This weekend was the first of two set aside since December for the all important mission to finally attempt Fedder. Ever since knowing of its existence, I have always wanted to attempt this particular mountain, if I didn’t climb anything else (and what a ridiculous proposition that is!). And so started a form of courtship, that has progressed over time, becoming stronger with each sighting from the tops of ever closer mountains.
Standing on Wylly Plateau in early December, having just experienced a magnificent and magical day climbing PB and watching the colours of the setting sun light up the sky behind Fedder, something clicked, and it was suddenly time. No more ‘one days’.. no more toying with the idea of running in and out solo. Graham, by virtue of chance (wrong, or right, place and time perhaps? Or some greater engineering outside either of our control), was the victim of this particular moment and set of circumstances, and was asked (or perhaps told.. and in no uncertain terms ;)!) that I wanted to climb THAT mountain, and he was coming..
Nothing more was organised then and there, but I knew I had a willing conspirator to court this mountain with me when once we were back home, settling in to the routine of normal life again, I was asked about dates. We pencilled in two weekends, 4 days, in and out. Fingers crossed for the weather. This weekend just gone, as I said, was the first. It wasn’t to be. Pity, because although it wasn’t planned, I’d realised a few weeks ago that if I successfully climbed all the mountains between then and Fedder, that Fedder would be my 200th peak.
But doubts rose at the beginning of the week leading up to the weekend, Graham was down with a nasty cold, I was over worked (deadlines and translation aren’t fun) and under-rested, and the weather wasn’t looking flash. It wasn’t a fun week of waiting. The mood turned from slightly hopeful, to dreading that neither of us would be going anywhere (and that is ALWAYS worse). Fedder was called off on Thursday, a plan B walk was still up in the air, it could go either way. Friday morning and Graham felt a little better, we’d have a crack at a slightly more relaxed weekend of walking: AWESOME!!!! Disappointment at not being able to do Fedder, had turned into relief and excitement at going for a walk after all. Perspective is everything!
The plan was very tentative, and would be down to how we felt each day, but we were headed in to Pine Valley. We decided this at the last minute on the ferry across Lake St Clair. We could have gone just to Olympus, or in to the Labyrinth, but opted agains the former if the weather was less than good as we wouldn’t see anything (and this day, which was forecast to be the best of the three, was grey and misty and none too promising), and three days was a bit excessive for one mountain. We also went against the latter, because we were toying with the idea of climbing Geryon South, which would require going north from Pine Valley, rather than west to the Labyrinth.
We were off the ferry at about 9.30, and straight in to the walking. I plodded for a bit, trying to fit into rhythm with Graham’s long legs. Being sick didn’t slow him down at all on the flats! We came across the first suspension bridge quite quickly, Graham having the obligatory bounce in the middle, before allowing me to cross in a similar fashion. It was on reaching the other side of the bridge and smiling at Graham’s child-like bouncing, that I finally let go of the part of me that was back in the real world, that worried about Graham being sick, me being tired and not 1oo% either, the tentative nature of our plans and whether we’d actually climb ANY mountains (ok, that wasn’t exactly a big risk), and of course, how bad the weather was going to be. It was gone, I was out where I belonged, and whatever happened would be fine. I was happy :).
Onwards we walked, making quite good progress. There were no views of mountains to distract us in the forest, which gradually turned from dry schlerophyl into predominantly myrtle rainforest, which was quite nice. We arrived at the hut just over 2.5 hours after having left the ferry, having met a number of people on the track. It seemed we were walking in on the right day. Apparently the day before the hut had been packed, the ferry guy taking out over 60 people!
There were clearly a few people still there (more than my liking), so we set about first making a call on what we were going to do (Geryon South or no Geryon South). What we knew of Geryon South was that it featured a ‘slab of death’, and a few chock stones. We probably needed to have done a bit more research, but it didn’t end up mattering as our criteria for an attempt was a clear, non-mist impeded view of the route up. A wander out to the helipad made this a no go. The mountains were in mist, and we reckoned we’d be walking blind. The rock was also likely to be wet. So we went with the next option, camp here and climb the Acropolis that afternoon.
We selected a campsite, got everything set up, and headed off. We didn’t get far before being distracted by the very nearby waterfall, where we took a few photos that just didn’t do it justice. Walking up the lovely rainforest (described as a steepish but well graded climb) we met a number of small groups coming down, and from them we gathered that the plateau was beautiful even if you couldn’t see the views (great). We also had one couple tell us that they’d had glimpses of views on the way up but hadn’t taken any photos because they’d thought it would lift further. It didn’t, the mist only descended and they’d been kicking themselves. With this in mind, we were sure to take photos of everything we could see as we gained the plateau: Parthenon and Walled Mountain, and the southern most end of the Acropolis as it peaked out from under thick mist…
True to what we’d been told, the plateau was lovely. And if you timed it after rainfall, or didn’t mind searching around, it’d be a lovely place for a highish camp, in amongst the snow gums on alpine coral fern, with mountains around. We took our time moseying around, taking more photos, in which the reds, oranges and yellows of snow gum bark featured almost as much as the mountains! And later we couldn’t resist a quick off-track look at the pandani groves..
Rather than detracting from the experience the mist added mystery and mood… and excitement, as we watched and walked, walked and watched, and witnessed the revealing of Acropolis’ rock fingers from under her misty cloak. And then a patch of blue appeared, and another, and we were like excited children. The higher we climbed, the more was revealed, which made it all the more stunning and exhilarating. The pull of the plateau was great, and rightly so! The views were so magnificent that for once I forgot my desire to get to the summit and was fully mesmerised by the world before me and the incredulity of our timing and luck.
But after many photos were taken, and the view had started to sink in (or rather the realisation that we could move and it wouldn’t vanish!), we figured we’d better check out the summit. So we took the short hop along rock, and sure enough there was a highish point on the top, and then just a little further out, there were two rock turrets, reaching for the sky. From the top, they were clearly the high point (from below, when we’d been sidling, they looked distinctively lower).
I couldn’t keep my eyes off them. My ‘can I go, can I go?’ rhetorical questions were met with apprehension, but true to my mothers word, I have selective hearing, and I went, not really registering the reply.. it was easy enough to find a way down, then across to the foot of the two pillars.. round the back.. more ‘can I”s, and again, not actually registering the reply, though it was clearly not an enthusiastic yes.. I remember a warning, concerned tone, but I couldn’t recall the words. It wasn’t an outright no, which is all I needed to know.
So up I went, a little bit of climbing, and some wriggling, and I was standing between these two pillars. I could reach up the highest one to the part where the top most rock sat perched on the pillar, but there was nothing I could do to get up. The pillars were too close together to be able to use them for leverage, and there were no real foot or hand holds. There was nothing I could do but admit, somewhat begrudgingly, defeat. The mountain gained a new respect, and, if I can claim the points, it was confirmed to be a fitting and extra special 200th peak (I’d already thought as much, and this only increased as we spent more time on top).
Not quite defeated, I had to go a little further along the rock/finger ‘line’. I had my eye on one in particular pillar that stood a little higher, a little further out, and would have made a fine photo. This time though I thought I’d better heed Graham’s ‘no’ and ‘Beccaaaa…’ to my seeking permission to try to find a way around the other side and see if it was possible to climb. His voice seemed to contain a little more concern, and was almost plea-like. Or maybe I was just listening this time? So I stood and took in the views, processing emotions.
Myself and my disappointment sorted, I was surprised and delighted to turn around, ready to head back to ‘safety’, to find that Graham was making his way down, tracing the same route I’d taken. So I stayed out there, and watched as he also had a bit of a climb up the two rock pillars, also unable to go any further than I had, and then head along the finger line to the point I’d wanted to climb. He made a hasty retreat, and I knew there’d definitely be no climbing that one. It was just a little hairy, a little intense, but exhilarating, and lovely to have someone to share and explore it with… and as we sat there on rock, it was just perfect, the way so many seemingly random strands had been woven, not necessarily intentionally, together to culminate in this particular moment.. mind-blowing, magical..
I have to hand it to Graham. What I like to do isn’t always easy for other people to watch. I’m often more comfortable than most people with heights, exposure, and climbing straight up stuff. I knew he was uncomfortable with what I was doing, and what I wanted to do, though perhaps I didn’t realise at the time just how much. But he let me go as far as that point where I could decide for myself that I couldn’t go any further, even though it was well past his comfort point and his own ability to control consequences. That demanded a certain trust… not a small thing to ask of someone.. thank you :).
So that’s a bit of what the Acropolis was, and is, to me. A wonderful mountain, complete with challenges, surrounded by beauty, and full of exhilaration and intensity. We spent a great deal of time just wandering, bouncing or sitting around the summit area, taking photos, enjoying the light, feeling the warmth of afternoon sun on skin, and unable to resist inadequate exclamations about the views. Geryon South was very impressive, and the ‘slab of death’ was distinct. It’s now a lot higher on the list of mountains to climb! The beauty of the views and light looking south over Parthenon to the Minotaur, Gould and Olympus also vied for attention with Geryon’s magnificence, and I know I couldn’t decide what to look at! Not to mention everything else, the Labyrinth included.
I was most reluctant to leave, and I think Graham was too. But we did need to get back, and before it got too dark. And so down we went, I lingered behind. A minor issue and a flash back to the last week’s experience on Ironstone slowed us down a bit, but we found one another and proceeded the rest of the way down together. The light being what it was, we just had to stop and spend some more time with the snow gums, no question. I knew by now that whether or not we got to do Fedder, this would also be a lovely way to end an amazing summer of walking. I could find no fault.
The down was quick and we were enjoying a rather crowded dinner in the very warm hut, mingling in the end with some Queenslanders and French guys. Chatting walks, gear, but primarily food! The warmth and dryness of a hut also has its downsides, and it was nice to retire to a quiet tent for a very long and uninterrupted sleep.
I caught up on a week’s worth of sleep that night, and was still reluctant to get out of a warm sleeping bag the following morning! But the drizzle that had been forecast was not to be seen, instead we had more patches of blue sky and sunshine! So after a late breakfast (which worked quite well, we avoided most of the hustle and bustle as a whole heap of walkers left) we headed off towards the Labyrinth, with Parthenon in our sights. The mist had increased a bit, but again it was a beautiful mix of sunny spots dashing across the landscape like someone was controlling a light show from above, contrasting with mist and clouds, and as time went by, approaching rain that engulfed the Eldons as we watched. The snow gums bled red.. it was beautiful, in a completely different way.
The sound and then sight of a rescue helicopter made us pause, and we hoped all was well. But on we went, following the very decent track parallel to the ridge that is the Parthenon, before picking an appropriate point to ascend. It was a short distance, but with a bit of light scrub and one or two sections of rock. Again, on top we had a a similar, but slightly different vista to entertain us, and as always we enjoyed looking at the mountains we had explored, and those we had yet to set foot on.
The wind and the approaching rain were what eventually drove us down, and had us decide to retreat to the hut rather than explore the Labyrinth further. That could wait for another day. I wanted to spend time camping there after all. Besides, I was all for a relaxing afternoon, and apparently I was still sleep deprived, so you can guess what I did all afternoon, woken occasionally by an olive whistler, the light patter of intermittent drizzle on the tent, or an American accent. In fact if I was walking solo I wouldn’t have bothered getting up for dinner, I’d have just slept right though! But it was good to eat in the hut, this time with a much smaller group, and we had a lovely chat with a Western Australian couple and an American guy (to whom the American accent belonged), all of who seemed as passionate about walking as any of us.
We eventually retired, and as I lay in my sleeping bag I reflected again on just how right the trip was, on all levels. I don’t think we’d have been able to do Fedder being as sick and tired as we were, or to have enjoyed it as it should be. Instead I felt rejuvenated, and Graham seemed to be recovering. We toyed with the possibility of climbing Byron on the way out the following day, and made it back to Narcissus in a speedy 2.15hrs. But as if to send a message, although we watched the mist lift and clear from off the mountain tops, one by one, Byron stayed under. Even as we boarded the ferry, a whisp of mist caressed the summit.
The excitement wasn’t all over, as we discovered the ‘hanging’ challenge on the ferry. I’m a sucker for challenges, particularly physical, so it caught my attention straight away! The idea is to hang as long as you can from a bar across the roof of the ferry.. the guide that told us about it mentioned something about a 2 minute something record for females, and a 4 min something for males.. thought the ferry driver later said something about 7 mins.. with a minimum 3 min to get your name recorded… It was a lot harder than it seems, and though you still have strength the build up of lactic acid or something means you get to the stage where you physically can’t hold on any longer and your hands just slip right off. My first attempt set the bar at 2.32 mins..my excuse, the fruit cake the Western Australian couple had kindly shared with us at the hut as we waited had weighed me down excessively ;)!! Will have to have a crack each time I take the ferry!!!
All up, a relaxing 34.6km and 1581m ascent… Definitely a place to visit!
Oh, and stay tuned for a report mid next week.. weather is looking excitingly ok-ish for a Fedder attempt, so we have a date!!! Eeek :D!! Will we succeed???