Finally a walk I can write up and post almost immediately afterwards, a sign I’m starting to get on top of things! Starting… there’s still a few big ones to come, including the awesome Frankland range!!
Walking in the northeast usually ensures good weather, even when the rest of the state is less than desirable, but not for this walk! That’s not to say the walk was not enjoyable however, even past the point of exhaustion, and even with the leech attack that came as dark descended!
We started out at 7 am, and after the usual stop at Campbell Town arrived at the start of Saddleback by 10, ready to go 20 minutes later. Directions are as per the Abels, for both Saddleback and Ben Nevis. Ready to go was a must: straight up, unless you put one foot wrong and then it was straight down. The rain, not heavy at all but enought to make everything well and truely wet, made the track and rocks quite slippery, and it didn’t take a fool to know it was going to be fun coming back down! Though it was straight up, it was over pretty fast, and the the pleasurable walk along the top, weaving through the scrub and rocks on a clearly defined pad. The views, well I can’t talk for them, but it was still quite atmospheric!
Summit suction and a desperate need to get out and stretch my legs saw me out the front with one other member, which meant I had time to sit on the summit cairn, listening to the wind, and watching it race across the mountain top, covering everything in its path with misty rain, then I imagine racing off to the next mountain top, not exactly howling, but letting its presence be known.
We had a bite to eat, sheltered behind the cairn, before heading back down rather carefully. Down with no casualties, lunch in the warm and dry cars, and off to Ben Nevis.
It was nearly 3 when we headed off, and we knew we’d be back in the dark, but that’s part of the fun! Like Saddleback, you were straight into the up, though not quite as steep this time. And quite different terrain. A fair bit of a rock pad after the initial dirt of the bush floor, but not the same kind of slippery stuff as at Saddleback. Then once you were up on top the pads were numerous but not all that well marked. It didn’t matter too much, we had a gps and heading in the right direction meant you invariably were walking on one pad or another. GPS is probably a must though for doing this bit in whiteout conditions, and fading light.
We reached the summit nearly 1.5 hrs after starting, as the light was threatening to fade. Deciding to make the most of it, we didn’t stay long, and headed back down, taking almost as long given half of the descent was by head torch. Was nice to get back to the cars and into warm clothes, though there was a bit of a war with the leeches!! This little endeavour affirms that sometimes you walk for the views, sometimes for the company, and if you’re lucky, both.. but it’s the company as much as the views that makes a walk!
Walk times would be much faster in sunnier conditions, but don’t be tempted to make a bee-line for Ben Nevis as soon as you can see it.. swing out to the right instead, to make the going slightly easier.
All up: Saddleback: 3.5km, 2.47hrs, 335m ascent; Ben Nevis: 5.0km, 2.57hrs, 446m ascent.