Mueller and I have history. It was one of the first few ‘nice’ mountains that I remember setting eyes on in my ‘bushwalking life’, sitting atop the Needles with three good friends, and deciding that one day I’d go there. The first chance was a HWC walk, but it clashed with another walk I was less likely to get a second chance to go on. The next time I was ready to lead it as a walk, I even had a key from Forestry, but the weather turned and we settled on climbing the mighty Brown Mountain instead.
And so Mueller gained even more respect in my eyes, and I knew the day I got to climb it would be pretty cool. When Graham put it on the Pandani program, I was excited. Another page to write in the Mueller story. It was with this excitement, but also a kind of acceptance that what would happen would happen, that I waited to see what the weather would bring, and whether we’d get there or not.
The weather was perfect all week, and I’m sure it wasn’t only me with crossed fingers that it’d hold out. Later in the week it looked like a front would come through on the Sunday afternoon, but we were still going. By Saturday morning though, the forecast was more positive, and the front looked like it would hold off until Sunday night. Perfect! I was really looking forward to this one.
A group FB message titled ‘Mueller mongrels’ set the tone for the walk, and Graham’s instructions added further challenge to the task. Greg and Jess were to do the walk as a three-legged race to ensure Greg kept up with the rest of us, and Bec, Ben, Bruce and myself were to be blindfolded and walking backwards! I figured I might get a slight reprieve if I could prove my worth as assistant navigator.
A 6.30am meet up at Granton, and we were off, catching up with Bec and uni, Ben and babies. I settled in to the drive; it was just really good to be out, and even better to be out with good friends. A successful rendezvous with two members Launceston in Maydena (and a sigh of relief, last time hadn’t been so successful), and we were off again. The drive was short, a right onto the Styx road, then on to Mueller road, and with slightly flawed navigation from yours truly we arrived at the end of the road just before 8.30.
Gear went on, and we stood around joking and laughing as Greg pulled out and donned his newest bit of headwear – a pig beanie. Last set of photos I’d seen he had been wearing a cow one, apparently his wife Shelly had thought the pig was more appropriate!! Not quite as hideous as the gorilla Graham had pulled out on Nevada, but close enough :)! Jess also produced out a recently punctured bike tyre that she’d fashioned to function as a leg tie for her and Greg, and they set off, making good three-legged pace… and walked straight past the start of the walk!
A back track, the tyre left for collection on the return, and we plunged into the bauera. Ok, so there was a track, but the first part of it was overgrown enough for your knees to know about it (especially when trying to scrub the mud off in the shower back at home – on that note I’m glad I don’t do the type of job where people might look at my knees!). We started off walking quite close together, but soon found our own rhythms and spaced out.
I chatted a bit, then found myself walking alone, just being. It was good, a bit of what I needed, and a glance out to my left had me smiling. There, poking through the trees, was Mt Anne, and behind and to the left, Fedder, and a little further around, PB. A few favourite mountains, sitting out there as if to say hello, we’re here, and welcome home. I said my hellos then moved to catch up with the others, excitedly asking if they’d seen Fedder!
After a brief regroup we moved off, heading for Fossil Lake, and a very short walk round the corner had us stopped again. This time by the view of our mountain, Mueller, with the teal coloured lake nestled at its feet. Down at the lake edge grey rock, brown earth, and silver skeleton fingers and their darker reflections stole my attention as the others continued on, drawn by the mountain.
I followed after a bit, stopping to take photos, but otherwise eager to get to the lip of the ridge to see the views that would be revealed. They were as good as expected, or better, and it was pretty much understood without need to speak it that we were having another stop. Different people wandered in different directions, to find their own rocks to stand on, take a photo or two, or have just a bit of quiet time. Greg’s pig got a bit mischievous and went snuffling in people’s ears, and when he thought it was about time to move Graham pegged an apple core at Ben, who was checking out the views with Jess.
That got us moving, but not before Jess spied and made use of a nearby snow drift. The first of many snowball fights ensued, and much laughter was had. Greg came away with an earful of snow, and the rest of us racked up a few more scores to settle. The start of great fun…!
We figured we’d better not hold the others up too much, and made the short climb up scree onto the open alpine ridge proper. A few wandered over the Mueller East (not the highest high point) and pretty much we all took in the views yet again. Words don’t do the enormity of it justice, even photos don’t quite suffice (so you’d better just go see for yourself!).
Though I’ve done a lot of walking in the region, and therefore seen the views from nearby mountains, there’s something about Mueller (perhaps its solitary nature, a distance away from any other great mountains) that means the views seem much wider, more expansive, and the number and status of the mountains and ranges you can see is hard to beat from anywhere else. It’s a definite favourite.
As if the mountain knew just what the walker needed, it provided us a lovely little stroll across the ridge that allowed us to feed on views of blue layered ranges, drawing energy, refreshing tired minds and bodies. It seemed to be just what a number of us needed! The walking was temporarily and really quite frequently interrupted by a couple of wedgies, who had made their first appearance as we’d headed up from Fossil Lake.
They came and went, stopping most of us in our tracks, heads turned to the skies, watching as the two mates played, teased and danced with one another. It was beautiful to watch, and I shared a smile or two with others over their presence and antics. It struck me as interesting that their behaviour was a reflection of or complement to our own, or maybe it was just something about the place that invited playful uninhibited enjoyment.
We had a short drop to a saddle ahead, before the final, very attractive looking scramble over dolerite to the summit. I was excited, and as we started down Ben, who was behind me, asked if I was feeling the suction. I said no, not just yet, though I would be when we were on that ridge. What I was feeling was a happy freedom, like wanting to stretch out my arms and fly (run, seeing as I haven’t mastered the flying business).
His reply was simple.. so do (or something along those lines). I did. Arms out, we ran/danced/flew down, swerving round the corners of the very not straight pad (I do like windy pads for this kind of thing), feeling completely free, very much alive and in the moment leaping over a nice sized shrub. Ben’s delighted laughter from behind and an appropriate comment told me he felt a similar thing. A moment later we’d reached the flat of the saddle and I jogged to a walk with the biggest smile on my face.
We started up, and I took interest in the solid wide pillar of rock on the right hand end of the ridge. I pondered climbing it, and told Ben I’d save it for the way back.. the summit was calling!! The final little scramble (not too hard at all) was fun, and then we were there! A few photos, but the end of the ridge was calling, so I headed over. I had a little peace and quiet, but soon discovered that rock monkeys must perform on demand. A tribute to Shaz with an attempt at Karate Kid ‘crane’ pose on the highest tip of rock (yes, in the wind too), a few leaps across rocks, and I’d earned my keep for the day.
A snuffling sound, then the pig made an appearance, climbing up over the edge of the rocks. More summit/ridge/rock fun ensued, and we eventually gathered together for a group photo. When I thought it was just about over, Graham upped the ante. I’d mentioned a week or so ago my desire to practice doing headstands so I could do one on a dolerite pillar on top of a mountain. When he first bent over and put his head on the rock I thought he was praying to Mecca, but he wasn’t facing west. It took a while to realise just what he was doing.
How dare he! The challenge was definitely set!! I didn’t have my beanie with me like he did, so I borrowed Greg’s pig (not much padding, sadly though) and did my best.. not great, and not without some very close spotting by Greg and Ben (fair enough, it was rather windy, and I had just given them a bit of a scare with a slip on black lichen right on the edge). But it was worth a laugh, and I secretly promised to go home and practice!!
All that hard work, and it was time for lunch. I wasn’t really hungry though, and made a half hearted attempt to get something down, but the views and a few more photos were more interesting, and I soon gave up. Lunch was followed by an interesting treat from Bec, a new Marvellous Creations flavour that contained sherbet, and Jess was to discover the fun way!
We couldn’t stay forever and started to make our way back along the ridge. Another pause at a few small patches of snow as missiles flew back and forth once again. When we got to the end I hesitated, wondering whether I had time to scramble up the end little knob.. Ben hadn’t brought it back up, and I figured he’d forgotten, but thought what the hell, I could catch up later if need be. But when it was clear I’d decided to go, he yelled out to Graham, drawing his attention to me. My initial reaction was one of puzzlement, was Ben ‘dobbing me in’? A moment or two later Ben clarified the matter. The two had placed a bet as to whether or not I’d go!! Cheeky little buggers..!
A few fun moves and I was up, visited the cairn on top, then came back down. The others had kept on moving, with Ben staying behind to make sure I could get back down. He paid for it though, as it provided Jess the perfect opportunity to nick off with his pack.
After a short search around, then the discovery that not only did Jess have it, but someone had come up with the idea to scatter a dry bag here, one there, and a rain jacket tied to a shrub a little further on…! Ben laughed, found a bit of snow, then headed down to gather his gear. An innocent walk over to the others, then a quick move saw the full handful of snow find its way down the back of Jess’ neck!
More mucking around, a bit of a sit down, but as always, we had to move on. We didn’t get far, the short clamber up scree to make the other ridge, and the wedgies were back. We stood and watched as they flew off north together, gone for the day. Back at the other end of the ridge, as we started to descend, Fossil Lake came into view, photos were taken and after starting off once again I was amazed at how a feeling, a view.. a moment… can affect individuals as if they were one. Something invisible, unspoken brought 6 of us to a stop, and we stood there on the scree, looking out at the view. It wasn’t so much of a stop, more of a pause, to take one final breath of mountains in. And then it was gone, the spell broken, and down we continued.
Only so far as a decent sized snow drift.. of course! We had the biggest snow fight of the day, Ben and Greg had the upper hand being uphill, but Jess, Graham and myself made up for that in skill ;)! Well…. one can bend the truth a little, no? All was going quite well and fairly until a certain someone, defected, and attacked yours truly.
Bad idea though, I had the upper ground and was only a metre or two away, so payback was cold and deadly! Greg also got another earful when he decided to go for the all in attack and got a bit too close. A lot of laughter and an unspoken truce (well…temporary ceasefire) and we moved to catch up to the others.
We had a slightly tense 10 minutes as we temporarily lost track of Louise and Bruce, who had descended a different way to the way we’d come up, without anyone being aware of it, but quickly worked that out of the system with a game of frisbee down by the lake. The reflections grabbed me again, and I couldn’t help but take a few more photos.
The remainder of the walk was less scenic, but we made it go really rather fast with another war of hakea nuts. Brilliant when you’re walking in a line, no one knows quite who threw what. Greg learnt pretty fast not to bag out poor aim, and Graham decided to see just how hard us girls could throw. Ben of course was wise, and took the rear most position from which he had absolute control. I learnt pretty fast that anything aimed back up the hill was easily caught and pegged straight back down!
And so the day ended. Fresh excitement and anticipation had been replaced with perhaps slightly tired but very much contented peacefulness. It had been another day with great friends, much laughter and the simple and refreshing beauty of being in the mountains.
All up: 12.2km, 911m ascent, 7.45 hours (with all stops, snow and hakea fights, and other general enjoyment!).