Up to my neck in translation, which just got a lot more difficult, so I’m turning to this for some motivation (procrastination)! This weekend’s escape coincided with the long weekend in commemoration of the 8 hour day, so I’d arranged to lead my first overnight walk for Pandani. Little bit nervous (there’s a difference between leading walks that are private and leading those where the club is involved), but excited that I had a pretty good group (which changed several times in the months/weeks leading up to the walk), ideal weather, and a mountain that although I knew very little about it, was slowly becoming more familiar as I found out the smallest bits and pieces of information from various sources.
The main source was a trip report on the bush walk forum, courtesy of Stu (and thanks greatly for that, it was the inspiration for the trip!). I was a little concerned about the scrub and rock that might be involved, knowing Stu’s reputation, and reading some of the comments in response to his report, but a few days prior to leaving found out from another friend that the scrub had been burnt out in last year’s fire. One more thing in our favour.
The only other point of concern I had was timing, but was hoping that with a full day to walk from Crossing river to the summit and back we’d be ok. Usually I’d have brushed this off, and I did to some extent, figuring head torches and a gps route were all that were needed to get back if it got dark, but I was walking with four people I hadn’t done an overnight walk with before, one of whom has Parkinsons. Now anyone who knows me or is familiar with this blog knows I have no issues accommodating a range of physical ‘conditions’, that I value motivation and determination to succeed over speed or physical fitness, and that I selfishly ‘get’ a lot out of seeing these friends succeed in the face of all that challenges them. But Parkinsons is, like many conditions, one I don’t know too well, and I did not know how it manifests, or what affect, particularly over the course of the three days, it might have. It was something to be aware of, something to factor extra time in for if need be (which wasn’t actually necessary), and in the end I concluded that whatever happened would be dealt with appropriately as it arose. I need not have worried!
Anyway, six (we’d meet up with two more later) of us left Hobart and headed for the end of Scotts Peak road, where we’d start walking. Our intended coffee stop at Maydena turned into a wild blackberry picking and eating stop (yummy!!), which I have to say I rather preferred ;)! It was a clear morning, promising and happy, though we drove through sections of whiteout as we neared our destination. From the inside of the dust cloud that Graham’s car ahead was stirring up, Bec and I managed to catch glimpses of the tops of some of the mountains we’d see more of, with low cloud forming a white sea around their flanks.
At the car park we dressed, I took a longer than expected walk to use the loos (handy tip: go behind a tree, it’s 10 times faster!), and had a surprising encounter with a couple of friends who were going in to Promontory Lake! After wishing one another a good walk, we departed shortly after they had, and began the flat but longish walk in to Crossing River. It was just over a month since I’d been in here for the first time, on an amazing 9 day trip traversing the Western Arthurs. This time was quite different. The smells, terrain and sights were familiar, and looking up at the range as it appeared that feeling of having been there, having ‘done that’ finally sunk in: that sense of knowing (a little bit anyway) and the familiarity that comes with having explored a mountain or range. It had taken its time!
So for me the walk in to the start of Alpha Moraine was familiar, slightly less new and exciting, but still impressive (!). It was very nice to have the company of others, as Robinson had been one that would otherwise have been on the ‘to do solo’ list. I was feeling good, had no need to actually ‘lead’ anyone (rather I spent all the time following), and was very optimistic about the next day. A very relaxed 8.5 hours after we started out, including lunch and breaks, saw us complete the 20 or so km in to the river, where we met the other two of our party who had had two days on the Arthurs, and were pleasantly surprised by the accommodation provided. It was to become known as the Crossing River Resort!
Packs were dumped, all attention turning to the resort’s pool (the river) and a refreshing and cleansing swim in the bracing tannin stained water. Once in, it really was quite lovely, and there is honestly nothing better than swimming out in the bush after a sweaty day’s walking. There wasn’t a lot of potential as a lap pool, but on Graham’s instigation a branch hanging low over the water was turned into a chin-up bar and an unspoken and not so serious challenge of how many can you do was set, and we both managed two (though I suspect if pushed a third of forth might have been possible). It took me back to school days, especially when the chin up bar became one to put legs over and dangle upside down off. I have a vague recollection of spending lunchtimes hanging upside down off roman rings in primary school, which mum tells me was reserved for grade 4 and above (whoops)!
Clean and fresh, tents were erected and we gathered around for a warm, cosy communal kind of dinner. A fine looking eastern quoll provided a moment of excitement. On both nights food, dessert and snacks were shared (whether it was melted and re-solidified chocolate, lumpy custard with banana, muscat, port, whisky, or hot chocolate and marshmallows) and we chatted happily. There’s something especially nice about that aspect of bushwalking for me, particularly I think because in general I eat a lot of my meals alone (living by myself, and working crazy hours). I went to bed tired (starting to struggle with these working overnight, walking straight afterwards days) but very happy, relaxed, peaceful and, finally, back at home.
It was, admittedly, difficult getting up. I could have dozed all morning, I’m quite sure!! A strike thrush sang out, a happy tuneful song. And we had a mountain to climb, which was also pretty exciting. We chatted over breakfast, and I was happy to find that Rachel would be coming with us despite having some painful blisters (little trooper that she is, not a word of complaint either. And she was recovering from some nasty flu/cold thing! She’s earn a spot on any walk I ever lead).
So off we headed, wandering a little further along the Port Davey track before discussing what looked like a nice lead, avoiding as much scrub as possible. It was a little earlier than the point I’d selected based on satellite imagery, but I was happy and so was everyone else.
The burnt out scrub was easy, if rather dirty (we came out black!), to navigate through, as you can actually see where it’s thickest, and can find an easy way through. Not that there was much really though. Lower down there were two small patches of green scrub (forest really) along water courses. The first was quite dry, the second providing a beautiful and cool shady spot to refill water bottles and chill out for a bit. Graham handled the 4 metres of actual scrub bashing that was required to pop out the other side with ease, and we all followed in his footsteps.
By this stage we were at the bottom of Mt Robinson’s slopes, and it was clear we had some climbing to do. Straight up. As straight up as you can get without actually climbing (though I know I wasn’t the only one to be using all four limbs every now and again!). It had been apparent from the start that this was, as aptly described by someone, a ‘complex’ mountain, and so we had very short objectives to reach. The first had been the start of the scrub, the second, the other side of the scrub, and now it was the ridge line shortly above.
Each time we arrived at our destination, another choice of destination and path to travel would be made. I had thought when I planned the trip it might be, as usual, a matter of finding an appropriate ridge to climb and follow up to the summit. But Robinson had its defences up, and the ridges were rock, with not infrequent cliffy sections. Following a ridge up would be time consuming, and likely futile. Instead the clear route was up the gullies, and here we were grateful that the scrub had indeed been burnt out, and wasn’t going to add extra resistance to our uphill slog.
We’d found a few cairns at the end of our climb up to the ridge, and started to follow them. My first mistake as a leader was to let the group spread out too much here, so that those at the front were doing different things to those at the back, and decisions couldn’t be made through consultation when we discovered a new bit of information (more cairns etc). As a result, we ended up leaving the cairned route, and headed up the gully to the right of the ridge I’d picked out from the comfort of home as one to follow up. The going was good, and soon everyone was rounded up, with slightly clearer instructions to keep within sight of one another. I’m so used to people doing this automatically on walks when necessary (through scrub, or difficult terrain) that I’d overlooked it, but it was a valuable lesson to be reminded of.
It took us a while in our stop start fashion (it was easy to get quite spread out during the climb), but the views made every stop a pleasure. We also had the luck of being in the shade for the first part – luckily, because it was pretty hot in the sun! On one stop I was asked if I wasn’t going to walk out on a protruding bit of rock. I looked at it, considered the proposition, decided it was a nice little vantage point, and headed back down. It was nice, but needed something more.. like a handstand! It was flat enough in one spot, so I gave it little thought. Graham didn’t know that’s what I was going to do, but managed to capture the moment on his camera: responsible leader fooling around.
But back to being responsible, after a discussion over new growth that had quite a strong aniseed smell and another regroup, from which we could see the summit, we went for the final push, Rachel fittingly taking the lead. And there it was, we popped out on top and a big, slightly slanting rock was the obvious high point. Congratulations all around, in between taking of photos, and figuring out what mountains were what! We had a whole sea of them surrounding us, one in the party reckoning that Robinson must have one of the best views of all the ranges in the whole southwest! It would certainly be in the running. I think we were all pleasantly surprised, both by the views and the climb, and so we settled in to enjoying lunch.
Being a leader in an ‘official’ capacity changes the way you feel about a walk, and the way you approach it. It’s not quite as carefree, and the focus isn’t about your own relaxation and enjoyment of the day. Instead it becomes about making sure everyone else is having fun, and it’s from doing that successfully that your own enjoyment stems. A bit more stressful, but also perhaps more rewarding when you hear that people might not have visited the mountain had it not been for you.
The mood on top was one of reluctance to leave, and we had a little time, so when lunch was finished we chatted some more, took even more photos, and found ourselves drawn back to the summit rock, on or against which we sat/lay while we chatted and joked some more. Topics of conversation ranged from light banter, to pondering over what scared us most in life. Some topics were raised randomly, others were prompted by questions on the wrappers of lollies I like to take and share (Natural Confectionary Fruit Chews).
We were filthy black, but I like to think everyone was happy. For me, it was a really nice group moment, and I was acutely aware of the difference good company makes to a walk. I smiled happily as I lay back against the rock, eyes sometimes closed to let the feelings take priority over the views, sometimes open to take in the mountain ranges upon ranges that surrounded us, or the butterflies dancing in the sun and breeze.
It was only with reluctance that we dragged ourselves away, keen to get back early enough for there to still be sun for a swim and much needed wash in the river. Even then we lingered on top, pointing out a few more ranges, before heading back down, deciding on an alternative route that would allow us to check out what we called the ‘ski run’ for its obvious resemblance. It looked good, so we went down, and found ourselves in the gully on the other side of the ridge I’d had marked. The going was equally good, though perhaps a few more burnt out scratchy trees (or was that just because we were descending, and at a faster pace?), and Dr Ben and his ‘in case of anything’ bag came to the rescue when Bec put a rip in her day pack and a cut on the side of her leg. It was easy to do, just by brushing past the wrong bit of tree a tad too hard,and most of us bore a few cuts by day’s end.
We made relatively good progress, and found ourselves walking back onto the cairned route we’d left earlier in the day as we ascended. Both routes were equally good, and it was nice to have done a circuit. We had another short break, and I sensed a reluctance to leave the last little bit of height we had left, now that most of the work was done. So we perched on rock and chatted some more.
But eventually we were back on our feet, walking/sliding or otherwise descending the final steep section, before we retraced our steps through the scrub/forest and had another refreshing stop at our green, cool and inviting creek. The water was delicious, and we drunk our fill, wet hats, and sat for a bit more.
The final section of scrub and then open flat walking back to the track was easy, as was the last leg back to camp. Packs were dumped, and we headed straight for the river. It was beautifully cold and cleansing. Though it took a while to ease into (I can’t do the dive in thing when it’s that cold), again it was lovely once in, and I even gave my hair a good wash. It was so black with charcoal that Bec couldn’t figure out who the person with the ‘dark’ hair was when she first saw me by the river! The rest of me, knees in particular, also had a good scrubbing with the roughest rock I could find from the river bed.
Feeling fresh, I tested out the 5m lap pool, and then discovered the fun in floating down the river on my back. For some reason it seemed a particularly buoyant river, so floating was much easier than normal. It was time to get out when the shivering and cramping started (guess who forgot their shotz hydration tablets!), but we sat/stood around a little longer, enjoying the warmth of the suns last rays on cold skin.
The day, including all breaks (which were nicely extensive) was just under 9 hours, for 12km, and 850m ascent.
We shared another dinner, and then got very excited over Graham’s spotting of a fish in the river as we washed dishes. I can’t remember what it was called, but loved our wonder and amusement at the smallest of discoveries, and felt very much at home in the company I was with. Hot chocolate and marshmallows followed :)!!
It was a hot night, but the sound of the river was soothing, and it wasn’t difficult to drift off to sleep. Again it was difficult to get up (I think I had more sleep those two nights than I’d had for the whole week), but Rachel’s word that there was a nice sunrise happening changed things a bit, and with camera in hand, I raced off. It was lovely, layers of orange-bottomed clouds lit up a deep blue sky above the Western Arthurs.
I was already running late for our scheduled 8am departure time, but there are some things that are worth being late for, and pretty much everyone else seemed to feel the same. Usually I’m a stickler for being ready on time, or early, but lately I’ve been finding it less and less important out in the bush. There is time for everything, and some things need to be enjoyed.
The two in the party from Launceston were keen to get away earlier, they had a longer drive, so off they headed with John, while the rest of us took a little longer to breakfast, pack and get going. It was to be a long, flat walk, slowed by tiredness and blisters, but highlighted by orchid sightings, hair styling (Bec and Ben won the award there), and a few encounters with other walkers (including two of the friends we’d seen at the car park on the way in). We managed to avoid the forecasted rain, though saw the dark clouds roll in and looked back to see them cover parts of the Western Arthurs with rain.
All up, 53km, 1835m ascent. But more importantly, another trip with perfect weather, great company, and beautiful, very different, views. I think I’m being spoilt rotten!!