Schnells Ridge: 14 December 2013

Schnells Ridge GPS route

Schnells Ridge GPS route

I sit here in the warm (though it’s not really that warm, or I wouldn’t have woken up cold!) and am somewhat thankful this time that I’m not still out there, slogging through boggy button grass and up overgrown track. It’s been two hours since I’ve been here, taking a much needed nap in the back of Greg’s car. Impeccable timing, arriving just before the first bit of rain for the day, and drifting off to the sound of its fingertips lightly drumming on the car roof. It’s pretty dry now so hopefully it was short, and the others didn’t see much if it.

On the track, we pop around a corner and the views open up

On the track, we pop around a corner and the views open up

So why am I here, as it’s unlike me to be in a car while there’s walking to be had?! I have actually done some walking, just a little less and a little faster! And seeing I worked all night on very little sleep, I’m now catching up..!

What had happened was that one of the Pandani organisers was leading a day walk to Sarah Jane – quite a substantial feat for a club walk, expecting to take 10-12 hrs (turns out they did it in 10, well done to all). I’d already done Sarah Jane, but I hadn’t done Schnells Ridge, the turnoff to which you walk past on the way to Sarah Jane. Under normal circumstances I might  not have not gone walking at all, especially since having done the Southern Ranges and being quite happy to sit with the memories from that for a bit.

I head up, while the others continue along.. can you spot them?

I head up, while the others continue along.. can you spot them?

But the circumstances weren’t normal, obviously. I was sitting on 298 points, and I knew I’d definitely be going on Pandani’s Sunday walk to three somewhat less significant peaks in the central highlands, because I hadn’t been to two of them and it’s always more fun to walk with others. However I didn’t want to get my 300th point on something not even a little bit special, which meant Saturday was the day to get 2+ points. I have taken quite a fancy to walking with friends, so I preferred to walk in with the club to as far as the Schnells ridge turnoff and then go solo, than to just take off after work to a mountain of my own choosing. Mt Wright it might have been..

Dancing in the wind with button grass, under silver skies

Dancing in the wind with button grass, under silver skies

And so I found myself working from 9.30pm-5-30am; at Granton by 6 to meet the others, then down to the start of the track and ready to go by 8.30. I could feel the tiredness, and I was grateful not to be driving. Greg, driving the car I was in, owed me that at least, having nominated me for the ‘sleeps anywhere’ award at the Pandani Christmas party due to the fact I’m often working overnight to get on club walks, and then catching up on sleep either when waiting for others on the track, or on the drive back (I’m usually too excited on the drive down, no matter how much I might try).

Pink rock on the way up

Pink rock on the way up

We started out at 8.30, chatting as we walked at a steady pace along and up the track. I had the pleasure of catching up with everyone (it felt like I’d been away for ages, though it was only 2 weekends) and especially two friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, one of whom had just returned from Indonesia! It had both startled and pleased me to hear a ‘selamat pagi’ come from somewhere behind my back in the car park when we’d met, and then the occasional ‘siap (ready)?’ or ‘licin (it’s slippery)’, and, when it came time to part ways, my favourite ‘hati-hati (take care, hati by itself literally meaning liver, but used in speech almost always to refer to the metaphorical heart, not the physical one)’.

Smiths Tarn steal my attention briefly

Smiths Tarn steals my attention briefly

It’s amazing how quickly you seem to cover distance when you’re chatting, and we were at the cairns marking the start of the pad up to Schnells in what felt like no time at all (an hour). We said our goodbyes, and while the others continued along the track I headed uphill.

Looking back at the view, having done the steeper uphill bit and now on the flatter climb

Looking back at the view, having done the steeper uphill bit and now on the flatter climb

And now I started to pay proper attention to where I was. It was one of those silvery grey days, where the button grass and low alpine scrub are the only sign of colour in an otherwise quite monochrome world. The cloud was high though, caressing the top of the Anne plateau, but leaving Sarah Jane clear, along with Schnells Ridge and many of the peaks visible out across Lake Pedder. It made for nice cool walking (though I was still sweating as I walked straight up the ridge). A decent breeze was blowing, one that would prove a fair bit stronger and colder (chilling really) on the summit.

Then over the ridge, and there it is.. but which one? Why not both ;)

Then over the ridge, and there it is.. but which one? Why not both 😉

But down at the start of the climb it was quite nice, as it wound its way through and past button grass heads, causing them to dance to its silent but distinct rhythm. I smiled, chuckled, and for the fun of it joined in :). A friend had said to me recently that there was a little bit of animal in me, which might sound like more of an insult than a compliment, but it came back to me then, and I knew what was meant. There’s a wild, animal or animal-like part of me that’s unleashed when I’m out, particularly on really nice walks to special places (and the southwest is pretty special), or those that are more remote.  I get to run free, taking pleasure in the way the wind touches everything in its way with invisible fingers (teasing me by blowing my hair all over my face!); in the slightest hint of sunlight pushing its way through a lighter patch of cloud; in the new colours of alpine flowers in bloom; in the silence of bush sounds. The world from which I’ve come is forgotten. Time becomes irrelevant, measured instead by pauses in bird song, or moments of calm between gusts of wind. There’s just me, my wildness, and the wilderness, and for the moment, I’m home :).

The left bump, as taken from the top of the right one

The left bump, as taken from the top of the right one

Following pads has become an instinct, so very different from even a year back, when self doubt and inexperience made it an exercise in anxiety. And this pad’s not too hard to follow. Feet have gradually work a muddy, at times boggy, path that weaves through clumps of button grass and slightly more resistant boronia. It becomes less distinct on some of the rockier sections, but nothing too hard to follow when you take the lie of the land into consideration.

The right bump, as taken from the left one

The right bump (on the left, the other is the ridge you pop over), as taken from the top of the left one

Up over the first rise, and onto a bit of a flat, Smiths tarn down and off to the left stealing my attention from the mountains. But the up continues, if a little more gradual. The summit is hiding behind the rise in front of me, and the promise of setting eyes on it makes the climb that bit easier for tired legs. Just before the top of the rise there’s a cairn, and then the pad disappears, giving way to open walking that would have made its presence somewhat irrelevant anyway.

Looking east towards Weld

Looking east towards Weld

As you make the rise, the summit comes into view, but which is it!!!? I’d been told the right one, by 10 metres, though the waypoint on my gps said the left (I’d forgotten to check its accuracy before leaving, however). It was a close call, and being in no hurry meant it was easy to decide to climb both! But first, to get down off the rise, across the saddle and back up again. Going down there’s a mixture of light scrub and rock, and I just picked my own path through, tending left. I discovered on the way back up that if I’d have gone hard left (right along the edge) I’d have avoided the rock altogether. I wasn’t particularly fussed, rock monkeys like rock, but not everyone does, and progress is certainly faster if you take the pad.

Back down, leaving a rocky smiley face to let the others know I was ok.. easier to see than the photo suggests.

Back down, leaving a rocky smiley face to let the others know I was ok.. easier to see than the photo suggests.

It wasn’t long before I was down, then heading back up, eyes set on the right peak. I set a course somewhere between taking the easiest gradient and making a bee line for the top. Always dangerous, my desire to go straight up the highest point found me on a false summit, needing to scramble down and around and back up to get to get to what appeared to be just a tad higher. I took a reading, 1097m.. Ok. The wind was now rather cold, making stopping for longer than to take a photo  rather undesirable. So I decided to head to ‘the other peak’, partly the peak bagger in me just making sure, partly out of a desire to see what the world looked like from over there.

The short scramble down was followed by a stroll across open flat ground, then another scramble up rock and scrub. You’d have thought I might have learnt the lesson about going for the immediate high point, especially having noticed from the first peak that it seemed like the true summit of this one was the third rise along.. But no.. The urge to see what things looked like over the bump had me head straight up it, and again I was dropping back down, and skirting round, before climbing back up.

One of many alpine flowers to make you smile :)

One of many alpine flowers to make you smile 🙂

It was also a short scramble, and then I was on this one’s top. Check the gps, 1096. A very close call, in light of the margin of errors on those things. I decided that some research back at home would be necessary (the peak baggers list has the coordinates of the left or second bump as the high point). But for now, it was time to celebrate with a chocolate bar. Or half a chocolate bar, before the wind saw me putting my pack back on, pulling my hood over my head, and heading back, still munching. It was a pity it wasn’t warm enough to stop and sit for a bit, or even have a nap, seeing I was in no rush (my GPS says I’d been on the first summit 1.20 hrs after leaving the track, and the second 20 min later, so I had plenty of time).

But not today, so I just kept moving, wondering as I wandered, looking at the mountains around me, in particular the Western Arthurs, which I hope to be traversing in a bit over a months time. I’m just a tad excited and impatient for that, and I wonder what delights it holds in store. Time will tell!

I’m back at the track too quickly (just over an hour from the summit), and after taking a bit of time creating a smiley face out of piled up rocks for the others, I figured there wasn’t much else but to wander on back to the car. I’m too tired to try to catch up with the others or explore anything else, and I’ll need some energy for tomorrow’s walk.

So I let my mind drift, thinking about all the good things life (and life is pretty good right now) – friends, family and mountains – while my body takes charge of the ducking and weaving, jumping and (occasionally) sliding, as I move along the track. It’s quick, too quick, and I’m back in less than an hour, by 1.15. So I get changed, and lie my tired body (from lack I sleep rather than a tough climb, though I discovered later it was over 1000m of up) across the back seat. I hope the others are making good progress and having fun, and then I’m asleep, off to a dreamless world.

All up, the very pleasant walk had taken me 4.50hrs, was 13.3km, and involved 1051m ascent.

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