Mount Cattley, Parsons Hood, Mount Dundas and Mount McCutcheon: 1-7 October

School holidays were on, Jess had two weeks off school and seemed keen enough to spend a chunk of precious time with me, in the bush. We were hoping to check out Mounts Braddon, Legge and King in the southwest but the weather was looking horrendous everywhere, especially the further west you went. So we compromised. Another car camping trip where we would go wherever the weather was best!

Our plans were last minute and designed to be adaptable. We set off early on Thursday having settled on climbing Mountain Elephant and Byatts Razorback at only 10pm the night before. We were then set to drive to Cradle Mountain where some of Jess’ colleagues were staying and were happy enough to have us crash with them for two nights. It was ambitious, but the weather was fine, the company perfect and we found a much better route up Mt Elephant than the last time I went, saving 2.5 hours on our expected walk time and avoiding a whole heap of cutting grass! The sun was out, the breeze light, the world was good.

Climbing up Mt Elephant
Climbing up Mt Elephant
Jess on Mt Elephant summit
Jess on Mt Elephant summit

Byatts Razorback shocked us though, as we’d been unaware of the impact of the fires a year or so back and the whole area was burnt out. The only things that weren’t black and dead were a few new shoots on gum trees and the odd weeds growing out of otherwise sterilised ground. The walk, only a few hundred metres to the summit, took longer than in probably should have as we were being a little careful not to slice ourselves open on sharp burnt scrub or otherwise end up completely covered in charcoal. The only bit of green scrub was right near the summit. It was a completely different kind of walk to the first time I’d done it, reminding me of a back drop of an evil scene out of something like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

Byatts Razorback hit by the fires
Byatts Razorback hit by the fires
New beginnings
New beginnings

That night we caught up with Jess’ friends and their kids, arriving right on cue at dinner time! We shared pasta, played board games and had a genuinely fun time in each others company, thanks to their enormous generosity in letting us crash with them!

Mount Cattley GPS route

MOUNT CATTLEY

For day two Jess had the choice between Mount Cattley or Mount Stormont for her 200th peak. She chose the former, which looked like it had a road that might get us to within 2 km of the summit. This wasn’t entirely accurate, however! We turned off the highway and the road quickly became an overgrown tunnel that put new scratches down the sides of the car and cleaned the undercarriage all at the same time. When we got to where it crossed a river we were dismayed to see that the bridge had fallen in. The car wasn’t going any further!

The bridge across the river was very much not passable (in a car anyway). The road on the other side is clearly overgrown too.
The bridge across the river was very much not passable (in a car anyway). The road on the other side is clearly overgrown too.

We almost started to walk across a very wet and slippery looking log that reached across to the other side when we realised that we’d been so preoccupied by the collapsed bridge that we hadn’t realised that the scrub on the side was hiding one bit of bridge that still spanned the river and was going to be much safer and less slippery to cross. On the other side the road continued, increasingly overgrown. Celery Top pines were definitely the featured flora on this walk.

Over grown road, but easy enough walking
Over grown road, but easy enough walking

We made a mistake part way along when we decided there wasn’t much point being on the road after all, as it was more open off to the side. This was all very well until we got to the end of the open section and then spent a lot of time weaving through scrub only to eventually pop back out onto the road at a section where it was very open and easy walking! We decided we’d be following it back, thank you very much! We continued along it, grateful to be out of the scrub, until it came to its end at a clearing. But that was ok, because the terrain ahead was waist high tea tree and button grass, with the odd bit of bauera.

Fungi looking like vermicelli noodles
Fungi looking like vermicelli noodles

We headed straight up the short climb to the ridge line and then turned right to head along the top of the narrow ridge. It was a wise choice but was still certainly easier said that done in some spots. It started off open enough that you could weave your way through the scrub, sometimes in under the tree canopy, sometimes wading clear through shin deep bauera. But it seemed the closer we got the worse the ridge became. It started to break up, featuring big rocks with short, stunted, pretty solid trees growing out of the gaps. We wove from side to side in search of better going, but it wasn’t always to be found. After 4-500m of average going we broke back out and had a final ascent up button grass runs to the rocky summit. It had only taken us 3.5 hours to get there!

On the ridge, you can tell which way the wind blows up here!
On the ridge, you can tell which way the wind blows up here!
Jess makes her way along the ridge in a spot where the scrub is not so hard
Jess makes her way along the ridge in a spot where the scrub is not so hard
Finally on the summit! Enjoying sun and some blue sky!
Finally on the summit! Enjoying sun and some blue sky!

After some photos, much appreciation of the better than expected view and SUNSHINE(!) and a bite to eat, we set off retracing our steps. It’s fascinating how much easier it seems on the return – must be something about the uncertainty of the unknown that makes the going seem tougher and longer on the ascent. We made good time and even the worst bits didn’t seem too bad. The going was warm and at times the heat radiated up off the scrub and made us feel like we were in a tropical summer!

Heading back down, Celery Top pine in the foreground. This is the walk I think I've seen the most on in all my walking years!
Heading back down, Celery Top pine in the foreground. This is the walk I think I’ve seen the most on in all my walking years!
We had views we didn't expect. At one point we could even see Barn and Cradle!
We had views we didn’t expect. At one point we could even see Barn and Cradle!

We got back to the clearing and then had no problems following the road all the way back to the car, arriving 7 hours after setting out. The walk, which is thought would be a few kilometres each way, was over 12! The kookaburras had laughed at our antics on the way back down and I hardly blamed them.

There were some pretty awesome big trees!
There were some pretty awesome big trees!

All up: 12.8km, 6:57hrs, 354m ascent

We were hoping Jess’ friends had got out for a walk and enjoyed the views and sunshine in the good weather. They had indeed and had even seen close to 40 wombats! We shared another enjoyable evening chatting and eating a communal dinner, and after the kids had gone to bed we even did some craft as it was one kids 11th birthday the next day and we thought it would be fun to celebrate it. Those birthday celebrations included a breakfast of egg and bacon muffins, a sure upgrade from porridge! And then it came time to head off in our separate directions. They were heading to Derby, while we were heading into the rain of the west coast.

It was forecast to be pretty much 100% rain for days three and four, so we had a walking hiatus and decided instead to visit the Cradle Mountain wilderness gallery and then the Zeehan museum. Our legs and stiff bodies needed a rest in any case! That took all day and even then there was more information that we could process. A suggestion from a friend and a few messages then had accommodation sorted for us at Fraser Creek Hut, a place we’d both heard about but hadn’t been. It’s a short 4km ish walk up a steepish hill around the northern side of Mt Dundas, in some beautiful forest. The hut is maintained by former ranger Terry Reid, who happened to be heading up the same time we were. It was lovely to walk in to a freshly lit fire and have someone give us a tour on how everything worked with all the extra added bonuses that come with knowing the land like the back of one’s hand.

Heading up through lovely forest to Fraser Creek hut
Heading up through lovely forest to Fraser Creek hut
A friendly reminder in case you forgot about stopping for some chocolate!
A friendly reminder in case you forgot about stopping for some chocolate!

The highlight by far that night was going to see glow worms!!! A short walk from the hut, Terry told us to duck under a branch and we found ourselves standing in a crevasse between two rocky walls. When we turned our head torches off the sides shone with little blue glow worm ‘stars’! It’s the first time I’d seen them in the wild and it was just wonderful!!! You can probably imagine all our exclamations and laughter. We eventually dragged ourselves away and back to the warmth of the hut, where we watched a very cute swamp rat feeding politely on a small pile of muesli that Terry had put out for him. Eventually we called it a night and it didn’t take long to fall asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.

The hut from the top bunk. Mary and Terry going about their business in the morning.
The hut from the top bunk. Mary and Terry going about their business in the morning.

The rain had really set in overnight, as had daylight savings, not that it meant much to any of us except perhaps Terry, who had the radio on. We had a day of R&R planned, which didn’t need an accurate time at all. Just a good book, plenty of food, and the odd bit of chatter.

Fraser Creek hut - pretty no?
Fraser Creek hut – pretty no?

As it turned out, we spent our day of rest doing all sorts of unexpected but fun things. We chatted a LOT, screwed some castor wheels onto a steel Ventura box so it was easier to move around, helped cart backpacks of wood to the hut and learnt about the firewood rotation system in place, checked out some massive and old king billies and a few baby ones that are undergoing an experiment to see if they can be propagated from cuttings, learnt how to split wood to make palings with a froe, saw a ring tail possum drae, learnt how to tell the difference between plum and native laurel from their leaves, stoked the fire lots, ate yummy food and chocolate, listened to the local radio station, and eventually drifted to bed. It was a day of sharing, listening, learning and giving back a little. All the while the rain kept falling with a gentle pitter patter on the roof and the river raced by the front of the hut, the fire crackled and sparked, together making a comforting background noise that came to the forefront when the radio was turned off at night and our voices fell silent.

Split palings
Split palings
Just in case you need a phone signal
Just in case you need a phone signal
Parsons Hood GPS route

PARSONS HOOD

On day five we woke to the sound of the radio and Terry busying himself with breakfast, and one by one joined him at the table for our last meal together. And then it was time to say our goodbyes and slide our way down the mountain. The rain had stopped, but our gear was still a little wet and there was plenty of water on the track and falling from the trees that we didn’t dry out at all. We were back at the car in a little over an hour and made our way north to Parsons Hood.

This was a mountain that had long been in my too hard basket. My first experience was of being told our numberplate had been recorded and if we were found trespassing on the mining site we’d be in trouble. And so naturally I’d ignored it for a long time. But about a month ago word from a fellow bushwalker who also worked on the mines was that it was the perfect time to go for a walk as the current company leasing the site wasn’t active (and sounded like it had bigger problems to deal with!) but that there was a chance someone else might come along and start things up in a month or so. That got our attention at the time and it bumped Parsons Hood up the list a long way – almost to the top!

Gate over the road at the start of the walk. Jess washes her boots with the gear provided
Gate over the road at the start of the walk. Jess washes her boots with the gear provided

Today was the perfect day for it too, or so we thought. Light drizzle in the morning and then a clearer afternoon, with a mountain where it wouldn’t matter whether or not it was still cloudy when you were on the top because there weren’t views anyway. We started walking just before midday and were a good deal higher up when we got to the end of the mining road a bit more than an hour later. We’d found an abandoned mining hut on the way up, which was well built but revealed that miners these days don’t live in much more comfortable style than they did decades ago!

The road was in good condition
The road was in good condition
A miner's hut on the way up
A miner’s hut on the way up

We still had a kilometre to go to the summit, off track. It seemed to have stopped raining by this point but it was hard to tell because we were already soaked and we kept brushing against wet forest or bumping into saplings that would shower us in fresh, large water drops. Everything squealched. Jess reckoned she’s still be dreaming of squealching sounds that night!

The forest was nice, once you got over the fact that every second step sunk into mud or fell through whatever bit of rotten wood you were trying to stand on
The forest was nice, once you got over the fact that every second step sunk into mud or fell through whatever bit of rotten wood you were trying to stand on

We hit a hundred meters of horizontal very early on but after that managed to stay in the less climb stuff. A fair bit of ferny stuff, plenty of fallen and rotten tree trunks, myrtles, native laurel, leatherwood, sassafras (which was even in flower)… everything covered in lush, wet moss..probably plenty of others too if you did a better job of noticing than I did! We plodded, sunk and slipped our way up, slowly, playing a game of ‘is it solid or is it rotten’ each time we went to step on a tree or branch. I reckon it was about 50-50!

On top we found the small pile of rocks marking the summit in amongst slightly denser scrub, which even included some tall scoparia! It was cold, so we put on warm gear, ate a hurried lunch and set off back down. We found a better route down that avoided the horizontal and cut off some of the road walk too. We talked a lot about the warm dry clothes that awaited us and getting to the Waratah campground where there was hot water. That probably illustrates best how we were feeling… I certainly felt like I’d gone swimming fully clothed!

A small mossy cairn marks the summit of Parsons Hood
A small mossy cairn marks the summit of Parsons Hood

Back at the car, warm clothes on, Jess decided to see if attaching her gaiters to her roof racks would dry them out a bit on the drive to Waratah. I reckon it did but probably wasn’t as noticeable as it should have been given we drove through a bit of a rain shower just before we arrived! It was crazy how light it still was at 6:30 (we’d kind of missed it on the Sunday being in the forest), so we hung our wet stuff up to dry a little, cooked dinner, I had a wash (Indonesian ‘mandi’ style) with the hot water (so nice), and checked out some info on Mount Dundas (our selected mountain for the brilliant weather we were promised the next day). We called it a night and went to bed under a sky full of stars, with the frogs croaking away in the distance.

All up: 12.6km, 5:26hrs, 818m ascent.

Mount Dundas GPS route

MOUNT DUNDAS

Day six dawned clear and sunny, though the night had been cold and some of the gear we’d hung out to dry had frozen stiff! We took our time packing and sorting, in no rush to start walking before the sun had had time to dry of some of the forest we’d be walking through. And so it was 11:30 by the time we were ready to start walking up Mount Dundas.

The walk was accessed exactly as described in the Abels although the turn off to Howards road was a few extra kilometres further according to our odometer (not the 7.5km mentioned in the book). We had high hopes that finally we had a day and a walk that should have us staying dry and warm. Things departed from that plan almost before we’d even started walking. From the carpark, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, we walked across the bridge and turned left to cross the next river, finding it in spare thanks to the rain and snow over the weekend. Jess got a couple of boot fills of water, which was the end of her dry feet. I managed to keep the water out the top of mine, but they must have sprung a leak near the toes because the longer I was in the water the damper I could feel my socks getting. We looked on the bright side and figured things could only get better.

The old bulldozer track on Mt Dundas starts off openish
The old bulldozer track on Mt Dundas starts off openish
The dozer track becomes increasingly closed over
The dozer track becomes increasingly closed over

Not exactly so! The first part of the walk is on an old bulldozer track and while bits are open, it becomes increasingly less bulldozerish and more like an overgrown walking track. In addition, it’s pretty steep and slippery, but also has a number of flatter bits that were very boggy. None where the mud quite got over the tops of our boots, but they got close! This might be different in summer, but for us it meant poor Jess (who was leading) was drenched through and through again and we were having a repeat of the squealching thing from the day before. While it was a clear day, it was also pretty cold, enough that our arms felt like they’d been in a freezer due to their constant contact with wet scrub.

Everything did, however, change for the better when we left the dozer track and started on the walking track, which started off meandering through beautiful open myrtle forest. As we climbed the height of the vegetation shrunk and the variety increased, to the point Jess reckoned she’d seen pretty much every type of plant she knew the name for except perhaps one.

The track is infinitely more enjoyable when you get onto the walking track
The track is infinitely more enjoyable when you get onto the walking track

We enjoyed the twisting and turning walk through the delightful flora, although were definitely slowing down and feeling tired by this stage. When we hit the snow line the temperature dropped, although we were getting more sun which helped to counter it. A bit of open walking where the track was braided, and then we were briefly back in the lovely and varied scrub, before popping out for a rock scramble to the summit.

Out of the forest and onto the open top before the final climb, and we have sun and views!
Out of the forest and onto the open top before the final climb, and we have sun and views!

The going was a tad slower than normal, not just because of the fatigue, but also because there was enough snow on the rocks to make them slippery. And then there was the views to consider – pretty spectacular, although we were trying to wait to the summit to enjoy them in full! And sure enough we made it, tired but pretty happy, if still a bit wet. Boy was the view worth it!! You could see mountains all around, every one of the 360 degrees.

Scrambling up the rock, the mountains of the Overland Track keep distracting us
Scrambling up the rock, the mountains of the Overland Track keep distracting us
Snow on the rocks on the final climb to the summit
Snow on the rocks on the final climb to the summit

Jess remarked that it had been a while since she’d been able to sit and enjoy a summit like this and I also struggled to think of the last time. So we sat and ate, took some photos and tried to keep warm. The sun WAS out, but so too was a slight breeze which had a nasty bite to it, so much so it eventually drove us from the summit with numb fingers and toes.

On the summit. Which way should we face to eat our lunch??
On the summit. Which way should we face to eat our lunch??
Sun baking
Sun baking
Looking north towards the trig, and checking out Parsons Hood too
Looking north towards the trig, and checking out Parsons Hood too
One last look back at the summit as we're about to descend into the forest
One last look back at the summit as we’re about to descend into the forest

We made much better time on the way down and even found a log over the river which allowed us to cross without rewetting our feet. It did involve Jess learning a new skill – the straddling bum shuffle. It’s most useful for crossing logs that are too narrow or wet to walk across, and involves straddling the log and using your hands to inch yourself along, much like you do when using a gymnastic ‘horse’. It looks a bit funny, but it keeps your feet dry!

All up: 11.6km, 5:51, 941m ascent

Mount McCutcheon GPS route

MOUNT McCUTCHEON

We found ourselves in Strahan that night, Jess generously using part of her Tasmanian government travel voucher to book accomodation – what luxury to have a proper shower and bed! The main reason was so we could collect a key from the PWS office at 8:10am, that would allow us to access the McCall road. We did all that, got the car clean enough to eventually pass muster and made our way to Queenstown and then south past Mount Jukes, taking longer than expected to get to the locked gate. 

McCutcheon summit
McCutcheon summit

The guy from PWS had been spot on the money when he said the road was great till the last apiary site, then it became a 4WD road. It certainly put Jess and her Honda CRV through the test and there were times it was safer to drive in the bush on the side of the road than risk bottoming out. It made for very slow going and so it was 11am by the time we were ready to start walking up Mount McCutcheon. 

Checking out Frenchmans from the scrubby ridge up McCutcheon
Checking out Frenchmans from the scrubby ridge up McCutcheon

And wasn’t that fun?! It was even more horribly green and tangly and HIGH than it had looked on the satellite imagery and so the mere 350m of horizontal distance and less than 100m of ascent made for a 2 hour round trip, where the GPS reckoned we actually walked 1.3km! That meant we weren’t going to get to McCall, even though it looked wonderfully open and, more to the point, the road ahead looked to be in much better condition than what we’d already driven through.

Looking over to Mount McCall. Looks MUCH nicer than this one!
Looking over to Mount McCall. Looks MUCH nicer than this one!

But we had dinner booked in for 6pm in Hobart and we still had to get the key back to the PWS house in Queenstown, refuel and drive all the way back south. We got to Queenstown by 2:30pm and made it to dinner with 5 minutes to spare but no time for a shower or change of clothes!

All up: 1.3km, 2:05hrs, 113m ascent

Heading back down in one of the few spots where I could actually see Jess in the scrub! We did a fair bit of burrowing through it!
Heading back down in one of the few spots where I could actually see Jess in the scrub! We did a fair bit of burrowing through it!

Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf: 28-30 August 2020

Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf GPS routes

How easy is it to become frustrated when you want something, but the rest of the world seems oblivious, or even conspiring against you?! Too easy, it would seem. Until you realise it’s all in your head and in the end, you don’t actually do a very good job of knowing what you want for the future by the time the future becomes the present.

The days I had off in August and had set aside for walking were expertly chosen to coincide with wet and windy weather. As the weekend approached it seemed history was repeating itself. I’d ambitiously put a 2-and-a-bit day walk on the Pandani program as a flash walk for the last weekend in winter. Risky, but walking and connecting with people was at the crux of my new ‘mental health’ plan. At the beginning of the week everywhere seemed to have 90%+ chance of rain. By mid week things were looking better, then they deteriorated, but by crunch time on Thursday it looked like we’d have a bit of a window on Saturday afternoon for some good walking weather (or at least not miserable!). We hatched a tentative itinerary that was as flexible as a super stretchy elastic band, but no one seemed to mind.

It just so happened we could get away early, and so four of us set off from Hobart on Friday afternoon. We’d meet the fifth member of our party at Waratah that night. The drive was long but pretty – and it was hard to imagine that we were probably leaving the sunniest spot in the state for quite the opposite! We were still chatting away happily as we pulled into Waratah, somehow avoiding the odd kamikaze, usually a pottaroo, as it darted out from the throng of wildlife that lined the roadsides.

Jess and I gave the others a brief tour of the facilities, with heavy emphasis on the hot running water (it’s always the simple pleasures that get us really excited!). We set up tents and set about cooking our respective dinners, which ranged from 3-ingredient wonders to gourmet style home-cooked and dehydrated meals or just whatever you could find in the freezer that would reheat over a stove. We cemented our plan for the next day with a slight tweak – we’d climb Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf after all, but we’d do them as separate walks rather than a circuit. The weather was better later on in the day, so we wouldn’t be racing off in the morning. The cold drove us into our tents early, and most of us read a little before sleeping relatively soundly, woken briefly by a hissing competition between either possums or devils.

A relaxed start to the morning meant we were ready to go shortly after 8. We detoured via the falls, because they’re always worth seeing, especially after all the rain we’ve had. Then to the corner shop to pay our camping fees, and finally off to Staffords Road. As soon as we turned off the A10 onto Staffords Road we spotted the gate we’d read about. In 2014 it had been closed but unlocked. 2020 isn’t as trusting, it would seem, or perhaps just lucky. So we parked our cars 1km earlier than hoped, and took to foot. It might have been a good thing, the road was pretty wet underfoot, overgrown, and we wouldn’t have got much further anyway.

The tapes were abundant from the get go, and we had no trouble walking straight onto the track that by all accounts is a good track. And so it is. Fresh tape has been added aplenty, and there’s little excuse to get lost (except where it leads you astray!). And so we were lead through lovely open wet forest and then out into button grass and tea tree scrub. Up we climbed, taking a slight detour when one lot of tapes had us sidling off the righthand side of the ridge, before we ran out of tape and decided to look in the sensible place, finding much more tape and an obvious pad!

Setting off up Mount Pearse. After a short road walk courtesy of a locked gate, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through lovely forest.

It was grey and misty, but this didn’t subdue the mood too much. We caught glimpses of the world beyond our bubble, but largely we had a very small sphere to work within. Upwards we went, bodies complaining differently at the rust and cobwebs that had accumulated during the COVID-19 restrictions to our old ways of life. And then the scrub gave way to wet rock, but not the conglomerate that you might expect for this part of the state.

After the forest came tea tree in button grass, then a fun climb up mixed scrub and rock. We were grateful for the track. Check out the speccy ridgeline we got to walk along! As you can see, there were a few undulations, or false summits (depending on how poetic you want to be).

Finally, the true summit lies ahead. And we get the feeling the sun wants to burn the cloud off…

Looking back northish along the ridge we’ve just walked. Isn’t it speccy. There were lots of exclamations of joy.

It was a little bit of a challenge for some of us, and a pure delight for others as we spent the next hour weaving our way up and along the jagged ridge. The rocky formations were beautiful, and the mist accentuated the effect as it controlled what and how much we got to see at any one time. Two wedge tailed eagles – black spots against the bottom edge of the cloud, a splotch of blue sky, later a moment in which someone poured warm sun over us for a few seconds… our souls were singing. Onwards we moved. The many false summits made the real summit seem further and higher than it was, and we found ourselves standing on the top a tad surprised! A quick duck further south to the Sprent mark, then back for a snack, and down we headed.

From the trig point, looking south towards the highpoint with the Sprent mark.

These decisions were all about staying warm and having enough time to climb Rocky SL as well. But nothing was going to stop us lingering as the sun dried the clag out, and the views opened up to the west first, then north, and eventually even east. The warmth on skin was glorious. We soaked it up with smiles and laughter. And eventually we continued on, the walk transformed entirely by having a world with horizons where the sky met the sea and mountains.

As we turn around and head back down, the cloud slowly lifts, and the world opens up.

Rocky Sugarloaf appears.. our next destination!

Wonderful clambering along the ridge!

Russell and some pretty speccy rock formations

Final glance back at Rocky as we start to drop onto the buttongrass plains

Jess and Ben lead us back to the car – it feels like a different walk now that we can SEE!

A final look back at the start of the ridge that leads to Mount Pearse as Urszula descends

We ate lunch at the car before driving just over 2km south to Mountain Road. Here a great big tree over the road had us pull up short. It looked like it had been there quite a while and as it turned out, the road beyond would have been impassable in any kind of motorised transport anyway. We ducked and weaved through the VERY overgrown greenery, and found ourselves surprisingly close to Rocky SL by the time we had exhausted what the road had to offer. There were tapes that led us a little further before petering out. But no worries, after crossing a creek we popped out onto the most glorious looking button grass plain, complete with a few little tarns, wombat pads that headed in the ideal direction, and what looked like some reasonable going up onto the ridge that led to our mountain.

Ready to head up Rocky SL, there’s a bit of an obstacle across the road. Guess we walk from here!

The road walking is open at times

Already the mood is high, we can see our mountain, and it looks like fun!

Urszula had been toying with the idea of a quiet afternoon reading a book in the car, but fortunately she changed her mind :D!

After the road walk, and the tinest bit of forest, we pop out into this world… WOW!! 😀

The sun was out and bouncing up off the plain, there was little more than a whisper of cloud left in the bright blue sky, the breeze was slight, we had sweat on our brows and down our backs where our packs stuck our shirts to our skin. It felt like summer. We spent plenty of time just enjoying it all as we plodded our way up onto the ridge.

Just wonderful walking as we make our way up onto the ridge that leads to Rocky.

And there she lies. Rocky SL to the left, Pearse to the right. There’s just the small matter of 400m of pretty average scrub…

On the ridge, Russell checks out some snow covered familiar friends

The going was good, almost too good. And there we stood, 400m from the summit, about to dip into the shadow of the mountain. A very accurate account of this particular route mentioned 400m of scrub just before the summit. It was true to its word, unfortunately! We plunged into it, Ben spearheading the charge. We started off walking on air, the scrub over our heads. As we slipped and wrestled, fell and grunted our way through, it gradually became more stunted. It still wasn’t easy to move through. You could aim for the rocks but they weren’t continuous, and back down you stepped into the thick of it, unsure exactly where your feet were going to come to a stop.

The shadows grow long and Jess and Urszula make the final climb in the shade. The ridge we’ve walked up extends beyond them.

About 100m from the summit Ben let our a whoop that turned into a gleeful little ditty, “I’m walking on the ground, I’m walking on the ground”! Like I said earlier, out here it’s the little things, the things that only fellow scrub-bashers really understand, that can completely transform your mood. And I tell you what, it was fantastic to be walking on the ground, trusting once again that where you put your foot was where it was going to stay! It was even better again to pop up over one rise to find ourselves bathed in low, late afternoon sunshine, the kind you have to squint through to see the path ahead, but also the kind that means there is no more climbing ahead that’s blocking the sun from view.

There was a small cairn on the summit but it was paid much less attention than the 360 degree views! We struggled a little to work out what was what from the unfamiliar viewpoint, but that didn’t dampen the enjoyment. The moon was out, and Jupiter and Saturn were in alignment with it. Later they were to be joined by thousands of stars. After much longer than perhaps we should have we dragged ourselves away, aware that the more we sat up there the longer we’d be walking in the dark. It was something we were all used to except for Russell, who had never done it before but took it in his stride.

That’s our shadow there! Wonderful views, even if the unfamiliar perspective had most of us confused.

Ben relaxes in the evening glow, just taking it all in, with a couple of squares of cadbury’s chocolate. What could be sweeter? And to top it off, we had a short walk in the dark back down the mountain – just like old times!

The return through the scrub was much faster than the way up, as Jess and Russell retraced our steps. The head torches came out for the descent to the button grass plain, and I took over with the GPS to avoid any unnecessary detours through scrub we couldn’t see. Without any bearings and nothing to see past the few metres illuminated by our head torches, we could have been walking anywhere. It was impossible to subjectively measure direction or distance, and even time seemed to be warped.

But a slow and steady plod – not one where you ever felt like you were in a rhythm for though – eventually got us back to the car, tired and hungry but very satisfied! We decided to head back to Waratah for some dinner, and make the call on where to go for Sunday’s walk after consulting the weather map. It transpired that the weather was going to turn wet and horribly windy everywhere by the afternoon, so we headed north that evening (through the worst fog I’ve ever driven in) to Riana. The next day we checked out the Dial range (which already has a blog post dedicated to it from a previous visit), before driving back home at the very civilised time of 11:30am!

All up:

Pearse: 4:44hrs, 7.3km, 481m ascent, all breaks included (quite a few)

Rocky: 5:06hrs, 6.2km, 357m ascent, all breaks included (and a lot of slow walking in the dark!)

Detention Peak, Mounts Cleveland, Everett and Riana: 4-6 July 2020

For the first time in a long time I found myself looking forward to something with a hint of my old excitement and enthusiasm. Jess, a bushwalking friend and teacher, was starting school holidays at about the same time as my days off were due to fall. Did I want to go for a walk? Hell yeah! Where? Wherever the weather was good… and if it wasn’t? Well the northwest then. Car camping always allows you to get warm and dry, and there are plenty of peaks to choose from that have no views.

We didn’t settle on exact destinations until we were driving up. But it turned out we had much the same idea. We’d head to Detention Peak and wind our way south from there. We chatted away, intermittently returning to the matter of which mountains we’d have a crack at and how we’d approach them. Detention, it seemed, might well be a scrub fight. Others were more of the road walk kind. Parsons Hood got the flick because of all the info about trespassing and our last minute decision meaning we didn’t have time to get permission to access the site.

After a long drive we finally found ourselves having to pay attention to navigation. Shortly after Sisters Creek we found ourselves turning left of the highway, and then a bit later left again, until we were heading south on Newhaven Road. One more left and we had a much more familiar sight. An old, single-lane, eroded and bumpy road with plenty of puddles and creeks lay before us. We went a short way, forded a river that had the exhaust pipe smoking, got the undercarriage of the car close enough to the road for it to protest, and checked out a number of puddles before we got to a large one that seemed to be bottomless. We left the car as it was, deciding to deal with a 30 point turn after the walk, and took off on foot. The road walk went quickly and we soon found ourselves heading up hill through low bracken and button grass. It seemed too good to be true, and indeed it was. When we got to the top of the rise we had a decent drop ahead of us down to a river. It was unavoidable but we were a tad dismayed to see it was rather green going ahead for as far as we could see. Sadly we had expected as much – we’d been forewarned!

There was nothing to do but drop down the steep embankment to a cute little river. The other side started off open enough, and we duck and wove our way upwards as best as we could, sticking to the path of least resistance. Sometimes we were under the trees, other times we were battling the green and brown tangly mess of head high bauera. Ah how it felt to be in the thick of the scrub again, doing battle the old fashioned way! And all the nicer to be doing it alongside Jess. Are you having fun yet? The question not entirely sarcastic in tone. Hell yeah, with a great big smile on my face!

Just as things started to tighten up, we found we’d walked straight onto a taped pad, fairly fresh judging from the tape itself. It was wonderful, and it certainly made for a much easier, scrub free weave all the way to the summit. The summit itself was a bit of a let down, and the tapes just petered out without so much as a small symbolic cairn to mark the achievement. Never mind, we had a quick bite to eat then headed back down, keen to make good time back to the car and to avoid cooling down too much.

It was misty and the scrub was wet, but otherwise the weather wasn’t as bad as we expected. It made for a slippery descent though, and at one point the bauera grabbed both my ankles and I found myself in a downhill face plant. Whoops!! Even that didn’t wipe the grin off my face though. We took an even better route back down than we had on the way up, and were happy to be back to the car before dark and in quicker time than expected. It was just as well – I don’t think I was the only one with a rumbling tummy!

We had a rather slow drive south to Waratah, down through the Hellyer Gorge, where we thought we’d make use of the pretty little camp ground there. Unfortunately it had been closed in March until further notice, which necessitated a creative solution. Fortunately you could still use all the facilities, which included hot running water, toilets and a light in the cooking shelter!!! We were so excited, it was like all our Christmases had come at once, and I’m sure I spotted a little dance of happiness from Jess. Dinner was delicious: soup and bread for me, washed down with homemade hot chocolate, and stir-fry for Jess.

Detention Peak GPS route
Detention Peak GPS route

Do you see a mountain? Yep, that’s Detention Peak… it’s known to be rather green, even if it looks like one of the 50 shades of grey…

The first little rise is easy enough, but guess what’s over the lip.. yup, a 40ish metre drop and only the best of the green stuff!

But it turns out once you’ve had a taste of bauera and practised imitating wombats, there’s some nice walking… and, when you least expect it, a taped pad!!

Here’s Jess trying to figure out exactly which spot is the highest point.. eeny, meeny, miney, moe…

We both hit the sack early, and managed a fairly solid sleep before being roused by a whole heap of noisy plovers. They then set off the currawongs and ducks, while a solitary kookaburra sat on an electricity pole and laughed as the scene unfolded before him. The sun was soon up, and we figured we’d best drag ourselves out of warm sleeping bags too – we had a big day ahead (for winter standards).

Breakfast for me was chia seeds soaked in kefir, with yoghurt, stewed apricots, toasted muesli and hemp seeds while Jess had weetbix, real milk and banana. The luxuries of car camping! We checked out the Waratah waterfall before leaving – it was most impressive and a tad noisy, even though we were up on the road and not down at the base of it. If you’re in Waratah it’s worth a look and can be seen from the pub.

The next morning we check out the Waratah waterfall. Quite impressive, and a cute little town (known as the tidy town??!).

We doubled back and continued west from Waratah towards Mount Cleveland, turning north onto the road named after the mountain. The road goes all the way to the summit, but we knew full well we’d not be driving that far. We’d heard it was steep, even for 4WDs, which we didn’t have. We’d ignored the more direct road to the south of the mountain hearing that it was rather overgrown (and that was apparent on the satellite imagery too). In any case, we were able to drive far enough along Mt Cleveland Road to end up with a road walk that was at least no longer than the overgrown one from the south. We could have driven a bit further, but after our experience of the day before and knowing we were going to have to get out at some point, we decided to do it on our own terms, rather than when we were sliding backwards down a particularly muddy and rutted section without anywhere to turn around.

We found the perfect spot a few kilometres from the summit and pulled off the road. It was such good weather (again, surprising!) that we ditched our overpants and I even went up without gaiters. It was cold, but we were both puffing away in no time and a little while later we had to stop to strip off coats. We chatted in between deep breaths about all manner of things. Jess was pretty sure we were going to have a view from the top. Pale colours she described, with some green, and maybe even a touch of blue. And she was spot on. Add a hint of rainbow or fog bow (it couldn’t quite decide), some swirling mist, a hint of sun, and a stiff breeze and there you have it. The summit itself was home to a rather large telecom installation, and not much else. We didn’t spend long up there, just enough time to take a photo and send a birthday message. And then we had the pleasure of a much easier walk back down. Part way down Jess wondered if we could get back within 2 hours of setting out, but neither of us was keen on running. It was pretty slippery and steep, and running could have made staying upright an interesting exercise! We got back 5 minutes late, but that was ok ;).

Mount Cleveland GPS route
Mount Cleveland GPS route

We start our middle day with a muddy, and at times steep, road walk up Cleveland.

Even though the weather is supposed to be foul we’re not wet yet, and there’s a hint of blue, and even a mix between a rainbow and fogbow! Got to be grateful for all the small things, and there are lots of them!

The top isn’t all that impressive.. and no, we didn’t technically climb to the very highest point – we thought that might be pushing our luck!

A bite to eat kept the sides of the stomach apart as we drove towards Mount Everett, which is bang in the middle of a huge logging coup. The road we tried first had a locked gate across it at Talbots Lagoon, and we were forced to retrace our route back to the main road, head further north, then take the logging roads that weave under St Valentines Peak. At times it felt like we were driving through a wasteland, and Jess likened it to a scene from The Lion King. It was quite depressing indeed, and both of us were keen to drive out of the destruction and back into the green, even if it was plantation green.

The road was a decent one and in time it took us as close to Everett as we were going to get. The backtracking had been costly in regards to time, however, and it was well into the afternoon before we were ready to start walking. I don’t think either of us looked at the time though, or realised how late we were until we were standing on the summit! Probably a good thing…

We took some very old logging roads to get us a tad closer to the foot of the mountain before we took to the scrub itself. It started off fairly open, and again we weaved our way up the contours. We edged too far right, it turned out, and found ourselves at the foot of some impressive rocks. We choose to sidle left around the base of them, a sound decision that rewarded us with a run of fairly open walking amongst button grass and melaleuca.

It wasn’t to last though, and the ridge proved to be quite broken at times, with plenty of scrub to slow things down. We didn’t always choose the best option, but made slow progress nonetheless. At times it seemed like we were on a pad, but then we lost it. The closer we got the thicker the scrub seemed to get and the slower our progress. But we did get there, and even had some views of the heavily logged wasteland – piles of logs waiting to be trucked out, to be sold at a loss, subsidised by tax payers.

Jess realised the time before I did. We only had 1.5 hrs before it was going to be dark, so we’d best get moving! Down we went, following Jess, who took us a much less scrubby route than I’d led up. And it paid off. We got down in record time, and it wasn’t just due to all the slipping and sliding!! As we walked the last few hundred meters or so through the forest it was pretty dark, but we made it back to the car without needing head torches.

Again the drive out was slow to avoid the wildlife as much as the potholes. We enjoyed the full moon and were excited by being able to see some stars instead of just misty rain. When we saw two spotted quolls you can imagine the squeals we gave! The story at the Riana Pioneer campground was much the same as at Waratah, minus the hot water… Jess’s dinner was a more impressive affair, however, as she cooked up a tasty looking pasta from the random things she’d found in her fridge when packing.

Mount Everett GPS route
Mount Everett GPS route

That afternoon, after coming across a locked gate and driving further than we should have had to through forestry wastelands, we arrive at the foot of Everett… it’s hiding behind there…

It starts off ok, just a mix of open forest, then buttongrass, melaleuca and the odd bit of bauera.

It even has some pretty views

Especially if you take care not to look too hard at the logging coups

But the closer you get, the more horrid the scrub!

The summit seems further away the closer we get as we fight tooth and nail with bauera and cutting grass. But we do make it, at the late time of just before 4pm.

The amount of wood stacked up waiting to be trucked out was mindblowing.. this is just a small pile

Not the best of views from the top, and just as well, we needed to scoot off if we were going to get back to the car without needing our head torches (we made it, just!)

This time we woke to a morning chorus from a flock of happy kookaburras and what a beautiful noise it was! Full bladders and a long day of driving ahead of us denied us a sleep in, and we were soon up and preparing breakfast. Fuelled and ready to go, we drove the very short distance to the start of the southern ridge of Mount Riana. We had initially thought about following closer roads to a starting point to the west of the high point, but it was clearly on private property. The owner of said property stood at the window looking at us as we drove by, while his dog tried to round up the car as if it were a great big disobedient sheep.

This proved to be fortuitous, and instead of a broken and scrubby tussle with the mountain, we had a lovely, rewarding and easy walk up the ridge. Again, tapes and a pad appeared, although the walking was open enough so as not to really need them. At times you broke out from the forest, and found yourself on rock, with the beautiful northwest landscape to behold, and ducks flying by. Rain was apparent to the south west, but it was far enough away and again we had cause to be grateful for being bone dry!

The summit itself was another flat one, but there was an awesome log out to the east, that provided the perfect viewing platform for walkers who wanted to pause to enjoy the moment just a little longer. So of course we did (although we sat on the ground in front of it because it was drier!). Sadly we did have to leave, and begin the long drive home. The mountain continued to give, however, and three wedgies flew past on our way down! Riana was unanimously voted the best mountain of the trip, and the only one of the four not to go on the ‘oncer’ list! A perfect way to end a refreshing weekend away :).

Detention Peak: 8.1km, 4:21hrs, 530m ascent
Mount Cleveland: 7.7km, 2:05hrs, 652m ascent
Mount Everett: 4.8km, 3:45hrs, 280m ascent
Mount Riana: 3.3km, 1:52hrs, 247m ascent

Mount Riana GPS route
Mount Riana GPS route

Our final morning was spent climbing up the southern ridge to Mount Riana. It proved to be a wonderful little climb, and about the only mountain of this trip that didn’t get the ‘oncer’ label!

We saw three wedgies as we headed down.. pretty awesome :D!

It had views and all! Here Roland is peeking through the trees

The ridge looked broken and rocky, but the route through was fairly obvious, and if in doubt, someone had even taped most of it!

On the summit, another one of those very flat affairs, we checked out the eastern view. There was the perfect log seat, should you want to spend some time just being… so we did (only we sat on the ground because it wasn’t as wet!)

Summit heath.. it was pretty..

And there was time to check out the seeds too.. Eventually we dragged ourselves away, and all the way back to Hobart.

Gog Range, Brewery Knob, Mount Read and Mount Huxley: 17-19 June 2020

Gog Range

Gog range GPS route

I’ve been restless – perhaps a result of the massive change and feeling a little lost in what I want to do with my life now that it’s so very different. The best thing that makes me feel grounded is walking (although gardening isn’t too far behind). So guess what I’ve been up to? No surprises…

It’s winter, and we’re approaching the winter solstice, which means short days, lower mixing heights and plenty of chill in the air. In fact, it surprised me that the first real snow for the season was only this week! When I first started walking, this didn’t mean much to me, but now it does. It means I preference shorter walks, or multiple day walks with some car camping. And that is exactly what I planned for this trip – one that would allow me to move around to ensure the best weather for the walks I planned, and that meant I could continue to visit some mountains I’d not yet got to see. 

The Gog Range was the first on my ‘list’. We’d looked at it a year or so back, but I was down as an ‘if we have extra time’ kind of walk, so of course we didn’t make it. It seemed appropriate now, and would be the first I’d come to on my circuit around the state. 

What I didn’t realise was that the roads I’d decided to drive in on were part of Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, and they’d closed a boom gate 6.4km prior to where I wanted to start walking from. Bugger… I also didn’t really do too much research, just did the whole ‘get as close as you can and start walking up’ thing that I do way too often! A last minute message from a friend warned against going straight up the rock… Hmmm.. ok! Apparently there was a pad to follow – that sounded good!

Fortunately I had a bike with me, I was planning on another couple of walks that had long roads before the actual walking, so I’d popped it in. I pulled it out as I rejigged the itinerary I’d planned, now that I’d be spending a few extra hours climbing this range. 

The riding wasn’t all that easy – the road was pretty good but there were loose and sandy sections, and at times I was too light that the bike’s back wheel just skidded on the spot when I tried to put extra energy into getting up a hill. There were spots I had to push the thing. It was definitely worth it though and much quicker than walking.

I arrived at the spot I thought I’d head up onto the range, but couldn’t find a track.. I searched further along the road. Nothing. Oh well. It looked open enough, so I tucked the bike away and set off into the ferns. It was pretty open forest with only some ferns to push through, which do a good job of getting out of the way when you need them to. Just as well, because it was pretty much straight up. Straight up to the base of the cliffs. 

I saw why I was told not to go up the rock (even if that advice related to the southern side of the range). I tried sidling east, hoping to find a gully I could follow up without getting too climby. That idea didn’t last long – sidling led to just as many steep drops as climbing straight up. The rock up above didn’t look too bad, so why not just try it! 

What wasn’t apparent was that there was always one little bit that wasn’t so easy, even though in general what you could see looked reasonably ok. I managed to find a way off the rock and into a gully that provided a way up in between the slabs. I only hoped it lasted. Perhaps the one thing I detest on walks is having to retrace steps due to a dead end! It doesn’t happen often, but it’s always a possibility. 

I was in luck, and the gully turned into a ridge, that intersected with another ridge, along the top of which appeared to be something with pad-like characteristics. A cairn appeared… shortly afterwards some very old, worn orange tape that had fallen off whichever branch it had originally been tied to. I was on something, even though I didn’t know where it had come from. I assumed it headed to the top, and resolved to follow it for as long as it was helpful. 

The ridge I was on took me to the main ridge that is the back-bone of the Gog range, running east-west. The pad wasn’t so distinct, but a bit of hunting revealed more tape, this time usually attached to trees. It duck and wove through the trees, which left me in no doubt that this was going to be a summit without views! Presently the pad arrived at a burnt out tree trunk with a reasonable sized cairn at its foot, which I took to be the summit cairn.

A short break and I was retracing my steps as best I could, with the exception of avoiding the steep rocky section I’d climbed up, staying in the gully instead. There were lovely little pink bell-shaped flowers out and about, which would have been all the lovelier if their leaves hadn’t been so prickly!

I found my bike at the bottom, exactly where I’d left it, and rode back in exactly the same time as it had taken to ride in. On the drive to Cradle Mountain NP I spotted an echidna hurrying across the road. He barely glanced my way before tucking his head down a little further and waddling off into the scrub at a remarkable speed for a creature with such short legs and a round fat body

All up:

Ride: 6.4km; 43 mins each way

Walk: 4km; 2:35 hrs; 481m ascent

The forest at the foot of Gog, northern side. Think I’ll head up here.

Pretty easy, mostly open going

On top of the range, there’s even orange tapes and a pad to follow!

Gog range summit cairn

Looking back on the drive home. The Gog range stretches across the horizon.

A glimpse of sun on the Gog summit from the closest road I could find

Heading back down, one wonders when this rock will take a tumble!

Mount Roland peaks around the corner

Gog’s best views are from part way up (or down) the mountain

Brewery Knob

Brewery Knob GPS route

The following morning I went for a wee wander over the most beautiful snow-covered moorland. Brewery Knob is not worth any points on the HWC peak baggers list, but it is an Abel. I’m not specifically targeting Abels, but given I only have a handful left, I figured I should pay it a visit. It seemed perfect for winter walking – short, with a beautiful forest walk at the start that is perfect regardless of the weather. It wasn’t supposed to rain, but I donned all my wet weather gear, a warm jacket, beanie and gloves nonetheless. Just as well too!

The walk starts at Weindofer’s hut, as described in the Abels. It’s very hard to start walking because you’re immediately surrounded by magnificent King Billy pines and fagus, and you walk on a carpet of their discarded leaves. As can be expected, especially at this time of year, it’s very wet underfoot and the path is very much a mass of lethally exposed tree roots that have been worn smooth from thousands of feet. 

I’ve never seen such large fagus leaves (or perhaps it’s just been a while) and it struck me that this walk would be magnificent if you timed it for when the fagus turns. I eventually dragged myself from the trees, and started climbing up the track. Lumps of snow kept falling from the trees above onto my head or pack. It was just as if my usual walking companions were with me in spirit, making sure I collected a few missiles!

The forest gave way to smaller myrtle beech, which hung over the track laden with snow. It always amazes me how much a bare twiggy branch can hold! I brushed past, enjoying the moment, glad of the wet weather gear and knowing it wouldn’t be quite the same on the way back.

The flora grew smaller and smaller in size the higher I climbed (and it’s not a very long climb!), until there was only easy open walking. From what I could tell of the snow covered landscape it consisted largely of alpine grasses and shrubs, including boronia. 

I stuck to the track because it was the only thing telling me which way to head into the cloud (aside from my GPS). It had progressively turned from a rocky-bottomed creek to an ice covered bog, that crunched and cracked under my weight, occasionally sending my feet slipping in every direction but the one I wanted them to go in. And now it changed once again, the crunching replaced by a groaning of the now heavier, fresher layer of undisturbed snow. It was akin to the protest of an old leather armchair as you sink into its seat. 

The weather was of a kind that some might have found depressing, or pointless, but for whatever reason, I loved it. I was warm on the inside while the cold stiff wind chilled my face and made me feel very much alive. The racing cloud occasionally revealed glimpses of a world beyond my immediate bubble, which in some ways was more impressive than had I had the whole vista to look at. The landscape was very much in greyscale, but it was raw, untouched and just perfect. No one else had seen it quite like that – mine we’re the only footprints.

I took my time slipping and sliding along, occasionally sinking much further into snow covered bog than I’d have liked. That’s the interesting bit about following snow-covered tracks, you never quite know how far your feet are going to travel, except that it’s rarely what you expect! Funnily enough, there were parts where I was lucky enough to also be following animal tracks (wombat, potteroo and something else!) and I mused at how they instinctively seemed to know where to tread to ensure they were on solid ground underneath the snow! 

I arrived at the two tarns described in the Abels and did exactly as instructed. The description of the walk was spot on and the pad I now took to was easy enough to follow even in the snow. Just before the summit plateau I disturbed a flock of green rosellas, who took to the skies protesting loudly. I then spent a good deal of time with a King Billy, that was green on one side, and icy white on the opposite. You could tell which way the wind was blowing, that’s for sure! 

A short dip across a VERY exposed plateau and I’d arrived at the distinct summit cairn – it’s quite a nice little one. I didn’t stay long, as to stop was to get very cold very fast (especially the fingers), so I shared the cold to the rest of my world via the mighty FB, and set off back the way I’d come. 

The Abels describes a circuit, but I had so loved the way over along the tops, and I really wanted some more of it, so I took to retracing my steps instead of completing the loop described. 

All up: 8.2km; 3hrs; 352m ascent

Breakfast at Weindorfer’s hut

King Billy and Fagus forest ground. Apparently a lovely place to grow and bring up a baby too!

Old King Billy trunk detail

Natures red carpet. Just look at it! So lush…

The world turns to grey, and I feel like the trees are being a bit too cheeky. I keep getting snow dropped on my head!

King Billy pine cones!

Bleak or beautiful? I was definitely feeling the latter.. only one set of footprints here.

One of many track markers with a splash of rock colour

Anyone know who these belong to? Interestingly they were always in a dyslexic Y shape – I wondered if it was normal or a sign of injury… 1-2cm for scale

At the two tarns you leave the track and head off to the summit of Brewery Knob on a pad.

Just a reminder that there is sun out there, even if you can’t feel or see it all the time!

King Billy – half green, half white!

A decent build up of ice. Guess which way the wind was blowing?!

Brewery Knob summit cairn

Ice artwork

Mount Read

Mount Read GPS route

The weather was due to be slightly better further west, so the next mountain I’d chosen to visit was Mount Read. I’d looked at it a few times, but each time the length of the road walk had usually turned me off. I like bushwalking after all, and road walking is a bit dull. But because I had a bike, I figured I’d best make the most of the walks where a bike might be of use. I didn’t realise there was a great big gate with multiple ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ signs, but decided not to read and to just go with the Abel’s description (which only talks about access issues if you go the shorter but steeper way).

I severely underestimated my ability to peddle up hills again. Usually it wouldn’t be a problem, but when you added in the soft and loose gravel surface it was. It was a big problem. I couldn’t stand up or my back wheel just spun and I could only climb up to a certain gradient before I started doing wheelies every time I cranked the peddles over. 

The way up became an exercise in peddling as much as I could, then getting off to push. I had to find a relatively flat section to jump back on or I’d just end up doing wheelies again. Fun times! When it started to get really steep, and the road surface more eroded, the bike was popped in a ditch and I proceeded on foot. 

For a road walk it wasn’t bad. The views were interesting as was the forest on either side. I couldn’t believe the King Billies either! Unfortunately as I approached the summit I walked straight up into the bottom of the cloud that I’d seen hovering over the top when I was down at the car. I thought mid afternoon would provide the highest mixing height and therefore a chance that the cloud might have cleared from the summit, but I was out of luck. 

Instead I got freezing cold cloud and a howling wind. It was a pity, I’d heard the summit was really interesting and the view towards the Eldon range in particular was pretty speccy. Seems I’ll have to go back ;)! The up side was that all the man made towers were shadows hidden in the mist, and I’m sure I only saw some, not all, of them. 

The trig surprised me – someone had cable-tied a naked doll to the top, and it was looking decidedly pale and blue! I sympathised, and only hoped the views on a good day more than made up for it. My fingers were already numb, so I made a hasty retreat until I was out from under the cloud, which had only dropped in the time I’d taken to climb to the summit. I jogged some of the downhill sections back to the bike just to keep warm, and then had a very easy spin back to the car. All that pushing was definitely worth it!

All up: 16.5km (mixed riding and walking); 2:45 hrs; 866m ascent

Half way up Mount Read the views open up. The road is lined with King Billy stags and living trees.

Its actually quite a pretty walk for a road walk. Dundas beckons in the distance.

The first hint that I might be walking into the cloud for this one.

It’s still pretty.

Sure enough, thick soup. Anyone know who put the baby up there?

Ghostly man-made shadows. The wind howls through them.

A last look back, with a glacial erratic to the right.

Mount Huxley

Mount Huxley GPS route

The final mountain for my car-camping weekend. Again, I’d initially chosen it because it would be a good one for the bike. Except that my two experiences this trip of riding a bike up steep and somewhat neglected gravel roads had all but turned me off. I took one look at the start of the road (in fact even drove a short way up it!), and decided the bike wasn’t coming. If you had a 4WD that you knew how to use, you could drive right to the foot of Huxley, and it’d make the walk a whole heap shorter!

I decided I’d best make an earlyish start, and set off at 7:30 when it was light enough not to need artificial lighting. I was glad very early on I didn’t have the bike, there would have been an awful lot of pushing! Instead I plodded along, not stopping for anything other than to take photos, retie my runners when the laces came undone, and pee. As I walked I did something unusual for me, I listened to a podcast. Usually in the bush I like to take in the sounds and just be, but the road walk was a tad different, and at a time when I’m trying to refigure a few things out I’m finding the wisdom of other people’s stories to be helpful. 

There were plenty of glimpses of mountains to be had as I trudged along. In fact, it took me a while to realise which one I was climbing, such was the winding nature of the road!When I arrived at the end of the road and the foot of Mount Huxley a few hours later I turned the podcast off to enjoy an undistracted clamber up the mountain. I’d checked in with a friend to make sure it was relatively open, and had decided on the basis of his information that trail runners and bare legs would be ok. I had a few doubts when I first saw the mountain, but fortunately it looked greener than it was and the going was relatively open if you got the weaving thing happening. There were even a few cairns to make you feel good about yourself! It actually reminded me very much of walking up to the Jukes plateau (unsurprising really, given their proximity to each other). 

In very little time the open walking stopped abruptly at a rocky outcrop, the kind you know you just have to get up because the summit will be just beyond it. Left, right or straight up? I chose wrongly. After a bit of sidling left looking for a way up between the steep conglomerate boulders that were surrounded by scrub I gave up, and went for the climby route. I wasn’t going to be retracing those steps, that’s for sure!

Fortunately it was a brief climb and then I was on the plateau, with the trig a short distance ahead. A bit more weaving and there I was, wondering at what looked like brand new bolts in the rock, for no apparent reason. I didn’t wonder long, the view distracted me, and so I turned my attention to it. Jukes (well Proprietary really) looked so close, a stone’s throw to the south, while Owen was only a tad further away to the north. And then there was Frenchmans across Lake Burbury.

I drunk it all in, enjoyed some nuts, a banana and a pear, and then set off to find a better way down the rock. Turns out I should have gone for the straight up approach – no climbing involved, just a bit of weaving. It certainly hadn’t looked so simple from below! I slipped my way down the loose rocky and at times wet and slimy terrain, not too concerned about retracing exact steps but opting instead to take a rough bearing in the general direction of the road. It was much easier to pick a clear route coming back down, and I hit the road in what seemed like no time at all. 

The walk back was significantly faster, even if I was a bit on the tired side. I chose to jog down the downhill sections in the hope I’d get back home before the animals came out at dusk to play chicken on the road!

All up: 23.3km, 5:12 hrs, 1432m ascent

Not exactly the first glimpse of Huxley from the road, but here it is. Looks a long way off still.

Getting closer, with sun’s kiss on its slopes, beckoning

Heading up, I discover there are cairns! Pausing here to look north back to Owen. The access road is clearly visible.

Such a distinctive shape. Frenchman’s commands attention once again

On top, and the Jukes range looks so very close

Mount Owen panorama from Huxley summit

And one more of Frenchmans and Lake Burbury

Little Eldons: 26-29 December 2018

Little Eldons GPS route (ignore the straight line, the GPS ran out of batteries on the way back)
Little Eldons GPS route (ignore the straight line, the GPS ran out of batteries on the way back)

 

It’s always exciting when you haven’t been walking for AGES, and you know you have 4 days and some good weather. Our choice this time was the Little Eldons – not an official name, I don’t think, but that’s what they are. The Little Eldons includes the smaller range from Pyramid Mountain to Last Hill that runs east-west and sits south of the Eldon range. This was to be a ‘get fit’ trip in preparation for the POW, which didn’t actually happen due to the bushfire situation.

We knew a little of what we were in for, having walked out Pigeon House Hill track from the Eldon range a few years ago, and from other friends’ trip reports and photos. We also knew we were very unfit, which was apparent from how long it took us to pack and how rusty we felt doing it. What had once been a streamlined process took double the time it should have!

Sure enough, after getting home from a Christman night shift, we drove up and enthusiastically began the plod up Pigeon House Hill. We could feel the unfamiliar weight of a full pack on our backs and the strain in our legs and lungs almost immediately. My knee started niggling. The heat was oppressive. It took much longer than we expected to make it to our campsite at the base of Rocky Hill, and we were so tired we didn’t even get round to writing notes.

Early views.. nice part of the world!
Early views.. nice part of the world!

And home for the next three nights is in that bowl over there, under Rocky Hill
And home for the next three nights is in that bowl over there, under Rocky Hill

Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains
Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains

There was to be no reprieve though, we had two even bigger days to follow. For the first we decided to head up Rocky Hill and to the west. We found the scrub free route up pineapple grass to the Rocky Hill ridge, thanks to our GPS route from our Eldons trip. We would further refine this route throughout the the trip – we’d walk up or back from the camp site a total of 4 times.

It didn’t take us long to be back on top Rocky Hill, where we weren’t surprised to find there was no water. The ridge to Camp Hill was obvious, and we headed initially in a NW direction along an open topped ridge, before dropping down into open forest. It took some attention to ensure we stayed on the ridgeline, which was pretty narrow at the saddle. The climb up the far side then began to Camp Hill.

From memory (which is a bit fuzzy by now), the scrub was worse climbing up Camp Hill than it was between Camp Hill and Last Hill and it took us 3 hrs (from Rocky Hill) compared to 1.5 hrs (from Camp to Last Hill). By the time we arrived at Last Hill it was mid afternoon and we were tired and a little scratched up. We took a few summit photos, before heading back to camp. It was a VERY tired plod back, and it felt wonderful to sidle around the northern side of Rocky Hill and drop back down to camp.

I was ready for bed before the sun had even set. Fortunately Graham was still doing his teeth and told me in no uncertain terms I’d better get out of the tent. I didn’t quite understand, but it was quickly apparent. Not only was there a full rainbow on the horizon, the sky was bright pink. While Rocky Hill blocked our view to the west and therefore the sun set, the effect to the east was possibly just as spectacular. It was enough to put a smile on our weary faces.

49192930_1998914783556349_3364120751924838400_o_1998914780223016

Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit
Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit

Last Hill summit
Last Hill summit

48950521_1998914676889693_1633576860979822592_o_199891467022302749102360_1998914466889714_6062316372317175808_o_1998914463556381

High Dome and a few other friendly faces
High Dome and a few other friendly faces

Sunset and rainbow
Sunset and rainbow

Day 3 we were headed in the opposite direction, to Pyramid Mountain. We knew there was a pad to Junction Hill, but had forgotten how overgrown it was. Our knees were already tender from the previous day, and this part definitely woke us up. Junction Hill was almost as dry as Rocky had been, though we found one or two small puddles that we would later return to when we needed to fill our bottles.

The ridge to Pyramid Mountain looked great from here, and we headed off happily across low alpine heath in a SE direction. A few very old pine markers were redundant on such an open ridge given the sunny weather we had. They might have been more appropriate in a whiteout, except that they petered out unexpectedly! When the ridge turned 90 degrees to the left, and we had to head more NEE, we hit the worst bit of scrub. The knees were on fire now, and Graham decided it was worth wearing overpants despite the heat. It’s amazing how you forget simple lessons when you haven’t been walking, and I decided I was going to try the walking in long pants from now on for scrubby walks! I was too stubborn to sacrifice my overpants this time though, so we made quite slow progress through the scrub. The worst of it was at the start, after which it was much easier to weave an open path and avoid the big clumps.

We chose not to climb up and over the next high point, but sidled around on the contour. This meant we stayed in fairly open forest where the going was easy, until we popped out onto the next saddle, which was open. And then we just had the climb up the mountain! We zigged and zagged, keeping the rocky parts and avoiding the scrub. It was really hot, and we were pretty tired, but eventually got to the top. While the views were stunning, the ants detracted from the dining experience, and we didn’t spend a lot of extra time on top after we’d eaten.

Once again, the plod back was a slow and weary exercise in putting one foot in front of the other. The only energy we had left came from the satisfaction of knowing we’d achieved what we’d set out to do. We slept long and deep again, barely aware of the rain on the tent.

The walk out was not a great deal faster than the walk in had been, because we weren’t in any rush. We took the time to avoid the scratchy scrub as best we could, enjoy the birds, avoid the snakes and take photos of the Christmas bells.

Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.
Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.

49561611_1998914886889672_1262687154862030848_o_1998914880223006
Pyramid mountain summit, looking south. There’s a Frenchman there

Towards Gould's SL and a friend (we discovered later)
Towards Gould’s SL and a friend (we discovered later)

Those mountains again
Those mountains again

49242691_1998914406889720_8141898644656750592_o_1998914403556387
The moment Graham slipped… crossing the Collingwood

49054440_1998913983556429_7556846067975716864_o_1998913980223096
Reacquainting myself with the mountian flowers

48966072_1998914186889742_1726389274590314496_o_1998914176889743
Christmas Bells… well named!

49026953_1998914100223084_8531566437418926080_o_1998914093556418
Three everlastings

49569614_1998914023556425_8560526246549651456_o_1998914016889759
And a bit of lichen stuff….

All up:

Day 1: 11.5km, 7:11hrs, 871m ascent

Day 2: 13.5km, 11:18hrs, 941m ascent

Day 3: 18.2km, 12ish hrs, 990m ascent

Day 4: 11.6km, 7hrs, 333m ascent

Norfolk Range: 12-21 February 2019

Norfolk range GPS route

Well, it’s been a while! In that time I’ve completed honours, finished my internship, secured a permanent job, and got to play the current (and very long reigning) royal tennis ladies world champion! But enough, you’re here to read about walking (I assume!).

The Prince of Wales range was off for the second year in a row. The fires across Tassie meant Gordon River Road was closed, and though it reopened a day or two before we were due to leave, we then had the opposite problem of heavy rain! We were already on Plan b, which we delayed for 4 days, coming up with a fairly flexible Plan c.

The walk was chosen because it was sufficiently long, sufficiently challenging and remote enough to be off track but still within less than a day’s walk to the road if we needed to get out. It was also one of the few ranges we had left to check out. A FB message to a veteran bushwalker who I’d first met here led to an invitation for a chat, and that meant we had some fairly solid intel (if a little dated), a few route suggestions we’d never have come up with and a warning or two about the scrub!

Day 1

We set off on a rainy day, hoping we’d cop the worst of it in the car. We certainly did, although the frequent but short lived squalls of rain and at times hail were to be a feature of our first few days walking too. After more than 7 hours in the car, we arrived at the 4WD track to Hazelton. There is a sign that prohibits motorbikes or dirt bikes, and perhaps also 4WDs but that’s not certain, the little icon has been ripped off. There’s nothing to say where the track leads, however!

We were so excited to actually be out walking that we raced along so fast we all walked straight past our turnoff a few kilometres after starting. We only realised when the track we were on petered out to something much less substantial. We briefly considered cutting across to meet the track we were meant to be on, but quickly realised the road was a better option. It didn’t take us long to find a camp spot near the Daisy River, at the foot of the climb up Hazelton, only a few hours after having started out. We chose a sheltered spot amongst the mud walled castles the yabbies had chose to build atop their holes, almost as if it was a symbol of status to have the tallest, most impressive looking one. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t going to wait for us, and we pitched our tents under yet another wind driven shower, full rainbow in the background as if to make it a little more cheery. We didn’t get back out until a break in the rain around midnight allowed us to relieve our bladders while staying dry. The rain and hail continued throughout the night, along with some distant thunder.

We start the walk with more than 7 hrs in the car, and 2 on a 4WD track.. It’s not long before we see our first mountain, Hazelton

We’re nearly at our camp site, getting excited for tomorrow.

The rain doesn’t wait and we get soaked pitching our tents

Day 2

We were pleasantly surprised to wake to some blue sky and even a bit of sun. We set off shortly after 8, Graham seeking recognition for only being 10 minutes late ;)! The first part of the day was to be done with day packs, for which I was grateful. The climb up Hazelton was steep enough that I was surprised the 4WDs had made it up as far as they had. We puffed our way up, soon warm in our rain jackets that were on more for the wind than anything else, although partly in anticipation of inevitable rain.

Eventually the double track became a walking pad, and a short climb later we found ourselves in the forest. There was indeed quite a nice camp spot, as recommended in Tarkine Trails. The only downside to it was the distance you’d have to lug full packs and water. We continued on, popping out of the forest and taking a very short walk to the summit of Hazelton. It was marked by an impressive cairn, and would have been much more enjoyable if the wind wasn’t so vicious and the latest squall of rain approaching rapidly (we got about 30 seconds warning each time).

It was 9:30, and we had a long chat about whether it was feasible to walk out to Lily and back, and then all the way along the plains with our full packs to the foot of West Bluff. We ended up deciding to give it a crack. That meant we had roughly an hour to get to Woody Peak and another hour to get to Lily. We got to the start of the scrub on Woody peak (aptly named!) after 30 minutes, feeling pretty good. We then decided to head to the top of the scrub free zone, then contour round the peak in the scrub, heading down as and when needed. As it so happened this cost us 30 minutes of tangling through bauera then horizontal rubbish, until we headed directly for the ridge line, where we found an old cut track! Well didn’t that make for much easier going!! From there it took something like 45 minutes return to Lily!

On the return we stopped for lunch just shy of the summit of Woody peak, where the cut track just ran out. Though we looked around for a bit, we ended up going for a scrub bash straight down to our other track, intersecting close to where the scrub had started. Even though it was downhill, the bauera was foul and you were often a few feet above the ground (before you fell through!). We reasoned that the track was old enough that it had been put in before the bauera had grown up, so while we had lots of scrub to get through, those that had cut the track probably had done so to the end of the scrub. We trudged back up Hazelton, pack covers cracking in the wind like freshly washed sheets.

We made it back to our tents at 3pm sharp, right on our estimated limit. We got to pack up in sun, and set off on the long trudge through open buttongrassy plains to the foot of West Bluff. Horizontal, wind-driven rain blinded us shortly after starting out, forcing us to stop and stand, backs to the wind as we literally couldn’t see where we were going. 10 minutes later we were drenched, but in the sun again. It wasn’t tough going, but it was a long way. There were an increasing number of creeks to cross, and John managed to fall in one. Graham did an exceptional job navigating, and we made good progress even through the scrubby creeks, until we got to the biggest river we had to cross all trip. It involved a 40m steep and scrubby drop and climb back up through horrible green stuff. It took it out of us so late in the day and we ended up stopping a bit short of our intended goal at the foot of West Bluff so we could set up tents in the light. Once again rain had us cooking in our respective tents.

Day 2 and we start with a climb up Hazelton. It’s super windy but still warm for the climb

The forest camp before the summit of Hazelton is nice, unfortunately you’d have to lug all your water up

On the summit of Hazelton looking south, there’s more rain and a touch of hail!

There was some open walking as we head out to Lily

And heading back. Hazelton in the far right, Woody peak lived up to its name, until we found an old cut track! Only took us half an our of scrub bashing through horizontal

Back on Hazelton, it’s a bit brighter and the guys let me take a photo

Hazelton is a nice summit

We get back to our tents, pack up and move around to below West Bluff. It’s a long day.

Day 3

We woke, sluggishly, to a claggy day. The first question was from John, something along the lines of what do we want to do?! He’d developed some blisters from his old shoes, selected for this walk specifically to avoid that (not happy), and Graham had a sore back and knee. I wasn’t faring too badly, except a tad tired. The fatigue was prevalent, secondary only to a distinct reluctance to get out and wet with no views for reward, and we decided to stay in our tents, ditch the walk up West Bluff and Mabel, and just do the short distance from where we were camped to the foot of Norfolk. We spent the morning dozing on and off instead, listening to the gentle drizzle of rain as it came and went. Gone was the heavy wind driven explosive bouts of rain and hail of the last two days, but with the gentle drizzle came mist and a generally much more subdued mood.

We ate an early lunch and set off shortly after 1pm. The next three hours were a very cruisey wander through ankle to knee high buttongrassy, heathy low lying stuff typical of the north west, with the odd creek to cross. Fortunately none were of the magnitude of yesterday! The raincoats went on and off more than ever for such a short walk. The wildlife was just as elusive as the last two days, and we only saw the odd ground parrot, flushed out from their cover when we walked too close for their comfort. The tally for the last two days was something like a few more ground parrots, rosellas, a yabbie, a whistler (by sound only), a kangaroo and some kind of bird of prey. Others for the trip would include wedgies, a whip snake, frogs, cicadas, crickets and shrike thrushes. On our arrival at the river next to Mount Norfolk, we spent 5 or so minutes flattening our knee high scrub in order to set up tents, and ended up with something that gave us a very comfortable night’s sleep! We then had a lovely entree of biscuits, brie and port while we rejigged our plans to ensure we could still have a crack at all the mountains we wanted to climb. This was our kind of glamping ;)! We rejoiced at a brief ray of sun, hoping the fine weather would come in time for tomorrow, and then prepared for an early dinner and even more sleeping.

We did a lot of camping in scrub. We were so exhausted after day 2 that we took an easy day and only walked 3 hrs to the foot of Mount Norfolk, instead of attempting West Bluff and Mabel

Day 4

Today was the day. Well, it was just another day, but it was the day we would set out to climb the mountain after which the Norfolk range was named, along with Helen Peak. When Chris was answering all my questions he told me whatever I did, I wasn’t to come back and say Helen was easy. So while this would be one of the shortest (distance-wise) days of our trip, it was bound to be a big one.

We were up and ready to go at 8. There had been a bit of rain overnight so the scrub was nicely damp, but the weather was looking like it might behave. The grey clouds were still hanging around, but there were lighter patches, and even the odd blue bit. We set off and found an easy way across the river. Graham and John had thrown a few extra rocks in the night before to build up a preexisting ford, and the scrub wasn’t thick on the far side. Then it was up and up. We made excellent progress and looked to well and truely be on top in the time we’d set.

Then John asked for a break at the top of the next rise… We never got there. We hit scrub thick enough you couldn’t tell where it was. We floundered for a bit, then hit some slightly more open forest on the right hand side of the ridge we were on, right between it and top/left hand side of the ridge, which seemed to be pretty thick bauera and cutting grass and other horrid green stuff. We headed upwards in that fashion until our lead ran out, and once again we were having a bash.

We confused ourselves with grid references that didn’t make sense until later, when we realised we’d headed up a different ridge to the one we thought we were. But that didn’t change the scrub. We were glad to pop out into waist high tea tree and at least get a sense of where we were. We found the summit by gps, or at least the scrubby patch that marked it. The bigger highlight was heading for the trig point and actually being able to see part of a view! Even better we had unexpected phone reception, and we sent a few quick messages.

Given the time it had taken to get through the unexpected scrub to the summit, we weren’t sure we’d have the time to get to Helen and back. Chris might have mentioned scrub that was best tackled walking backwards, and some of the worst bauera you can imagine. We’d already seen a bit of that, and weren’t keen for any more than necessary. While Graham was doing last minute stuff on his phone and John was taking a photo of the trig, I went to scout ahead. We’d already agreed we’d walk ‘to the edge’ and see what the terrain looked like. You can imagine my surprise and glee, then, when I walked straight onto a cut track. It was the thing of dreams. An hour later we were standing gleefully on Helen, feeling like we owed someone lots of beer. It was as easy going as you could possibly have had!! The sun came out to celebrate with us, so we hung out all our wet gear while we ate lunch and felt pretty lucky for having such good fortune.

We were tempted on our return to use the ridge we had meant to climb up, but such is the top of Norfolk that it’s not actually possible to walk to the edge and see said ridge. We had to choose then between the devil we knew (and already had a bashed track up) and the chance of an easier route down. We wimped out and went with retracing our steps. When we finally pushed out of the last bit of scrub we enjoyed every moment of the dry, sunny walk down the open ridge. The crickets were out, the sun shone so brightly it hurt to look out to sea where the sun reflected silver off the water, and for the first time the scrub crunched instead of squealched underfoot. It finally felt like summer!!

Back at the tents by 6:30 and we celebrated with another round of brie and biscuits, accompanied by soup instead of port (there was none of that left ;)! ). While we ate we cemented our plans for the next day’s walking. We were slightly off course from our original plans due to us scratching West Bluff and Mabel on day 3, so we were trying to fit them in slightly differently. Only tomorrow would tell if we had got it right, or been way too ambitious!

Day 4 we head up Mt Norfolk. We didn’t expect so much scrub. On the summit we find a slightly more open patch within the trees. I don’t think the map helped much

We then headed for the trig, not sure we could take a whole heap more scrub to get to Helen

We checked out the route to Helen, and it looked scrubby. just as well we found a cut track!!! Made it much more enjoyable!

And now you see why they call it horizontal. This is a very young example. Imagine lots of thick sturdy branckes, add another few layers of the same, and now you have some of the ‘play equipment’ we had to climb our way through.

Just shy of the summit of Helen Peak, the sun came out and we dried off while we ate.

Back down, we’re happy we got to the top, Graham and John pose for the photo. It doesn’t give any indication of the scrub below Norfolk!

Day 5

We woke to the sound of our alarms, tiredly so given all of us had spent some time during the night listening to the wind roar around us, but only very occasionally buffet our tents. This was to be another big day – but more so because of the unknown component. The start was easy: eat, pack and walk the few kilometres back to a spur we had identified might take us directly to Mabel… IF we didn’t run into too much horrendous scrub. If we did, well… we could waste a lot of time and energy and have to turn around before we summited. Never a thought we like to entertain, but always a possibility when walking in unfamiliar territory. And this was very unknown terrain. The maps we were using were 40 years old, our intel was from the 1990s, and while we’d looked at satellite imagery, that was also not proving to be super accurate. But there’s nothing like a bit of mystery to spur you on. And I was feeling slightly sheepish that we’d got off so lucky with the cut track to Helen yesterday. Maybe today would be the day to really cut our teeth on this walk.

We were at our planned camp site in just over an hour and got to work setting up our tents. The weather was weird. The clouds were moving from an easterly direction (everything so far had been driven from the west) and they were bringing with them low mist. It was not the fine and rain free day we were expecting. As we started up our ridge and entered the cloud, visibility was cut to about 20 metres. That certainly kept us wondering when we’d hit the scrub. We couldn’t believe our luck that we were still moving freely as we approached the main ridge, though we could see why we’d thought the ridge looked scrubby. It must have been burnt out some years back, and the top had only regrow to a stunted length, but as we approached the main ridge where we’d turn right to get to Mabel we could see thick tea tree scrub looming in the mist on both our flanks. It was quite a weird experience, much like the parting of the sea, but we were getting used to that on this walk!

We turned right and continued along the ridge, getting ever so close to Mabel, still walking relatively easily, though now having to weave more between thicker, higher scrub and cutting grass clumps. And then the inevitable, we came hard up against a solid wall of tea tree. The fire had only made it so far. But never mind, almost as if I knew it was there I walked us straight onto yet another cut track. This was becoming more than just coincidental. Does anyone know who was responsible? A North West bushwalking club perhaps? We were certainly very grateful again.

In any case, our track took us through some scrub, some lovely forest, and a bit more scrub. We popped out just before the summit and found a very rusted handsaw hanging from a tree! By now the cloud was breaking up a bit so we had patches of sun in amongst the rolling mist. We ducked over to the summit, another of those ones that’s covered in scrub, where we took it in turns to stand on the highest clump of cutting grass to take a photo of the ‘view’. We then walked back to an open bit with some slightly more extensive views (when the cloud allowed). We had enough sun to dry our gear out as we ate.

Feeling happy with our progress and the prospect of there being cut tracks through scrubby sections, John suggested we do a circuit up and over West Bluff. We had been saving it to climb from the plain to its west the next day before walking out, but this option would definitely save us time. We’d originally thought it would be too ambitious as we knew there were two scrubby sections, but the prospect of a cut track changed that. We decided to check the first scrubby section out to see if we could find the start of a cut track, and make our choice based on that. Sure enough, it was close to where we expected it. And so we started out on a lovely walk down the ridge that leads off Mabel, popping out of the forest near the bottom, and wandering happily along open ridges and rises on the way to West Bluff. We startled ground parrots and the odd rosella as we went, and made sure we took time to absorb the views.

When we got to the start of the scrub up West Bluff we found a very overgrown cut track and managed to follow/clear it all the way to the first high point. Then, try as we might, it became impossible to stay on. We’d find random bits of cut wood, but nothing resembling a track. We spent a good deal of time making our way across the saddle to the actual summit of West Bluff, another scrubby one. By this stage we were pretty stuffed, and we discovered the northern edge was scrub free, so sat there, ate, drank, and told the world we were ok. As we did, we were treated to a fly-by of two wedgies at fairly close range – just amazing! Once again, we also enjoyed the sound of the sea – a slightly odd experience when sitting on the top of a mountain, but one we were getting used to!

We eventually recovered our senses, realised it was nearly 5pm and we had a fair way to go still, so decided it was time to check out the trig on the way down. We disturbed a resident wallaby on our way to the somewhat worse for wear trig. West Bluff is another of those mountains you can’t immediately see the ridge down, you just have to trust it’s there until you get far enough down that it materialises. This meant it was quite steep, but there was a good mixture of rock and alpine heath/scrub to make it not too slippery. We made it down in one piece then walked the plain back to our tents. By this stage we were pretty hungry, and made the mistake of dreaming about sherry trifle for dessert ;)! A chai latte, a cup of tea and half a chocolate bar had to suffice!

Day 5 we drop back to a ridge we reckon we can take to get to Mabel. We expect scrub at a similiar height as Norfolk. The guys do the map thing while I wait for them to start walking. Again it’s a wet start.

The going is actually really open, until we hit scrub just before the summit, but it’s all ok, again there’s a cut track (seeing a theme yet?!). This was sa really cute moss ball, Graham spotted it.

On Mabel we change our plans again because we’re making such good time, and we decide to do a circuit via West Bluff. There’s a section of really nice open walking..

But the climb up West Bluff is scrubby and the track peters out. We end up bashing… AGAIN. But the summit is nice if you stick to the northern side. Looking back north along the range to Hazelton

The one night it’s dry enough to sit out, chat, cook and enjoy the evening together

Day 6

This was the final day of the first part of our trip, and we woke to lovely cloud patterns. It was to be a relatively easy day in terms of distance and elevation, but hard in regards to the monotony of walking along the plain through mostly ankle, but sometimes knee or waist high scrub. We’d have all preferred to climb over a mountain! We took it in turns to retrace our steps, and all of us struggled with feeling tired. Nearly stepping on a whip snake didn’t wake me up much and we eventually plodded back to the car shortly after 4pm.

We then drove down to the Donaldson River to car camp, and enjoyed a treat of pringles and alcoholic beverages while we waited for dinner to cook. My lunches for the next part of the trip had fared poorly in the car, and I spent a little time rubbing mould off my tomatoes and peas and hoping they’d be ok. I’d already forgotten a second lot of nuts, and Graham generously shared his with me. Even so, the next 4 days were going to be hungry ones. John discovered two holes in his water bladder, which he was going to try to repair overnight, but in the meantime we shared our various water-carrying containers. Water was a concern for the next part of the trip despite the rain, as we were sticking to the ridges and camping high. We were going to have to be extra careful. As darkness fell we settled in for a good night’s sleep, accompanied by the sound of the river.

Day 6 and this is as close to a sunrise as we get.

The clouds were cool

Ants doing their thing

A cheeky bullant

The worst of the river crossings, a 40m drop through scrub. It was yuck.

Graham finds the bottom a little faster than intended. Fortunately uninjured!

How many eyes can you count?

And finally we’re out, and the car isn’t far off… Time to find some more mountains

Day 7

The first day to the second part of our trip. It was weird to be heading out again on the one trip. We packed up camp, drove a little way from the river, had a loo stop, and continued to the high point on the road where we were due to head off across the button grass plains in a south westerly direction. We were roughly following the description in the Tarkine Trails book, and it was fairly accurate for this bit. The best route did indeed head south west, until you were almost past due north of the point you had to gain the ridge to Mount Edith. Heading south, with a touch of east, you did indeed cross three river gullies, which actually weren’t that scrubby if you chose your spot carefully. Not sure where our next water was coming from, we filled all our bottles/bladders here.

The climb up the ridge was steep and sunny but also very windy so we walked a tightrope between being hot and sweaty and freezing cold! I happened to score the lead on this one, which was lots of fun, though I got into trouble for not stopping frequently enough. The going was open, and the route obvious, with bits of pad that had been frequented by a wombat or two. The summit was a mix of rock and low alpine scrub, with some very wind stunted banksias and even a little cairn. The views were pretty good too, and it was clear to see why it was described as perhaps being the ‘jewel’ of the range.

We spent some time there before the next rain shower had us scurrying on, to generate heat and keep us warm more than anything else. We followed the ridge down to the saddle between Edith and Hadmar. Graham needed a little convincing and a whole lot of faith that it was in fact, less scrubby than the one he had seen. When we did indeed hit the scrub, we walked straight onto someone else’s bash, which we followed until it felt like we were going way to far right off the ridge and heading towards a gully that would eventually become a river. It was tempting to continue in this way because we were mostly in fairly open forest and still following where someone else had been before, and there was only towering bauera and other nasty green stuff to our left. At this point though we decided to back track a little then push back towards the middle of the ridge, and hope the going wasn’t too bad. Funnily enough, however, we yet again chose the same point as others had before us, and instead of the scrub bash we expected, we ended up following much the same quality bash as before – lovely!!

We popped out near the saddle at the bottom, and decided to have lunch while we talked about options. We’d made good time, and could push on to the far side of Hadmar, camp there, walk to Sunday tomorrow, then Vero on Wednesday and out on Thursday. The other choice was to camp near where we were, and just say walk to Hadmar and Vero the next day, and head out on Wednesday. John decided he’d be camping in the saddle and wouldn’t do Sunday, but told Graham and I he didn’t want to stop us from going. We were both tempted – it was definitely possible and completing all the peaks of the Norfolk range would have been a nice way to end the trip. But we come walking to do it together, and I don’t think either of us would have felt quite the same about it if we’d gone off on our own. Besides, when I’d talked to Chris to get some info, he’d made the very attractive suggestion of taking the boat from Corrina, and walking along the coast then inland to get to Sunday (and coming out over Edith, Hadmar, Vero to the road). This had piqued our interest, but because of our time restrictions we hadn’t been able to fit it in. Choosing not to do Sunday this time gave us the perfect excuse to check out the coastal route another time! Perhaps even as a club trip?

So we spent some time getting to the true bottom of the saddle (it’s actually a bit of a maze, with the next part only revealing itself when it’s time), then finding water and a suitable place to camp. We ate snacks, had a cup of tea, lounged around and snoozed a little. Graham was contemplating a short walk part way up Mount Hadmar, but another bout of rain looked like it was coming. Luckily he decided to wait for it to pass. It was perhaps the longest and at times heaviest of all the rain we’d been in. The wind sounded like it was hurling itself around everywhere but our little camp site, which proved more sheltered than we’d realised. And so we wrote notes, ate more snacks, and chatted about places we wanted to go in the world (we ended up with a list a few pages long!). We steered clear of yummy foods this time ;).

Day 7 and we set out for Edith, hidden under cloud on the left

We start the climb, and the sun comes out between the rain showers

And then we’re on top of Edith, the banksias were cool, and that’s Hadmar in the background

Banksia close up on Edith

Day 8

We thought today would be a fairly easy day over Mount Hadmar, out to Mount Vero and back, and all things going well, relocate our camp to the car side of Edith so as to make the walk out a brief affair the next day. Ha, well, it didn’t quite work that way. We woke to rain, despite the forecast from just yesterday still having today as the best looking weather we’d have. We set off in the rain, shortly after 8, filling our water bottles as we left. The climb up Hadmar wasn’t as straight forward as it looked. There were a few little dips to negotiate, though none with serious scrub, and then we got straight into the climb. We took the prominent ridge on the left as you look at the mountain from where we were camped, weaving around the scrub the higher we got, and once again making use of someone else’s bash where necessary. This made for relatively easy climbing, and we were on the summit while it was still wet, windy and frankly, freezing cold! John had some business to attend to on the phone, and Graham had to call the police and reassure them that the do-gooder who had reported his car sitting on the side of the highway need not have worried and that we were actually all ok. I was too cold for anything but squats while the guys did their thing. Graham was kind enough to show me a photo a friend had sent him, of a very warm sunny beach at St Helens. Thanks for rubbing it in Brett ;)!

We got our first real glimpse of the route ahead from the summit of Hadmar, and our spirits fell further. There was a lot of scrub to get through. The saddle was so narrow that we figured we’d find someone else’s bash if they’d been through. No one had, or at least not recently (I did find half a fishing rod that I’m sure didn’t swim itself up there!). And so we had a long, wet and slippery fight with everything from bauera to tea tree, cutting grass and forests of horizontal. It can be pretty hard to orient yourself in the thick scrub, but we did a pretty good job of staying on the ridge. When we were a few contour lines above the low point in the saddle we broke out of the scrub and it was nice to see we had a lovely open walk the rest of the way, and that the sun was finally about to break through the cloud. And it did, as we wove between burnt out skeletons of banksia bushes on the otherwise open ascent of Mount Vero.

Once again we sat on the summit and enjoyed lunch in the sun, while drying out all our wet gear, except socks and boots. One of the resident wedgies showed off again. While we were there we had a look at a direct route off the summit to the road. Chris had asked if we could tape it for a friend, and while we had the tape, we didn’t have our bags (probably just as well, lugging them through the scrub would have been a nightmare!). It looked pretty good, with only one or two bands of scrub, and potentially a steep sided Toner river to negotiate.

The way back was considerably faster having our bashed route to follow, although we were pretty knackered and not moving with great coordination or speed! Tea, soup, red chicken and vegetable curry, chocolate and dried mango followed. We prepared for an early night, so we’d be up bright and early the next day for the walk out and drive home.

Day 8 and we take a ‘quick little stroll to Hadmar and Vero’… turned out to be a pretty big day, with nothing quick about it! Here we are on Hadmar, in the freezing wind and rain

Finally through the thick scrub between Hdmar and Vero, and we just have nice walking to go. Sunday in the distance – the only mountain in the range we chose to save for another time

On Vero, pretty happy, and just in time for the sun!

Looking back towards Hadmar, that green stuff was foul

Day 9

It was time to leave, on yet another typical northwest coast kind of day: unpredictable, rapidly changing, but always a little wet, windy and cold. Although the latter predominated this time. There was a brief gap in the rain that allowed us to pack tents in the dry, but after a few paces in the scrub we were already drenched. John started us off, but soon couldn’t see his GPS without needing to wipe his glasses every time, so I got the job of leading back up through the scrub to Edith. Put it this way, I might have been covered in bauera leaves, but I didn’t think I needed a shower after my 9 day walk – I got such a decent drenching. Once we were out and sidled under the peak, the walk down the ridge and across the button grass plains went relatively quickly. We raced the rain to get changed before the next downpour then ate our last lunch in the car, before a long drive back.

All up: 107km, 5303m ascent, 9 days

Charter, Cripps, Agnew, Heemskirk, Lyell: 8-10 November

Mount Charter GPS route
Mount Charter GPS route

This weekend had been set aside a month or two ago, when Jess and I went through all the dates between then and the end of the year and discovered that this was the only weekend we both had free. So ‘walk Jess’ went into my phone calendar, on the understanding that we’d decide where to go when we knew how the weather was looking.

Jess walking in Mt Charter forest
Jess walking in Mt Charter forest

Unfortunately, the last few weeks or so have been more unsettled than not, and the two options we had been looking at were called off due to rain and the chance of a flooded river, and the exorbitant Lake St Claire Ferry cost for only the two of us. So the west coast it would be, which would give more flexibility to alter things if the weather hit hard.

Mt Charter summit cairn.. if you can call it that!
Mt Charter summit cairn.. if you can call it that!

I was a little disappointed, and a bit worried. As always, when walking with someone other than myself I like things to go as planned, but this was clearly quite different from the envisioned 3 day walk with possible high camps, and in my eyes, not quite ‘as good’. I hoped Jess wouldn’t be disappointed, and that the weather wouldn’t be too miserable. One can get pretty sick of climbing mountains in the rain and mist as they all look much the same, and the views are a big part of the elation gained from bushwalking.

Our frog on the way down
Our frog on the way down

But there wasn’t much to be done, so after the usual Friday night/Saturday morning shift I raced home, showered, and jumped in the car when Jess pulled up. I was most grateful she was driving, because as much as I tried, I had difficulty keeping my eyes open. I certainly didn’t provide any scintillating conversation :(.

Jess goes for a ride ;).. never a boring moment with her around!
Jess goes for a ride ;).. never a boring moment with her around!

We did watch the blue sky and sun out the window, wondering when it would change. And though it became cloudier as we drove past Lake St Claire, it still didn’t look threatening, despite the forecast. On we drove, deciding as we got closer to start at the top and work our way back down. That meant we were headed for Mts Charter and Cripps first off.

Mount Cripps GPS route
Mount Cripps GPS route

I knew nothing about them, just that they were there, and had been assigned one point each on the peak baggers list. And this, I suppose, is the good thing about peak bagging.. you get to go places you never would have considered. Sometimes that’s not so fun, but often there’s little surprises to delight in, and there’s always an element of mystery and adventure (which gets me excited).

Out of the forest and onto the button grass ridges
Out of the forest and onto the button grass ridges. Norfolk range behind.

After a very patient drive through the never ending roadworks (which appear to have been started with more gusto than was sustainable) we pulled over opposite a road we figured  would take us close enough to the summit, and next to a road roller machine thingy, which happened to have the window on the door down (more on that later!).

Spring has the flowers out.. and two wedgies soar above the blue hills in the distance.. and we're free!
Spring has the flowers out.. and two wedgies soar above the blue hills in the distance.. and we’re free!

We geared up and set off, along the road. I didn’t expect it to go all the way, but hoped it might go further than the maps on my GPS suggested, as the scrub looked a little annoying. As luck would have it, it did. Then it was just a matter of choosing between forks and taking our chances! When we started to veer a little too far left of the summit, we back tracked a little, then hit the green stuff. Up here though, it was much nicer, and we found ourselves walking primarily through open forest.

Looking back the way we've come
Looking back the way we’ve come

It wasn’t long (30 minutes after having started out) before we found ourselves before a rock that stood slightly higher than the rest, with a small rock sitting on top, looking a somewhat sorry excuse for a summit. Jess wandered over to the ‘side’ and declared that there was absolutely nothing to be seen. So we didn’t stick around. To mix things up a bit though, we decided to follow some fairly fresh pink tape that we’d come across (it seemed to head in roughly the right direction) and see where it’d take us.

From the summit to the trig
From the summit to the trig

It took us on a nice route back down, till we hit road, which happened to be the right part of a fork in the road where we’d chosen the left option on the way up. All good, we trotted back, on the way checking out a little frog who tried to play dead!

And from the trig to the summit
And from the trig to the summit

Back at the car Jess’ attention turned to the roller with its open window, and I smiled, I knew exactly what was going to happen! Sure enough, with some interesting manoeuvring and a few funny looks from people driving by, it wasn’t long before Jess was sitting in the driver’s seat, dangling keys, a cheeky grin on her face (ok, admittedly the keys were her own car keys, but still!). So we had a play, and lots of laughs, before locking up behind us.

Camp at Trial Harbour that night
Camp at Trial Harbour that night

As we drove further north to check out Mt Cripps, every time we passed a machine, both our heads would turn sideways as we checked for open windows. We joked that the peak bagging might just turn into machine bagging ;)! After a slight issue with the GPS suggesting we could turn onto a road that would actually have involved driving off the side of the bridge we were on and dropping onto the road below, we found our way onto the road which would take us to Cripps.

Time to go check out the ocean before dinner
Time to go check out the ocean before dinner

Unfortunately, as is often the case, there was a gate very early on, which meant we’d have a longish road walk ahead. But we had time, and so Jess parked off to the side and we set off. Early on we passed a plant which the local caving club had put stakes around with signs to say it was a rare plant that was growing prostrate rather than up, as it should. Interesting, not only for that but for the natural assumption that there must be caves in the area.

Hmmm.. not so bad!
Hmmm.. not so bad!

On we walked, turning south onto the straightest gravel road you’ve ever seen. 1.6km along we searched around for what my GPS suggested was a track of sorts that would take us to the summit. We should have ignored the GPS and walked another 200 m, where we’d have seen a tree with pink tape around it on the far side of the road, with a cairn and more tape on the near side. But we didn’t, because as with Charter, I had no info whatsoever on this one, and wasn’t expecting a taped route at all.

And then the sun and clouds come into play
And then the sun and clouds come into play

Figuring the track I had on my GPS was a very overgrown road, we wove through a little bit of cutting grass, then walked through open forest, trying to keep roughly on where the track was ‘supposed’ to be. In this fashion we walked straight into bright pink tapes, and figured it couldn’t hurt to follow them, as they were heading in the right direction anyway. It didn’t take long to realise that the tapes and what had become a worn pad, were a definite route up. Brilliant!

And a little later on..
And a little later on..

We quickly popped out of the cutting grass and scrub and onto open button grass. I couldn’t help but be excited! As difficult as it can be to walk through, especially when tired, I do love button grass plains and ridges and the rocks that usually decorate them. Today was no exception. The hazy sky had mountain ranges in shades of blue, which just added to the beauty. The fact that I had thought this might be just like Charter, and that it clearly wasn’t, made me all the more appreciative.

Green golden grass drops, by evening light
Green golden grass drops, by evening light

We climbed, occasionally stumbling as we slipped off clumps of grass (or fell into holes), releasing delicious wafts when we brushed past the newly flowering lemon scented boronia (love that stuff and its association with walking). One, then two, wedgies appeared, circling misty blue layers without apparent effort. We both reckoned it wouldn’t be too bad to be reincarnated as wedgies one day. A little whip snake was sunning itself, and a green butterfly danced amongst the alpine flowers, successfully defying my efforts to take a photo.

Mount Agnew GPS route
Mount Agnew GPS route

We scrambled up the small rocky summit, Jess making an acquaintance with the resident ladybird, then decided we better walk the short distance across the top to the actual trig. Really it just gave us all the more time to check out the mountains, including Barn and the very tip of Cradle! Certainly hadn’t expected the view we got!!

Cairn marking the start of the Agnew walk
Cairn marking the start of the Agnew walk

Though it wasn’t too late, the light was changing, and it looked like we might finally get some of the rain that had been forecasted for that morning, so we turned and headed back, managing to do a good job of getting ‘drunk’ on the button grass. Back at the car in perfect time to have a chat to an older couple heading in for some caving (pity they hadn’t been earlier, they had a key to the gate and we could have done with the ride!), get changed, and get in before the rain started.

Just in case you weren't exactly sure where to go on the way up Agnew…!
Just in case you weren’t exactly sure where to go on the way up Agnew…!

We decided to check out Trial Harbour for camping, figuring it was close enough to Agnew, which we’d hopefully climb the following day. Jokes were made about our perfect timing (the rain would stop just before we arrived and were ready to set up camp) and our (perhaps good rather than bad) luck at having been stuck behind a super slow caravan on the drive up! More jokes as we drove in, at a sign that asked us to crawl through the town for the sake of kids playing on the road.

Some climby fun
Some climby fun

Tent up, a short wander for some photos, dinner, teeth and into our sleeping bags with a book each. I don’t think I got much past 3 pages before I couldn’t keep my eyes open! A solid night’s sleeping to the sound of the ocean, a fittingly relaxed start, breakfast bar (someone else who takes the easy no fuss option!), and we were off.

Some tangly fun
Some tangly fun

We’d spotted what had to be the start of the walk up Agnew on the drive in the day before. I hadn’t been sure there was an actual track, but a cairn with the top rock painted red suggested there was, as did subsequent sightings of pink tape. Great, we could relax a little!

Some over and under fun
Some over and under fun

The cloud was low, swirling around the summit of Agnew, but that didn’t matter so much. The track started off as a road walk, and then turned into a (very well, perhaps excessively) taped track, perhaps better described as obstacle course in parts! Later we would identify different sections as different bits of outdoor gym equipment, requiring ‘users’ to do hurdles, or weight lifting or gymnastics.

A little critter :)
A little critter 🙂

For me, the walk grew on me more and more as we gained height. The forest was really quite nice, the track good, and there were plenty of creatures, plants and fungi to stop and examine. When we hit the ridge we needed to hit, we had a brief glimpse of our summit, before dropping back into the green (complete with Jess’ favourite – cutting grass). But it wasn’t long before we were back out on the final climb, and now that we had rock and views, we slowed right down!

First glimpse of the summit before heading back into the forest
First glimpse of the summit before heading back into the forest

It was nice to be able to share the revealing of the ‘world’ with someone who took as much pleasure from it as I did, or at least that’s how I interpreted the occasional ‘Shit yeah!!’ ;)! We sat on the summit and watched the clouds start to clear, the ocean expand, the lake that has surprised both of us changing in colour as the sky changed, and picked out some mountains. We wondered at the construction between us and Mount Zeehan, then found the log book, which dates back to 1981!!

Wooo, and the views open up!
Wooo, and the views open up!

We had the usual fun reading through a few entries, finding some from a couple of friends, one of whom had written ‘best fog I’ve seen!’. There was plenty of enjoying of the sun and lunch, before we reluctantly decided we should head back down if we were going to do Heemskirk too. Entries in the log book suggested that a route from Agnew over and back was possible, but possibly a little tough on the knees. We decided to pass, and have a crack from the other side (even if that meant three summits!).

Mt Agnew summit
Mt Agnew summit

The way down was fun and fast, and we were back on the road quite quickly, spending a moment or two in surprise to find Frenchmans on the horizon! Back at the car I found a fat leech on my side, which turned a section of shirt from blue to red and ended up winning me the leech prize for the weekend (it’s still itchy Jess!!).

Relaxing in the sun
Relaxing in the sun

On to Heemskirk we drove, with another instance of the road that we hoped to turn on to not being in exactly the same place as marked on my GPS. Never mind, we found it, and decided not to test the depth of some of the larger water filled pot (or bog) holes in the car. Off we marched instead.

First few entries in the log book
First few entries in the log book

Heemskirk, unlike its close neighbour Agnew, is all button grass and no forest. I must admit, I do like this kind of walking as it allows for views all the way, and there’s something about the colour in particular, but also the smell and feel and relative freedom of walking this kind of terrain. I was just a bit excited :), a fine mountain it looked.

Looking over to Heemskirk
Looking over to Heemskirk

There was a low level warning in the back of my head, as I vaguely remembered something a friend had said a long way back about three summits, but figured we’d get there regardless. The road petered out, and we made a beeline for the top of the ridge immediately in front of us. Once on it, we looked over a slight dip, and another climb up to the next ‘top’. The route one would follow just looking at maps seemed ok, but we reckoned on one out to the left being even more open and easy enough, so that’s where we went.

Out to sea.. and the Henty sand dunes
Out to sea.. and the Henty sand dunes

Good news about results on the latest baking comp we’d entered finally came through, to offset the not so good news that Jess was feeling slightly off colour. She was still keen to keep on walking (I knew it’d take a lot more to have her turning around), and in very little time we were higher up where the rock started to grow, and the scrub increased. Walking with Jess, though, is like walking with another me, and there were no objections whatsoever to head for the rock over the scrub! In this manner we wove and climbed our way up, until we were on the top of yet another rise.

Checking out the mountains, Zeehan on the right
Checking out the mountains, Zeehan on the right

We looked down and across into a bowl, and spotted a trig on one of the bumps on the far side. A hawk or something was circling overhead, and we watched for a bit, summoning the mental strength for another ‘section’. Heemskirk would be pretty much perfect if the summit was where we stood, we later decided.

Time to head back, reluctantly
Time to head back, reluctantly

But it wasn’t, and now I started to get concerned about the real summit.. if there were three, we were in for a bit of a hike! Getting across the bowl was pretty easy, the first warratahs of the season providing splashes of red in a green gold sea. For the climb, Jess headed straight for rock, which turned out to be an easy way up.

Mt Heemskirk GPS route
Mt Heemskirk GPS route

Just a little scrub near the trig, and then we were there. But we spent very little time celebrating or even noticing much. Across on the horizon was another bump, with a great big cairn. It was definitely higher, and by now, I had no doubt that there was also a third summit.

Setting out on the initial road walk.. what a fine looking mountain!
Setting out on the initial road walk.. what a fine looking mountain!

This part of the walk was slightly less enjoyable. The scrub was by no means difficult, but it was a little higher, and required care to avoid the worst bits. The nature of the terrain meant it was also difficult to pick a best path as you couldn’t really see too far ahead, and had to work on little information. We didn’t do too badly though, and though it might have seemed to take a while, we did actually make ok time.

Climbing the slopes
Climbing the slopes

As a gift, the sun sparkled on the ocean, creating pretty patterns of light, and we spent a bit of time looking at it as we walked. A short pause when we arrived at the cairn, by which time I know I was at least in the ‘let’s just get this done’ frame of mind. And so we did. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the furthest most point was higher (my GPS confirms it actually was – 13m higher than the first, 7 higher than the second), but neither was I keen on coming back (to that particular point anyway!).

On top of the first rise, checking out the way forward
On top of the first rise, checking out the way forward

After a brief round of negotiations with a banksia tree, we both stood on the end of the range. The downside, I suppose, to having views all round on the way up a mountain, is that you don’t always get the full impact of them when standing on the summit. Or perhaps it was tiredness, slight concern for how Jess was feeling, and awareness that it was getting late (5.30). Needless to say, a few photos and we turned to go.

Loving the colours and shadows
Loving the colours and shadows

Jess led us back, until getting to the point it became hard to choose whether to go up, down or keep on sidling. I’ve been there many a time, and told her to have a rest while I took the lead. Once we’d made our way across the top, down into the bowl and out the other side, we took the straight down to the road option (sometimes it DOES apply!).

Drawn to the rock!
Drawn to the rock!

Walking together but separately we moved at our own pace, but never got too far from one another, as if bound by some invisible length of rope. The button grass drunkenness was back, and at one point Jess figured she’d test out how comfy it was as a seat (probably a little faster than expected!). It was my turn to get a photo of her lying there with a grin on her face, just to make up for the one of me she’d got earlier on in the day!

:D
😀

And then we were there, back at the end of the road. The sun started glowing in the west, under the layer of cloud that was forming on the coast and moving through overhead. We took the typical button grass silhouette shots (hard to resist, really) and plodded on.

The next rise.. looking across the 'bowl' to the rise with the trig on it
The next rise.. looking across the ‘bowl’ to the rise with the trig on it

We didn’t get far before having to rescue some tadpoles. On the way up we’d found a whole heap of them swimming in the water that had gathered in the tyre ruts on one section of the road, but one particular ‘pond’ had been very shallow, and in the time it had taken us to get to the top and back, it had dried up to wet mud and no water. The tadpoles were there, not moving, in the mud, and so we scooped them up and deposited them into the tyre ‘pond’ next door that also had some swimming in it. We hoped there was enough water to keep them going till it next rained (either over night or the following morning).

Not a bad spot to sit, as we watch a hawk or something soar overhead
Not a bad spot to sit, as we watch a hawk or something soar overhead

Our good deed for the day done, we got back to the car, a tad weary by now, and made for Granville this time. The drive was short, and despite the tiredness we were both pretty excited as we watched (a bit too closely – neither of us could read road signs for a bit there) a golden ball dip below the horizon. A perfect end to a pretty awesome day.

Light playing on the ocean
Light playing on the ocean

For some reason, sleep was fitful for both of us that night, though Granville was yet another nice place to stay (if you can avoid the mozzies!). The weather seemed to be holding out despite forecasts (which by now had changed considerably!), and we went with our plan to climb Lyell on the way out.

It is a nice mountain to climb.. mostly ;)!
It is a nice mountain to climb.. mostly ;)!

Thanks to the mining, Lyell is fairly denuded, but, as I’d found with Owen, there is still something starkly beautiful in that, and the colours and textures in the grasses and rock grew on me as we climbed. Jess’ ears were playing up, and concerns about the weather (which was a bit on and off by now) had me slightly worried and more than ready to turn back should we need to.

We basically walk straight past the trig..
We basically walk straight past the trig..

It’s funny how some people teach you more about yourself… and Jess is certainly one of those, given the similarities between us. I had to trust her ‘I’m fines’, interpreting them as I would my own were I in her situation, and to trust that she’d say something if she wasn’t (preferably BEFORE it was a little too late..and knowing my own tendencies, I was more concerned about this!).

Lingering for a moment by the cairn, before moving to the true and unmarked summit
Lingering for a moment by the cairn, before moving to the true and unmarked summit

But on we plodded, both with weary legs. With slightly muted enthusiasm we enjoyed the views out behind Owen and over Lake Burbury, as a change in vegetation signalled we were getting closer to the top. And then were were there. A flat expanse, ‘like a car park’, with some rocks on the fair side, sporting a small summit cairn. Jess added to it, before we ducked out of the wind to refuel, add layers, and send birthday messages.

Just testin'!
Just testin’!

Our expected view of the Eldon range was somewhat impeded by cloud, but I think we were both just grateful for what we did have. Getting cold, and by now probably just wanting to get back, we moved off, making much better time on the way down, despite taking care not to slip on the steep and now wet rock and grass.

Button grass as the sun sets
Button grass as the sun sets

Near the bottom, I gave enough of a start to have Jess wondering what was going on. I’d nearly stood on what I’d first thought must be a snake. Gold and browny-black scales were visible through the grass, and it took me a few seconds to realise it was a much friendlier blue tongue! On Jess’ questions about picking it up I reached down and did just that, childhood memories preparing me for the strength with which it would try and wriggle out of my hands.

And there she goes...
And there she goes…

He was a fine healthy looking fellow, who waited somewhat impatiently as Jess and I both took photos (she got a cracker of one with his brilliant blue-purple tongue fully extended). One last stroke of smooth scales, and Jess set him down. Our mood lightened by this chance encounter, we walked the short distance back through the only ‘scrub’ of the walk – a boggy reedy section in which, Jess remarked, you could hide anything (including a body, should the need arise!).

Granville the following morning.
Granville the following morning.

Not quite the planned 3 dayer, but a good one none the less :), with excellent companionship!

Mount Lyell GPS route
Mount Lyell GPS route

All up:

Charter: 4.2km, 1.02hrs, 202m ascent.

Cripps: 9.4km, 3.07hrs, 344m ascent.

Agnew: 5.3km, 4.29hrs (including a 40min break on top!), 661m ascent.

Heemskirk: 11.3km, 5.32hrs, 805m ascent.

Lyell: 6.0km, 3.27hrs, 710m ascent.

Heading up Lyell, looking back towards Lake Burbury
Heading up Lyell, looking back towards Lake Burbury

Limited view of the Eldon Range
Limited view of the Eldon Range

Jess improves the summit cairn
Jess improves the summit cairn

Love it… just something about it!
Love it… just something about it!

Some nice rock on this one too :)
Some nice rock on this one too 🙂

Our friend the blue tongued lizard!
Our friend the blue tongued lizard!

Gnomon, Dial, Duncan, Lorymer, Loyetea, Housetop, St Valentines: 12-13 July 2014

Mounts Gnomon and Dial GPS route
Mounts Gnomon and Dial GPS route

Well, I’m supposed to be filling in a funding proposal for a program to increase awareness about the need for tolerance and protection of minorities in a number of ‘hotspots’ in Indonesia, but I think I need a break.. so a little bit from the weekend just gone…

Ben Lomond/Stacks bluff and the rising sun, on the drive up to the north west after working all night.. couldn't have been much nicer.
Ben Lomond/Stacks bluff and the rising sun, on the drive up to the north west after working all night.. couldn’t have been much nicer.

After a minor scheduling error, this weekend was set aside for a friend who was keen to go on a three day walk with me, but couldn’t quite believe that I could have all my weekends ‘booked’ until September. Having heard nothing for a few weeks, and then receiving a message on Thursday to say said friend was in NSW, I as much as figured the walk was off. That was quite fine, I’d learnt long ago that it’s not much fun being stood up on walks if you don’t have a back up plan, so I had one of them, and I was rather feeling like walking alone in any case.

My first mountain.. Gnomon (glad I don't have to know how to pronounce these things when I write about them).. a lot of the walking was in this kind of forest.
My first mountain.. Gnomon (glad I don’t have to know how to pronounce these things when I write about them).. a lot of the walking was in this kind of forest.

The weather wasn’t so flash.. showery or snow showery in most places, with a bit of wind. The best spot seemed to be the northeast, but I only have three peak bagging peaks left there, and am saving them for a time when there’s really no alternative. So instead I chose north, and slightly west, and figured I’d explore some of the peaks south of Penguin.

My first view.. more than I expected to get. From Gnomon, looking southish to Duncan, with Roland behind and to the left
My first view.. more than I expected to get. From Gnomon, looking southish to Duncan, with Roland behind and to the left

Car camping (aka sleeping in my car) meant I didn’t have to worry so much about the weather, the cold, or trying to get gear (tent) dry for next Friday (when I have to be packed for another 3 dayer), which would have been interesting as I wouldn’t have got around to it till Thursday. I was a little bit disappointed I wouldn’t be sleeping on the top of anything, and as such unlikely to be seeing the sunsets and rises I love so much about camping, but that was the way things were going to be. I drew in rough plans of attack for about 10 mountains (I don’t like running out) and figured I’d do whatever I felt like and had time for.

On the way from Gnomon across the connecting ridge line to Mt Dial.. I finally figured out the macro zoom on my camera!
On the way from Gnomon across the connecting ridge line to Mt Dial.. I finally figured out the macro zoom on my camera!

The day started off a little differently from normal, in to work on Friday at 10pm to discover I’d set one machine to start doing it’s thing 24 hours late. That led to an interesting bit of rescheduling, some thinking on my feet, and ultimately a successfully met challenge that made the night a little less routine. We were already down one baker who’d called in sick the night before, but when I left at 6, there wasn’t too much left to do. I left under the reassurance that I wouldn’t be needed to fill in on the Sunday or Monday.

Needless to say, I got a tad excited about what I could now do..
Needless to say, I got a tad excited about what I could now do..

Driving the first bit in darkness is always hard, my eyes just wanted to close, but as it started to get light it got easier (and an energy drink might have helped). I had my fingers crossed for a view when the sun finally followed its light and popped over the horizon, and I couldn’t have timed it much better. Ben Lomond and Stacks Bluff had just appeared out to the right when it did just that. I figured I had time, so pulled over and grabbed the camera, saying hello to the cows on the other side of the fence. They watched as I played, but eventually grew tired and huffy. One decided it was time for me to leave and walked right up to the fence, huffing more purposefully.. the others followed and stood in a line, watching me. So I said goodbye, the sun was well up by now, and laughed as their heads swivelled in unison as they watched me walk down the road and back across to my car. A wave, a few messages as friends wished me well (the realisation that though I was alone, in some ways I wasn’t) and off I drove.

Even with red ones!
Even with red ones!

The sun had literally and figuratively brightened things a little, as did a hawk hovering over the fields. I never used to spot them, especially when driving. 4 hours after leaving Hobart I was at the Gnomon/Dial carpark, boots on and ready to go. The sign informed me it was an hour return to Gnomon, 2 to Mount Dial. I figured that could be a lot quicker…. or, as it turned out.. a lot slower if you have a new camera and are intent on figuring out how to use the macro setting!

I figured I'd better get on and actually climb another mountain.. so this is from the top of Mt Dial.
I figured I’d better get on and actually climb another mountain.. so this is from the top of Mt Dial.

The track itself is like a highway, so much so that the bits of tape are irrelevant. It heads through fairly average dry schlerophyll forest, with not much in the way of views until you get to the top, so you can see why I turned to macro photography! Even then, I had to search for things to photograph. At first it was ferns, then later a mushroom or two, and even (and I rarely do this) a flower (there was only one kind out, either in white or pink).

But I got sidetracked again on the way back down.. :(
But I got sidetracked again on the way back down.. 😦

Somewhere between Gnomon and Mt Dial I finally (properly) discovered the macro zoom function. I’d known it was there, but on my point and shoot camera the macro zoom just seems to mean that I don’t have to bend down so low to get to something, so I don’t use it. I’d thought the same for this one, and was getting highly frustrated that I didn’t seem to be able to get close ups of fungi that were in focus. That all changed in an instant, and suddenly I was loving my camera again (not that I didn’t before, it was just making me annoyed at my own apparent stupidity and ignorance).

And had to revisit this little one, which I'd tried to get earlier but just couldn't manage to focus on.. this time round it was rather a lot easier!
And had to revisit this little one, which I’d tried to get earlier but just couldn’t manage to focus on.. this time round it was rather a lot easier!

Progress was naturally much slower than it should have been, and I had to keep telling myself to keep going and stop playing. And so, mostly, I tried to. The summit of Dial was much the same as Gnomon, bits of view out to the sea, or further south towards Roland and Duncan, the latter of which I was to climb next.

The road walk to Duncan was a blessing in disguise.. or I'd never have taken this shot.. and it's become a favourite.. curled up, young, full of life and potential
The road walk to Duncan was a blessing in disguise.. or I’d never have taken this shot.. and it’s become a favourite.. uncurling, young, full of life and potential

On the way back I stopped to rephotograph some fungi that I’d tried to capture before learning about the macro zoom. I was sprawled across the path, off in my own world, when an ‘Oh, OH!’ interrupted me. I got to my feet, turned around, and found I’d made a 51 yr old local think I’d fallen and knocked myself unconscious! Clearly I wasn’t, so we had a short chat about his backyard, and he told me about the circuit he does up around the back of Gnomon, then as fast as he can back down (7mins 20-something seconds is his record).

A different kind of curling up.. a withdrawing, retracting, stepping back from life.. and so the circle ends as it begun
Juxtaposed: curling up.. a withdrawing, retracting, letting go of life.. and so the circle ends as it begun

We went our separate ways, but seeing he’d mentioned it, a challenge had been set. I had my camera round my neck though, and didn’t fancy a twisted ankle on the slippery and a little bit steep path, so I didn’t quite go 100%, but thought I’d still make ok time. I didn’t time it properly, just looked at my phone at the top, which read 12:23, and figured I should be back at the car before 12:30. 12:28 and I was.

Mount Duncan GPS route.
Mount Duncan GPS route.

That gives an idea of just how short the walk is, and that I took 2.5 hours for both peaks return gives an idea of how much I stopped for photos! I realised that I’d chosen my mountains perfectly, they didn’t require any real route finding or challenge in that sense, which meant the day could be about getting to know my camera a little better, rather than about climbing mountains. That they happened to be there was a bonus.

Riana from the flanks of Duncan
Riana from the flanks of Duncan

The next mountain, Duncan, could be accessed from the same point, as a 4 hour return walk, but can also be accessed from further down the road, as a 1.5 hour return walk. I opted for the latter. The road, however, deteriorated a little, which at first I was ok with, then uncomfortable but ok as I drove through puddles across the road that I wasn’t sure how deep or boggy they might be. I’d seen two 4WDs come through the opposite direction, and was a little bit hesitant as a result, thinking that if they were travelling in pairs maybe this wasn’t a road for a lone AWD.

Solar powered installation on the summit of Duncan
Solar powered installation on the summit of Duncan

A little while later, a significantly eroded section, with evidence of the two 4WDs having slipped off the line you’d want your wheels on, saw me reversing a few hundred metres (and anyone who knows how much I like reversing knows I don’t do that lightly) until I got to a slightly wider section of road and could do an 8 point turn. I found a wider and less boggy spot further back and parked as far to one side as I could, hoping if anyone came through they’d get past.

Another mountain was ditched in favour of a walk on the beach...
Another mountain was ditched in favour of a walk on the beach…

And so I walked the road for a bit, grateful for the chance to photograph new fern shoots which I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, and some smaller than pin head sized mushrooms whose stems were dotted with water drops (which almost worked, but I didn’t quite hold the camera still enough). It wasn’t long before I was at the track, which was much like the tracks up Gnomon and Dial. Towards the top the forest became a little wetter, which I prefer, and once on top, there were two highish points to explore. I went to the eastern, non high point, first, to look back at the solar installation on top of the real high point, and spotted a wedge tailed eagle hovering perfectly in one spot, with no effort at all and barely a movement of wing.

I might have disturbed some silver gulls… their numbers made my singular-ness all the more acute
I might have disturbed some silver gulls… their numbers and departure made my singular-ness all the more acute

A  little bit more of an explore, and back down I went. I figured I’d have time to climb one more mountain, but as I walked I was increasingly entertaining the thought of a walk on the beach instead. By the time I was in my car and driving, I’d as good as decided on it. Unfortunately the two closest beaches I found weren’t quite as good as beaches can be, but it was still nice to hear the sound of the ocean, and walk on the sand. I sat and looked at some photos while waiting for the sun to set, and then went back to taking a few more (of the sun, a ship on the horizon, of birds).

And eventually the sun too left.. and the day turned darker and colder
And eventually the sun too left.. and the day turned darker and colder

When the last glow was gone, I thought I’d head off to somewhere near the next mountain I’d climb. Driving along the coast I rounded a corner and just had to stop again and take a photo of the moon sitting low on the horizon. Later, as it got a bit darker, the moonlight left a shimmering white path out across the water.

The moon rose in its place, a super moon I've just been told, low and big.. orangey at first, then whiter the higher it got
The moon rose in its place, a super moon I’ve just been told, low and big.. orangey at first, then whiter the higher it got

Parked near Riana, which I didn’t think had a track up it and looked rather scrubby, I fell asleep under bright moonlight. I woke (properly) at 5.30, to the sound of something howling, maybe at the moon? I guessed it was the dog at the property you pretty much drove straight through (literally, there’s all sorts of bits and pieces – junk – hard up against either side of the road). I was awake now, and not tired enough to get more sleep, so I got out the computer and started typing some notes, waiting for it to grow lighter.

Mount Lorymer GPS route
Mount Lorymer GPS route

As it did, and I took note of the thickish scrub and the fact that it was cold and everything was damp, I decided to be a chicken (I had 10 mountains to choose from after all) and not go with a wet scrub bash first thing on a chilly morning. I also wanted more of a chance to play with my camera, which is a bit harder to do in scrub.

Feeling a little less like trespassing now! But not sure about the 'lookout' part.
Feeling a little less like trespassing now! But not sure about the ‘lookout’ part.

So it was as simple as starting the car and driving 10 or 15 minutes to the start of a dirt bike/horse riding/bush walking track up to Mt Lorymer lookout, enjoying the pinks and blues sitting over green fields. To be honest, I’m not sure why they bother with the ‘lookout’ part of the Mt Lorymer track! Not once do you get uninterrupted views of anything..

Morning light on trees.. not as golden as it had been.. but nice all the same.. near the summit here
Morning light on trees.. not as golden as it had been.. but nice all the same.. near the summit of Lorymer here

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I parked the car at a gate, which wasn’t locked but did have a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign on it. That confused me, because the track was marked on the Dial Range map as a route, so I figured it was open to the public. For some reason I felt better about walking rather than driving somewhere maybe I shouldn’t be, but I did discover that the road is generally in good enough nick if you did want to drive. There’s just a tree high across it right near the high point.

Some more playing with macro.. I do like water drops...
Some more playing with macro.. I do like water drops…

Anyway, a short distance into the road walk I came across the same kind of signs that were at the Mt Dial end of things, advising that it was a track, for the three activities mentioned above, so I felt a little less like a trespasser. A few messages to the waking world in different parts of the state, then plenty of enjoying the soft yellow glow of early morning sun on glimpses of distant hills, and later more closely on the gums that lined the sides of the road. I did like those trees. I also liked the water drops on the ends of ferns, the breeze slight enough to move the ferns without dislodging their ‘tears’.

The unimpressive summit of Lorymer.. which at first took me a moment to twig that that's what it was!
The unimpressive summit of Lorymer.. which at first took me a moment to twig that that’s what it was!

As I went to capture the moment I discovered my camera battery flashing low, which I wasn’t too happy with, but figured that just meant I had to be careful about what I took photos of. Back to the walking for a little bit and a slightly more open view south revealed what looked to be snow laden clouds over hidden mountains, and I was a little bit grateful to have made the choice to stay out of it. The sun and blue sky were rather nice, and my fingers were cold enough as it was. Funnily enough an email came through on my phone informing me of Peter Grant’s latest blog on snow (part 2), which I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and he’s right, I have favourable memories of some of those tougher challenging walks through snow), but again, on this weekend, was a little glad I wasn’t in it. It can be easy to forget what you have, and only want more.

Loyetea GPS route
Loyetea GPS route

As I approached the flatish summit of Lorymer I began looking out for a suitable spot to duck the short distance left to the high point, which was just off the road. I almost walked straight past it, but somehow something made me spot, and register, a cairn made of white rocks, tucked off the side of the road, under the shelter of ferns. I looked twice, it didn’t seem to be marking anything. Then a haunch, and I examined the base of the ferns lining the road, and there looked to be a slight gap to the right of the cairn. Sure enough, parting of the fronds revealed something akin to an animal pad. It was more than I expected, so I took it.

Loyetea in the distance.. promising a view!
Loyetea in the distance.. promising a view!

I followed it a short distance, was sure I must have lost it after scrambling over a collection of fallen trees that almost resembled a mass grave (I didn’t know so many trees could fall in the one spot, and I felt perhaps like an ant on two legs might if it was crawling over pick up sticks). But I was wrong, I discovered, when I found a piece of pink tape as I bashed my way through more ferns.. Funny place for that.. But several metres ahead there was another piece in a tree, even if I still couldn’t see much evidence of a pad!

Loyetea trig and view.. Housetop perhaps?
Loyetea trig and view.. Housetop perhaps?

In this manner, and following my gps I happened across some more tape, along side a decent sized cairn. Again I was puzzled, why put a cairn here? And then I realised that this must be the poor excuse of a summit, even if it seemed to be in a slight depression. It was within the few metres error on my GPS, though to make sure I wandered round in circles a little just to check none of the other possible rises nearby were it (the problem was, the rises were just piled up fallen trees with ferns covering them, and so they weren’t actually indicative of higher ground per se – rather of a longer way to fall if you slipped off the slippery branches you were trying to balance on and walk across!). This got me completely confused as to which direction I was facing by the end, everything looked the same, and I was most grateful to have the gps to set me back in the right direction.

And slightly further north.. some more than upsetting logging history here it seems.
And slightly further north.. some more than upsetting logging history here it seems.

Back on the road I pondered the next mountain to explore, as a blue (?fairy) wren caught my attention. I thought about going back to Riana, but decided the guy who owned the house might really start to wonder what I was up to, so made the choice to head to Loyetea instead. I had read that there was actually a nice view across Gunns Plains from this one, and I was ready for some of that!

Housetop GPS route.. check bushwalk.com for directions, they are spot on!
Housetop GPS route.. check bushwalk.com for directions, they are spot on!

So a little more driving, and another house in a similar state to pass through – all the bits and pieces that had been collected over time were rather fascinating: a life-size head sitting on a pile of gravel, a rooster weather vane not even in a position to be serving its true purpose, a score or more of rusted up cars, or car bodies… And plenty more. I wished I had the guts to take a photo, but I didn’t really want to invade someone’s privacy any more than I had, and by the time I came back down there was smoke coming out of the chimney of the shack-style house.

Housetop southern high point.. not quite high enough.. but a nice view all the same
Housetop southern high point.. not quite high enough.. but a nice view all the same

Immediately after passing this property the road forked, and I started to drive up the left hand branch, but at a widening followed instinct and pulled over to the side, deciding I’d walk this one instead. It wasn’t far, and I doubted the road would hold up. It proved to be a wise choice, as the road became quite eroded fairly quickly. A 4WD would do most of it, if you avoided the odd major crevasse that would leave even a high clearance vehicle stranded.

The higher northern point.. not much of a view!
The higher northern point.. not much of a view!

At the end of the road a rocky mass was apparent through the trees and I smiled, I always like a little scramble at the end, even if the rest of the walk is road. I followed a manmade pad, which took me up to the trig and concrete pillar thingy. Finally I had views! Of yesterday’s mountains, of mountains further to my west which I was likely to be climbing but still didn’t have a clue which was which, and of the rain in the south, being blown in my direction as I watched.

Some more mushroom fun on the way down
Some more mushroom fun on the way down

I hoped that Housetop, my next mountain of choice, was not so far south that it was going to be under by the time I got there! I figured there was no point wasting time waiting to see, so down I went, enjoying the sound of the wind doing more than just rustling the leaves on trees, which creaked and groaned in an attempt to make their complaints heard above it. It very much had the feel of a wintery day, that for the moment at least, had a little bit of cold sun to cheer it up. The threat of change was ever present though.

And some closer stuff.. next to try is playing with aperture settings for more depth of field..
And some closer stuff.. next to try is playing with aperture settings for more depth of field..

Back at the car, I headed off to Housetop, another exercise in hoping that the roads travelled on would hold up. I had directions from bushwalk.com, for which I was very glad! The road proved decent, then quite ok if a little soft and slushy, then a little rougher but not at all eroded and back to being firm.

Spalding driller.. for mineral exploration and water boring (according to its side), parked across the road I'd chosen to take to Everett...
Spalding driller.. for mineral exploration and water boring (according to its side), parked across the road I’d chosen to take to Everett…

I found the cairn and tape marking the start of the track up easily enough and had a lovely walk through much wetter, and therefore greener, forest than the other walks. Near the top the tapes led south to a cairn and nice views (of a rainbow in my case!). Of course, I had to be sure about the summit, and it did look higher further north, even if it’s hard to tell with so many trees around. So I retraced my steps and then went off track further north. Sure enough, I found a small cairn marking the true summit, 6m higher than the southern one, according to my GPS. The views left a little to be desired though, so a visit to both points was well worth it.

The real reason for the road closure.. and no evidence of a road on the other side anymore.. scratch that idea for today!
The real reason for the road closure.. and no evidence of a road on the other side anymore.. scratch that idea for today!

On the steep slippery climb back down, which I was careful to keep a climb, and not a slide (though I know a few people who would have had much fun doing so), I did pause to lie down in the middle of the path and take a few more fungi shots. But light drizzle kept me moving relatively fast, and I was back at the car before I got too wet (from the rain that is, I did discover that lying on wet, slushy ground for photos makes you quite a fair bit damp, and dirty!).

St Valentines Peak GPS route.. the longer way (4 hrs return as opposed to 1).. or 2.20 if you want to move fast ;)!
St Valentines Peak GPS route.. the longer way (4 hrs return as opposed to 1).. or 2.20 if you want to move fast ;)!

It was still early, not really lunch time yet, so I thought I had time for a shot at Everett, which was a short drive away. I had no info for this one, had just selected roads and a possible track from the map on my GPS that seemed to go close enough. I might have a short scrub bash near the top. 3-4 hrs should do it.

St Valentines peak.. that didn't look like it was going to clear any time soon.. and sure enough.. it only clagged in further
St Valentines peak.. that didn’t look like it was going to clear any time soon.. and sure enough.. it only clagged in further

Right. Or not! Finding the road to turn down was easy enough. It was a little disconcerting that it was signed ‘Road Closed’ in exactly the same format as the name signs for the other roads. A little too permanent, a little too old. I thought I’d eat some lunch while I waited for the rain shower to pass, and decide what to do. I figured seeing I was here, I might as well see why the road was closed, and worst case scenario, I’d probably have time to walk a few extra road kilometres that I’d anticipated.

The submerged log across the river.. it was only after crossing it that I realised my head torch was back in the car.. whoops.. let the challenge begin!
The submerged log across the river.. it was only after crossing it that I realised my head torch was back in the car.. whoops.. let the challenge begin!

A short distance along what seemed an ok road, if a little muddy and cut up due to what looked like recentish logging activity, was followed by a backtrack as I realised I wasn’t actually on the road I wanted. Right, maybe that answered my question of why the road was closed. Parked in the turn off, which is why I’d walked straight by, was a vehicle. It turned out to be a mining exploration/driller thing of sorts (so I’d been wrong with my logging guess, I suppose).

A little while later.. more signs of warning.. I laughed out loud at them, and then tripped up the first step!
A little while later.. more signs of warning.. I laughed out loud at them, and then tripped up the first step!

No worries, I continued along the road on foot, and wondered if there was a good reason why the road was suspiciously green and grassy, though in good enough nick to drive down, had the machine thing not been parked there. But presently I discovered the real reason.. A big bridge, well and truly out. Any hint of what once must have been a road on the other side was gone, the trees were equally thick all the way up and down the bank.. I had no time for a scrub bash on what I had thought was road, so I figured I’d leave Everett for another time and go in from the other side. By now, I doubted I’d have the time for that. As I drove back out, four black and yellow cockatoos flew alongside me for a moment, as if to see me off (so I pretended).

Nice forest to walk through on the way up to St Valentines.
Nice forest to walk through on the way up to St Valentines.

Maybe St Valentines would do instead? A 1 hr easy walk, I vaguely remembered from a glance at the Abels a few days prior. But that would require driving to the right start point!! I followed a track I’d drawn into my GPS before checking the Abels, which came in from the north. I must have chosen it because it was a much shorter drive from where I was coming, which would make the return drive shorter too. I didn’t realise my mistake till I got there and read the sign which said 4 hrs return, and I hazily recalled seeing the map in the Abels as coming in from the south!! A quick check confirmed that. Pigheaded, I figured I’d do it anyway, now that I was here, and walk out in the dark.

Then out of the forest and onto the ridge line.. lots of fun running across this! But oh the number of false summits in the mist, when you're racing time!!
Then out of the forest and onto the ridge line.. lots of fun running across this! But oh the number of false summits in the mist, when you’re racing time!!

So off I went at 2.30, moving at a decent speed. I ran into three youngish people who I think were putting on socks and shoes after crossing a flooded log across the river on their return from the peak, though I gave them little more than a hello and a glance. I didn’t stop to think and went straight across.. Completely missing the log book, which I later found in the shelter where they were sitting. They must have thought I was nuts, starting so late and not signing the book, especially in light of all the signed warnings… Little did they know..

Finally, a helipad, and I know I'm close!
Finally, a helipad, and I know I’m close!

Shortly afterwards I realised my head torch was back in the car, where I’d put it after using it the night before. Great! I really didn’t want to be crossing that log in the dark with no head torch.. Ideally. Though I figured.. if push came to shove… 🙂

The summit.. 1:15 hrs after having started out.
The summit.. 1:15 hrs after having started out.

So there began my little challenge.. Could I get up and back in 2.5ish hrs, which is about as much daylight as I reckoned I could count on? Yes, it was darker in the forest, but the moon would be out and full, but maybe it’d be too cloudy for much light to come through, and how long would it take for it to rise high enough to cast light on me? And how much should I take into consideration that the walk was most clearly (the clearest I’ve ever seen) signed difficult, exposed, for experienced walkers only, and not to be attempted alone (or how much was that Gunns covering their arses?). There was a sign to that effect part way through the walk, as well as one at the start of the walk, and I laughed as I read the second one, then promptly fell up the first step!! Idiot ;)!

Seems there's a bit of history behind this peak.. one of three plaques I happened to spot up there.. wouldn't be surprised if there was more
Seems there’s a bit of history behind this peak.. one of three plaques I happened to spot up there.. wouldn’t be surprised if there was more

Anyway, I arrogantly thought I’d give it a good crack. My pace increased, I was soon drenched, and not just from the overgrown scrub and, later, wind blown mist. But I was more focused, more aware, alert and in the moment than I had been any other time during the day. Up I went. In spots it was hard, and my legs wanted to stop or I couldn’t get enough air, whichever it was that took priority was interestingly related to the level of incline (and I wondered if you could mathematically model that.. the things you do to keep your mind busy!). But there was no slacking off to be had.

A final mushroom stop..
A final mushroom stop..

Finally, I was out of the myrtle forest and on top. I thought this meant less up, easier going. Though instead the slippery steepness had been exchanged for biting wind that cooled the sweat on my face just a bit too fast, and more false summits than I’ve ever had! But there was rock, one very fun ridge line, and eventually, after yet another misty bump climbed, a helipad on the next one, which because of the angle and elevation, I at first mistook for a shelter of some kind! The next bump over, the trig!! Over I went, took a photo of one of the many plaques, noticed a little bit of snow remaining on the ground, tucked my camera away for the run down, and back I went. It was 3:45.

And some lenticular clouds on the way out.. time to go 'home'..
And some lenticular clouds on the way out.. time to go ‘home’..

With some of the pressure off (I’d made good time on the way up) I was free to enjoy. So I ran across the exposed ridge lines, throwing caution to the wind, arms out in an expression of the slightly crazed freedom and wildness I was feeling, matching the weather brilliantly, wet and weighted strands of hair that had escaped blowing across my face, laughing out loud, because that was how I felt. The best I’d felt all weekend. Slightly mad maybe.. Meh!

 

It was over too fast and then I was running down through the forest. Not at maximum speed, it was steep and rather slippery underfoot, but as fast as I could trust each step, preferring to aim for bits of jutting out rock over the mushy forest debris, jumping over fallen trees, ducking under branches, taking the most delight when there was a quick succession of obstacles: jump, duck, twist and a sharp turn :)! I got a bit bored as it flattened out and the track ‘improved’, and took more to walking than running. Instead I responded to a few messages, pondered driving back home that night, then made the wade back across the river. A stop for some fungi on the side of a tree was a must, and I was pleased my camera still had some life in it.

 

By the time I was back at the car (it wasn’t even 4:50) I’d settled on the decision to just drive home. I’d received some translation with a deadline to do, but knew I had only Thursday free to do it, and I had already climbed 7 mountains, so I figured I should be sensible. A long drive, with the moon to accompany me, and I was back where I started…

All up:

Gnomon and Mt Dial (apparently 2 hrs return): 5.9km, 2:36hrs, 400m ascent

Duncan: 4.8km, 1: 38hrs, 335m ascent

Lorymer: 6.2km, 1:45hrs, 282m ascent

Loyetea: 2.5km, 48min, 217m ascent

Housetop: 1.9km, 1:08hrs, 216m ascent

St Valentines: 8.8km, 2:18hrs, 711m ascent

Black Bluff Range: 15 February 2014

Black Bluff GPS route
Black Bluff GPS route

Expectations can completely change an experience. Dramatically. For better, or worse I suppose. Saturday’s walk to Black Bluff was an exceptional example of the pure surprise, joy, gratefulness and awe that comes out of having low expectations greatly surpassed. As with the Mother Cummings walk, the track itself was more of a delight than I’d anticipated (Greg seems to be developing a knack of putting on walks like that), but the biggest influence was the unexpected weather, and the views we didn’t expect to get.

Picnic ground turned car park
Picnic ground turned car park

I, like many of the others intending on joining the walk, had been monitoring the weather throughout the week, and was a little discouraged, but not put off, by the ‘isolated showers’ forecast right up until Thursday night/Friday morning. A phone call from Greg on Friday night surprised me: the weather was now expected to be heavy rain between 11am-5pm, as much as 10-20mm depending on your source, right when we’d be walking, Sunday was looking better, could I switch day? That wasn’t going to work for me and one other walker, so Greg made the call to stick with Saturday. I was hoping the weather wasn’t going to be too dreadful, or I’d be feeling bad.

Paddys Lake on the way up, perfect beauty hidden and revealed as desired by the cloak of mist
Paddys Lake on the way up, perfect beauty hidden and revealed as desired by the cloak of mist.. there is something special about the mystery of the unknown and its gradual discovery

Off to work I went, the usual 9pm to 5am, steady and productive, then a race home for a quick shower before a gratefully accepted lift to meet the others, where we all jumped into Greg’s car. I was admittedly tired, but excitement and anticipation about the day’s walking (despite the weather) and catching up with awesome people I hadn’t seen or walked with for ages meant the sleeping was postponed for the drive home.

On the Black Bluff not so high big point, watching the others climb up
On the Black Bluff not so high big point, watching the others climb up

As we drove up Graham spotted a wedge-tailed eagle sitting on a branch of a dead tree by the side of the road, and Rachael explained how each time she and her husband, Ben, had been out walking recently they’d had a close encounter with a wedgie. I joked with her that this wasn’t it, that there’d be a closer one. It was the kind of joke about an outcome that you wistfully hope for, but know is highly unlikely to happen…

Which way are we going?
Which way are we going?

The journey continued on, broken up by a brief coffee and food break, timed to meet up with the two Pandani members coming with us from Launceston. Our team consultant-turned-navigator took us on a lovely detour through Ulverstone (because I hadn’t been before and wanted to see the sights, was the devised excuse ;)!) before directing us safely to the lovely grassy picnic area by the Leven river. It would make a great place to camp for anyone wanting to turn a long day of driving, walking and driving, into a more relaxed overnighter.

Across the top.. love this kind of walking! So did everyone else!!
Across the top.. love this kind of walking! So did everyone else!! And even better, we can see!!

We were grateful that it still wasn’t raining, it was rather humid in fact, though I think we all had our wet weather gear near the top of our packs, ready to pull out at the first drop. It was quite misty higher up, and we knew we’d be walking in to it, if it didn’t drop down on us first!

Looklook!! The ridgeline.. and.. BLUE SKY!!!
Looklook!! The ridgeline.. and.. BLUE SKY!!!

And so we began the walk alongside the river, wondering how far we’d get before we got pelted. It was flat to start off with, and the humid smell of damp bush mixed with quite a fresh, tangy smell of newly cut trees was a pleasure to breathe in. I let out a sigh of relaxation and settled in to the walk. We’d been going five minutes when the flapping of large wings and an exclamation from Greg had us all jerking our heads towards the source of the sound, a decent sized wedge-tailed eagle who we’d disturbed from a tasty meal of possum. He didn’t fly very far, and we admired from a distance. Apparently sometimes those wistful wishes do come true :)!!! It was the first of many delightful and unexpected surprises for the day.

Opening and closing views.. every one appreciated for what it was.
Opening and closing views.. every one appreciated for what it was. This one, Tor.

Shortly afterwards the climb began. It isn’t a tough climb, in fact it’s almost the perfect gradient: steep enough to feel like you’re doing work and getting somewhere, but not so steep that you feel the need to stop much. It was humid though, and I know I had sweat dripping off my nose! It was still pretty misty, and there wasn’t much of a view, just the scrub the track was taking us through, and the glimpses of rocky outcrops as we neared Paddys Lake. By this time we were high enough to be in the mist. It brought with it a gentle and most welcome breeze, and that beautiful, slightly isolating, silence of natural noise, dampened by the mist. It was just what I needed.

Approaching the rocks on the horizon, the summit just beyond
Approaching the rocks on the horizon, the summit just beyond

We arrived at Paddys Lake and took much delight in the mist as it revealed small bits and pieces of the lake, the rocks by its shore, the pencil pines and King Billies around its edge, and then, momentarily, the shore on the other side! What excitement. Sometimes it’s so much easier to accept and be grateful for a gift when you don’t expect it, and you’re aware of exactly what it means not to have had it. And when the mist covered the beauty it had briefly revealed, we turned instead to the necklaces of cobwebs and the brilliant green of new King Billy growth.

Just love this rock!
Just love this rock!

A snack break, and we were pushing on, hoping to make the most of the fact that it still wasn’t raining. Around the lake we wandered, until we reached the signed turnoff heading right up to the Bluff. And up we went, at our own pace. Some continued on, others stopped to explore the view from the edge, and the seemingly bottomless drop into grey white mist.

Watching the others approach the summit, from the summit.
Watching the others approach the summit, from the summit. The mist is light enough to be swirling now.

I was finally formally introduced to strawberry pine, thanks to Rachael and Ben, and thought about how lucky I was to be able to walk with a number of different ‘teachers’. I love learning new things, and always appreciate those who willingly and passionately share their knowledge. Later Ben would point out small brown-blue and grey butterflies, which flitted round the alpine plants, very low to the ground, that I hadn’t even noticed, despite their ubiquity!

Our play equipment :)
Our play equipment 🙂

Onwards I skipped (not literally, my body wouldn’t take skipping uphill on this particular day), caught up to Graham where he was waiting just below the trig to the not so high high point. I’d spotted him as a silhouette in the mist 50 metres back, but in the time it took to walk up to him, visibility had improved remarkably. The others weren’t far behind, and Louise was somewhere exploring the far side of the trig, so up we went, climbing up the trig for a bit of extra height and a fun little challenge.

And the view only continues to open up.. greens, greys, blues and whites.. :D
And the view only continues to open up.. greens, greys, blues and whites.. 😀

There wasn’t much to see, the mist was still closing in then dissipating around us, but never too much. So we sat in a little rocky shelter a short distance to the northwest of the trig, had a bite to eat, and after a longer discussion than was probably necessary, had everyone on the same page as to which direction we were heading off in for the untracked section to the Abel/slightly higher high point of the range. GPSs are certainly quick and handy in whiteout!

But there comes a time to head back..
But there comes a time to head back.. we’re wondering if that new dark cloud will bring the anticipated rain

As we began wandering across beautiful open alpine terrain, a perfect mix of conglomerate rock, cushion plants, pineapple grass, scoparia, and gentians amongst other things, our hearts sang and we voiced exclamations of joy as we were given a brief glimpse of distant mountains. Then as that particular curtain of mist closed, it opened elsewhere to unveil the saddle and ridge ahead, and we took delight in each revealing, each patch of blue sky.

We might be heading back, but there's still treasures to delight in
We might be heading back, but there’s still treasures to delight in

Before we knew it, we were walking in a perfect summer’s day, with a little bit of cloud about. In fact, perhaps we didn’t realise as fast as we should have, more than a few of us are a bit pink as a result!! Words can’t describe the emotions we felt and shared. There was a purity to them, a perfectness and happy innocence that usually comes with a new experience or discovery – something I usually attribute to children before they lose the immediate instinct to wonder and marvel at everything. But the unexpected good weather had taken us back in time, and we were children again at heart.

The trig point (off to the left) summited a second time, and we're off to check out the view of the lake!
The trig point (off to the left) summited a second time, and we’re off to check out the view of the lake!

We completed the lovely walk up and over a low rise, towards a rocky line on the horizon, and on to the true high point. It was just shy of 1.30 and lunchtime. But as everyone knows, for children, lunchtime is called playtime.. so we had to have some playing, especially with all that conglomerate rock around. A few metres from the summit was a rectangular block, and a couple of us used it for a bit of climbing practice. After a few goes, each time taking a slightly more challenging route of course, we settled into lunch and some mountain naming. As we sat there the cloud continued to burn off, and gradually the faint outlines of Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff were revealed, amongst others  (these were the two that particularly held our attention).

And what a beautiful view.. somebody definitely was spreading the love on this day!
And what a beautiful view.. somebody definitely was spreading the love on this day!

Eventually we had to go back, not wanting to push our luck, thinking it would be nice to check out the Leven Canyon if we had time, and aware also that we had a 4.5 hour drive home.  A last climb up our rock, a last look across at the view, before turning our backs and heading down. I was reluctant to leave, but still so happy, and I couldn’t help but stretch out arms and run/skip across the ridge. Louise describes this in her blog as ‘flying’ like the eagle, which made me smile (though I’m quite sure I’ll never be that graceful or effortless). It wasn’t just me though, she was singing from time to time, others just stopped to take in the view, and we all had smiles on our faces. Beauty and perfection, accentuated by unexpectedness.

Checking out the view to the lake.. wow :)!
Checking out the view to the lake.. wow :)!

We re-climbed the trig (it really isn’t far off the track, maybe 20 metres at most) just to check out the views, but we were really after a view of the lake, so we didn’t stay long. Heading back down, we all stopped at the spot that some of us had paused at on the way up, taking in the heart-shaped Paddys Lake below us. Once the serious admiring was done, a little bit more tomfoolery had a few of us mucking around on the edge of the drop while talking about how some people/friends/family members have very little idea of the things we get up to (perhaps a good thing, though if they knew, really knew, they’d probably understand).

Mucking around.. the mood was contagious! One Facebook friend likens this photo to classic Greek art featuring the discus thrower, while another notes Graham's lack of seriousness or considered movements..!
Mucking around.. the mood was contagious! One Facebook friend likens this photo to classic Greek art featuring the discus thrower, while another questions this for Graham’s lack of seriousness or considered movements..!

Back at the lake, which has a lovely spot for a tent at one end, we sat, nibbled, and watched as the mist swirled around above Black Bluff, hiding the top once more from view. We wondered again if this heralded the expected rain, but it didn’t, and we walked down in dappled sunshine. It was a long constant down, and I was at the tripping-over-nothing stage, but I still took delight in intermittent conversation.

Back at the cars we swam, waded or just dabbled in the Leven river – beautifully warm I was told, and I cursed myself for not having a complete change of clothes or a towel. I took to sitting on a rock with my feet immersed, until the sun was just a little too hot on my already pink face, and it was time to head off.

A detour to the Leven Canyon lookout, followed by fish and chips in Ulverstone (I think, I was a bit sleepy by this stage), just to round the day off. We finally got our rain part way through the drive home, just to remind us of what we COULD have been walking in all day.

Very grateful for a day more beautiful and special than I could ever express!! Perhaps the trick is not to have expectations, and to just delight in the gifts each and every experience gives you.. difficult perhaps, but I’m sure with practice it could be perfected.

17km, 7 hours and a nice 1178m ascent.

Roland and Vandyke: 12 November 2013

Roland and Vandyke GPS route
Roland and Vandyke GPS route

Day three of a weekend of day walking saw me wake with the sun at 5, somewhat reluctantly and rather stiff. I gathered my gear, drove the short distance to the start of the longer but easier track  off O’Neils Road, and was ready to go by 6. I wanted the early start so I could be back in Hobart before it was too late, get the tedious chores done and get some sleep before waking at 12am for work. If I had time and was still awake I wanted to drop by the hospital and see mum.

 

Early morning over Roland
Early morning over Roland

Not having done much research at all (relying rather gratefully on two texted photos of pages from a John Chapman book describing the walk – thanks Shaz!!) I took everything as it came. There was road, and more road, and even more road. I wasn’t really complaining, at least the gradient was nice, though I was glad I was in shoes not boots (I figured if it was a tourist route I’d get away with some approach shoes, and I had a few sore spots I was keen to stop getting worse). I wasn’t even wearing gaiters, though I did have them strapped to my pack (just in case!).

 

Staircase (?to heaven) after the road ends
Staircase (?to heaven) after the road ends

The road went on for a bit over 4 km, or an hour of my tired walking, before turning into steps, then the usual kind of dirt/rock path. Another half an hour later, with the hardest bit of the walking done, I popped out on top, with signs directing me left for 1.5 hrs to Roland, or right for 1 hr to Vandyke. I went for Roland first, enjoying the pleasure of easy walking on boardwalk for a bit. Then it was back to mud and rock.

 

Approaching the summit of Roland
Approaching the summit of Roland

I took my time, sending messages to mum and my family as I walked. I was hesitant to stop for too long as the wind was cold, the sun was in and out but mostly out, I wanted to miss the forecasted rain, and wanted to be back as early as I could. But I couldn’t walk any faster than slow, my body just wouldn’t follow my brain, so it was a matter of just one foot in front of the other.

 

On the summit, looking towards Bass Strait
On the summit, looking towards Bass Strait

Just shy of an hour after having left the signs, I was climbing up the VERY short rock scramble (10 metres MAX) to the summit, which sports both a trig and cairn. It also has a small plaque in memory of Barbara Ellen Jacobs, which I thought was pretty neat. A few photos, a look out across Bass Strait, and I was heading back down. The views are very nice, but having spent the last two days a fair bit closer to the north end of the Overland track meant they were slightly more distant, and so I spent a little less time admiring them. I did, however, enjoy setting eyes on the Gog range. I always like to see a mountain I haven’t seen or noticed before, and wonder what secrets it holds and when I might visit it, even if it’s not particularly spectacular.

 

Plaque in memory of Barbara. I like the idea :)
Plaque in memory of Barbara. I like the idea 🙂

The walk back to the junction was downhill and very easy, and more like 50 minutes than 1.5 hours. Then it was on towards Vandyke, which I was pleased was not only shorter, but a much easier walk. The track was almost all dirt, no rocks to negotiate, and the gradient was very kind for tired legs. When you get there there’s a sign and a pad heading off to the summit, which is overgrown in places (the only spot you might want gaiters, but I didn’t bother). Then you’re on to the conglomerate, and it’s up to you entirely which route you want to take. It’s only a short scramble.

 

The path to Vandyke
The path to Vandyke

This weekend was my first real experience climbing conglomerate scree, limited though it was, it would seem that conglomerate scree is larger, with adjoining rock surfaces further apart, and often not at the kind of angle that allows you to jump from one to another. Dolerite on the other hand, often has nice flat surfaces, with individual rocks connecting up nicely, allowing you to walk easily from one to the next, only occasionally performing more challenging moves. However, when it comes to the challenging moves conglomerate takes the cake, as its uneven surface provides countless holds, unlike dolerite which tends to be quite flat. You can do things on conglomerate you’d struggle to do on dolerite. Hmmm, quite an interesting experience, but I still think I need some more practice to become familiar with conglomerate and its possibilities.

 

On the summit of Vandyke, looking towards Claude
On the summit of Vandyke, looking towards Claude

Anyway, back to the mountain, there’s a very mossy rock marking the high point. A couple of snaps, some cold fingers, and I was back down and heading out. The Vandyke part took just over half an hour up, and about the same back. Then another hour back to the car, with a bit of jogging down the steeper bits of road, just because it was easier than trying to put the breaks on!

 

On the summit of Vandyke, looking back at Roland
On the summit of Vandyke, looking back at Roland

All up 6 hours, 20.5km, 1130m ascent. And so concluded my pretty awesome three-day-six-peaks adventure. Well not quite… a burger at Burger Me in Campbell Town was the fitting conclusion. I think I’d earned it.