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
Ride: 6.4km; 43 mins each way
Walk: 4km; 2:35 hrs; 481m ascent
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
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
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