Knowing that I’d be up climbing Clumner with the club on the Sunday, I figured I might as well do a day walk on the Monday too, and planned to explore Mersey and Turrana. When all of a sudden Tuesday freed itself up too that added an extra day, but without a tent I was still limited to day walks. That didn’t matter at all, so I stuck with the plan, and figured Roland and Vandyke would be safe bets for an unplanned walk on day three with what was bound to be a very tired body!
So after saying good bye to everyone at Clumner, I drove the short distance towards the start of the Mersey/Turrana track. Unfortunately, the bridge over the Little Fisher River you need to cross to get to the car park (as described in the Abels) is undriveable. Even if you could get over the mound and then the dip that someone has fashioned, I’m not sure you’d want to trust the bridge. Bit annoying, as that added an extra 50 minute road walk, but I was too tired to worry too much, and knew I had all day to climb the two peaks. 10 minutes to get things sorted for the next morning, then into the sleeping bag on the back seat and I was dead to the world in no time.
I woke at 6 the next morning, to some cloud but nothing threatening. A fast breakfast and I was set to go 15 minutes later, keen to get the road walk over. It went fast enough, though it was nice to get off the road after the car park and onto the nicely carpeted track. The initial part of the track is very nice, easy to follow, and the log book would suggest the area is frequented regularly, though the mountains don’t seem to be the primary destination.
When you hit the myrtle forest, which is very nice to walk through, the track becomes more difficult to follow. There’s the odd piece of tape, cairn (read single rock with not quite enough moss on it sitting on a log), marker or red paint to guide the way, and the rest is pure guesswork and a bit of concentration. I slowed down, taking care not to wander off in the wrong direction, also taking time to enjoy the river, its small cascades and the myrtle forest.
(Minor interlude here, I need to bake some biscuits!)
About 50 minutes from the car park, at 8am, I turned a corner to be startled by the Rina Dina Falls – as delightful as the Abels suggest. Some more forest, one very short bit of straight up and two fixed ropes (still quite sturdy), and then the pad leaves the myrtle behind and winds through some shorter scrubbier stuff (much easier to follow) before breaking out onto a lovely but slightly wet bit of flatness. There are a number of pads that work their way to the far end, and a short climb takes you to a decent sized cairn in the middle of the saddle that joins the two peaks.
You’re on your own here, though there’s plenty of animals, and maybe some human, tracks to follow. It’s a bit up and down, light low alpine scrub, rock and tarns to negotiate, with the summit playing Mr Elusive until the last few hundred metres. There was a little bit of scree, which I opted for, being a bit tired of the other stuff and arrived at the southern most cairn. I recalled the Abels saying that there was a chockstone nearby which was marginally higher (so it was) but that it required ‘rock climbing equipment for a safe ascent’. Ha, well.. My excuse was I didn’t have any.. and it was less of an ascent and more of a step across, you could say. Really :).
(Biscuits are out.. yummm)
From here you could see another cairn, but clearly lower, even further to the north, and some pretty spectacular dolerite columns. I did the photo thing, but the wind and cold hands had me moving after a short while. I was aware also that it was 4 hours after I’d started, so 3 since the car park, which was half an hour slower than the Abels suggested time. Although I was rather tired from Clumner and I’d taken care with navigation, I’d had no real breaks and I’m usually well within estimated times. So on I pushed, back past my starting point on the ridge and up again, climbing through low scrub towards Mersey.
Mersey is a lot closer, and its one where after the initial climb you can actually see the summit. I do always like that. When you get closer there’s a cairned pad you can pick up, which takes you across a short rock hop to the summit. I think I preferred the views from Turrana, but I’ll always enjoy any view from a peak! Another pause, a shiver, a fleeting thought that it would be nice to have friends to chat to to keep me there a bit longer, then a turn to the next task at hand.. It’s 12.30, do I go back the way I came (a fair bit of retracing, and quite a long walk back) or do I be a tad presumptuous and pretend that I fall into the category of ‘experienced bushwalkers’, and follow the Abel’s alternate route (much more direct). It requires following the ridge down and along a bit further, before locating a river and following it down, crossing when you hit myrtle forest.
I had initially intended to take this option because walking along the river was described as ‘sheer delight’. I had reassessed at various stages of the walk, deciding maybe I was too tired to want to concentrate and should stick to what I knew, to my final decision that I would take it after all, because I wanted the shortest way back – I needed sleep!
So down I went, short bit of scree, then low scrub, easy to go down through, probably a bit more work going back up. The river was easy to find, and it’s not that hard to follow it down, keeping it to the right. The eucalyptus forest was indeed scrubby, despite a number of pads that you picked up and lost equally quickly, and for this reason I’m not sure sheer delight is entirely accurate. I did decide at one point it might be easier walking down the river, and so I headed over to it. Decided it looked so nice it deserved a photo, only to find my camera wasn’t in my pocket.
Bugger! How long ago had it come out? How was I supposed to find it in the scrub? In one moment I’d lost all my photos from the walk. I couldn’t let that happen, even though I knew my last photo had been taken at the top of the ridge, before descending, and the camera could be anywhere between there and where I was. 700 metres of horizontal distance, 130 metres of vertical distance, 25 minutes coming down, much longer going back up! Not to mention the issue of finding my path through the scrub… It seemed impossible, but a good friend once told me that anything is possible, and at times like this I’m desperate enough to believe it (ok, maybe there’s always some truth to it, but there are times I really cling to it!).
So off I went, slowly retracing steps, trying to remember bits of where I’d been, using my gps to tell me if I was on the money, and a third eye (?) searching for a hint of blue (thankfully I opted for bright). I was lucky. 10 minutes and 300 metres later, I had my camera and, more importantly, photos back in my pocket. Phew, disaster averted. Back into the scrub, and down I went, ready for the myrtle forest to start.. anytime.. now?
And sure enough it did, quite suddenly. I crossed the river on some slippery rocks, took a photo of a waterfall or three – they were quite plentiful here – and realised that this must be where the sheer delight bit came from. And it was, until I nearly stepped on a tiger snake!! He didn’t budge, I took three steps backwards, took the camera out, lent over slowly (like he was going to move now if he didn’t before, stupid!) and took my snap.. then gave him quite a decent berth.
The myrtle forest was as open as anything, and walking was nice and easy, just as well, because I was at the tripping over my own feet stage. It was all downhill or flat from here, so I settled in to the long walk back. The first part was over all to fast, but the road walk seemed to take forever. My feet were sore and I was tired, so I jogged the downhill bits just to get back faster. Was really wishing I’d thrown the bike in the back of the car (would be a good idea for anyone doing this exact walk, the gradient is certainly conducive to riding, both ways, though back down would be easier). I did wonder as I walked/jogged, at what looked like relatively fresh tyre tracks in the mud, and the absence of fallen trees, as to whether there might be access from the other side of the river.. there was certainly a road that branched off that way.. hmmmm..
Very grateful to be back at the car a bit before 4.. just over 9.5 hours of walking, 32.2km (yikes, I hadn’t realised that!), 1225 metres ascent (no wonder I was tired!!!!).
But wait, the day isn’t over just yet, apparently! Having decided to climb Roland and Vandyke the following day, I thought I’d drive over that way and find somewhere to park the car and sleep. I got as far as the lookout at the Claude end, and thought I’d check out what the sign said. Oh, fancy that, 2 hours return to Mount Claude, medium grade. That means easy, and less than 2 hours if it’s written on a PWS or Forestry sign.
So I thought it might be a good spot to watch the evening pass, and maybe get the sun going down. I limped along (did I mention sore feet), grateful of the very easy track. I got to the bottom of the rock that is the summit and looked at the track that descends round the northern side of the peak, then looked at the less well worn pad to the right that had a branch across it, as if to say don’t go this way.. so that’s the way I went – I wanted to go up, not down right?
It was the right way (I guess tourists don’t climb these things), and I soon spotted some cairns marking out a short scramble up the conglomerate rock. That stuff’s interesting.. I’m not as familiar with it as I am with dolerite, and it takes a while to learn how you can trust it, but some of the moves you can pull on it are quite fun.. really!
I was shocked at how much of a scramble Claude actually was, mostly because I just wasn’t expecting it, and I checked out the chockstone, then what I think was the cave (more of a tunnel perhaps), and ended following it east, popping out to the east of the summit and making a short slightly exposed scramble up and round to the summit cairn. Pretty cool little bit of rock to make the mountain that bit more fun. Always up for another challenge, I decided on the chockstone back. And to be honest, that was easier (albeit a tad more exposed) than the climb up the rock once I was over the chockstone!
I found a suitable rock to sit on, and took of my gaiters to give me some sort of protection from the somewhat unevenness of the conglomerate (dolerite wins by far in the comfort test). Finally I could rest. And rest I did. I’d already donned my two jackets and beanie, but after some time I was feeling the cold, probably accentuated by the tiredness, and had started to feel a little ill. Maybe not enough water, maybe low blood sugar (later that night I found out mum had gone to hospital with a slightly more severe case of possibly a similar thing). The clouds didn’t make a nice sunset seem too likely (good call) so down I went.
I took a leisurely 3 hours in total, but a fair chunk of that was spent sitting on my rock, for 6.2km and 430 metres ascent.
A fitful night’s sleep, worrying and wondering about friends and family, but as always it was better being in the solitude of the mountains than at home alone.