Du Cane Range: 24-30 January 2015

Du Cane Range GPS route. Camp sites at Walled (1 + 2), above Lake Helios (3 + 4), Massif (5) and Falling (6).

Du Cane Range GPS route. Camp sites at Walled (1 + 2), above Lake Helios (3 + 4), Massif (5) and Falling (6).

If you don’t have the time, patience and wherewithal to read through what I’m sure is going to be quite an essay, what it says, in short, is that the Du Cane Range is a stunning walk in a beautiful part of Tassie. It doesn’t seem to be as popular or talked about as much as walks like the Arthurs, perhaps because it’s partly untracked, but it’s definitely on par with them, and goes down as a favourite.

The uphill to Walled Mountain with 7 day packs on starts to take its toll, and Geryon and the Acropolis are perfect excuses to pause for a breather!

The uphill to Walled Mountain with 7 day packs on starts to take its toll, and Geryon and the Acropolis are perfect excuses to pause for a breather!

Because of this, I didn’t have any close close friends who’d done it, I’d not really seen any photos and had very little idea what to expect. I could have done a bit more research, but given that we’d already decided to go, I figured it didn’t really matter, and concentrated purely on finding a gps route for the part of the walk we thought might be most difficult to navigate in case we had whiteout conditions (thanks for that Dan!).

Cushion plants are pretty awesome ;)The only other preparation was an email to Parks asking if they might let us go counterclockwise, which goes against their north-south policy on the Overland Track. Our reasoning was that it would allow us to know what the weather would be for the ‘hard’ part (it would also mean we could pop up the Guardians or go out over Gould if we had spare time on the way out). The answer was a no. As it turned out, the day we needed to be clear for that to work was to be the worst day of the week. Rain and snow forecast down to 1300m!

Camping on Walled. Would be a lovely spot for sunset if the cloud (and then snow!) had stayed away.

Camping on Walled. Would be a lovely spot for sunset if the cloud (and then snow!) had stayed away.

It had been a busy time at the bakery and also with translating, and the last three days were even more hectic (250 pizzas for the cricket on the Friday were not what I wanted!). So I was glad to finish at 5am on Saturday morning, duck home, then wait for Graham who had slept in (I don’t know, these people who need their beauty sleep..!).

Day 2: With a horrid forecast, we set out for a rock hop and scrub bash up Macs Mountain. It starts off nice, but we're soon walking in snow!

Day 2: With a horrid forecast, we set out for a rock hop and scrub bash up Macs Mountain. It starts off nice, but we’re soon walking in snow!

We raced off, got to John’s and transferred cars, leaving a grey and wet Hobart behind. With 5 minutes for Graham to drink his coffee at the Lake St Clair visitors centre, we paid for and walked out to the ferry. There seemed to be quite a few different groups going in, and as we walked a lovely lady who was going in to Pine Valley said excitedly to me, “you must be the rock monkey!”.

A brief pause and a hint of sunlight, but it doesn't last long. We just have to drop down that gully to the saddle, and make it up the other side… then back again ;)!

A brief pause and a hint of sunlight, but it doesn’t last long. We just have to drop down that gully to the saddle, and make it up the other side… then back again ;)!

It was very cool to be recognised and to meet someone other than friends and family who had actually read my blog! Her excitement was infectious, and coupled with the excellent weather (it was hard to believe the next day would be foul), I was happy and raring to go.

Macs Mountain.. a one photo summit given the conditions! We did a quick turn and headed straight back down. Fingers and toes numb.

Macs Mountain.. a one photo summit given the conditions! We did a quick turn and headed straight back down. Fingers and toes numb.

We chatted (well, Graham did, while I listened and occasionally piped in) to some others, and I thought about how hearing bits of people’s stories is one of the things I like about random encounters while bushwalking. And then we were at Narcissus, and ready to go. With a few more chats along the way, we made good time to the helipad at Pine Valley, where we ate lunch (I think it’s becoming a custom). I savoured the rest, knowing the real work for the day was up next.

Day 3: Australia day… what a scene to wake up to!

Day 3: Australia day… what a scene to wake up to!

Though it had us dripping in sweat and short of breath, and most relieved to be at the top, lugging 7-day packs up to the start of the Labyrinth was not quite as bad as I’d feared. We passed on the pad to the right that looked like it’d take us to the top of the Parthenon (one day I’ll check it out) in favour of an up and back without packs further along. Both Graham and I had been before, but it was only a short walk, and clag at the end of the Geryon South trip last year had seen the three of us pass on it then, promising John that we would do it one day.

When we finally make our way back down, it isn't long before we have a hint of mountains back, and the rise in spirits (and warmth) seems to be inversely proportionate to our height above sea level (for a bit anyway!)

When we finally make our way back down, it isn’t long before we have a hint of mountains back, and the rise in spirits (and warmth) seems to be inversely proportionate to our height above sea level (for a bit anyway!)

Today was the day. We found a suitable spot, dumped out packs, and made the short scramble up, John in the lead. It was definitely worth the views again, and we took our time admiring them. When we did start heading back down, we were surprised by a holler, a comment about putting a hole in Graham’s pack, and a chuckle.

Yes.. Geryon did rather steal the limelight.

Yes.. Geryon did rather steal the limelight.

I recognised the chuckle at once, it was none other than Greg’s! I’d known the Labyrinth was one option he and another friend Tim had been considering after their Western Arthur plans had changed, but I hadn’t thought about the timing. We scrambled down the last bit and spent some time catching up. It was really great to see them there, even if they teased me with the fact they’d been up mountains I hadn’t! Refuelled with Tim’s delicious home made jerky and dried kiwi fruit (Tim is probably the best chef I know personally), and even more excited by what lay ahead, we said our goodbyes and good lucks for the following day, and headed off in opposite directions.

Time to head back up. There's plenty of water around as the snow is melting fast.

Time to head back up. There’s plenty of water around as the snow is melting fast.

As we walked I pondered Greg’s tale about trying to get up the second, more southern summit of Geryon North, and his nearly quite nasty fall on his return, and wondered how we’d find it. But that would be another day’s challenge. For now we had one last hill to climb, and it was proving to be quite tiring now. But as always, persistence and stops to enjoy the mountains (Geryon South mostly!) got us there, and we were left only with the simple challenge of finding some shelter from the wind.

A much warmer and dryer home for the night, with a pretty stunning view too!

A much warmer and dryer home for the night, with a pretty stunning view too!

The bowl just west of the summit of Walled Mountain is rather lovely, but a little exposed. John’s determination that surpassed both mine and Graham’s found us three relatively sheltered spots, and there we made our home for the next two nights. The cloud was coming in and we knew there’d be no sunset, though if there had been, a short walk would have given us excellent views of it. Instead we cooked dinner (Graham first having to fashion himself a spoon out of one of John’s tent pegs as he’d left his at home) and hopped into our tents to warm up.

Geryon… again ;)!!

Geryon… again ;)!!

The next morning I expected to wake to full on rain after a wet and windy night (didn’t really believe it would snow – this was the middle of summer!), and though it was drizzly, it didn’t seem too bad. We did, however, put our faith in the weather forecast and allow ourselves the luxury of a late start, given we had the spare time up our sleeves. We estimated it would take us something like 4-5 hrs to get to Macs mountain and back, and we’d decided not to move on to camp at Helios that night given we had the time and weren’t too keen on striking tents in the rain.

Really not a bad spot to pitch a tent! You could camp almost anywhere up here, and be there in the same day you leave home. Think I'll be coming back here quite a bit.

Really not a bad spot to pitch a tent! You could camp almost anywhere up here, and be there in the same day you leave home. Think I’ll be coming back here quite a bit.

We set out just before 11 to partial views, the cloud coming and going. It seemed to be holding off, giving us (or at least me) a false sense of optimism. None of us knew a great deal about the terrain, except that there was a drop (where we could take any gully of our choosing), scrub, then a climb up scree. But before all that, we discovered we had a bit (more than expected) of boulder scrambling to do!

Prasophyllum alpinum - alpine leek orchid (thanks to Graham, for spotting and naming)

Prasophyllum alpinum – alpine leek orchid (thanks to Graham, for spotting and naming)

The wet made that slow and careful work, but to take things to the next level (yep, you guessed) it started snowing! The clouds were still swirling, revealing glimpses of Hyperion behind us (I was paying particular attention to it, as not only was it reportedly a nice scramble, it was also set to be my 500th point) and Macs in front.

Hyperion from the summit of Eros. Love how close they are to camp!

Hyperion from the summit of Eros. Love how close they are to camp!

Though perhaps we could have dropped off the rock and sidled underneath in light scrub, we chose to stay high, dropping when the boulders became a bit too big to easily negotiate in the wet. And then we found ourselves standing on the lip of the drop down (straight down) to the saddle. The sun came out in a happy moment of warmth, but it wasn’t to stay.

That evening the light was rather nice..

That evening the light was rather nice..

We understood what was meant now by several different routes down, all doable. The one we’d arrived at looked steep, but both Graham and I thought it was doable. John, ever the scout, headed to the next gully to the left to check out one he’d thought looked good on Google Earth. Again, as always, it paid off, and we had a much more gentle descent.

Geryon looking pretty nice

Geryon dressed for the evening!

We followed a few cairns down the scree, then left to more scree, and felt like we were on some kind of a pad/route. It wasn’t as bad as we’d heard here, though we were still intent on following advice to stay to the left (thanks Louise). Someone had been generous to put up some bright orange tapes, which we managed to stick relatively close to despite the fact you couldn’t really see them until you were already next to them, so they only served to provide confirmation rather than direction.

Down towards Lake St Clair, Gould standing proud

Down towards Lake St Clair, Gould standing proud

We popped out into an open patch in the saddle before the climb, which we’d been aiming for, then found an orange tape on the other side. Great, it might lead us through the scrub! Oh no.. Again, we couldn’t find the next bit of tape so we just plunged in. And yep, it wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. Graham took over, he had the most energy of us, and long legs to go with it. Don’t believe what I think is Chapman’s description of light scrub. It’s not, and plenty of it was more than head high. Having said that, we did find a better way on the return trip, but there were still a few patches of bashing through scoparia and the like.

Day 4: Heading up Hyperion the slightly climby way.. just loved it ;)!

Day 4: Heading up Hyperion the slightly climby way.. just loved it ;)!

We took minimal breaks, because to stop was to get cold. And fast. It was snowing more now, and by the time we hit rock some of it was starting to settle. We pushed on, going at our own paces, occasionally pausing to regroup before continuing onwards. By the time we reached the summit I couldn’t feel fingers or toes despite breathing hard from the climb, so it was a matter of taking one summit shot and turning back around. Not the most enjoyable way to climb a mountain, but I was grateful we hadn’t had to bash through the scrub in heat, and that the weather was such that this would be the only foul day of the week, and as such it couldn’t have been better timed.

The summit of Hyperion, with a small addition to celebrate my 500th peak bagging point. :D!!

The summit of Hyperion, with a small addition to celebrate my 500th peak bagging point. :D!!

As we headed back down I was cold and tired, and pretty much over the snow and rain. I think it was starting to wear on all of us. But still I knew I felt exactly as Graham did when he let out a laugh, shook his head with incredulity, and made a comment about how crazy we are to enjoy this kind of thing! Because we do, I do. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else if I had the choice. Call me crazy, I don’t really mind :)!

Geryon North looking like a fun scramble. But fun only insofar as you stay safe!

Geryon North looking like a fun scramble. But fun only insofar as you stay safe!

Though colder, the sun having given up fighting the snow, the trip back seemed easier, but perhaps that was just because the challenge of route finding had been taken out of the equation now, or I was more focused on staying warm. We skipped lunch, preferring to snack and keep moving, for which I was silently most grateful (I feel the cold more than either John or Graham).

The Acropolis reaches its fingers skyward, as if to try and run them through the cloud

The Acropolis reaches its fingers skyward, as if to try and run them through the cloud

When we arrived back at the tents in the late afternoon (6 hrs after having started out) it was all about getting dry and warm. Food (lunch, soup and half a dinner) was an after thought.

The gentians were beautiful and happy

The gentians were beautiful and happy

The snow was still falling, though it was forecast to stop that night. I ducked out in between flurries to go to the loo before bed, and on my return was surprised to hear a plop of something landing in the snow to my right. A few moments later, a snowball hit my shoulder. Not a bad shot! It was hard in the dark, because while you can see your target, you have little idea of how poor your aim is. A disapproving ‘awww’ is about the only indication you get that you landed a snowball on target. It was actually a good way to get warm!

Scrambling up the last bit on Geryon North

Scrambling up the last bit on Geryon North

It took a while to warm up the tent, but I eventually did, and managed to get bits of sleep in between waking up cold. I was surprised it was still snowing at 2am, concerned by 6. The side of my tent had accumulated so much snow I woke up at one point to find it pushing against my face. A push back sorted it for a bit.

Not quite as strong as he thought he was, Graham pits himself against the dolerite.

Not quite as strong as he thought he was, Graham pits himself against the dolerite.

It was still snowing in the morning, and there was a decent coating on everything around us. It was an untouched, pristine world. We decided to wait. All we had to do was move to Lake Helios, so we had half a day spare. We could do the mountains either today or tomorrow, it didn’t really matter. I was glad we didn’t have to pack in the wet and cold, as I wasn’t looking forward to putting on wet clothes or pulling tent pegs out of snow (that’s most painful on fingers). I could also use a bit of extra sleep. So that’s what we did.

On the way back the sun comes out, and Geryon lights up!

On the way back the sun comes out, and Geryon lights up!

I dozed, waking occasionally to a slightly lighter, warmer world, and the hope that maybe the sun was back for good. You never appreciate the sun quite as much as you do when you’re in the snow and half your gear is wet. But each time it turned the tent world a glowing warm orange, it would disappear again.

Some pretty impressive dolerite pillars ,near and far.

Some pretty impressive dolerite pillars ,near and far.

By midday, when the forecast had the chance of rain down to 5%, we make the call to eat a light lunch then pack and move. It drizzled while we packed, and we hastened to start walking. It didn’t matter though, by the time we’d dropped just a little bit of height we were already much warmer, feeling more normal, were out of the cloud, and had started to regain some of our views. It was lovely to watch a snow dusted Gould materialise between wispy white curtains, and the Geryons and the Acropolis be revealed as the cloud gradually lifted.

Looking out to the rest of the range. A bit exciting, I'd not seen it in full before now. All that green is one massive stretch of fagus!

Looking out to the rest of the range. A bit exciting, I’d not seen it in full before now. All that green is one massive stretch of fagus!

Soon we were stripping off layers, and with the warmth came a new energy and pleasure. Slowly we dried out. We paused for rain jacket maintenance at the junction with the Labyrinth track, and ran into a group of four (one of whom I knew) who were also doing the traverse (but a bit faster than us). We had a series of chats as we passed one another at various times on the climb up onto the range.

We head over the Du Cane highpoint, which is really just a formality, though the views are still lovely :)

We head over the Du Cane highpoint, which is really just a formality, though the views are still lovely 🙂

The track was excellent, the views continued to astound, and the camping proved to be just perfect. We’d intended to camp at Lake Helios, which sounded beautiful, but the other group had said they were just going to find some flat ground and water and camp higher up. When we saw what was up there, we did exactly the same. It meant we had better views, and would save the climb back up with full packs. The wind wasn’t going to be an issue, but we did shelter a little over the northern side of the highest point of the plateau. It was a stunning spot!

And we take a good look at the terrain ahead, wondering excitedly what the next few days will bring!

And we take a good look at the terrain ahead, wondering excitedly what the next few days will bring!

Having started out in snow that morning (well afternoon really – 12.40!), the sun was now shining brightly and the sky was very definitely blue behind fluffy cloud. Not to be wasted, we chose to duck over to Mount Eros that evening, before returning for dinner. It wasn’t exactly the 25mins return as advised (but anyone who knows him knows Jared walks FAST), but it was really rather nice to be sitting on the summit of a mountain, having made something more of the day than just a change of camp sites.

That night the sun sets the rock alight, but in doing so, zaps all the warmth out of the air

That night the sun sets the rock alight, but in doing so, zaps all the warmth out of the air

It was cold again as soon as the sun went down, and the cloud was back, so it was a little bit easier to say our goodnights and close zips to the world outside. Later that night, coming back from a trip to the loo I startled, and was startled by, a yabbie who had made his home in the small soak closest to my tent. Everything glistened with frost and the stars were bright. I smiled at that very strong feeling of living in, and (almost) with nature. It felt, as always, so free, pure, natural, right and worthy of sharing and celebrating. This is where I belong, who I am.

Macs sits on the horizon, as we say our goodnights and retire to our tents.

Macs sits on the horizon, as we say our goodnights and retire to our tents.

The following morning was cool, but the sun was out and I was excited for the day ahead. We had the time, and the spot was just so lovely that we decided we’d stay another night, taking our time to spend the day climbing Hyperion, Geryon North and Du Cane in that order.

Day 5: Down to Big Gun Pass we head (that would be the gun there) and back up the other side.. most of today is on rock :D!

Day 5: Down to Big Gun Pass we head (that would be the gun there) and back up the other side.. most of today is on rock :D!

We set off shortly after 9.30, Hyperion in our sights. As with all the walking this trip (with the exception of our bash out to Macs), the terrain consisted of low (very low) alpine scrub and scree, which made navigation quite easy, and just a bit fun. We’d already been worded up on the scramble up Hyperion – left for the easier route, right for the slightly more airy one (and a hint that a revised Abels description might make use of a northern route).

The Thetis-Achilles-Perrins range looking lovely on the horizon

The Thetis-Achilles-Perrins range looking lovely on the horizon

When we hit the scree on the left shoulder of Hyperion (if looking at it from our campsite – the direction from which we approached, naturally) and started to climb, Graham handed the lead over to me. This one was my mountain :D! That of course meant I got to choose the route, and you can guess which way that meant going! Yep, straight up and to the right. It was a tad airy, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely in my element and enjoying every moment.

Did I mention rock? Nice to have it dry and grippy.. I do love that stuff!

Did I mention rock? Nice to have it dry and grippy.. I do love that stuff!

A short bounce across rock and there was the summit, complete with a small but proud cairn. It needed a temporary crown to celebrate my 500th point, and with that taken care of, it was time for some special Lindt balls that I’d been saving for the occasion. Perfect! One last thing – a selfie (I chickened out on this, and got Graham to take a photo of me instead) which I promised to send to a friend who has been on many walks with me (and still does come on walks, but in a different way now), and knows just what it means to get to 500 points.

Eldon Bluff (and range!) comes into view behind Hyperion. One day… :)

Eldon Bluff (and range!) comes into view behind Hyperion. One day… 🙂

We enjoyed for a little longer, then thought about moving on. John suggested checking out the northern route, and it looked like there was a fairly well walked pad, with the occasional cairn or two. Neither Graham or I were fussed, so the adventure was on. Though it didn’t seem like we were heading north, my GPS route shows we were, and we dropped off quite quickly, but without the airiness of our ascent.

We're amazed with the bowl we find before us.. where shall we camp??! Too many choices. We select tarns on the far ridge to bathe in. So nice to feel clean :)!

We’re amazed with the bowl we find before us.. where shall we camp??! Too many choices. We select tarns on the far ridge to bathe in. So nice to feel clean :)!

When we were down, we sidled around to the right, following grassy ledges without losing much, or any, height. It was quite pleasant and different, and we popped out onto the scree we’d headed up on. Lovely route back!

Our camp site in the bowl below Massif (from which the photo was taken). Just love those layers of mountain ranges beyond!

Our camp site in the bowl below Massif (from which the photo was taken). Just love those layers of mountain ranges beyond!

It was midday when we got back to the tents, so we had an earlish relaxed lunch before setting off once again for Geryon North. It didn’t take us long to walk on to the track (there’s a pretty big cairn that’s hard to miss in good weather), and from there it was easy sailing as we climbed gradually up the flank. The snow fight from the other night continued, as did the teasing and laughter. What a simple world it can be.

The beauty about being all of 10 minutes from the summit of Mount Massif, means it's no big deal to duck up for sunset.. Oh the views!

The beauty about being all of 10 minutes from the summit of Mount Massif, means it’s no big deal to duck up for sunset.. Oh the views!

When we hit the ridge it was rather exciting to finally get a view of the rest of the range that we’d be traversing (I’d not had a good look at it before then). It looked good, very good (that means nice and rocky!). The brilliant green carpet of fagus below was massive, and I’m set on a return trip one April to see it as it changes. Not to be outdone, the dolerite was massive in quite another sense – the Acropolis’ pillars were as impressive as you’ll ever see them from any perspective.

And if you turn around, even more views..!

And if you turn around, even more views..!

We took the time to take it all in before continuing south to Geryon North, which looked quite different! The track takes you along the western side. We ignored a few that didn’t look particularly attractive, before heading up a bit that looked climby, but doable. Graham scrambled up. John followed his route, while I climbed up a few metres to the left.

Sunset behind Hyperion and Macs is pretty neat

Sunset behind Hyperion and Macs is pretty neat

At the top of the 2-3m scramble I turned to check John was up. He was, nearly, then a hand or something slipped and in an instant he was back down where he’d started, a few metres below. Though he landed on his feet his momentum took him backwards towards a bush, below which was a much longer drop. Something, instinct perhaps, had him roll to the side when he hit it, instead of continuing a backwards somersault over the edge. All I could do was yell out “Oh shit, John!”

Almost over. A short but most enjoyable day!

Almost over. A short but most enjoyable day!

But we were all lucky. He was perhaps a little bruised, but otherwise ok. He didn’t let on if he was at all shaken, instead he checked out the way I’d climbed up, and with a hand that was more for reassurance than necessity he was up, and we were on our way. It was another reminder of the respect the mountains rightly deserve, and of how a walk, and lives, can change in a moment.

Day 6: Again we wait for the mist to clear (we have the luxury of time) before taking the grassy green gully down. Instinct says to stay high, but when you round the corner it's clear why you don't!

Day 6: Again we wait for the mist to clear (we have the luxury of time) before taking the grassy green gully down. Instinct says to stay high, but when you round the corner it’s clear why you don’t!

We continued on carefully, passing under the summit then climbing up to the ridge and turning back, approaching it from the south. We could see the stack of rocks even further south that Greg had talked about in his attempt to climb to the more southern high point (but not the highest). Graham made mention of it later, but not in the usual suggestive ‘shall we check it out’ manner. We both knew with out really having to talk about it that it wasn’t happening today: there was no need and it wasn’t appropriate.

There's some pretty big boulders to negotiate, and dropping down brings you out in just the right spot! Though the cloud persists almost all day, it's kind enough to give us our views still

There’s some pretty big boulders to negotiate, and dropping down brings you out in just the right spot! Though the cloud persists almost all day, it’s kind enough to give us our views still

Graham gave John the lead, he’d more than earned the right, and we followed him up. On top we celebrated quietly, took in the views, talked about the mountains, went for a rock on a rocking rock until John and I got a bit carried away (the rock no longer rocks)! A snack for energy, and time to mentally prepare for the descent, then we were heading back down. It was straight forward, and we were quickly down the climby bits.

We don't believe there's a lot of water on Falling Mountain, so we have full drink bottles and hydration bladders, and drink from tarns and soaks as we go. Falling Mountain gets progressively closer

We don’t believe there’s a lot of water on Falling Mountain, so we have full drink bottles and hydration bladders, and drink from tarns and soaks as we go. Falling Mountain gets progressively closer

The sun came out from between the clouds and the rock glowed in its light. Graham pitted his strength against it, and you can guess the result. The mood was lighter now, as we wandered the easy walk over (yes, over, more than up) to the Du Cane Range high point. Though it wasn’t much of a summit, fittingly marked by a stick protruding from a cairn, the views were lovely, and I was drawn to the eastern edge.

I get to lead the climb up Falling Mountain. I love it, love the rock, love the freedom to choose any path you wish, the feeling you get when a pivot or series of moves propels you up with more ease than you thought possible..

I get to lead the climb up Falling Mountain. I love it, love the rock, love the freedom to choose any path you wish, the feeling you get when a pivot or series of moves propels you up with more ease than you thought possible..

Looking over at the rest of the range as the light stretched long and warm, I wondered what the following day would hold for us, and the one after. I could never have imagined, and I’m glad of that, for it would have lost some of its beauty, its surprise… its gift. Satisfied with an idea of what we would face for the first part of the day, we turned and headed back to camp, more than ready for a good dinner.

We drop packs near the saddle, liking the look of a few possible camp spots there, and head on up to the summit of Castle Crag. Graham is sidetracked by two cairns, where he finds a decent source of water!

We drop packs near the saddle, liking the look of a few possible camp spots there, and head on up to the summit of Castle Crag. Graham is sidetracked by two cairns, where he finds a decent source of water!

We sat on a rock above our tents, enjoying the view before us, eating and chatting. We returned to our tents to warm up (or in my case, doze off) before reemerging to check out the sunset. For a precious few moments it painted the world orange, and everything basked in its beauty. As soon as it was gone, blue replaced orange, cold replaced warmth, and we were scurrying to our tents, keen to warm back up.

John checks out the view east from the summit of Castle Crag, the dolerite was amazing!

John checks out the view east from the summit of Castle Crag, the dolerite was amazing!

The next morning was the closest we got to a sunrise, though John wasn’t too convinced. Graham and I tried to make the most of the gaps in the mist that came and went as it pleased (more of the former than the latter), and succeeded in enjoying it for what it was, not what it wasn’t. It was cold though, so when the colour was gone we returned to the warmth of our respective sleeping bags, and each of us cooked breakfast from our tents.

There were car, truck, even lorry sized boulders. Those that had been standing straight had rounded tops. Graham looks like he's been playing dominos.

There were car, truck, even lorry sized boulders. Those that had been standing straight had rounded tops. Graham looks like he’s been playing dominos.

We chose again to opt for a late start, as we waited for the mist to burn off and the sun to dry the dew from our tents. I took the chance to catch up on sleep and find a soak to half wash in (not bad, but it would be out done later that day!). I’m not entirely sure what the guys did, perhaps similarly, with the addition of making repairs to gear.

We sit, sipping hot drinks, looking towards Geryon, chatting away, just enjoying. Jokes are made about Graham and John looking like a pair of bums or tramps, but I would, and I do, trust them with my life. They're two of the finest bushwalking mates you could have.

We sit, sipping hot drinks, looking towards Geryon, chatting away, just enjoying. Jokes are made about Graham and John looking like a pair of bums or tramps, but I would, and I do, trust them with my life. They’re two of the finest bushwalking mates you could have.

By 11 we were off, over Du Cane (left of the high point), and looking down to Big Gun Pass. I’d been under the impression it was a scramble down, but it’s not really, and there was a cairned pad to follow. We took our time as a result of the scenery, not the level of difficulty. The ‘Big Gun’ was prominent, and certainly commanded attention.

Tucked away from the southeasterly. It's a lovely spot. There's also room to camp a whole army up near the summit, but it's slightly less sheltered.

Tucked away from the southeasterly. It’s a lovely spot. There’s also room to camp a whole army up near the summit, but it’s slightly less sheltered.

We couldn’t find any cairns heading back up the other side, and opted for Graham and Becca default approach of ‘straight up’. John is perhaps a little more cautious in this regard, and perhaps more intelligent in being so! We could have taken a slightly more contoured approach, but then we wouldn’t have had the views off both sides.

Tents are up, we have plenty of time, and we want some more definite info on which way to get off Falling mountain, so we go exploring over the saddle and down to a gully. We find cairns, and are relatively happy with the terrain. At the same time, we have a bit of fun in natures own playground. The rock was like a skate park, and it was hard to resist the urge to run, jump and bound a way around it all!

Tents are up, we have plenty of time, and we want some more definite info on which way to get off Falling mountain, so we go exploring over the saddle and down to a gully. We find cairns, and are relatively happy with the terrain. At the same time, we have a bit of fun in natures own playground. The rock was like a skate park, and it was hard to resist the urge to run, jump and bound a way around it all!

Part way up we figured there couldn’t be a better spot for lunch, so we stopped on the rocks and ate. There were more rocks to follow (such fun!), and one or two dips to drop down courtesy of our ‘straight up’ approach. But no matter, in a little bit we were standing on the edge of rocks looking across a beautiful green bowl that was dotted with small tarns, some of which were connected by squiggly little rivers.

This wedgie came to say hi twice, and came really low on a number of passes. We were simply mesmerised :D!!

This wedgie came to say hi twice, and came really low on a number of passes. We were simply mesmerised :D!!

“How could it get better than this?” With a bathe in a tarn, we decided. But first the guys decided on the most suitable spot to camp (wind was the first and most important consideration, then flat ground and water), tents were pitched, and (who could forget!) we had a summit to climb. A short 10 minutes later and there we were, on the summit of Mount Massif, which was massive on all accounts, most especially the views!! Words just don’t suffice.

Again, we headed for the summit for sunset, it was 5 minutes away. Looking south to the Traveller Range.

Again, we headed for the summit for sunset, it was 5 minutes away. Looking south to the Traveller Range.

We wandered around, checked out the views from another point on the northern edge (worth it) and, despite reluctance to leave such a special place, eventually pulled ourselves away in favour of a much anticipated bathe in a tarn. We selected tarns on the far rim, unlikely to be used for drinking water, and took it in turns.

Rogoona calls ;)!

Rogoona calls ;)!

John went, returned, and raved. We checked out what looked like a sink hole. Graham went, returned, and raved. I went, and understood. Pure bliss. Though the wind was cold, the sun was deliciously warm on bare skin, and the tarn I chose had been warmed sufficiently to be comfortable, but still refreshing. One small piece of tek towel that I usually used as a camera wipe worked wonderfully as a scrubber, and I laughed at the incredulity and novelty of me having clean knees half way through a 7 day walk.

Cathedral and Pelion East. And sun on rock.

Cathedral and Pelion East. And sun on rock.

After drying off I did enjoy a luxurious moment in the sun, but figured I’d better dress and get back, as two other hungry tummies were keen to dig into John’s promise of soft cheese, biscuits and frangelico. YummMMM! I felt a little bad, as in December we’d decided not to bring treats given it was a 7 day walk, but both Graham and John had (Graham had Lindt balls). So I’d saved the last three days worth of mini mars bars I’d brought for me, and offered them as desert to compliment John’s spread. The only other thing I had had to share were two cherries, and I’d given them one each for breakfast the day before. I decided never to trust those kind of agreements in the future ;)!

It might have taken almost all day to finally break through the cloud, but the sun was making up for it now! Soon the sky was fiery red

It might have taken almost all day to finally break through the cloud, but the sun was making up for it now! Soon the sky was fiery red

Back at camp we selected a spot, and sat down to enjoy good food, company, and place. It was pretty perfect. Ok, it was perfect. In addition to discussion of food, cameras and routes, we had a very interesting ‘thing’ (aka ‘little guy with strange dress habits’ – in Graham’s words) to keep us entertained. It took a little while to convince the two guys that 30mls of frangelico wasn’t making me tipsy and seeing things, mind you!

As it dipped below the horizon, reds turned to pinks, and the show continued. It would last longer than I could keep my eyes open.

As it dipped below the horizon, reds turned to pinks, and the show continued. It would last longer than I could keep my eyes open.

What looked like a bit of the end of a plant seemed to be moving of its own accord, and not with assistance of the wind. I couldn’t figure it out. Graham didn’t believe me, and he knocked it over with the tip of a finger to see if it would stand back up. After a few minutes of no movement, it must have sensed that danger had passed, and to our surprise a black worm like thing stuck out of the ‘bottom’, bent over until it was touching the ground, then righted the bit of leaf-like matter. It looked like just another bit of growth on a cushion plant! Amazing (and slightly satisfying to prove I was right)!

Day 7: Back to reality time :(. We head down the gully selected the day before, and, following Graham's fine nose, pick a relatively easy path through the scrub, popping out onto the Overland Track at Du Cane Gap.

Day 7: Back to reality time :(. We head down the gully selected the day before, and, following Graham’s fine nose, pick a relatively easy path through the scrub, popping out onto the Overland Track at Du Cane Gap.

We returned to our tents for some respite before dinner, and I took the chance to jot down some notes and have a lie down. Though we’d not walked far or strenuously at all, I was sufficiently sleepy, perhaps from the sun. But it was dinner time soon enough, and we enjoyed that as we had our biscuits and cheese. For desert we had the sunset, which we chose to enjoy from Mount Massif. It was simply beautiful. I decided that it wasn’t a bad thing for walking to sometimes be about pure indulgence ;).

Again, the cold dictated a swift return, and as I lay in bed that night, it was hard not to be grateful for what was and to have hope for and feel excitement over how I might get to live this ‘wild and precious’ life of mine into the future. Being out there, in that place (physical, mental, emotional), seems to have this affect on me. I feel free, encouraged to make change, to be all that I want to and can be, to explore and discover. I drifted off, completely at peace.

The following morning we once again woke to mist, and responded in our (by now) typical fashion: back to bed! It’s a tough life!! I didn’t mind.. in fact, I could quite get used to it! There was no sun, but the mist had lifted sufficiently by 11, and we were ready to navigate our way through what we expected to be the toughest part of the walk.

We’d been told to ignore Chapman’s route suggestion, and take the obvious grassy gully. It was cairned at both top and bottom, so despite feeling like it was wrong to drop down so much, we didn’t protest. The reason was soon apparent, and dropping down led us out onto the ridge ahead without us needing to scramble over some pretty big and rough looking boulders. Nor did we have to regain any height, the primary reason for instinctively wanting to stay as high as possible.

Though the sun still hid behind thick grey clouds, our views weren’t impeded, and we enjoyed them as we wove our way along occasionally cairned pads. We drunk from tarns as we passed them, believing that Falling mountain was pretty dry. I got the pleasure of leading up the final scree climb, which I simply loved.

And then we were there, in a grassy little saddle looking back at our range, taking a little bit of pride in the fact that we’d been up pretty much every mountain we could see! Across the other side of the saddle was the route we later decided (after sufficient exploration) that we’d take out. But for now we dumped packs and went to check out the summit.

We didn’t get there. As we walked along two cairns appeared on our horizon, close together, and we wondered what they were there for. Graham suspected they might mark water. He was right, they marked a decent sized soak, which made us all breathe a little easier.

Water sorted, we turned again to the summit. It wasn’t far, and was pretty speccy too. Flatish, with a nice sized cairn, what struck first was the dolerite rock and the way it had eroded. It’s hard to describe, quite amazing to take in. And then of course there were the views!! We played for a bit, then headed back, via a campsite big enough to fit an army (if a tad exposed)!

It was time to put the tents up, but we promptly forgot all that when a wedge tailed eagle came to say hello.. a very personal hello from all of about 10-15 metres. He or she was just magnificent, and we stood and stared, stunned looks of awe and amazement on our open mouthed faces. It was very special, and would be repeated later that evening too!

With tents set up and time to spare before dinner, Graham and I decided to check out the gully on the other side of the saddle. The first part struck me as being like a skate park, and it was impossible to resist running and jumping from one rock to another, so I didn’t really try too hard ;)! Further down we found a few cairns, and though there was no really distinct path, we eventually concluded it would work, and looked relatively straight forward. Interpreting route descriptions is always a difficult task, and though Graham was slightly more hesitant, I was pretty happy with what we had, even if it differed from some of the notes we had.

We returned to the tents, which seemed to still be in the shade despite much greater expanses of blue sky above! We rejoiced at every bit of sun we did get, though it was not nearly as much as we’d have liked. We sat around drinking hot drinks, chatting about tomorrow’s route, cooking dinner and laughing at Graham’s attempts to take a photo into the sun of his Strive meal in front of Geryon.

Our wedgie returned, and came as close again (:D!) before it was time to head back over to the summit for sunset. And what a sunset for our last night (our sixth night at about 1400m!). I think we all forgave the sun for having been absent for most of the day as the sun turned the sky on fire. It lasted forever. It was like it sensed my (our?) reluctance for the evening to end, and stretched time for us. What a special place the Du Cane range is, one that for me is up there with the best of them.

There was to be no sleep in on our last day. We had a 3.45pm ferry to catch, and we had to get down and out, regardless of what the mist was doing. It was, as expected, misty when we woke, but we had decided on an 8am start, so we got moving. It wasn’t so bad, and after dropping down only a very short way we were under the cloud. After the usual amount of discussion over routes, we finally settled on following Graham’s nose, which was in top form, and wove us out on a relatively easy route through the scrub!

In some ways, the hardest part of the walk was to follow. I found it difficult to get into a rhythm, to not drag my feet, to find motivation to keep walking. The reason was I really didn’t want to be going home. Who would, after a trip like that? Not least of all because I just don’t know how much I’ll be able to walk (to new and exciting places at least) in the next few years – a very scary prospect!

All up: a very very cruisy and beautiful 67km, 4089m ascent.

A very big thank you to John and Graham for making it all that it was, and for putting up with me again ;)!

 

 

 

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