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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!!
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!
All up: 21.5km, 1096m ascent.