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!

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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.

Mersey Crag, Turrana Bluff and Mt Claude: 11 November 2013

Mersey Crag and Turrana Bluff GPS route

Mersey Crag and Turrana Bluff GPS route

Knowing that I’d be up climbing Clumner with the club on the Sunday, I figured I might as well do a day walk on the Monday too, and planned to explore Mersey and Turrana. When all of a sudden Tuesday freed itself up too that added an extra day, but without a tent I was still limited to day walks. That didn’t matter at all, so I stuck with the plan, and figured Roland and Vandyke would be safe bets for an unplanned walk on day three with what was bound to be a very tired body!

 

The sign says it all: Little Fisher River

The sign says it all: Little Fisher River

So after saying good bye to everyone at Clumner, I drove the short distance towards the start of the Mersey/Turrana track. Unfortunately, the bridge over the Little Fisher River you need to cross to get to the car park (as described in the Abels) is undriveable. Even if you could get over the mound and then the dip that someone has fashioned, I’m not sure you’d want to trust the bridge. Bit annoying, as that added an extra 50 minute road walk, but I was too tired to worry too much, and knew I had all day to climb the two peaks. 10 minutes to get things sorted for the next morning, then into the sleeping bag on the back seat and I was dead to the world in no time.

 

Off the road and on the track, and what a nice track.. bridges and all

Off the road and on the track, and what a nice track.. bridges and all

I woke at 6 the next morning, to some cloud but nothing threatening. A fast breakfast and I was set to go 15 minutes later, keen to get the road walk over. It went fast enough, though it was nice to get off the road after the car park and onto the nicely carpeted track. The initial part of the track is very nice, easy to follow, and the log book would suggest the area is frequented regularly, though the mountains don’t seem to be the primary destination.

 

Beautiful myrtle forest and rivers

Beautiful myrtle forest and rivers

When you hit the myrtle forest, which is very nice to walk through, the track becomes more difficult to follow. There’s the odd piece of tape, cairn (read single rock with not quite enough moss on it sitting on a log), marker or red paint to guide the way, and the rest is pure guesswork and a bit of concentration. I slowed down, taking care not to wander off in the wrong direction, also taking time to enjoy the river, its small cascades and the myrtle forest.

(Minor interlude here, I need to bake some biscuits!)

Rina Dina falls

Rina Dina falls

About 50 minutes from the car park, at 8am, I turned a corner to be startled by the Rina Dina Falls – as delightful as the Abels suggest. Some more forest, one very short bit of straight up and two fixed ropes (still quite sturdy), and then the pad leaves the myrtle behind and winds through some shorter scrubbier stuff (much easier to follow) before breaking out onto a lovely but slightly wet bit of flatness. There are a number of pads that work their way to the far end, and a short climb takes you to a decent sized cairn in the middle of the saddle that joins the two peaks.

 

On the saddle between the two peaks, looking at Turrana

On the saddle between the two peaks, looking at Turrana

You’re on your own here, though there’s plenty of animals, and maybe some human, tracks to follow. It’s a bit up and down, light low alpine scrub, rock and tarns to negotiate, with the summit playing Mr Elusive until the last few hundred metres. There was a little bit of scree, which I opted for, being a bit tired of the other stuff and arrived at the southern most cairn. I recalled the Abels saying that there was a chockstone nearby which was marginally higher (so it was) but that it required ‘rock climbing equipment for a safe ascent’. Ha, well.. My excuse was I didn’t have any.. and it was less of an ascent and more of a step across, you could say. Really :).

(Biscuits are out.. yummm)

Nice views :)

Nice views 🙂

From here you could see another cairn, but clearly lower, even further to the north, and some pretty spectacular dolerite columns. I did the photo thing, but the wind and cold hands had me moving after a short while. I was aware also that it was 4 hours after I’d started, so 3 since the car park, which was half an hour slower than the Abels suggested time. Although I was rather tired from Clumner and I’d taken care with navigation, I’d had no real breaks and I’m usually well within estimated times. So on I pushed, back past my starting point on the ridge and up again, climbing through low scrub towards Mersey.

 

The Walls in the distance, on the way to Turrana

The Walls in the distance, on the way to Turrana

Mersey is a lot closer, and its one where after the initial climb you can actually see the summit. I do always like that. When you get closer there’s a cairned pad you can pick up, which takes you across a short rock hop to the summit. I think I preferred the views from Turrana, but I’ll always enjoy any view from a peak! Another pause, a shiver, a fleeting thought that it would be nice to have friends to chat to to keep me there a bit longer, then a turn to the next task at hand.. It’s 12.30, do I go back the way I came (a fair bit of retracing, and quite a long walk back) or do I be a tad presumptuous and pretend that I fall into the category of ‘experienced bushwalkers’, and follow the Abel’s alternate route (much more direct). It requires following the ridge down and along a bit further, before locating a river and following it down, crossing when you hit myrtle forest.

 

From Turrana to Mersey

From Turrana to Mersey, featuring the cairned summit

I had initially intended to take this option because walking along the river was described as ‘sheer delight’. I had reassessed at various stages of the walk, deciding maybe I was too tired to want to concentrate and should stick to what I knew, to my final decision that I would take it after all, because I wanted the shortest way back – I needed sleep!

 

Another view to the left as I head for the chockstone

Another view to the left as I head for the chockstone

So down I went, short bit of scree, then low scrub, easy to go down through, probably a bit more work going back up. The river was easy to find, and it’s not that hard to follow it down, keeping it to the right. The eucalyptus forest was indeed scrubby, despite a number of pads that you picked up and lost equally quickly, and for this reason I’m not sure sheer delight is entirely accurate. I did decide at one point it might be easier walking down the river, and so I headed over to it. Decided it looked so nice it deserved a photo, only to find my camera wasn’t in my pocket.

 

Dolerite columns from the chockstone

Dolerite columns from the chockstone

Bugger! How long ago had it come out? How was I supposed to find it in the scrub? In one moment I’d lost all my photos from the walk. I couldn’t let that happen, even though I knew my last photo had been taken at the top of the ridge, before descending, and the camera could be anywhere between there and where I was. 700 metres of horizontal distance, 130 metres of vertical distance, 25 minutes coming down, much longer going back up! Not to mention the issue of finding my path through the scrub… It seemed impossible, but a good friend once told me that anything is possible, and at times like this I’m desperate enough to believe it (ok, maybe there’s always some truth to it, but there are times I really cling to it!).

 

View towards the Overland peaks from part way up Mersey

View towards the Overland peaks from part way up Mersey

So off I went, slowly retracing steps, trying to remember bits of where I’d been, using my gps to tell me if I was on the money, and a third eye (?) searching for a hint of blue (thankfully I opted for bright). I was lucky. 10 minutes and 300 metres later, I had my camera and, more importantly, photos back in my pocket. Phew, disaster averted. Back into the scrub, and down I went, ready for the myrtle forest to start.. anytime.. now?

 

Mersey (close) and Turrana (distant) summits

Mersey (close) and Turrana (distant) summits

And sure enough it did, quite suddenly. I crossed the river on some slippery rocks, took a photo of a waterfall or three – they were quite plentiful here – and realised that this must be where the sheer delight bit came from. And it was, until I nearly stepped on a tiger snake!! He didn’t budge, I took three steps backwards, took the camera out, lent over slowly (like he was going to move now if he didn’t before, stupid!) and took my snap.. then gave him quite a decent berth.

 

Back in the myrtle forest, so very nice

Back in the myrtle forest, so very nice

The myrtle forest was as open as anything, and walking was nice and easy, just as well, because I was at the tripping over my own feet stage. It was all downhill or flat from here, so I settled in to the long walk back. The first part was over all to fast, but the road walk seemed to take forever. My feet were sore and I was tired, so I jogged the downhill bits just to get back faster. Was really wishing I’d thrown the bike in the back of the car (would be a good idea for anyone doing this exact walk, the gradient is certainly conducive to riding, both ways, though back down would be easier). I did wonder as I walked/jogged, at what looked like relatively fresh tyre tracks in the mud, and the absence of fallen trees, as to whether there might be access from the other side of the river.. there was certainly a road that branched off that way.. hmmmm..

 

Spotted these on the way out, very cute!

Spotted these on the way out, very cute!

Very grateful to be back at the car a bit before 4.. just over 9.5 hours of walking, 32.2km (yikes, I hadn’t realised that!), 1225 metres ascent (no wonder I was tired!!!!).

 

Mount Claude GPS route

Mount Claude GPS route

But wait, the day isn’t over just yet, apparently! Having decided to climb Roland and Vandyke the following day, I thought I’d drive over that way and find somewhere to park the car and sleep. I got as far as the lookout at the Claude end, and thought I’d check out what the sign said. Oh, fancy that, 2 hours return to Mount Claude, medium grade. That means easy, and less than 2 hours if it’s written on a PWS or Forestry sign.

 

On the way up, mum and baby jump in to say hi

On the way up, mum and baby jump in to say hi

So I thought it might be a good spot to watch the evening pass, and maybe get the sun going down. I limped along (did I mention sore feet), grateful of the very easy track. I got to the bottom of the rock that is the summit and looked at the track that descends round the northern side of the peak, then looked at the less well worn pad to the right that had a branch across it, as if to say don’t go this way.. so that’s the way I went – I wanted to go up, not down right?

 

That's my summit.. well, just behind that

That’s my summit.. well, just behind that

It was the right way (I guess tourists don’t climb these things), and I soon spotted some cairns marking out a short scramble up the conglomerate rock. That stuff’s interesting.. I’m not as familiar with it as I am with dolerite, and it takes a while to learn how you can trust it, but some of the moves you can pull on it are quite fun.. really!

 

The chockstone :). FUN!!

The chockstone :). FUN!!

I was shocked at how much of a scramble Claude actually was, mostly because I just wasn’t expecting it, and I checked out the chockstone, then what I think was the cave (more of a tunnel perhaps), and ended following it east, popping out to the east of the summit and making a short slightly exposed scramble up and round to the summit cairn. Pretty cool little bit of rock to make the mountain that bit more fun. Always up for another challenge, I decided on the chockstone back. And to be honest, that was easier (albeit a tad more exposed) than the climb up the rock once I was over the chockstone!

 

Roland and Vandyke in the distance

Roland and Vandyke in the distance

I found a suitable rock to sit on, and took of my gaiters to give me some sort of protection from the somewhat unevenness of the conglomerate (dolerite wins by far in the comfort test). Finally I could rest. And rest I did. I’d already donned my two jackets and beanie, but after some time I was feeling the cold, probably accentuated by the tiredness, and had started to feel a little ill. Maybe not enough water, maybe low blood sugar (later that night I found out mum had gone to hospital with a slightly more severe case of possibly a similar thing). The clouds didn’t make a nice sunset seem too likely (good call) so down I went.

 

Summit cairn and view

Summit cairn and view

I took a leisurely 3 hours in total, but a fair chunk of that was spent sitting on my rock, for 6.2km and 430 metres ascent.

 

View from my rock.. one day draws to an end to allow a new one to begin

View from my rock.. one day draws to an end to allow a new one to begin

A fitful night’s sleep, worrying and wondering about friends and family, but as always it was better being in the solitude of the mountains than at home alone.