Geryon South is about as close to a favourite mountain I think I’ll ever have. It’s a walk I’ve wanted to do since I heard about it.. well, really since I heard about the so called ‘slab of death’ and chockstone you have to negotiate to get to the summit ;). And yes, standing on the summit of the Acropolis earlier in the year and looking over at Geryon (and the slab was very obvious), had me wanting to climb it for its own sake too. Dry weather was going to be a must, and the ferry in would make things much easier, so it was saved for better weather and a time when hopefully there’d be other people to share the cost of the ferry with.
A few months ago a few of us set a date, and then the waiting and hoping began. Always you want good weather, but for some mountains and some walks (and this was no exception) you REALLY want good weather. As the date approached I was in two minds about whether or not to go, I wasn’t exactly in good sorts, and was worried that the weekend would just make things worse, and I’d make it miserable for everyone else. But the weather was looking good, and I really wanted to climb Geryon South.
A last minute pep talk half convinced me, and once again, I found myself turning up to work on no sleep, resigned to the fact that if my body really needs it, I figure it’ll get it. With no time to waste, needing to be off nice and early to catch the ferry, I put my head down and had a very smooth night’s work. But the tiredness caught up, and by the time I was sitting in the back of John’s car, so too did the emotions. I listened to John and Graham chatting away in the front, doubting whether or not I should be there, but knowing it was a little too late to do anything about.
Having made good time, we went through the usual motions at the Lake St Clair car park, and once ready, went to pay for the ferry, where we discovered that only the three of us were booked to go, so we’d have to fork out double the price. We um-ed and ah-ed over whether to just do it, walk the lakeside, or wait for the midday ferry. But the desire to get going, with the possibility of making the summit that evening, won out over any financial concerns we might have had.
The mist was low and the mountains hiding, so the ride over was spent looking at photos from the weekend before. A departing wave and good luck from the ferry guy (he’s a bit of fun and always interested in what we’re up to), and we were good to go. As we walked in, we passed quite a few people walking out, and with each brief meeting my excitement increased. They had almost finished their adventures, ours were just beginning. The weather was improving all the time too, and less than 3 hours after having started out we were sitting on the Pine Valley helipad eating lunch under blue sky and sun. My one luxury, an avocado, went down a bit too well and I thought I probably should have brought two! Everything else put aside, it was hard not to smile.
Hunger satiated, we set off tentatively, on the lookout for our turn off. After 15 minutes of walking, 951m according to my GPS, we came to a decent sized tree lying along the left hand side of the track, with a wooden signpost reading ‘Acropolis’ nailed along its length, pointing along the track. This was our cue. Looking over the trunk was a red blaze on a tree a stones throw away, and a fairly decent pad could be discerned. Satisfied, we set off.
The track was fairly good to follow. Tapes, blazes, the occasional arrow, and a mostly clear pad. There were some spots where the tapes went off in two directions (take your pick), or required a bit of looking around to spot the next one, or where the pad seemed to disappear. But by and large we didn’t have too much trouble moving along, and being as open as it was it didn’t really matter if we didn’t stay on track. It was nice forest to walk through, and we took time to enjoy it and the river along which we seemed to be walking (roughly). One particular waterfall necessitated a slightly longer photography break ;).
An hour and a half after having left Pine Valley we were at the Geryon South camp, complete with sign and all (in case we didn’t know?). Tents were up with the usual amount of joking around, and 40 minutes later we were ready to set off for the summit. I don’t think I was the only one excited, if the moment we got our first glimpse of the summit poking through a gap in the trees was anything to go by! A little bit more forest to go through with tapes that weren’t so reliable, and we popped out onto the bottom of a scree field, a cairn a short distance away.
The scree field runs a fair way up the side of the mountain (though you can’t quite see that when you’re standing at the bottom of it), and we made our way slowly up. Not because it was difficult (though pretty much straight up), but more because every few rock hops we’d stop to take a photo of the ever changing view! But it is a mountain to be enjoyed, so enjoy we did.
I was slightly put out by the fact that my gps, for the first time ever, was having trouble with signals. The accuracy was as low as 60m error, so it just couldn’t be trusted. Though the route was well cairned and the pad quite decent from here on up, I was nonetheless glad I was in company I trusted completely. It meant though the gps issue was annoying (though understandable, given that there was a decent chunk of rock between me and the satellites it needed to talk to), it wasn’t of real concern (as it would have been if I’d been alone – I don’t like rude shocks like that when walking solo).
So up we went, just full of delight at the mountain, the views and being out in it all with good company. It had been a while since I’d felt quite like that, and it was nice to feel it again. We worked our way up and zigged to the right, passing a not so well thought out bivvy cave, and zagging back to the left for a bit. A yelp from me came a bit too late as a wedgie flew past, a little lower than us, but really quite close, and around behind the rock. But another followed in suit, though a little further away, so John and Graham didn’t think I was going completely bonkers. Down into a gully we climbed, then back up.
When we popped onto the top of the ridge, it was hard not to let out a whoop. The views south towards the dolerite columns of the Acropolis were most impressive, and we took our time taking it in before realising that looking north gave a sight that increased the heart rate just a tad :D!! The slab was directly in front of us, looking just wonderful!! I was just a little keen to give it a go, but wanted photos of the other two climbing up so hung back and did just that. It was lovely grippy dolerite, and in the dry isn’t difficult to walk straight up. You probably wouldn’t want to try it in the wet, though with a lot of care a very confident walker could navigate it safely in the wet.
That done, we set off up the next and final climby bit. A few fun spots, with Graham making one much more interesting than it needed to be (but you can guess who followed just to try the challenge), and we were looking up at the chockstone, which looked like it was pretty much at the top of our climb. A few moments of thinking and trying things out, and Graham had thrown his pack and camera up (there was no not getting up now!) and had climbed his way under and around. My turn next, then John.
The summit was temporarily forgotten as we stood there, pretty much on the top, and celebrated the views with some pretty big smiles (and yep, lots of photos)! But time was getting on (it was just after 5.30 and we’d taken nearly 2.5 hours to get there), so we walked the short distance over to the summit rock, and did the customary poses on or next to it. The light wasn’t the best for photos, but that didn’t dampen the mood at all! We tried to get a look at the gunsight or whatever it’s called between Geryon South and North, but you didn’t really get a good appreciation of it from that angle. It was a bit tough to look over and see the cairn on Geryon North, so close and yet so far away! But that would wait till the Du Cane circuit, which I was now looking forward to much more.
We had to leave pretty much straight away, but not before I received a message that had been sent the week before and made me panic about work (not cool, but eventually sorted), and a quick chat to a good friend who would have just loved to have been there, but had spent the day running 23km or so (despite having been told for medical reasons to take things easy – i.e. no strenuous physical exercise!).
We moved faster on the way back down, but still managed to enjoy both the chockstone and slab. The scree, which for the large part was small stuff that moved under you as you walked, was almost harder going down than it had been coming up. But with a little bit of patience, sore knees and some interesting surfy moves every now and again, we made it to the bottom safely. The tapes in the forest were confusing as ever – all over the place, and as random as anything, though it wasn’t hard to head for the river then work our way towards camp.
Pretty chuffed with our effort, we sat around and enjoyed dinner and desert, then retired to bed. Exhausted from no sleep, work, and then a decent but very awesome walk, I was out like a light, barely even having had time to think about the following day’s plans to head up to the rl of Memories, and think about climbing something there.
An easy morning followed, though poor Graham found himself at the butt of more jokes about time management. John felt for him, and pitched in with a few minutes to go to help him break his tent poles. Not having worked with floating ferrels before, John ended up with a lopsided bundle, which made me laugh even more. But taking pity, and feeling slightly guilty, I offered to fix it. 3 minutes after our revised leaving time of 8.30, Graham was packed and ready to go.
We followed John across the river and its beautiful mossy emerald green banks, and up a cairned/taped/padded route that we never would have known about had John not been there before. It was straight up, and had us all warm and awake in no time. Onto a bit of scree and we had views back towards Geryon South!
I know I was glad now that we’d forked out the extra for the ferry, as the summit was in the bottom of light mist, which looked like it might blow away eventually, but if the weather forecast we’d had the evening before was to be accurate, likely wouldn’t. Fortunately the weather hadn’t got the memo about what it was supposed to be doing, and it continued to improve. The rain we were expecting from 11am onwards clearly wasn’t going to happen, and a revised forecast confirmed that, so, now up on the plateau, we headed lazily for the Pool of Memories, thinking about what we might like to do.
Thoughts were interrupted by the views on the way over and once there, and we took dozens more photos while trying to avoid the sharp bites of hundreds of ants. It is a lovely little place, and you can understand why the ants have made it their home. After a brief chat with a party of three who had spent the night there, we made up our minds to camp at Lake Elysia and have a crack at Walled Mountain, checking out the route over to Macs and possible camp sites for when we would have a go at the Du Cane circuit.
It was lovely walking from the Pool of Memories to Elysia, and we kept ourselves puzzled and intrigued all at the same time at whether we were looking at the Minotaur or Gould. There were arguments both ways, and as it turned out, we were looking at both! One was in front of the other, but the lines blended in so well it looked like just one mountain. The mystery finally resolved, we set about choosing a campsite and setting up.
Lunch with some more ants taught us that if you were selective about where you sat you could avoid the worst of them. And then it was time to go and do some more of this enjoying business.. so we set off towards Walled, following a faint pad, which later turned into a decent cairned route. The views opened up the higher we climbed, and so we continued in the same fashion as we’d approached the whole day: relaxed and in no hurry to do anything but enjoy every moment. So we stopped whenever one of us felt like taking a photo, or to examine the most pristine of cushion plants you’ve ever seen, to name mountains, enjoy the taste of dew from waratahs or check out the clouds of greeny-yellow pollen that we sent wafting into the air every time we brushed past a certain plant.
It wasn’t a difficult climb at all, and even with a very relaxed approach it didn’t take us long to get to the summit, then wander further along the top, marvelling at the magnificent drops down steep gullies/chutes, until we came to another vantage point. We sat here for some time, enjoying the sun, snacks and one another’s company. Most of our attention was taken by Geryon South and the Acropolis, but there was a whole heap more to look at, particularly part of the Du Cane range, which I hadn’t seen much of before. Hyperion looked especially attractive ;)!
While John and Graham phoned their wives, I sent a few messages, a little concerned for a friend who was leading her first walk for the club in some pretty foul weather and not the best of health. We sat there some more, until some currawong screeching alerted us to the presence of a wedgie, who had clearly got a bit too close to a nest. The two currawongs were right onto him, and didn’t let up till he’d flown far enough away.
As always, we did eventually have to head back down, but had a bit of childish fun kicking or throwing decent sized rocks down one of the steep gullies and listening to them bounce and crash their way down, just to see how steep it was, and to test our crazy suspicions that you might be able to climb down that way. A long drop at the bottom had us all agree on a ‘maybe not’ for that one, but the next one along looked ok. We were in no more of a hurry heading back down, and it was really nice to have that kind of a ‘bonus’ relaxing day.
By the time we were back the clouds had dropped, and we’d ruled out hope of a sunset, which was a bit of a pity, but still the day had been better than we’d expected! So we did it justice by finishing it off with cheese and biscuits, port, Lindt and rum balls, dinner, and some more custard. Just a few luxuries ;)! I was more tired than I had been the day before, but the lake with Geryon South behind was a bit nice, and it was hard not to wander over to its edge and just be for a moment or two. Graham wandered over and we chatted for a bit, until it got too cold and was well past my bed time.
The alarm went off at 5.15 and I stuck my head out to a perfectly still but cloudy morning. I got up anyway, and stumbled the short distance down to the lake, where Geryon and the Acropolis were reflected without flaw on the glass like surface. It didn’t take long before the water started to stir, the cloud dropped lower and hid the top half of both mountains, and drops of rain fell. I went to check out Walled Mountain, then retreated to my tent to sit out the rain.
We were in no real rush to get going, as we had to wait for the last ferry, and we managed to time things just right. It wasn’t to rain again after we made the call to strike our tents, and though we walked down and out to Pine Valley in mist (which was very different but also quite nice), there was promise of lifting cloud and possible blue sky. Sure enough, as we trudged somewhat tiredly along the track, the sun came out and warmed us just a bit too efficiently, and by the time we were at Narcissus it was back to shorts and shirt weather.
We ate, and while a mature John made the most of the sun and dried his tent and stuff, Graham and I took up the challenge of trying and hit a bit of tree stump on the far side of the river with rocks. We both got very close, but not quite close enough! And then it was time to head down to the jetty, and watch a swallow dart around, this way and that, as he caught some lunch. We got the pump house tour on the way back (which is pretty much good to go now) with a boat full of tourists, and landed quite happy and satisfied with what had turned out to be a pretty memorable and special trip. It’s these kind of trips that I particularly love.
But apparently the weekend wasn’t quite over, and later that night I discovered an email with an offer for a place to do a Bachelor of Paramedic Practice at UTAS.. just a bit cool :).
All up: 41.6km, 1871m ascent.
Think I’ve given up on the self worth challenge thingy.. can’t think of anything else!