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!