To say this was the first time I’d climbed these mountains would be a lie, but it was the first time I could see what I was doing! My first visit had been a club affair when I was still green at the bush walking business – back in the day we went regardless of the weather and during the year that Simon (leader of the walk) managed to score whiteout conditions on something like 11 or his 13 walks!
Graham hadn’t done either of these walks, so to pacify my desire for new adventure he agreed to climbing these two on a day we’d have view. We had been somewhat disappointed not to be able to go to slightly more exciting territory in the southwest, but the weather was far from agreeable anywhere but the northeast.
In an attempt to increase our fitness for an up and coming epic trip in January, we decided we’d lug packs up on top and camp there. There is, of course, no need to do this, as both mountains are easily climbable as a day trip. But a high camp is always nice!
We set out very late, I’d just come off night shift (not the same as when I was baking – the longer nights take it out of me much more) and we both had to pack. Graham kindly drove while I tried to get a bit of sleep. I think we got to the start of the track and were ready to set off at about 4.30pm. There is parking out of sight of the road, if you head a short way down the gravel track. It certainly doesn’t feel like the kind of area you’d want to leave a car for an extended period of time.
The track starts off as an old vehicle road, and dirt bikes would have made things rather fast. Signs say it’s 2 hours to the plateau. It’s heads in a bee-line north west, and eventually turns into a foot track, marked by blazes, red arrows, tape and cairns. The gradient increases and the pace drops off the closer you get to the top. The smell was pungent, and it brought back vague memories of teenage scents – lip balm I think, but I couldn’t quite place it!
We managed to do the 2 hrs in 1:45, which we thought was acceptable with the weight on our backs. We chose a spot to camp, tucked out of the wind as best we could. You’re a bit spoilt for camping up there, and though we’d lugged water up, there was plenty up there for those wanting a slightly lighter trip.
We left our gear behind and ducked over to Sphinx Bluff, ignoring the pad and finding our own way (it’s that open one doesn’t really need the pad). The wind was like a caged lion below, racing around and flinging itself at the rock walls that formed the edge of the plateau. If you stood in the right (or wrong) spot you got a taste of the full force of its power. 35 minutes later, we were back at our gear, ready to set up the tent, eat and fall asleep nearly before our heads hit the pillow. Though I’d been keen to stay up for sunset, it was both too windily cold and I was way too tired.
Similarly, I was in no state to be up for sunrise and it was no warmer. We had an easy morning, packing up then moseying over to to Pavement Bluff. The walking was equally open and undemanding in the navigational sense, and we were back at out gear within an hour. The walk down was nearly as tiring on legs as the way up, due to the gradient and the need to break each step lest we find our feet getting ahead of ourselves!
All up: 6 hrs, 12.7km, 913m ascent (time includes choosing tent sites etc)