had no views, partly because it wasn’t that kind of summit, also because it was now drizzling and the white was starting to descend. It didn’t really matter, and the gums were quite nice shrouded in mist. Again, we didn’t stick around for long (30 minutes return, 1.6km), this time because of the rain, and a desire to get past the mossy section of road before it got too damp.

Blackboy summit

Blackboy summit

After a bit of a talk about whether to do Albert and Victoria or not, Shaz opted to save them for another day, so the walking was done and we were heading back home by 10.30! Well, with one stop off at Burger Me in Campbell Town to reward ourselves for the 4 peaks we’d done :p!

Our reward :p

Our reward :p

All up: Spion Kop: 6.8km, 1.37hrs, 366m ascent; Blackboy: 1.6km, 30min, 123m ascent; Young: 1.2km, 39min, 148m ascent.

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