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 😦

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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!

 

Western Bluff: 23 November 2014

Western Bluff GPS route (from Lake Mackenzie)

Western Bluff GPS route (from Lake Mackenzie)

Pigs might fly.. or so the saying goes… but for this one, it was to be more a case of wallabies do fly (but we’ll get to that)!

The idea to lead a walk to Western Bluff was, like all my ideas, driven purely by the fact that I hadn’t been, wanted to go, and thought it achievable in a day (even if it was to be rather a long one, due largely to the drive). I don’t think anyone relished the 5am meet up at Granton that I insisted on, but it didn’t seem to affect numbers too much. I had had 13 expecting to show, but last minute cancellations due to other commitments brought that down to an easier to manage 9 (still 1 over my group limit of 8!).

Out of the scrub and onto a mix of scrub and rock, the first of the views just starting to form too

Out of the scrub and onto a mix of scrub and rock, the first of the views just starting to form too

A fairly tired but timely meet up, and we were off, objective number 1 being to get to Banjos in Campbell Town for a coffee. As we watched the sun rise and the sky change as the day began, I couldn’t resist teasing our car load about being thankful for my insistence on an early start. Just to assuage any possible remaining resentment, coffees were on me and, once suitably fuelled, we set off. The time flew by, as we chatted about a whole range of things, including a 5 hr controversial operatic thingy that Catherine had attended the night before, and that was to influence the way words came out of her mouth from time to time throughout the day ;)!

You never have to worry about anything if Ben's on one of your walks, he looks out for everyone

You never have to worry about anything if Ben’s on one of your walks, he looks out for everyone

A frisbee and loo stop in Deloraine was called for (and this might have been where Liz, a newbie, might have started to wonder what she’d signed up for), then off to rendezvous with the final member of the group who was coming from the NW. We briefly discussed routes. I’d chosen to skip the Urks Loop road as I’d heard it wasn’t in the best condition, and I really don’t like driving on dodgy roads. In fact, that the forthcoming edition of Abels Vol. 1 will be recommending a route from Lake Mackenzie, precisely because of concern over unmaintained roads. I had a soft copy of the proposed route, written by a friend from HWC, and was armed with a GPS route from another friend, who had been in quite recently.

Ridges and lines

Ridges and lines

So off we went in convoy, stopping on the way up at the lookout to admire the mountains in the reserve, a view we would have pretty much all day long! A bay off the southern side of the road gave us room to park, and by 9am we were ready to set off.  Jess wondered how long it would take someone to notice their t-shirt was on backwards, Ben pulled out the new boots, and I decided this really would be the last trip for my gaiters. All geared up, we were ready to tackle a few hundred metres of scrub before hitting the nice open stuff.

Plenty of stops to enjoy and to chat… apparently I did manage to stay near the back from time to time!

Plenty of stops to enjoy and to chat… apparently I did manage to stay near the back from time to time!

With Ben then Graham in the lead, I had nothing to worry about at all. Ben has a nose for route finding and terrain reading, so I happily left him to it. I got to enjoy the freedom we got when we broke out of the green stuff and onto rock, but otherwise spent a bit more time than usual paying attention to the group and how people were travelling.

A perfect spot for morning tea..

A perfect spot for morning tea..

Happy enough to let people string out once we were out in the open, we did just that. Though walking as a group, people were free to break off and chat with one or two others, changing around based on individual needs to grab something out of a pack, take yet another photo of the views, duck aside for a loo stop, or avoid someone taking revenge for a trick or prank you’d just pulled off! I do like this about walks, because you can walk as a group, but still have little bits of private conversation with others, catching up on how they’re doing and what’s been happening, whether it’s been ages since you saw them, or just a few days.

We have us a bluff!!

We have us a bluff!!

Having spotted a glimpse of our bluff on the horizon, and finally set into a rhythm, someone mentioned if we’d be having a morning tea stop. I hadn’t even thought about it! Whoops.. It was after 10, and the early start meant it was warranted, so we plonked down right where we stood. It really wasn’t hard to take, and it was pretty obvious that this was going to be a rather relaxed day of walking. After refuelling and a small commotion caused by Jess doing her usual hide something of someone else’s (Ben’s hat this time), and having her head torch suitably relocated in retaliation (which led to an interesting discussion about the need for head torches on walks – not everyone had one on this one!), we got back to the walking business.

Over we go.. just lovely walking

Over we go.. just lovely walking

I tried to stay somewhere in the middle of the group, sometimes dropping to the back, but I did a horrible job. My legs tend to have a mind of their own, and I kept finding myself near the front. This was particularly hard to resist when we climbed a rise and got a full view of Western Bluff and its scree sides.. now that DID look like fun :D!! Unfortunately that wasn’t the way we were going, but it had sparked something, and so after dropping down to a small saddle, Ben and I both took to a small run across a little bit of scree, perhaps in an expression of the joy and freedom and all the other things we were feeling at being out there with friends.

Hello!!!! Can we go that way? Pleeeease? ;)

Hello!!!! Can we go that way? Pleeeease? 😉

We regrouped before a small climb up scree, and tackled it in single file. Ben led, followed by Jess, Graham, myself and Liz. Murph, Jen, Catherine and Chris were behind, though I’m not sure in what order. Climbing up you could only see one, sometimes two people in front. Half way up I heard a scuffle as if someone had slipped or had a rock go under their foot, and a yelp from Jess. I couldn’t see anything past Graham, but assumed either Ben or Jess had fallen. But no. While I was looking up at Graham’s pack he seemed to move sideways, and a ball of brown fur came flying past his left side. I automatically ducked, and turned around to see what had been a flying wallaby collide with Liz. She stumbled backwards a few steps, while the wallaby dropped to the ground and bounded off sideways.

The mood… pretty much says it all :)

The mood… pretty much says it all 🙂

We spent the next 5 or so minutes trying to make sense of exactly what had happened, laughing at the incredulity of it, checking that Liz was ok, and (Graham) applying some (of Ben’s) antiseptic to scratches on her arm where she’d been hit (we do team work really well). All ok, we headed off, only a short saunter over rock to the summit. We all went first to the cairned and higher point, then over to the edge of the bluff where the trig was, to settle in and have a bite to eat.

The cairn and trig, marking the summit

The cairn and trig, marking the summit

I think we pretty much had all the mountains in the reserve named accurately by this time, so we took more photos and otherwise just sat/wandered around and enjoyed them, the sun, and one another’s company. The snacks came out to accompany lunch and were shared around. From possibly stolen home made brownies (delicious) and sour worms, to pods, and later, red frogs.

Jess checks out the rock

Jess checks out the rock

It was just as well I wasn’t alone, or we’d have never left the summit. But Graham sensibly suggested moving off so as to not be too late, which made my job all the more easy. Although I clearly wasn’t the only one dragging my feet, feeling rather a bit too relaxed and enjoying every moment of being out there. On most occasions when we needed to regroup someone would find a comfortable spot for a lie down, and do just that. Probably the only thing stopping people from actually snoozing was the constant threat of bombardment of wallaby scats!

Ben takes it all in

Ben takes it all in

With a bit of ganging up happening, when we wandered past a small tarn/water hole I commented to Jess how I wished I had a cup.. her reply.. I have a drink bottle! And so, readily armed, she walked up to an unsuspecting Graham and gave him a squirt down the gaiter!! After things had settled down again, I ended up with the bottle, and, asking some random question (perhaps about the name of a peak) to act as distraction, I gave Ben a squirt down a gaiter too. I then spent the rest of the walk back trying to keep a certain distance between myself and Ben, as Jess did from Graham, and had to be extra careful when we came to the wetter sections (Ben’s hat, as it turns out, makes for a good way of scooping up water).

It WAS pretty big...

It WAS pretty big…

The way back down was a tad scrubbier than up (you can guess who was leading by then!) but we made it out easily enough, and all intact. At the cars, a quick discussion about whether or not we wanted to check out the Devil’s Gullet, with assurance from Chris (the only one who’d been before) that it was worth it and was short enough, had us decide to delay our return by 10 or so minutes.

And back down we go...

And back down we go…

Ben and Jess started off going for a bit of a run, while the rest of us made our own, slower, way up. But we caught up, in time to see Jess pluck a $10 note from the side of the track. I asked her where my $1 was, making reference to a conversation we’d had in the car on the drive up. She just laughed.

Mandatory nap stop

Mandatory nap stop

We had been having a discussion about justice and perception (we are sometimes a bit more mature than the wombat scat wars suggest!), and Graham had told the interesting anecdote about how, if you were walking along with a friend, who found $2, and decided to give you $1, you’d feel pretty lucky. But how, if your friend had found $100, and gave you $1, you’d feel ripped off, even though your friend didn’t have to give you anything, and in both scenarios you ended up with $1 that you didn’t have before. Needless to say, I didn’t get my $1 ;)!!

Did I say something about beautiful open walking?

Did I say something about beautiful open walking?

BUT, we did get to the lookout, and were quite impressed with the sheer cliff face and seriously big drop. Jess dropped a few stones off the edge, and we watched the wind move them around. Some of us were keen on a closer look or a photo from a different prospective, and managed to make the others really quite uncomfortable with our proximity to the edge (sorry :(!). A goodbye to Chris, and home we drove. The challenge was on to get there as fast as possible (for those who had work to do that night), avoid getting everyone soaked through an open sunroof and sprinkler system that was watering the road as much as the fields, and enjoy the changing light of dusk and sunset as much as we had the dawn and sunrise. Catherine quoted words she’d first heard Rachel speak on a bushwalk along the lines of having seen all the sunlight hours, and how true it was. We’d seen every moment of the day, and I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent them.

Catherine checks out the views

Catherine checks out the views

All up: 14.5km, 8.30 hrs, 494m ascent.

Devil's Gullet.. a LOOONG way down!

Devil’s Gullet.. a LOOONG way down!

Cathcart: 22 November 2014

GPS route of Cathcart Bluff

GPS route of Cathcart Bluff

This was to be a walk that got off to a bad start, but proved to surpass all my (very low!) expectations. Another night at work, and I raced off at 6. I wasn’t expecting either the drive or walk to be huge (2 hrs and maybe 2 hours each way for each), but wanted to be back early enough to repack for the following day, as I was down to lead a walk to Western bluff (that one was going to be much longer, with a 4 hr drive one way, and a 6-8 (or 9!) hr return walk).

Clouds on the way up.. they were more impressive than this, but I didn't get a chance to stop.

Clouds on the way up.. they were more impressive than this, but I didn’t get a chance to stop.

Driving along I enjoyed some very moody changing clouds, light and fluffy on top, dark and heavy underneath. I liked the metaphor. Probably a bit too much, and it was only in Kempton when I pulled over for petrol that I realised I didn’t have my wallet. What an idiot (ok, there were a few expletives inserted in that sentence that I’ve since removed). I had half a tank, which for me means about 200km. I checked the map, did some calculations. I might be able to get to the walk and back to Kempton, but still wouldn’t have enough to get home. Idiot!

Conversing… with new waratah flowers

Conversing… with new waratah flowers

Immensely annoyed at myself, I ignored a kind offer to wait for friends who would be passing in a little while on the way to a walk in the NE, and drove home. I half felt like ditching the plan, but by the time I’d located my wallet, got over the fact that I’d wasted 2 hrs driving, I figured I’d still have time for the walk. So off I drove again. The clouds were still there to keep me company, and as they slowly dispersed, so too did my anger and annoyance at myself (I don’t have a lot of patience for my own incompetence, inefficiency and waste).

Sweet reflections in a world of pink.. honestly, sweet to the taste!

Sweet reflections in a world of pink.. honestly, sweet to the taste!

This time, I had money for petrol at Kempton, and finally, by 10am, I was ready to start walking. I had about a 3km road walk to start with, relatively flat, and was kicking myself for not thinking of packing the bike (it would have been ideal!). Instead I thought about things as I walked, broke up the monotony by playing with macro and warratahs, and wondered what the walk would bring.

A boring road walk meant I had to find something to entertain me.. the macro came out, and I liked these leaves. Sometimes, it's all that's left. Old and damaged, but beautiful and deep.

A boring road walk meant I had to find something to entertain me.. the macro came out, and I liked these leaves. Sometimes, it’s all that’s left. Old and damaged, but beautiful and deep.

I knew little about it, and had assumed that once I got to the closest point on the road to the summit, I’d be off track and in scrub, and it didn’t look like such nice scrub to be in. So I dallied a bit (or a lot), and took a few photos of the glimpses of Blackwood Bluff that you got walking along the road.

The road.. somewhat unexciting! Take a bike if you can...

The road.. somewhat unexciting! Take a bike if you can…

On arrival at the point where I wanted to turn off, where my gps had a short bit of road branching off to the right (not very far at all, but it was better than nothing), I prepared myself for a scrub bash by taking rather a lot of time to photograph one very fat (or sick) grasshopper. But the time came to go, and so I set off. I wasn’t too surprised to find what might pass for an overgrown pad, but I wasn’t expecting the pink tape.. and then a couple of cairns!

My first glimpse, before I found the pad.. not looking forward to what I thought was going to be a scrub bash

My first glimpse, before I found the pad.. not looking forward to what I thought was going to be a scrub bash

Pure delight at an unexpected gift (and a pad through scrub is one of the best kind of gifts a bush walker can be given), and my mood lifted significantly. That the ‘pad’ was a little hard to follow, the markings intermittent in places, was only of concern in so far as it increased the chances of me walking off it. I figured that even if that happened, I was still better off than I’d expected.

One rather ill looking hopper

One rather ill looking hopper

But I was to be pleasantly surprised again, when after a little while my head clicked into gear, and I got used to what signs to look for. Looking at my feet, and the clear bit of pad before it disappeared into scrub helped, as looking higher up or further afield met only with a sea of green and brown, and no discernible ‘path’ forward. I got used to the twisting and turning, and started to enjoy myself.

Hey!!! A cairn.. and tape.. brilliant!

Hey!!! A cairn.. and tape.. brilliant!

Then another surprise. Walking along I heard movement in the scrub, but not the light quick movement of a wallaby. A solid, steady motion. I stopped and listened, then caught sight of the culprit, a not so little wombat, with a fine chocolate brown coat. I moved forward for a closer look, and he, oblivious to my presence, continued towards me, down through light scrub and rock. He came to within a few metres before realising I was there, and galloping (as wombats do!) away.

My wombat friend.. only a few metres away, just before he bolted.

My wombat friend.. only a few metres away, just before he bolted.

I smiled, and continued on. A few hundred metres from the top and I broke out onto scree, another gift for the rock monkey in me! Up I scrambled, and yes.. was again pleasantly surprised, this time with better than expected views. In fact, I’d all but decided that being a low peak, it was likely to have a scrubby summit with no views at all. Not exactly so! The views were, admittedly, better on this bit of the climb than on the very top, but that was somewhat irrelevant.

Wooo.. on the scree, and hello Blackwood Bluff!

Wooo.. on the scree, and hello Blackwood Bluff!

I paused to take them in, enjoy the increasingly present sun, and just be. But as always, the summit was calling, and I went in search. The summit region is composed of lots of ‘mini peaks’ of rocky towers, light scrub separating them. So I went to where my gps said the top was, and found a little cairn, but not much of a view. Then figured I’d better check another, and headed further west, to a summit my gps decided was slightly lower, but with open views out towards Drys Bluff.

High point no. 1

High point no. 1

All bases covered, it was time to head down in an easy and unconcerned manner, happy with all the highly surpassed expectations! An echidna or two to make me smile as I left, and I was home at the very civilised time of shortly after 3, ready to pack for the next days adventures.

High point no. 2 and the view out to Drys Bluff

High point no. 2 and the view out to Drys Bluff

All up: 9.3km, 3.15hrs, 318m ascent.

One last one of Blackwood Bluff, on the way out

One last one of Blackwood Bluff, on the way out