The White Monolith Range: 2-8 April 2021

GPS of the route we took through the White Monoliths, but only showing from the northern end of the Western Arthurs due to scale. We started at the start of the Western Arthurs track, obviously!

It had been talked about a lot but until this year I’d never got further. The White Monoliths is one of the last big ranges I have left to explore, but it’s probably best done with other people. It has a reputation for being dry on top and scrubby, in the way that makes for slower than expected going. It also has a couple of rivers that run like a moat, bolstering its defence against the inquisitive bushwalker. Very little about it is out there in the public domain.

It was right at the top of the list of walks I wanted to do this summer but it was purely due to Shelly’s interest in it during a chance encounter on the Overland Track in November that actually saw the idea come to fruition. We asked a friend each who we thought would be interested, and ended up with one extra, Ben. Sadly he was summoned to do jury duty shortly before we left, which meant he’d only have 9-10 days, not the full 12 we’d set aside, just in case. But he was still keen to come and was prepared to walk out alone if need be. We didn’t think we’d need so many days, but figured if we made good progress we could always check out Piners and Propsting, if the Davey River was safe to cross. It was all very tentative to cater to pretty much whatever we found as we went!

The weather forecast wasn’t great, but improved as our departure date approached. There was some good weather, some wind, some rain, some cloud, but not too much cold. We’d see! We left a cloudy Hobart and drove to the start of the Western Arthurs track, not surprised to find the White Monoliths wasn’t on the list of walk routes in the registration book! We made a personalised note and when Ben arrived and donned his gear we headed off, at the civilised time of 10am. 

The cloud had burnt off by midday, here we are about to start heading around the northern end of the Western Arthurs.

We were at Junction Creek for lunch just after midday, the walking muddy but uneventful. We had lunch, which would have been more pleasant if I’d not experienced my biggest gear failure to date. I had a brand new medium sized gas canister but nothing came out when I screwed it in to my stove. It didn’t even make a little release of gas when I unscrewed it. I borrowed one of Shelly’s, it worked fine… it was the canister. Wasn’t I lucky I was walking with others? Imagine if I was walking alone for 12 days… That evening Ben tested my canister with his stove and found it to work ok, except he thought it might be leaking when he unscrewed it. He generously swapped with me, but I felt uneasy that the canister was somehow still faulty.

Ben walks fast, but likes to sit on high points and wait for us. We have a view of the Folded Range (right) and the end of the White Monoliths (centre).

After lunch all the cloud had burnt off and the sun was at full strength. It was hot, the sweat poured off our faces as we squelched along the sodden, braided track. Ben walked ahead with his long legs, poles and faster speed in general. Shelly and I slowed down a bit, partly because it was our way of walking, partly because it allowed us to look up at the mountains as we swung around the northern end of the Western Arthur range without losing our balance. We walked in this fashion to just shy of where the Port Davey track crosses the Crossing River. 

Working out which way to go. We would camp at the base of one of those ridges heading up to Sculptured Mountain, the high point just to the right of the centre of the horizon.

Although there is quite nice camping there we were all keen to get across the river to the foot of the White Monoliths that evening. There was no rain forecast, but river crossings can take time and be a tad interesting and we had heaps of spare time to do it today. At this point we headed off track towards our range, aiming for the least scrubby section to cross the river. Ben picked a brilliant route, taking us straight past a super cute little echidna. Then we hit a tiny bit of open scrub and the river. 

Crossing the Dodd River. We hit at pretty much the perfect point and managed to keep our feet dry by walking on surprisingly not so slippery trees.

The one publicly available account of a walk along part of the White Monoliths paints a dire picture of the river crossing here. Depending on where you cross depends on whether it’s the Dodd or Crossing River and on average how big it looks on satellite imagery (the latter being bigger!). The account we read made it pretty clear the two guys who crossed it after walking along the range, having come in from over the Folded Range, were lucky to have survived. They crossed in much the same spot as we did. We obviously didn’t have quite as much rain in the preceding days and found a good little spot with a pebbly beach that allowed 2.5 of us to cross without getting feet wet. We were only hoping we’d be so lucky on the return, although we were also expecting a bit of rain!

A little more scrub and we found ourselves closer than expected to Sculptured Mountain, on an expanse of flat and open button grass plain. We picked a little rise that looked flat on top and was close to the river from which we’d source our water. It made for some lovely camping, aside from the northerly that picked up just as we were trying to pitch tents. It was forecast and was right on time, although I think we all thought how we’d have appreciated it more if it had come in the middle of the day instead! We sat out and ate, watched the sun set and the sky turn pretty colours, decided on things like departure times, immediate routes and tentative destinations for night two. By then the light was gone and the stars were out and it was time to retreat. 

We sit out and eat dinner as the sun sets, casting pretty colours to the east and the Western Arthurs.

I got about 3 hours sleep before the wind turned really gusty and the moon was high in the sky, making a perfect combination to challenge even the most robust of sleepers. I accepted the challenge and decided it would be a night of rest as I listened to the wildness, instead of one of sleep. Dozing was inversely proportionate to the gusts of wind. 

We were up for an early start (Shelly was my official alarm clock) and ready to go at the crack of dawn, because it was going to be a hot one. The first day had been forecast at 23, today was meant to hit 26. We didn’t want to be climbing up the ridge in that! At least the ridge looked like completely open going and not ridiculously steep. The only hitch was we were carrying maximum water because we didn’t know what we’d find up there. That meant an extra 6kg, or a total pack weight just shy of 30kg! And on top of that we had the wind. It wasn’t just wind, it was gale-force by now. 

Already into the climb as the sun rises above the horizon. The southern end of Greystone turns orange (technically you can see Greenhead and Scoparil Hill here).
The morning light is lovely, casting long shadows over the plains. Robinson sits proudly on the horizon.

We were lucky to be sheltered from the sun and the wind as we began the steeper than expected ascent onto the range. It was open, but still annoying with inconsistent height of the step ups and plenty of goop underfoot to send you sliding backwards. We plodded. Ben commented on how literally the names had been applied to the range. There were white monoliths everywhere (and they were cool!), Scrubby Peak looked exactly that, Corner Peak was on the corner of the ridge, Greystone was capped with… (yep, you guessed it), there was more than enough evidence for at least one peak to be called Wombat Peak… 

It feels like a very steep climb up Sculptured Peak (left), especially with 6L of water in our packs. Turns out there’s a good flowing creek just in the dip there, that we try not to curse at as we cross it! You can see why the range is named as it is, can’t you?!

It took time, but we made it to the ridge just below Sculptured Peak. Here we were confronted with the full force of the northwesterly wind. I realised that our one luxurious day of ridge-top walking wasn’t going to be so easy. It was a fight to progress forwards, even on the flat. And the wind gusts made staying in control an impossibility. We staggered forward, dropped our packs and ducked the short way up. Finally we’d made it to the first peak of the range. It’s a little milestone that always seems to make a walk seem real to me.

On the summit of Sculptured Peak, trying not to be blown off!

Sculptured Peak has a lovely little summit with lots of rock monoliths and we climbed the highest. Unfortunately the wind made it impossible to enjoy. It threatened to blow us off if we did anything other than sit and we couldn’t hear one another talk unless we found sheltered rocks to duck behind. It was a little bit cruel that our good weather and summits to enjoy coincided with such strong and constantly noisy wind that they weren’t so enjoyable after all!

The rocks are pretty cool. Greystone in the far distance, barely poking over the ridge. Maconochie right most in the distance. Wombat peak is the next peak along the ridge, sitting in front of Maconochie. Then there’s Scrubby, Stonehenge and finally Corner peak in that order along the ridge.

We didn’t stay long, picking up our packs and weaving our way along the relatively open ridge and rocky outcrops to Wombat Peak. We were pretty surprised to find a couple of cairns and even a bit of pad in one spot, though neither lasted. Wombat peak was a bit of a steep, messy climb up scrub and rock and we pack hauled in one steep spot. Again, the summit was impossible to sit on top of for long. We hunkered in the scrub as we ate lunch bang on midday. 

It’s not exactly a straight forward ridge… Maconochie sticks its head through a gap between Wombat Peak (left) and a rocky outcrop.
The scrub, at least, is minimal for this part of the range. It’s just a matter of deciding which way to go around or over things.
Looking back at Sculptured Mountain, with Robinson in the distance.
Wombat peak is a bit of a messy summit, with big rock and scrubby chutes to negotiate.
Shelly rounds a corner, preparing to come over the rock. Mt Anne sits majestically in the background.

All day we’d been talking about plans for walking and camping and they were still the hot topic of conversation. We had three factors to consider. The biggest was the wind factor, the northwesterly was going to continue throughout most of the night and we didn’t want to be exposed to its full force. Next was water. While we’d seen plenty around it wasn’t something to be casual about and the longer we walked for the less we saw. Finally there was the scrub factor and being able to find suitable flat spots to camp. 

Looking back from where we’ve come. Sculptured Mountain is the highpoint to the left of the Western Arthurs in the background.

We constantly fine tuned our assessment of our situation as we walked on, slipping and sliding down the button grass slope off Wombat Peak to the last open saddle we thought we might see today. It was too early to camp and there weren’t any good spots anyway. We hit lovely forest with King Billies, Myrtle and Pandanis as we started our ascent of Scrubby Peak, choosing to head for a sidle-climb round the northern shoulder. The forest gave way to lighter button grass scrub and we descended in a similar fashion – half descending half sidling under the more rocky and scrubby spine that linked the peak most directly with the ridge. 

From Wombat Peak, looking along our ridge. Yuck, we think. That open saddle looks like the last bit of nice walking we’ll have for a while. The first bump is Scrubby Peak, and it was just that. The second is unnamed, but despite not looking it, isn’t so bad. We camped between the two for our second night.
Heading off Wombat Peak requires a bit of a drop off the side of the ridge to avoid big boulders. It gives us another look back along the ridge from where we’ve come.
We had some more open walking at times and part of the forest at the base of Scrubby Peak was actually nice.

Just prior to the saddle between Scrubby Peak and an unnamed bump (that was even higher and more green looking, and the final obstacle between us and Stonehenge) we had a break near a great big rock. Ben went exploring and reckoned we could find some sheltered camp spots, or at least bivvy spots around the rock. Either he or Shelly also found two little pools of water. We decided we were going to press on after all, but as we did we happened across some lovely open grassy spots on the ridge that were even better, but still sheltered enough. That made the choice for us. It was early, but late enough for us to be worried about finding another source of water or a sheltered site before dark. 

Camp for night two. The others chose more open spots, but I was keen not to feel the 30-40km/h winds for another night!
Looking south towards Braddon, King and Legge and Melaleuca. The clouds are pretty, but seem ominous too.

So we set up our tents, then chilled out in one of the bivvy spots Ben had found. The wind was still howling somewhere above us, but seemed to be diminishing ever so slightly. It blew in clouds that looked both pretty and unsettled all at once. There was a small chance they’d drizzle on us. I retreated to my tent to type some notes and stretch out my back, reappearing at the time I expected the sun would start to set. It wasn’t to be. The clouds had turned grey and thick, whizzing across the sky, turning the horizon a murky blur of mountains and moisture. I confirmed another crack of dawn start time and retreated to bed, left on my own to puzzle over what that meant with daylight savings and a phone that might automatically change the time back, even if it was on airplane mode. I should have checked that minor detail before leaving home!

Spot the tent. The light changes and it feels like something out of a Harry Potter movie set.

The wind was still racing round, but it sounded like it was off in the distance. I had a sheltered spot in the lea of a big rock and the tent fly barely rustled. As you can imagine it didn’t take long to fall asleep, although I woke when the rain started. It fell much like the wind, in fits and bursts, but wasn’t to last. 

By morning the wind was still around, but at half strength as we woke and packed in the dark. It was lovely to be able to hear yourself breathe again. The clouds still raced overhead, but were broken enough to reveal some stars and we were also lucky they were high enough that we could see where we were going. The unnamed hill ahead looked horrible, but we found a good way up with scrub that was much easier to move through than the day before.

Climbing up the unnamed but not too scrubby bump before Stonehenge Peak. At times the sun shoots fingers of light through the clouds.
Onwards to Stonehenge (left) before Corner Peak (right).
The sky is moody but beautiful to the south.
Maconochie looks pretty speccy from here! None of us like the look of the bump in the ridge before it though.

Continuing along the ridge we made our way to the side of Stonehenge, where we gratefully relieved our backs of our packs and walked the short open walk to the summit. It was once again a matter of choosing the highest bit of rock and scrambling up. It marked 750 points for me (when you get to the pointy end you start counting the smaller milestones!). The wind felt as ferocious as the day before and forced us to shelter behind the rock we’d been sitting on, while we discussed the route ahead. 

Around the side of Stonehenge we dump packs and prepare for the short climb up low scrub.
It’s another howling summit. Maconochie watches us from the background. Ben is just making sure we’re on the true highpoint.
Greystone – also aptly named! Taken from Stonehenge.
Robinson and Braddon from Stonehenge.

The ridge top was broken and knobbly enough that we were constantly weighing up whether to go over or sidle around each obstacle, and if around, to which side. We chose pretty well and always by consensus. As we walked towards Corner Peak we decided Stonehenge was appropriately named. There were some very Stonehenge-y looking rocks, even if they weren’t arranged in a circle. Onwards we wove, scrambled and hauled ourselves, the downhill not always much faster than the up. 

Looking back at Stonehenge as we leave. I can see why it’s been given that name.
The ridge forwards, Greystone to the left. The three little rock pillars on top of this rise were kind of cute!
We weave our way along, the jackets more for the wind than any rain. Maconochie is getting closer.

It was just as well I was with these two for Corner Peak. I had the high point marked at the corner of the range. But it turns out the highest point is further west, by quite a long way. If I’d been alone I’d have sailed straight by. The others were all over it though and we scrambled up between rocks and scrub to the bottom of two big rocks. Of course the easy to climb one was the lower of the two. The other was a technical climb and not easy in the wind. You could do a very big step between the two rocks over a decent drop, but again, it would have been too risky in the wind. Ben scrambled up first, making it look relatively easy with only a touch of hesitation. Shelly and I climbed off the second highest and I joined Ben, taking encouragement from both as I went. In some ways the worst part was the wind on the summit, as it made everything super unsteady and required a large margin for error. In all of 20 seconds my fingers were numb, so I was as quick to follow Ben back down as he had been to scoot down as soon as I was up. It was exhilarating, to say the least!

Climbing the highest point of the rocks that collectively form Corner Peak. Ben takes care in the windy conditions. The ridge we’ve walked along sits in the background.
Exhilarated to be on top of Corner Peak, I reckon. Stonehenge sits behind.
I join Ben on Corner Peak. Looking along the ridge to Maconochie (right) and Cinder (far left) with Little Cinder diminutively in the middle.
Greystone and rock!
The ridge traversed so far. Sculptured, our first peak, sits left of centre in the distance. It looks easier than it is from here!
Looking forwards, Maconochie on the right, Cinder on the left.

We continued on towards the corner of the ridge, surprised and grateful for the odd bit of terrain that appeared to have pad-like characteristics. They were particularly pleasing around the scrubby and rocky knobs on the ridge to Maconochie. By this stage I know at least two of us were pretty tired, our legs not used to carrying quite as much water each day as we had been. We hadn’t needed the extra water today, as it turned out, but neither Shelly or I could bring ourselves to jettison any of it given we’d already carried it so far! It was not all scrubby going, however, and we had some really pretty areas of walking too.

This was a lovely bit of walking, the rocks were super cool!
Beautiful under-foot, Greystone on the horizon. It was like a playground here.

We got pretty used to ducking behind rocks, on their eastern sides, for breaks and lunches. Part way along the ridge we stopped for lunch, in need of an energy booster. We shared Easter eggs (it was Easter Sunday to the rest of the world) and ate lunch before picking a pretty good and open line up towards Mount Maconochie. The mountain itself was pretty easy to climb, it was just a matter of following relatively open gullies to the rocky top. 

Sidling the big bump on the ridge to Maconochie. We would take the green ramp to the left of the rocky bulk to get to the summit.
Lake Maconochie. Doesn’t look worthwhile dropping down there, especially as the camping is reported to be not much good!

For a surprise, there was a strong wind on top that raced to meet us with its embrace, much like the kind of dog that bowls you over in greeting every time you return home. The mist had just come down too, so it appeared an unassuming kind of summit. But as we waited the clouds blew apart, revealing a beautiful looking ridge ahead of us that would take us to our next mountain, Little Cinder Hill (but not till tomorrow!). The bit between it and Cinder Hill looked pretty tough and none of us were looking forward to it much. But that was for another day! Looking back along the ridge we could see where we’d come from, way in the distance, which felt pretty good considering how slow the going seemed. 

A cloudy and windy summit for us today on Maconochie.

When the wind had cooled us down too much (less than 5 minutes) we left the top and walked clumsily down the ridge to a button grass bowl we’d seen from the summit. We were optimistic it would provide some shelter. We weren’t able to tuck behind any of the rocks, but found some ferny bits that didn’t seem to be coping too much wind. We pitched tents in between showers and then settled in with the rain while the wind stumbled blindly through our campsite. My gas canister was still causing Ben trouble, once again leaking after being detached from the stove. I took it back, it didn’t seem fair he should have to wear the problems. For a temporary solution I attached my stove. Whether I could walk like that and not break my burner was a question for the morning! (Turns out I could, and did so for the rest of the trip). 

But the clouds lift, and we get a view of what our day will contain tomorrow. We choose to camp in the button grass bowl to the right, hoping to get enough protection from the wind. The going the next day would be good until the ridge turned to the left. Then that tiny little green bump of a ridge was foul! Little Cinder and Cinder Hill are the next two mountains along the range and two of the hardest I’ve climbed.

The rain persisted through most of the night, but was kind enough to break for us so we could pack up our tents without getting everything soaked. We had timed it perfectly and set off as soon as we could see. Visibility would come and go, but it was already better than expected as we made our way down the ridge. Going was good until we turned west, towards Little Cinder. We hit some ferocious scrub that took us a long time to get through. We had a rotating lead set up pretty quickly and in this fashion took it in turns to throw ourselves at the almost impenetrable mess of green and brown. There was a lot of backwards walking, which was often the easiest, most efficient and least painful way of making forward progress.

Sometimes we popped out onto nice going, often unexpectedly. The climb up to the base of Little Cinder was also scrubby, as we’d chosen to tackle the green gully instead of going up and over the rock. A wise idea I suspect. A final push and we were up, the first summit of the trip where we weren’t blown off the top! We remarked about how much of a difference the absence of wind made, both physically and psychologically. 

Taking a break in an open bit of scrub between the Cinders for lunch. It’s going to be a wet, long and hard day.

Despite the unexpectedly scrubby start to the day we were making good time and the first bit of the drop off Little Cinder was open. We enjoyed it while we could. It soon enough turned into downhill scrub, then forest. It took some bashing then weaving down to the green saddle between the two Cinders, but was perhaps better than expected. So too were parts of the traverse across the saddle – green but manageable. Mostly. There were some absolutely shocking parts too, and then as the climb started we had horrid scrub coinciding with a steep ascent. The  turns at lead grew shorter and Ben did more that his fair share. He seemed to just bound upwards while Shelly and I were weighed down by our packs. I’m sure he didn’t really defy the laws of physics, he just gave the illusion of doing so.

We’d looked at the ascent from Little Cinder and decided on a green ramp. Having done our fair share of scrub by the time we reached the foot of the climb we reevaluated. We also checked the contours and realised the green ramp would have a horribly steep climax. We were struggling as it was with the incline and scrub (it’s hard to get on top of a Pandani that’s as tall as your head when you’re standing underneath it!). So we changed tact and headed for the ridge at the place where the contours were furthest apart (ie the most gradual incline possible). It was still strength-zappingly steep, but somehow we hauled ourselves and our packs up. We even made it up the first climby bit of scrub and rock, the next and even the one after.

We’re on the ridge to Cinder Hill. It’s a bit less scrubby up here, but rocky and broken and we’re still hauling our packs up what seems to be an unrelenting climb. But we’re past the worst of it by now and are starting to feel like we might just make it!

We found ‘water, big water’ at the foot of one of the rocks we sidled around. Ben’s words made complete sense to our fatigued minds and bodies and so, perched on button grass clumps we took the time to fill up water for the evening and the following day. It could not have come at a better time and removed one of the little niggles from our minds. We could now camp anywhere we saw fit, regardless of whether it had readily available water.

Cinder Hill is to go down in our histories as the hardest and scrubbiest peak any of us have climbed. It sure was value for money, requiring every bit of energy, right to the end. By now though the rain had well and truly stopped and we had views to some of the nearby peaks, which made it worth the effort. We didn’t pause for much more than a congratulatory high five and a few shared smiles. We were short on time and the slight breeze, the late hour and being drenched through had us feeling cold whenever we stopped for any length of time. 

On the summit of Cinder, looking along the ridge we’ve just climbed up. It’s a bit average!

Shelly and I were both zonked and Ben later admitted to hitting the wall just before we arrived at camp, saying, however, that he was surprising how one could just keep on going past the point of exhaustion. He was definitely doing the best of the three of us and had kindly offered to stay in the lead even though he’d done way more than his fair share. It was in our best interests as a group to keep moving as fast as possible. 

And the way forward, we don’t have a lot of time left in the day, but just need to get down to that flat looking bit of button grass… oh and hope that that’s exactly what it actually is!

We didn’t have long before sunset, but found it very easy to funnel, slip and slide down the side of Cinder Hill, which was much nicer than the way we’d ascended! We hit a short scrubby saddle where Ben joked that it was a bit like the ‘Classic Hits’ of all the scrub we’d been through. It was a few hundred metres to the next saddle where we found spots to set up tents on ferns. It was pure, tired bliss to strip off wet clothes, put on dry ones, have some dinner and enjoy another two of Shelly’s energy boosting Easter eggs. Even more so knowing almost all of tomorrow would be scrub free, largely open walking in sunshine without wind! 

Looking back up at Cinder Hill after a short scrubby saddle – the mountain that just keeps on giving. It’s a much nicer descent/approach from this side!

We’d starred off the day much like the days before, each of us highly independent and self-sufficient individuals walking our own walk within the group. By the end of it we were helping each other up the tricky bits, frequently expressing encouragement and gratefulness, and were checking that everyone was ok. Today, I think, was when we really came together as a team. It required a vulnerability and trust, an asking for help, a putting aside of proud independence in receiving it and respect in giving it. It is something I think develops over time and one of the things I loved most about walking. It made me smile as I lay in the tent listening to the gentle breeze. 

We woke in cloud and timed donning our wet gear perfectly, all ready to leave shortly after 6, again as soon as it was light enough to see without head torch. We dipped over the saddle in an unlikely spot to continue our descent down the ridge, immediately hitting the top of the burnt out vegetation from the 2018/2019 fires. If there is ever anything good about bushfires, it is all the saved pain of having to bushbash. We were very grateful, all the more so because everything around us was soaking wet from the low cloud, no wind and high humidity. 

Heading down the ridge off Cinder towards the river, before climbing back up Greystone Bluff. It’s a burnt out misty world to start with, but not actually raining.
Gradually the mist reveals our descent ridge. It’s a pretty good one, with only one short but very thick scrubby saddle. We’re most grateful for the fires, even if we’d rather they didn’t burn precious wilderness.
Greystone is behind the curtain somewhere. Banksia pods look like birds on stick trees.

As of to remind us what it could have been like, we did happen across one small gully that had escaped the fires, all the way to the top of the ridge. It took us a long time to bash a way through. Then we were back to relatively smooth sailing, either trying not to slip over on denuded ground s ashore everything you could hold onto coveted you in black or weaving a way through the low scrub surrounding between big boulders with cliffy drop offs. The ridge we chose was perfect. It spat us out onto the edge of Pine Creek with no real scrub to trouble us and a crossing point where we could keep our boots on and keep our feet dry (if only they had been!). A Huon Pine grew prettily out of a mossy bank as we took water and fuelled our bodies with food for the climb. 

We have a really pretty good run down the ridge and make it all the way to the creek without a scrub fight (more of a slippery slide – it wouldn’t be so easy ascending). There’s a long but open climb ahead, which we don’t actually mind. We’re over scrub at the moment.
Again, we come to cross Pine Creek in the perfect spot, complete with Huon Pine.

A short big of low scrub and we were out on the open ridge, where we’d spend the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon, slowly placing one foot in front of the other, dragging our heavy packs up Greystone Bluff. It was open, scrub free walking, it wasn’t raining and there was no wind, and the sun was even threatening to burn of the persistent cloud. The views were stunning and so apart from the burn in our legs, we were having a ball. One little yabbie also had the ride of his life, as Shelly walked over his water-filled cavern it ‘geysered’ a spurt of water out one hole, complete with said yabbie. He promptly shuffled off and down another entrance probably to the same cavern, but made me laugh in the process. We had yabbie tubes just in case we’d needed them, but had found enough water not to have to steal any.

Looking back at the bottom half of the ridge we’d come down. We’re making good progress.
Shelly is one of those happy kind of people. I think you can tell by her smile.
Onwards we plod as the cloud continues to lift. Cinder Hill is still in the mist, but you can seem ore of the ridge we followed down.
Piners and Propsting still under cloud. We’d toyed with the idea of ducking out that way, but forecast rain at the end of the week had us sensibly concerned about getting stuck on the far side of the Davey River.
What a lovely mountain to climb!
The day turns blue, Maconochie to the Right, with the Frankland Range behind.
Cinder Hill. The worst I’ve climbed. We camped on the flat bit of ridge just below the summit.

The higher we climbed the more we could see. We hardly needed to say it, because it was clear we were all having the best day of the trip. It only got better. We dumped our packs just shy of the summit and had a fun little scramble over the playground that was the summit approach. The rock was awesome and there were heaps of cool overhangs, chockstones and other interesting formations to explore.

Cool rock formations on our ascent.
A rocky ridge, Little Cinder centre and behind.
The final walk to the summit of Greystone is easy – it’s one of those summits that has some playing, adventure, scrambling and then a nice garden on top!

The summit itself was large and open with views all around and it was hard to know where to look first. We discovered later that night that Shelly had hit 500 points on Greystone – and what a worthy one to do it on! We spent the most time there than we had on any summit, wandered over to another high point for a sticky-beak before dragging ourselves away to the next delightful surprise. 

Home sweet home lies down there. A Garden of Eden! We are on the top of the world right now.
Western Arthurs, Eastern Arthurs and Robinson.
Our campground and the ridge we’d take out the next day, over the burnt bit and down the left ridge.
Shelly takes it in, looking out to the harbour and Mt Hean. Planning future trips.
Ben also takes it in. I think he’s pretty happy to be here. It makes the previous days slog worth it. Corner Peak to the left.
Maconochie.
Maconochie and the Folded range behind, with Mt Anne in the distance.
The last couple of days walking. From L-R: Cinder, Little Cinder, Maconochie, Corner.

Back at our packs we wandered down a beautifully manicured ancient garden, full of Pandanis, myrtle, pineapple grass, moss, the nice kind of scoparia and other native flora, as well as the obligatory rock sculptures. It was delightful and at one point Shelly and I just looked at each other with the greatest smiles on our faces. They said more than any of the words we could come up with. At the end of our walk was the largest, flattest, lushest expanse of neatly trimmed lawn, for want of a better term. The grasses were native and alpine, but you get the idea. A small stream babbled across the middle. Rocks sat scattered about like sculptures. It was just beautiful. To have it coincide with the nicest weather of the trip was a stroke of the best fortune available. 

We have a delightful walk heading to our little (or BIG) oasis.
Having difficulty finding a spot to camp!

We spent the afternoon drying wet gear, mending things, tending to the parts of our bodies that demanded the most attention (mostly our feet!), eating, relaxing and playing cards. Ben had been unable to find a miniature deck of cards so had cut one deck into quarters, bringing along one of the quarters that had the number in the corner. They were pretty cute to play with, I must say. 

This was not the only lesson on lightweight walking I was to learn on the trip. It’s been something I’ve never taken too seriously, partly because I’ve always been one of the fitter walkers on trips, partly because I like to buy gear that goes the distance and partly because I hate constantly replacing gear that works with the newest and lightest version. Seeing Ben bound along with his super light pack and feeling every one of the 25kg or so on my back as we pushed through the scrub part way along the range (not to mention trying to get it to squeeze through some of the gaps he slipped through) was a very powerful lesson indeed. There was one necessary item that was worth the extra weight, however. Two homemade beeswax candles… but we’ll get to that in a moment. 

We’d played cards till the cold chased us into our tents. It was also about the same time the setting sun dipped behind the cloud that had formed in the valley below us, the odd wisp blowing up and over our bowl. The effect was like orange lighting on dry ice at a music performance, it was simply stunning. 

The sun starts to set and the cloud that has formed in the valleys without our awareness starts to rise over the edge of our bowl.
It’s pretty!

At the other end of the bowl something else was happening entirely. The low cloud had covered everything except for the Western Arthurs, the end of which poked out above it, burnt orange as the last rays of sun caught it. The sky behind was shaded in pastel pinks and blues. 

At the other end the Western Arthurs sits just above the cloud as the sky turns pastel colours.

When I returned from sightseeing the others were sorting out the final touches to their dinners and had retreated to the warmth of their tents. I did similarly, where I cooked up an extra cup of soup and enjoyed it while I lit and then watched my two tea-light candles flicker away in the gentle breeze. I had brought them to mark the anniversary of Graham’s death (yes, it’s been that long), but because we’d made such good progress and wanted to get out before the weather turned really foul chances were we’d be out the day before. But Greystone was such a lovely mountain, the campsite just beautiful and he’d have been here if he’d had the choice. So I lit one for him and one for me and watched them flicker away. Eventually the wind snuffed first one and then the other out. And so it was time for bed. 

One for Graham, one for me.

When I ducked out for a final pee before falling asleep the Milky Way filled the sky, as bright as I’ve seen it for a long time. It stayed there all night, an unexpected wind springing up and keeping the clouds away from us. Eventually the moon joined it. Such a lovely feeling to be sleeping under the stars like that. 

Not the best photo (it was too cold and I had no gear to mess around) but just to give you the idea.

We had another 5am wake up to be ready by 6, and it was almost timed to perfection with the cloud rolling in over the western edge of our bowl. So we packed in the mist and found our way over the rim and down onto the ridge we wanted. It took us over to Scoparia Hill, which had a little bit of scoparia on the ridge leading to it but not much in the immediate vicinity of the hill itself. Perhaps it had been a different story before the fires?

The view from Scoparia Hill in the early morning sun and mist, Greystone comes and goes.
Wandering along the ridge to the point where we’ll drop off. We’re not going as far as Greenhead.

As we walked the wind drove the cloud around like a sheep dog gone crazy and so we got glimpses of a cloud covered world below, with the odd mountain poking out above it. Every now and again Greystone was revealed – such a spectacular mountain! The sun once again shone like a ball of fire with a huge halo as it struggled to cut through the mist. The major of the morning was real and it had me dragging my feet, knowing that all too soon we’d be back in the green stuff. I wanted to savour it just a little longer. 

Greystone in the mist. Don’t want to leave it, but we have a long day of scrub ahead.

But we did also have a long day ahead of us, even if we were optimistic about it. We’d chosen to descend off Scoparia Hill foot a number of reasons although it hadn’t been the route we’d planned on taking at the start of the walk. It proved to be a pretty good pick and we descended slowly but fairly easily for the first half. The bottom half was messier, scrubbier and horizontal came in to play too. In the end it was too hard to stay on the ridge so we headed straight down, whichever way was easiest. All the while the birds sung happily away. Oh to have wings…

We got to the bottom by midday and though we had smooth sailing from then on. We were to be sorely disappointed. 3 hours later and we finally escaped the horrible scrub on the plains and traded it for ankle high ‘can actually see where the ground is’ stuff. We were all absolutely knackered and while we weren’t sure we were going to get all the way to where we camped on day one near the Dodd River we figured we’d give it a good crack. 

It’s been a long 9 hours getting down off that bump to here, but now it’s relatively smooth sailing. Hopefully!

It was a lovely time of the day to be walking. The sun was low in the sky and eventually dipped behind Greystone, casting pretty colours on the mountains around us as our sweat grew cold on our faces. On we plodded, snapping dead trunks of old burnt out scrub under out feet at the same time as squealching through the marsh. At one rest break Ben commented that we had almost enough food for another lap. Oh, and it’d be easier because there would already be a bashed pad! We weren’t interested, that’s for sure. 

The sun dips below the Greystone summit as we continue along the plains, keen to get back to the same spot we camped at on day 1.

The White Monoliths is probably the most consistently hard walk I’ve done, even though it’s far from the longest. Uncertainty over water and camping and terrain were big factors, as was the weather, necessitating back to back long, hard days, some of which were spent largely in scrub. I think it had us all fatigued by the end, simply from lack of recovery time. So no, a repeat of the circuit was not even remotely tempting!

It’s a nice time of day to be walking, Sculptured mountain still with some light on it to the right.

We made it to our camp site before dusk settled and had tents up while it was still light. The rest was done under star light and head torch. The night was lovely and still, not too cold, with no clouds in sight. A boobook owl called into the night. As did another bird, with a call none of us had heard before. It was hard to believe that in the morning the rain should have set in, marking the start of several days of cold, wet and perhaps even snowy weather. 

Our final day was generous to us. Apart from a few gusts of strong winds scattered through the night, neither they nor the rain eventuated as early as forecast. We woke to a pleasant morning and even had an hour to sleep in so we could pack in the light. There was high cloud around but it didn’t look menacing and it was hard to decide what to wear, especially because it was rather humid too.

Back in our very same spots, we awake to no rain, lovely light and dry tents – the driest the’ve been on the trip. It’s a cruisey morning before a long, tired plod out.

The walk out was hard just because it was long, we were tired and the mud was thick and energy zapping the further along the track we got (particularly after the Western Arthurs turn off). But we made good progress, only had some very light rain after Junction Creek (not enough for rain jackets) and were back at the cars around 2pm. We were most grateful for the wind and rain holding off. The next day we heard Davey George had got 35ml of rain, confirming our decision to leave Piners Peak and the Propsting Range for another time was definitely the correct one!

All up: 90km, 7 days, 5057m ascent

Day 1: 21.6km, 7:44hrs, 505m ascent

Day 2: 7.5km, 7:46hrs, 958m ascent

Day 3: 8.3km, 9:14hrs, 785m ascent

Day 4: 8.0km, 12:01hrs, 724m ascent

Day 5: 9.0km, 10:28hrs, 1133m ascent

Day 6: 13.6km, 12:01hrs, 281m ascent

Day 7: 21.4km, 6:52hrs, 558m ascent

Battlement Hills: 17-19 March 2021

Battlement Hills GPS route… a VERY long way for a single days walk in.

I wasn’t supposed to be walking, I told myself… You can already tell from the language how the story ends, can’t you? When the original walk for the week was cancelled for the worst possible reason, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to give the neglected garden and study some attention. And then for some silly reason, perhaps habit more than anything, I checked the weather in the south west. BIG mistake. I’ve never seen it so good. Consistently sunny, not too hot, no rain or wind, day after day after day. For at least a week. It was too good to pass up really, especially with this summer having been a wetter one. 

I postponed the house chores again and took to the bush. To make myself feel better I chose a mountain that would allow me to walk in, spend a whole day studying (with a bit of photography and exploring) and walk out on the third day. So I thought anyway. I struggled out of bed shortly after 5:30, was out the door by 6 and arrived at the Lake Rhona carpark just over 2 hours later. There were five cars already there, which surprised me a bit as it was mid week. 

Right from the get go I was walking through where the fires ravaged in 2018/19. There are only a few spots that haven’t been burnt and either died or regrown. The ground sounded hollow under the thud of my boots, a little scrub tit chirped at me and my disturbance as I filled in the log book and I realised that the place was very quiet (except for me!). So quiet even that you could hear the sound as an insect attempted to untangle wet wings as it sat in the middle of the new log across the Gordon River. The old log is now permanently under water, but PWS have rerouted the track a hundred metres upstream to a new log that sits higher. It’s still slippery where wet, but otherwise easy to cross. 

The new tree across the Gordon River, complete with bright red-orange tape from PWS. Oh, and a bit of early morning steam rising off the water.

It was still cool, with a fine dew sparkling on little cobwebs hanging from dead banksia trees. You could feel that it was going to get hot, the sun beating down from above while the button grass would radiate it back up from below, with interest too! The button grass was vivid emerald green with really orange-red flower stems. There was more colour in them than I’ve seen before. Having been burnt out, I discovered the view was more open and there wasn’t any tangly scrub to slow me down at the river crossings. There were, however, heaps of wasps buzzing around and next to no bees. This wasn’t the first I’d heard of wasp numbers this season and wondered what had prompted the change. Was it just the fires?

There were lots of delicate, dew covered cobwebs. They held me up a bit!
The colours!! It’s like I’ve turned the saturation right up, but no, I haven’t. The new growth on the button grass is bright green, and the flower stalks are orangy-red. It makes for a pretty walk, which would have been very barren indeed straight after the fires.

The track itself was in better condition than I expected, given the numbers of people heading into Rhona. There was the usually muddy and braided bits, but no huge deterioration from how I remembered it. This made for fairly efficient walking and I arrived at my turn off point at midday, 3.5 hrs after starting out. I was ahead of schedule but was hungry, so I took a break and ate some porridge while surveying the terrain ahead. 

Into the off track walking. As you can see, it looks nice and easy when you look back towards Mt Field on the left, Mueller in the Middle and Mt Wright on the right.

This was where the real work started. The satellite imagery had made it look easy. Ha! To be honest, it wasn’t hard. There was very little scrub and none I actually had to go through, if I chose my route wisely. But there was a bit of up and down, and by now I was feeling the heat and the first few hours of walking. I toyed with the idea of staying lower and contouring, but after the first creek crossing I decided being high enough to walk over the top of the creek heads was a better idea. So I steadily sidled-climbed my way up the ridge until the point where I just wanted to sidle. 

Looking at the back of the Denison Range as I sidle by. It’s an interesting perspective.

Sidling gives the impression of being easy because it’s all about avoiding climbing. But when you still have multiple gullies and rivers to cross it makes you either feel like you’re walking much further than necessary or else you’re constantly dropping and regaining height. There was no other option, however, and so I continued along, weaving between some pretty impressive rock slabs in amongst the button grass. Twice I had to drop a decent distance down into gullies to cross rivers and then clamber up the other side. Fortunately the fire make even these experiences scrub free, but rather dirty. 

Looking forward, the going isn’t that easy after all, even if it’s open. I took the contour line that matches the slightly less steep green line across the middle of the rocks. There was still a lot of in and out, up and down for staying on the one contour line!
Looking back at Mt Field, having just negotiated a little bit of rock (it was more fun than the button grass and burnt tea tree, which was just spikey and black).

As the day settled into the heat of the afternoon I was becoming weary on my feet. The insects sung away, oblivious to my plight. In time Wylds Crag stuck its nose over the grassy horizon, deceptively close. I sidled round another corner and spied what I thought was my mountain. A second look revealed the error. There are two ‘Hills’, and the one I first laid eyes on was the smaller of the two. The other was still hiding off to the left. I had a loo stop, procrastinated some more, then settled in for the final few kilometres. These things always look fine on paper, it’s when you walk as far as I did on this particular day that I realised it might have been more sensible to split the walking up! 

Wylds Craig sticks up over a rise. It featured more than I’d expected, mostly because I hadn’t thought about it!
Finally I think I can see my mountain… but I was a tad hasty in my hopefulness!
Further along the real destination appears from behind the ridge I have to walk down. Now I understand why it’s called Battlement Hills in the plural. The one on the right is lower, but still pretty cool looking.
The Hill! Only a kilometre or two to go, but I’m feeling pretty spent by now. I revert to one foot after the other and it gets me there, as always.

After a few lengthy breaks and some very slow trudging uphill, I found myself on the summit plateau and headed straight for the cool looking rocks, which also happened to be where the high point was. I chose a lovely green grassy spot between two rocks for my tent, complete with daisies. And then it was time to watch, photograph and clamber all over the natural playground. The conglomerate came in different shapes and sizes, many with windows through them, and their profiles changed dramatically depending on which side you viewed them from. It was a huge amount of fun! I stayed out till I couldn’t see and my fingers were yellow and numb, then I retreated to my tent. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I typed up a few notes. 

Woooo! I pop out onto a very flat top and am filled with pure delight! Look at my home for the next two nights. There are rocks over there begging to be explored. One in particular…
This rock grabbed my attention straight away. And yes, I think it’s the highest point (and yes, I did climb it!). I camped between it and the one behind (photos later). It does look a little like a ‘battlement’ does it not?
The rocks changed profile dramatically depending on where you stood. I wish I could demonstrate, but you’ll just have to visit yourself. The Denison range in the background here.
This rock was crazy. Like a turret here, but side on, was long as a removalist truck. Complete with a few holes in it!
The rocks often had holes straight through the middle of them, despite being massive in size. They also often sat on the ground, rather than in it, sometimes only with a few points of contact that you could see under and through. Oh it was fun!! Although one word of warning, if clambering into said holes, mind your head!
See the rock on the right with the very round hole in it? That’s the pillar looking rock in the photo that’s two above this one. The King William Range in the distance. It looks a bit scrubby in between.
A close up of the King William range and some more conglomerate!
Looking out to South, Centre and North stars (the pointy ones in the middle), with Pokana in the far distance slightly to their right. The light stretches, painting shadows across the ridges.
As the sun sunk, I darted from rock to rock, not sure where to park my bum to sit and watch! I was like an excited little puppy.
Wylds Craig as the setting sun casts a yellow/orange glow. My tent was in amongst that collection of rocks on the left. You could walk between all of them. How cool are they?
The sun dips below the Spires, what a lovely end to the day.
And just in case it wasn’t enough, a fingernail moon appears between the rocks.

My alarm woke me at 6:30 and I opened the fly to a glowing orange horizon. I dressed in thermals, grabbed my camera and went clambering up another rock. There I sat and watched the sun do its thing all around me. Oh what a morning! I eventually dragged myself away to the real purpose of the day: study. It wasn’t easy and I had frequent distractions to deal with, but it wasn’t a bad setting for it otherwise. Perhaps the only downside was the nobly nature of conglomerate which didn’t make for the most comfortable of seats.

The Prince of Wales Range in early morning glow, with Diamond Peak just peaking around the end of the Spires.
The sun spreads warm fingers over the hills as Wylds Craig shrugs off a little bit of cloud. There’s some low lying mist in the valleys. I’m waiting for the warmth to hit me.
The purity of those first rays of light on distant ranges. Double Spire, False Dome, Flame Peak, the Camel and White Pyramid all looking well defined at this time of day.
As the seconds tick by the light changes and the shadows scutter back under the rocks
Oh I do love this rock!
Sorry, but I couldn’t help just one more… I am camped at it’s foot, as you’ll see below.

An early afternoon siesta was in order, which refreshed my brain and avoided the heat of the day. I washed my charcoal covered knees, waved at some friends and colleagues who I discovered were on Reeds Peak (though I don’t think they knew I was here), sent a few messages to share the experience, responded to some urgent emails and otherwise just relaxed, played on the rocks and ate lots of food. The relaxing part was more than overdue. I’ll do it more often from now on!

The three stars and Pokana again. And a hint of Lake Gordon.
A little spider goes for a swing off the rock, while the King William Range and Mount Hobhouse stretch across the horizon on a balmy day.
Mount Hobhouse lounging around in good light.
Oh the light, like a painter has had a mad fit of anger or excitement and scribbled a brush across the canvas. Frenchmans Cap is in the distance there.
North and Centre stars (R-L) from between the rock formations.
Again, this holey rock in the middle was the same rock that looked like a great big pillar in the photo quite a way above. That photo was taken from the far end. How cool is it?

The sun set into a pretty orange glow, much as it had risen. There were more clouds than the night before, but they didn’t do anything spectacular. I didn’t mind, it was special all the same AND it meant I could take a call from mum and John and not attempt to take photos at the same time. It’s always lovely to chat with them, especially in such a wonderful place on a balmy evening. The fingernail moon reappeared and again I sat out, not quite wanting the day to end. I was feeling very lucky to be where I was, with the skills I have, to live the life I do. There’s not much I’d change. 

A gap in the rocks and a glimpse at the Spires as the sun scatters harsh rays as it hits the ridges
Harsh light turns to a gentle glow, and this time it’s Innes High Rocky (and a cheeky Diamond Peak!) that pokes between the rock turrets.

I woke to another lovely morning, as expected. It surprised me just how heavy the weight on your shoulders is when you know bad weather is likely and you spend every opportunity checking updates in the forecast to see how it was changing. I didn’t have to do that at all this trip and it was unexpectedly liberating! 

Good morning Spires!
My rocky turret, that I seem to be rather taken by, as the sun rises.
Another close up of the Spires, bathed in the first rays of sun. They only last a moment.
Hello shadow! Oh, and the Spires again.
Early light on rock, burnt scrub, ridges, and Pokana. North and Centre Stars don’t quite deserve it just yet.

I enjoyed the sunrise and then slowly packed my gear away, not all that keen for the long walk out but keen enough to get the two biggest climbs out of the way before the day warmed to the forecast top of 21 (that, and I had the crazy notion that maybe I could catch up to the friends who were in at Rhona and would likely be leaving today as well – optimistic really, and I doubt I came close!). With next to no wind it was going to be especially warm on the button grass plains. In fact, it was already warm enough at 8 that I headed down off the mountain with no additional warm layers on – most unusual for me!

It’s time to say good bye, what a place to have spent time in!

By 9, at the foot of the first climb, I was sweating away, even more so by 10, as I started up the second. The walking was slightly easier this way because I knew what to expect and didn’t have to make as many route finding decisions though it was still a rather long sidle! At least there were plenty of briskly flowing creeks from which to quench my thirst, wash my sooty hands and splash my face. 

Heading out, the light tells an early story, but it’s pretty warm regardless!

By midday I’d finished the sidling and just had some easy walking before I hit the Rasselas track. The wasps returned and a helicopter could be heard droning off in the distance. Little signs that I was heading back to civilisation. Only when I returned did I hear about the person who’d fallen at Geryon and without knowing who they were or anything more, I felt, as most in the outdoorsy community would, for them and their special people. We all take risks when we head out, which we deem to be acceptable. I have taken more than most. Generally we’re lucky. Sometimes things go horribly wrong. My thoughts are with them, their family/friends, and those who were on the helicopter that day. On the drive home I sent my primary safety person an extra message of thanks for being prepared to be the one who gets the call when my PLB goes off, or when I don’t return as scheduled. I only learnt of the news after I got home, but it highlighted the sacrifice she was prepared to make for me.

I popped onto the track just as a couple were heading past on their way to Lake Rhona. I wondered what they thought of my unexpected, charcoal covered appearance from an odd direction. Later on I met two friends of a friend and we had a brief chat. They were the owners of the kayaks Tim and I had left a smiley face made from rocks for when we’d spotted them on our return from the Pleiades earlier in the year. They too had found the weather too good to pass up! Tassie is such a small place… and I love it!

I soldiered along, keen to get back at a reasonable time. I lost track of the number of people I passed, surprised because it was still Friday. Rhona was going to be busy for the weekend! And fair enough, the weather was perfect for it. So good, in fact, that the track had dried out a lot even on the few days I’d been there – you could even trust the deeper pools of mud not to let you down. I was making good time, so I slowed right down for the final walk between the Gordon River and the carpark. I had a blister on my left heel that was giving me grief and I felt I could afford it some pampering. Blisters are highly unusual for me and I suspected it was just the sheer length of the walk and the unevenness of the terrain. I was keen to discover just how far I’d walked in the two days (a long way for off track walking, it turns out)!

Despite the slow final stint I was back at the car within 8 hours of setting out. I was ready for some fresh veggies, a cool drink and some sleep. Oh, and a shower!!

All up:

Day 1: 24.5km, 10:15hrs, 1138m ascent

Day 3: 23.9km, 7:49hrs, 948m ascent

No wonder my legs were tired!

Celtic and Druids Hills: 27 February 2021

Celtic and Druids Hills GPS route

My first trip to Druids Hill was a long time ago as a club walk, likely in my first year of walking. It never made it to a blog post. It’s such a fun little hill with stunning views that both Ben and Jess had attempted to put it on the Pandani program a few times recently. This time was the first that the stars had aligned and the weather cooperated. I was lucky enough to worm my way onto the rather popular walk, which I was interested in less because I hadn’t climbed Celtic Hill (a ‘neopoint’ or point on the latest version of the HWC peakbaggers list but not on the one I started on) and more because I needed another Pandani fix! As it turned out there were some really cool people down for the walk and I was looking forward to catching up with people I hadn’t seen for ages as well as meeting a few I’d heard lots about but hadn’t yet had the pleasure of walking alongside.

We had a painfully early 6am meet up at Granton. I was very sleep deprived, but was probably more out of sorts from trying to get my head around what gear I was taking given all the stuff I’d just taken on the Fincham track was soaking wet and dirty (we’d got home at shortly before 10pm the night before). The combination of the two meant I rocked up without any wet weather gear, but I’d be likely to get away without it this time.

The ten of us squished familiarly, not uncomfortably, into two cars and the conversation bubbled along. I sunk back into the seat, let the warm laughter and voices wash over me. It was nice to be back! A good distance down the dirt road that heads towards Mt Anne we pulled over into a clearing on the left, right near our departure point to Celtic Hill. Ben had to get us going, or we’d have stood around all day continuing with the chatter!

Straight up means great views from early on. How green does the regenerated button grass look?

Up we started, following the leader as he wove a way up the burnt out slopes, trying our best to minimise touching the sharp, charcoal covered sticks that remained of banksia trees, melaleuca and tea tree shrubs. The button grass, lemon boronia and a number of other small green flora were well into the regrowth stage since the 2018/19 fires. Looking out across the landscape their growth gave it a fresh vibrant green look and you could only really tell the extent of the fires by picking out the thickets of larger grey skeletons that had once been bands of heavier scrub. It was steep enough, but surprisingly not as slippery as feared and we made slow and steady progress.

Heading up, following the leader. The fire has definitely opened things up a lot.

The temptation was too good to resist and I have to say it was my fault for getting the banksia pegging wars started so early in the morning. You’ve got to get in early with these things, especially when you’re up against Ben, who has a pretty sharp aim even at a distance! It was a protracted affair, that lasted all the way back to the road. I copped it later on, with a close quarters ambush by both Ben and Jess – probably well-deserved!

The Mt Anne main ridge looks mightily fine in the low cloud.

We paused and regrouped once we hit a flat spot on the ridge, setting a very relaxed tone that would persist throughout the day. We would walk for a bit and then we would break for a lot, chatting, eating or doing anything else we fancied. Already the views were opening up, the low cloud gradually rising to reveal glimpses of the vista we all knew was out there. The cloud around Mt Anne teased us beautifully, revealing and then hiding once again the impressive throne-like summit.

We made it to a saddle on the ridge we’d follow to the summit to Celtic Hill. Apparently I’m being a pervert taking photos from behind the rock ;)!
Looking towards Lake Pedder, Solitary on the right and Scotts Peak on the left.
Heading on up, do you not just get a sense of the leisurely nature of the group and the mood we were in?
A very hungry caterpillar?

And so we made our way along and up the ridge, finding the going to be pretty straight forward with a short scramble on rocks to the summit, where a concrete pillar marked the highest point. The group spread out and along, subconsciously mirroring Mt Anne, as she sprawled across the horizon, still partly draped in a blanket, the day not quite warm enough to throw it off entirely just yet.

Heading towards a clouded in Mt Anne.
Ben and Bryn as forward scouts on this part, it’s speccy country!
Jess and Tim smile on command, not that they had to try too hard. Mt Anne sticks out her head, to see what all the fuss is about?
Getting closer to the top of Celtic Hill, we’re all having fun!
And we’re on the summit. Well, everyone except me. Someone has the generosity to tell me I’m on the wrong one!
Mt Anne draped in morning blankets.

It was only mid morning, but a good enough time to enjoy a cup of tea and a bite to eat. We were moving faster than we needed to and Ben was super relaxed about getting the most out of the day, so we stayed and enjoyed for an appropriate amount of time, long enough at least for Jess to find and catch a pretty impressive looking frog!

Tim on the summit of Cullen, Druids Hill and Mt Anne in the background. He’s got a cheeky glint in his eye and I wonder how many of the banksia missiles I’ve been hit with have come out of his hand!
Jess’ handsome little guy!

We were eventually drawn down the ridge and across an open saddle towards the foot of the much more interesting looking climb up Druids Hill. The bottom part looked fine, but towards the top it looked excitingly steep and rocky. This was just how I liked my bushwalking! It was hard to wipe the smile off my face.

Looking towards Lake Pedder and the cloud continues to lift.
Urszula works her way down off the summit of Cullen towards Druids Hill.
The whole group follows, down along the ridge.
Looking up at Druids Hill, the final scramble to the summit looks fun!

We navigated the first bit of the climb easily and then found ourselves at a decision point part way up. The western or right hand side of the ridge was full of steep and scrubby gullies, one of which was so decent it hadn’t even burnt out in the fires. We weren’t sure what was around the eastern or left hand side, that required climbing back up and over. We um-ed and ah-ed and eventually after a lot of chatting arrived at a group decision to try back over the left shoulder.

Which way shall we go? Never mind, lets just have a chat and enjoy the view some more!
It’s a lovely view…
Hmm… the gullies are looking a little steep and deep on the right hand or western side of the ridge!

The group took the decision in full stride, everyone behind it. As we walked we talked about how one of the best things with walking was the collective decision-making and negotiating, where everyone got to have some input, and the final solution was not any one persons but a mix of everyone’s input that resulted in a collective best decision. It was teamwork at its best. In the end our choice meant we traded losing a fair bit of height for a little extra climbing on rock.

These Christmas Bells are only two months late!

Up we went, not entirely sure the route would be possible, but pretty certain we’d figure it out. Bryn and Adrian appeared to be in their element as forward scouts, Ben coordinating and making the odd decision in the interests of finding the safest route for the whole group, not just any likely route. Others did a stellar job of watching and providing moral support for those who were no less proficient but a tad less confident on rock. I did a fair bit of standing back, marvelling at how people stepped up to fill roles without needing to be asked, of how the whole thing just worked.

We pop over the left hand or eastern side of the ridge, and reckon there’s a way forward. Though these guys are waiting for the all clear from up ahead!

When the harder, more exposed climbing was over and there was just the final scramble to the summit everyone was free to find their own way up. We spread out over the rock like ants swarming to a pile of sugar. The reward was sweeter. We had the whole of the southwest of Tassie to enjoy, on a rocky summit that sported some brilliant orange moss that Ben was just in love with. Everyone had smiles on their faces. The photo frenzy came first, then some lunch, more chatter, the odd bit of mischief and a touch of snoozing.

The summit rush is on and we swarm up the rock
Adrian is cool, calm and quiet in his enjoyment of the mountains.
Looking back towards Celtic Hill from Druids summit.
Mischief in the ranks. Jess slips a second rock into Greg’s pack as he snoozes. Andrew provides the necessary distraction without even realising the role he’s playing. Greg didn’t find the first rock until he had not one, but two looks back at home!
All that mischief making is hard work, so Jess finds the perfect rock and has a little rest. But not for long, someone has to keep us on our toes ;)!

We only dragged ourselves away when Ben suggested we probably should. The summit of Druids Hill is such that you can’t easily see the way down from just standing on top. It’s rather a knobbly rounded summit that means you have to start heading off the edge one way or another to see what lies below.

Ben checks out descent options, Andrew hot on his heels. Federation peak sits, untouchable for the time being, on the horizon.
We get the all clear and file off the summit.

Again, Bryn was on scouting duties, displaying the qualities of a comfortable off track walker. Half the group followed him as they wove a path down the face of the mountain, the other half tracing a route more directly down the sharp spine-like ridge. This allowed everyone to pick and choose the route that suited their preferences best.

Can you spot Bryn as he mountain goats his way down off the steep summit, leading half the group to flatter ground.
The ridge down off Druids Hill. What a lovely line it makes.
Someone has hands full of ammo. I’d watch out Greg, if I was you!
Urszula and Andrew negotiate the rocky spine
Isabel is one very chilled out, capable walker.
A last glance back at Druids Hill from near the bottom.

It was a long steep descent where attention was given largely to stopping our feet from shooting out from underneath us, leading to an inevitable bum slide. We were largely successful in this respect. We had a small hill that we climbed over the right hand shoulder, before we were back on the button-grass plain and only a short distance from the road. There we did our best to wash off some of the charcoal that coated our hands, clothes, packs, knees and faces. Some of us looked like chimney sweeps more than others!

Not far from the road now.
An attempt to wash the worst of the charcoal off…!

Back at the cars we feasted on cold fizzy drinks, shapes and nuts before making the significantly quieter drive home. Thanks to Ben for leading the walk and to all those who came on the day – you made it what it was!

All up: 8.5km, 8:12hrs (LOTS of breaks), 843m ascent.

The Pleiades: 14 February 2021

The Pleiades GPS route. Note the walking started in what is mapped as water, where the slight dog-legg is just above the word ‘Lake’.

There’s nothing like a bit of unfinished business to bump a walk up the list. Especially when you’re about to lose the kayak you’ve had access to for the last 5 years. It’s even easier when you’re not the only one hatching similar plans! The Pleiades had first become a serious target at the start of the year following a club walk to Pokana Peak. It had been discussed as a possible side trip and had certainly sparked interest. It was to be far too ambitious for that trip, but it looked good and wasn’t a mountain easily forgotten… 

Mark went back in in a boat a few weeks later, which I found out after the fact when we were chatting via email on another matter. He kindly shared his route when I told him I was also planning a trip back. Tim got roped in, even though he’s not supposed to be walking until he’s finished an upcoming exam, because he’d lucked out as my partner in crime on the Pokana trip and I was pretty certain he’d be keen. He was, so we locked in the one day we could both do and hoped we’d get lucky with the rain and the wind (or rather, lack thereof!).

After I finished a day shift on the Saturday, we loaded kayaks and gear and headed down to the end of Clear Hill road. The drive this time seemed to take forever, probably reflective of how tired I was feeling and my desire to just be there. We’d tried to make good time, but the last hour was in the dark and the wildlife was more active than I’d have liked. The Mini had its first wallaby encounter in three years of driving. It was certainly easy to pull up when we finally made it, set up sleeping bags and get a relatively solid night sleep in the back of the car.

Both of us had talked about setting alarms, thinking we were in for a decent but achievable day walk, but neither of us remembered. I certainly didn’t have much time between being ready to sleep and being out to it. As a result we were ready to start paddling at 7:30, 1.5 hours after our intended departure time. We sped across the very smooth lake, faster than we’d calculated, but still taking time to enjoy the reflections of the dead trees dancing on the surface of the lake as we wove through. The spiders still hung in their webs at the top of the skeletal remains, this time accompanied by lots of little black dots – their offspring.  

The Pleiades in Greek mythology are the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. To avoid Orion’s lust their parents turned them into doves and placed them amongst the stars, apparently! I’m not sure why this particular mountain ended up with the name, but we were keen to see if the summit would give us any clues. We could see far enough to pick out the clearest line up the first and likely steepest bit of the ascent. It was just as well, we reasoned, that we’d slept in, as we wanted to allow the low lying cloud sufficient time to burn off.

Thats the first bump to get up. We select the least scrubby ramp that runs up the right hand side.

Off we set, initially across the old lake floor, now just blackened mud and quartzite gravel. This gave way to the typical low button grass, tea tree and melaleuca scrub of the south west. The wild flowers had largely done their dash and it was only higher up that we had a little bit of pink in the odd trigger plant to offset the greens, browns and yellows – the ‘spice colours’ of Tassie wilderness as mum puts it.

Taking a moment to catch our breath and glancing back. We’ve gained a fair bit of height already, which is just as well, the legs are protesting! We parked out boats on the tiny black isthmus about an inch in from the left edge of the photo.

It was generally easy going, with only one or two slightly scrubbier gullies/creeks to cross. Even here it was easy enough to pick a good line. Perhaps the hardest part was the sheer incline coupled with slippery went muddy goop underfoot that often had you sliding two steps backwards for each one forwards. In spots the button grass thickened and proved to be unsteady underfoot, requiring more energy than it should to make progress. 

As is always the case, however, we steadily climbed our way up and across and were more than half way up when we figured a breakfast stop was in order. We were nearly at the bottom of the cloud, which was proving to be more stubborn than forecast and were aware of the need to either slow down or to summit with no views. There’s only so much time you can take to eat, however, especially when your shirt is drenched in sweat from the climb and the high humidity and now sticks like a freezing cold icepack to the small of your back.

Where things become a bit more exciting! The slog through uneven button grass is replaced by a bit more of a climb/scramble up into the underbelly of the cloud. I did like this bit!

Procrastination exhausted and fingers turning yellow and numb, we continued up the ridge. It got a bit interesting from here on, all the more so because we couldn’t really see what we were in for… entirely! Just that there was a lot of very steeply sloped rock with scrubby channels running vertically in the gaps. Once we got the hang of it and safely extracted ourselves from a scrubby gully we’d got caught in, we found it to be much better going. It wouldn’t be much fun for people not comfortable on steeply slanted rock with not a lot of purchase in some spots though! Oh, and it would be pretty miserable in wet weather too.

Head in the cloud, the summit materialises as we approach. We duck out of the wind and wait…

Once we were past this bit the ridge top walking resumed and the scrub diminished as we ascended, eventually to be replaced by cushion plants, pineapple grass and the likes on the summit plateau. By this stage we were definitely walking in the cloud, although we could tell we were right at the bottom of it and knew it would have to lift sometime soon. So we wandered over to the high point, aided initially by GPS and then by the unmistakable cairn, and then ducked over the edge to sit out of the wind. 

Glimpses of view are promising. It’s a beautiful, gnarly kind of land out here.

It was only 1.5 hours after we’d had breakfast, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have something more to eat as we enjoyed the wait. There were plenty of little white quartzite mounds scattered around the otherwise fairly flat summit plateau, but I’m not sure there were exactly 7. The naming of the mountain will remain a mystery I think!

Summit cairn, rocky outcrops and a hint of Lake Gordon
The best view we were going to get to the southwest. The ridge here is a longer but perhaps less climby way up.

The sun broke through intermittently, deliciously warm on our legs and backs, gradually drying our shirts. We got tantalising glimpses of the view before it clagged back in, worse than it had been. I began to despair, but Tim didn’t seem to be in too much of a rush (despite plans to study on his return home) and so we waited some more. It was worth it in the end, even if we didn’t get views to the west, where the wind and clouds were coming from. The ones east down to the lake and mountains beyond and north to Pokana were lovely enough.

On the way back down, just a short walk from the summit. Perhaps this is one of the sisters?

Eventually (1.25 hrs after arriving) we dragged ourselves away, keen to get back before dark. We were much faster on the descent, which was largely downhill, although the views meant we (well, to be honest, I) stopped more frequently for photos. The cicadas were out in force and our trampling through the scrub disturbed a number. It’s always been a familiar sound that evokes warm memories from childhood and again it had me smiling.

Sidling around the edge of the steep rocky and scrubby section. It’s much easier than on the way up

We chose a slightly better route in spots, did our fair share of sliding and only got mildly distracted by what turned out to be three kayaks dragged well inland. It looked like a family were also out having lots of fun, so we left them a smiley face made from rocks on the upturned belly of one. 

The cloud still grazes the tops of the mountains to the east. Stepped and Clear hills are pretty impressive looking
One last glance back, now that the summit is clear. The high point lies on the plateau behind the rise on the left.
It’s beautiful walking on the way back and I’m guilty of pausing many a time to enjoy it! Look at that lovely ridge to walk along…
I do like colours, textures and lines. Stepped Hills, the Thumbs and Clear Hill stretch out across the eastern horizon.

Our legs and feet were grateful to be back at the kayaks, looking forward to an hour of rest. I, of course, had to add to the excitement by doing what could have been classed as a well executed parkour move while attempting to get in the kayak. It ultimately resulted in me moving from one side of it to the other, complete with a 360 degree horizontal rotation. I did not manage to do this while staying entirely dry and I’ll admit the landing could use some work. The kayak, fortunately, stayed upright. Tim was most disappointed to have had no time to get the camera out!

Some brilliant rock up here as we wander down the ridge. Pokana Peak is off in the distance on the right.
And the final ascent down to the kayaks. The going, as you can see, is really pretty good. No serious scrub bashing required if you pick the right kind of line!

One last glance back and off we set, taking only a little longer to get back out than on the way in, courtesy of a bit of a southwesterly breeze and a substantial level of fatigue. We still made good enough time that I was home and unpacking the kayak in the last bit of dusk before it gave way to night.

Paddle: 6.0km one way, 1 hr there, 1:10 back

Walk: 9.3km, 6:34hrs, 890m ascent

P.S. Happy Valentine’s to everyone reading this! I hope you spent it doing a few of the things you love with some of your special people and found time to reflect on why they’re special to you. And if you didn’t, I’m sure it doesn’t matter if you pick a different day ;)!

Mesa: 28 January 2021

Mesa GPS route (as well as the Calf and Adamsons Peak)

Never has a bush walk been so long in the planning. This one even surpassed the Prince of Wales, which took a good three years to finally attempt. The idea was first hatched when Ben knew he was about to begin a family of his own, prior to the birth of his first son. He now has three kids, the youngest of whom is 11 months, so you can do some rough maths to figure out quite how long we’ve waited (and nope, he has no twins). The thinking was that he was going to be tied up with all things family, but still wanted to go on a bit of a crazy walk here and there. So the concept of the epic day walk was hatched. Mesa was somehow always going to be our first mountain. This kind of walking would allow us to push our physical boundaries, hopefully get to some distant mountains, hang out where we love to hang out most AND get Ben back home within the same day. Rachel, his equally awesome wife who is also a bushwalker, was generous in her support of the idea and it’s practical realities.

And so, more than half a dozen or so years after its conception, the plan was finally seeing fruition. We weren’t going to take any chances so kept two consecutive days free for the walk, choosing the one with the best weather a few days out. It seemed we would have ourselves a mild day with a bit of wind. We weren’t sure of timing, there was one report from a small group of guys we know to be speed walkers, who had set out at 6 and returned at 4. We knew we’d be slower. But 6 sounded like a good start time to us. Unfortunately that meant getting up at 3:15 for some of us, which wasn’t as easy as it might sound!

The drive was shorter than expected, even with a few detours as I drove straight past Esperance Road, thinking I was heading for Adamsons Road. The drive now was slow to minimise the risk of colliding with abundant wildlife despite otherwise well kept forestry roads. But still we found ourselves at the start of the track, which looked like it hadn’t received any love or care in a long time, before 6.

Ben um-ed and ah-ed over taking a light fleece (we suggested he did) and we discussed water, all of us keen to be carrying as little as possible for the long slog ahead. A forgotten alarm went off at 6 and when I’d silenced it we headed off, starting on boardwalk that quickly turned into forest floor. The birds roused with the dawn and lyrebirds let off alarm calls as we passed by.

The walk up Adamsons Peak is long, with some of the greatest altitude gain you’ll ever get in a day walk. Believe me, you feel every bit of it too and in no time the cold shivers turned to dripping sweat. Ben set a cracking pace which soon mellowed out into something we could all sustain despite still breathing hard. We made good time, ducking under or climbing over many fallen trees, trying hard not to slip backwards on the steepest of slopes, or later on wet slippery rocks and tree roots. We rejoiced in the short flatter sections around Manuka Flat, for they presented a chance to slow our pounding hearts.

Uh oh… maybe we’ve hit it too hard and fast. Ben doesn’t want to get out of bed, having made it to the lookout in pretty good time. Only one more climb to go to the top of Adamsons Peak (in the cloud), which will be the bulk of our height gain for the day.

We made better than expected time, arriving at the lookout less than 2 hours after having started out. It was overcast with the easterly weather and the wind had a bite to it. The bottom of the cloud was sitting just over the summit of Adamsons. As we wove a muddy, squealchy way across the flat, past Creekton Rivulet and to the base of the final climb the temperature dropped, our sweaty shirts became icepacks and our fingers turned yellow and numb. All we could think of was how glorious some sun would be.

Heading down the ridge after the summit of Adamsons. It’s a tad cool and cloudy and there’s not much ridge to be seen at the moment.

We’d donned warm jackets and gloves before we made the summit, Ben grateful for having carried the extra 200 grams he’d been tempted to leave behind! The summit was a very brief affair as Ben claimed his points, before we ducked out of the wind and ate a mixture of breakfast, lunch or snacks. We were happy to have made it 3 hours after starting out, which was only 30 minutes slower than the group of guys whose trip report we’d read (we’d anticipated taking at least an hour longer).

We drop lower down the ridge and perhaps the cloud is also lifting. Suddenly we start to see the Calf. Here we are about to drop over the right edge, then sidle under the rocky ridge to take us to the ridge that leads to the Calf. It looks like it could get interesting, but remains easy open walking.

As soon as the eating was done we moved off, the heat of the climb having already worn off in no time. We wove our way down the ridge, which mysteriously materialised from behind the cloud as we progressed. As we dropped lower and the day warmed up the cloud lifted, and we got glimpses of the Calf ahead. The Calf is secondary to the Cow, which is actually Adamsons Peak (and a better name, I think, although I mean no disrespect to whoever Adamson was). It’s a lovely little pointy peak that makes for a most pleasing walk in all respects.

Sidling around, heading for the ridge towards the Calf. As we pop round the shoulder Ben takes delight in the new view!

Sidling down and around to meet the ridge that heads out to the Calf, Ben, who was in the lead at this point, let out a great big ‘Oh yeah!!’. Jess and I couldn’t see what he was exclaiming at, and asked him to hold on to it. A few meters later, however, Precipitous Bluff stuck its great big knobbly body around the edge of the ridge, in an instant we understood, echoing Ben’s delight and awe.

Sitting on the Calf. It’s still cold and windy, but the sun is coming out. Check out the view to the Southern Ranges and PB!

Feeling slightly warmer, with the promise of sun in the not too distant future, we backed off the pace and gave ourselves more time just to soak everything in. The Calf wasn’t far away though, and soon we were scrambling after Jess, straight up the ridge to the summit. Again, the Calf provided a glorious summit which was windy but at least in the sun by now. We spent a good deal of time there, shooting the odd message to special people and even having a brief video call with Ben’s family. We live in such a different world to those who pioneered walks to these places, don’t we?

The view along the ridge ahead towards Mesa, the high point being the bump on the right of the thing that looks like a pair of breasts.
It is beautiful walking with the best of views

The terrain ahead was new to us all and we wondered how bad it was going to be, even though the first bit looked lovely and open. We made our way down the Calf, feeling rather guilty and all too aware of our impact on the wilderness as we picked out individual footsteps so as to avoid stepping on cushion plants and other fragile alpine grasses. In some ways while this was the easiest and most open of walking it also required the most concentration.

Looking back at the Calf and Adamsons
The wild flowers were pretty

We stopped many times to take photos of the amazing scenery and alpine flowers. I’d not really given it much thought during the planning, I’d been that caught up in the destination that it was an additional lovely surprise. Mesa itself was a diminutive form much lower than our current height and it felt weird to be walking downhill towards it. It’s not a mountain, a peak or even a hill. It’s not even much of a mesa, to be honest, and this had us all confused. To be fair, there is a very small cliff line you can see obscured in the scrub on one side as you approach it, but nothing like some of the impressive sandstone ones you see elsewhere.

Hartz and Snowy mountains on the horizon, basalt rock under our feet?

We had the unexpected pleasure of wandering into a couple who had made an unsuccessful attempt to head out to Vanishing Falls, shortly after having our own discussions about pioneering a route out this very way! Jess spotted them in the distance and I have to say I thought she must have an overactive imagination until I saw what she was looking at!! It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to run into others. We had a chat then made our way to the edge of the open section on the saddle, just before the scrub started.

Heading down to the saddle before the final ‘scrubby’ climb up Mesa. It’s better than it looks.

From the info we now had, we figured we’d be in for some scrub, but might find some relief in a section of King Billy forest with pineapple grass underfoot. As it turned out, we wove through the early scrub with no real bashing involved, then walked straight into the lovely forest. We couldn’t believe our luck although we were reluctant to talk too much about it until we reached the summit.

Ben popping over the edge of Mesa, just shy of the summit, Adamsons and the Calf in the background.

I got to lead the final section, as it was the only peak I hadn’t climbed. It had worked out that we each got to lead up a mountain we’d not climbed, which is always nice :D. The finally pinch on Mesa got a little less open, with big scoparia bushes growing horizontally out of the pretty vertical sides, but it was at least a short distance and we grunted our way up, somehow avoiding any real cliffs.

Jess and Ben on the summit of Mesa, brilliant walking mates!
PB might have dominated the view for most of the day. Here alongside Bisdee and Victoria.

The summit itself was another glorious one, open and sunny, with plenty of spots to sit or lounge and views to everywhere! We felt particularly close to the Southern Ranges and PB, but even Fedder was close. Bobs looked different from this angle too. We spent a long time there, having lunch (or a second lunch as the case may have been). It was only sense and a desire to get back before it was too late that finally dragged us away.

Heading back down through the mostly open forest – the walking was actually delightful.
There was a short band of scrub on the ascent back to the shoulder of the Calf, and some impressive rock too.
An idea of how impressive the rock was. The way down was quite easy, right next to a full-on rock cave thing you could bivvy in if need be.

Fortunately the way back was more down than up, all of us feeling rather weary and lacking in juice for the legs. We opted for a sidle around the Calf, which worked out very well. After the slog back up Adamsons we were wearily grateful that it was now downhill all the way. We celebrated with another decent break to enjoy the views we hadn’t had when we’d first summited and to procrastinate from what lay ahead! I ate dinner, this being one of the rare occasions I took some on a day walk.

Sidling around the Calf, looking along the ridge back to Adamsons Peak
Jess makes her way to the high point on Adamsons, the Calf behind. You can even see Fedder.

Then commenced the rather mindless traipse back, each of us fairly quiet, off with our own thoughts (or lack thereof). I certainly was weary enough to have a pretty empty mind and simply enjoyed that feeling. Sore knees aside we made relatively good progress down, arriving back at the cars before 7:30. We figured it still counted as an epic day trip, despite not needing head torches at all, based purely on the figures below. Ben reckons it’s a record for elevation gained in a day walk. I wouldn’t think he’d be wrong in that either.

All up: 23.6km, 13:28hrs, 1780m ascent

One last look back along the ridge from the summit. Check out the mountains we climbed, and all those ranges in the distance!
And down we go, the climb up Adamsons is brilliant in its own right.
Last glance before we head down and into the forest. The sun is still warm and later would light up the sky in pinks and oranges.

Pokana Peak: 1-4 January 2021

Pokana GPS route. Yes, it looks like we camped in the Lake. We didn’t. We camped at the intersection of the three tracks and it was definitely dry land! Unfortunately it added a good 1.5km on to each way of the walk.

Pandani club walks to mountains I’ve not yet climbed are few and far between and so I got very excited when I saw Simon had put this one on the program. I nearly forgot to sign up in my newly developed forgetfulness, but was reminded by a comment from a friend. Fortunately there was still a spot for me AND I still had use of Graham’s kayaks, though it would likely be their final trip with me. As the date approached the fact that it was an awesome way to start the new year became apparent and my excitement grew further. As always, the more excited I got and the more invested in the possibility of climbing new mountains I became, the more I started to get concerned by potential barriers. For this one, I was concerned that we had a large group, nine in total. All were strong walkers, but that becomes irrelevant past a certain size, as more walkers exponentially increase the time things regardless of ability.

Getting unloaded and all packed up ready to launch. Just a few of us – what a great group to be part of!

The weather was looking ok, but not brilliant according to the forecast. There was talk of climbing both The Pleiades and Pokana in the one day, although the trip was initially advertised for just Pokana. Both might be achievable by a solo walker in 24 hours, but would be at least a 30km round trip according to the map, and longer in actual distance walked. The terrain looked mostly open, but with some scrubby pockets and some reportedly big button grass clumps. Together that felt like a big ask for a large group, and even Pokana alone would be a long day.

Clear Hill behind Bianca and Tim… stunning place to paddle

The wise thing was to acknowledge the wisdom in Murphy’s law and plan for the worst. I asked Tim, who’d asked me to give him and his kayak a lift, if he had the 4th of January off. He didn’t, but worked a bit of magic, managed to get hold of the right people between Christmas and the New Year and got a day of leave approved. And so we had ourselves an extra day to climb whatever we might not get up on the Saturday. Simon, as leader of the walk, gave us the nod of approval. With all eventualities controlled for I settled back to let the trip play out however it would.

The cliffs of Stepped Hills with dead trees in the flooded Lake Gordon. They were pretty, even if they were long dead.

We had a relaxed 9am meet up at Granton, and picked up the final two members of the party at Maydena and an otherwise enjoyable drive down to the northern end of Clear Hill Road, with plenty of philosophical conversation to keep us both awake. For a large group we were pretty efficient at unloading and packing our kayaks, had a quick bite to eat and then began a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable paddle out on Gordon Lake in the early afternoon.

Tim has a smile on his face most of the time, even when he’s pushing through scrub

The mountains were lovely, with Clear Hill and Stepped Hills dominating initially, but the sharp, craggy point of Center Star soon stealing the limelight. As we paddled through sections of dead trees Tim mentioned how weird it felt to be paddling through the forest, and he was right. It was beautiful, but slightly haunted in a desolate kind of way. If it wasn’t for the blue sky it would have been colourless seemingly lifeless. If you looked closely though there were lots of swallows, the odd spider on trees in the middle of the lake, and a whole heap of bees that I suspect had chosen one of the old trees for their hive.

There were some big trees in the lake.. and some that moved a lot in the water, waiting to fall over.
Center and South Stars as Simon and Mark paddle past. I do like the look of those cliffs!
And there she lies… Pokana Peak dead ahead.

The fact that the water level was something like 27m below maximum capacity meant all our maps were inaccurate and we had to navigate around raised bits of land that should have been under water. After one false lead, we pulled up on a flat and not too boggy spot that looked like it had been burned out in the recent fires. It would be about as close as we reckoned we could get to where we’d ascend into the ridge that would ultimately lead north to Pokana or south to The Pleiades. The maps technically had us camping in the water, 1.5km from where the edge of the water should have been! Out we hopped, and spent the next 30 minutes pitching tents and getting ourselves sorted.

This looks like a pretty good place to camp.
Sitting around at dinner time… chatting the time away while Pokana sits in the background.

‘Now what?!’ Jess asked. We lamented not having any cards or twister or even a frisbee, but entertained ourselves sitting round eating, telling stories, talking mountains and throwing bits of caked mud at a central cup. Time flew by, barely noticed. As the mountains and then clouds started to sport a bit of colour we migrated to the lake shore with our cameras and continued our conversations, almost as if uninterrupted. People stepped away every now and again to take a photo before returning to resume partaking in the chatter. It was a lovely way to bring an end to the first day of the year. I retired to my tent to read, but was too tired to keep my eyes open, so fell asleep to the pleasant chorus of frogs instead.

Evening light on Clear Hill from our campsite.
A last little bit of colour off the side of The Pleiades. Good night…

The day dawned bright with no sign of rain and only a few clouds. Much better than anticipated, but a bit too good, as it would turn out. The mornings entertainment began with news that something had stolen the power bank Ben used to take time lapse footage! It seemed there was a rascal about the place and it wasn’t the last we’d hear of it.

Early morning light on the ridge that we ascend in order to get to Pokana Peak
Looking the opposite way, towards Lake Gordon and Clear Hill. It’s a pretty morning.
Early morning sun on Goondie tents.
All lined up at dawn

We set off at 7, across the plains that were, on the map, supposed to be underwater too. Heading northwest we set our sights on a ridge that looked ok, and managed to weave a way there that avoided most of the scrub. Six black cockatoos flew overhead, calling as they went. It had all the makings of a good day. I felt light on my feet and happy in my heart. I was completely at home out here amongst the crunch of button grass and the occasional waft of lemon-scented boronia as the sweat began to run down our faces.

Setting off at 7am, we traipse across the plain that is supposed to be under water, heading for a clear ridge off to the left of this photo. Pokana Peak is the high point to the right.
Simon leads us through the first bits of scrub.

We made slow progress, held up mostly by all the photos we wanted to take and on occasion by discussions about our chosen route. Later, when we started to climb up the ridge, we were slowed by steep, uneven terrain with thicker than expected scrub and a day that was already proving to be hot.

It’s a long, hot climb and we take plenty of breaks and examine lots of different flowers. How cool is Bianca’s hat, btw?!

We had numerous rest breaks and lots of chatter about everything under the sun, as is bound to happen when you have experts in organic chemistry, physics, science, physiotherapy and IT amongst your numbers (and that’s far from an exhaustive list!). We pondered why button grass reflected the sun so well and where the tanins came from that stained the water, and I learnt that there are genetically different pepper berries, some that produce the peppery compound, and others that don’t have it (don’t collect your leaves from Mt Field if you want peppery ones!). We had questions about long legged flies, frogs, and why cicadas were so much smaller here than on the mainland. We enjoyed the blanfordia, which was looking stunning in its prime and even found a couple of isophysis (formerly known as hewardia). Clearly, we mused over and examined all the important issues!

We make it onto the first ridge, the hardest and steepest bit of the climb done, and reap the rewards of some stunning views. Pokana sits in the middel of the photo here.
Blanfordia, aka Christmas Bells. They were just pefrect!

In this fashion it took us two hours to reach the ridge we were attempting to climb on to. We turned along it to the right, where the walking wasn’t bad but equally wasn’t the easiest underfoot. We followed it all the way down to a river, which was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. Slogging back up the far side all the way to the ridge that would take us to Pokana was hard work, now in the heat of the day, although Mark chose a brilliant route and did the bulk of the bash. The reward was a late lunch in the shade of rocks.

It took us two hours to get here. Turning right, we walk along the ridge, always on the western side of the rocky and scrubby buttresses.
It’s stinking hot, but at this point we’re not sure where our next lot of water is going to come from. I’m grateful for the 3 litres on my back. Mark takes a swig from his bottle.
Tracey doesn’t like having her photo taken, but I reckon she looks pretty happy here, in amongst the mountains! You can see the less scrubby ramp we used to ascend on to the ridge on the left – it sits in the middle of the photo.
While the going wasn’t easy, it was pretty. Pokana Peak peaks between the rocks.
Jess leads the way forward. She has a particular knack of walking onto pads!
Looking back at the ridge we’ve just walked along. You can see why we sidled just under the rocky bits, it’s where the scrub is easiest.

I think we all knew we weren’t walking fast enough as a group, but it wasn’t easy to call it even though an early turn around and a swim in the lake may have been a more sensible use of time! Two turned around first, then a third, and finally, when we realised we’d be returning to camp in the early hours of the morning if we continued, the last of us also sensibly called it quits.

More sidling, looking back south. It’s not easy walking and we became rather strung out despite the regular stops. It was time to call it.

We all met back up at the creek and walked the rest of the way back together. We retraced steps except that we chose a different ridge to descend, which proved less scrubby and more direct. Dinner was at 10 followed immediately by bed. I got a glimpse of our cheeky furry friend that evening and thought it was a quoll. I was mistaken, but didn’t discover this till the following evening.

Having turned around we head slowly back, choosing a different ridge to descend. It’s a wise choice and we make it down to the bottom before it gets dark. We just had to walk the plain by moon or torch light.

I woke to find one of my clogs had been relocated, but was fortunately easy enough to find. I shook my head with a smile on my face, then got busy getting ready. The others had multiple items relocated as well. They were all due to paddle out, but Tim and I had our extra day. We figured we’d make the most of our bashed pad and head back for another crack at Pokana. Determined to learn from our very recent lesson in what not to do we’d decided to set the alarm early so we’d be ready to leave at 6.

The morning starts off well, a red glow to wake us up and plenty of cloud cover to keep things a tad cooler than the day before.

We said our goodbyes to those of the others who were awake early and headed off, noticeably fatigued from the 15 hours we’d been on our feet for the day before. We were sure we could move faster with just the two of us, but weren’t arrogant enough to be confident of this, and so we hit the slopes of the ridge hard. I was drenched before we got half way up because while it wasn’t a hot day yet, and the sun was still behind the clouds, it was humid.

We’re on the ridge in 1.5 hrs this time, drenched, but happy to have the big climb done.

We made good time along the ridge heading north to Pokana and found ourselves at the point we’d turned around after 4.5 hours of walking. We were almost moving twice as fast. This took a huge amount of pressure off and so we slowed the pace down and took longer rest stops. It was probably just as well, poor Tim had an unsettled gut and I can’t imagine how he managed to walk as he did in between loo stops. I was at my limit and I was fighting fit!

At the point we turned around in nearly half the time, we’re feeling good enough to slow things down. We decide to pop over the top of the ridge, then duck over to the eastern side. It proves to be a wise decision. Isn’t there a stunning rocky backbone to this ridge?

As it transpired, we’d turned around having done the hardest part of the walk. The ridge we were on was one with a rocky spine that hadn’t been any good for staying high. So we’d traversed under the rocky outcrops on the western side, which had been to that point a messy and slow process. But we were at a spot now when it made sense to climb on to the top of the ridge, and sure enough, the way forward was much easier. We scrambled down, crossed to the other side of the ridge, and then cut off the corner as we started heading more WNW on an intersecting ridge that would take us to the summit.

On top of the ridge, looking towards Pokana on the right. The going looks (and is!) easier from now onwards.

The scrub was mostly ankle to shin high, but in spots was deeper and thicker, making us lurch across the terrain like a pair of drunkards. It didn’t matter though – as tired and as ready as we were for some easier walking, the summit suddenly seemed closer and more achievable. Up we plodded, drenched in sweat and no extra energy in our legs, determination propelling us on. We climbed the final rocky outcrop to discover the summit cairn wasn’t a cairn but one of those concrete markers! It was 12:15 – we’d made it just in time for lunch.

Tim leads to just shy of the summit, then insists I do the honours.

We ate, let the others know we’d made it, chatted and enjoyed the views and the feeling of slightly drier shirts! It was hard to know what to look at: the Spires, the Dennison range, the POWs,or the more popular Western Arthurs, Frenchmans, Mt Anne and even Federation Peak. All were visible from the summit and it was understandably a tough one to drag ourselves away from.

On the summit, looking back along the ridges we’d walked. The tents are out of the photo to the left, where you can see just a little bit of the shore that should be underwater.
Looking towards the Dennison Range
North of Pokana the ridge looks like very nice walking. Pity we hadn’t had more of that!
The summit pillar of concrete. Lake Gordon and Clear hill in the distance

We had no choice though, if we wanted to get back for a swim before dark. The return is much of a blur. We took it in turns to lead, swapping after rest stops. Conversation came in short bursts, both of us focused on getting down and having very little energy for anything more than simple observations. We hadn’t done a huge amount of walking together, but were figuring out what worked in a relatively smooth way. Tim was another one of those easy to walk with kind of people (probably more so than me!).

A glance towards Humboldt on the way back.. I just liked the lines and patterns here.

We arrived back at the river at 5, all set for a 7-7:30 arrival back at the tents. It proved to be closer to the latter, largely because neither of us had knees that wanted to get up! We had entertained the idea of a flying fox on numerous occasions on this walk, but sadly one hadn’t materialised.

Plodding back, it’s a long way!

Across the ridge we moved, the slight incline feeling more than slight! And then finally it was time to drop off and down. We did plenty of sliding in the steeper parts, some bits more controlled than others. And then we were at the bottom, with just the open flat left. It had felt like an age the day before and it was no shorter this time round.

Finally, we just have the down to go!

A little red breasted robin greeted me at my tent as I set about sorting myself out in order of importance. Aching feet were keen to get out of boots and I couldn’t wait to get in some cold, cleansing water, even if it was now much cooler all round. It was absolutely wonderful! Dinner followed, and while I had plans of many grand things to fill the evening with I fell straight asleep for a couple of hours. I woke to the sound of the cheeky furry animal dragging one boot away and discovered it was in fact a Tassie devil! We had a few moments before he scampered off. I decided I’d best not leave anything in the vestibules!

We had entertained the idea of climbing the Pleiades before paddling out on our last day, but had called it off with Tim’s upset gut. Regardless, I’m not sure either of us wanted to see any more button grass and melaleuca for a while! So we had a lazy morning with no alarms to wake us, pottered around a bit, waited for the sun to peak out between the clouds and eventually packed up. All of this was accompanied by a chorus of frogs and the twitter of little birds.

The paddle back started off seriously, but part way along as the wind died down and the sun came out we drifted along chatting more than we paddled, neither of us in any great rush to leave the mountains for a whole heap of washing and packing away that we knew awaited us. A late lunch at the Possum Shed rounded off a pretty good trip – we can both recommend the Possum Shed BLT!

All up:

Day 1 paddle: 7.6km, 1:44hrs

Day 2 attempt: 16.3km, 14:55hrs, 1116m ascent

Day 3 actual summit: 19.7km, 13:21hrs, 1453m ascent

Mount Shaula (the one that got away): 30 October – 1 November 2020

Mt Shaula GPS route

It’s been the hardest 6 months I’ve ever had and yet it’s also been a time of reflection, discovery and quite substantial growth, which is far from finished. When the core that you’ve built your life around gets ripped away, you’re kind of forced to reevaluate everything you do and decide how you want to do it now. Even in his death Graham seems to be teaching me things and encouraging me to be a better version of me. Everything has been in the firing line, ranging from little things like how frequently I floss my teeth to the bigger issues of work, hobbies, health and fitness. The only thing that’s staying pretty much the same is bushwalking (although even that might be being ramped up a tad, and obviously I’m back to solo walking too!). I haven’t been able explain why walking was the one thing that’s been working, but by the end of the walk I certainly had more of an idea.

I had 5 days set aside, but two weren’t looking flash with the weather and I had just planted out some tomato, capsicum and eggplant seedlings that were going to need more water than once every 5 days, so I decided to just go for the three good days . King William III, Shaula or Robert… hmmm. The decision was hard and I was going to go with KW3 for a couple of reasons, but then a message from a friend had me pretty keen on two nights camping high on the Western Arthurs. So Shaula it was. It was hard to believe it had already been 6 years since I’d last walked past the mountain and I was stoked to finally be returning :D! I’d first walked the Western Arthurs and all the peaks with Graham and Shaz on a magical 9 day trip. Before we left a friend said, ‘you won’t climb Shaula though, no one ever does on their first go’. He was right, we stood at the point you’d leave from, looking over at it and knew we didn’t have the time and energy to get there and back. So it had remained ‘the one that got away’ for 6.5 years. I always knew I’d be back and it was right near the top of the list for Graham and I, but we hadn’t got there together. So now it was just me. For a three day walk, the days were going to be long because there was a fair distance to cover (nearly 30km one way), but the going would be easy – tracked and open almost all the way, and the camping top notch.

The morning marking practical exams at uni flew by, as did a meeting at the tennis club and then I began a leisurely drive down to the southwest. I could have left the next morning, but I had a LOT of ground to cover, and preferred an early walking start without a ridiculously early driving start (or a mass of animals to avoid)! I wasn’t feeling quite as excited as I had been during the planning – courtesy of good dose of tiredness and feeling a tad under the weather, but that wore off as I listened to a new podcast (all about living with intention as it turned out!), practiced some breathing techniques (the specific episode delved a fair bit into breathing) and watched the sky turn lovely reds and oranges as the sun set. The colour hung around long after sundown and left me with a warm glow inside as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, keen to get at least 7 hours sleep before an early start.

I woke at 5:30 to the alarm, but it was light enough to not need the head torch. I boiled some water for my oats, popped the lot in a thermos for a brunch later on and packed the last few bits and pieces into my pack. It was feeling ridiculously light, a feeling I knew wouldn’t last long! By 6 I was on the track, each step stirring distant memories from previous visits. 

The sky was painted orange again, almost as if it had never left, although now it was a lighter, brighter shade. Again it hung around, reminding me all too soon how difficult it is to look at the views and walk on the track without stumbling! The track wasn’t much different to how I remembered it, perhaps just an extra sign telling unprepared walkers to turn back. Oh, and more of the typical southwest mud than I could remember, but that’s usual for me to forget!

The bright oranges from earlier settle into more subdued shades as the dawn grows stale

I set into a gentle plod, no need to race, and just went with the flow. It was going to be a warm day – it’s not often I have my shirt sleeves rolled up by 6:30! But for now, I was going to enjoy the pleasant smell and temperature of a fine spring day. Sometimes I thought about things, other times I just breathed and walked. I passed another solo female walker who had been in to the start of the range. That accounted for the only other car in the carpark, so I figured I’d have the range to myself! 

The cloud slowly burns off the back of the range.

I arrived at Junction creek at 9, remembering how Shaz and slipped on the little wooden ladder and bruised her tailbone – something to laugh at now but something that had given her grief for the rest of the trip! I had a refreshing drink and continued on along the plains. To this point there hadn’t been much sign of the 2018/19 fires, but that changed shortly after Junction creek and stayed around until my departure point (technically not Moraine K, I was cutting off the corner!). Here the ground was crunchy, although the button grass was coming back, as were some everlastings and the odd patch of sundews. The track was just as easy to follow – rocky underfoot with muddy and boggy patches, especially near rivers. The shortcut was perfect too. It was open going all the way except when crossing Seven Mile River, where there was a track (maybe an old route??). 

I’d forgotten how brilliant the colours and scenery was out here. Mt Shaula is the pointy thing on the right.

By midday I’d started climbing onto the range and didn’t take long to intersect the official route down Moraine K. It was a long slog up, made even longer by the fact I kept wanting to take photos. I’d really slowed down by now anyway, knowing I had all afternoon to travel what was now a relatively short distance and wanting to conserve my energy for the next day. 

Heading up Moraine K you can see where the fires started and stopped. There’s beauty in death here.
Slowly getting higher.
Looking towards the eastern end of the Western Arthurs, technically out of bounds still

When I did finally feel like I was up and on the range properly I started moving at snails pace, stopping repeatedly to take photos or even just stand and stare. I’d forgotten how much walking in the Arthurs fills you with awe and amazement. If ever there was a land of gods, this would be it. Every twist and turn or rise and dip presents a new perspective of folded ridges and dramatic, imposing mountains. To be able to walk in the midst of it all is just delightful. So I savoured every moment, moving only fast enough to keep from getting cold. Familiar bits of track and unique trees and rocks gave me déjà vu, and distant memories trickled back from a lifetime ago. I walked slower still. 

Finally on top, Shaula is the diminutive bump in the centre foreground.

There’s an old King Billy pine just before the descent to Haven Lake, which I’d forgotten about, and it was lovely to find it looking much the same as the last time I passed it by. Down to the lake I dropped. As tempting as the tent platforms and easy access to water might have been for weary feet, I’d been recommended an even better spot, which meant I still had a short walk to do. I partly filled an 8L dry bag with extra water (they do wonderfully as an emergency water bladder, so long as they aren’t too holey!) and continued around the lake. A short climb took me to a saddle in the ridge, which gave brilliant views NW along the range, directly towards the Beggary Bumps and Shaula. It was exposed, but the wind had died down and wasn’t going to pick up until after I was home, making it a perfect spot to stay!

Shaula up close. Looking pretty steep and scrubby from this side.
The eastern end of the Western Arthurs with Fedder in the background
The western end of the Western Arthurs. What a place to be!
Fedder!
Fedder, Aldebaran and some cool king billies.
One of my favourite trees!

While it wasn’t even 4pm I pitched the tent and got some soup and dinner going, and then settled in for an afternoon of reading, writing notes and simply enjoying being in such a lovely place. The sun had settled to a warming caress, and I watched as it turned the mountains different colours during its journey through the sky. Birds chirped in the distance and only the odd fly came to disturb the peace. It was a perfect afternoon, full of silence. To top it off I happened to glance behind the tent as the sun was setting, just in time to watch the full moon peak out from behind rock. And there I stayed, mesmerised as slowly it floated higher and higher, into the sky. 

Not a bad view from the bedroom?
Sunset that night
Followed shortly by moon rise.

I had no need to be up at any particular time so I set no alarm, what a luxury! My bladder had other ideas, and I read for a bit before dozing off again. It was close to 8 when I finally decided I’d best get moving, because while I might not have had a huge distance to go, I wasn’t sure how long the side trip to Shaula might take. If it was horrible scrub, it could be pretty slow! 

Sunrise the next morning.

It was cool and overcast to start and it took a while to shake off the stiffness that had settled in overnight. But the scramble up Taurus and then along the eastern end of the Beggary Bumps soon had me working up a sweat. It took a little longer to get over the disappointment of the morning – waking to find the SD card in my camera had suddenly decided to have an error. All the photos from the day before weren’t visible, and no new ones could be stored on it. I hoped it could be salvaged when I got home (It could! But it’s also getting replaced before the next trip)! Fortunately I’ve carried a spare with me on every trip for the last 8 years.

The Beggary Bumps are very up and down and my legs were feeling the slog up Moraine K from the day before, so it was with a fair bit of relief that I stopped just shy of one of the bigger ‘bumps’ and readied myself to plunge off track into the scrub. There was a little bit of a clearing where people had clearly sat before, so I made myself comfortable and enjoyed brunch – so yummy on a hungry tummy!

Heading over to Shaula, this one taken on the descent from Mt Taurus on the way towards the Beggary Bumps
The Beggary Bumps, aptly named!

When it came time to step down into the scrub I was pleasantly surprised. There was a little bit of a pad to start with, but more impressive was the vegetation. It was a lovely mix of low lying heath, pandani and moss. Later on a few more trees came into the picture but even here the scoparia was generous enough to be over head high so as to not cause any significant obstacle. What I expected to be a hefty scrub bash was more of a twist and turn through the lovely, ancient vegetation. Down into the dip and then back up the other side until I hit the ridge that runs out to Shaula.

Some lovely scrub to walk through on the way to Shaula
A curly haired pandani with a hairdresser who isn’t afraid of colour!

Even here the going was pretty good. There was a pad that wasn’t too branched and that didn’t have too many false leads and the further along the ridge I went the more open the going got. A final rocky scramble straight up a false summit and then the real deal. Ah, to be sitting on the summit of ‘the one that got away’…it would have been nice to have shared it with Graham and Shaz. I held them in my thoughts instead while I sat there looking back at the range, munching on a snack. 

On the summit of Shaula, looking back towards camp (the saddle in the middle of the photo).

The return flew by, even though I was moving no faster. I took great pleasure in the little things. The small tadpole filled soak on the middle of the ridge out to Shaula, the bumble bee a little further on who had chosen such a beautiful place to call home, the little spider dressed in Spider-Man colours, the characteristic flap of a startled Bronzewing, the grasshopper who was as stunned as I was to find him land in my mouth, and of course, the tree that appeared to be growing out of nothing but pure rock. I had just been talking to a friend, who had also lost his partner in the last 6 months, about how important the things were that filled us with awe (an idea from the book Phosphorescence). And here I was, in the middle of nowhere, completely alone, being bombarded by lots of little things that made me smile, sometimes even chuckle, and definitely filled me with awe and wonder. There was indeed so much to be grateful for.

Taddies!

Back at the tent I finished off a book Jess had lent me called Silence in the Age of Noise. It’s a lovely little book, easy to read, that sets out a case for the importance of finding silence in our lives. Right at its end, it puts into words the reason I go walking in a way I never could have. 

Which paths lead to silence? Certainly trips into the wild. Leave your electronics at home, take off in one direction until there’s nothing around you. Be alone for three days. Don’t talk to anyone. Gradually you will rediscover the other sides of yourself. The most important thing, however, is…that we each discover our own way…Sva marga: follow your own path. 

And so, in a world that may not be any more uncertain than it always was, but where I’m more acutely aware of uncertainty and transience, I am clear about one thing. I will always be able to find silence and rediscover myself when I walk in the wild. That is my path. I am not much one for the treadmill of commuting, working, earning and spending money, keeping up to date with the news, social media or the latest series on Netflix. But maybe I don’t need to be ;).

One more glance towards Fedder, with PB on the right

The following morning I woke in the middle of the cloud, as expected, but had a lovely show as I packed my gear, with the mountains appearing and disappearing just as fast behind the white veil. When it was time I said my goodbyes and made my way slowly off the range. I was in no rush, again I had the whole day, and there wasn’t anywhere better to be but here. I had a moment with one, and then two, currawongs, who made me feel like I was part of the landscape rather than someone simply passing through… then again perhaps they just wanted to see if I’d put down my pack for a bit!

Good morning world!
A brief reveal
Close up of the Western Arthurs summits
Haven Lake reflections
A misty Haven Lake
Still the cloud came and went.
A currawong came to check I wasn’t too lonely… and then his mate joined him. It was kind of cool.
Stunning walking, whether you can see the views or not!
Mt Scorpio is a stunning mountain for anyone who loves scrambling!

Down I went, then across the plains again. Still shocked at how beautiful the place was. I met several people walking in. The first, a pair of older women, who asked me if I’d made it to Shaula. I was delighted they’d taken the time to read and remember this from the log book, but even more at the fact that here were two women enjoying some of the most stunning walking at an age I can only hope I’ll still be walking at. The next was a guy who was part way through traversing Tassie from north to south. I was impressed, if slightly envious… it’s something that’s been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a little while now ;). He’d even been through the POWs as part of it. I could have spent much longer chatting, but he clearly needed to be getting on, as did I. When he left I was struck how clean he looked – I’d been out for 3 days and was covered in mud, he looked in mint condition in comparison! The final guy, who I met maybe 45 minutes from the car park simply asked me if there was anywhere to camp within 2-3 hours, so I mentioned Junction Creek, slightly puzzled by the question, and the fact that he was walking without a shirt on. Hmmm…

On the way down I figured this was as good a place as any to have brunch.
A last look back. I’ll be back, and it won’t be in another 6.5 years!

While I was glad to be back at the car to get off my achy feet, and heading in to town where I could get some salmon for a bit of a treat for dinner, there was part of me that could easily have stayed out there for a bit longer…

Day 1: 24.5km, 10hrs, 1437m ascent

Day 2: 8.4km, 6:51hrs, 993m ascent

Day 3: 24km, 9:17hrs, 862m ascent

I was surprised at how dry it was in light of how much rain we’ve had recently. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of boggy mud patches, but there was also a lot that was way drier that I expected!
I love these guys, they always remind me of SW Tassie, especially the Arthurs.
An ant on some everlasting daisies
Pristine
It’s spring time!
New growth. Love you??
Lots of young shoots post fire – it was lovely to see!

Scotts Peak: 10-12 October 2020

Scotts Peak GPS route.

How one thing leads to something unexpected… It always fascinates me how things somehow just work out and the results can be better than you could have imagined. A sore foot and therefore a desire not to walk much on 3 days we had set aside to do just that lead to a really cool alternative plan that involved paddling on Lake Pedder and revisiting two old friends of mine. As the plan materialised our excitement grew!

Charlotte and I had set aside Friday night to Tuesday morning to go on a walk, wherever the weather was good. Charlotte’s partner, and a work colleague of mine, asked if he could come too. I’m not sure he even needed to ask, there was only ever going to be one answer! The final arrangements fell into place smoothly, with only the small hitch that I could only find one set of kayak cradles for the roof racks. Never mind, we’d figure out a way. It proved as easy as inverting the single kayak and laying it alongside the double in the cradles. 

We cruised out to Lake Pedder, putting the boats in the water at the Scotts Peak boat ramp, and paddling into the moderate breeze for a bit over an hour. It was windy enough that Charlotte, who was sitting in the front of the double kept getting fresh water over the bow of the boat every time we smacked down over the larger waves. But her and Kenny’s wetsuit gloves and booties keep the extremities warm even if they were wet so it wasn’t a miserable affair. We had intermittent light showers, but nothing dense enough to steal away the partial view we had of the surrounding mountains. 

When we beached on the isthmus to Scotts Peak we set up our tents and had some lunch, sheltering from the latest rain cloud. Charlotte was pretty keen to climb her mountain and I liked that the first walk we were doing together was the first one I’d done in Tassie. Scotts Peak is a brilliant little mountain to climb, one where it’s got to be nearly impossible not to fall in love with the southwest. A small island in the middle of Lake Pedder, on a clear and still day it’s surrounded by blue sky reflected in tannin stained fresh water, with mountains in every direction you look. That was my first experience of Tassie bush. 

Photo by Simon Kendrick, taken on my first ever bushwalk during the paddle over to Scotts Peak. You get the idea about a mirrored sky and mountains all around!
Another of Simon’s images from that first walk, showing the Frankland and Giblin ranges mirrored in Lake Pedder
And a final one from Simon, as we descend. Clearly an appropriate walk for young kids, or even those without any real gear!

The weather was slightly different this time around and I was much more experienced as a bushwalker, but still it was lovely to climb to the top with two people who hadn’t been there before. It barely rained on us, and on the way down shafts of sunlight shone through the cloud some distance away, casting white patches on the surface of the lake. The wind whipped up waves in lovely patterns, the clouds were dark and moody. The terrain was much as I remembered it, a mix of low southwest scrub – button grass, boronia, tea tree and melaleuca at the comfortable level of ankle to shin high. The climb was short but steep enough to make you feel it. The rain made it very slippery underfoot, the ground was coated with that clear-muddy goop that often has you slipping back further than you just stepped forward. 

This time, the sky was moody, the sun intermittent, the wind whipped up patterns on the water. It was a different kind of beautiful (even if I only had my rather old iPhone SE to capture it with)!
Summit photo. It was cool, but not too wet! Clearly I’m in perfect company too :D!

Back at the tents we had a surprise visit from a sea eagle, who flew quite low to us, and continued on around the island! It shocked me that one was so far from the coast and it had us all feeling full of awe, I think. When the moment had passed, Charlotte and Kenny got busy preparing a delicious dinner while we had an entree of bikkies and cheese and quince paste. The benefit of kayaking over walking was that you could afford to be luxurious! The main course was couscous with falafels, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, chickpeas, olives, sauerkraut and a few other bits and pieces that I’ve already forgotten. Exotic, no? We shared a dessert of raspberry intense chocolate while we played cards and then called it a night.

Rainbows, clouds, mountains, fresh air, sea eagles… no where else to be!
One of the best dinners ever and a hint of blue sky!
Said dinner up close – photo by Kenny Yap. Yum!!

The next day we waited for the rain showers to mostly finish before getting back in the kayaks to visit Mount Solitary. I’ve written about this one elsewhere, so won’t repeat myself. It’s just worth noting that the same approach is now almost completely burnt out to the summit, sadly, from the 2018/2019 fires. It makes for a slightly spikier, blacker approach, that’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing. It was nice to see little everlasting daisies starting to regenerate though. 

The weather was better for kayaking, although still a little bumpy. Photo by Kenny.
An idea of the fire damage right near the top of Mount Solitary. Compare it to photos from my original post on the walk at https://rockmonkeyadventures.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/mount-solitary-22-23-march-2015/
Another of the fire damage, along with a rather dirty me! Photo by Kenny.
Kenny and I. Again, you can see how extensive the fire damage was. Must have been hit by lightening in 2018/2019. Photo by Charlotte Blake.

Another gourmet dinner that we nearly didn’t have enough gas for was followed by an evening lying on a tarp, wrapped in our sleeping bags, gazing up at the stars, chatting intermittently. It was one of those evenings that are just right and I had no desire to be anywhere else. 

Kenny cooks another delicious meal as the sun sinks low behind Mount Jim Brown.

This was a trip of a lot of reflecting, remembering, a little bit of missing, but also a lot of being grateful for what is. It’s interesting that I chose to start my blog post on Solitary with a paragraph on change and what it can bring. It was from 5 years ago, a time still near the beginning of my relationship with Graham, so the changes I was referring to were significantly positive. The changes over the last 6 months (yikes!) have been quite different, but it’s a fitting reminder that change does bring new possibilities. I’m trying hard to be grateful for the amount of time I now spend with friends, some old and some new; the personal changes and developments I’m making; and to be hopeful that somehow, at some point, I’ll look back and be able to identify what the experts call post-traumatic growth. We’ll see…

All up: 2.6km, 1:45hrs, 395m ascent (Just the walking part. Approximately 45-60mins kayaking depending on level and direction of wind!)

Koruna Peak: 11-12 June 2020

And there she lies, still a long way ahead, but that's ok!

GPS route to Koruna
GPS route to Koruna (on the Wilmot range)

What changes we’ve all witnessed, most especially these last few months. Some collective, many individual as well. Why should we be surprised – the only certainty in life (apart from death, but we’ll get to that) is change. I’ve revisited a poem Graham first introduced me to a few years ago, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s titled Allow, by Danna Faulds.

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in
the wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or
sadness veils your vision with despair,
Practice becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.

Serpentine Dam, start of the track
Serpentine Dam, start of the track

The last five lines have played over and over in my head as I’ve tried to turn them from something I can understand on an intellectual level to something I actually feel and trust in. It will come as a shock to many of you who don’t know me in person, that Graham died on the morning of Good Friday. Yep, the strong, healthy, always smiling, super adventurous bushwalker that he was (amongst other things). He had an undiagnosed, completely asymptomatic, perhaps genetic, condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy for anyone who is wondering) that lead to a sudden cardiac arrest. And so I’ve spent the last two months trying to get my head and heart around losing my best friend, partner, lover, mentor and fellow adventurer. 

I wonder what the river looked like before the dam wall was built?

Bushwalking in Tassie wilderness was where I first discovered myself, grew a healthy sense of self-confidence, esteem and belief, discovered mindfulness and worked on perfecting the act of being utterly in the moment. It remains the place where I do this best. It was also where I met and fell in love with Graham and where we shared so many magical moments. I was hardly surprised that the one thing I wanted to be able to do was to get away to the mountains for a few days. I didn’t know what I was going to find, just knew I really needed to go. I’d become increasingly restless deep down, not so much that it showed on the outside (I think!). Part of it was having lost all certainty in living a meaningful life. It wasn’t that all the other things in my life besides Graham had lost their meaning or worth, it was that I’d planned them and undertook them in such a way that they fitted in with the overarching goal of sharing as much time with Graham. I didn’t do extra study to move up a level at work, I didn’t play more tennis, I no longer went on solo bush walks. In general, I had much less ambition in those aspects of life because none were anywhere near as important, fulfilling or as special as Graham.

A near perfect start to the day - nothing like abstinence to make one appreciate all the small things in life
A near perfect start to the day – nothing like abstinence to make one appreciate all the small things in life

People say it takes time, not to rush, be gentle on yourself. I’m prepared to do that in my grief for Graham. I don’t actually want to get to a point that I can speak about him without tears in my eyes or a waver in my voice. But I’m not very good at floating along without a sense of purpose, something meaningful to work towards and, most importantly, a sense of self-worth. Again, I know in essence who I am and what I mean hasn’t changed to the people who know and love me. In fact, I’ve been blown away by the love and care people have expressed, even those who haven’t spent a lot of time with me. But my perception of my worth has changed regardless. Loving someone in a way that no one else does, being able to make every atom of their body smile whenever you walk into the room, knowing and facilitating all the little things that make them happy multiple times a day – that gives a huge sense of self-worth and identity. Nothing in my life was more meaningful than that. And I don’t know what you do when it’s gone. 

Very quickly the views open up, and they’re lovely

So I turned to the mountains, trusting that I’d find myself out there again. John Muir’s words came to mind, Into the [mountains] I go, to loose my mind and find my soul. Where exactly I went didn’t matter (too much!). I did, of course, prefer a mountain I hadn’t climbed before, and one with a high camp. Track or at least easy open walking was probably a sensible option – I already know what a fragile mind and unrelenting scrub in unfamiliar territory can do to my mind! And so the weather window dictated a small, 2 day window. I don’t usually go on overnight walks because I think I can move faster with a day pack and cover the same territory in a day. But I wanted to spend a night under the stars, and was prepared to make any exception to do so.

Following the track onwards and upwards, it's beautiful terrain
Following the track onwards and upwards, it’s beautiful terrain

Koruna it was. Koruna is part of the Wilmot range (thanks for the correction Chris!), which lies to the north of the Frankland range, and is usually traversed at the same time as the Frankland range. The Frankland range was the first big, multi-day walk I did and I found the honour of being invited on a private walk huge. In some ways it marked my acceptance as a fellow, equal bushwalker, even though I was still very much a novice. Time restrictions dictated an abbreviated walk, and so we’d taken a boat ride up to the foot of Coronation Peak, and ascended the range from that point, traversing south. This meant we skipped the two northern most mountains usually climbed to access the range – Sprent and Koruna. I’d climbed Sprent on a day walk early on in my bushwalking career, in celebration of a friend’s birthday. But Koruna had escaped us, and was on our short list of mountains to climb. With a two day weather window in the southwest, it was the only mountain that met all the criteria.

Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery
Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery

It took a bit to get my head around packing just for me, but we got there in the end. The weather window kept on shifting forward, so a late afternoon walk in on Thursday turned into an early morning departure. I left the suburbs in inky darkness, brightened only by the artificial city lights reflecting on falling drizzle. As I drove on the day turned to misty grey. I listened to an ABC conversation with Cheryl Strayed, on her life and memoir, Wild . It wasn’t planned, but her story touched a few notes with me, and I can definitely recommend it!

Southwest Tassie - there's some familiar friends out there
Southwest Tassie – there’s some familiar friends out there

By the time I’d arrived at Strathgordon (Serpentine Dam) the sky was largely blue, although the sun stayed hidden behind a cloud bank. I put on boots, donned my pack and set off. Straight up. The log book was brand new, put in place in September last year. I was the first entry. This shocked me, then I realised there had been fires and then COVID-19, so it made sense after all. 

Nearly there, one final climb to the top of Mt Sprent
Nearly there, one final climb to the top of Mt Sprent

The track was much as I remembered it – steep, the kind of overgrown that gets you dipping wet if the scrub is damp, and more like a rivulet than a track! It’s pretty badly eroded, such that the boards that were put into place to act as the front part of steps are still there, but the dirt behind them that you step up on to is often boggy and not much higher than the step below. In this way some of the steps are less of a step and more of an obstacle to have lift your feet up and over (and not trip up on!). It didn’t seem like having 9 months off from the pounding of boots had given the land much time to heal. In places, boots had worn away so much and the trench was so narrow it was hard to pass one boot in front of the other. In other spots people had decided it was all too hard and had braided off to one side, starting a new section of track that would in time become just as eroded.

Wedge and the Sentinels - the latter being one of my favourite day walks
Wedge and the Sentinels – the latter being one of my favourite day walks

The forest quickly gave way to an open, flatter section, where the views north and east started to open up. It was sunny but the breeze had a winter chill to it that turned a sweaty shirt into an ice pack if you paused too long to take a photo and fingers felt permanently painful. I drunk it in deeply, fresh air filling my lungs. I felt alive, if incredibly unfit! It was definitely good to be back in the southwest wilderness.

On Sprent, what views! How I've missed them
On Sprent, what views! How I’ve missed them

A bit more overgrown track – the kind where the scrub was only knee to thigh high but because the track was an eroded channel you found it up to your chest or shoulders (if you’re short like me!) – and then back to the lower stuff with lovely views. I stopped a lot to take photos, I think because I didn’t have anyone with me to share the moment in person. And finally, a last little climb and I was on top of Sprent for the second time in my life. It was just over 2 hours after starting out and I knew my glutes and thighs would complain about it in due course, they were well out of shape (turns out my foot, back and shoulders wanted in on the complaining too!).

A black trig, white moon, silver sky, mountains in 50 shades of grey
A black trig, white moon, silver sky, mountains in 50 shades of grey

The views were much better than last time, but the company lacking. And there was no cake or fresh raspberries to indulge in. I didn’t linger long, it was still cold and I’d decided to camp high in a nearby saddle, then scoot off to Koruna. This was a last minute change of plan that had materialised as I had started walking, and had grown out of the axiom to make hay while the sun shined. It was lovely weather, rare enough at this time of year in the southwest, and there was something about the way the forecast had changed over the course of the week that had me not trusting that Friday was going to be the better day after all. It was quite a distance to cover (more than I realised, actually) and because I’d meandered around and hadn’t driven down to start walking at the crack of dawn I wasn’t going to have a lot of daylight with which to play.

I think I'll camp on the saddle in the middle, just past that first knob
I think I’ll camp on the saddle in the middle distance, just past that first knob, in the patch of light brown

Thankfully there wasn’t much wind forecast, because I like choosing exposed camp sites for the views they offer! I pitched the tent, ate a sandwich (no need to go light weight on a 2 day walk, yeah?) and set off at 12:30. After an hour of walking I knew I was going to be walking in the dark on the return leg. Koruna was something like 7.5km from my tent in a straight line, and I was only averaging 2 an hour (obviously you don’t ever walk in a straight line!). Early on Graham used to get upset at me informing him of the number of ‘bushwalking kilometres’ we had to go to a set point until he got used to the idea that a bushwalking kilometre was much closer to a mile than a kilometre!

The colours of the southwest
The colours of the southwest. Wedge and the Sentinel range feature again.

The walking was beautiful, open, ridge-top walking. The terrain shifted seamlessly between alpine grasses to low scrub, and the odd rocky outcrop. The Frankland range has some of the best ridge-top walking in Tassie, and that was true of the Wilmot range too. I remembered back to advice we were given before our traverse 7 years ago – if you find yourself in scrub and you’re not on a pad, you’re in the wrong spot. Unfortunately I remembered this about an hour in, when I was standing in waist high scrub about to descend to a river and back up the other side! It was too late to go searching and I pushed down, through and back up the other side, cursing my stupidity only a little bit. I didn’t have time to spare on unnecessary scrub bashing. Up on the ridge I walked straight onto the pad I should have been on, and resolved to follow it on the return.

And there she lies, still a long way ahead, but that's ok!
And there she lies, still a long way ahead, but that’s ok! Koruna is the dark, cloud covered mountain. Coronation Peak to the left and behind.

I continued along, forcing myself to slow down, enjoy the moments as they rolled into one, and take photos. I had an unusual urgency, knowing deep down that if I was going to climb Koruna I’d be walking back in the dark for 2-3 hours. I told myself my turn around time was 3, when I could just turn around wherever I was and make it back as dusk was falling. I think I knew that wasn’t an option I’d seriously entertain for too long. I kicked myself for not carrying the tent further, thereby reducing the distance I’d have to return today. And so the rest of the walk was an interesting experience in examining the unease, almost fear, I was feeling at the thought of walking in the dark. It seemed ridiculous – I’ve done it numerous times before. Solo and with others, on-track and off-track. I remember some times being really excited by the challenge – the Loddon range was one example! Even through scrub. But perhaps I’d just become so used to sharing all these things with Graham and being wholly comforted by his presence, the unwavering sense of protection he gave and having him there to bounce thoughts off. Either way I was still the one who had to do my own walking. Again, the practical reality hadn’t changed much, but my mindset and internal dialogue certainly had – food for thought.

Turn around time, but how can I when Koruna is so close!
Turn around time, but how can I when Koruna is so close?!

3pm came, Koruna was the next mountain in front of me, but still more than a kilometre away. Of course I was going to climb to the top, couldn’t turn around so close having come so far! I might have been feeling uneasy, but I had a point to prove to myself, especially on this first trip back out, and turning around short of a mountain has never been my strong suit. The pad took me to the base and started circling around to the left. I imagined the track just continued on to the rest of the Frankland traverse. I couldn’t see evidence of a pad heading up to the summit. And so I took to the scrub and rock for one final climb. That part slowed me down a lot. Especially the rock. I’d already had an uncharacteristic slip coming off Sprent, just as I was musing about how I’d shake my head as Graham would tell me the rock was slippery and to be careful! The rock here was quartzite, which can be especially slippery in the wet. All of a sudden my 3:30-3:45 summit time became 4pm. I told myself that was ok, it wasn’t going to change much. 

And then we're on top, looking along the rest of the range, the light is soft now. The Frankland range is always going to be one of my favourite ranges
And then we’re on top, looking towards the Frankland range, the light is soft now. This range is always going to be one of my favourite!

The views were spectacular, the light lovely as the sun started to hit the cloud on the western horizon. I took as long as I dared to savour it. I donned overpants, rain jacket and warm gloves in preparation for the 3.5-4 hour walk back to the tent. The head torch came out. And I began the walk back. The darker it became the more comfortable I got, mostly out of resignation to the fact. I’d made the choices, so I might as well enjoy the experience. I settled into a steady plod and was surprised at how indistinct pads suddenly seemed easier to follow by head torch. The water that sat in puddles over areas of high tread appeared to link up, forming a black line leading into the darkness. I was surprised that even out here, parts of the track were more rivulet-like than track-like. 

Looking at Sprent from Koruna summit, boy it's a long way back!
Looking at Sprent from Koruna summit, boy it’s a long way back!

The stars slowly came out, the sky turned pitch black, and the bite of the air grew crisper. The scrub underfoot went from squelching to crunching as it froze. Shards of ice formed in puddles. The whole world glittered. At one point I turned off my head torch and leant against a bit of scrub, looking up at the millions of stars and the Milky Way. It had been such a long time since seeing stars without artificial light around. It brought back memories of other times lying under the stars, trying desperately to stay awake to hold the moment for just a little longer. I felt connected, safe and home. I was in one sense alone, but I wasn’t exactly lonely. The cold drove me on, although I kept glancing up.

The sun sets, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely none-the-less
The sun begins to set, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely nonetheless

As I got closer to the part where I’d gone for my short scrub bash I grew increasingly nervous. I’ve always been one for retracing steps because you know what you’re in for, and if it’s scrubby then you also have a bit of a bash to follow. I was tempted to do this, but decided to follow the pad and see where it lead instead. My concern here was that it wasn’t always present or obvious, and if I lost it hunting around for it or reading the terrain for the best route forward was risky business in the dark. But the pad was decent, and I followed it a long way north. It sent me on a completely different route to the one I’d taken over, which increased my unease, because now I didn’t have the option of reverting to my old route easily enough. And sure enough, the scrub disappeared at the next knoll and I didn’t know where to go. I used the GPS for a rough direction. There was a rocky and scrubby rise ahead and I decided to check out the left hand side, as all the others had been traversed to that side. Bad idea, I found myself in steep thick scrub, concerned that I’d end up walking off the ridge. A bit of back tracking and some more cursing at the scrub and I walked straight back onto the pad! Phew, I’d just mentally prepared for a maximum 300m scrub bash (the distance between me and my mapped route). As it turned out I just had nice open walking back to the tent, albeit a bit steep. I took one last look at the stars, zipped open the frosty fly, and plonked myself down, suddenly very stiff and sore!!

The following morning is misty and mysterious, I like it
The following morning is misty and mysterious, I like it.

Wet clothes came off and I got some dinner cooking, even if the cold doubled the time it took for water to boil! Anything important and wet came inside – I wanted to be able to put my boots on the next morning instead of battling with frozen gear. A cup of soup, red curry and hot chocolate all helped warm me (and the tent) up. I read for a bit then called it a night. By now the moon was up and I could have walked anywhere without a head torch!

Imagine the views this bush has seen as it grows from the rock!
Imagine the views this bush has seen as it grows from the rock!

As it turned out, the decision to wander over to Koruna on the Thursday was a good one. Friday morning was spent in the midst of a drizzly cloud, true southwest weather, and was much better suited to reading, thinking, being and writing notes. So that’s what I did. I didn’t need to be anywhere else, and it was only a few hours walk out and a slightly longer drive home. By early afternoon I figured I should think about making a move, so I packed up and got dressed for a wet day of walking. The inside of the cloud stopped drizzling in time for me to pack the tent up, and in another 10 minutes I was back on Sprent. It was a grey, but not miserable, day, the kind where the view is constantly changing as the mist swirls around, hiding and revealing glimpses of what lies beyond. Typical southwest weather, just enough to remind you gently that you were at the mercy of Mother Nature! I loved it, and I walked somewhat reluctantly down the mountain, back to the car. I saw two lyre birds on the way home, they made me smile at their frantic scuttle to get off the side of the road.

I’m not sure quite what I found out there, but I returned all the richer for it. 

All up: 29.1km, 12:15hrs (over the two days), 2018m ascent

Leillateah: 9 February 2020

Leillateah GPS route
Leillateah GPS route

What a way to start the year’s walking off… An unexpected invitation to join Amanda and Jeramie on a scrub bash out to Leillateah and a date on a weekend I actually had free… It was impossible to say no, even though it’s not the kind of mountain you talk about lightly. Located south of the Southern Ranges, Leillateah’s reputation for a long scrub bash is well deserved. I’d looked at it once before when I was doing a lot of solo walking, put it in the ‘too hard’ basket, and not given it so much as another thought. Having a group to share the bashing and to keep you going when it seemed all a bit too hard was exactly what was needed! If it hadn’t been for the invitation, I doubt we would have been going any time soon.

We left Hobart the evening before, knowing we were in for a very long day and opting for a later wake up than we’d have been able to manage if we’d left the morning of the walk. None of us had eaten at at Post Office 6985 in Dover, so we treated ourselves to wood-fired pizza in anticipation of the energy we’d be expending the next day. We were pleasantly surprised by the meal, and managed to finish it at 8pm, just as they were closing the doors for the evening (typical Tassie trading hours!).

We drove on to the bridge that crosses the Esperance river, and pulled right into the logging coup just south of it. Here we found some flat ground off the side of the road and set up our tent. We tossed and turned our way through the night, seeming to fall into the deepest sleep as the alarm sounded at 5am! We breakfasted and threw the tent and gear into the back of the car, no time wasted on packing it away nicely.

We knew we were in for a long trip out to that mountain on the left, so we set off at first light (or there abouts).
We knew we were in for a long trip out to that mountain on the left, so we set off at first light (or there abouts).

By 6:20, only a little late of our pre-determined starting time, we set out eagerly, taking the first of many thousand steps for the day. The logging road gave way to a much more overgrown road, and then to the wonderful vibrantly scrubby growth of abandoned forestry coups that always catches the bushwalker out. We should have known better. The cutting grass was big and nasty, wrapping razor sharp tentacles around anything it could find – arms, legs, torsos, even necks. It zapped enthusiasm right at the start, and we began to wonder if we might make the walk in a day after all.

Straight into an overgrown forestry coup. Reunited with cutting grass once again.
Straight into an overgrown forestry coup. Reunited with cutting grass once again.

Fortunately the scrub was (relatively) short lived, as we broke into more open forest, and then finally out onto button grass plains. The next 5km was delightful, easy, open walking with lovely views of the Southern Ranges, and we made sure we enjoyed every moment.

Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.
Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.

And after a bit we popped out onto the buttongrass plains, our mountain on the left again. It would be madness to head straight for it, there’s way too much green stuff that way.

Southern ranges

Southern ranges and Leillateah

By the time we arrived at the ridge we’d be ascending, the button grass clumps began to grow in size, as if inversely proportional to their height above sea level. It made for some tough climbing on legs that were starting to feel a tad weary. But it was only a warm up for the real challenge, and we soon found ourselves in horrid, over head high scrub of the worst kinds. It would take almost 3 hours to climb 1.8km to the ridge line, and that included one short section of open forest.

Scrub that you could kind of see the way ahead. Amanda has a go at walking backwards through it.

The Hippo

Out of the horrid stuff, looking up at the very green stuff we have to go, hoping it’s kinder to us (Ha!)

Horrid scrub

Yeah.. horrid green stuff and a taunting summit off to the left.

When we did pop out onto the ridge, we thought we were set. But no. The scrub never stops on this mountain. Two or three more times we found ourselves plunging into head high greenery, only this stuff was super tough. It wasn’t budging for anyone. No surprises then that it took us 30 minutes to walk the final 250 odd metres to the summit!

The ridgeline was even worse, promising nice walking but stinging us with scrubby sections. Although I can’t complain about the view!

Amanda recieves first aid for a cutting grass cut on her finger.. while the paramedic takes photos!

Final steps up to a nice summit!

Oh but was it worth it. The view towards the Southern Ranges was one of a kind, and the elation of having made it wasn’t dampened by the realisation that we were only technically half way through the walk (even though it was now 2:30pm). We ate the most delicious of lunches and savoured the moments, knowing we didn’t have long.

And we made it!! Stoked.. it’s only 2:30 (having set out at 6:20!)

Looking towards the ocean

Jeramie – chief scrub basher, at home in the mountains

Our retreat was as hasty as we could make it while taking the time to follow our route closely enough to ensure we didn’t have to bash our way through any scrub unnecessarily. Jeremy was spot on when he remarked how this was, ironically, the most enjoyable walking of the trip – downhill and with a highway set out before us through the scrub.

We each retreated into our own thoughts as we plodded back along the button grass plains. Graham and Jeremy both set a blistering pace, which was probably just as well. It meant there was little energy to expend on feeling tired and there was no time to settle comfortably into a slow plod. It also meant we were back to the final bit of scrub just before dark and saved having to brave the worst of the cutting grass with reduced visibility. The road was a sight for sore and weary eyes, and we spanned its width.

We agreed that none of us would have made it to Leillateah without the others and in this way, for us, Aristotle’s axiom about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts was true.

All up: 18.8km, 847m ascent, 14:28 hrs (a bit over 8 up, and 6 back – all breaks included).