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 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…
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 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.
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).
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.
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).
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!
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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