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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)!
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.
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.