This one was a Pandani club walk, organised by Murph. I’d thought about putting it on the program because it was one of the remaining few nearby peak bagging peaks I have to do, but when chatting to Murph during one of the club meetings he mentioned he’d put it on, which was kind of cool. There was no way I was missing out! Though the forecast wasn’t ideal, and took a slight turn for the worst as Sunday approached, neither was it foul enough to talk about a Plan B (most Murphy walks have plan b’s!).
On the morning when my alarm went off at 5am I lay there for a moment listening to the rain, thinking how nice it would be to stay snuggled in my sleeping bag (yes.. I know.. but my place sometimes gets too cold for just my doona, and a single doona doesn’t wrap round very far). But there were friends to catch up, share laughter and have fun with, and there was a mountain to climb, and hopefully (fingers AND toes crossed), some views to be had. So 10 of us turned up ready to get wet, sadly down two due to illness and an attempt to play foot ball with a piece of firewood (well not quite..;)!). A late night drop off meant I was armed with Simon’s old camera case, and a spare SD card, which meant I could take my new camera. I did, but sadly with the weather the way it was it stayed in my pack the whole trip. I have yet to have any views from anywhere along that little range, and I’ve climbed every peak now!
We drove out to the Styx road, learnt all about Japanese culture on the way, and followed the gravel road to an appropriate start point. I had three different possible start points marked in my GPS (found online at http://www.users.on.net/~btkaczuk/Pages/Bushwalk/bushwalk.htm, I believe they’re from LWC walks). I wasn’t sure which way Murph had in mind, but he was in the lead and drove to one of those points. He’s since informed me that the track we took (for which I only had waypoints) is a restricted track marked on the 1:50,000 map. Part way along, it does meet up with the other track I had marked (for which I had a proper route), which is the shorter of the two and is published on the 1:25,000 map (the ‘proper’ way, if there is one!). At the start, Murph had some unexplainable and slightly concerning GPS troubles, so it was nice to be able to partially return the favour of all the input he’s had/help he’s given on the walks I’ve led (Billopp Bluff, Charles etc).
Having located a cairn, orange triangles and yellow tape marking the start of the track, under my lead we set off in fine form, walking straight off the track! To be fair, it was particularly poorly signed at the start, and I’d suggest bearing off to the right of the cairn and tape, for anyone following our footsteps. Somehow though, we managed to relocate the track, and stay on it, though there were a number of occasions where we had to go searching for the next marker or bit of tape. Murph had a whole real of orange tape with him and did an excellent job of filling in the gaps, which certainly made coming back down a LOT faster!
Settling in to the walk, the usual chatter, catching up, teasing, mucking around and playing pranks began. Not wanting to draw attention to what I was doing, I didn’t look up when I chose a tree to shake over Bec’s head to give her a shower, and accidentally picked a leafless one. Realising what I’d done, she told me Jess had already got her. The warning came just a little too late, as Jess decided to show me how it should be done. I laughed at the shower, expecting to get a whole lot wetter by the end of the day. I’d already thought we’d been lucky, having had rain on the drive, but not yet on the walk.
Lyre birds, who had confused the ground enough with their scratchings, called out as we walked by, and had us adding to a conversation about their calls and sounds that had started months ago. Graham couldn’t resist the temptation to take some of Murph’s tape and tie it to the back of Catherine’s pack.. which then made him the target of a little bit of pink tape payback. Later on, confusion over distinguishing between Jocelyn, Jess and myself ended up with me sporting a bit of pink ribbon in my hair.. ‘pretty’, apparently (if it were orange, it would be ‘fetching’ I was told – I wasn’t sure which was worse)!
Some contouring, and then a bit of a downhill stint had us questioning whether or not we should be following the tapes, or taking one of the many quite nice looking leads that continued up hill. We ended up settling on the tapes after a scout ahead revealed they levelled off and continued to contour, as expected. This was followed by some more joking about the fact that Jess has babies and I have worms (in reference, believe it or not, to the kind of lollies each of us tends to bring and offer around).
The going continued slowly, but I was enjoying the challenge of looking for the next bit of tape. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, one piece at a time, and I love the simplicity of it, and yet the challenge, and of the progress and reward. It’s therapeutic, and helps me just be in the moment. I was relaxed and happy, despite the usual small niggles about time, distance, scrub, tape, tiredness etc.
We finally intersected the ‘other’ track, which saw us leave old, twisted, hairy myrtles (some of which were really quite large) behind, and plunge into the Pandani forest. I liked this too, in a completely different way. While the myrtle was open and green, twisted and old, beautiful and enchanted, the Pandani forest was in parts dark and enclosed, a world of its own, almost cave like, and you could barely see someone a metre away for the denseness of the Pandanis. So close, they were, that it was impossible to walk by without receiving little nicks on your cheeks and lips from the sharp edges of their leaves as you pushed or brushed by.
And then the scrub began. I was at this point VERY grateful that we’d chosen to stick with the tapes because I’d not have wanted to be bashing up through that stuff. Even with a taped pad, it was a constant push up hill, through scrub that ran down hill, which always makes things worse. I was silly enough to be in the front, so what wasn’t already wet soon was. Stupidly, because I’d forgotten I’d put it there, so too was my phone which was in a pocket of my rain jacket – fortunately rain water isn’t as bad as salt water, and save for a few hours when it refused to make any sounds, and for an interesting water pattern behind the screen which is still there, it’s working fine!
After a decent climb we popped out on top, the only view being of mist as it swirled in front of and behind the trees in the valley below. Nice to look at, hard to capture on camera (especially a wet one!). There was a bit of wind, but still no rain, just lots of mist, and so we followed a few cairns along the plateau, then the GPS route I had. With visibility they way it was, it did a remarkable job of giving us a good line, and we avoided most of the scrub that a more direct assault on the summit would have taken us through.
A few hundred metres from the top, during a regroup, Murph asked if people were still good to go on. We’d been going 4 hours or so, and at the same pace, that would mean getting back by head torch. I was a little alarmed, we were so close, but I needn’t have been. The group consisted of the usual crowd, which meant none of us was put off by that, and we were definitely going to the top. So on we walked, until finally the outline of the trig appeared on the horizon, not too far away. Graham ran past, offering up a challenge. I’d already been pushing hard, feeling slow and tired and sore and puffed, so I got no more than about 10 metres when I decided that was about all I could manage. A walk it was going to be..
The trig was placed over a concrete pillar, that begged to be climbed on.. so both of us did. Everyone else joined us in their own time, and the cold and the wind meant a quick bite before turning around to find somewhere more sheltered for lunch. After a bit, Graham took over the lead, able to follow the route we’d made on his GPS. I was grateful, happy to stop checking my screen and making sure we didn’t stray too far, and instead just follow. We spotted a patch of blue sky, and a tiny pocket of view out to one side, but that was about it!
People must have been hungry, because we made it back to the lip in good time, and dropped over to get out of the wind. Perched on rocks, we ate lunch quickly, followed by some of Catherine’s snakes for dessert, and a nip of something that Graham had brought in a toast to Ben and Adrienne’s better health.
Then down it was. Murph took the lead, taking care to secure each foothold before moving forward. I took a little less care, just enough to ensure I didn’t go careering into him. From the sound of it further back along the line, caution had been thrown out the window, and all you could hear was the sound of people slipping and sliding, the occasional thud, and plenty of laughter. I felt sorry for whoever climbed Snowy North next – the track had been steep and slippery enough on the way up, and we’d just turned it into a mud slide! Oh well!!
Back through the Pandani forest, a hang-in-there pat on Bec’s arm as I walked past, and we were back at the junction just over 2.10 hours after having left the summit (including lunch). It seemed a lot faster, but we’d taken 2.15 to get up, so it wasn’t really. Murph’s tapes did, however, make a huge difference, saving us a good half hour. This meant we got back without having to use head torches, despite having them out and ready, and being in forest, which is always a lot darker.
As we walked the last bit in decreasing light, I pondered a question I’d been asked about whether it was possible and what it would mean to not go bushwalking with Pandani, and the ridiculousness of the thought really hit me. Apart from the fact that bushwalking is pretty much what I do, and what I live for, the friends I love and care about most are all Pandanis, and I can’t imagine wanting to scramble up rock, dance across scree, bounce down button grass, have nut wars or any of the other fun things we do (the things that really make a walk a walk) with anyone else. It says a lot when you choose to spend all day walking with friends in the wet and cold, with little or no views, rather than doing something more ‘sensible’ at home. I wouldn’t be who I was without them, and my life would be significantly less rich. I felt a little bit better that my initial reaction to the question had been offence, a hint of disgust that I might have attempted to hide, and a definite no.
Back at the cars we indulged on Bec’s chocolate, Catherine’s chips and yes, more of my worms. Jumping in the car afterwards I discovered chocolate frogs inhabiting my dashboard, a gift from Bec :D!
At home as I lay once again in my sleeping bag, I thought about the day, the walk, the shared experiences and the friendship, and I smiled.
All up: 11.1km, 8.02 hrs, 815m ascent.