Foster: 2 November 2014

Mount Foster GPS route

Mount Foster GPS route

fall, I took a fall, I took it easy…

on the surface, I was perfect;

but down, way down below,

I started believing,

I deserved it, was I worthless?

(Taken by the Sea – Darren Hayes)

 

So I’ve had these lyrics running through my head for a little bit now, which is always reason to think a bit more about them, and work out what they might say about life at the moment. I’d certainly be the first to admit I wasn’t perfect (don’t think any of us are, except in our imperfections), but I think the general gist about appearing fine and in control on the outside, and being far from it on the inside is kind of clear. And I think everyone can relate to this at various points in time.

Leunig's Herbal Remedy for Lifeache

Leunig’s Herbal Remedy for Lifeache.. like this one 🙂

So why? What is it that has us taking that fall, taking it easily, until we doubt even our worth? Nothing does it like rejection or the break down or betrayal of a relationship. But why should that affect us more than anything, given that nothing about us and who we are as individuals, in essence, has actually changed? Why should what one person thinks, says and behaves like matter to us more than anyone else, to the extent it makes us deaf to or unbelieving of all the other important people in our lives? Fascinating, really…

Out of the snow.. and blue sky and a hint of rainbow awaits.. these sheep managed to avoid snowy white blankets, not so their neighbours!

Out of the snow.. and blue sky and a hint of rainbow awaits.. these sheep managed to avoid snowy white blankets, not so their neighbours!

So I set out, yet again, in the hope that maybe nature would have an answer for me… or rather, as with Leunig’s Herbal Remedy for Lifeache, a personalised remedy for managing the symptoms of ‘lifeache’ and building a little bit of self worth, the kind I could actually believe in. Because this was clearly something I needed to figure out myself, not something anyone else could fix.

Starting to head up, a little bit of height gain and I'm already checking out the view! Ben Lomond..

Starting to head up, a little bit of height gain and I’m already checking out the view! Ben Lomond..

I was somewhat sceptical, and the weekend had already been turned on its head. A scheduled club walk (well really paddle-walk-paddle) was first relocated from the windy and wet southwest to the north, the number of participants dropped by more than half, and then late Saturday night it was called off. My back wasn’t going to complain, and probably it was a wise call.

The 'road'.. which I discovered was actually a Forward Boundary! Nice and easy walking anyway..

The ‘road’.. which I discovered was actually a Forward Boundary! Nice and easy walking anyway..

I was a little disappointed I’d not gone somewhere on the Saturday afternoon, even if it had only been to a beach on the east coast, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to spend some time in the bush on Sunday, even if the options were significantly restricted by the weather. So I figured it was time to pay Foster a visit, and then, if my mood dictated it, I’d go on a (likely wet) walk to Cathcart Bluff. I didn’t want to be pushing too hard, I had bigger plans for the Monday (like like lunch with a Hippo, but that’s another story).

Foster.. not looking particularly mountainous.. but at least I can see it!

Foster.. not looking particularly mountainous.. but at least I can see it!

So I set out nice and early, driving through the rain, having blind faith that where I was headed was going to be better than where I was. But it got worse first.. some unintentional practice water skiing in a circle in my car at a mere 35-40km an hour had me drive slower than I ever have, at first out of caution, then because the snow was kind of nice to enjoy (yep, it was snowing on the midlands, right down to the road.. I called Cathcart off immediately). I laughed when I drove past sheep wearing, through no choice of their own, blankets of snow. But it was even nicer to pop out the other side, and see pale blue light on the horizon, even if the clouds and mountains were still dark and moody.

A happy flower.. does he make you smile too?

A happy flower.. does he make you smile too?

Through Campbell Town, right onto the road towards Fingal, then shortly past Avoca I had to choose. Which way to go? Probably the better way is through Ormley, but as the sign there asks (quite understandably) for visitors to respect the farm biosecurity and either call (no number given) or visit the house first I figured I probably shouldn’t go that way. It was 7.30 on a Sunday morning and I didn’t think that was really fair..

The Caladenias were out in force

The Caladenias were out in force

So I drove to road no. 2, one I’d mapped a long long time ago, which according to the roads on my gps mapping software, would get you very close to the summit if it was in good condition, but would be useless if not, as it was a rather convoluted route that took you away from the mountain before you headed towards it. But I arrived at a gate, and didn’t even bother to see if there was a lock on it, as there were just two dirt tyre tracks in the grass on the other side, which I didn’t trust as a ‘road’.

"Slay me with whispers"...

“Slay me with whispers”… (also from Taken By the Sea)

So I doubled back again, as there appeared to be another road on my GPS in between these two, which I could follow a decent way up, then head off track. Last resort was to just drive as close as the main road got (a bit over 4km as the crow flies) and bee line, which I was a bit uncomfy with, as it would mean going through someone’s property without permission. So I was keen to check out this other road before it got to that.

On the not so impressive summit of Foster.. highest rock on the bottom right..

On the not so impressive summit of Foster.. highest rock on the bottom right..

I drove straight past the start. I turned around. And drove straight past again.. Either I was blind or there was no road. Bugger. There was a boundary though, and the going looked ok, so I thought I’d give it a crack, and hope to pick up an old bit of road higher up. Worst case, if I wasted enough time I could go and have a chat to the Ormley house.

Someone's attempt at a cairn (bottom right)? Definitely not a high point though..

Someone’s attempt at a cairn (bottom right)? Definitely not a high point though..

So I pulled over, back complaining as I put on boots, then headed off.. I jumped the fence as conspicuously as I could (not a big fan of doing that if I can help it, but the property was up for sale and I hoped no one was around) and headed up hill. I did discover the road, though it took me a while to realise that it wasn’t a road and my GPS suggested, but rather a forward boundary! Oh well, it was nice and open to walk along, and would get me close enough to where I wanted to go, so I followed it.

Checking out the view on the way back down.

Checking out the view on the way back down.

It was cold and cloudy, rain threatening but not eventuating. A few drops of hail at two separate times was all I got, and eventually grey gave way to blue with white fluff. I wandered along, in no particularly hurry, enjoying the spring flowers, orchids, birds and wildlife. I spotted more than a dozen caladenia, mostly singles, one or two doubles, and one with a whole heap of flowers. The flame robins were everywhere too, or maybe they were just the most curious? The kangaroos and wombats, on the other hand, were rather edgy and raced off before I even got close.

Cracked..

Cracked..

When the road ran out of use, I headed up, expecting the terrain to be scrubby and rocky, but was pleasantly surprised to find it quite easy to move through. I got to the top of the climb, with just 800 or so metres to travel across the top to the high point, which I’d figured would be the easiest part of everything. Not so. The scrub I’d not had to deal with on the way up was hiding over the lip, and, although not overly thick or difficult, was just annoying and prickly (those little prickles, that detach as you walk past, and get stuck in everything – skin, clothing, gaiters and socks).

Imagine sitting around a fire this big and chatting away :)!

Imagine sitting around a fire this big and chatting away :)!

I decided I was not going back the same way when I finally got to the top, I’d drop off first, then contour down and around! But first I had to get there. Plenty more scratching and prickling, and I found myself on a rather diminutive summit. I walked over to the highest rock, protruding slightly from the sea of prickles. Then I wandered over to the nearby spot that I had GPS coordinates for, and found a makeshift ‘cairn’ (pile of rocks more like it), though it clearly wasn’t a high point.

Check out that breast! So many of these hyper little guys were out and about :).

Check out that breast! So many of these hyper little guys were out and about :).

It wasn’t exactly a place that inspired me to want to stop for lunch, so I headed straight back down. The going was much much easier having dropped straight off, then making a diagonal line down and across the face of the mountain. I was walking through dappled sunshine now, and lunch seemed like a good idea, so I munched and walked, in no hurry at all.

I stopped to enjoy the bird life even more on the way down (and as if on cue, as I write this a green rosella is foraging in the grass outside my window), but seemed to get back to the car in no time. The weather looked much more encouraging, and I was open to the possibility of still trying for Cathcart, if the Great Western Tier seemed to be free of rain when I hit the highway. It wasn’t, so I turned left and headed for home. Cathcart would wait.

Not sure I came up with anything close to a remedy on the walk, but the birds and flowers made me smile. When I got home though, reading one of the blogs I follow, a seed was planted.. it would start to sprout the following day, on a 12hr, 30km, solo day walk in snow to the Hippo…

All up: 14.4km, 4.46 hrs, 863m ascent.

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Scott and Maurice: 18 October 2014

Mount Scott GPS route

Mount Scott GPS route

So I’ve had a little trouble with words lately, and haven’t written much… Also a few of the last walks I’ve been on have been repeats, or more personal in nature and not really something that everyone needs to know about! Forgive me if the words are still a little forced…

Morning light on Wellington. Lucky to live so close to a mountain, and nice to be reminded of it.

Morning light on Wellington. Lucky to live so close to a mountain, and nice to be reminded of it.

People sometimes tell me I’m strong and brave, and yet I feel anything but. Small, tired, fragile, about to break, or perhaps already broken? I wonder if I’m completely insane, how else can I be living in a world that seems to differ so much from the world everyone else sees? I go out and do the things that people think are brave maybe in denial of that, or because it’s the only place I can trust that there’s a small determined something within that refuses to be defeated. But what happens when I lose the energy or desire to do that? What happens when even the mountains, ‘from whence cometh my help’ (and that has been largely true), are silent..no longer calling my name, no longer able to sooth a restless soul? Do I push harder, further, faster? Or go in search of Leunig’s two large green trees (See his A Herbal Remedy for Lifeache)? Or just stop? I’m working on an answer…

Spot the sign to Scott

Spot the sign to Scott

This particular weekend, I didn’t have much of a choice. It was another one where the Sunday (the ‘middle’ day of my weekend) was looking pretty foul weatherwise. Initially I wasn’t sure I’d go anywhere at all, though that changed at the last minute. I already had a walk on to Adamsons (for the forth time, it’s a good one ;)!) for the Monday, so opted for the northeast, where the Sunday was likely to be mostly decent. There were three peaks up that way that I hadn’t yet explored, so I set my sights on Scott and Maurice, with Forster (and Cathcart) as extras if I felt energetic and the weather was being good.

The walk to Scott starts off through a massive fern forest

The walk to Scott starts off through a massive fern forest

Shortly after 6 I raced out of work – the rising sun was turning the bottom of the cloud cover nice and pink, and I wanted somewhere where I could take a photo. I didn’t have anywhere particular in mind, so I just drove towards Granton (but on the northern side of the river), prepared to stop wherever looked good. I never did get a photo of the clouds, but found a nice little spot and got a stunning view of the sun lighting up the Wellington range.

Before: Note the yellow tailed black cockatoos sitting nice and peacefully (except for all the squawking as I walked by)

Before: Note the yellow tailed black cockatoos sitting nice and peacefully (except for all the squawking as I walked by)

After: One too many sat on a branch.. branch is gone, cockatoo falls for a second! It did make me laugh..

After: One too many sat on a branch.. branch is gone, cockatoo falls for a second! It did make me laugh..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That done, I continued on my way, anxious to get to Old Beach before too much more time passed. One little errand, and I was back on my way. The drive up passed quickly, though I needed a little bit of GPS help to get through Launceston (why are cities so much harder to navigate than the bush?). Navigating the forestry roads (some of which didn’t even appear on the maps) was much easier.

Fungi in the forest.. and a very basic play with aperture settings

Fungi in the forest.. and a very basic play with aperture settings

I hadn’t done much research on either Scott or Maurice. I remember doing a little a year or so back when I first thought about climbing them, and hadn’t found much on Scott, with Maurice being described in the Abels. I’d forgotten to bring my book with me, and hadn’t read the description before leaving, so that made it somewhat useless!

Almost on the 'ridge'.. lots and lots of pepper berry bushes (leaves just HAD to be sampled), and nice open forest to wander through

Almost on the ‘ridge’.. lots and lots of pepper berry bushes (leaves just HAD to be sampled), and nice open forest to wander through

I did know that the LISTmap had a track heading up to the summit from the west, and back down the eastern side, connecting with the same road, but some way along it. I hoped it was still followable – I’d heard something that had made me think it was not so well maintained. We’d see!

The summit of Scott.. views somewhat marred by the extensive logging

The summit of Scott.. views somewhat marred by the extensive logging

But Scott was first, and in recent weeks I’d been given a GPS track, and had had a flick through NatureLover’s blog on the mountain. I got a bit confused with directions, so reverted to following roads on my gps until I got as close as I could to the start of the walking track. Just as I had to turn onto a road not marked on my gps, it was nicely marked with a great big green sign indicating a right hand turn for Mt Scott Walking Track. Not far along that road is a much smaller, inconspicuous sign on the left hand side, indicating the actual track. If you do as I did, and come to an old open boom gate, reverse a few hundred metres ;)!

Looking north from the summit of Scott from where I'd come

Looking north from the summit of Scott from where I’d come

With everything sorted, I set out. The highly taped track leads through fern forest, and I got a little distracted with all the different types, particularly their new shoots.. the smooth versus the hairy, conformist and symmetrical versus nonconformist, green versus brown…

And over to what I assumed was Maurice.. my next destination.. not looking like a huge mountain!

And over to what I assumed was Maurice.. my next destination.. not looking like a huge mountain!

A little way in I disturbed half a dozen yellow tailed black cockatoos (not the only lot for the day), and they screeched their insults at me ;), but stayed really quite close. I stopped to take a photograph or two, and caught more than I bargained for. One more cockatoo decided to join the party, but chose the wrong branch to sit on. He landed on one that was not so rotten that it couldn’t support one bird, but rotten enough that his extra weight broke the branch with a loud crack, and the two of them went tumbling in a flap of wings, while the others, startled by the noise, also took off. Two seconds later, order was restored, and a new branch had been chosen!

And back down.. as much stuff grew on trees as on the ground!

And back down.. as much stuff grew on trees as on the ground!

I continued on, enjoying the ferns – it’s not often you get to walk through such an extensive fern forest! But as I wandered, I started to wonder if I wasn’t going too far north, and if the track went where I wanted it to.. A quick glance at the GPS surprised me. The track I had deviated from the path a few metres ahead, so obviously those whose ‘electronic’ footsteps I was following had thought a similar thing. I hesitated, then figured things looked open enough, so why not go straight up.

Mount Maurice GPS route

Mount Maurice GPS route

Up I went.. slowly the ferns gave way to myrtles and other, larger trunked trees (I didn’t actually look up to check their foliage), which seemed to have a preference for growing out of rock! Mind you, as if in turn, their trunks were also covered in mosses and lichen and the like.. Life feeding on life :).

The eastern most end of the track to Maurice

The eastern most end of the track to Maurice

Higher up, where the ground seemed to open up, and you could sense that you were coming to the top of the climb, the pepper berry trees made an appearance. I don’t think I’ve seen quite so many of them in one spot!

A warning set in stone.. I wondered about her as I walked..

A warning set in stone.. I wondered about her as I walked..who she was, who she’d left behind, what had happened, why she walked..

I ran back into the tapes.. and half heartedly tried to follow them along the top, but got frustrated with their sparsity and decided instead just to go with what felt right, and stay as close to the highest point as possible. It was funny, for no track, it felt very much like walking on an unmarked pad for most of the time, and I wasn’t sure if that was from human or animal traffic.

One part of track.. pretty easy going..

One part of track.. pretty easy going..

Most of the walk along the top was through tall skinny trees and on light green grass and mosses. Quite pleasant to say the least!! The last little bit was a trade off. The tall trees disappeared and the views opened up, but instead slightly more dense scrub started. Not an issue though, it was only knee-waist high, and there were so many pads going through it, you could spend all day tracing different routes through without having to do any actual scrub bashing.

Later on, a bit of openness..

Later on, a bit of openness..

There was a trig on top, which surprised me, and views out towards the other northeast peaks, though most still had their heads in the cloud. Unfortunately that just drew further attention to the logging coups, some of which looked rather recent :(. Always a sad sight.

Then finally, my first view of the mountain.. and a bit of scrub to weave through (still on a pad though!)

Then finally, my first view of the mountain.. and a bit of scrub to weave through (still on a pad though!)

Not having any company, and not being lunch time yet (or more like dinner no. 2 by that stage), there wasn’t much reason to stick around, so I headed back along the top. When I arrived at the spot where I’d come up, I thought I might as well see where the taped track led, but after searching round for the next two tapes and getting frustrated with the slowness of the process, I gave up and just beelined again! Oh well!

Views from the rather flat top, looking south.

Views from the rather flat top, looking south.

Back at the car, it was time for some food, before starting the part I like least about walking.. finding my way along forestry roads that might well be dodgy.. I hate the worrying that they might not go through, that I’ll come to a non-driveable section (tree down, major erosion, bridge out etc) and have to reverse for ages to find a suitable spot to turn around (and I hate reversing, especially on pretty rough roads).

Mt Maurice summit trig and Scott.

Mt Maurice summit trig.

Having said that, I did something unusual. There’s two possible access points to get to Maurice, as the track leaves the road to the west of the mountain, climbs up and over it, and comes down the eastern side to hit the same road. I had a vague recollection that the Abels route described the western section of track, as an up and back walk. I knew from Naturelover’s blog that this involved a long road walk, and otherwise unimpressive climb. I knew from my GPS that this way was a longer distance, and as I was already half way through the afternoon, time was of the essence..

More mountains..

More mountains.. Ben Lomond in behind.

Sooo… I put my money on going for a longer drive, part of which was going to be on ‘interesting’ roads (dotted lines on my gps map, rather than solid), and a shorter walk. I hoped I could drive the whole way, and I hoped that the eastern section of track was still well marked and not too overgrown/degraded. If either were the case, I’d likely be doing Maurice the following morning from the other side.

Fancy visitors book container.. only no book, and no bottom to the container either!

Fancy visitors book container.. only no book, and no bottom to the container either!

So I made the call and drove along, cursing the nastier sections of road, which had deteriorated as soon as I’d hit the ‘dotted’ line on my gps. I let out a sigh of relief as I got quite close, close enough that I’d be happy enough to walk the last little bit of road if I couldn’t drive the whole way. Whoops, shouldn’t have had that thought!! As soon as I did, I got to a particularly well eroded section, and, sitting perched at the top of a downhill run, had to make a call as to whether I thought I could get down, and then back up. It looked like there was a bit of a drop near the bottom, and I didn’t want to be reversing back up the eroded stuff either!!

Skinnier than pins, and very difficult to get the camera to focus on!

Skinnier than pins, and very difficult to get the camera to focus on!

The call was to reverse the short distance I’d already come. That was easier said than done, as tyres just didn’t want to grip, but I managed somehow, and found a spot to pull over to one side. I figured just over 1km of road walk wasn’t too bad. So off I set, and decided as I walked over the dips and ‘rivers’ in the road that I’d made the right call. The car might have done it if I’d got it just right, but coming back up would have been harder, and if I’d had trouble reversing up the less eroded and less inclined section I didn’t like my chances.. 4WD only for that bit!

The 4WD and dirt bike playground.. never knew these places existed..

The 4WD and dirt bike playground.. never knew these places existed..

As I walked, I tried not to entertain doubts that the track wouldn’t be there, or would be so overgrown as to not be much of a track. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t actually know exactly where it came out, I only had a rough idea from the LISTmap, and know from experience that is sometimes very rough (i.e. track in to Cathedral). Oh well, only one way to find out…

"Hold me": technically not from this walk, from Adamsons two days later.. but it's a favourite..

“Hold me”: technically not from this walk, from Adamsons two days later.. but it’s a favourite..

I was surprised to come across a guy on a dirt bike travelling in the opposite direction, but that explained the tyre tracks on the road, and a couple of 4WDs I’d seen earlier off the side of the road. I was later to discover that not only were they off the side of the road, but that there was a full on 4WD/dirt bike course thingy that they were at, complete with jumps and even a burnt out, upside down car!

Blood sucker: Also not from this walk (Frenchmans, the following weekend), but I like how the camera can see detail you can't see with your own eyes.

Blood sucker: Also not from this walk (Frenchmans, the following weekend), but I like how the camera can see detail you can’t see with your own eyes.

A little further on, just as I was thinking I should be at the start of the track, I happened across an old sign, indicating the track start and 3 hour return trip to the summit, and another, warning that areas of the track were exposed and that the weather could change at any time. There was also a much newer plaque in memory of the disappearance of a female who’d last gone walking on the mountain.

I started off hesitantly, the track taking the form of a cleared path through openish dry forest. It was obvious where to walk, but there were no markers here, and I wondered how things would be further up, or if the track became less distinct. I needn’t have worried, further along there were tapes and markers, some newer than others, but all fairly old. Though there wasn’t much sign of the track having been maintained at all recently, or walked for that matter, it had clearly been made decently to start with, and that meant it was still quite good, if a tad overgrown in spots.

The forest was eventually broken up by a few more open sections, and finally, quite close really, I had a glimpse of where the summit might be (well, the lip over which it lay). Directly in front of me though, was a sea of scrub! The pad wove through it, but it was still pretty scratchy, and I was glad to be through and approaching the top.

The views now stopped me, as all of the earlier cloud was gone, and everything from Arthur, Barrow, Ben Nevis, Saddleback, Ben Lomond, Albert and Victoria were visible, and looking nice. But now that I was up, I got to enjoy them all as I wandered the last little bit across to the trig, as well as the sound of frogs who inhabited a number of little tarns.

On top, I checked out the great white plastic Visitors Book container (the newest and biggest I’ve ever seen).. only to find it contained no book! A few more photos, and then, conscious of the time (late afternoon), I headed back down. On the way I checked out an updated weather forecast for the morning, and was most unimpressed to find that the rain was now extending further east than expected. I wasn’t particularly keen on walking in it, and didn’t like my chances of a nice sunrise on the beach even further east before heading home, so decided to just head home then and there.

That made for quite a long day in the end, and I felt rather flat getting home, but was probably the right call to make.

All up: Scott: 7.1km, 3 hrs, 431m ascent; Maurice: 11.7km, 3 hrs, 385m ascent. Quite funny the distance vs time ratios there, for mountains with relatively the same amount of height gain!!

Cameron, Cube Rock, Littlechild, Nicholas: 28-30 June 2014

Mount Cameron GPS route

Mount Cameron GPS route

Well, this is my 100th post, for my 222nd (peak bagging) mountain, and together you’ve viewed my blog 12,000 times. That’s kind of cool, and makes what I do seem worth it, so thanks :)!

Heading up through forest and rock, to Mount Cameron

Heading up through forest and rock, to Mount Cameron

This weekend was another Pandani outing, with a slightly different take on the usual theme: a relaxing weekend away in the northeast, warm fire at the end of the day and a proper bed to sleep in, and a little bit of walking. Much to our surprise and delight, the destination – Mt Cameron and it’s surrounds – would turn out to be a fantastic little (or maybe biggish) playground with so many more places to go exploring  than we could actually fit in! Knowing the drive was a pretty decent one, I opted to stay up, and make the most of my extra day off climbing one, or two more mountains if time and weather permitted (it did). But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Church Spire :D

Church Spire 😀

Off we headed on Saturday morning, a relatively speaking late start (7am, due to my work hours :/) given the long drive. It was probably a good thing. Though we got to enjoy the early morning light, and dozens of white cockatoos sitting on the top of three or four dead trees, almost like fairy floss on black sticks, the majority of the drive was through rain, and I remember remarking to Jess, who was good enough to accompany me and make sure I stayed awake, very grateful that I wasn’t out walking! Though the rain was forecast to clear later in the day, it didn’t seem too promising, and though there were hints of blue sky I was pretty certain we’d be getting wet at least some time during the day.

We did a fair bit of this.. like really big kids ;)!

We did a fair bit of this.. like really big kids ;)!

We arrived in Gladstone and at our (the) pub/hotel before midday, where we sorted out our rooms, our gear, managed to tear ourselves from the warmth of the fire, and head off to the start of the track to Cameron.

As an insert from the original post, on request from a fellow walker who had failed to find the start when there, I’ve added this little bit to try to give a bit more information as to how to get to the start. I did do this walk some time ago, so forgive me if my memory is a tad scratchy! From Gladstone we headed west along B82 (Waterhouse road) until we got to the intersection with Old Port Road, which we followed south. We took the left fork off Old Port Road before crossing Bonser Creek, and travelled along this road towards the Scottsdale High School Field Study Centre. However, there was a locked gate across the road near Vicary’s Creek before we got to the start of the track, so we had to park early and walk the next little bit along the road. Before arriving at the school, we found various signs and a nice looking pad to follow off to the right hand side of the road (see below). If anyone has anything to add that would make this description clearer, feel free to be in touch and I’ll add it in!

The gate across the road near Vicary’s Creek

We weren’t expecting quite such good signage!

Still raining on the short drive, we all started out in wet weather gear, expecting the break in rain to be temporary. The short road walk soon had us a bit too warm and the air was quite humid, so some of us tentatively stripped off jackets, expecting the rain to punish our defiance with a timely downpour.. but we stayed dry.. somehow!

There's something just beautiful about the terrain

There’s something just beautiful about the terrain

We arrived at the signed start of the Mt Cameron track (4-5 hours return, and we managed to take a full 5 with all our playing), and followed markers, tags and a pad through dry forest which became increasingly rocky (big rocky) as we gained height. By the time we got to the Douglas Lookout we were getting a bit of an idea of the kind of terrain we’d be walking on, and loving every bit of it! Great big lumps of granite, sculptured by nature into all sorts of shapes that just beckoned to be explored, climbed, and otherwise admired. This was complemented by beautiful gums, many burnt, a decent amount of which had somehow managed to stay alive anyway.

Lichen-y kind of stuff grew all over the rock… goodness knows how it sustained itself!

Lichen-y kind of stuff grew all over the rock… goodness knows how it sustained itself!

There was more than enough to cater for everyone’s tastes and preferences. Some continued to walk along the track, others took photos of rock, trees, the view (increasing as we gained height) etc, and a few of us went climbing. The first rock was just a random boulder that looked a decent enough climb and would make a good photo. I was ordered up. It wasn’t actually that easy – the boulders were rounder than you thought, and lacked holds. But a knee up from Jess and I was on top. I reckoned she’d enjoy being up there too, so after a bit of convincing (not a whole lot!), a hand from me and a knee up from Simon, she was up too.. and then Catherine followed suit! It’s always much more fun to share those things with others. A few photos, and back down we went.. climbing in reverse.. or just jumping ;).

Why stand on the ground if you can stand in a tree?

Why stand on the ground if you can stand in a tree?

Only a short distance along the track there was another sign post indicating the Church Spire was to the right. I’d been drawn by the name the first time I’d heard it (surprise surprise), and was keen to check it out. Two of us walked right by, but doubled back and found a few of the others, who hadn’t missed it. It was definitely spire like, and sadly not climbable (not for my amateur abilities anyway), but a holler had me turn around and find Jess sitting on top of a nearby ‘spire’. I couldn’t not join her. As it turned out, neither could Catherine ;)!

Higher up, there was lots of this really flat (ish) large expanses of rock. Begging to be cartwheeled on!

Higher up, there was lots of this really flat (ish) large expanses of rock. Begging to be cartwheeled on!

Aware we were well behind the rest of the group, we couldn’t stay too long, and I was feeling a tad guilty for making things take longer than they needed to. Somehow the summit seemed less significant, and the exploring and playing more important. Perhaps though that was because there was little doubt that we’d get there, and we all wanted to have as much fun on the way as possible.

The Maze.. awesome playground :)

The Maze.. awesome playground 🙂

As we climbed there were parts where we were out of the gum trees, and walking instead on great big slabs or ‘runways’ of gently sloping rock. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it just begged for a cartwheel. In some spots, a thin layer of moss provided enough soil (as little as a centimetre or two in some spots) to support waist high scrubby trees!

Not everyone chose to climb the painful way!

Not everyone chose to climb the painful way!

The entertainment stop was The Maze. The name says it all, and it was a perfect description. Granite ‘menhirs’ with weathered ‘faces’ for added character stood tall and solid, close enough to one another so as to give a maze-like feel, but still to allow passage between them. It was very very cool, and you could easily spend plenty of time exploring and climbing. We couldn’t resist a revisit on the way back, that’s how good it was ;)!

But there were some tight squeezes.. the whole of the Maze was a bit like this, though not usually that tight!

But there were some tight squeezes.. the whole of the Maze was a bit like this, though not usually that tight!

We did, however, still have a mountain to climb, and the day was getting on, so we left the playground and got a little more serious. More expansive sloping granite, surprise at some cutting grass, a route that clearly led walkers on the path of least resistant but went against my desire to clamber ‘straight up’… By now the summit was clear and my legs had a mind of their own. I didn’t think Simon, who was leading the walk, would mind me wandering off ahead, so I didn’t wait up to ask.. just kind of went…

A little ahead of everyone else, waving back down to them..

A little ahead of everyone else, waving back down to them..

The way the taped route went meant I ended up walking back towards the rest of the group at one point, but a few ‘terraces’ of rock higher, and I whistle to grab their attention, giving them a wave. Now that they knew where I was, off I went, clambering up the last little bit, and then a scramble up to the trig.

Catherine on the summit.. no words needed.

Catherine on the summit.. no words needed.

I looked down, couldn’t see anyone. The wind was nice and strong, not so strong you couldn’t stand, but strong enough that it would later blow Belinda’s pack cover off and down a decent distance – the recovery of which led to my discovery of a number of hats and other bits and pieces that the wind had stolen from unsuspecting climbers (who didn’t attempt a rescue). Clearly it wasn’t a rare occurrence! Anyway, me and the wind had a moment or two together, conversing in a language that needed no words, but I still couldn’t resist a bit of a shout, wondering how far it would carry my words (nearly to Hobart, apparently ;)!).

Cube Rock GPS route

Cube Rock GPS route

And then the others started to arrive, and we spent only a little bit of time on top – time and the wind driving us back down. We’d had a bit too much fun playing on the way up for us to complete the planned circuit out to Wedgetail peak and back down, which would have involved some off track walking, so a return the same way was settled on. That didn’t amount to a heads down and walk straight out attitude though.

Little Blue Lake.. with turquoise water, despite cloudy sky

Little Blue Lake.. with turquoise water, despite cloudy sky

Bec, Meredith and Jess were all keen on improving their aim with nuts, and I know I probably deserved a few of the shots they sent my way with deadly accuracy ;). Simon found a puddle of water to splash us with, and later became a pack thief – a low blow for someone trying to have a moment of peace and attend a call of nature. And then, of course, there was more climbing as we passed the Maze, where we were greeted with the late afternoon sun streaming through a break in the clouds – what we figured was about the closest to sunset we were going to get. As the light dimmed, we moved a little faster, but still, back in the forest, I was delighted as Chris, perhaps the oldest member of the group, decided she wanted to see if she could still cartwheel :). Sure enough, she could, with elegance too!

Little Blue Lake up close..

Little Blue Lake up close..

For me, this is a key part of what I love about walking with Pandani, in addition to the teamwork and genuine care and concern for one another. That the mood and company is conducive to allowing all sorts of people to feel comfortable to be free to try things they haven’t done for a while (or ever before), to be kids again, to play, explore, climb, and tease, wonder, delight in nature, learn and share and otherwise just have fun.. it’s become much more than just walking, or climbing mountains.. it’s a complete experience and adventure, and it’s very cool.

Helmet orchid and water drop.

Helmet orchid and water drop.

greenhood

Horned green hood.. love the two flared ‘arms’

Back on the road before it was too dark, a bit of a jog with Jess, some more mucking around, and before we knew it we were back at the cars. The rain started again shortly after we left – timed to perfection. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying a pub meal; watching Jess cane Simon in a game of pool, only to pocket the white ball in the same shot as the black; amusing ourselves with the antics of the other patrons (the words bogan and hunter might have been voiced); and sitting back in comfy chairs by the fire, chatting away. Having been up about 24hrs by that stage, the sound of friendly voices and laughter was like a lullaby, and I was soon out to it. I awoke later to find Stuie had covered me in flowers. I was promptly ordered off to bed!

 

Moss detail.. no, it's NOT tripe!

Moss detail.. no, it’s NOT tripe!

Moss detail

Moss detail

I might have had a bit of sleep, albeit broken, but I awoke a fair bit more subdued than the day before. While I waited for the locals to figure out how to turn on the petrol pump, I watched the others play frisbee, or take photos of the sheep that had wandered onto the road to see what all the early morning commotion was about. The day was looking to be a good one, mostly sunny, and once petrol was sorted, we headed south to check out Cube Rock, and, time and mood permitting, Endurance Bluff.

 

Rock guardians on the way to Cube Rock.. I did have to lie on my back to take this photo.. they were pretty big.

Rock guardians on the way to Cube Rock.. I did have to lie on my back to take this photo.. they were pretty big.

But first, there was Blue Lake, right next to where we parked our cars. And as the name suggests, it’s pretty blue.. well turquoise! The sign informed us that ‘The vivid turquoise colour of Little Blue Lake is caused when the white clay exposed in tin mining operations reflects the clear blue of the sky’.. scratched on the sign beside that was the word ‘MORON’, and beside that, a ‘YEAH’.. as much as I don’t agree with graffiti, the author/s had a point. Although we were promised a mostly sunny day, it was at the time overcast, with more white/grey than blue above us, and yet the lake was still very turquoise. I think there must be another explanation!

Cube Rock

Cube Rock

Anyway, photos done, and a little bit of cleaning up the trash that some idiots had thrown over the fence, we were off on our walk. The terrain was similar to the day before, though a bit more foresty and a little less rock to start with. Instead, we turned our attention to fungi, found a few quite revolting (but fascinating) ones that looked like they were melting into snot/phlegm-like puddles, and a couple of different kinds that were almost ‘hairy/furry’.

Cube rock from the other end, the mini gardens in the foreground, Cameron sitting behind Cube Rock.

Cube rock from the other end, the mini gardens in the foreground, Cameron sitting behind Cube Rock.

The highlight for me was the orchids. The first to be spotted were helmet orchids, small and low to the ground (I’ve since discovered that they might be one of the smallest orchids here), but quite numerous once you got ‘your eye in’. Later on, Chris spotted a horned greenhood, which was pretty cool. I loved the two thin flares back behind its head. The third orchid spotted on the trip was one I didn’t even know WAS an orchid. It looked like succulent grass almost, but was apparently a rock orchid, that flowers yellow butterflies in October and is found in the northeast.

Mount Littlechild GPS route

Mount Littlechild GPS route

The orchids and fungi disappeared as the terrain grew rockier, and again, Jess and I were ordered to go climb some rocks.. and so we did, taking our time but having plenty of fun. On top of one we looked over to find everyone else near Cube Rock, and decided we should probably go and join them. But not before I met and said hello to a line of rock guardians :).

The signposted start of the track that gets you pretty close to the mountain

The signposted start of the track that gets you pretty close to the mountain (taken on the way out, it wasn’t this dark when I set out!)

Over we went, caught up to the others, and admired Cube Rock up close. Quite amazing really.. such a large (more rectangular on its flanks than square) chunk of rock, just sitting on the top of a long rock ridge, quite out of place when you thought about it. Our ponderings on the way down of just how it got there had Bec offering the only plausible explanation, involving a pluton or batholith (magma chamber), a volcanic pipe, and a plug (Cube Rock), and of course, plenty of erosion..

A little of what's left of the Nichols Sawmill.. I'm not sure why I find beauty in things like this.. but they appeal to something in me.

A little of what’s left of the Nichols Sawmill.. I’m not sure why I find beauty in things like this.. but they appeal to something in me.

But it was big, and its sides vertical, so of course I had to check it out.. there was a crack that ran up near one end and I tested a foot hold, boosted up from there to grab a decent hand hold, and thought, maybe this is doable! The next hand hold I swung to came off as soon as I transferred weight to it and I fell off, landing in a shower of little bits of almost sandy rock. Ok, try again, with a different hand hold.. yep, that worked, another foot, hand and foot again.. then a hand.. then, hang on.. I’m a fair way up, and there’s a few more holds ahead, until the crack disappears.. but I’m not sure it’s going to be quite as easy climbing back down as it is going up.. and I’m already above comfortable jumping height.. so time to be a bit sensible and get back down.. Like I’d thought, climbing down wasn’t as easy, so with Catherine ready to catch me :), I hung off the rock with my hands and dropped. I looked back up, and thought it wasn’t a bad effort.

The hidden summit and summit cairn of Littlechild

The hidden summit and summit cairn of Littlechild

Some exploring along the end of the rock revealed giant eroded ‘holes’ that allowed plant life to thrive, much like mini gardens. Looking back towards Cube Rock, Mt Cameron stood out beyond it. Off to our side was Flinders Island, which was just a little bit special. It’s been the topic of a few conversations lately, and setting eyes on it for the first time brought a smile to my face. It was just a little bit more real now.

Mount Nicholas GPS route

Mount Nicholas GPS route

We had a bite to eat, where I discovered that carrying boiled eggs, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cheese and salami loose in a large lunchbox is all very well, if you’re prepared not to run or jump.. otherwise you can expect to be eating a premixed jumble of greeny brown stuff! Simon raised the question of whether or not we’d check out Endurance Bluff, but made the call not to. Everyone seemed more than satisfied with what we’d seen and where we’d walked, and the idea of a coffee in Bridport, and a burger in Campbell Town sounded pretty good.

A hint of colour marks the dawn of a new day, as I head for the rocks on the left.

A hint of colour marks the dawn of a new day, as I head for the rocks on the left.

Sadly, not for me. I’d have loved a hot drink, but I’d made other plans, and I was (as usual) pigheadedly determined to stick to them. So after accepting water from anyone who had spare (thanks to you all, it was much appreciated), off I drove, towards Poimena, and the mountain of my choice, Littlechild. My research on this peak had revealed that the points, for peak baggers, was once considered to be on Mt Poimena, but is now on Mt Littlechild, given that it is technically the highpoint of Blue Tier. A bit of a longer walk, but that wasn’t an issue for me. More of a concern was that I was aware that the summit was flat and in forest, and that the cairn could be interesting to find. Armed with a more accurate GPS coordinate than is listed on the HWC list, I was hopeful that I’d find it.

Starting to get a little light.. looking back the other way from 'my' rocks.

Starting to get a little light.. looking back the other way from ‘my’ rocks.

I parked my car at Poimena, and started along the MTB track which services three different walks (Australia Hill, Wellington Creek and Blue Tier descent track). I had no idea where any of them went, but took whichever path seemed to head in the right direction at the various branches. I walked past the turn off to Australia Hill, though I wondered why it was called that, and if there had been time I would have checked it out. I ended up on the Wellington Creek track, which got me within 7-800m of the summit. It also went past the site of the old Nichols Sawmill, which cut myrtle from 1948-1950 (mostly 9×3 inch beams for pubs in England). There were a few indications of its presence, though the mill itself was carted to Terryvale when it closed.

And then the colours really change, and the ocean responds in kind

And then the colours really change, and the ocean responds in kind

I didn’t dally for too long, aware that when I’d set out I only had about 2 hours of daylight, and I didn’t feel like walking in the dark this time. So at the appropriate point on the track, I headed into the bush. I was grateful that the point I’d chosen was actually almost scrub free, being instead fairly open forest (mostly myrtle). I wondered how long it would last, and I climbed upwards, trying to stick to the open sections.

It crashes down on the rocks, and I'm close enough that it makes me laugh with its more energetic attempts to shower me

It crashes down on the rocks, and I’m close enough that it makes me laugh with its more energetic attempts to shower me

As it was, I was lucky. Every time I thought I’d finally have to start bashing, what seemed like a very decent pad was evident, and so in that fashion I wove my way to the top. I arrived at the HWC coordinates for the summit, and couldn’t spot the rock I expected to be there, so off I headed for the coordinates I’d found on a friend’s FB photo of the summit cairn (thanks Rohan!). On the way I passed one random piece of pink tape, which made me chuckle!

The rock soon starts to glow a little..

The rock soon starts to glow a little..

I was very much aware that if I hadn’t had the coordinates I doubted I’d have found the rock.The top was that flat, and there were enough trees you couldn’t actually tell where higher ground might be. But my GPS got me there, I climbed onto a rock next to the big rock, and touched the top. Sent a message to the others, who sent me back a ‘cheers’ with hot drinks raised, then headed down. There was a bit of light spitting, and I didn’t want to get too wet, so I wasn’t hanging around.

A closer look at its weathered, beaten face.. it's beautiful.

A closer look at its weathered, beaten face.. it’s beautiful.

Back at the car as the sun was casting its golden light over everything, I was pretty satisfied. I could have camped there the night, but I kind of wanted some much needed ocean time (the sound of waves crashing is a favourite of mine), and I had high hopes for a sunrise. I’d done no research for this bit, so I just drove to the coast, via St Mary’s, and pulled into the first signed camping spot, which happened to be Diana’s Basin. It was free, and the sign even said I could camp there for up to four weeks. Happy, I went and found a spot as close to the beach as I could.

The sun is finally up, warming us all, and casting long shadows behind even the smallest of shells..

The sun is finally up, warming us all, and casting long shadows behind even the smallest of shells..

I set up for the night, then decided I needed a walk on the beach under the stars. Because it was dark when I’d arrived, I had no idea where I was going, but it didn’t really matter. There was a little lagoon to my left, the kind of grass that grows on dunes to my right (inhabited by rabbits I discovered) and so I followed the sand I was on towards the sound of the sea. A hundred metres or so and there I was. I collected a few shells, then sat, and eventually lay, on my back, staring up at the star filled sky. I watched one, and a little while later another, flit across the sky, in one last burst of light before their death. Beautiful, sad, such a tiny part of a larger picture. I thought about a conversation I’d had earlier that day with Bec, about renting out my house, and going wherever I wanted – doing odd jobs, fruit picking, walking.. plenty of walking.. whatever and wherever took my fancy… Appealing.. Hmmm.. The cold sand on my back soon had me shivering, so I retired to my car to warm up, and catch a little bit of sleep.

Patterns in sand.. one of many!

Patterns in sand.. one of many!

The following morning I woke before the sun, and throwing on a few extra layers, grabbing a breakfast bar and banana, camera and phone, I headed off to see what the beach really looked like. I paused to take a photo of the first hint of an orangy-red glow on the horizon, reflected in the lagoon, with beach grasses silhouetted in the foreground, then continued on. On the beach there was what looked like some rocks to my left, a 5-10 minute walk away, and they beckoned.

Mount Nicholas from the car.. the summit is one of those bits of rock.

Mount Nicholas from the car.. the summit is one of those bits of rock.

Over I went, and spent the next half an hour or so (maybe more? I’m not sure, time was irrelevant) watching the colours change; the waves crash into rocks and splinter into a million shards of glass, which the sun painted pink and blue; the sun peak over the top of a rock a distance away, spreading instant warmth through its touch; and the rock come to life, its weathered and eroded cracks and crevasses telling a story. I took a fair few photos, in an attempt to record (and later share) a little bit of how the moment was. When it was over, I figured I should head back, but not without being distracted by patterns in the sand, the arrangement of shells on the shore, and the hilarity of three hooded plovers who insisted on walking along the water’s edge, but ran away each time a wave chased them!

Heading up.. some fun rock to climb ;)

Heading up.. some fun rock to climb 😉

Back at the car I had just a short drive to Mt Nicholas, which I’d chosen to climb before heading back to Hobart. Gravel roads took me to within a few hundred metres of the summit, directly north of it. I’d been told it was easy going, scree the whole way, a little hard on the knees. I soon realised what that meant. It was the small kind of scree that, when it gets a bit too steep, has a tendency to move under the weight of each footstep, sending you sliding backwards (if you’re heading up, or downwards a fair bit further and faster than anticipated if you’re heading down!).

Looking over at the summit.. Ben Lomond covered in snow behind.

Looking over at the summit.. Ben Lomond covered in snow behind.

I made a beeline for the top, aware that the summit looked like a collection of large rocks, which could be a fun little playground with the right cloud. I did happen to walk onto a line of cairns, which take you up the slightly less adventurous route, slightly to the east of the summit. Once up, it’s a short walk west to the white trig point. Ben Lomond stole my attention, frosted with freshly laid white snow. The other common northeast peaks were also visible to the north, but I barely gave them a glance!

The way down, and up, via the cairns.. just a little 'surfy' on the way back!

The way down, and up, via the cairns.. just a little ‘surfy’ on the way back!

A message or two, and back down I went. I didn’t really want to drive back, I could have happily stayed out there!

All up:

Cameron: 11.3km, 5hrs, 700m ascent

Cube Rock: 5.5km, 4hrs, 350m ascent

Littlechild: 6.8km, 1.50hrs, 186m ascent

Nicholas: 1.6km, 1.25hrs, 243m ascent.

 

Tower Hills (East and West) and Byatts Razorback: 3 November 2013

East and West Tower Hills GPS route

East and West Tower Hills GPS route

Today was a Pandani walk, up in the northeast, and given the weather we couldn’t have chosen a better place to be! We all expected to be walking in whiteout – that’s what it looked like as we set off, and the organiser for the walk has just a bit of a reputation in that department! But we were lucky, though we saw plenty of localised rain and snow showers around us as we stood on the three peaks we climbed, we only got caught in a few, and they lasted no more than 5-10 minutes at the most before the sun was back out. So rather than making things miserable they added an extra element of surprise and enjoyment.. after all how many times have you been caught in a sunny snow shower?!

Initial road walk, lovely forest

Initial road walk, lovely forest

Anyway, we set out at 6am, because although both walks were relatively short, the drive was decent. We also seem to have a bit of a tendency to enjoy ourselves too much, and are never in too much of a hurry to race through a walk! It was 9.15 by the time we came to the gate on Cabin Road, got geared up and headed off up the last bit of road to the car park below East Tower Hill.

Ehm.. the only 'off track' bit of the walk up East Tower

Ehm.. the only ‘off track’ bit of the walk up East Tower

The road winds through beautiful tall Eucalypt forest, and it’s not long before you arrive at the car park. This is where the Abels description starts, and it’s pretty accurate. If you want to climb East Tower Hill it’s best that you’re illiterate for the day, and are either small enough to slip under the locked gate, or happy enough to climb around the side. Then you just need to take the stairs to the top, and enjoy the views :). It was rather windy up top for us, but it gave us a good look at the lie of the land towards West Tower Hill, our next target, and an idea of what the weather was doing – a number of small localised showers but nothing too concerning.

Looking towards West Tower Hill from the summit of East Tower Hill

Looking towards West Tower Hill from the summit of East Tower Hill

When the wind got too cold and we’d taken our photos, 45 minutes after having left the cars, we headed back down, and headed off through the bush towards West Tower Hill, again following the Abels description. We dropped down on a westerly bearing until we reached the ridge line that would take us across, and intersected an old road. Though the going had been quite open to that point, it was now even more open. We chatted away, spent time examining bird orchids and a moth-like butterfly that was completely camouflaged when its wings were closed (well spotted by our leader).

Down off East Tower and through open forest

Down off East Tower and through open forest

Then we ran out of road! Also as described by the Abels, there was a stake with tapes on it, and a cairn. We made a bit of a mistake here and didn’t find the tapes, heading left and up instead of straight ahead, but soon ran into a newly pink taped pad and followed it up. We discovered on the way back an old faded orange taped route that would get you onto this pinked taped pad with a bit more ease.

Bird orchid

Bird orchid

The pink tapes were very easy to follow up and over the eastern end of the ridge but once on top we found they just stopped. Instead of following the last two up onto the crest of the ridge, we picked up a red and white stripped taped route, that headed back down the other side. This continued around the side, marked with cairns where tapes weren’t appropriate. There is one part on a scree field marked by a larger than normal cairn which also sports a piece of red and white tape, where cairned route meets up from below. It’s worth taking note of this to ensure you take the right way back when descending. It’s possible this lower route takes you to one of the forestry roads that ends to the east of West Tower Hill, but that’s just a guess.

Heading up onto the eastern end of West Tower, East Tower in the background

Heading up onto the eastern end of West Tower, East Tower in the background

The route keeps you sidling along the ridge, just below the top. There’s a number of times you think you might nearly be there, only to round another corner to see there’s further to go. And then finally you’re heading straight up to the top of the ridge, and you pop out onto a small summit, marked by a poorly looking cairn. There’s not a lot of room, but the 8 of us managed to tuck in amongst the greenery, sheltering from the wind, and eat a bite of lunch as it snowed. It was almost 3 hours after having started out that we left the summit, driven down by the sight of another impending snow shower. Down was faster, and when we arrived back to the spot we’d hit the old road, we opted to follow the road back, avoiding both the climb and the small sections of light scrub we had encountered as we’d headed down.

Sidling round

Sidling round

This was both much easier, and meant we got to meet an echidna! We were almost as low down as we’d been all day, but had our third and longest snow shower, this time completely in the sun :D. Back at the cars at 3:40, we’d been gone nearly 6.5 hours for 10 km and 630 metres ascent.

On the summit of West Tower Hill

On the summit of West Tower Hill

Byatts Razorback was just a short drive away, so we headed over, opting to drive as close as possible to the summit on the southern side (road NOT marked on the 1:25,000 maps, but newer and nicer than the road to the north). The ascent looked more gentle from this side, if a little scrubbier (we’d spotted decent scree fields on the northern side from West Tower Hill). This was probably a good thing, because as we arrived, it had started to hail. Well, it was a cross between hail and snow. It didn’t pelt down like hail, instead fell almost like snow, but was round and held its shape long after it landed on the ground. Like polystyrene was how one girl described it. It was really quite nice!

Byatts Razorback GPS route

Byatts Razorback GPS route

We did, however, wait until it had stopped (4.30) before heading up the 165m of climb and 680m of horizontal distance. Not that it made much of a difference, because it started up shortly after we left! The terrain was typical of the area, dry open forest/scrub with a bit of rock in between. There wasn’t a pad of any sorts, save from what appeared to once have been an old road, and someone who had put a rock or two on old stumps. But it’s not really needed, as navigation is easy enough.

Just a bit of snow/hail.. an idea of the open scrub we headed up through to get to Byatts Razorback

Just a bit of snow/hail.. an idea of the open scrub we headed up through to get to Byatts Razorback

By the time we popped out on top, the skies were blue again, and the sun was starting to dip down towards the west, over the Ben Lomond plateau. It was just past 5pm. We spent a bit of time relaxing on top, and I know I for one was in no real hurry to end the day. There were nice views back towards East and West Tower Hills, and it was nice to be able to take in the three summits we’d climbed. But everything good must come to an end, and half an hour later we moved off, back down to the cars, following the old road for longer, a nice reprieve for weary bodies. Back at the cars by 6, we were all up for a decent meal at Burger Me. The 8 year old amongst us probably had the most energy left by this stage!! Pretty impressive effort on his behalf, and I sense there will come a day when none of us can keep up with him!

Easy navigation

Easy navigation

Lounging round on the summit.. East and West Tower Hills in the background

Lounging round on the summit.. East and West Tower Hills in the background

View towards the Ben Lomond plateau from the top

View towards the Ben Lomond plateau from the top

Mt Elephant and St Pauls Dome: 6 October 2013

Mt Elephant GPS track

Mt Elephant GPS track

When I first started to get serious about walking, and bought myself a great big map of Tassie, put it on the wall, and stuck pins in every peak that’s worth points on the HWC peakbaggers list, The Elephant was one that caught my attention. Probably because elephants have been my favourite animal since I was little. Then in April this year when I was up in the NE and I first set eyes on it (obvious to pick if you drive towards St Marys from Fingal, it looks like an elephant lying down, trunk stretched out in front) I really wanted to. That wasn’t to happen on that particular trip, but we did get to have a bit of a recce, and get some vague directions from a local who often walks up that way (though not to the summit).

 

Climbing the Elephant.. open scrub mostly

Climbing the Elephant.. open scrub mostly

That was the beginning, and yesterday was the end. We woke up nice and early, thanks to daylight savings (there are times when having a job like baking comes in handy, as early mornings aren’t so hard), and met at 6am at Granton. A stop in Campbell town to wake up with coffee and we were off along the Esk Highway towards St Marys. Not long on the Elephant Pass road (just before the Pancake place) and we were turning left, up the rough cut in to an openish space to park our four cars.

 

A little bit of cutting grass

A little bit of cutting grass

We started out shortly after 9, heading east along the vehicle track we were on, searching around for a spot to head north. We ended up choosing a bit of tape, but probably should have ignored it (a bit further east was where an old bulldozer track came out, and we followed this down quite easily on the way back, though it’s a bit harder to spot if you’re heading up). It didn’t really matter, as the scrub was easy enough to weave through. The orchid spotters had keen eyes, and found some very cute little guys on the way up. As we got higher, and the incline started to flatten out a bit, we found the cutting grass, its brilliant green contrasted beautifully with the grey-black burnt tree trunks of the gums.

 

Skeletal remains of burnt out trees

Skeletal remains of burnt out trees

After wandering 1.5km along the flatish top, we arrived at the cairned summit. Views were limited somewhat to the forest, but it didn’t matter so much. We sat for a small bite to eat, deciding to move when the lure of pancakes became too strong. The way down we stuck further west, and had a relatively scrub free descent. We also managed to stay on the old dozer track right to the vehicle track, which made going nice and easy. We were back at the car at 2 (6.8km, 5 hrs and about 400m ascent), and eating pancakes in no time ;).

 

Mt Elephant summit

Mt Elephant summit

It was a little hard to get moving again, but St Pauls Dome was supposed to be short, and while it might have looked threatening, it wasn’t actually raining yet. So we went to check it out, following directions from off wildtiger.com. A note to anyone else who follows these directions, they were written in 1999, and the ‘2 wheel drive’ access road is very much not that. We crammed from four into two cars, a 4WD and the other possibly an AWD (I wouldn’t have taken my AWD over one short section of the road had I have been alone). It was good we did, cos it cut off a fair bit of walking. As a result, we got quite close, walking only 360 metres on road before heading into the scrub.

 

Heading up St Pauls Dome

Heading up St Pauls Dome

We’d started out at 4.15, and after the road walk headed into the open/minimal scrub. After a short walk we hit the scree fields, and began the climb. The higher we got, the more fun it became, as we walked on pretty awesome rock, in amongst the tree tops. It’s one of those short fun easy scrambly walks that keep you awake and entertained as you decide where to put the next foot, so that you’ll be balanced enough to glance at the mist seeping through the trees while you move onwards and upwards. The rain threatened, but backed off, and we made it to the summit in an easy hour and 15 minutes, to be rewarded by partial views, in amongst the tree tops and cloud.

 

St Pauls Dome Trig

St Pauls Dome Trig

After a short rest and enjoyment of the top, a time conscious group headed back down, back at the car in an hour, making the walk 2.5 hours, 2.9km and 330m ascent. A long drive home for people who’d either been walking the day before, at the Radical Reels film festival or the opera or anything else, and had had even less sleep due to daylight savings.. but we made it, and though we may be tired, a little tender or sore, I’m certainly nicely refreshed!

 

New growth :)

New growth 🙂

 

St Pauls Dome GPS track

St Pauls Dome GPS track

 

Spion Kop, Young and Blackboy: 24-25 August 2013

Spion Kop GPS route

Spion Kop GPS route

With the weather the way it was all week, and news of the river we would need to cross to do the planned Ironstone with LWC on the Sunday being flooded, a plan B was formed, and took on a life of its own. It turned into a lovely little weekend away in the Northeast, with some nice weather, great company (really loving it and never more thankful), some more easy walking ;), yummy dinner (thanks Shaz!!) and a wedged tailed eagle or 3! It’s always fun exploring the unknown and delighting in the surprises that await.. if you can overcome the angst of the unknown and fear of the worst (trees down, nasty scrub, flooded rivers etc), which I find is usually my challenge, and better met with a friend or two by your side rather than solo.

Road walk up to Spion Kop

Road walk up to Spion Kop

So we headed up after I finished work on the Saturday at 9am, leaving Forcett at 10ish, and heading for St Patrick’s Head. I’d already climbed this one, but Shaz hadn’t, and we reckoned we’d have time to fit two in before finding somewhere to camp. Having decided to spend the night at the Griffin campground, we also thought we’d check out Spion Kop afterwards, as it was the only peak short enough and on the way. St Patrick’s Head was a nice climb again, and we ran into about 8 or so kids and a few parents on the way up. It was great to see kids out and about enjoying the mountains, and they were clearly having heaps of fun, with the older kids helping the younger ones up the tricky bits. Bushwalking certainly has a lot to teach all of us :).

Spion Kop summit cairn

Spion Kop summit cairn

We didn’t stay too long on top, wary of the time and keen to push on to Spion Kop, as we weren’t sure how long it might take. We went for what looked like the better road to approach the mountain, but as suspected, it was just a bit too nice looking – much nicer even than the main road, courtesy of coal operations and a locked gate! So we doubled back for about 1.5km, and took Valley Road. It’s quite a good gravel road, but when it came time to turn off we had to leave the car, courtesy of a tree across the road (which would have otherwise been drive-able, probably better in a 4wd though). If I was to do this again, I’d try driving further along Valley road to where another vehicle track turns off, and meets up from the south with the one we ended up walking along (see the map). This might save a fair bit of walking.

Reflections in puddles

Reflections in puddles

Not that the walking was hard. For us there was the initial straight up, lungs and legs complaining, nothing abnormal! Then a nice relatively flat and longer than expected walk along the top, heading west towards the summit. The final 600 metres is through light scrub and rock, though there’s open patches especially towards the top and it’s not bad going. The road walk took us 35 minutes, and the final 600 metres a further 12, with about the same on the way back – largely because once we were back on the road there was no longer any pressure to get out of the scrub before it got dark.

Camp fire fun

Camp fire fun

We drove to the campground, set up tents, and Shaz got dinner cooking (coriander, lime and coconut chicken with noodles for dinner, YUMMM) and then a fire started, while I was on firewood/sticks and bark duty. We had a lovely evening eating, drinking, chatting, trying to keep the fire going with green wood, and taking photos of it. Oh, and looking at other peaks to climb on my computer!!

Track markers at start of taped track to Young

Track markers at start of taped track to Young

Mt Young GPS route

Mt Young GPS route

The next morning we didn’t waste too much time packing up and breakfasting, and were on the road before 8. However we spent half an hour taking a detour thanks to a tree across the road we were on, which was only a few hundred metres from the road we were trying to get on! But it was worth it, because in having to backtrack and get onto the right road right from it’s beginning, we came across a wedge tailed eagle that was sitting on the side of the road. Neither of us saw it at first, thinking it was just a bit of wood or something, until we got close enough and it flew slowly and gracefully across the front of the car, to the other side of the road where there was a bit of a clearing, and just landed there, not needing to go too far. I’ve never seen one so close, and he was massive!

Summit View from Young

Summit View from Young

The detour now better appreciated, well tolerated ;), we continued, wary of more fallen trees (it was windy too). But though there were a few for the rest of the day, nothing that couldn’t be moved, and we arrived beside Young by 8.45. Driving up from the south it looks like Young might be rather scrubby, but on closer inspection, especially when you find the cairn and tags marking a route up, it becomes apparent that it isn’t at all. The first bit takes you through tall skinny trees, then you’re into some typical NE stuff, and towards the top more scree/rock than anything else. And before you know it you pop out on top, with a Sprent concrete pillar thingy and a trig. If you’re treated the way we were then you’ll also have two wedgies dancing their dance in the wind (quite strong on top), and nice views out over Tower Hill, Byatts Razorback, Saddleback, Albert and Victoria. Oh, and Blackboy, but it’s not as impressive as the others. We did notice it however, as it was the next peak on our ‘hit list’.

Interesting forest on the way up to Young

Interesting forest on the way up to Young

Young was much faster than expected, and we were up and back in all of 40 minutes (1.2km). The wind on top had made for a hasty departure! We figured if Blackboy was just as fast, we might fit both Albert and Victoria in as well (I’d done both previously, so they were for Shaz, and we had the benefit of knowing how long they’d take). But first, we had to find the road agreeable to a non-4wd car. And it was. After the removal of a tree or two, that is!

Blackboy's worst bit of scrub - very light on really

Blackboy’s worst bit of scrub – very light on really

Blackboy GPS route

Blackboy GPS route

The road actually goes to within 450 odd metres of the summit of Blackboy as well, and on arriving the scrub didn’t look to bad either. In fact, we followed an old bulldozer track for the first little bit, then very light scrub. Actually the thicker scrub was just before the summit, but it really wasn’t anything at all. Hardly worthy of the name scrub. We found the summit cairn, but had no views, partly because it wasn’t that kind of summit, also because it was now drizzling and the white was starting to descend. It didn’t really matter, and the gums were quite nice shrouded in mist. Again, we didn’t stick around for long (30 minutes return, 1.6km), this time because of the rain, and a desire to get past the mossy section of road before it got too damp.

Blackboy summit

Blackboy summit

After a bit of a talk about whether to do Albert and Victoria or not, Shaz opted to save them for another day, so the walking was done and we were heading back home by 10.30! Well, with one stop off at Burger Me in Campbell Town to reward ourselves for the 4 peaks we’d done :p!

Our reward :p

Our reward :p

All up: Spion Kop: 6.8km, 1.37hrs, 366m ascent; Blackboy: 1.6km, 30min, 123m ascent; Young: 1.2km, 39min, 148m ascent.

Mounts Henry and St John: 17 August 2013

Mount Henry GPS route

Mount Henry GPS route

Mid week, the forecast for the weekend was no different from the last few weeks: rain everywhere, and snow above a certain height. I’d been (and still am) dying to get out for a 2.5 day trip somewhere nice, but that’s not much fun in the rain. So I thought about a 2.5 day drip up northish, starting with some peaks near Fingal, and working my way further north. From what I knew, all were a matter of driving as close as possible, and taking to the scrub. I was anticipating very little view, and maybe a little bit of intimacy with the greenery.

Last bit of road walk, Henry in sight ahead

Last bit of road walk, Henry in sight ahead

I’d assumed I’d be going alone, given the weather and the unknown but likely not so nice nature of the walking, but Bec is as crazy as me, and I was very happy when she said she was up for it. That meant coming back Sunday night, or by 2pm on the Monday, but I wasn’t fussed.

Ascending Henry

Ascending Henry

So, after waking a half hour earlier to pack my bags last minute (we were going car camping so I didn’t have to be very organised, just throw everything into a duffle bag) I went to work, finished at 9, and met Bec at her place. As we drove up, we were a tad reluctant to speak of how good the weather was actually looking, but we did admire a snow topped Stacks Bluff!

Nice flat open walking through forest on top

Nice flat open walking through forest on top

With Bec navigating off my GPS, we found the roads to take us to Henry, and got a good part of the way there. The condition of the road, however, deteriorated enough to surpass my confidence in driving an AWD through, especially given we were unsure of where there might be spots to turn around. And luckily we stopped when we did, at the top of what was a steep enough hill that made me doubt that I would have been able to drive up without losing traction after a little bit of rain (or even without). This was confirmed as I attempted a 3 point turn in the middle of the road, flooring the accelerator harder than ever to get the car to move. Having said that, when it did move it conveniently didn’t just reverse backwards, but the front slid sideways, making the turn have considerably less points than I was anticipating!

Unimpressive summit? At least there was a trig...

Unimpressive summit? At least there was a trig…

Glad to have the driving over for the time being, we set off, down the hill and up to the point I had decided looked the best for an approach – least amount of climb, following a natural spur up. And would you believe it, at the very point we decided to head up, there was pink tape! So we followed it. While in some spots it was non existent, or we took a slightly different route up, we always seemed to come across it, sometimes only realising when we stepped over bits on the ground. It was a nice little surprise, completely unexpected, and rather reassuring too. The walk itself was also nice. No real scrub to contend with, and once you get the climbing done, there’s a pleasant wander over open flat terrain. You then come across the unimpressive and very flat summit, with a trig. It was a good thing the walk up was pleasurable, as we didn’t stay more than a few minutes on the summit, giving up on trying to get a view pretty quick.

St John GPS route

St John GPS route

On the way back down we did find a spot where you caught a decent glimpse of the Hazards, Freycinet and even further south to Maria. We didn’t stay long though, as we could see the weather coming in. Oh, I forgot to mention, all of this was done under blue skies and a few white clouds, but not enough to block out the sun!! So much for rain, rain and more rain! As I said to Bec, if we weren’t prepared to walk in rain, we wouldn’t have been walking in sunshine.

Walking up the road.. loving these guys at the moment.. such potential

Walking up the road.. loving these guys at the moment.. such potential

Anyway, I in particular wanted to get back to the car and off the worst bit of the road before it got too wet, but part way down we felt the first few drops and I gave up on that idea. However it was very short lived, and the jackets soon came off as we heated up on the walk back up the road to the car.

Open walking on top again.. on a road as well!

Open walking on top again for St John.. on a road as well!

All up it was a leisurely 5km, and nearly 2 hours, with a total ascent of 325 metres. And yes, we got out quite ok, despite a few unseen dips in the road :p! We then headed off to St Johns, to see what that held in store for us. And again, it gave us more than we expected or asked!

After the quite a pleasant little wander up Henry, we figured we were still on track for St John as well, and the weather had returned to blue skies, so off we drove, Bec once again in the navigators seat. This time, when we got to the road that forked off the ‘main’ road and headed for St John, we only drove a short distance. We decided it would be better to get out and walk after watching the saplings that were growing along the middle of the road, many between shoulder and head height, bend under the front of the car, and pop up out the back… whoops..!

First glimpse of a view on St John

First glimpse of a view on St John

It wasn’t as bad as it initially seemed, and having now walked the whole road, it would be possible to take a 4wd up, as long as the driver was confident. There was one spot where someone might need to get out and hold up the end of a tree that has fallen diagonally across the road, one end high, one end low. Oh, and a decent pool or two to have to drive through.

The white trig on St John

The white trig on St John

Though the road was longer than a more direct approach, it was easy to walk, and once up on top, it was really quite enjoyable walking through the open forest. Though my GPS showed that it petered out about one kilometre from the summit, we were very pleased to find that we could in fact follow it to within 80 metres of the top!

Looking left, west from St John's summit

Looking left, west from St John’s summit

But that wasn’t the only surprise we were to have! Approaching the summit, I let out a cry to Bec when I caught a glimpse of St Pauls Dome through the trees, the sun almost starting to set out to its right, sensing that we might actually get a view. That, and spotting the WHITE trig marker! Shocked by the news of a view, and wanting to see it, Bec took a tumble and kissed a rock, which didn’t take too kindly to her and gave her a split lip :(. Hardly very saintly.

Looking right, east from St John's summit

Looking right, east from St John’s summit

After checking that all teeth were intact, we went to check out the view. And it was great for that part of the state, perhaps all the better given the evening light. You stand out on a bit of rock, which just falls away below you to green expanses, and to your left and right the ridge stretches out, nice and green, tinged yellow by the sun. And St Pauls Dome stood nicely on the horizon. It would have been nice to sit there and watch the sun set, lining the clouds golden and turning the distant hills shades of blue, but given Bec’s attempt to find a cheaper alternative to botox (similar results, little more scaring), we figured it best to head down, as part of the way back was going to be in the dark anyway.

And an old old bit of tree on the summit

And an old old bit of tree on the summit

So we wandered back (10km total, just under a casual 3 hours), talking about teeth, dentists and all sorts of other things, then decided we’d better make up our minds about where to spend the night. We’d done no research, but Bec had a handy tourist map with her, and it showed some falls not far away, so we thought we’d give it a crack, or just find a clearing by the road somewhere.

That wasn’t called for, as we found a lovely little spot, complete with BBQ, toilet, tables and chairs, as well as the all important flat, non-rocky ground. And so we set up our tents under headlights, and jumped inside to get out of the wind that had started to pick up. I fell asleep before even managing to change my clothes, and slept for nearly 12 hours! Haven’t had that for a long time!

The following morning, which we’d planned to do Spion Kop and Foster, started a little drizzly as I sat in my tent, but soon cleared, the drizzle coming back every now and again. By 8.30 we wandered down to check out the falls lookout, which is stupidly positioned above the falls so you can’t actually see them, but the view of the river was quite nice. The sun came out, and with it the rainbows, and we thought we might actually get lucky with the weather.

It was short lived however, and as we went to check out Foster the rain had set in. After dealing with some escaped sheep who panicked every time we tried to drive past them, we found the road we’d chosen to take was gated, and we made the decision to go instead back to Avoca and have a hot drink and see if the weather would lift. We did just that, and on local advice that the rain was set in for the day, decided to save those few for another slightly less rainy day!

All up: Henry: 4.9km, 1.54 hrs, 324m ascent; St John: 9.8km, 2.48hrs, 309m ascent.