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.

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Byron: 24 February 2014

What do you do do when you’re short (very short) on sleep and have just spent a day tiring yourself out walking? Why, go on another walk, just to make sure you’ve got the most out of your body, and your one day off!! I couldn’t not, after the weather, which had been forecast earlier in the week to be showery, was now just ‘partly cloudy’, and I was pretty certain it’d be better than that! In deciding to go, unbeknownst to me, I was escaping what would turn out to be a rainy day in Hobart, and have a stunner of a day up north (not entirely wanted, given the sunburn I’d copped the day before on Styx!).

Byron GPS route

Byron GPS route

I was particularly keen to get out, more than usual, because I’d been asked to check out the route to Byron, as described by the Abels. And when I have a task to do, with a deadline, I like to get it done sooner rather than later, especially when I don’t have a lot of spare time (my next two months are fairly chockers with walks already!). The Abels describes the options of going in via the Cuvier valley (skip that, I heard from some friends a few weeks back that it’s almost impossible to follow the track, and it took them a lot longer than expected, and I was short on time), via the Overland track (5 hours) or the boat (45 minutes). Because I wanted to fit a lot in to the day I figured an early start and a walk along the lake rather than the boat would be best. And I would have got there faster if all had gone to plan!

Byron route from the Overland Track, approx. 3 hr return

Byron route from the Overland Track, approx. 3 hr return

I woke at 3.30 after 6 hours sleep. Still tired, but I thought I’d wake up on the drive up. Woah, mistake number one! I didn’t wake up, rather proceeded to fall asleep. I had the window down, the music up, and I was eating lollies that I didn’t actually want, in the hope of staying awake, but it wasn’t working. I was wondering if I should just turn around and go back home to bed, but I’d come this far and that was enough to make me not want to turn back. So at 5.30 I pulled over, set the alarm for 6.30, and had such vivid dreams about swerving all over the road I couldn’t tell if they were real or not! I did feel a bit better when I woke, and drove the last hour. I was quick to put on boots, and get started.

The turn off from the Overland track

The turn off from the Overland track

I reckoned I could walk the lake faster than the 5 hours, and hoped I could get there before 10.30, figuring that would put me at about the same place as if I waited for 9am to get on the ferry. In reality it would have been the sensible option to have slept some more and just got on the boat, but I’m not good at waiting when I know there’s distance to cover, and so off I went. I like to call myself a bushwalker, but for that first hour or so I became a bush runner.. or jogger (ok ok, perhaps stumbler?). And only on the flats and downhills.. and later only downhills.. and eventually, not at all!! I did quite enjoy the challenge of being as efficient as possible, enjoying the feel of gliding round corners, negotiating roots at speed (I really wasn’t that fast), ducking and weaving through overgrowing ferns and around protruding logs or branches. I still had time to take in the changes in forest, to pause to check out white flowers I hadn’t seen before, or little clumps of red fungi. I still heard a bronze wing’s ‘ooop-ooop’, and maybe even saw one that was very reluctant to get off the path (but I’m no expert, and might have been mistaken?).

Beautiful open forest walking

Beautiful open forest walking

It seemed, however, to take FOREVER! And I was feeling increasingly tired. Somehow, I got to Echo Point in just over 1.5 hours (said to take 3 hours), and realised maybe I didn’t need to go so fast. Good, I didn’t have much energy left anyway!! Another seemingly slow hour and 15 minutes and I was at the turn off to Byron Gap, relieved to find it sign posted (wasn’t sure if it was at all!). I’d run into (not literally, though I did come close once or twice) a number of Overlanders, and, to my pleasant surprise, Charles C from the Hobart Walking Club (more on that later)!!

Pandani curls.. I plagiarised the idea, and clearly need some more work on it, but it was a good excuse to lie down for a bit!

Pandani curls.. I plagiarised the idea, and clearly need some more work on it, but it was a good excuse to lie down for a bit!

It was 10.15, I was where I’d have been if I’d have caught the boat (just a good deal more tired, but kind of happy with the time I’d made despite that), and so I figured I could throttle back just a bit (timed nicely to coincide with the start of the uphill stuff!). Taking the Byron Gap turn, chuckling at the signs warning against inexperienced walkers venturing past this point due to the unmaintained nature of the track, I headed off into the forest.

First glimpse from the saddle (Byron Gap), and I approve!!

First glimpse from the saddle (Byron Gap), and I approve!!

The Abels describes the walk as a good one for inexperienced off track walkers, and I’d have to agree entirely. It took me a while to adjust to the different amount of attention I had to pay to staying on the track, but once I did, and got used to the signs to look for, it was quite fun. I was aware just how easily you could step two metres off the track if you checked the time on your phone, or took two seconds to see where you were on your gps. I did that once or twice!

Pandani's in the pandani and myrtle forest.. Just beautiful, like a different time and place. I do have a special spot for pandanis.

Pandani’s in the pandani and myrtle forest.. Just beautiful, like a different time and place. I do have a special spot for pandanis.

The track, though apparently unmaintained, is quite well marked. There’s the very old blazes, with a hint of red paint on them. Then there’s old yellow triangles nailed into trees, some of which are in the process of being swallowed up by said trees. There’s newer bits of pink tape in some spots where trees have come down, or markers are missing. And finally (and surprisingly given all those warning signs!) there were a number of new orange triangles, nailed into trees or very new looking wooden stakes!! Warning, some of these point in SLIGHTLY misleading directions, and it pays to pay attention to the ground too!! You do get pretty used to looking for the subtle signs that suggest you’re on track – exposed roots where moss should be growing but isn’t, ground that is surprisingly clear of  twigs and small branches (the act of walking must clear the path of them, or crush them), or flatter areas that just look like they’ve been walked on (instinct and luck does play a role)!

The first of the three cairns! Such luck!!

The first of the three cairns! Such luck!!

The forest was lovely and cool, there were a number of little creeks, one particularly nice, and I took note of it for on the way back (and it was greatly appreciated then too!). I zigzagged up and across, making good progress towards the saddle that I assumed was Byron gap (I never pay much attention to names of things!). The forest turned quickly to scrub, and the pad was well defined. The markers,  irrelevant now, had largely vanished. I checked the Abels book, as this was where my work was to begin, which instructed me to head 100 m past the high point before heading off track through light scrub, pandani and myrtle forest, through heavy scrub (where a pad with an obscure start could be found), and then across rock.

View to Olypmus from Byron.. Ahhhh :D!

View to Olypmus from Byron.. Ahhhh :D!

The instructions could not have been clearer. The high point of the saddle is quite obvious, because there’s a decent downhill across steps fashioned out of logs and chicken wire. This turns to a dirt track for a short section, before you’re walking on old trees that have been split in half with chicken wire across the top. It’s part way along this section, where the scrub is obviously at its lowest for a patch to the right that you head off into it. There’s a few pads, which you could mistake for wombat pads, but they lead exactly where you’re instructed to go. Once in the beautiful pandani and myrtle forest there’s no hint of where to go, and it’s a matter of instinct and a hell of a lot of luck, and a general bearing in the right direction. Do take care though not to be so caught up in the route finding that you don’t enjoy the forest for what it is, it’s quite spectacular. I do love both pandanis and myrtle, but pandani in particular. Perhaps for its root back to Gondwanaland, its ability to survive, or its distinct shape, and definitely the associations between it and the club that has become such a big part of my life, and major factor in my current happiness.

View north from Byron.. ohhhh yeah!! Can't wait to come back and check out Gould etc!

View north from Byron.. ohhhh yeah!! Can’t wait to come back and check out Gould etc!

When I’d read the Abels description about the somewhat obscure start to the decent pad cut into the heavy scrub, I’d sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I doubted I’d find it, and might just be in for a nasty but hopefully short bash. You can imagine my surprise when, after walking between pandanis for a bit, having had to make decisions a number of times as to whether I’d opt to veer left, or right, or go straight up, I walked straight up to a cairn. It was the first of three, and only three (I looked around on the way back), and they led straight onto the pad. I couldn’t believe my luck! Even more so after following the pad for a short while, which was overgrown enough that it insisted on grabbing on to my clothing, or tangling itself in my feet, and going was slower than expected.

Olympus on the way down.. I want sunset and rise from up there!

Olympus on the way down.. I want sunset and rise from up there!

The ‘track’ was now quite easy to follow, and was well cairned. This continued on over the scree, with cairns guiding you straight up the gully mentioned in the Abels. I was pretty tired by this stage, and I’d started to really relax, aware that I was going to get to the summit, and back, in plenty of time. I started messaging a few people, and commenting on photos on Facebook from the day before. This meant I took at least 30 minutes longer to get to the summit than it should have, but that just meant I had longer to enjoy the views!

From the plains on the way to Narcissist. Looking back at Olympus

From the plains on the way to Narcissist. Looking back at Olympus

And what a view it was. Byron is quite a little gem. A lovely walk, with a mix of everything (forest, scrub, scree) and a grand reward at the end on a fine day! I looked north towards an array of mountains I have yet to climb, then over at Olympus (definitely a must to camp on top), and around to everything else. Frenchmans had its head in the cloud. I yelled to the mountains around me, laughed with joy, and shook my head in amazement, gratitude and all the rest of what I was feeling in that moment. I wished there was someone to share it with, more immediately than through Facebook or text messages.

On the jetty, Byron the bump on the right

On the jetty, Byron the bump on the right

A short stop for sunscreen and to cool down, and I figured I should get back down. I had all fingers and toes crossed that there’d be a free spot on the last ferry, as I’d decided quite early into my walk round the lake that $40 was definitely worth it for the journey back!! When I arrived back at the junction with the Overland track I realised if I walked/ran as fast as I had on the way up I’d make it back to the car park at 4.30. Alternatively if there was a spot on the ferry, I’d get to sit around for a bit, take a leisurely cruise down the lake, and arrive at the same time.. It was a bit of a gamble, and apparently when I’m tired, I’m more likely to gamble! I was aware that if there were no spots, I’d have an even longer walk back, and would be unlikely to get much sleep before getting up for work at 12am!

An afterthought.. the part of the track where you head off track to the right.

An afterthought.. the part of the track where you head off track to the right.

So the hut it was. I arrived, and ran into Charles again! He radioed through for the ferry, and we were told there was only one spot. Bugger! Charles, the gentleman he is, didn’t hesitate to book it in my name, and I was touched at his generosity and all of a sudden very much more tired! As it turned out, the radio guys called back a little while later to inform us that there had been a cancellation and there was room after all, much to my relief. We chatted over a gratefully received cup of tea, biscuits and chocolate. He was also going to be checking out some changes to Abels routes, but had been up to the Gould plateau exploring the area. Gould, the Guardian and the Minotaur are the other three I need to check out before the end of April, and I listened to his information keenly. We later chatted to a Scottish guy, before eventually making our way to the jetty, chatting to some other tourists about places to go, and enjoying a brief and distant encounter with a platypus.

 

Then we were on the boat, enjoying the second half of a guided tour some of the passengers had paid for, and learning the valuable information that the current boat captain guy had figured out where he could offload people who wanted to climb Ida. It would be a special trip, so require the minimum payment of $240, and wind would be a major factor, but I could see potential as a club trip!!

 

Back to the car, a stop off for petrol and a much detested but emergency energy drink (in the attempt to avoid a repeat of that morning), and I was on my way home. A long, but successful and very enjoyable day! 3.5 hours sleep, and up for work again, nicely refreshed!!

 

Over 25km, in 6.5 hours, including breaks, and 1059 metres ascent. Not feeling too bad about that ;).. and thanks to  those of you who, knowingly or not, gave me the encouragement to keep on going.