Proteus: 31 December 2017

Mt Proteus GPS route

Marking the last day of the year with a 10.5 hr walk in constantly drizzling rain doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? It wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was the reality!

Graham and I had another four days to get fit with, but the weather was almost just as bad as the last four. We thought we might be able to get away with ducking into New Pelion and timing Oakleigh, Pelion East and Proteus for in between the fronts. Unfortunately the weather forecast left a lot to be desired, and the day we walked in (after a second 14hr night shift with next to no sleep) was the only day without near constant rain!

But this write up is just about Proteus, which we did on our third day, or the last day of 2017! We set out a tad later than planned, by 8:45. We ran into Shelly, now parks ranger, who we’d first met at Lake Curly. She was looking good and very happy and it was nice to say a brief hello! In a quick 2 hrs we were at Pine Forest Moor, just before the start of the forest. We looked out across the button grass moor into the whiteout – it gave nothing away. So we set off on a rough bearing, trying to make sense of the ridges as they materialised in the mist so we had a visual bearing as much as rough line of the gps.

Leaving the Overland Track, we’re heading for that thing over there in the mist.. I think!

The going was slow, as we wove in between button grass mounds, trying to stick to the grassy or coral fern patches. We quickly tired, and gave in to the fact we weren’t going to be breaking and speed records. On the southern side of the first rise we spotted the ?little weather station that Shelly had told us to check out. She wasn’t sure what it was, and neither were we, but a weather station certainly seemed plausible!

Pelion West hides, but you can see the little weather station thingy that Shelly told us about

The going improved even though the weather didn’t and by about the second rise there was much less button grass. In patches we strode through low scrub, but nothing that slowed us down anywhere as much as the button grass had.

Lemon scented boronia predominated higher up, and mountain rocket and flag irises made an appearance too. As we crushed the boronia underfoot we inadvertently released quite a nice smell in our wake! As the ridge curved around and we approached the main climb, we attempted to stay on the northern side as per the notes in the Abels. As we were to discover on the return trip, there’s a very decent pad that runs along the southern edge!

We reached the summit somewhere around 2.5 hrs after leaving the Overland Track. We expected to find the summit cairn, it had been described in the Abels, but found it quite puzzling as we couldn’t figure out where the rocks had come from – there weren’t any others in sight!!

Summit cairn of Mt Proteus – yay!!

It was white, wet and cold, so we didn’t stay very long before beginning a much slower plod back down. We did, however, catch glimpses of Pelion West and Oakleigh as we lost a bit of height. It would have been speccy to see them on a clear sunny day!

Glimpse of Oakleigh as we make our way down, you can see the rough route, we’re headed to the tiny clump of trees just above centre of the photo and below the craggy bit of Oakleigh – that’s where we left the OT.

A glimpse of part of Pelion West

We sheltered behind a shrub for lunch somewhere on the moor but the fuel did little for our energy levels. An hour later we were happy to be back on a formed track, and even happier, 2 and a bit hours later, to walk into camp.

Approaching the clump of trees that marks the Overland Track and the final leg of the day – we’re looking forward to getting OFF the button grass!

We celebrated with soup, lentils (yummier than that sounds) and lollies ;)!

All up: a very tiring 31.3km, 10:28 hrs, 843m ascent (NB, this was after the 12km walk in, and a 22km half-day to Pelion East and Oakleigh, so we were a tad tired!)

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Mt Beecroft: 3 July 2017

Mount Beecroft GPS route

My first walk to Beecroft was early in my bushwalking days, so when we chose to head off for a couple of days escape in winter to Cradle, I certainly didn’t mind going back. And with blue skies, very little cloud, a little bit of snow and perfect views towards Cradle, there was nothing to complain about!

We’d travelled up the day before after I’d finished my last night shift and climbed Kate before having a much needed early night. Graham was generous enough to also give me a sleep in, so it was late morning before we got out and into the car. Beecroft is only a short drive from Cradle though, so we were parked on the side of the road and set off just after 11.

A slight uphill rise very quickly rewarded us with views towards a snow covered Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff, and for the next hour or so we strode south across the gradual undulations. The track was easy to follow, if a tad boggy in spots. New markers had been put in since I was last there and made it impossible to doubt where the track went.

Less than 5 mins from the road, and the view is already rewarding!

The track is as easy as this to follow, and the walking just lovely

You end up sidling even the tiny rises in the landscape

When we were below Beecroft (after an hour and 15-20 minutes) we departed from the PCT and followed more stakes (they hadn’t been there when I’d first been through), over to and up a steeper bit of climb, which eventually brought us out onto the summit plateau. We could see the trig point a short distance away, and took our time getting there as it was just too good not to enjoy!

Beecroft gets closer, and is quite a nice mountain to look at!

The summit itself is a rocky podium, which proved to be very windy, noisy and bitingly cold! We hunkered down in lee of the wind and ate a quick lunch. It sounded as if a mix of a twin prop aeroplanes and some decent sized waves were racing by. With full tummies they soon had us making a hasty retreat – half running just to get warm again!

Part way up the steepest part of the climb up Beecroft, we paused to frame Cradle and Barn once again

The summit trig, with those two mountains yet again

Looking south towards some familiar mountains

As we lost height we also lost some of the wind and adopted a more leisurely pace. It’s fair to say that this was in part mediated by us feeling rather tired. While it wasn’t a demanding walk, it was a reasonable distance and each step required attention least we stepped in an icy cold water-filled hole.

And back we raced, wrestling the wind for every bit of warmth we could hold on to

It was, therefore, with contented tiredness that we returned to the car under 4 hours after starting out. We felt we’d earned our dinner and didn’t even mind too much that the forecast for the next day was looking very average – we counted ourselves lucky to have had such a glorious day already!

All up: 11.3km, 3:50hrs, 469m ascent.

We finished the day with a quick visit to Dove Lake – why not??

One last one of Cradle 😉

Guardians and Horizontal Hill: 14-16 April 2017

 

Gould, Guardians, Horizontal Hill circuit GPS route

Easter means a lot of different things. This year, it gave me a chance for a 3 day walk before I started full time work. Both Graham and I had been flat out in the lead up and had left the choice of destination until we had a full weather forecast. When two friends extended an invitation to join them on their Gould, Minotaur and Guardians trip we thought it would be a lovely way to celebrate Easter.

And so we started devising a plan that would allow us to spend a bit of time with them, but also worked within our 3 compared to their 4 days, the ferry availability and our desire to camp on top of the Guardians and attempt Horizontal Hill. We ended up with something that was mostly solid, but did have an escape plan should we not be able to find our way off the Guardians’ cliffs towards Horizontal.

We broke all records on the Friday morning, leaving five minutes EARLY, despite a last minute search around for the Olympus map for two other friends who had shifted their walk from the Southern Ranges to Olympus that very morning! It was nice to catch up with them briefly before they headed off, and also with a customer I’d met just the day before – Tassie is a very small place!

After failing to convince the ferry lady we really wanted to pay for the return trip and we certainly wouldn’t be deciding the weather was too nice on the Sunday (it was due to rain all day) and we’d walk out instead, we sat in the sun and ate our lunch. As we did so we tried to figure out exactly where a group of 9 who had signed the multiday logbook would be walking if they planned to do Gould, The Guardians and Lake Marion as stated. We were slightly concerned there might not be much room for all of us around the two small tarns on the Gould plateau, and could only hope we wouldn’t all end up in the one place! There was nothing we could do but wait and see…

We hopped aboard the ferry just after midday. Its master had a somewhat perfunctory manner about him and conversation was kept to the bare minimum, but it would take a lot more than that to dampen our excitement – we were going on a walk after all!!

As we approached Narcissus we hollered out to Bec and Meredith who were just finishing their paddle up the lake. We’d be sharing the night with them but left them to beach and hide their boats, sort their gear out, hide their paddles elsewhere and have some lunch before starting the walk.

It had been a few years since our first trip in to Gould and the Minotaur (written up in its own post), and a lot of the terrain had been conveniently forgotten – particularly the knee-scratching-overgrown-bauera part. But the track was still in good nick, and only difficult to follow in one or two places in the forest if you didn’t take care.

We entertained ourselves as we walked in our own ways. Graham wrote things in the mud for Meredith and Bec, while I struggled to cough and breathe and walk all at once. I might have had a bit of a cold, and hadn’t thought about the effect cold air might have on my lungs. Needless to say, Graham had lots of time to craft his messages and draw his pictures!

When we popped out the top of the rather lovely but increasingly steep forest, we were reminded of why we loved the plateau as much as we did. As soon as you get up I reckon it must be obligatory to head left to the slab of rock and admire the views. Though they extend all around, Byron and Olympus stole centre stage, followed by the Geryons and Acropolis, and of course Gould. Many other familiar faces played supporting roles and I think we both felt like we’d returned to the bush.

We enjoyed taking numerous photos of the same mountains, just to capture the changing light, before dragging ourselves away to see if we’d be sharing the campsite with 9 others. We’d seen evidence of fresh footprints, but weren’t entirely sure. Rounding the small hill we found that the tarns were all ours, which caused us some confusion but not enough to dwell on for too long.

We chose a site that left plenty of room for Bec and Meredith, and set about pitching the tent and unpacking our gear. Even with all our phaffing it had taken us only 2 hours to get up, so it wasn’t all that late but it was pretty damn cold. That meant we didn’t hang out for too long before sliding under our sleeping bags and cooking up some soup. Bec and Meredith weren’t too far behind us and we had a nice catch up, shared Easter treats, then got an early night because it was just too cold to sit out.

Byron from the lip of the Gould Plateau.. the light was nice

A few moments later and the light had changed again!

A lovely camp site, we pitched our tent and waited for Bec and Meredith to join us

We took a few photos, despite having been here before.. the Geryons are always nice to look at

Evening light on Olympus.. Two of our friends were somewhere over there

We had an excellent night’s sleep on the new mattress configuration that Meredith had designed us (anyone who uses two single mattresses instead of a double will know the exact nature of our discomfort), and we thanked her profusely (she’s the best go to person you’ll find). The usual mix of breakfast, photos and packing up followed, with the mist and reflections making the place even more magical than it already was. It was only unusual in that Graham did a sterling job of trying to cook pancakes with wholly inappropriate gear – and I have to say they were pretty good for bush pancakes, even if I teased him at the time!

We eventually set off and made it to the start of the rather steep climb up Gould together. Meredith and Bec had been in two minds about whether to sidle or go over Gould, and we did our best to give them the information we could remember from our first trip. They chose to follow us up and over, but to do so at their own pace.

We wished them the best and headed off. Our memories must have faded with time, or perhaps it was a matter of looking at the terrain through other people’s eyes, but we realised as we approached the crest at the southern end of the ridge that the information we’d given might not have been as accurate as we’d have liked.

As we crested the end and started across the rocky ridge to the summit the walking was much easier, the peak was visible, and there were easy routes down to the low scrub off the side. We just hoped Bec and Meredith would persist to that point – we had no doubt they could, it was just a matter of whether they would. Neither of us could shake a slightly uneasy feeling however, which only grew the longer we sat on the summit eating lunch.

We kept an eye out for them, as well as one out to the north because we could hear voices quite clearly, could see tents pitched below the Minotaur and half expected to be joined at any moment. We exchanged ‘hellos’ with the voices, which was pretty cool, and we guessed they were part of the party of 9. As we left the summit we watched them strike camp and head to the west, and guessed we’d be meeting them sometime that evening!

Part way down my phone buzzed. I’d accidentally left it on from the summit, and had an uneasy feeling it was going to be word from Meredith and Bec. It was. They’d had, as can so easily happen out there on big rocks, a big bit of a scare and had made the sensible choice to turn back to Gould’s plateau. Graham and I were somewhat subdued. I think we both felt a mix of worried, disappointed for them for not having made it to any of the mountains they’d planned or their intended camp site, and partly responsible for having given the information that had swayed them to attempt the up and over route.

We continued on, however, sliding more than walking down the shale-y chute to the saddle between Gould and the Minotaur, then up the far side, before turning left and taking the scrub free route out along the southern side of the Guardian plateau. Graham, bless him, is like a dog chasing a rabbit when he has other walkers in front of him, and he shot off ahead (must be a male thing – my brother is exactly the same on his bike). I struggled to keep up, coughing and panting in his wake.

Part way up the only real climb along the plateau he caught up to the group ahead of us, who, as it turned out, had already figured out who he was courtesy of his yellow gloves and glasses! They’d also guessed who I was too, courtesy of the rockmonkey reputation, which is always nice but does make me a little nervous that I might not live up to expectations if they’ve got out of hand, as reputations can (I am, after all, just like many other bushwalkers – a lot of passion, a little bit crazy but nothing extraordinary).

When I finally arrived at their resting spot we had a formal introduction. They were indeed the group of 9 and as we’d guessed from the leader’s name in the book, were on a Launceston Walking Club walk. They were a lovely bunch and we looked forward to sharing the evening with them at the Guardian’s summit tarn (for that was where we were both headed).

We continued on at our own paces, and found the tarn wasn’t far away (less than 2 hours from Gould’s summit). We selected a spot around the far side, out of the wind and with excellent views, and in a location that gave the LWC walkers (and one NWWC walker) plenty of room to pitch tents. We then headed for the summit, aware that it was going to get cold and dark early, and wanting to have enough time to scout out the right gully that we’d need for the next morning.

The summit was a simple affair, but the views unique and not hard to take. As we sat there enjoying it all the LWC group made their way up too. We chatted some more (they were very generous with their gratitude for this blog – and it was lovely to hear that they were using it as it was intended!), celebrated the summit, and accepted (and enjoyed!) their generously offered Easter eggs.

We then went our own ways, some went to a second high point, some went to check out the gullies that ran like scars down the cliff face. We did the latter, keen to know where we’d need to go the next morning, and aware that we wouldn’t have time to make mistakes then given we had a big day and a ferry deadline to meet.

We found one that Graham really liked the look of, but it didn’t have a cairn marking the top, as we’d been told to look out for (see the Abels description). After scouting back east-ish along the cliff line we finally found a cairn and picked the gully we thought it most likely to be associated with. We weren’t sure though, so decided to suss it out till we were confident we could get the whole way down. We got a fair way down, in the process ruling out any of the other nearby gullies as they were just too steep, but came to a 3-5m drop without much to hold on to. While it might have been possible, it wasn’t going to be safe with full packs and in the rain, and we still had concerns for sections further down. We wrote it off and went back to the gully we’d first liked the look of.

As we headed over we had a chat with the LWC leader, who had also thought it was the best pick. As they went back to camp and dinner we decided to make sure. We picked our way down and although we came to two steep but not impossible bits, we opted to work our way around them, each time heading to the left. By the time we got to a little gap in the rocks to the left side of the gully we knew we’d be fine getting down the following morning, so we marked it with a cairn for future walkers and headed back to the top. There we erected another cairn, just to keep the Abels accurate and to help out any other walkers who might try the circuit!

When we returned we headed over to the LWC tents with biscuits and cheese. We’d been intending on sharing them with Meredith and Bec but seeing we’d not get the chance, we thought it was pretty fitting (even if they weren’t chocolate Easter eggs!). We shared what we found and chatted about all sorts of things. They also seemed to get along really well with each other and gave off an infectiously happy vibe that it was a pity we weren’t still in the longer days of summer so we could sit around a chat for longer. But again the cold and dark drove us to our tents early that night.

The next morning was still, and the mist slowly lifted to reveal the mountains

Guardians and Horizontal Hill – our two ‘mountains’ for the trip

Olympus had a sleep in

By the time we’d climbed to the foot of Gould, the cloud was gone and views back to the lake and Olympus were perfect

The Eldons feel different now we’ve been there

Ahh.. the Guardians sprawling out in the midday sun

And another one of that ridgeline.

Horizontal Hill, gives a sense of the route we took

Lake Marion from the edge of the Guardian’s plateau

Can you spot the LWC walkers enjoying the cliff edge?

Not a bad place to camp, just shy of the Guardians summit

Tent was up as the LWC group follows suit. It’s time for us to check out the summit

The top of the gully we took down, in case you want to use it!

A brief bit of colour before the cloud took over

Warm light on Macs and Walled… we thought about another friend who was having an ambitious crack at Nereus that day

Guardians summit with Gould behind

We woke at some ridiculously cold and wet hour, trying not to think about having to get out of our sleeping bags and packing up the tent as our fingers progressively and paradoxically became painfully numb. But we did, and the rain was good enough to pause a while as we did so.

We scuttled over to the cliff edge, haunched and withdrawn into our wet weather shells in attempt to escape the cold caress of the wind and rain. We found the cairn we’d erected the evening before and complimented ourselves for its position. From the direction we’d approached it, it had really stood out on the horizon and we only hoped it would be that way for other parties. Down we went, taking care in the new slipperiness. We were really glad we’d already scoped it out because the poor visibility was disconcerting enough.

We were now walking blind, quite literally, with only very limited information with which to make route-finding decisions. We managed to strike lucky, however, and made the use of the scree, followed by some weaving through the trees in what was really quite low scrub until we hit the saddle. It would have been awesome to be able to look back up at the Guardian’s cliff line, but it wasn’t to be. Instead Graham took over the lead and charged into the scrub. It was a fair bit thicker here, but again we ended up on a pretty good line and he was able to make the most of patches of open myrtle forest.

After climbing a few contour lines the scrub got short, wiry and robust and we were slowed down a fair bit. We altered our plan of attack, choosing to sidle over to the ridge to our left, where we reckoned the going would be much better (it was, after all, the recommended route). We found some nice pads when we got there, which lined up nicely with a GPS route we had. We dropped packs and followed the pads all the way to the summit, finding a tub of sunscreen on the way (are you missing yours? Send me a message!).

We didn’t spend much time up there, enough to duck around to all the possible high points (it’s pretty flat up there – good camping in fact, as we’d been told just before we left!), pull out a snack and take one photo in the rain. We were back at the packs in no time, put on extra layers, and kept heading down the ridge, trying to figure out where the voices and laughter we could here were from – likely the LWC group, though they weren’t in sight. We were expecting to hit scrub at any moment but were kept hanging in suspense and weren’t at all disappointed when it never eventuated. Instead we had open forests and low bauera all the way to the water’s edge, where we were treated to a small spot of sun and a hint of the Guardian’s cliffs.

It was a good feeling to be down in the time we’d hoped and to just have the very easy walk out on the Lake Marion track. First we had to wade the edge of the lake, which meant wet and cold feet and a swarm of tiny little gnat like flies that seemed determined to get in eyes, noses and mouths. At the far end of the lake we had a chat to a guy who’d bought his family complete with kids in (pretty cool) and then followed his directions to the start of the track. The next few hours took us through some stunning button grass plains and then lovely myrtle forest (which had plenty of other species of tree in it too!). We were both feeling pretty tired by this stage and kept to a slow steady pace.

It was really nice to change into dry clothes at Narcissus, but even better to see Bec and Meredith walk around the corner shortly afterwards! We caught up, enjoyed hot chocolate and cheese and before we knew it we were hopping on the ferry. The circuit is definitely worth consideration if you don’t mind a bit of route finding, and well exceeded our expectations! Though Horizontal has been described as a oncer, I’d even consider going back.

It just so turned out that this easter was a people-y easter, and it was very much enjoyed – it’s hard to beat spending time with good people.

Day 1: 5.4km 2:10hrs, 491m ascent

Day 2: 9km, 8hrs, 924m ascent

Day 3: 12.5km, 7:12hrs, 309m ascent

The flat summit of Horizontal Hill. It was quite fun despite the wet, and Graham raises a (half eaten!) chocolate bar in celebration

At Lake Marion, the cliffs of the Guardians are covered in low cloud

Chimera: 14 March 2016

Chimera GPS route

Chimera GPS route

 

This is going to be a record breaking short blog. It was so long ago there’s not a lot I can remember, and I don’t have many photos (a sum total of two, in fact!). I’d not climbed the Chimera when I’d done Gell the first time, so when we decided to go again the Chimera went on the list for me.

We had the lovely tangly walk in and up to the Hippogriff – which was perhaps worse than last time. Feeling a little bit frustrated and tired, we ditched the idea of a Gell summit camp, and camped just below the Hippogriff near the lovely little tarn there. We summited Gell the following day, and very much enjoyed the views and the weather.

The third and final day was to be out over the Chimera. We only just set off before the morning was over in a successful attempt to avoid most of the rain (and have a sleep in??). Heading off the Hippogriff we took a different route to the way up, and found ourselves being channelled right to avoid going over some very steep and slippery drops, and hoping like anything that the gully would see us through. We didn’t need a dead end!

It did, and we chose a route up the Chimera that pretty much aimed for the centre of the ridge in the hope that it would be least scrubby. It wasn’t. It was scrubby and rocky and clamber and downright slow. And maybe almost not much fun… But we’re both good at stubborn determination and perseverance, and slowly we struggled our way to the top where we enjoyed the views, a wedgie and our lunch. It had taken us 2 hours from camp!

Chimera summit

Chimera summit

View from the summit of the Chimera looking southish

View from the summit of the Chimera looking southish

We hoped for a better way down compared to our way up. And the first part was wonderful – lovely open forest. Then we hit the scrub. And it went on and on, and got thicker not thinner. It was horrible. The way we’d taken up was decidedly better. It was lovely to finally pop out (almost literally), and take the much easier route back to the lake, then the track back to the car.

From camp below the Hippogriff to the Chimera and back out to the car took us more than 6.5 hrs, 7.5km, and 397m ascent.

Olympus: 6-8 February 2016

After changing our minds no less than 3 times on the morning we were supposed to be leaving for our long weekend walk, we finally settled on Olympus. We wanted an easy last day, due to work and domestic commitments, which ruled out Gell and Philps, and we ended up ditching Jukes for the possible haze from the fires. Olympus also gave us an easier start.

We're greeted with a lovely view as we pop out of the forest and find ourselves amongst the pandanis

We’re greeted with a lovely view as we pop out of the forest and find ourselves amongst the pandanis

We caught the midday ferry in, and walked a rather hot couple of hours up through the forest, following the directions in the Abels, some well placed pink tape, and later, pads. We topped up water at Lake Oenone, which looked just stunning and is a must to return to when the fagus is turning. But we had our sights set on higher things…

On the ridge, we climb amongst the boulders

On the ridge, we climb amongst the boulders on the way to Olympus North.

Ever since I started walking and knew about Olympus I’ve wanted to camp on top, and we planned to do just that. We headed around the left hand side of the lake and found a pad that took us onto scree. We followed it to the saddle above, then scrambled along the ridge towards Olympus North. It was a lovely ridge-top boulder hop, and reminded us of a number of other mountains with decent sized boulders, many of which weren’t too far away.

After a short climb, we reach the plateau on top - It's just lovely!

After a short climb, we reach the plateau on top – It’s just lovely!

After a short climb we broke out onto a fairly flat plateau of low alpine grasses and cushion plants. There was a slight rise ahead, which we aimed for, knowing there were plenty of little tarns over it. And so there were, though the dry spell we’ve had had taken its toll, and many had dried out. It was a lovely spot, and you could choose just about anywhere to camp.

The view back to Olympus South is very photogenic, and we're spoilt for campsites

The view back to Olympus South is very photogenic, and we’re spoilt for campsites

For us, after a brief scout around, the decision was pretty easy. There was a nice flat grassy patch just to the south of the summit, near some decent size tarns, with about 270 degree views. I reckon it’s one of the best high camps you can have (though I’ll agree the area in general has some pretty speccy ones).

Graham inspects the view from the summit - I think it passes!

Graham inspects the view from the summit – I think it passes!

We set up our home for the night, enjoyed soup and home cooked meals (so good!!) then went for a wander in different directions to check out the views as the sun set. Haze zapped some of the sun’s strength, but it was still beautiful.

Reflecting and pondering..

Reflecting and pondering..

The following morning we poked our heads out too see if we’d have a sun rise, but we were just inside the cloud. A hot chocolate and porridge sounded better, and were duly consumed, by which time we had our views back and went for another wander, taking in more of the beauty of the place, and discovering how well the mountains echoed (Graham has a particularly good voice for that).

Brilliant light!

Brilliant light!

By 10.30 we figured we’d better pack up and head over to Olympus South, before dropping down to the lake to camp. As we were finishing, a bushwalker who we’d both heard plenty about but hadn’t met in person came walking along. We expected to see him, as we’d seen his name in the registration book, and it was pretty cool to finally meet him in person. He’d heard something of me too, though I didn’t dare ascertain just what!

We say hello to old favourites

We say hello to old favourites

He gave us a tip about a pad up the ridge to the north of the lake, so we decided on the walk back that we’d drop down to the lake via that ridge, set up the tent, then head back up to Olympus South, instead of just staying on the ridge that connects the two peaks (in effect, retracing our steps). It was a decent pad and gave us some good, and new, perspectives – we were glad for the suggestion!

The sun casts its rays

The sun casts its rays

After eating lunch and pitching the tent we said goodbye to Tony and scrambled back up to the ridge, again around the left or south side of the lake, and this time headed south. The terrain was similar. Big boulders to start with (Graham and I couldn’t resist having fun with photos), followed by an open alpine plateau. Someone had built a substantial cairn where the trig used to be – we weren’t quite sure if it was an old Sprent one, or someone’s more recent attempt at a good pile of rocks. We wandered over, added some rocks of our own to it, then checked out the edge and the views from it. Not bad!

Sun setting behind Goulds Sugarloaf - no sign of the fire that's out that way, and we hope that's a good sign

Sun setting behind Goulds Sugarloaf – no sign of the fire that’s out that way, and we hope that’s a good sign

Satisfied with the day’s work, we turned around, pretty keen for a swim. The water was just lovely, as was the sun on bare skin, though the wind kept us cold. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying the place, company, cooking and eating.

We really were camped close to the summit!

We really were camped close to the summit!

We awoke to another low mist, but it came and went as it pleased, giving us views of both Olympus North and South. Wispy clouds played hide and seek with Ida, while the sun added its own dramatic effects. It eventually dragged us out of the tent. It was just as well because we wanted to be home early, but we knew both the midday and afternoon ferries were booked out, so we’d be walking.

We watch the ferry come in from the edge - which was rather a steep edge!

We watch the ferry come in from the edge – which was rather a steep edge!

So we headed off at 8, following the ridge back down, then the tapes, until we hit the Overland track. The morning ferry, which hadn’t been very on time the last few days, was just leaving Echo Point for Narcissus (quite late for the 9am ferry), so we wondered if we’d have a chance to get there, make a call, and be picked up on the way back.

We head down the ridge Tony suggests, and it gives us a very different perspective!

We head down the ridge Tony suggests, and it gives us a very different perspective!

What we were going to take at an easy pace, became a race. We covered 30 minutes of walking in 15, and made a quick call to the visitors centre. The receptionist was unimpressive, but I managed to get her to at least say she’d contact the ferry to see if they could pick us up on the way back, as they had plenty of room. She also said she’d call back.

On the climb up to Olympus South we find a diving board...

On the climb up to Olympus South we find a diving board…

We waited another 20 minutes, and spotted the ferry on the far side of the lake. Neither of us were impressed – so I called back to ask the girl if she’d made contact with the ferry. She said she hadn’t been able to (hmmm – what if there was an emergency..? I wondered if she’d even tried) but… ‘I can keep trying if you’d like me to’…Ha, I watched the ferry go by and told her not to bother, then wish I’d been sarcastic enough to thank her for calling back to let me know.

And Graham feels the urge to prevent the Frenchman's cap from being squashed by a huge boulder - or so he proudly tells me!

And Graham feels the urge to prevent the Frenchman’s cap from being squashed by a huge boulder – or so he proudly tells me!

Luckily enough for them, the 2.5 hour walk back to the visitors center was enough to tire us out and abate our anger, and in any case, we reasoned, they wouldn’t have taken our comments on board.

All up: 33km, 1447m ascent

Olympus South summit

Olympus South summit

 

From Olympus South to North - lovely mountain!

From Olympus South to North – lovely mountain!

 

The morning we're due to leave - cloud, sun and mountains put on a show.

The morning we’re due to leave – cloud, sun and mountains put on a show.

 

The sun lights up a pencil pine beside the lake

The sun lights up a pencil pine beside the lake

 

I will be back for the turning of the fagus!

I will be back for the turning of the fagus!

Kate: 21 June 2015

Mount Kate GPS route

Mount Kate GPS route

As most in the Tasmanian bushwalking community would know, volume one of the Abels – which is really quite old by now, and all but out of print – is being revised. When asked, I agreed to help out in whatever way I could in attempt to put back into something I’d got rather a lot out of. Some people were providing updates to routes, some were writing essays, others offered photos. I’d offered to help out with a few different things, the latest of which meant I got to go and check out Mount Kate (no complaints there!) to see if the current description could be better written.

One of the huts. Head a little closer than I am, but stay well below it and head to the right

One of the huts. Head a little closer than I am on the boardwalk, but stay well below it and head to the right

I was beginning to wonder if it’d be wise, after little sleep and an interesting shift at work (one baker short, and initially no sales girl at 7am), but I figured I’d just go and see how things went. It was a lovely day, clear and sunny, and it was good to be out. But there was no forgetting it was still winter when I hit frost and ice in the shadowed bends of the road near Cradle.

The old 4WD track lies behind that slight bump in the middle ground on the left

The old 4WD track lies behind that slight bump in the middle ground just left of centre

4 hours after having set out, I had my gear on and was ready to start walking. The start was the bit I was there tho check out and therefore had to pay extra attention to: stay well below the huts and find an old 4WD track. I overdid it a tad (as I’m prone to) and stayed too low initially, having been warned that most people just head straight into the forest, but that was ok, as I figured I’d eventually hit it as I veered north. I did, and it was immediately apparent I was on it. No dramas, job done, the description was fairly solid!

Pretty obvious it's a 4WD track when you're on it

Pretty obvious it’s a 4WD track when you’re on it

I now had the rest of the walk ahead of me to enjoy, which is really quite a straight forward one that’s cairned, taped and padded to the summit, though the track clearly functioned as a river during wetter periods, which meant on days like today it had become an ice slide.

The cairn marking the turn off to the north.. nice and frozen!

The cairn marking the turn off to the north.. nice and frozen!

Walking up it on the ice was impossible (and painful!), so I stuck to the edges and sought out bits of scrub and rock that, while still frozen (they crunched under every step in protest), offered a little more purchase. This slowed things somewhat, and it also ruled out staying high for some sunset photos (there was no way I wanted to be walking back down that in the dark!).

When I first turned around.. this is what I found!!

When I first turned around.. this is what I found!!

As I walked up, I turned around and gave myself a pleasant surprise. I’m hopeless at reading walk notes that pertain to anything other than route description, so I’d completely skipped over the part that said the views from Kate were some of the best of Cradle. I only remembered reading it now that I was seeing it for myself! And it’s true. Kate itself is a nondescript bump in the landscape, but she offers spectacular views of Cradle (I took photos of little else!). I instantly decided I liked her!!

At the first 'bump'... pretty awesome spot!

At the first ‘bump’… pretty awesome spot!

Progress was slow, more for my need to take another photo every few steps than to try not to slip on the still frozen track, but I didn’t really care. I hit the first bump after a slow 50 minutes, and had fun playing around on the small rocky outcrop there, where someone had built three cairns. If you weren’t interested in peak-bagging, this is as far as you really need to go. The views are lovely, the walk short and easy.

Looking west to Roland (left) and Western Bluff (right)

Looking west to Roland (left) and Western Bluff (right)

But that’s not me ;), so when I couldn’t justify staying any longer, I dropped down into the coral fern covered saddle, and headed back up the other side, through low alpine scrub. There was still a taped and cairned pad, though it was so open it wasn’t really needed, and I tended to walk wherever my photographic eye dictated (yep, even THROUGH the scrubbier bits). There was a lovely pine forest that needed exploring too, half of which had evidently been wiped out by a fire some time ago.

Checking out Brewery Knob.. not worth any points, but it's an Abel... tempting, but ended up saving it for with someone else

Checking out Brewery Knob.. not worth any points, but it’s an Abel… tempting, but ended up saving it for with someone else

And then it was just me and the summit. I headed first to the very decent sized cairn, then further west where technically the highest ‘point’ lay (it was all very flat really). Despite all the distractions, I was up in the recommended 1.5 hrs (just), and figured it would be faster back, not least of all because every time I went flying on the ice it would be in the right direction (no less painful though)! I also thought I’d taken just about all the possible photos one could take of Cradle Mountain! Not so, it turned out!

Cradle again.. there's a lot of these.. I apologise!

Cradle again..and Campbell! There’s a lot of these.. I apologise!

As I headed back and down, the sun cast warm orange light on the tip of Cradle. I wished I hadn’t descended quite so fast, and was a little higher, but also knew I’d slipped over quite enough when I could see, and that it wasn’t going to get any warmer either. So I enjoyed it for what it was, before heading back to the car.

Cradle

Cradle

Definitely one I’d recommend doing, so long as you have views!

Kate from the first bump.. not really impressive looking, but she'd already won me over!

Kate from the first bump.. not really impressive looking, but she’d already won me over!

All up: An easy 2:45 hrs, 6.9km, 352m ascent.

From in the pine forest..

From in the pine forest..

Tall trees

Tall trees

The other side of the pine forest..

The other side of the pine forest..

Can't resist!!

Colours.. Can’t resist!!

Even the scree was frozen

Even the scree was frozen

The cairn and Cradle

The cairn and Cradle

Pines on the way back, as the light starts to glow

Pines on the way back, as the light starts to glow

One last look from up high

One last look from up high

Final touches of sun, and it's time to say good night..

Final touches of sun, and it’s time to say good night..

 

Byron, Cuvier, Manfred, Coal Hill, Goulds Sugarloaf: 5-8 April 2015

Byron, Cuvier, Manfred, Coal Hill, Goulds Sugarloaf GPS route

Byron, Cuvier, Manfred, Coal Hill, Goulds Sugarloaf GPS route

This one had been planned for a while. Like usual, we didn’t know exactly where we’d go, but that (as usual) was kind of irrelevant. It was going to be a rare 4 day walk (it’s not often days off uni and work coincide) and the weather, initially, looked ok (particularly for Easter time). So we settled on Cuvier, and despite the weather deteriorating throughout the week, we stuck with it (it wasn’t much better elsewhere, except the east coast, and we wanted to avoid the Easter holiday-goers).

Stepping off the jetty, we thought this might be all we saw of Manfred!

Stepping off the jetty, we thought this might be all we saw of Manfred!

By Sunday morning after work, Meteye had rain forecasted for every 3 hour block between then and Wednesday afternoon, when we were due to come back. Hmmmm… time to throw in a few extra warm clothes! Neither of us were fooled by the sun and views on the drive up, though we did take care to enjoy it, figuring it might be the last we saw for a few days.

But the sun came out to confuse us, so we figured we might as well enjoy it as much as the mountains were.

But the sun came out to confuse us, so we figured we might as well enjoy it as much as the mountains were.

We had a surprisingly full ferry for the weather, though everyone else was just walking back to the visitor’s centre from either Echo Point or Narcissus. The new ferry guy is all about business, so the trip was short and sharp, with no dallying about. That suited us fine, as we wanted to get as far as we could before the rain started (I was surprised it hadn’t already), and preferably get a visual on the terrain we’d have to cover between Byron and Cuvier.

Climbing Byron we got all the 3 drops of rain we'd have for the trip. We were very lucky!

Climbing Byron we got all the 3 drops of rain we’d have for the trip. We were very lucky!

But the weather was a bit too good (we even had sun!) and so we took time for photos, remarking more than once that it just might be the last view we got. A very tame pink robin also held us up, but that’s the whole point of the experience, after all.

On the summit of Byron, looking down the ridge we'd be walking, over to Cuvier. Manfred sits on the right.

On the summit of Byron, looking down the ridge we’d be walking, over to Cuvier, and the shelf on which we’d camp. Manfred sits on the right.

We turned off the Overland Track and headed up to Byron Gap, the walking steeper and more tiring than I remembered, though I did have a full pack on this time, and am not quite as fit as I was then. We passed not one, but two, couples, both of whom looked like they’d been out on a day trip up to the gap. The second pair told us the views were good, which was awesome news, the cloud had yet to drop!

The clouds rolled in from the west, but still the sun shone in bits.. lighting up the very attractive looking Gould's plateau.

The clouds rolled in from the west, but still the sun shone in bits.. lighting up the very attractive looking Gould’s plateau.

Sure enough, Frenchmans was out, though the skies seemed darker than they had when we’d first started out. We left the track at the advised point (see Abels vol. 1) and headed up through open forest. It was steep enough to make us take extra care in foot placement, as a careless step would send you sliding down as far, or further, than you’d just tried to step up. With full packs, that wasn’t much fun!!

Down the side of Byron, lunch on the saddle in the sun, and it was time to head on. But the views back to Byron were kind of nice, especially when framed by pandanis and eucalypts.

Down the side of Byron, lunch on the saddle in the sun, and it was time to head on. But the views back to Byron were kind of nice, especially when framed by pandanis and eucalypts.

And so it was nice to be out of the pandani forest, onto the pad that leads you through the thicker scrub, with slightly more solid ground underfoot. Then we were on rock, and working our way up the final climb to the summit of Byron. A group of currawongs squawked noisily, and we felt about 3 drops of rain. Despite expectations, it held off.

The snow gums added their own touch of colour, and it was nice to think that even if it was wet on the walk out, it wouldn't be all grey!

The snow gums added their own touch of colour, and it was nice to think that even if it was wet on the walk out, it wouldn’t be all grey!

On the summit celebrations were minimal as we turned our attention towards Cuvier and the way forward. We watched as the cloud closed in, hiding Cuvier, Manfred and the ridge (which looked ok enough, but we weren’t holding our breath). The cloud headed towards Gould, at the same time a shaft of sunlight broke through and lit up the Gould plateau.

Up on the Cuvier shelf, our search for a sheltered place to camp was slightly held up by the desire to photograph the beauty of the place

Up on the Cuvier shelf, our search for a sheltered place to camp was slightly held up by the desire to photograph the beauty of the place

It was as quick to go as it was to come, which gave us confidence that we’d have at least bits of visibility for the walk ahead. But first, to get down. Because Graham hadn’t climbed Byron, we’d ignored directions to contour around the northern side, so we had to get down off the summit first. We picked a route we thought would be ok (i.e. didn’t seem to end in a sudden drop!), and clambered down. It was steep, and unstable under foot in spots, but quite do-able.

We did, however, eventually find the perfect spot to set up camp!!

We did, however, eventually find the perfect spot to set up camp!!

We then chose to stay as ‘in the middle’ of the ridge line as much as possible, navigating by gps. It wasn’t too bad, though I remember thinking I wasn’t going to like the climb back up through the scrub! Not being able to see it from above, we also headed down a cliffy bit, with Graham taking a swing out on a tree branch further than anticipated. For me, it was less of a walk and more of an uncontrolled descent of sorts on legs that felt rather jelly like!

And then wandered around to take photos.. Tucked away out of the wind, but really quite close to the edge :)

And then wandered around to take photos.. Tucked away out of the wind, but really quite close to the edge 🙂

Scrub gave way to open forest, and the going was easier, though still steep (mental note, the way back was going to be a bit of a slog!). We popped out at the bottom of the descent, onto a lovely and fairly open saddle, and laughed at the luck of still having views to enjoy: Byron behind, Cuvier ahead, and the Cheyne range and Gell to the left. It was a perfect spot for a late lunch, so we sat down and savoured it.

The edge really was impressive, but hard to capture on photo!

The edge really was impressive, but hard to capture in photo!

The Cuvier shelf looked both near and far, the going fairly ok, with perhaps one or two dodgy spots, though we remained cautious, as it’s always impossible to tell just how the scrub will be until you’re in the thick of it! Sometimes the bits that look nicest turn out to be the worst…

And the sandstone was pretty expressive

And the sandstone was pretty expressive

But we were lucky.. the cloud kept clearing, and we had definite patches of blue sky come through (and SUNSHINE!!), and though there was knee high scrub to wade through, it was almost all on animal pads so not too taxing. When we approached the final ascent, we um-ed and ah-ed a little about whether to head right and get onto a prominent ridge, or take a shortcut and maybe cop some scrub to avoid the steeper climb.

Just in case you didn't notice the fagus.. it was turning, and I found it made quite a abstract kind of photo, dotted as it was with pandanis

Just in case you didn’t notice the fagus.. it was turning, and I found it made quite a abstract kind of photo, dotted as it was with pandanis

Graham set off for the latter but after butting heads with slightly thicker scrub than we’d had till then we ended up working our way around it to the right, and found ourselves on a pad (definitely part human, at least) going up the ridge we’d been looking at. In no time at all, we were on the shelf! The realisation that we were ‘home’, in the place where we’d spend the next three nights, hit and I felt like letting out a shout of joy (but I wasn’t quite sure what to shout out so it came out as a laugh instead).

We also had two mini waterfalls providing fresh water and soothing sounds :D!

We also had two mini waterfalls providing fresh water and soothing sounds :D!

After photos of a helicopter flying over, Manfred, Cuvier and a balancing rock, we started looking around for a spot to camp. I’d first heard about Cuvier from a fellow bushwalker’s blog, and the campsite he’d described sounded pretty nice (minus the ants – which somehow we managed to mostly avoid!). Shelter was our main priority, and we picked out a few tentative sites as we wandered south along the edge of the shelf to see if we could find the spot he’d talked about.

This one was more like a little spa (of the chilled kind).. quite private too!

This one was more like a little spa (of the chilled kind).. quite private too!

Sure enough, we came across it, and the decision was unanimous. It was 10-20 metres from the edge of the shelf, which made for a stunning viewing platform, though I was warned each time I went to use the loo not to walk too far – i.e. off the edge! It was tucked in a bit of a dip, which not only meant it was well protected from wind, but also featured two small waterfalls that ran down the shelf at the back of the dip. They gave us a lovely fresh water supply, a spa (if it had been hot enough) and the most relaxing of sounds to fall asleep to. Complete with a communal cooking rock, there wasn’t much more you could ask for!

The following morning we set our sights on the attractive looking Manfred

The following morning we set our sights on the attractive looking Manfred

We set up happily, still thrilled that we hadn’t seen any rain, and decided to pass up climbing Cuvier in favour of exploring the area (sometimes, it’s not ALL about climbing the mountains). The shelf really was spectacular, and we found the fagus below was starting to turn yellow, with a hint of orange. The sandstone rock was, as always, full of character, and we tried to capture a few of its many expressions on camera. And I haven’t even mentioned the view yet ;)!!

Heading round the north eastern side of Cuvier, aiming for the ridge ahead. The Eldon Range comes into view.

Heading round the north eastern side of Cuvier, aiming for the ridge ahead. The Eldon Range comes into view.

Being the first day of daylight savings (or the end of daylight savings, whichever!), things got dark pretty quick, so we had an early dinner while we could still see. A late lunch meant neither of us was particularly hungry, so we shared desert first (of ginger cake – thanks mum!) followed by a pretty special meal of chicken rogan josh that Shaz had cooked and dehydrated. It was the last of hers I had left, and it fitted perfectly. I only wished she could have known how it was enjoyed. Chocolates followed ;)!

An old beauty salutes the Eldon range

An old beauty salutes the Eldon range

An early night was in order, I was wrecked, and despite a very long sleep, interrupted only to briefly enjoy the full moon wearing a circular rainbow, it still took one noisy currawong to wake us. The sun had already risen, and though it had rained a little over night, there was no sign of it left. Mist filled the valleys but the sky overhead was blue and the morning crisp. The forecast was still for rain (less than previously expected) but the following day was meant to be wetter, so we opted for Manfred over Goulds Sugarloaf. We expected Manfred to be harder and scrubbier despite being shorter, with possible cliffs to negotiate, and wanted the best visibility we could have.

Heading up through the scrub, we pop out on top of one of the sandstone shelves. The fagus is starting to turn, and the views towards the Eldon range are hard not to enjoy. We were to eat lunch here on the way back.

Heading up through the scrub, we pop out on top of one of the sandstone shelves. The fagus is starting to turn, and the views towards the Eldon range are hard not to enjoy. We were to eat lunch here on the way back.

With breakfast sorted we set out, heading up the ridge leading to Cuvier. We ignored instructions to keep near the cliffs on the northeastern side of Cuvier, choosing instead to drop down onto a flatish kind of shelf on the northern side of the ridge we’d been climbing. We followed that west, walking on rock covered in low scrub, then took a more northwesterly direction as we hit the ridge heading from Cuvier to Manfred.

Looking back at Olympus, Byron and Cuvier

Looking back at Olympus, Byron and Cuvier

It was more open than I’d expected, only requiring weaving rather than any real bashing. When we hit the saddle we popped out onto low alpine vegetation, and had a proper chance to marvel at the view towards Manfred (it is a speccy mountain to look at – and climb!), back to Cuvier, and out to the Eldon range (it gets more and more respect every time I set eyes on it).

Sidling around the base of Manfred's cliffs

Sidling around the base of Manfred’s cliffs

We surveyed the way ahead. It definitely looked scrubbier, and we’d yet to have much of the dreaded scoparia that had been promised, so the odds were against us. There was also two sandstone shelves to negotiate, and a smattering of fagus which we’d avoid if we could (it doesn’t make for easy walking). It turned out to be easier than expected. There was a pad, which was mostly easy enough to follow, and though it took us under and through the scrub, and over the rocky shelves, there was minimal resistance (unless you were Graham, and chose to but heads with the rock).

On the ridge and heading up… what a wonderful arena of mountains to be in the middle of!

On the lovely curving ridge and heading up… what a wonderful arena of mountains to be in the middle of!

On top of the second sandstone shelf the scrub was much lower, and we had no trouble heading up and to the left, contouring around the base of Manfred. The going was steep and lose underfoot in spots, and at times we chose to walk in the low scrub instead of tempt fate on the shale-y stuff.

We did quite like the summit grass ;)

We did quite like the summit grass 😉

Fortunately, we both have the same tendency to go straight up something if possible, so instead of walk the whole way over to the saddle before doubling back, we headed up as soon as we thought feasible. It was steep, but fun, and we hit the ridge line fairly fast. Wooohooooo! The views were pretty speccy. North, to the Labyrinth and beyond, West to the Eldon Range, South to Cuvier and beyond, and east, towards the Traveller range and WOJ. It was awesome!

A view towards Cuvier, Goulds Sugarloaf looking rather distant!

A view towards Cuvier, Goulds Sugarloaf looking rather distant!

After a sufficient play with cameras, we climbed the short distance up the ridge to the summit, and celebrated some more. Manfred is as lovely and fun to climb as it is stunning to look at. Straw coloured grass was growing in thick tufts from the summit, and begged to be photographed (and it was, very much so!). The sun chased shadows across the land, as we took it all in.

We got to say hello to some familiar and much respected mountains :)

We got to say hello to some familiar and much respected mountains 🙂

The change in daylight hours and the chill in the wind meant we didn’t dally too long, and we still weren’t sure whether we should trust the weather forecast or not! We made good time down, and stopped on top of one of the sandstone shelves – a perfect spot for lunch, which I’m sure tasted all the better for it ;)!! Certainly the avocado had developed in flavour from all the bouncing around it had endured!

We pushed back, and made good time putting distance between ourselves and Manfred.

We pushed back, and made good time putting distance between ourselves and Manfred.

Graham picked a flawless route back up the scrubby ridge, and then we chose to cut across and up to the summit of Cuvier, given the weather was still holding and we didn’t know what to expect for the following day. I was tired, and pushing up through low scrub with every third step resulting in a slipping back started to get to me. Graham disappeared over the horizon, so I took a moment to refocus, look at the view, and breathe (it’s an important thing!), before continuing on.

And in reward, we got to enjoy the summit of Cuvier :)!

And in reward, we got to enjoy the summit of Cuvier :)!

Graham was waiting just over the horizon, checked I was ok, and we walked the short distance to the summit together. More big smiles, as the joy of being out there and the sense of achievement washed over. We enjoyed the evening light, wispy clouds, and majestic mountains.

The sun warmed everything under its touch, but it was fleeting, darting around the mountains chasing shadows like a kid running after seagulls.

The sun warmed everything under its touch, but it was fleeting, darting around the mountains chasing shadows like a kid running after seagulls.

We eventually headed back, without haste, satisfied with the day’s effort and rewards. Dinner was followed by fudge, chocolate and easter eggs, and another very full night’s sleep.

Hello Geryon :)!!

Hello Geryon :)!!

This time it was the rosellas that provided the morning alarm, though we woke in the middle of cloud. The forecast had done an about turn, and we weren’t to expect any rain all day, and yet we could see less than we’d seen the whole trip! We did expect it to burn off in time, but hoped it would be sooner rather than later, as it would make a huge difference to our confidence in navigating.

About the closest we got to a sunset. The clouds were too fast, but who were we to complain!

About the closest we got to a sunset. The clouds were too fast, but who were we to complain!

Knowing we had a full day ahead, we were reluctant to wait for it to clear, so we began walking up the ridge to Cuvier. We’d checked out a possible route the day before, and had decided things looked good enough to ignore the suggested route up Cuvier and down the southern ridge. We cut across the southeastern edge instead, and the going was ok, except for lack of visibility. But the scrub got progressively worse, and we had a choice between bashing over and up to the ridge line we were supposed to be on, or heading down through scrub to meet up with the bottom of the ridge.

After a longer than necessary scrub bash, we found ourselves on Coal Hill, delighted by the lichen covering the rocks! It's a funny thing, a rocky shelf that gives the impression that it was once a proper mountain, but someone had come along and lopped the top off.

After a longer than necessary scrub bash, we found ourselves on Coal Hill, delighted by the lichen covering the rocks! It’s a funny thing, a rocky shelf that gives the impression that it was once a proper mountain, but someone had come along and lopped the top off.

Clearer patches showed a gnarly ridge (from our view point), but better going if we took the second option, so we did. But in all instances the scrub was worse than it looked, and it took us a fair bit of time to get to where we wanted to go. It was a relief to finally be out of it, though we knew there was more ahead as we climbed up Coal Hill. It was a bit of work, but Graham found a good lead, and we were on top with less effort than I’d expected, delighting in rock formations and the abundance of lichen on them. A flock of rosellas raced overhead – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one hit!

Onwards we went, nice and easy walking into the mist.. Little sugarloaf lies ahead.

Onwards we went, nice and easy walking into the mist.. Little sugarloaf lies ahead.

The cloud was still about, but was showing definite signs of clearing. We were aware we’d taken a fair bit of time to get to Coal Hill, so pressed on. But now the going was easy. A short bit of scrub to get off Coal Hill, then lovely open alpine walking all the way ahead! Olympus poked through cloud, and all the mountains north of us came out. It was great!!

The tree.. no words needed

The tree.. no words needed

And then we saw the tree. If you’ve been out that way, you’ll know which tree it is. It stands tall and proud, and raises questions about life and death, or life in death. Needless to say we spent a good deal of time taking photos of it, before continuing up the ridge to Little Sugarloaf. It had a little cairn on it, and though it’s not worth any peak bagging points we still checked out the summit.

More tree :)

More tree 🙂

We’d walked into cloud by now, so after a quick refill, we made a beeline for Goulds Sugarloaf, and 22 minutes later we were there, standing on a small rocky summit in the middle of cloud! Without anything much to look at bar one another, we didn’t stay long, but I couldn’t help but be grateful that given the initial forecast we had, one mountain out of 4 with whiteout views wasn’t bad at all! We did have a temporary moment of disorientation, wondering what on earth the pointy thing we peeked through a gap in the mist was, before Graham realised it was Little Sugarloaf and where we’d come from! Ehm… experienced bushwalkers and all that we are!!

Graham adds to the little cairn on Little Sugarloaf

Graham adds to the little cairn on Little Sugarloaf

So back we went, a little more relaxed now that we were on the way back. More photos of our tree, and lunch back on the lichen covered rocks on Coal Hill, cursing that only now, when we were on our way back, had the cloud lifted from over Goulds Sugarloaf! But we weren’t really that upset, how could you be in a place like that?

A glimpse of things from Goulds Sugarloaf.. we didn't stay long.

A glimpse of things from Goulds Sugarloaf.. we didn’t stay long.

We took the short way down through the scrub, with one or two drops I was glad we hadn’t come up, then headed for the ridge. It didn’t look half as bad from the western side, and we figured it couldn’t be worse than the scrub we’d come through. That was funny!! It was a pure delight. There was a pad the whole way, and no scrub to negotiate, and we had lovely views of the long afternoon light as it highlighted the dips and curves of mountain ridges.

One more tree shot.. now that the cloud had cleared from Goulds Sugarloaf!

One more tree shot.. now that the cloud had cleared from Goulds Sugarloaf!

We took our time, played on rock, and rejoiced in being alive, really (or at least that’s what it was about for me). After a final pause at a particularly favourite bit of weathered sandstone rock we headed back to camp. Again, you couldn’t ask for much more from a day.

Olympus still beckons!

Olympus still beckons!

Our final day and we woke again to the cold embrace of the inside of cloud. It wasn’t raining per se, but it was wet! Keen not to be rushing for the ferry, and aware we had just a small climb back up Byron, we had no choice but to breakfast, pack and go. A minor contact lens issue sorted and we were off.

We made good time, so we had a late lunch on Coal Hill, and yep, took more photos!

We made good time, so we had a late lunch on Coal Hill, and yep, took more photos!

As always, walking back was harder. There’s a completely different feel about leaving a place. I got frustrated with the low scrub, which was no different to the way over, but I was different. Graham took over when we got to the bottom of the climb, and did a much better job, finding a steep but pretty easy going (scrub wise) route up, popping out perfectly between the rocky buttress and cliffs that we’d identified from below. It was a very short contour around the side from there, and we were back on the Byron track. It didn’t take long to drop to the saddle, where we figured we had time for lunch.

Heading back, pandanis, Byron and Olympus

Heading back, pandanis, Byron and Olympus

An ‘Oi!’ interrupted us part way through, and I yelled back, pretty sure I knew who it had come from. But there was no response, so we continued eating, wondering what surprises might be being hatched for us to walk into! With full tummies, and over pants now off (yay! first time since we started), we set out, for the final leg back. We hadn’t gone far before we came across two purple easter eggs sitting in the middle of the track. I laughed, told Graham I knew it was Jess, and walked round the corner to find her there!

Climbing the ridge to get back.. a much more sensible, and enjoyable, route!

Climbing the ridge to get back.. a much more sensible, and enjoyable, route!

It was very cool to see her, especially as she was going to have been on the whole trip. She turned what would have been a typical and slightly sad walk out into something completely different. The three of us chatted as she led us out through the forest. We laughed and teased one another, and Graham’s pole started going missing again. The forest was lovely too, and it was nice to be able to look around a bit more and take the time to enjoy it (and learn what a tree is.. yes treeeee :p). And then of course, it was only a matter of time really, the wombat scat wars began. I was piggy in the middle, which tactically ruled out any involvement!!

Did I say enjoyable?

Did I say enjoyable?

Back at the jetty we had more entertainment as we waited for the ferry to arrive. Two walkers had been told they hadn’t finished the Overland Track until they’d jumped off the jetty. I didn’t envy them – the sun might have been out, but it was pretty cold!! And well done to them, they did it!

The next day we headed back, up the steepish climb to the shoulder of Byron, then down and out.

The next day we headed back, up the steepish climb to the shoulder of Byron, then down and out.

All up: 44.4km, 3050m ascent.