Nescient Peak and Mount Oana: 27-29 September 2020

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.
GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana
GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana

Once again, some consistently snowy, wet and windy weather had thwarted a planned 5 day solo trip, so when a 2.5 day weather window popped up on days I had few other commitments I jumped at the chance. Especially knowing the first few days of another extended trip planned from October 1 were looking very foul as well! The choice was easy, there was only a small window and not many trips I could do something productive in such little time. As it was I wasn’t entirely sure I’d have enough time to get all the way out to Layatinna. It would all depend on the weather and how easy the terrain was to negotiate, which I wouldn’t know till I was committed. Oh well, it’s about the journey and having a crack more than the destination or success, isn’t it?

The 3.5 hour drive up was smooth and uneventful aside from a lovely sunrise and a swamp harrier. There was no one in the carpark, though people had been in recently according to the log book. I was off walking by 9, dressed in board shorts cos I figured they were going to get wet. Not so much from the light sleet that came and went throughout the day, but more from pushing through snow laden branches that were bent across the track. I didn’t see any point in getting both them and my overpants wet, so the latter stayed in my pack for the morning. Probably a tad silly, as the dry overpants came at the expense of my legs, that quickly turned bright pink from the double assault of the freezing snow and the scratchy scrub.
The track itself was hard to recognise from when I was last in. I’d forgotten about the fires and it had been hit hard. Someone had been through and chainsawed the worst of the trees, and erected track markers where the track was most indistinct but it was still easy to step off it in some spots. Some opportunistic lower storey scrub had started to grow back, but by and large the landscape was 50 shades of grey and rather barren looking. It was lovely to get to the pockets that had survived intact, so much so I couldn’t even get frustrated with the bauera or scoparia as it tried to trip me up and scraped at bare knees and thighs. It was as if even this walk, much like this year in general, was echoing the same sentiments about being grateful for what is, because you never know when it’s going to change for the worse.
I'd forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I'd been here years ago.
I’d forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I’d been here years ago.

I plodded along, eating a late breakfast as I puffed my way up hill. I wasn’t in a huge rush and I was happy to go at a continuous pace rather than trying to break records. I enjoyed the light sleet and sunshine both at the same time, the birds twittering away, and even the cold wet slushy snow as it ran down my legs, inside my gaiters and eventually had my boots squelching. It was good to be back out.

It didn’t take long to reach the open button grass plains and the turn off to Nescient Peak. It had evidently been a slightly green and scrubby climb, but now it was just a matter of avoiding getting too close to the sharp and black burnt remnants. It was easy enough to weave through an open route, although I did discover close to the summit that there was actually a cairned and taped route. I tried to follow it back down but it wasn’t easy since the fire had been through and I actually found it better to pick my own route. The benefit of the fires were a clearer view through the skeletal remains of trunks to some familiar snow capped peaks. It was a lovely little winter wonderland kind of walk, and it brought back memories of climbing Howells Bluff in the snow with Graham. There was a little less snow this time, but the terrain was similar.
Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it's a tad less green than it would have been.
Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it’s a tad less green than it would have been.
Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)
Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)
The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.
The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.
Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)
Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)

Reunited with my pack I set off on a much longer plod to as far as I could get towards Oana. I said hello and goodbye to Rogoona as I passed by Lake Myrtle, awakening more, somewhat hazy, memories. And then I was on new terrain for me. Just in time for the sleet to pick up and the scrub to occupy more of the track. By the time I got to Lake Meston I wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about heading off track at the southern end and climbing up through scrub onto Chinamans Plains. My fingers were cold and struggling even to undo buckles. I decided I definitely needed the overpants, and chided myself for not starting out in them. It would have saved me a lot of hurt, and probably time as well! They went on slowly – my fingers were moving at the pace I seem to move in bad dreams. But they warmed up as I walked, moving much faster now through the overgrown bits of track. I reckoned I had a couple of hours of off track walking, which should get me well and truely on the plateau. I didn’t like my chances of actually getting a tent up if I kept going much after 5pm, even though there would be almost two more hours of daylight – that’s how fast the temperature can drop in the late afternoon and being alone makes you realise how much more vulnerable to these things you are. I was also pretty knackered, even though I’d not walked as far as I hoped.

Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!
Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!
The hut at Lake Meston
The hut at Lake Meston

I’d be lying to deny that I thought about turning around as I stood on the track to Junction Lake at the point I was due to plunge into the scrub. I didn’t rate my chance of climbing both mountains the next day too highly anymore and momentarily wondered why go to all the effort for just one if I’d still have to come back. But I think that was more an excuse to avoid the cold and wet scrub bash with a full pack than anything else. After all I was out to walk as much as to climb peaks, and I’d return just as fresh regardless of where I actually got to. I chuckled at my stubbornness as I hauled my weary body up and over the scrub and rocks, and worked on enjoying it for what it was. I smiled at the small reprieve as I popped into a section of myrtle forest with a thin blanket of snow on the ground, and breathed a sigh of relief at finding a perfectly fallen tree across the Mersey River. And of course I cursed and swore as I was stabbed, tripped up or lost my footing in the scrub. I missed having company, it makes an especially huge difference in scrub.

I let out a whoop when I broke out, up and over the edge of the plateau, and checked my watch. I’d see how far I could get in 45 minutes. Probably not far enough, but I found a nice little spot tucked out of the wind next to a largish tarn that I couldn’t pass up. And then ensued the process of getting dry and warm, cooking a new dehydrated recipe for Moussaka (5 stars from me!) for dinner and discovering that I would have at least a 12 km walk ONE WAY just to get to Layatinna the next day… oh dear, another early start I guess, and a lot of playing things by ear.
After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?
After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?

I set the alarm for 5, but everything was frozen and I couldn’t bring myself to put on wet gear straight away. The world looked like someone had come along during the night with a great big sieve and dusted the land with a very generous layer of icing sugar! Instead I dozed a bit, made a cup of tea and then couldn’t put it off any longer. I actually put my socks in hot water and poured some into both boots. They weren’t frozen because I’d put them inside the tent but I figured I could at least be warm and wet. It worked quite well actually!

At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It's a painful, brittle world for a while.
At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It’s a painful, brittle world for a while.

I set off shortly after 6, crunching my way between tarns, contour lines and trying to stick to rock or alpine heath. It took a little while to read the landscape. The satellite imagery hadn’t been super helpful so I was relying a lot on reading the terrain accurately and a bit of guesswork. I ended up taking a decent route with only two slightly scrubbier patches, but even then it was the kind you could mostly weave through. It was nice to be accompanied by the frogs and lots of different types of birds. I was especially grateful to the olive whistler who made me smile when I was going through a tougher patch of scrub. They do have a pretty good wolf whistle equivalent!

The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade
The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade
More icy patterns on scrub
More icy patterns on scrub

From the southern end of Eagle Lake the direct approach to the summit of Oana looks horribly green and scrubby. I headed southeast first, climbing onto the ridge that leads to the summit where the contour lines were more gradual. It was a longer distance to walk, but again the going was pretty open. The final meander up the flat, rocky ridge to the summit was lovely. There were better than expected views too!

On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can't discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.
On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can’t discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.

Looking from Oana towards Layatinna Hill. It's a LOOONG way off. I'd planned to climb it this day, and while it was only 9:15, I'd been walking for 3 hours already to cover a similar distance. I didn't think I was up for a 12 hour minimum day. As it turned out, I made it into a 12 hour and 26.7km day - imagine how much longer it would have been if I'd headed all the way out there?The downside to this was that Layatinna looked awfully far away. And although the going is supposed to be pretty good (despite looking green!), I was still not moving fast enough. It had taken me 3 hours to get to Oana, and I had at least as far again to get to Layatinna. I um-ed and ah-ed over whether I should opt for an epic day or whether I should save Layatinna for another day. I’m not one to leave mountains I set out to climb, but I was feeling tired, and although I knew I could push through and walk as long as needed, I wasn’t sure how strong my mind was going to be if I had to route find in the dark when I was well and truely knackered. I’ve also been working on slowing down, so I went with the sensible option and sat on the summit enjoying the views. It was the first time I’d set eyes on Lake Malbena in person, and it was interesting to actually be there while thinking about the proposed developments.

After an hour on the summit I couldn’t feel my fingers and I figured it was time to head back. It would mean I would have time to pack up the tent and drop back to camp under Rogoona by Lake Myrtle, in turn making for a short third day so I could get back home and open up the beehive to see how the bees had fared over winter!
Off track walking can be very nice, don't you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..
Off track walking can be very nice, don’t you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..
In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn't see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few
In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn’t see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few!

It was a long walk back, and when I started stumbling over my own feet I was very glad I’d left Layatinna this time (and check out the distances at the bottom – I’d have been crazy to have added an extra 10-15km on!). I was back at the tent by 2pm, happy to find everything mostly dry. I wasn’t moving fast by any means. I was concentrating instead on not straying too far from the route I’d taken on the way up, so that I avoided running into drop offs or really thick scrub and so I managed to intersect the river exactly where the tree was down. It was wonderful to finally find my feet back on a track. I could switch my mind off completely and simply just walk. And so I did, all the way to Lake Myrtle.

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.
Back at the tent at 2pm and it’s a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hour walk out.
A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash
A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash
Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!
Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!

The evening was pretty, as were the little flies that danced in groups just above the ground, their bodies glowing gold in the low sunlight. I arrived at the campsite nearly 12 hrs after having started walking that day. There was still an hour of daylight but I wasn’t going to get anywhere nice in that time so I called it a day. I spent the hour pitching the tent, cooking home made and dehydrated creamy pasta and typing up some notes (have you ever wondered why there’s so many typos? Fat thumbs typing on my phone and a failure to proof read ;)!). I was so tired I got no more of my book read than I had the night before, going to bed at 8pm instead!

Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it's paws
Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it’s paws

I made the mistake of leaving my gaiters out on a log where I’d put them to dry the bottom halves out, and my boots in the tent vestibule. I woke to a tent that glittered on the inside and immediately knew what I’d done. My water bottles were frozen shut, the boots were solid and my gaiters blended into the silver log, sporting 1-2cms of frosty growth on their upper side. The whole world was clear and silent, the lake like a mirror with a layer of mist above the unbroken surface. The stars were brighter now the moon had set too. In time, as I set about making tea and porridge, the sun bathed the back of Rogoona in warm orange, and she looked more than ever like a lioness lying down with her head above front paws, calmly surveying the realm before her.

The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn't needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.
The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn’t needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.
Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam
Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam
More reflections
More reflections

I had the urge to move quickly, wanting to be back home in time to open up the beehive with a friend while the weather was still and warm. It would be the first time since Graham died, and given it was my first proper time, I wanted some assistance so I could ask all my questions. But the morning case a spell over everything, myself included, and so it took me an uncharacteristic hour before I was ready to go shortly after 6am. A few more photos of the reflections and I was off. It was an easy, mostly flat or downhill return walk on the track, with the major obstacles being my weary feet, the odd muddy section, and slippery, still partly icy roots. As I approached the final descent I expected to see the lake down to the left, and was delighted instead to see the top of low cloud hovering in the valley. It was spectacular, if a little deceptive, as it gave the impression the bottom was closer than it was!

I was back at the car in about two hours, and began the drive home. As I got closer it seemed hard to believe just how far I’d been over the last few days and how easy it was to be in the middle of nowhere and then all of a sudden to be back in the middle of somewhere. The bees were very happy, we found my queen and then I buckled down getting everything clean, dried, and packed for the next adventure (which looks like it’ll be rather wet!). Stay tuned!
A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.
A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.
All up:
Day 1: Car to Chinamans Plains: 8hrs, 19.3km, 1162m ascent
Day 2: Chinamans Plains to Oana and back to Lake Myrtle: 11.52hrs, 26.7km, 918m ascent
Day 3: Lake Myrtle to car: 2.15hrs, 7.5km, 101m ascent

Molly Yorks Nightcap: 21 July 2020

MollyYorks Nightcap GPS route

According to placenames.tas.gov.au, Mole York was a convict girl who worked on the Formosa and other Estates in the Campbell Town and Cressy districts. I’m not sure how a mountain came to be named after her, but the Abels (vol. 1, ed. 2) suggests it might have been a similar course of events to the naming of Cummings Head or Mother Cummings Peak. The story here describes Martha Cummings as a teacher who climbed the mountain in long dress and hat (as was the accepted bushwalking attire for females in the day) in the early 1990s following a dare from her pupils. The mountain may have been subsequently named in her honour. This may or may not be true, of course, and still doesn’t really tell us about Mole York’s story! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mountain named after you though?

Molly Yorks Nightcap was the closest mountain on the HWC peakbaggers list that I had left to do. It was the last one because it required making a phone call to seek permission to access private land. This is not my strong suit and I would usually avoid climbing these mountains until someone else did the leg work! But it was a perfect winter day walk – it was close, looked relatively easy and was likely to have better weather than something on the west coast.

And so the arrangements begun. A FB post identified a friend who might know something, but in the end came up with another person to chat to, who sent through some information on the walk and the contact details he had used 10 years earlier when leading a HWC walk to the mountain. Whether they were still the same remained to be seen! I started calling, but no answer. I tried all hours of the business day and even left a message. I gave up for a bit and sat it in the ‘too hard basket’. And then I took to telemarketing tactics and called at dinner time. Finally an answer!

I spoke to the mother of the man who owns the property and arranged permission for the walk. She described the house to pop in to, told me her son would be there at 9am, and then all I had to do was assure her I would be quite safe on my own (might have hinted at my current occupation there!). We were all set to go.

Unfortunately, a 9am start translated to an early wake up. But I was much more motivated when it turned out I’d have company for the days after all! It would seem I’m a bit of a bad influence, and a walk with me was more enticing than other responsibilities. I have to say I didn’t try really hard to argue against the shirking of said responsibilities, because it meant a much more enjoyable day for me (rather selfish indeed!). Ehm!

We set off with no time to spare and enjoyed a pretty sunrise as we drove through beautiful Tassie countryside on our way north to Ross. It always surprises me how much it changes and just how pretty it is when I take the time to really look. Sometimes it’s too easy to become used to what we’re familiar with and to not actually notice the changes unless making a conscious effort. At Ross we turned left down Auburn Road and followed it along through farming land, until we turned left again, onto Isis Road.

We drove past a large paddock packed with sheep and they were ALL looking at us (on the return all we saw was their bums!)! A couple of escaped sheep looked very sheepish as we tried to pass, and panicked at not being able to work out how to get back over the other side of the fence. They received no help from their flock, who just watched on and grazed away on the green grass. We eventually squeezed past without causing too much trauma to the escaped sheep and still arrived early.

We waited until it was close to 9am, and went knocking. No one was around, so after knocking on doors to the other houses in Auburn we decided to just head on in and hope that the gates weren’t locked. There was a little bit of phaffing about until we were finally on the right road, heading through a paddock with lots of baby lambs. Sadly one hadn’t made it through the night and was guarded closely by a grieving mother.

We continued on, driving slowly along a road that was everything from green and smooth to muddy and slippery, rocky, uneven and in one spot it even passed through an ankle-calf creek. The mini handled it wonderfully, barely receiving a scratch on the undercarriage, and all the gates were unlocked. How lucky! However when we arrived at where the road crossed one of the tributaries of Potters Creek we decided to call it quits. Technically we could have driven across the bridge, but part of it had fallen through and there was no knowing how much weight the remaining part could take – it just wasn’t worth the risk!

We continued on foot, setting what seemed like a cracking pace along the road. But it turns out it was only 4.6km, which we covered in just under an hour. We were accompanied by the constant and grating shrieks of a number of white cockatoos, which seemed to be stalking us. It made for a less than tranquil walk and at times I struggled to hear Jess talk!

The bridge I was never going to trust enough to drive the mini across! 4.6km of road walk ahead.

When we were west of the summit we left the road and headed straight up, expecting to walk onto a scree field in a short distance. We found what looked like a very old overgrown road and took that until it ran out. The scree was just a stone’s throw away and we made our way over to it.

Oh the joy at standing at the bottom of a massive dolerite scree field!! Typical of many of the mountains in the area, it was something I hadn’t done for a long time. Boulder-hopping has always been one of my favourite things to do. And we were lucky. The misty cloud that we’d seen hanging over the mountain when we were driving up had burnt off and the scree was nice and dry. It moved under our feet as much as it always does, including some of the rocks that were bigger than us. But while we might have looked ridiculous as we tried to keep our balance, we got away without any injuries.

The first very short bit of off-track walking – nothing too onerous!

Up and up we went. It was only something like 600m horizontally to the summit, but over 400m ascent, so it felt like we weren’t making as much progress as usual. But no matter. By this stage someone had turned down the volume on the cockatoos, replacing their harsh cries with the much softer melody of a yellow throated honey eater. It made for a much more peaceful atmosphere and we stopped a number of times to take it all in.

Oh the scree :D!!!
View from part way up the scree field looking back towards Auburn and Ross direction
Stacks Bluff lazing across the horizon
Pretty views for a mountain like this, which often have NO views!

We arrived at the top of the scree field and found we were very close to the cliffy summit block. It looked like we could shoot around to the northern side on more rocky scree so we didn’t have to scale the cliff face itself or take to a scrubby gully. Sure enough, we ran into some cairns. Or at least the odd rock balanced on a rock. Couldn’t hurt to follow them and see where they led.

There were cairns! Sometimes they were simply a rock on a rock and it was entirely up to your own interpretation of whether they should be followed or not!

Wise choice, indeed! We avoided the scrub and climbed up a much more manageable route. In time, we got that sense that we were getting closer and closer. Up the spine of the mountain we we hopped, in a southerly direction now, over another rock and behind a bush and there we found the lovely little summit, howling in the wind!

We’re getting closer, and the climb is flattening out. Here we take a turn south to follow the ridgeline along to the summit. Millers Bluff sits to the north.
The summit of Molly Yorks Nightcap. What a glorious winter day, even if we were being blasted by wind from the moment we stuck our heads over the top!

We looked up the ridge at a very broken, scrubby line. Not a traverse either of us would ever be keen on doing – it just looked painful!

The ridge traverse to Millers looks simply horrid!

The view north towards Millers Bluff dominated, especially because an interesting phenomenon was happening with the cloud. It was light and wispy, hanging off the eastern side of the summit. There seemed to be a force pushing it up, but each time it rose above the height of the summit it would be pushed fiercely away, twisting and twirling, this way and that in a tumultuous battle of forces.

The cloud and wind was just crazy – if only this was a video you’d see how fast it was moving!

And then look! Over there. Where? Out to the east where we’d come from? The view we’d had moments ago had been stolen, all that was left was white. Thick white. Just like that, out of nowhere. We’d had perfect visibility as we’d climbed up, without a cloud in sight, but now the same phenomenon that had been happening near the summit of Millers Bluff was also happening right next to us. It was pretty cool.

In fact, it was freezing cold!! We had a random lunch, both of us seeming to have grabbed whatever was available and easy enough to be eaten on the run. There was a mix of banana cake, bananas, nuts, dates, carrot and celery! We took as much time to eat as we did to take photos and send a brief update, and then we began the clamber back down, escaping the wind shortly after leaving the summit. We were conscious of the need to keep on moving so we could get back to town before the car mechanic went home for the day (no, not for the mini!).

More views from the way back down

It’s amazing just how much concentration clambering down scree requires, and while our lungs were much happier than on the way up, our knees and thighs were a tad shaky by the time we joined back up with the road. We contemplated a jog back to the car, but weren’t really feeling it and went with a brisk walk instead. The cockatoos had moved on and we only heard faint cries now.

Having descended off the ridge, taking a brief look back up to the summit block. You can see why we ducked to the right to avoid a vertical climb!

The car was where we’d left it and survived the return drive out, before racing us back south, arriving with 15 minutes to spare. We were most grateful for the generosity of the Molly York Nightcap owners (Darren and his mum) in allowing us to walk on their land, even if we never got to thank them in person. Molly Yorks Nightcap is a fine little mountain, featuring the most pleasurable of rock scrambles!

All up: 12.5km; 5:08 hours; 853m ascent.

Final views of a brilliant day out. How lucky we are!

Millers Bluff: 21 July 2019

Millers Bluff gpx route

Everyone knows that feeling when it’s been too long between walks in Tassie, and when you finally have one planned that’s going to go ahead regardless of the weather. Oh the excitement! Especially when it’s one you’ve not done before.

Graham, being the more dedicated Pandani walk leader, had scheduled Millers bluff for a day I actually had off. We were going even though it seemed no one else was overly keen. As it turned out, we had a third member, which made for a brilliant day. 

We met up at a casual 0700, on a day that was looking better than we expected (at least in Hobart!). We’d all kept an eye on the weather, and were aware if the forecast was accurate, we could expect a wet front to hit us at about 1000 before we had any chance of nice weather. We understandably took things nice and slowly, enjoying gate scenic drive. We picked up the key from Connorville at a civilised 0930. Another slow drive (with the odd detour due to my inattention) and we arrived at the start of the track up Millers Bluff by 1030, just in time for a second dump of rain. 

We remained calm, and opted for an early morning tea (or half lunch), while changing into wet weathers in the dry of the car. We were rewarded for our efforts and were able to get off to a dry, if somewhat misty, start at 1100. Fresh legs and the enjoyment of finally being out on another bush walk meant we strode quickly up the start of the fire trail, forcing our lungs to catch up with our legs. I smiled at feeling truely alive again. 

We arrive at the start of the fire trail to Millers Bluff. Technically you can drive further than this, but they prefer you not to due to erosion

Walking in the cloud was kind of nice

It took us little time to reach the end of the fire trail where there’s an old shed, and we walked straight onto the taped and cairned pad that would take us to the summit. It was pretty easy to follow. A brief bit where the pad took us through scrub, then onto scree, then into myrtle forest, and eventually back out onto a rocky outcrop. The only slight challenge was slippery, lichen covered dolerite rocks, but they didn’t slow the three of us too much.

At the end of the fire trail we check out the shed

Ducking under a tree in a short bit of forest

We had moments where our little world became brighter as a hole appeared in the cloud and the odd ray of sun shone through. It was still pretty thick mist by the time we reached all the towers at the top of the bluff, and very windy, but we bunkered down out of the wind to finish our lunch and wait hopefully for some more sun. It had taken 1:20 to get here from the car. 

Out onto the boulder field and you can see the towers on the summit if you look closely

It’s pretty white on top Millers Bluff

Once again, we were spoiled with luck. With our final few mouthfuls the clouds parted as suddenly and unpredictably as they do, and we were treated to a lovely view of the summit, south along the ridge to the other high point of Millers Bluff, and out over Connorville and the valley. It was definitely worth waiting for!

As we eat the rest of our lunch it starts to break up

And eventually this is the summit!

The views of the valley are awesome

The southern end of Millers Bluff

Looking more towards Lake Arthurs/Great Lake – not that you can see them!

All objectives achieved, we departed the summit and tried to get some warmth back into frozen fingers as we picked our way back down the slippery rocks. We were even more aware of the now very open view and largely blue skies, having missed them on the way up. 

Still a bit of rain left in the clouds, but not much

Enjoying blue skies and views all the way down

The last bit of road walk – lovely way to finish the day off

Graham (I’m not sure which one, but I can I reckon I can guess!) decided to play a practical joke on me when I took a loo break on the way down, and ran on ahead. As I tried to catch them up I couldn’t quite figure out if they’d done that or ducked behind a tree and were walking down behind me, but I knew they certainly hadn’t walked the rest of the way down the road. Sure enough I found them at the car and they asked cheekily what had taken me so long!! The joke was back on Graham when he gave me the key to open the gate on the way out, but didn’t realise he’d given me our house key instead of the correct one.  

The rest of the drive home was uneventful and we made it back to Hobart in daylight – not bad for a winter walk!

All up: 6.4km, 3:09 hrs (including 30 minutes for lunch); 575m ascent

Millers Bluff, taken on the drive home. Photo by Graham Flower

Penny West and Patrick (Great Lakes): 29 April 2019

Mount Penny West GPS route

Mount Patrick GPS route

What better way to celebrate a birthday than to go for a walk? Graham’s birthday was during the week, so we figured we’d celebrate a tad early. Though we had all weekend and the Monday to head out, the weather meant Monday was the only feasible day. A last minute call on Sunday to the Triffits had key arrangements in place so we could climb Mount Patrick up at the Great Lakes. We also planned on climbing Mount Penny West (no key needed) and Sandbanks Tier (for the 4thtime for me) because they were both close and short and would allow us to make a full day of the outing.

A relaxed start became even slower when we got stuck behind a convoy of massive trucks ferrying wind farm parts up north, and we arrived 10 minutes late to pick up our key. A short drive later, following the Abel’s accurate instructions, and we found a spot to park to climb Penny West.

We didn’t do so well determining what the ‘clearing’ 300m down the road was, as it all looked pretty much the same, but never mind. The going was open enough, with the knee high scrub easy to weave through, if a tad prickly on now soft knees (yes, it’s been that long since the last scrub bash!). We found the gully the Abels described and found it easy going. Close to the top we weren’t sure exactly where the high point was, so we climbed on bit of rock and used it to get a bearing. We weren’t far off, perhaps 30-40 metres WSW, and we ducked over to climb the cairn and enjoy views of the lake from the top.

On the way back we ignored the GPS and walked in a rough line, knowing if we veered slightly left we’d just hit the road earlier. It was just as easy on the way down, although the uneven and not often traversed terrain was quick to punish moments of inattention.

All up: 2.7km, 90m ascent, 1:07 hrs (including 10 minutes on top).

Car park spot at the foot of Penny West
Car park spot at the foot of Penny West

Graham on the summit of Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

Typical walking off Penny West

We jumped back in the car and made our way through the two locked gates, stopping at the third. We realized the Abel’s description of the walk up Patrick made for the shortest off track walk, but given the terrain wasn’t difficult we decided to improvise.

Instead of walking north up the road and approaching from the north, we headed east instead until we gained the ridge leading NNE to the summit. It was all on open scree, with small bands of scrub that could be easily avoided with a bit of weaving. With the sun out, the breeze minimal and the birds singing away there wasn’t much lacking.

The summit was a small cairn with stick, but not much of a view. We ducked over to the west of the summit where we could sit and eat lunch while looking out towards the lake. It was so relaxing I nearly dozed off in the sun while Graham played with his new camera. We chose to retrace our footsteps back as the walking had been so nice. The downhill was even more enjoyable than the up had been, mostly because my viral infected lungs could breathe a bit easier!

All up: 2.3km, 147m ascent, 1:32 hrs (including 30 minutes lunch on top).

Locked Gate #1

Locked Gate #2

Climbing up Patrick – awesome scree field

Mount Patrick summit cairn

We dropped the key off on the way back, and made a quick duck up Sandbanks Tier before heading back home. The route is not described here as I’ve written about it before, though the going is much the same. Some kind soul has built cairns over the scree fields. They’re not really needed but I imagine they’re reassuring for less experienced walkers. We celebrated with yummy Thai takeaway – not something we do often, but a perfect finish to the day and a lovely treat for hungry tummies!

While Penny West and Patrick aren’t worth any points on the HWC peakbaggers list, they are both Abels, and mean Graham and I have 25 and 9 left to climb respectively. We’ll have to savor them for as long as we can!

Great Pine Tier: 3-6 April 2018


We’re going on a bushwalk!! It’s going to be a good one… after a few days of lamenting what looked like horribly wet weather across the north, west and south of the state, and reluctantly settling on a brief car camping trip to the north east, the mood took a turn for the better. The latest forecast had us excitedly considering a few days wandering around the Walls of Jerusalem region, with only a tiny bit of hesitancy (we never trust the weather man entirely!).

And so we muddled our way through packing – it had been a long time and was no longer something I could with my eyes closed. But we got there (and didn’t forget anything too crucial), and were good to go only an hour late on Tuesday morning.

We’d chosen to head in via the Lake Augusta/Ada route, for something different. It made for a shorter drive, but we still managed to spot three wedgies (turns out this was only a taster for what we would see)! Pulling up at the cleared dirt carpark we couldn’t believe the blue skies around, and set off happily, but tentatively – each nursing pre-existing sporting injuries.

The track is a very decent 4WD road for some time, and the walking less exciting as a result. There are, however, plenty of lakes and the odd hut to check out. And the wildlife was something else indeed. Two platypus, a giant wild spider, a dragon (the lizard kind) and a funny fat insect with super skinny legs made up the ‘before lunch’ count for us.  A cormorant who’s flown inland came shortly after. This was, of course, on top of the usual grasshoppers, skinks, ducks and green rosellas. The funny insect thing turned out to be a mountain katydid, I was informed by a friend, which have a cool little trick where they camouflage in nicely, unless a predator gets too close, whereby they lift their wings up to reveal super bright apparently scary colours on their bums!

By this stage we were on the foot track, walking through landscape that is so typical of the region. While not arduous – incredibly flat and no scrub to contend with – both of us were weary by the time we arrived at Lake Fanny, and paused for a snack while we contemplated our plan of attack up what looked like a rather green Great Pine Tier.

We took our time crossing the outlet from Fanny to keep our feet as dry as possible, then wound our way between the scrub around the southern end of the lake. So far so good. With some excellent decisions and the odd guess we continued in the same fashion up a green but not scrubby chute onto the spine of the tier, where the going continued to be just as easy, winding through eucalypts, over rock and low heath.

The true summit was a tad evasive (not clearly marked on the map), so we did a bit of a tour of some of the higher points to ensure we actually had claimed our first peakbaggers point for 2018! Though it was 5-5:30 hrs after having set out, we were knackered and decided to set up camp near the largest lake on the plateau. Though the views west to the Overland Track mountains were a tad obscured, and the site wasn’t beautiful, it was a pretty place to be nonetheless. We watched an orange moon rise in the cloud free sky, then fell asleep without a problem at all!

Near Ada lagoon – lots of fishermen huts to explore here

Ada Lagoon – we saw 2 platypus here!

Typical walking in this area

Reflections in a tarn on Great Pine Tier

Think we’ll camp near here, on Great Pine Tier

From the summit of Great Pine Tier, looking towards Mersey and Turrana in the distance

Graham claims his first peak and point for 2018

The colour was pretty as the sun set

Very different colour on the trees the next morning

We awoke to another lovely day, explored the campsite a little before cooking breakfast, doing some physio, and packing to leave. We continued to wander our way along the tier’s ridge, then dropped down and headed to intersect the track coming off Jerusalem, ultimately headed towards Dixon’s Kingdom. Graham had yet to climb King David’s Peak, so that was our next stop.

It was a beautiful sunny day, almost felt like summer, and it was a bit of an effort climbing up the last hill to the track. There, we dumped our packs in the scrub, took water and snacks, and bounded down the track, feeling very much lighter without packs. There were heaps of people out and about, and Dixon’s Kingdom was full of Wilderness Equipment tents (I was pleased to see!). We greeted everyone we passed, and they all seemed pretty happy!

It didn’t take long till we were turning left off the track up to Solomon’s Throne, and after a very short sharp ascent, were on top, looking over to King David’s, which had a tiny figure standing on top. That was our true destination so we kept on moving, tracing our way along the edge, attempting to stay on one of the multiple branching pads.

It’s a decent way between the two peaks, but the figure that we’d spotted from Solomon’s Throne was still on the summit, lying on the rocks out of the wind, enjoying the sun and listening to something through headphones. We ducked out of the wind as well and had a snack, before deciding we should return and take our packs over the far side of Jerusalem. And so we did, enjoying the easy walking and being grateful we didn’t have to camp with everyone else. As we walked we passed numerous middle aged people, most with Wilderness Equipment packs and gaiters. Just as I was telling Graham I thought they must be a group, who should come along but Zane, otherwise known as Abel Zane, or one of the three we had had an impromptu meeting with at Lake Curley when we were doing the Spires! It was great to see him happy and out on the track again.

We eventually made it back to our packs, feeling pretty tired by this stage. We were due for a late lunch, however, which temporarily boosted the energy levels. It was still a slog with full packs up Jerusalem, and we sidled round the right hand side of the summit to avoid unnecessary effort.

Picking our way down the far side, we popped out just south of Zion Gate and wandered across soft green heath and moss. We weren’t in a huge rush, knowing the further we walked, the further we’d have to walk out in two days time. We also knew we’d be camping close to five, to avoid walking in the dark. As it was, we picked our way up the hill in front of us, and found a lake a short distance over the far side, with some lovely and flat sites to camp. We barely had to voice the question, before packs were off and we went about the usual end of day routine.

From the end of Great Pine Tier looking towards the Walls over the country we’d walk

Great Pine Tier would have been fabulous before all the pines were burnt out

Graham takes in the route ahead as we approach the Walls

On King David’s Peak looking towards the Overland Track

The chute on Solomon’s Throne

The pines were a big feature of this walk

How about we camp here?

Pretty colours again that night, followed by stars and moon

We woke to another lovely day, though we were expecting some rain later in the afternoon. We also had a long day ahead with unknown terrain, so we were up and breakfasted fairly early. Graham started us off on a route that changed with every new view – such was the nature of the terrain. But we chose well, and avoided and serious scrub, ducking and weaving so much at times we felt we were going round in circles! The route we finally took followed the high points to the west of Daisy Lake.

Just over 2.5 hrs after setting out we were sending the odd message from the top of Mersey Crag, happy with our progress. We still had Turrana to go, but it looked feasible. It did, however, take a lot longer than we expected to get off Mersey, and the walk up Turrana was longer than I had remembered. Three wedgies were playing in the wind and stole our attention momentarily.

We were both stumbling over the smallest of obstacles as we walked the last few hundred metres, and I knew I was glad we’d be having a slightly longer break given we had lunch to eat. It was windy on top, so we took the view in quickly before sheltering off the summit out of the wind. As we ate we decided on the route back to the tents. We opted bravely not to retrace steps (the ‘known’ route) and instead follow the continuation of the Little Fisher track south along the edge of Long Tarns, until a point closer to camp, where we’d head up and over a series of smaller rises (the ‘unknown’ but less up and down option).

Conscious of the time, distance and of the rather cloudy turn in the weather, we were keen to get going. We made excellent time back down to the track, and had an enjoyable half hour wandering along it. It made for very easy going, and there were a number of stunning spots that would be worth camping at.

Where Long Tarns juts out to the west we headed up and over Richea Ridge, managing to avoid all the scoparia! Two more knobs and we could see our little orange tent. A most welcome sight! We’d got back safely with time to change into warm clothes and cook some soup before the rain set in.

The next morning the sun turned the pines orange

It was a nice camp site

Looking towards the Walls as we start climbing up the ridge towards Mersey Crag

Graham on Mersey Crag

Climbing up Turrana and loving the pines

Mersey Crag from the walk up Turrana

Graham and one of the multiple cairns on Turrana

True to our excellent luck this trip, the rain stopped over night and we woke to a damp but clear morning. Just as well, we figured we had a long walk out. After packing the very wet tent into Graham’s pack (thanks!!) we set off with a few extra layers on. Encouraged by our success the day before, we once again chose to be creative with our route, scrapping the ‘retrace our footsteps’ for a more direct route straight down to Lake Fanny and round the edge. Why would you want to go over Jerusalem and Great Pine Tier if you didn’t have to??

As it turned out, the walking was very open, very flat and very easy. We made record time to the top of the lake and my suspicion that there might even be a pad round the side was confirmed with a few cairns and the odd stick. It was a different matter trying to stay on it, however, as the wombat pads were often more distinct than the track itself. It also clearly wasn’t a bushwalkers track, and usual unwritten ‘rules’ didn’t seem to apply. To be honest I found the off track walking we’d just done much easier – there at least you could go wherever you wanted!

We celebrated our speedy return to the track head at the southern end of Fanny with a super early lunch, then plodded the very long way back out, seeing more mountain katydids than you could have imagined (and being rather shocked that we’d never seen them before this trip!). A surprise encounter with an older couple on their way in to spend a few days at Fanny was as delightful as it always is, and momentarily diverted attention from our sore feet.

We arrived back at the cars in perfect time, with enough daylight to drive home and keep the wildlife safe.

All up: 70.8km, 2221m ascent

Day 1: 16.6km, 5:44 hrs, 391m ascent

Day 2: 15.7km, 8:04 hrs, 821m ascent

Day 3: 20.0km, 9:18 hrs, 788m ascent

Day 4: 18.6km, 6:48 hrs, 263m ascent

Walking out, it wouldn’t be the Walls area without at least one photo of cushion plants!

Pines and reflections, what a beautiful area

The long road out.. love the colours though

Mountain katydid in all its camouflage

Mountain katydid showing it’s colour under threat

Wolf spider blending in well

Forty Lakes Peak and Fisher Bluff: 26-7 November 2016

GPS route of Forth Lakes Peak, Blue Peaks and Fisher Bluff

It seems I’ve been very slack and missed writing up a few walks I’ve actually done, so this is my attempt to do what I should have done long ago. Unfortunately, the finer details of the walks have been buried deep in more recent memories, so the description might be rather vague.

I’d just started my third and final semester of uni, and that seemed to be a perfect enough excuse to get away for the weekend. We chose to go the Blue peaks (written up in it’s own blog from an earlier trip), Forty Lakes Peak and Fisher Bluff, mostly because a friend from uni was looking for somewhere where she could go trail running and it would have suited both her and our plans. She pulled out, but we decided to stick to our plans.

We were our of the car at Lake Mackenzie just before 11.30, and in less than 2 hours were at a conveniently central stand of pines (central in relation to our three mountains). We had taken a bit of time walking in looking at the fire damage, and for me, remembering how things had been before the fires had gone through. Nevertheless, we pitched our tent amongst the pines so we were out of the wind, and had lunch. An hour and a half later we decided we were going for Forty Lakes Peak, and after heading further south along the Blue Peaks track a short distance we pretty much made a beeline for the mountain, making only slight detours to negotiate the river, a slight rise, and then the lakes.

The terrain was much kinder than we’d expected and we had lovely open walking the whole way. We found an easy spot to cross the river without getting boots wet, although you could imagine the water getting much higher after rain. When we came to the lakes to the west of the peak, we had a ball of a time walking between Lake Chambers to the north and Douglas to the south. It was mostly fun because it was quite evident that the lakes flooded with heavier rainfall, and the waterline could rise to a good foot above the ground we were walking on.

Even the climb up Forty Lakes Peak was good going, and again we kept a pretty straight line without getting stuck in scrub. It was open and fairly flat on top, and all the lakes we could see did have us wondering if we counted them, would there be exactly 40? We didn’t hang around to find out, however, as it was rather windy (which meant I was cooling down fast). Also, the two hours we’d taken to get to the top meant it was now 4.30, and we didn’t need to be back to camp too late. After the necessary posing on the summit for photos, we headed back somewhat tiredly, taking another 2 hours to get there.

Heading up, this is so different from when I was last here. Provoked a range of emotions: it was sad to see the beauty taken out of the land, it was scary to think of the things we’ve done as humans to contribute to these kind of events, and yet there was a sense of acceptance that this kind of thing happens in nature too, whether we like it or not

Little bits of green amongst the black

A stark difference

Forty Lakes Peak, behind Lake Douglas

Walking between the two lakes, we still have to cross the little river that joins them. You could see that in times of more rain, the ground we were walking on would have been under a foot of water

Heading up Forty Lakes Peak and looking back west

On the summit and looking east towards Ironstone

And south towards the Walls

Graham poses on a rock and cairn on the edge of the summit plateau 😉

Lake Douglas.. can you feel the wind and cold?

The next morning we headed up and over Blue Peaks towards Fisher Bluff. While the day before had been windy and overcast and really quite cold, today the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, and the walking was a pure delight. Blue Peaks was as short and lovely as it had been last time (it took all of 15 mins from our tent), and after another 15 minutes enjoying the views and watching two people walk in to what we guessed was the Walls, we continued on. Once we were off Blue Peaks, we again made a beeline for the summit, and the lovely open alpine walking allowed us to look more at the views than where we were putting our feet. The live and dead stands of pine trees were a constant attraction, and it was hard not to spend too much time trying to take photos of them. If Emily had been with us, she’d have had a lovely run out that way!

Despite being distracted by the landscape, we were soon at the final climb and within 2 hours of having left our tents that morning, were standing on the summit (or perhaps more correctly, hanging from the trig). Our concerns about scrub, having heard some stories from a Pandani trip, turned out to be completely unfounded, and that coupled with the warmth of the sun and views from the summit was plenty of reason to smile.

We spent a very generous hour on top, before deciding we’d better head back to our gear and think about walking out and driving home. We were back at our gear in 90 minutes, and 20 minutes later were traipsing back the way we’d come. Despite being a little more tired than the way in, and the fact that we were heading home (both factors that tend to slow us down), we made excellent time, helped in part by taking a wrong turn that took us on a different path back to Lake Mackenzie. It was certainly a better route, more well defined except for where it met the dirt road (near the foundations for a small dwelling, that you can’t really see from the road unless you go looking). We were back within 1:14hrs.

Day 1: 7:20 hrs, 17.6km (guess we had reason to be tired!), 568m ascent

Day 2: 6:11 hrs, 15.5km, 407m ascent.

Spot the tent! A nice sheltered site

Blue Peaks summit in the sun!

Off we head, west towards Fisher Bluff (off to the right of this photo)

Remains of a pine stand, burnt out some time ago

The skeletons were very beautiful

And the same one again!

Graham celebrates being on Fisher Bluff

The view from Fisher.. what mountains can you see?

Graham checks them all out.. we’ve been there.. and there.. and there!

Looking north towards Western Bluff.. we’ve been there too!

Heading out, that’s a newly destroyed stand of pines 😦

Stevenson’s Lookout: 7 May 2016

Stevensons LO GPS route
Stevensons LO GPS route

I’m rather behind on the walking blogs, thanks to all the business of life. There hasn’t been a lot of time for walking, so it was kind of nice to have to lead this walk, having put my name down to do it some months before, even though as circumstance had it, it was on a day I would have preferred not to be out.

Chloe and Michael at the start of the road walk
Chloe and Michael at the start of the road walk

As with almost all my walks, it was not without entertainment. We started off with a detour to Oatlands so one member could cast his vote (have you ever done that on a walk?!), then drove a much longer than expected distance to the property at Connorville.

Heading up on the scree
Heading up on the scree

Roderic had been most generous in granting us access and with directions and it was a pity that he and his wife couldn’t join us (it had been a possibility I was looking forward to). It might have also saved us the next bit of excitement!

Catherine walks around the summit block before making the final ascent
Catherine walks around the summit block before making the final ascent

Having confused myself with something Roderic had said in relation to picking up the key from him, I’d thought we’d be right to follow Connorville road south to the start of the walk, rather than going the much longer way around to the north and onto Lake Leak road. After following tyre tracks through a very green paddock full of sheep and over a stream, we found ourselves at a gate no more than 50 metres from the Lake Leak road…right where we wanted to be.

Stevenson's Lookout summit (left) and John (right)
Stevenson’s Lookout summit (left) and John (right)

It was, of course, locked. One padlock, one combination lock. To save time but not face, we drove back across the paddock (you really couldn’t call the tyre tracks a road of any sort) to the first point we got reception, where a sheepish call to Roderic had us a combination to try. And back we went, as if we were determined to turn those tracks into a road (which, by the way, is exactly what they looked like on my GPS). The combination eventually worked with a bit of a yank and we were back on track!

Ben checks out the views - I think they pass
Ben checks out the views – I think they pass

The key I’d initially arranged to borrow from Roderic wasn’t needed as the bridge before the gate had recently been replaced and they didn’t want any traffic on it for a month. So we had an extra couple of km each way, but that wasn’t too much of an issue.

A big snail with a tiny shell
A big snail with a tiny shell

A road walk is always a good way to start and end a walk. It allows you to fan out and chat as a whole group, which is always nice, before having to walk single file and chat with those just in front or behind. Not having walked for a while it was lovely to catch up with friends, and to share some of the things that were going on in life.

We took turns to slide down this chute - it was the only safe way to do it!
We took turns to slide down this chute – it was the only safe way to do it!

Unfortunately, we lost two members shortly after we headed off track due to an injury that proved incompatible with scree. We promised to be a quick as we could, so they wouldn’t have to wait too long. But the walking was quite nice – very open scree almost the entire way up, the hill a tad on the steep side, and the weather managed to contain itself such that we found ourselves having frequent breaks to take it all in and catch our breath (not sure whether this was due more to the walking or the talking!).

Checking out the neighbouring bluffs on the way down
Checking out the neighbouring bluffs on the way down

When we hit the ridgeline on top we quickly discovered we wouldn’t be walking along the top. It was a broken line of large moss covered boulders that were as lovely to look at as they would have been impossible to walk along. So we kept to one side until we found the summit block, then found a way up around the back. It was quite a nice little boulder summit, with enough gaps in the trees to get an idea of what the view might have been like if there was a little less cloud around.

A last look back at the bridge we left the cars at - there were some decent gaps on either side that made the log rather superfluous!
A last look back at the bridge we left the cars at – there were some decent gaps on either side that made the log rather superfluous!

A quick lunch was in order, to avoid the cold, beat what could turn into rain, and not keep the others waiting too long. The walk back down was relatively uneventful, if you don’t count the rock avalanches we managed to get going as we slid down the scree or the seemingly very close sound of a shotgun being fired several times!

 

We arrived back a little later than expected, but before dark. Only to discover a gate that had been open on the way down, was now shut and seemingly locked! So we went in search of the people who must have shut it, discovered the trick to opening it, and eventually made our way back out (this time on the RIGHT road).

 

I think it’s fair to say that if you come on a walk with me, you can expect some sort of excitement ;)!

 

All up: 6:15 hours, 10.1km, 640m ascent.

Parson and Clerk: 11 October 2015

Parson and Clerk GPS route
Parson and Clerk GPS route

It was my turn to choose a mountain to climb, which meant I wanted somewhere I hadn’t been yet, if possible. But the usual time restraints applied, so the choice was limited to the three closest mountains: Parson and Clerk, Dawson or Wright. Part of me wanted to go to Wright, cos I felt like a nice kind of walk, but it didn’t really make much sense, especially if we were going to do it with Stepped Hills as planned.

Parson and Clerk was the preferred option of the other two, because it was slightly less likely to be scrubby, and it had the added bonus of being able to check out the accuracy of the Abels walk description (if we’d taken the time, or more to the point PATIENCE, to follow it properly!).

Heading up.. lots of little-medium sized scree, and dry sclerophyll forest.. and rather a prickly walk thanks to the hakea in particular!
Heading up.. lots of little-medium sized scree, and dry sclerophyll forest.. and rather a prickly walk thanks to the hakea in particular!

A lovely sunny drive up promised a warmer than expected day. As we bumped along 22km of gravel road we disturbed some deer, before finding the boom gate at which we’d have to start walking.

20 minutes walk further along it, we headed up towards where our mountain was supposed to be (not much evidence of it, just a bit of a tree-topped ridge), following old sig tracks until they started to lead us too far astray. But that wasn’t such an issue, there was plenty of fairly ok scree that allowed us to escape from the worst of the hakea’s sharp needling. Gums were in abundance further up, but provided little shade from the heat of the day.

The southern bump.. DON'T be tempted to climb it ;)!
The southern bump.. DON’T be tempted to climb it ;)!

The climb was continuous, warm, and sufficiently long, but not overly steep. You could understand our excitement when we hit the ridge, followed it along a bit, and, for the first time, saw a decent sized bump ahead that resembled the photo in the Abels. Brilliant!

When we stood underneath and looked up at possible approach routes, reading the Abels description, we let our impatience and our shared desire for ‘going straight up’ take over, ignoring our slight confusion as to which part of the description we were up to. Up we went, knowing we were a few metres off the height we needed to be at, and 400m or so horizontally from the summit.

On the summit, Billop Bluff behind.
On the summit, Billop Bluff behind.

But it was to our dismay to discover we were on the southern summit (as the caption on the photo in the Abels reads) and the obvious summit was indeed 400 metres away, with a lovely scrubby and rocky dip in between. We weren’t exactly impressed, but after a bit of a whinge (at the mountain, and perhaps also ourselves) we got on with the job and pushed and scrambled the final few hundred metres to the real summit.

Typical terrain heading along the ridge..
Typical terrain heading along the ridge..

We celebrated with lunch, much needed water, and one or two photos, before deciding it would be prudent to follow the directions more carefully back down. We weren’t sure we went exactly where we were meant to, but it was a fair bit easier! A long and weary plod back followed, with both of us stumbling tiredly on the smaller, loose bits of scree, celebrating on arrival back at the road, and then the car.

We both spent the next few days picking splinters out of skin – it proved to be quite a prickly walk.

All up: 5:48 hrs, 12km, 791m ascent.

Howells Bluff: 1 June 2015

Howells Bluff GPS track
Howells Bluff GPS track

So it’s been a while, a VERY LONG while… believe me, I know.. and so do my legs and my lungs, and the part of me that gets to run wild when I’m out in the mountains! But that just means I get to appreciate it all the more when I do get to get out. Though we had 3 days for this trip, the cold, snowy forecast had us opt for the rather more attractive option of a Mole Creek ‘basecamp’ and a range of day walks to choose from, depending on how we felt and what the weather actually ended up doing.

Trappers hut.. cold and snowy!
Trappers hut.. cold and snowy!

We climbed more than just Howells, but I’ve already got entries on Roland, VanDyke and Claude, so won’t write about them again in detail. We had planned more, but the snow was COLD, and wood heaters are rather difficult to tear away from at the best of times (but just wonderful to return to!). But we got to make up for that in other ways, including by exploring some local history. I’ve lived here in Tassie nearly 4 years now, but know very little about local history (except for a sense of its richness), so it was nice to have the time, and a companion who was equally interested in it, to learn a bit more.

Heading up Howells Bluff. Beautiful, and you can see how a touch of sunlight would warm things up just nicely!
Heading up Howells Bluff. Beautiful, and you can see how a touch of sunlight would warm things up just nicely!

But I’m all over the place, so I’d better get back to the beginning. Having climbed Roland and Van Dyke on the way up, Howells Bluff was ‘for me’. Though I love climbing mountains in general, there’s something particularly special about a new one, an added challenge, the thrill of discovery and adventure, and a greater sense of achievement. But because I’ve climbed rather a few, a lot of the ones I’ve climbed lately have been ‘repeats’ due to shorter days (can’t travel so far) and poorer weather, and hence, haven’t been written up here.

Graham ploughs through the snow and scrub (thanks!)
Graham ploughs through the snow and scrub (thanks!)

So it didn’t go unnoticed nor was it unappreciated when the decision was made, as we were slogging up to Trappers hut in the snow, to go for Howells, at the likely expense of King Davids Peak. Probably, it was a wise decision. The snow fell intermittently, and though we had patches of clarity as we climbed, it wasn’t to last. We only had one or two glimpses of the shadow of King Davids Peak during the day, and otherwise would have been walking in cloud, had we gone. Howells, on the other hand, was less likely to have as impressive a view, and the snow made the terrain all the more interesting.

Old Wesley's turbo chooks :)!
Old Wesley’s turbo chooks :)!

We relied fairly heavily on the GPS to tell us where we were in relation to Howells, and whether we were still on the ridge we wanted or not. It was hard to tell whether the scrub was ankle or waist high, and what was under our feet, until of course, it was too late. When the sun shone through a clear patch in the cloud, the snow covered trees and vegetation was really quite lovely, and it was hard to suppress smiles. But as soon as it disappeared, colour turned to grey and the warmth seemed to leave everything.

The ha-ha and shadows
The ha-ha and shadows

Understandably, we wasted no time in getting to the summit, except when we were forced to backtrack whenever we came to drops in the terrain that we really didn’t want to go down into, only to have to climb back out. Nor did we spend any time on the summit, except to don gloves. It was really cold now that the climbing was over, and we were soaked from pushing through the snow covered scrub. The breeze picked up a little, adding to the discomfort.

Inside the old armoury
Inside the old armoury

So back we went. Although our footprints were already being covered by fresh snow, our path of destruction would take a lot longer to hide, and there was no need to resort to the GPS for the route back. As we warmed up a little, we gave one another ‘snow showers’ by shaking (or whacking with a stick) a snow-covered branch that one of us was standing just a bit too close too. Some of us, I think, will always remain kids in spirit. A late lunch at Trappers hut was a cold, dark and very quick affair – I don’t think that hut ever gets warm! And then a brisk start to the walk back, just to try and reclaim some fingers and toes.

I loved the light
I loved the light

That evening and the following morning we read about and explored the history of Old Wesley, a country house in Mole Creek. I learnt about ha-has, something I’d seen before, but never knew had such a bizarre name (or a name at all for that matter), was taken by metal sculptures of native hens (turbo chooks) and a hedge of elephants walking in single file. The garden was finished for the year, but you could tell it would be something special, complete with snail garden, the biggest chooks you’ve seen, resident macaws and all :)!

Through the gun slot..
Through the gun sight thingy..

I’m not sure why, but the thing that seemed to fascinate me the most was the walled compound, of which an armoury was built into one wall. It was used to defend against bushrangers and aborigines, which, when you think about it, is not something really to be fascinated by. But standing inside, with warm sunlight spilling in through the slits out which guns were once fired made it hard to think about the reality of that, and made its current use (a place for musical concerts) seem much more fitting.

Weathered boards and the nasty kind of rabbit (or anything else) traps
Weathered boards and the nasty kind of rabbit (or anything else) traps

It’s a place I’d like to return to.. and there’s still plenty of mountains up that way to climb ;)!

All up: approx. 4-4.5 hrs (2.15 hrs return from the turn off from the Walls track), 8.6km, 600m ascent.

Rogoona: 19-20 April 2015

Mount Rogoona GPS route
Mount Rogoona GPS route

The fagus is well and truly turning, which makes it a pretty special time. And the pencil pines are also in seed, which is an even rarer occurrence (1 in 7 years perhaps?). So naturally a walk featuring fagus was high on the shortlist for the weekend just gone. But we were slightly put off by a fairly wet (snowy!) forecast on Sunday, and either an overpriced ferry trip or an extra 3 hours or walking, so we went with plan B, which unfortunately didn’t involve any more than two fagus leaves, but was a wise decision nonetheless.

Out of the forest and onto the button grass plain. And a proper look at Rogoona! A tad Excited!!
Out of the forest and onto the button grass plain. And a proper look at Rogoona! A tad Excited!!

I was feeling particularly wrecked after work. I’d woken up the night before with the start of a cold and it had taken it’s toll. It was nice to know we’d have two relatively easy days, and hopefully not get too wet. The drive was smooth, despite all the roadworks, and we found the start of the track with ease (though the gravel road in is getting quite pot-hole-y). We’d elected to go in the slightly longer route via Lake Bill, in accordance with the recommended description in the Abels.

Just a little boggy in spots??! Nah, easy enough to weave a way around ;)
Just a little boggy in spots??! Nah, easy enough to weave a way around 😉

Out of the car, we put on boots and gaiters, and as Graham was thinking about applying insect repellant to his legs to ward off the leaches, a recently fed and very bold specimen was working his way up my boots. He didn’t get far, and I readily accepted Graham’s offer of repellant!

It's hard not to keep on taking photos! Notice the little bit of snow up high
It’s hard not to keep on taking photos! Notice the little bit of snow up high

All sorted, we set off. There’s no warm up on this one, you’re straight into the climb. Though the fungi and the log book both provide opportunities to rest. My lungs were certainly struggling, but Graham was being kind with the pace, and a perfect sized stick also helped.

Approaching Lake Bill
Approaching Lake Bill

It might have been sharp, but it was also short, and after 30 minutes we were out of the worst of the climb, wandering through open forest and stopping to watch and listen to the bird life. It was actually quite diverse!

And then we arrive at Lake Myrtle, and are taken by the location.. reckon we'll camp here!
And then we arrive at Lake Myrtle, and are taken by the location.. reckon we’ll camp here!

Another 30 minutes and we popped out onto the button grass plain, Rogoona lying across the horizon in the distance. We shared smiles and delight at the colours and textures before us, before setting about capturing some of it on camera. Beautiful big button grass clumps, rich and full in colour; dark foreboding patches of bog (which would innocently appear sky blue at the right angle); fluffy white clouds; and a snow-dusted mountain.

Lots of dead pines and eucalypts.. sad, but still beautiful.
Lots of dead pines and eucalypts.. sad, but still beautiful.

We wove our way between the green clumps, waist high on me, and continued towards Lake Bill. Then we were back in the forest, brushing past more wet, and snowy, vegetation. The discovery of a tiny skull had us trying to guess what it might be for a bit (it’s now sitting on my coffee table, and I’m fairly confident it’s a baby wallaby skull), but didn’t hold us up for too long. We were both hungry, and both determined to get to Lake Myrtle for lunch!

It starts to snow on the way up!
It starts to snow on the way up!

We arrived, a bit under 3 hours after having set out, and to say we were pretty happy with what we found would have been an understatement!! We had a quick look around at camping options, and a place to eat lunch out of the wind (it was chilly!). As we enjoyed the usual lunch of vitaweets, cheese, salami, cherry tomatoes, avocado and carrot we discussed options.

But the sun still shines, turning the lakes silver
But the sun still shines, turning the lakes silver

Though we’d planned a high camp, the wind, snow and uncertainty about good and sheltered sites on top had both of us tending towards camping where we were – it was a lovely spot after all!! It didn’t take much discussion to agree. A dessert of strawberries, grapes, plums and apple wrapped up lunch, and we set up camp before heading off with daypacks (well, one daypack – thanks Graham).

On the ridge, bright happy flowers, soft white snow against hard rock, and moody clouds make for a beautiful scene
On the ridge, bright happy flowers, soft white snow against hard rock, and moody clouds make for a beautiful scene

Not long after we started out the sun disappeared behind cloud, and soft dry snow started falling. It was pretty, and not too threatening, but a little later than had been forecasted, and it did have us wondering how the afternoon would turn out.

But it's cold, we're short of time, so there's no dallying (much!)..
But it’s cold, we’re short of time, so there’s no dallying (much!).. (and have I ever told you you have the best beanie for photos in wintery conditions Graham?!)

We followed the track till we got to a spot where there seemed to be cairns going off in all directions, and decided to break off to the right and see where they took us, hopefully to the summit. Though ubiquitous, they weren’t all that easy to follow at the start, and sometimes required a bit of looking around, though they were often found in the general logical direction of travel. They led up and over the rocky terrain, and sparse vegetation allowed for decent views (even if for the first part this was of the inside of a snow cloud!).

I really like this one… :)
I really like this one… 🙂

The going was fairly straightforward, though a tad slippery underfoot, and we were both keen not to be walking back in the dark, when the rock was likely to become even more slippery. On hitting the ridge the views opened out even further, and it was hard not to take delight in the snow covered rocks, bright red mountain rocket that defied moody blue-grey clouds, and distant mountains.

Owww, you can't miss these trees, just before the final climb!
Owww, you can’t miss these trees, just before the final climb!

Keen to get to the summit in good time (we didn’t have a lot to spare), Graham set a solid pace, and any stops for photos required a bit of a run to catch back up (something I once did rather frequently). When we hit the summit ridge and it was clear we’d get there before our turn around time, I spent less time trying to catch back up, and couldn’t help but enjoy the way the cloud rolled and swirled over the tops of the Acropolis and the Geryons, or at the way pools of water were nestled amongst the boulders like little oases.

On the 'summit ridge'.. one of many lovely little pools, right on the edge.
On the ‘summit ridge’.. one of many lovely little pools, right on the edge.

When he realised I was no longer behind him Graham stopped and waited, and I felt a little guilty for having slowed us down by my selfish intent to enjoy things more than perhaps we had time for. The minor miscommunication sorted, we walked to the summit together, and celebrated with smiles, a hug, and plenty of photos.

Another pool, with awesome rocks (that round one in particular is my favourite).
Another pool, with awesome rocks (that round one in particular is my favourite).

Unsure that the other end of the ridge wasn’t higher, we decided to go back that way. And it was worth it. Though undoubtably not higher, it was a lovely walk along snow covered rock, and we did have a little bit of fun standing on the edge ;). The soft autumn light cast a pale golden sheen on everything. It was just a bit nice, though we both agreed that the choice to camp down by the lake had been the sensible one. A high camp would certainly have been possible, but remarkably less comfortable given the temperature, wind, snow, lack of shelter and rather wet sites (though we didn’t have an extensive look around for anything better).

Looking north from the summit, a snow flurry sits over the Walls of Jerusalem
Looking north from the summit, a snow flurry sits over the Walls of Jerusalem

The way down was, as Graham described it, a series of sprints broken up by photo stops. Not the literal kind of sprinting, but the go-as-fast-as-your-legs-can-without-tripping-up kind of walk. We did take care descending the bits of wet rock, as the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west. Following the cairns down proved relatively straightforward, and we arrived back at camp before the light faded so much as to require head torches.

Along the ridge line we wander, just to check out the northern end
Along the ridge line we wander, just to check out the northern end. Cloud sits above the Acropolis and Geryons

Our late, and fairly substantial, lunch had us BOTH (most unexpectedly!) settling for soup and dessert for dinner, and we very nearly didn’t even get around to that! I was certainly pretty whacked, and Graham didn’t seem to have any objections to what must have been a super early night by normal standards.

Looking out to some special mountains from last trip :). Love being able to do that!
Looking out to some special mountains from last trip :). Love being able to do that!

The following morning we woke to low cloud AND a frost, which had us less than willing to duck back up the mountain. A relaxed breakfast and packing followed, during which the cloud quickly burnt off to reveal the beginnings of a beautiful day. Perhaps we should just have gone up anyway!!

The northern end of Rogoona, the bit you see from Lake Myrtle
The northern end of Rogoona, the bit you see from Lake Myrtle

Oh well, instead of having to race back we took our time, lunching at Lake Bill, checking out the river and some more birds :). Back down in good time, we opted for the scenic route home via the Great Lake, which surprisingly took no longer than the way up!

Mucking around on the edge.. anything for a photo ;)!
Mucking around on the edge.. anything for a photo ;)!

All up: 21.5km, 1096m ascent.

As the evening grows old, the ridges morph before our eyes: detail replaced by uniform shades of gold, and there's something pretty in the simplicity of it all
As the evening grows old, the ridges morph before our eyes: detail replaced by varying shades of gold, and there’s something pretty in the simplicity of it all

The Walls, as usual, look like someone's painted them on the horizon!
The Walls, as usual, look like someone’s painted them on the horizon!

We spend the next morning taking yet more photos of our mountain!
We spent the next morning taking yet more photos of our mountain!

And some of the trees.. they did have character!
And some of the trees.. they do have character!

A final goodbye at Lake Bill, before heading back into the forest and down. Until next time!
A final goodbye at Lake Bill, before heading back into the forest and down. Until next time!