Old River Circuit: 8-15 March 2017

Mountains in the Old River circuit: Mount Wilson, Mount Norold, Richea Peak (no peak bagging points), Ripple Mountain, Mount Castor, Mount Pollux, Harrys Bluff and High Round Mountain.

Old River circuit GPS route

This was a Hobart Walking Club Walk that had Graham and I making an impromptu, break all the rules, decision to join in. It had sparked our interest because it was to an area I’d not even been near, and to mountains that we’d barely heard about, let alone had any information on. In addition, the walk description seemed almost too good to be true: there was mention of pretty good walking and not an excessive amount of scrub. It was being run by Tony, who we’d heard of curtesy of his reputation, and who we’d had the very brief pleasure of bumping in to on our Olympus trip. From that, he was someone we trusted enough to sign up to his walk. That we would be going on a walk to new mountains where we didn’t have to do any of the ground work (obtaining GPS routes, asking around for handy tips, finding out info on water availability, campsite quality etc etc) was going to make it a real holiday!

Putting our names down did involve breaking our key principle of not walking with people we hadn’t walked with before (as dynamics can be very important on these kind of walks), and it was a little scary booking flights and a boat before Christmas, not knowing what the weather would be like, or even if I’d be able to go (I didn’t know quite what was going to happen on the job front at that stage). Graham was very generous, and bought my plane flight as a Christmas present (aren’t I lucky??!). The following is a day by day account of the trip.

Day 1: 8/3/17

We woke to a beautiful day, cool and calm. After the usual last minute packing of food and the like we drove the short distance to Cambridge airport and met the others as we waited excitedly in the queue. It turned out someone had been a tad enthusiastic in taking bookings and there were more people and weight than should have been flying, so after a hectic start, with our packs spread across 3 different planes, we boarded a twin engine plane and were off!

It was a smooth and fast flight, and on the way we waved at friends who were due to climb PB that very day, and marvelled at Federation Peak as it stuck its head above the clouds. It was quite a funny feeling flying in to Melaleuca, as the mountains were not familiar and I wondered as we flew over a bunch if they were ones we’d be climbing. I told myself I’d find out soon enough!

When we landed we had to wait for our 3 of our packs (we were on the first plane), so made use of the loos and visited some of the touristy attractions (Deny King Museum etc). It wasn’t long before we were good to go though, and one of the pilots took us out on a boat to where we’d start walking. When we were out in the harbour the water was calm and the reflections unspoilt, and I could understand why the area attracts so many yachts (I hadn’t even realised how many!). I don’t think we could believe quite how lucky we were, perhaps even more so for those of us who had been down that way countless times before, and possibly never had such a perfect flight or boat ride. It was just beautiful. The swans were also out enjoying it, but flew off quite early at the sound of our engine, keeping low to the water and flashing the white undersides of their wings. 

The trip was quick and we had landed and were ready to start walking by 11.30. We got straight into it crunching our way across the undulations – the sound of our boots on very dry alpine scrub made me think of eating dry cornflakes! The greens yellows and browns were perfectly offset by the blue sky and reflective lake, and it was hard not to take photos. As new mountains appeared with our increasing height we took time to make sense of what they were and how they might be to climb. While we made some mistakes initially, they were quickly remedied. Some mountains were old friends, including the Eastern Arthurs, with Federation at the end.

I decided I was quite liking the terrain and views! We had no scrub, and a fairly mild incline most of the time, although enough to present a bit of a challenge to those who didn’t have much water or hadn’t walked with a pack for some time. Graham and I were both in good shape from the Eldons, and found it fairly easy… so much so it was difficult to resist the urge to walk off the front just to see what was over the next rise! This made us both chuckle, as we’d initially been a bit concerned we might not be able to keep up with the HWC bunch!

At one point we spent time looking for yabbie holes for one walker who was short on water, until Graham happened across an unexpected but lovely supply of water – which we all indulged in! The heat, dryness, and relative lack of water on the ridges were to become defining aspects of this walk. 

Unfortunately, as we neared the summit of Wilson the sea breeze or something brought the mist in and we were left with fairly limited visibility. By this stage it was evident we wouldn’t be making a high camp on Norold, but would camp not overly far from Wilson, at the first fairly reliable water source. I attempted to provide progress reports and updates of the path ahead from my gps for those who were fairly tired and more than ready to pitch tents, but I’m not sure it had the desired effect. Sometimes it’s hard to know how things are done, and what people want and like when you’ve not walked with them before. I hope they knew I meant well. 

In any case, we found our river, found appropriate camp sites on a bumpy little ridge and pitched our tents. No one seemed overly keen on a communal dinner (our tents were spread out a fair bit), so Graham and I set up on some rocks near our tent. A little while later Rod came and joined us and we had a bit of a chat as we ate and watched the mist partially lift before closing back in. It was quite nice, actually.  

Our walk started out with a flight in to Melaleuca in pretty much perfect conditions. Federation looked wonderful. This was my Christmas present from Graham, and it was very much enjoyed!

Then we got on a boat.. all the arrangements made by Tony (thank you!)

Out in Bathurst Harbour the reflections were flawless!

We were almost ready to go by 11:30

The open walking started immediately.. and so too did the up! It was so dry the vegetation crunched under our boots – sounding like someone eating cornflakes or the like!

Rugby remained a constant attraction as we worked our way around our little circuit

As we climbed we started to see a few of the mountains we’d climb, and become familiar with their names and faces.

Here we are, heading up our first mountain, Wilson.

It got a bit steep the closer we got.. and this photo shows a good shot of the ridge we worked our way up. We started somewhere to the left of this photo down by the water.. we were to walk 12km this day with full packs (including 1.16km vertical ascent).

As we approached the summit, the sea mist rolled in. Harrys Bluff, shown here, was soon to disappear.

Sadly our first summit and points were to be in the mist. But never mind, we’d have plenty of sun by the time the trip was over!

We made camp on a ridge just past Wilson, and the sun tried to break through the mist. It was a bit nice to watch

Day 2: 9/3/17

The moon and stars appeared overnight, giving us hope for a clear morning. And sure enough, when we woke we had mountains with low mist in the valleys. Understandably, it took us a lot longer than normal to cook and eat breakfast as we allowed ourselves to be delightfully distracted by the changing colours and light. Eventually we set off, just after 8, for a short walk to the ridge we’d take up Norold. After dropping our packs it wasn’t long before we arrived at the spot where the group whose route we were using for guidance had camped and where I’d hoped we might also camp. It was a lovely flat spot without scrub, and with superb views. If I ever make it back, I’d definitely camp there and recommend it to any readers who don’t mind a longer first day!

The final few hundred meters were also nice and easy and it was lovely to have 360 degree views for the first time!! We soaked them in, aware that most of the rest of the day would be descending to the river. As the highest point of our walk we checked for phone reception but had no success – we were just too far away and not quite high enough. That’s probably almost a first for me as signals on mountain tops are fairly reliable in Tassie (I wasn’t complaining though!).

On the way down we went by Richea Peak, which was a short and lovely little side trip (also recommended). There we met a number of swifts, who raced around and around the summit catching little insects. They were wonderful to watch, and it was hard not to laugh joyfully at their speed, effortlessness and agility! Amanda had chosen to skip the side trip and head back to the packs (understandably for coffee, I think!), so we met her back there then began our descent down our chosen ridge. 

It started off well enough, if a tad steep and increasingly hot. Progress was slow and steady, with frequent pauses, but that allowed for plenty of photos! We got our first taste of scrub as we descended to a river we had to cross, which wasn’t much fun. Graham did the majority of the work out the front, which gave the rest of us a fairly easy and open bash to follow. Up the other side the sun was hot and heavy, and radiated off the button grass. There was no wind and the cicadas were in chorus – it felt like summer as a kid and I was as happy as I was hot! 

The final ridge we had to drop down looked ok from up high, but proved a little difficult to stay on and by the time we realised we weren’t on it we were in a gully of thick scrub, where the only real choice was to go straight down, rather than across. It was horrible stuff – the kind you might be 2 metres off the ground one moment, only to find yourself face against the soil the next, with the choice of climbing back up on top, or fighting, twisting, pushing and clawing your way through. It was a long and scratchy fight the whole way down (looking back we couldn’t have chosen a worse path with any more scrub!), to another bumpy campsite. Water from the river wasn’t as easy to access as we’d hoped, as it required a bit of a walk. Graham and I bashed down near our tents, while Tony and Amanda did the sensible thing and found a really good pad to a smaller creek a little further away! It was cool and clean and most gratefully drunk! We set up our tents on the most open ridge we could find, ate dinner and retired to bed as the light waned, bringing a close to a day that was much tougher and longer than we expected (compared to those whose GPS route we were following, it took us double the time (2 hours instead of 1) to descend 300m!). 

The next morning we woke to this!! We waved to friends who either camped on, or were just below PB, and took LOTS of photos!

Rod came to say hi as we sat on the rocks to eat breakfast and bask in the gentle warmth of early morning sun

The light eventually grew hard and thin, and the mountains cast their shadows over the mist that would hang in the valley for a few more hours yet.

We took our packs to the ridge we’d take to climb Norold, and had plenty of breaks on the way to take in the views!

We climbed the last little bit free of our packs – It was a lovely free feeling!

Looking back towards Bathurst Harbour from the upper slope of Norold

We played with the cairn on Norold for a bit – it was a stunning summit, and marked the high point of our trip. No reception meant we were contactless for the rest of the trip!

Given we’re in the region, 4 of us decide to check out Richea peak, while Amanda heads back to our packs for a morning coffee.

On the summit of Richea peak, the swifts zoom around and lift our spirits even further, and the mist starts to dissipate. Harrys Bluff sits on the right.

Back at our packs, we make a slow descent towards the junction of the Solly and Old Rivers. Slow, because we figure we might as well enjoy the views while we have them. And later, due to a navigational oversight!

There were plenty of old friends to accompany all the new ones!

After a scrub bash, part of which took us 2 hours to cover 1 km (during a 300m descent), we arrived at a ridge below Harrys Bluff, and above the river junction. We were very happy to have finally made it. Instead of managing to stay on the ridge we’d hoped to take down, we’d mistakenly veered into a scrubby gully that proved impossible to get out of, and we had no choice but to work our way straight down it. In many spots, that involved walking on top of bauera that was strong enough to resist your weight even though you were a couple of metres above the ground, until you eventually fell through it, and then you either had to bash through it or try to climb back up. Progress was understandably slow, sweaty, spikey, and a fair bit of damage was done to shirts, skin and scrub gloves!

Day 3: 10/3/17

We made an early start on the third day, the original plan being to get up Ripple Mountain and then move camps. Judging by how long it took the party whose gps route we had, that didn’t look so likely, despite a 7.45am start. We were, admittedly, lucky in having a route and in having had a separate party go thorough only 5-6 weeks prior, which meant we had a decent pad to follow through the worst of the scrub. Progress was still hot and slow, and we had frequent breaks as a result. 

We took it in turns to lead, and slowly waded our way up the ripples that formed the spine of the mountain. It was very aptly named, although Graham thought ‘Wave Mountain’ might have been a more accurate descriptor (‘ripples’ might have been more manageable!). The scrub was only at a generous height (for the walker) just before and on the summit, which we enjoyed immensely. We took our time with photos and lunch and were surprised to find a trig marker, before beginning the downward journey. Having our upward route on the gps meant I got a fair chunk of the downward trip to lead (so we didn’t have to ‘find’ the route both ways) and it was nice to be able to pull a bit of weight, even though I knew others, particularly Graham, were equally adept at doing that kind of walking. 

As we descended, a pair of black cockatoos squawked at us, and later an olive whistler made its presence known. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’re likely to know their presence always brings a smile to my face, and usually cause Graham to whistle back in reply. While Ripple Mountain was by no means an easy trip, it was thoroughly enjoyable. At the creek crossing, nearly back at our tents, we sat and enjoyed the cool refreshing water. Graham and I also decided to have a swim before dinner (which turned into a wash due to the temperature of the water!), which was even more refreshing. 

The next day we wade our way up Ripple mountain, which was aptly named! We were fortunate to have a good gps route to follow, and to have had a group come through a month prior and create a fresh bash over the top of that same route. If you look closely, there’s green and orange specks of two of our tents. Harry’s Bluff watches our progress silently.

It’s another long and hot climb, but we make it to the summit, enjoy the views, then head back down.. this is the only part of the side trip that’s really open open.

It was wonderful to get back to this small creek a short distance from our tents, and we sat here quite a while cooling down.

Day 4: 11/3/17

Today we started the morning with a sleep in. Seeing we hadn’t moved up the river we were only up for a 5 hour walk (if we kept to the rather relaxed pace we’d been going). So we assembled by 8.30 and headed off shortly afterwards. Though it was partly cloudy we didn’t have any of the rain that had been forecasted when we’d left, and it was still surprisingly hot. We weren’t complaining however, we knew at some stage we’d be getting wet!

We started with a walk along the pad to where we could cross the Old River safely enough. Graham and I chose to remove boots and keep our feet dry, which was well worth the effort! We then commenced up a lovely little ridge that had us sweating but offered a nice line of view down to the river and back across to Harrys Bluff. The cicadas made their high pitched incessant trill, and the odd plane added a low rumble as we worked our way along. Graham spotted some little orchids, and I found and caught a cute little black cicada – I still marvel at how different they are here compared to Victoria! We stopped for frequent breaks, that took us about as long as the walking itself!

We soon dropped off the ridge and wandered across the plain through ankle to waist high scrub – far less scrubby than we might have expected. At the largest creek we crossed we stopped for lunch, seeking reprieve from the heat of the sun and enjoying the refreshing trickle of water over rocks. The scrub presented an increasingly annoying defence as we approached where we thought we should find a lovely camp site amongst the trees. I think we were all a tad skeptical given the scrubbiness and unexpected steepness of the route in. I was in the lead and know I certainly was full of doubt, but everyone followed skeptically or otherwise! I felt a little like it could be a make or break moment – I’d made an educated guess about exactly where the camp site was (having forgotten to transfer the waypoints I’d created marking each spot at home) but I could have been wrong. Fortunately, no more than 10-15 metres from the bank of the Old River, we walked out of the bauera and onto a beautiful spot right on the bank of the Old River. We finally had a flat camp site! 

We pitched tents, then made straight for the river for a wash/swim. Hot drinks and some biscuits and brie followed and we sat around and chatted, whiling the afternoon away. Later that night we fell asleep to the sound of the river and a boobook owl – I don’t think it gets much more pleasant than that. 

Day 4 started with a river crossing, then a walk along Junction ridge, before we dropped back down to the plains beside the river to make camp in the forest below Castor. Although only half a day’s worth of walking, it was necessary as the following day would be our biggest.

It was still hot, and we had lots of time, so we had frequent breaks on the ridge. Here, Rugby can be seen in the distance.

Down on the plains, the going was fairly good, although a tad scrubbier towards the end. We also had a few river crossings to negotiate, which always means scrub! Fortunately we left enough of a track to make coming back much faster and easier!

As we approached camp Castor looked pretty nice – check out that ridgeline! Also, the weather wasn’t too bad for a day that had been forecast for showers!

After a bit of logical reasoning and lots of faith in the GPS, I led everyone into the scrubby forest. I’d nearly lost hope when we walked straight to this little spot, and the nice little forest camp site we’d been promised suddenly became a reality. The Old River is 2-3 metres to the left of this photo. We had an afternoon to relax, so we sat out, ate, chatted, washed, wrote notes, and generally speaking just enjoyed ourselves.

Day 5: 12/3/17

Yesterday’s rain began as we slept and by the time we woke at 6 it was a constant light patter. It was still going at 7 when we were set to leave, causing Amanda to pull the plug on the expected 11 hour day trip. The four of us set off, decked out in our wet weather armour and ready to climb a couple of hills. 

The going started off alright, a little bit of openness to give us a glimpse of a patch of very green stuff. But it was no match for Graham, who ploughed us a way through it. A few more green spots in amongst the leptospermum-button grass combo, which both Rod and Tony put paid to in turn, and we were at the bottom of an open, but very steep ridge that would take us to the top of Castor. It was still raining, but not too cold, and I think we all were rather grateful we didn’t have the perfectly hot weather of the last few days! While there was low cloud, the summit was clear, so we did indeed seem to have the best of both worlds. 

Our very slow but constant plod took us higher and higher, and soon had us admiring the rock formations that were to be a big feature of the walk. Further still and we were climbing up the summit rock, admiring our good time and the fact that the rain seemed to have exhausted itself – at least for the time being! 

After as long a break as we could afford, a clothing adjustment, food, photos and some water we proceeded to make our way along the somewhat rollercoaster-like ridge that connects Castor and Pollux, taking our best guess at which of the bumps along the way we should sidle around, and which we should go over. That’s always an interesting game when you can’t see the other side of said bumps! But we made it without too much to fault and once again found ourselves at the bottom of a steep and long enough climb. 

I was given the lead. By this stage the plod had slowed considerably and we were all finding our wet weather gear a tad on the warm side. But as is always the case somehow our legs got us to the top and we walked the short distance along a much more reasonable incline to the summit. Again the rocks were a feature, as were the dead trees on the western side from a fire some years ago. If you had the desire, camping anywhere along that ridge would provide you with some really nice photos. 

We were pretty ravenous by this stage, due to the amount of time we’d been walking for (about 6 hours), the incline and the fact that the weather had kept us going without many snack breaks. We thoroughly enjoyed lunch on the summit and were lucky enough to even get the faintest hint of sunwarmth (yes – that’s now a word)! We had pretty good views of the immediate mountains, some lovely clouds and mist to make them look even nicer and the odd patch of blue sky to lift our spirits even further (if that was possible?). 

It was certainly warmer and no longer wet so we stripped some more layers then began the long journey back. It was a steady walk largely back the way we’d come and didn’t require too much thought. We chatted intermittently, or otherwise were happy to be left to our own thoughts. Federation Peak poked through the clouds at one point and a small rainbow appeared later on as we summited Castor for the second time in the same day (just because we could!). As we were getting ready to take on the steep downhill of Castor a rain shower started again – enough, we figured, to make the slope nice and slippery (if we’d had bodyboards we’d have got down in record time, but perhaps not so safely)! Graham, wearing contacts instead of his glasses which doesn’t do anything for his near vision, did a fine job leading us down the ridge that was in fact so steep you couldn’t actually tell where it was except by consulting the GPS. 

At the bottom it was too hot to wear rain gear and it wasn’t raining anymore, so jackets went away again. That was only slightly problematic for me, who had the job of leading us back out through the scrub on the same lead we’d taken on the way up. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was completely drenched from the scrub! We made it back safely and successfully to the tents; weary, wet and elated, having been out for just over 11 hours. 

Getting dry and eating food were both high priorities, and they happened almost simultaneously. We sat around and chatted while we went about our business, in what was a really nice finish to the day. It had been an awesome side trip – tough but rewarding, and one that allowed me to feel I’d been able to make a valuable and appreciated contribution, and to get to know Tony and Rod a little bit better. 

The following day was wet, as forecast. But we weren’t really that upset. We’d have 11 hours of walking and 14km, so a slightly cooler day was a good thing! We did, however get drenched, especially during the first hour of scrub to get to the open foot of Castor. But what a lovely mountain it looked – and it was a bonus that we could see the top even though it was rainy!

As we climbed up the very steep ridge to Castor we quickly realised the rocks were going to be a big feature. The cloud was good not to restrict our views too much either!

On Castor, the rain had stopped, and we looked along the ridge towards Pollux. It looked pretty good!

Tony leads the way, almost out of sight behind the rock, and the mist keeps things looking just a bit magical.

The rock was VERY awesome! If only it wasn’t so wet and we had more time to play!

It was just delightful, and even the weather couldn’t dampen our delight!

After a long ridge walk negotiating each little bump (which didn’t always feel little), Tony heads up the final climb to Pollux

We enjoy a well deserved lunch, and are by this stage relatively dry (save for all the sweat!). This gives you a good idea of what I had to eat each day for lunch (although I was eating one more biscuit with cheese as I took the photo!)

Just playing around with the camera and rock.

More rock on Pollux

Tony waits for us to get ourselves together, as we’ve now got to get all that way back again

Graham’s having a bit of fun 🙂

Back down and along the ridge we go

Little spot showers come and go.. making the steep descent off Castor just wet enough for us!

We can’t resist the urge to summit Castor for the second time in the same day, and glance back at Pollux. There’s a rainbow out there!

Day 6: 13/3/17

We woke early, knowing we had a big climb with full packs over Harrys Bluff. It was dark when we rose, and only just light enough as we struck camp to not need our head torches. We’d been promised a warm, sunny day but to start with we were below the mist that on day 2 had looked so pretty from above! We weren’t complaining – it would get hot enough, soon enough. 

Having done a good enough job yesterday following our exact track back through the scrub, that again was my job for today. It was probably a good thing we didn’t have any views, as I wouldn’t have seen them if we did! When I didn’t have my eyes glued to crushed button grass, broken branches of leptospermum or other signs of destruction that suggested we’d passed by, they were checking out our route on the gps. I got drenched from the scrub again, but as we climbed up Junction Ridge the mist started to burn off and soon enough the sun was drying me out again. 

At the appropriate point we dropped off the ridge and made a beeline for the Solly River, just above the rapids where it looked like we could cross easily enough. And we did, save for Rod who managed to slip over, ironically because the significant sized ‘stick’ he’d chosen to help ensure he made the crossing safely broke on him. He got up laughing and the rest of us joined in (not before taking a photo though!). Having said that, he did have some excellent tips on pole/stick placement when crossing a river that would be wise to follow, and that I’ve now added to my ‘practice’ as such (which now includes pole going upstream, not using the wrist straps on poles while crossing and having chest and waist buckles on packs undone especially in deeper water).

After a break to refill water and psych ourselves up for the climb ahead, we set off, Graham leading the charge at a blistering pace. It was as expected: not much scrub, very hot, sweaty, breathless and straight up. We did, however, have lunch to look forward to within the hour, which kept us going more than anything else I think. 

The view back from where we’d come was pretty spectacular and as we gained more height Federation began to appear between Pollux and Castor. At lunch, Tony, perhaps the most seasoned of us when it comes to bushwalking, went straight for the shade of a lone banksia tree, while the rest of us sat on rocks. It was certainly a wise decision, and Rod, also a seasoned walker, was quick enough to join him before someone else took the only other spot. 

Refuelled, onwards and upwards we went. After the initial steep climb we had a short reprieve at a flatter area with heaps more really nice rock sculptures. Amanda’s face lit up, her pace quickened and it was clear she was loving this particular spot – understandably, giving her passion for climbing. We all spent plenty of time with our cameras out here! But we couldn’t keep putting the climb off and we headed for a final rocky bit of ridge. Graham generously handed the lead over to Amanda. Half way up Tony pointed out two wedgies who had come over to check us out, before heading off to some other part of their territory. I figured I’d see them again on future trips – they’re always a nice constant. Not long afterwards we were standing on the summit of Harry’s Bluff, unable to wipe huge smiles off our faces and feeling awfully pleased with our achievement. We celebrated with a nice long break, drinking in water with the views. 

We did manage to drag ourselves back to our feet and off the summit, but only because of the promise of a campsite that wasn’t too far off (the first saddle past the bluff). The saddle provided some flat but exposed camping, and enough water to suffice if you went for a bit of a look. We pitched tents, lay clothes out to dry in the sun and cooked dinner. We congregated together around Amanda’s tent to eat, which we followed up with a dessert of sunset and photos. When the show was over the frogs started up a chorus, but didn’t last too long to keep us awake all night. I think we all went to bed pretty happy with what we’d done and the fact that we were out of reach of both the mozzies and the leeches! The night was cooler than down in the forest too, and the stars and moon were all out – what more could you want? The place was just as beautiful as it was under the light of sun. 

We start the next day under the valley mist, which we don’t mind at all, knowing that it’s going to get hot enough fast enough! It lifts just as we arrive at the end of Junction ridge and prepare to drop down to the River Solly. We have to climb back up that steep thing, and then the bit that’s mostly hidden by the cloud! It’s time to visit Harrys Bluff.

Rod chooses a big stick to make the river crossing a bit safer, but it breaks and he goes in with it. He gets up laughing, and soon we’re all joining in.

The up is torturously steep and hot, and dry if it wasn’t for all the sweat dripping off our noses, running down our backs, and glistening on our arms. Part way up we get a bit of a reprieve in the incline, and Graham celebrates. Castor and Pollux are behind, and Federation behind them.

We did do a lot of route finding the old way. That’s Junction ridge ahead, and we’d come from near the base of that little mound.

Tony checks out the route ahead, Federation behind.

Amanda’s eyes light up at the sight of the rock up here, and off she scoots!!

We scramble up, Harry’s Bluff turning out to be every bit as much fun as it looked like it was going to be

Just a gentle slope to the final high point, with some magnificent mountains around!

Amanda was pretty happy – in fact we all were!!

Graham checks out where we’re going. Camp is just over the near bump in a saddle, and High Round mountain, which we’ll walk out over tomorrow, is on the left.

I did like all our views of Federation Peak.

Eastern Arthur and the Castor-Pollux ridge (Spiro range).

Down to camp we head the ridges ahead weave around and mark our way out.

That evening the setting sun turns PB red.

Day 7: 14/3/17

The alarm sounded early for another big day: for Graham and I the morning consisted of trying to fit a cooked breakfast, a trip to the loo, packing up and sunrise all into an hour and a half. That was difficult when the latter took up half that time! As it turned out, we were a little late thanks to the somewhat lengthy sunrise, though I think Tony understood, and everyone was patient enough with us. No one could deny it was a beautiful morning, with the most in the valleys below us again, though it already heralded a hot day. 

We got straight into it, following the ridge, weaving through the scrub behind Tony’s experienced lead so as to avoid the worst of it. The aniseed smell of boronia exploded around us as we crushed it under our feet, and the pink and white flowers of bauera did look pretty, even if the plant can be a walkers curse at times! We did a pretty good job and when we got back on it the ridge was very open. It was hot and dry very early, the light quickly glaring harshly over us and the landscape and the scrub still cracking and crunching under our boots. It was raw and wild, and utterly enjoyable. Part of the enjoyment I think stemmed from the feeling that it could also be quite a harsh landscape, if you weren’t well prepared for it. We had sweat streaming off us by the time we climbed up High Round Mountain, where we waved at a Par Avion plane as it flew overhead. Graham offered lollies on the top and Amanda told us about the Launceston Walking Club tradition of eating as many lollies as points you’d got for the mountain – I thought that sounded like an ok idea!!

As we set off again after a lengthy break there was some concern about water, but just as we started the climb up a hill that would become our lunch spot we found a lovely little soak that we all made use of to top up water bottles, drink from and soak hats in. Lunch was enjoyed with views out to the Ray Range – one of the few that Tony has still to climb – and we shared more stories of walks we’d been on, routes up mountains and future plans.

We eventually dragged ourselves back to our feet and proceeded to work our way down the ridge; our crunch another instrument in the orchestra of nature that at this point in time included the hum of cicadas, chatter of birds, and occasionally, slight rustle of breeze in foliage. It was really nice going, until right near the end. I had been enjoying a lovely time out the front as no one else seemed to mind me hogging the lead, but that now meant I’d be picking our way through some particularly scrubby looking bits of ridge! Fortunately, the gps route we had gave some suggestions as to a good route and the bash was much shorter and easier than expected.  

We quickly at the point we’d drop off the ridge and onto the plains below, crossing a creek on the way. The creek had really nice clean and cool water, and we all filled our bladders and bottles, knowing that the chance of finding good (non-brackish) water closer to where we’d camp next to the harbour was slim. I sensed an eagerness now to get to camp – it was so close and the promise of a swim in Bathurst Harbour was right at the front of our minds!

But there was one last challenge as we stood 50 or so metres from the shore, yet we were looking down on a horribly green scrubby forest into which our our GPS route descended. We soon decided to ignore the route we’d been following and headed further left, finding a much less scrubby way down to the waters edge. There we followed the rock around and located some good camp spots in amongst the trees, as well as a little rock cave/cache built in the 1800s for storage!

After some minor landscaping, tents went up and we got straight into the water. It was beautifully warm, sandy underfoot and so perfectly refreshing!! Certainly a wonderful way to end such a spectacular walk. Later, we sat on the rocks and cooked dinner, chatting away and watching the sun set over Mount Rugby. The water lapped at the rocks gently, and swans across the other side of the lagoon made soft, happy flute like sounds. 

The next morning, the valley mist is back, the sky is colourful agin, and the button grass makes photos lots of fun.

Later on the sun is up and everything turns golden.

More button grass and PB misty shadowy photos.

Tony gets us going early (although I fear my photo-taking has delayed us 15 minutes!)..

Soon we’re in the thick of the heat again, but the ridges are wonderfully open (at least, till right at the end). Tony walks past a familiar mountain.

Amanda beat us all up High Round mountain, though Graham was hot on her heels. They wave at a plane leaving Melaleuca, which were a frequent sight and sound of the trip.

With some pretty good choices, we managed to weave an excellent route through the scrub, find a great source of water, and end up at our drop off point in faster than expected time. We found and made camp sites in the forest, went for a delightfully warm but refreshing swim in the harbour, then set about eating dinner.

This became our kitchen and dining room, and it was just lovely!

We ate and chatted, listend to the yellow throated honey eaters and the swans and watched the sun set behind Rugby.

Later, when it was really quite, you could hear the distant rumble of the ocean.

Day 8: 16/3/17

Rod had made a call on his satellite phone when we’d got to camp the night before to let our pilot/coxswain know we’d be ready to come out whenever he could get to us, but we knew that wouldn’t be before 11, and perhaps not before 3! Expecting to have a fair wait, we finally got to have a sleep in!! For me that just meant not setting an alarm, but Graham and I were still up to see the little bit of colour that the sun cast across the lake as it rose, singling out Rugby. We couldn’t help but smile at the little fish that jumped out of the water near the shore as we walked by, while the yellow throated honey eaters chatted away behind us.

We were joined slightly later by Rod, Tony and Amanda and enjoyed a lovely last breakfast and chat. While it might have taken us most of the 8 days, we now seemed really quite comfortable with each other and ourselves and this was one of the unexpected gifts of the trip for me, and I think also Graham.  At 10 we packed up our tents and by 11 when we were back on the rocks Amanda spotted our boat and we watched it approach excitedly! As we motored back to Melaleuca and passed the magnificent Rugby, Graham and I decided it would be a fitting ‘last mountain’ to climb – that is, the last mountain we’d climb to complete the HWC peak baggers guide, if we got there and had a choice in the matter ;). 

The day after returning, I got the phone call I’d been waiting so long for, and had been a tad worried might come when I was out of range. I now have a job as a paramedic intern with Ambulance Tasmania, which should open up all sorts of opportunities to go on a few more walks than I have the last two years!

The next morning was cloudy to start, but the sun somehow managed to find its way through to light up Rugby. Reckon we’ve decided that if we ever get close to finishing the HWC peak baggers list, Rugby might have to be the last mountain we climb 😉

As we wait for our pick up, Graham finds Rod a better and bigger stick for crossing rivers (or harbours!) with!!

Amanda spots our boat, and we watch excitedly as it approaches!

Rod welcomes it, and we all jump aboard. We explore Melaleuca for the next few hours till it’s time to fly back home. I got to see both a firetail and an orange bellied parrot (a very special one – the first male whose female has had two clutches in one season, and who, in the feared death of the female, has taken to raising the second clutch alone)!!

All up: 73.8km and 6360m ascent (now that is impressive!!)

Day 1: 12km, 7hrs, 1165m ascent

Day 2: 10.1km, 10:30hrs, 593m ascent

Day 3: 8.1km, 8:40hrs, 904m ascent

Day 4: 5.7km, 5:30hrs, 302m ascent

Day 5: 14km, 11:10hrs, 1550m ascent

Day 6: 9.5km, 9:40hrs, 1095m ascent

Day 7: 14.3km, 9:50hrs, 733m ascent

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The Spires: 16-24 January 2016

This would have to be the longest and most remote bushwalk I’ve ever done, to a special and very wild place. As a result, the descriptions are slightly vague, but I hope to have captured a little of the feel and emotion of the place.

The Spires had been planned for close to a year, since John, Graham and I did the Du Cane range traverse. I’m not sure about the others, but I felt it was a step above anything else we’d done. Only one or two of those within our circle of friends had climbed some of the mountains we were to climb, and no one we knew had climbed the Camel and White Pyramid. I therefore looked forward to it with a little apprehension as well as a lot of excitement.

The lead up flew by, as I tried to get enough uni work done before we left, and unpack from the Eastern Arthurs before repacking. We were going for 11 days – the 11th was a spare to cater for dodgy weather, ill health (or lack of fitness), or something extra. It packed surprisingly well into 23kg.

A very rough Spires GPS route

A very rough Spires GPS route

Day 1: Lake Rhona car park to camp below Great Dome

 

After a bit of a sleep in, followed by a small navigation error, we arrived at the Lake Rhona car park at 9.30 to find it chockers. Uh-oh! So much for wilderness. Our hearts dropped further as we read the registration book and found a party of 8 were due to be in at Lake Curly. There wasn’t anything we could do though, but to hope that it wouldn’t spoil the experience.

A brief stop to check out the history of Gordonvale

A brief stop to check out the history of Gordonvale

We had the usual easy and fairly flat walk in, reacquainting ourselves with the button grass, dragonflies, birds and smells of the area, not to mention the crisp views out towards Reeds Peak and Bonds Crag. It was easy enough that I even managed to learn some drugs (from mini flash cards I’d prepared) that I needed to know for the exam I would sit a week after getting back!

Reeds peak appears, and we know we're close to Rhona!

Reeds peak appears, and we know we’re close to Rhona!

One of the hills at the northern end of the Wright ridge wore a charred cap – evidence of a recent lightening strike (Wednesday night we were to later discover – apparently one party saw lightening strike the lake, surely an awesome spectacle).

We decide to bypass Rhona, heading up the ridge on the way to Great Dome. We whistle and wave to those down on the beach.

We decide to bypass Rhona, heading up the ridge on the way to Great Dome. We whistle and wave to those down on the beach.

The only climb we had was on the approach to Lake Rhona – a bit of a sting in the tail. But although our packs were heavier than usual, they didn’t feel too bad, and I know I was grateful for having done the Eastern Arthurs two weeks before.

Heading up Great Dome, the view towards Wright and the Thumbs, with Anne behind is just lovely.

Heading up Great Dome, the view towards Wright and the Thumbs, with Anne behind is just lovely. You can even see our tents – lovely spot!

We didn’t really want to share Rhona with a group of 6 or so who were in, and we were making good time, so we decided to skip it and head towards camp near Bonds Crag (which we’d planned for our second night). But up near Great Dome we made the call to camp on a lovely little shelf close to water instead.

Though it is difficult to give a sense of Great Dome when you're on top, Graham and I love the rocks, and the views, and just about everything else too!

Though it is difficult to give a sense of Great Dome when you’re on top, Graham and I love the rocks, and the views, and just about everything else too!

Having set up our tents, Graham and I decided to head out for a walk up Great Dome and Reeds Peak, while John minded the camp site. Great Dome was rather a flat topped affair, but with vast views to just about everywhere. Reeds was quite different, with a sharp short climb to its rocky summit. We sat and enjoyed the views, the cushion plants, the rock and the everlasting flowers, frustrated as usual at how difficult it was to fit the scale of everything in to a photo.

Heading back from climbing Reeds Peak, the light is just lovely. Bonds Crag sits behind.

Heading back from climbing Reeds Peak, the light is just lovely. Bonds Crag sits behind.

We took much longer than intended, partly because the light got really nice, and that meant more photos and enjoyment at the expense of the walking. John wasn’t too phased though, and we sat around and enjoyed our first meal together. Mmmmm… delicious home cooked green chicken curry – it’s got to be my favourite!

That evening we enjoy the effects of a gentle sunset, as it lights up Wylds Crag. The rock near our campsite was just wonderful!

That evening we enjoy the effects of a gentle sunset, as it lights up Wylds Crag. The rock near our campsite was just wonderful!

The first gear failure of the trip went to my stove, as the peso refused to work. John came to the rescue with a spare lighter, which I was to keep for the rest of the trip (although my stove started behaving properly after that). The second went to my spork, and I resolved to upgrade to a better alternative when I got back. For the time being, my avocado knife-spoon thingy was going to have to suffice (I was to later break the end off that too!).

When we headed to bed I was still as excited, and a tad apprehensive about the days to come!

Rock, lakes and mountains - that was what the trip was all about.

Rock, lakes and mountains – that was what the trip was all about.

Day 2: Great Dome to camp on the ridge above Lake Wugata

We had a very hazy day, due to the Mt Cullen fire. You could smell the smoke, and it hung around for quite some time (long enough to convince John and Graham that it wasn’t just morning mist!). A red sun struggled to appear amongst the folds of the smoky blanket, an hour later than it was due. So we had a late start – we figured we were ahead of schedule, and only needed to make the short walk to just beyond Bonds Crag.

John enjoys the summit of Reeds Peak, while the haze from bushfires starts to clear, and we can see across to Bonds Crag

John enjoys the summit of Reeds Peak, while the haze from bushfires starts to clear, and we can see across to Bonds Crag

 

 

I was grateful we’d climbed the two peaks we had the night before. Unfortunately John missed out on the views from Great Dome, but by the time we sat on Reeds Peak again the haze was starting to improve, and we could make out faint outlines of the ridge ahead.

Looking North from Bonds Crag

Looking North from Bonds Crag

We met two families as we headed towards Bonds Crag and discovered they were the 8 who had put down Curly as a destination. Fortunately they’d been to Wugata and were now on their way out. We breathed a sigh of relief, and chatted away for some time. It was great to see parents and kids out there!

Graham waves before scrambling onto the summit of Bonds Crag

Graham waves before scrambling onto the summit of Bonds Crag

The pad made the going easy, and together we wove between low scrub and loose scree, climbing up to the saddle just below Bonds Crag. We dropped our packs and went for a fun scramble and little bit of a climb. I was surprised at how easy I found the final climb, given what I’d read about it (including the Abel’s description), but knew I’d not be attempting it on anything other than a dry sunny day!

John and Graham inspect what is to be our home for the night... lovely flat saddle on the ridge to camp on, minimal wind, plenty of mountains, and two lovely lakes nearby - could it be any better?

John and Graham inspect what is to be our home for the night… lovely flat saddle on the ridge to camp on, minimal wind, plenty of mountains, and two stunning lakes nearby – could it be any better?

The views were lovely from the top, the haze much thinner by now. We checked out the way forward, loving the look of the two lakes ahead – Malana and Wugata. Along the ridge we went, choosing to camp high on a flat little saddle above Wugata, rather than down by the lake. The wind was minimal, and the views were not to be missed!

Despite the late start and fairly casual pace it was only midday, so when the tents were set up we armed ourselves with all manner of containers for carrying water and headed down the short sharp drop to Wugata. It was the perfect place to enjoy lunch, have a swim, and go for an explore.

Ah, beautiful cool water! Lake Wugata is a top spot.

Ah, beautiful cool water! Lake Wugata is a top spot.

Eventually though, we tore ourselves away and climbed back up the hill with more water than we could possibly use (dry bags work excellently as water carriers, so long as they have no holes)! We chatted, lazed, learnt all about infectious diseases – including the poor Edgar Hernandez from Mexico (thanks for the quizzing Graham!) – and went for a potter along the ridgeline while we waited for an appropriate time to cook and eat dinner (chicken Balti this time!).

That evening, the sun struggled through the haze and clouds

That evening, the sun struggled through the haze and clouds over Pokana Peak

Day 3: Wugata to Lake Curly via North Star

The morning dawned crisp and clear – no hint of the haze from the day before. We were grateful, we wanted to be able to see the scrub to choose a good route through. We ate breakfast while watching the sun peek through cloud to highlight layers of mountains, one by one.

But the following morning dawned clear - we were ready for a long hot day!

The morning dawned clear – we were ready for a long hot day!

Today was the day I would discover if my apprehension was justified or not. We set off tentatively down the cairned pad keen to keep on it. We’d been told we wanted to be, at all costs. We soon discovered why, when we hit all encompassing scrub. It was thick enough you couldn’t actually see the pad, just had to trust your feet to do the finding. There was no way you’d want to climb down, let alone up, without it!

John plods up the long ridge to North Star - we were glad it wasn't any hotter! None of us were going particularly fast.

John plods up the long ridge to North Star – we were glad it wasn’t any hotter! None of us were going particularly fast.

The rest of the morning was spent patiently navigating our way through small sections of scrub and a whole lot of button grass, over ridges and through little dips. We worked well as a team, and were satisfied with the decisions we made. After scrounging around for some not too muddy water, we began the long hot climb up North Star. The sun was unrelenting, and we had a hot shade-less lunch on the summit. We could see a fire out near Strathgordon, not aware at the time that it was the Cullen fire.

Having got through the Gell gap, we look back at the Denison range - it seems such a long way off!

Having got through the Gell gap, we look back at the Denison range – it seems such a long way off!

Feeling a bit average from the heat, I was glad the rest of the day would be largely downhill or flat. But we were all in for a wonderful surprise. After dropping off the foot of the ridge we’d descended, we found an almost scrub free route, and happened across a creek we’d been hanging out for. All our needs were fulfilled, and it was just beautiful. More than you can imagine short of being there. We drunk our fill, topped up water, then poured hat-full after hat-full of beautifully cold mountain water over our heads. By the time we were finished, we were all as drenched as if we’d been swimming fully clothed.

Ahhh... the feeling of beautifully cold water running down your body on a hot day - the expression says it all!

Ahhh… the feeling of beautifully cold water running down your body on a hot day – Graham’s expression says it all!

Feeling a lot cooler and much better, the walk over Badger Flats was easy, and we found ourselves close to the Gell River, heading through the gap in the ridgeline, aware that as we turned the corner Lake Curly would be a short distance ahead. Crossing the Gell River provided another opportunity to enjoy cool water and a snack, before the final kilometre or so.

The photo says it all. We approached Curly tiredly at the end of a long hot day. We'd earned our reward.

The photo says it all. We approached Curly tiredly at the end of a long hot day. We’d earned our reward.

We approached the lake at about 6.30, 10.5 hours after having started out, ready to enjoy what we knew would be a wonderful camp site. We were slightly put out by some clearly old, but rather average attempts to dig holes that were, in our opinion, too close to the camp site and certainly not 100m from water. It was not the only time we’d be disappointed with toiletry practices on this trip, though at least they’d stepped off the track, and had tried to dig holes, rather than just go on the track and plop a rock on top (yes, we walked over one of them). We had expected that the remoteness of the place might mean everyone who visited would take more care than the average person, and I think that’s what we found most disappointing.

A swim was very much in order!

A swim was very much in order!

We were soon distracted, however, by the sound of unexpected voices! We’d already talked about the possibility of another group being there, having caught a boat in to the Spires and walking out the way we came in, but I hadn’t thought it likely. Even more so, when we learnt that only 67 people had been in to the Font in the last 11 years.

It is a very beautiful lake.

It is a beautiful lake.

We popped through the scrub to meet Zane, Shelly and Nick who, as we’d thought, had come in by boat. They kindly offered us the beach, camping just behind it instead, and gave us space to pitch our tents and hide away three packages of food that we’d collect on the way back.

They then came over and sat with us, and we chatted about who we were and what we were doing, and exchanged notes over their pretty impressive custom-made map as we were going to be walking in each other’s footsteps for the next few days. It was crazy and good to meet others there, particularly as one (Shelly) was an equally determined female (and you don’t meet toooo many of them doing this kind of walking!). Zane has written about their trip too, and can be found here: http://abelzane.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/the-spires.html.

Just lovely!

Just lovely!

We then went for an evening swim to remove some of the day’s gunk, and cooked some dinner, before having a bit more of a chat with our neighbours. The sun dipped behind the distant hills, leaving a golden trail across the lake. We were lucky to be in such a place. While we retreated to our tents to avoid battling it out any further with the mozzies and march flies, John diligently fixed my leaky bladder (another casualty) with a bit of the ever-so-handy tenacious tape (thank you – I’ve touched up the other spots with some more, and it’s working great!).

Day 4: Lake Curly to the Font via Conical and Shining Mountains

We woke early to olive whistlers – which is one of the most beautiful sounds in the bush. I savoured it for just a moment, snuggling up in my sleeping bag. The day was about to get busy, but first I’d enjoy this moment of cosiness.

We had been concerned that this was going to be the hottest day of our trip, and yet it was going to be one of the longest. But luck was on our side, and the forecasted temperature was revised down significantly. So we pushed aside thoughts about having a rest day and just climbing Curly, and stuck with our original plan.

On Perambulator Ridge!

On Perambulator Ridge!

We set out early, to ensure we’d covered a bit of distance before it started getting hot, straight up a couple of hundred metres climb onto Perambulator ridge (not, as the name might suggest, fit for a pram). The slow and steady climb was rewarded with lovely views from the top, including across to the Spires, which were starting to look close (the apprehension, by this stage, was ALL gone)! We waved a final goodbye to Zane, Nick and Shelly, who seemed to be skimming rocks across the surface of the lake.

Looking back down the steep ridge from Conical Mountain, towards Lake Curly

Looking back down the steep ridge from Conical Mountain, towards Lake Curly. Bit hazy.

We followed the ridge along towards Conical mountain, enjoying the open walking, lovely views of surrounding mountains, and thinking Windy lake looked rather lovely – and even came with its own lap pool! Though the ridge climb looked daunting, the closer we got the more manageable it seemed, and in fact we all found ourselves enjoying it thoroughly.

Shining Mountain from Conical

Shining Mountain from Conical

We were on the summit all too soon, and surveying sights of new peaks further south (ones we planned to come back for another trip). A quick weather check revealed better than expected weather in store for us, but news of increasing numbers of fires. We weren’t so much concerned for our safety, but for the land that was burning (how little we imagined then of what would unfold).

As we descended from Conical towards Shining Mountain we could understand where it got its name from, as looking back revealed a mound-like profile of low alpine scrub dotted with rock. Some of the rock formations between the two mountains were just amazing – huge big menhirs alongside razor thin sheets.

Walking along Shining mountain. Some lovely views here, and the Spires are looking very close!

Walking along Shining mountain. Some lovely views here, and the Spires are looking very close!

The walking was just brilliant – the kind you imagine when you think about ridge top walks and we found ourselves weaving between rocks on the top of Shining mountain. We found a grassy corner and used it as a picnic rug, looking down at the small tarn just below. Either of the high or low options would make stunning campsites!

A perfect lunch spot!

A perfect lunch spot!

Having enjoyed every bite of our simple lunches (you always appreciate and enjoy food so much more out in the mountains), we set off on the final leg of our journey for the day, slipping and sliding down the rather (very) clumpy button grass ridge – grateful we weren’t trying to climb up it!

My very pretty female cicada!

My very pretty female cicada!

As we crossed a rocky outcrop, I was thoroughly excited to finally see, and hold, a lovely black Tasmanian cicada. Much smaller than her Victorian counterparts, she nonetheless triggered a range of happy childhood memories of finding, catching, flying and watching cicadas emerge from their shells. I could tell the others that she was female (and point out the relevant anatomy) and explain why she couldn’t make the noise that males did. They waited ever so patiently while I took plenty of photos, thinking in particular of one little niece of mine!

There was a lot of button grass on this trip - some was nice and low.. other parts were big and chunky - we did well to avoid serious injury!

There was a lot of button grass on this trip – some was nice and low.. other parts were big and chunky – we did well to avoid serious injury!

Pausing at the river at the bottom of our descent to gather our strength, we discussed the final challenge of the day – finding the easiest way up what looked to be a very scrubby ridgeline up to the Font. The guys from Curly had told us to trust our instincts, so we followed their advice, and that of another friend who had been in solo a few years back.

Though we found the pad, it was still very overgrown and required a scratchy and tiring push against hardened scrub. Graham did an excellent job in the lead and in time we found ourselves at the log book! That was very exciting. We took it with us, as rain was threatening and we wanted some time to read it (also, we doubted anyone else would be along any time soon!). A little scramble later, with some excellent (overgrown) pad finding from John, we had ourselves a tidy (slightly tiny) spot to set up tents by the Font.

Font camping - we made it!!

Font camping – we made it!!

After some um-ing and ah-ing over tent practicalities realisation kicked in…. Ah, we’d made it – we’d actually got to our destination!!! And our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Just as we had our tents pitched the rain started. We retreated, and enjoyed a five-course meal in between naps and starting the third page of the 11 year old log book!!

Day 5: Day trip to Innes High Rocky

As forecast, it rained all morning. We didn’t complain, or mind at all. We had plenty of time, and had had two 10.5-hour days back to back, so we spent the morning sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more. I thought I should be doing some more study, but the sleeping won out.

Climbing up from the Font, the blue skies come out, and we get to appreciate the beauty of the place even more.

Climbing up from the Font, the blue skies come out, and we get to appreciate the beauty of the place even more.

We woke shortly after midday and figured even if we’d done nothing to earn it, we deserved some lunch ;). As we munched away the tent lit up, and we poked our heads out to find the rain clouds clearing, and the sun shining down. Just brilliant! We had half a day to check out Innes High Rocky.

As we head across the button grass, we glance back at the Font.

As we head across the button grass, we glance back at the Font.

Innes High Rocky is a big must. It’s a long trip (it took us 9:45 – so much for a rest day!), but a lovely one. Lovely, I think, for a number of reasons. Part of it is the sweeping button grass ridges, plains and ramps you walk across and through – the brilliant ‘spice’ colours, as mum so aptly describes them, that set clear blue skies off and frame distant mountains perfectly. Part is its utter remoteness – on the summit you can’t see any hint of civilisation in any direction, and you’re acutely aware of how far and long you’ve walked to get to that very point.

What vast, beautiful, wild spaces there are out here! I feel small, and perfectly content!

What vast, beautiful, wild spaces there are out here! I feel small, and perfectly content!

But a significant part is about the relationship you establish with the mountain as you find your way towards it. It looks like a fort, complete with remnants of old ramparts and battlements. As we approached we find ourselves taking lines contrary to those we’d initially picked out and we realised we were walking where the mountain ordered us to go. A mouse looked quizzically at us from amongst the button grass and coral ferns, before darting away.

Graham stands on the summit of Innes High Rocky, the Spires behind

Graham stands on the summit of Innes High Rocky, the Spires behind

Our attention returned once more to the mountain. We were never quite sure IF we could go a certain way, or IF there was a better route. And then, as if it had never been playing difficult, all of a sudden we were on the final ascent, and we know the top was just ahead, and there were no more obstacles to negotiate. The mountain had granted us passage. There was a special feeling to this one, as we stood on the most remote point we’d get to during the trip. We stayed as long as we dared, but knew we were cutting the daylight hours fine.

Beautiful sweeping light as we looked back to Innes High Rocky

Beautiful sweeping light as we looked back to Innes High Rocky

Back we went, the same very long, round-about way – perfecting the button grass hop in sections where it paid to stay off the ground, and marvelling as the sun cast long shadows across the rolling button grass hills, making them look deceptively smooth! As we walked the final part towards the Spires it shone its final rays, and kept the sky light enough for us to descend back to camp without the use of head torches. Needless to say, soup, dinner and hot chocolate were all VERY much enjoyed.

Nearly back.. the sun starts to set

Nearly back.. the sun starts to set

Day 6: Day trip to Flame Peak, Double Spires (the Spires high point), High Spire, False Dome, the Camel and White Pyramid.

The alarm went off nice and early, because Graham and I had had the crazy idea that it might be nice to watch the sun rise from just above the Font. We dragged ourselves out, and headed up, not too optimistic given the amount of smoke and cloud around. When we’d all but dismissed the idea, the sun started to peek through a gap, casting crepuscular rays over the Denison range and Curly, and proceeded to light up the flame quite spectacularly.

But a moment in time, early morning sun lights up Flame Peak

But a moment in time, early morning sun lights up Flame Peak

We headed back hungry for breakfast, and keen to go exploring! It was to be another big day (11.42 hrs). We started the walking off with a fun little scramble up Flame Peak, from which we couldn’t resist throwing rocks into the Font below. It took about 5 seconds for us to see the splash, and after a short delay of another second or two, we also heard it. It was a lot of fun, of course, and had us laughing like excited school kids! The heavy grey cloud that had zapped the day of its colour hadn’t dampened our spirits at all.

Graham and John celebrate the summit of Flame Peak

Graham and John celebrate the summit of Flame Peak

We then headed over to Double Spires, visiting both high points (all of a metre or two difference). Again, it was fun scrambly stuff on wonderful rock and I was enjoying it. It was such a contrast to the button grass of the day before, but no more or less beautiful.

We go straight up Double Spires (you can guess who was in the lead!)

We go straight up Double Spires (you can guess who was in the lead!)

Unfortunately, we’d left our packs below, following advice to return to the saddle in order to continue on. But we thought it looked pretty good to stay high, so we headed back down to collect our packs. John was quite clear about his preference not to descend the climby way, and led us down a more sensible route perhaps.

I got some interesting captions for this one on FB! We make our way from one of the high points on the Spires to the other.

I got some interesting captions for this one on FB! We make our way from one of the high points on the Spires to the other.

When we’d climbed back up we had the challenge and enjoyment of negotiating the ridgeline, accurately reading when to go up, when to sidle, and when to drop. Somehow, we managed to do so quite flawlessly. We clambered over the top of High Spire on the way to False Dome, enjoying each and the views they provided as the skies increasingly cleared.

Enjoying the sun now, on High Spire - it was lovely scrambling up here!

Enjoying the sun now, on High Spire – it was lovely scrambling up here!

A lovely grassy patch just below False Dome beckoned, so we stayed for lunch. Then on we went towards the Camel, mistakenly thinking the going looked smooth and easy. We were to quickly discover that the scrub was much higher than it looked! But we forged a way through it (or rather Graham did, and we followed), located the correct rocky prominence to scramble up, and found ourselves atop the Camel!

The view south from False Dome. You can see the lovely grassy spot below where we ate lunch.

The view south from False Dome. You can see the lovely grassy spot below where we ate lunch.

We looked towards White Pyramid, which looked about as far again as we’d just come (between False Dome and the Camel), and equally green. Hmmm… and wait a second… it doesn’t look so easy to climb either. The rock slanted the wrong way and we feared a long detour.

I think I've mentioned the rock before - but it was wonderful, especially as it changed colour. Here Shining mountain sits in the distance, with a very white Curly behind and to the left.

I think I’ve mentioned the rock before – but it was wonderful, especially as it changed colour. Here Shining mountain sits in the distance, with a very white Curly behind and to the left.

Closer inspection confirmed our fears, so without further ado, we headed down.. and down.. and around.. more down and more around. Through scrub. Would we get there? Was it even going to be possible to climb this thing? It was like a great big white pyramid, but instead of sitting flat on its base, it was as if someone had cut back under it, giving the appearance of being a diamond that someone had buried almost, but not quite, up to its centre/widest point.

Finally on top of White Pyramid - that's some effort!

Finally on top of White Pyramid – that’s some effort!

As the doubt rose, so too did the frustration, particularly at the scrub. Finally, a break in the white rock wall to our left, and we sensed a possible route up. We hauled ourselves tiredly up the scrubby side, and finally began to think we might just get to the top. Sure enough, over a final rocky climb, there sat the cairn, blindingly white in the afternoon sun. We more recently learned that you can go up from the opposite side – perhaps a much shorter route (I’ll test that one out next time!).

We still had a little bit of energy left for a play on the way back!

We still had a little bit of energy left for a play on the way back!

We savoured it, before somewhat tiredly thinking of how far back we had to walk. But if you get there, you’ve got to get back, so down we went, back through the scrub, trying where we could to stay on the same path we’d taken over to minimise the bash. Step by step we drew closer. Later that night we sat around camp tired but satisfied with our day’s work, and celebrated having got to the Spires with Lindt chocolate.

Day 7: The Font to Lake Curly via the low route

It was time to start our journey back (always a sad kind of time, though not too bad cos we still had a few days, and at least one more mountain to climb). We were supposed to wake to rain, but perhaps the weather gods took pity on us, and although it was definitely grey, we stayed dry and were most grateful.

A perfect button grass flower

A perfect button grass flower

We chatted away as we each went about our respective rituals around packing, and were ready to leave by 8, as agreed. Replacing the log book on the way out, we then enjoyed our scrub bash down the ridge. It was marginally easier this way, but still scratchy!

Heading up to Perambulator ridge, looking to the right at Conical and Shining Mountains.

Heading up to Perambulator ridge, looking to the right at Conical and Shining Mountains.

We’d already decided on taking a different route back, which avoided going back over Shining and Conical. Instead we ducked over the end of the ridge off Shining, before climbing back up a ridge that would connect us with the top of Perambulator ridge.

John and Graham discuss the nearby lightening strike. The Camel and White Pyramid sit behind. Wouldn't have done the trip with anyone else.

John and Graham discuss the nearby lightening strike. The Camel and White Pyramid sit behind. Wouldn’t have done the trip with anyone else.

John had what was turning out to be a very accurate route he’d managed to source from some maps at work, and so we followed it, and our noses to find a fairly decent route. An open creek helped greatly, as did the fact that the button grass wasn’t too big and clumpy as it had been elsewhere (I think the record for the biggest button grass clump was up to my chest (1.4-1.5m high).

This is how we do route finding!! Nah, we actually worked well as a team, and had a pretty much perfect route

This is how we do route finding!! Nah, we actually worked well as a team, and had a pretty much perfect route. Lake and Mount Curly behind.

As we walked the clouds dispersed, and we were once again in sun. We had plenty of time, however, so we took it easy, pausing often to look back at the mountains we were leaving behind. We knew we’d be back, but probably not for a while.

We had lunch on Perambulator ridge, next to where a lightening strike had shattered rock, launched scrub into the air, and burnt a small area. We checked our phones to find that a road block had been set up at Maydena (hopefully we could get out), but that, more excitingly, Graham seemed to have bought a house!

How could you not go for a swim?! Mount Curly looks inviting too.

How could you not go for a swim?! Mount Curly looks inviting too.

Celebrations were in order when we got to Curly, an easy 7.5 hours after having started out, so out came two apricots I’d stashed away – one for Graham, and half for John and I. We also had a swim in the shimmering water – yet again a pure delight. We pottered for the rest of the evening, sorting and packing gear, enjoying dinner, and chatting about plans for the following day.

Day 8: Day trip to Curly

It was a rainy, claggy day. The snowgums bled red and orange, and the place took on a different kind of beauty. The birds, for which I didn’t have names, were still chattering away happily.

Graham celebrates the summit of Mount Curly

Graham celebrates the summit of Mount Curly

We spent the morning sleeping, eating, being tested on my flash cards, and playing a somewhat competitive game of cards. By 1pm it had improved a little, but still wasn’t too promising. We knew if we wanted to climb Curly it was going to have to be now or not this time, so Graham and I got decked out in our wet weather gear, while John chose to rest a twinged back and twisted ankle.

Love the rock formations!

Love the rock formations!

We found Curly to be quite a fun little climb, but resisted the temptation to just keep climbing up the rock to the top, instead following sound advice. There, Graham claimed his 450th point (though he didn’t realise until we returned), and we spent a fair bit of time enjoying the way the mist rolled in and over us. But it was a bit chilly, so we got moving, finding a spot to wave to John below (once Graham had woken him up with a bellow).

A clearer moment to the day - the rock and ridges and colours were lovely.

A clearer moment to the day – the rock, ridges, colours and textures were lovely.

Only having taken 2.5 hours to walk up and back with a little extra time on top, we returned well in time for dinner…at which point Graham realised he was going to run out of gas! But no worries – after a few menu alterations and a little bit of guessing, we figure we’ll get by without going hungry.

Day 9: Lake Curly to Great Dome via the low route

We woke early to light drizzle, and got stuck into breakfast immediately. We expected a big day getting back onto the Denison range, so were ready to leave by 7. The weather seems to be similar to the day before – light drizzle wafting through and around, but never really threatening us. The sun also comes and goes, and we can’t tell if we’re hot or cold.

John’s route does an excellent job again of minimising ascent as well as scrub, and we’re pleasantly surprised at the time we make. The cries of a flock of black cockatoos scratch harshly through the air, but the shrike thrushes are quick to sooth our ears with much more melodious tunes.

We’re ready to face the uphill scrub bash after lunch, and find it not too bad, thanks to the pad. In fact, we make such good time that we all agree not to camp in the saddle above Wugata again, but to head for our spot below Great Dome. It was a tiring plod, particularly as we’d all been mentally expecting to stop at Wugata, but we managed to sidle quite well under both Bonds Crag and Reeds Peak that we didn’t have to expend too much energy gaining height.

The real rain hit as we arrived. We pitched tents quickly, but then had to go and collect water. There was no avoiding it, and the rain wasn’t going to stop. John and I did the honours. The gentle patter of rain against the tent fly turned harsh every time the wind gusted. We wondered how full the river would be to cross tomorrow.

At dinner time, as I boiled water for both Graham and my meals, Graham announced that he’d never tease my Jetboil again, for it was certainly an efficient little stove. Pretty sure by now that we’d be out tomorrow, with a day to spare, we delved into our 11th day snacks for entre and dessert. YUM!

Day 10: Great Dome to car park… and home!

Our final day! Another low cloudy start, but we were sure, as usual, that it would lift as the day warmed up. We set off at 8, because although it was an easy walk out, we wanted to be back at a decent time. We set a steady pace, occasional chatter interrupting our silent thoughts. I didn’t mind at all, I was feeling decidedly lethargic, which I put down to the going home blues. That’s not to say I didn’t want to be heading back (in fact I was more than ready to buckle down now and study for my exam and write an essay), but that doing so meant the end of what had been a very special trip to a simply wonderful bit of Tasmania.

A world of button grass in a drop of water - this photo summed up the experience fairly well.

A world of button grass in a drop of water – this photo summed up the experience fairly well.

When we got back to the river we found it the lowest we’d ever seen – so low in fact, that we took the opportunity to walk across in the water, rather than on the log – and we didn’t get wet feet at all. We signed out of the log book – each of our objectives completed with a day to spare – and rounding the corner to see John’s car, we could finally say we’d done it.

We owed a huge thank you to all those who gave their time and advice – it allowed us to make much better informed decisions, which enabled the trip to run more smoothly than I think we dared to hope.Our list of gear to replace/fix included: a pair of boots, a sleeping mat, two pairs of gaiters, a pair of shorts, a camera, scrub gloves, water bladder and 2 spoons!

All up: 112km, 10 days, 7323m ascent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Arthurs: 27 December 2015-3 January 2016

Eastern Arthurs GPS route

Eastern Arthurs GPS route

What better way to spend the Christmas-New Year period than by going on a bush walk to somewhere awesome with someone half decent? Graham obviously couldn’t think of anything else, in fact, he suggested the option, so I jumped at the chance. My last day (night) of placement finished early on the morning of Christmas Eve, which left just enough time to pack and organise Christmas stuff. Christmas was a quiet but perfectly lovely affair: a sleep-in (what’s that again?!), a late cooked breakfast, lunch with mum and John, and an evening swim at 7 mile beach to top it off.

One of the many little creeks we crossed on the Yoyo track. It had much less water in it on the way back!

One of the many little creeks we crossed on the Yoyo track. It had much less water in it on the way back!

We delayed our plans by day due to the Boxing day rain (and rain it did!), but that was ok cos we had one spare, and it turned out to be the sensible thing to do! But on the 28th, we were off. We opted for something different, both of us having been in on the Mackays track and the Farmhouse Creek track before. So we drove instead to the Huon (aka Yoyo) track.

A first glimpse. Eastern Arthurs to the left, Western to the right.

A first glimpse. Eastern Arthurs straight ahead!

As expected, it was rather a loooong day in. 11 hours of Yoyo-ness… No, to be fair, in to Blakes Opening was fairly flat, if you could have stayed flat on the track. All the fallen trees and other obstacles made it more of an up-over-round and through kind of game. There we found ourselves dancing a complicated routine to the tune of the bush – up and down the yoyo string. 6’3″ Graham loved it!

Taking one of many breathers on the climb up Luckmans lead

Taking one of many breathers on the climb up Luckmans lead

While the obstacle course improved after Blakes Opening, the real Yoyo stuff started, and we found ourselves measuring time by the rises we had to climb and the dips we had to descend into. Without views, except occasional glimpses of the river, there wasn’t a lot of reason to stop. So we kept on plodding – a slow and steady pace that two very unfit walkers carrying 8 day packs could manage.

The rock was rather nice

The rock was rather nice. Picton lies beyond.

And manage we did. We made it, very tired and ready to stop, to the Cracroft crossing in 11 hours (stops included), having ascended 1.3km in the process, and covered 29.6km all up. While we had intended to cross the river that evening and camp on the far side to make for a faster get away the following morning, the Boxing day rain had taken care of that idea. The river was flowing fast, and we thought it intelligent to wait till morning and try our luck then. The camping wasn’t too bad for a forest camp after all.

We were rewarded with treats on the dial. Here we have a brockenspectre.

We were rewarded with treats on the Dial. Here we have a brockenspectre.

Our choice was wise. Not only had the river dropped significantly (needless to say, on the way out it was almost unrecognisable!), allowing us to make a safe crossing in thongs/crocs, we discovered the camp site on the opposite of the river wasn’t half as nice, nor was it close to water (apparently, the grass isn’t always greener…). We hit the button grass, popped over the Razorback range/hill thingy, and finally had our first view of our destination! The black cockatoos screeched a welcome.

...and then we had this!! Hello Fedder! What an introduction.

…and then we had this!! Hello Fedder! What an introduction.

We took a little detour before arriving at Pass Creek, having lost the track, but did well to find it in time for the forest (which is quite a nice little spot). Pass Creek was flowing fast, and we later found out that two days prior it had been, funnily enough, impassable, which we didn’t doubt! I managed to be a goof here, and put my pack on a jack jumper nest, only realising my mistake after obtaining two synchronous and symmetrically placed bites on my bum (three bites in as many weeks – ouch!).

Fast forward a few days, and the sun rose at Goon Moor

Fast forward a few days, and the sun rose at Goon Moor…

Our destination for day two was further ahead, however, so we didn’t stay long before beginning the climb up Luckmans Lead. We were grateful the sun wasn’t out, but that we still got to enjoy the views under overcast sky!

..and the fog hung in the valleys.

..and the fog hung in the valleys.

Unfortunately they were gobbled up as we arrived on top and all we got were misty glimpses of the enormity of the boiler plates as we skirted around. We made it to the camp site, and tossed up the idea of climbing the Dial in clag. Yes or no? Graham, who had already climbed it, was kind enough to bring up the number one principle of walking: if you can climb a mountain, don’t put it off. So off we went.

After an exhilarating scramble up, we stand (pretty happily) on top of Four Peaks!

After an exhilarating scramble up, we stand (pretty happily) on top of Four Peaks!

We were rewarded richly. We gasped, laughed and yelped with wonder and excitement as we stood on the Dial and watched the cloud race straight up at us, revealing a spectacle of mountains, glimpse at a time! Fedder poked through, and we became even more excited. What a special moment. Graham also discovered that you could set the time using your arms on the Dial, courtesy of the brockenspectre that the cloud and sun produced below us. We enjoyed every moment, before returning to our tent.

Four Peaks has a unique view of Fedder.

Four Peaks has a unique view of Fedder.

A wet one followed, and remembering the evening before was all we could do to remain hopeful that it wouldn’t set a trend for the trip. We aborted an attempt up the Needles in rain and clan, unable to see a decent line and aware that the kind of climbing we were doing wasn’t particularly safe in the conditions. We didn’t even talk about East Portal, just took it easy through to Goon Moor.

That would be home for the night. Approaching Hanging Lake with Geeves Bluff beyond.

That would be home for the night. Approaching Hanging Lake with Geeves Bluff beyond.

Goon Moor is a nice little spot in the forest with king billies. We kept an eye on the fog all afternoon, but it didn’t move far. So we did what you do when you can’t walk, and ate… lunch, snacks, dinner and dessert.  It was a wet night, but a 4.30am loo trip reported stars above! The weather held till morning and we found a lookout rock to enjoy the start of the day. The sun rose behind us as we looked west, down to the sea of fog that wound its way through the valleys.

Hanging Lake was VERY inviting. But we were good, given it was the drinking water!

Hanging Lake was VERY inviting. But we were good, given it was the drinking water!

Packed and putting wet gear on is never easy, but soon it was drying as we popped out of the forest and walked across the open moor. How different the day was from the one before. Lovely beautiful clear views, and Fedder looking all the closer with each step. Today we spent our stops taking photos instead of catching out breath.

We sat on Geeves Bluff and watched the sun set.

We sat on Geeves Bluff and watched the sun set.

But the bigger thing for the day, Four Peaks, was on both our minds. Could we do it? Especially having scrapped East Portal and the Needles the day before? I was excited, and a tad apprehensive. We were armed with notes (thanks Martin) but still had to interpret them and have the guts to climb some climby stuff!

The following morning we checked out the Southern traverse to get to Fedder again.

The following morning we checked out the Southern traverse to get to Fedder again. The view back to the first part of the Eastern Arthurs was kind of nice!

We found our gully, and quite a good way up it, even if it involved walking under the scrub in parts ;)! On the saddle our notes became quite straightforward and we chose the second route suggested. But we were slightly uncomfortable about one bit, so went back to the first! Straight up, quite a steep slope that dropped away to nothing, and then we found the ledge thing. A quick shuffle with not the best of hand holds and we were across. The rest of the climb was much easier and we enjoyed it.

Not a bad place to take a seat.

Not a bad place to take a seat.

An expletive or two seemed appropriate when we reached the summit. It was pure awesomeness. The challenging climb coupled with the adrenaline of having made it, the wonderful views of Fedder in particular, and evidence of a lightening strike having shattered the rock on top. It really was impressive, and we were just a bit pleased with ourselves (even more so when we got down safely!).

Looking over to Hanging Lake

Looking over to Hanging Lake

The rest of the day had the usual ups and downs as we wove past the rest of the Four Peaks but we were still high on adrenaline so the climby bits were easily handled. Of all the things, we came across a bee swarm on the track, which had us hesitate for a moment, but they let us past without turning much of an eye. Then on and up we climbed, turning right for Hanging Lake rather than left for Fedder.

Graham fills in the log book :)

Graham fills in the log book 🙂

Again, the camp site was pretty, and it was lovely to have a wash in the stream that was the outflow of the lake. We used the afternoon sun to dry out some of our gear, feed our resident lizard lots of fresh mosquitos, and eat dinner before heading up Geeves bluff for sunset.

Climbing back down. Graham later tells me this was the exact point where he went to check where to put his feet, and all he could see was Lake Geeves between his legs!

Climbing back down. Graham later tells me this was the exact point he went to check where to put his feet, and all he could see was Lake Geeves between his legs!

The next morning we were up early and off to Fedder for a second time – the weather was too good not to. We enjoyed the southern traverse, perhaps a bit more relaxed this time (so much so we walked past the turn off!). You’d have not known we’d been before, as we went the wrong way fairly early on. Mistake noted and sorted, we were soon on top. It was still just as lovely up there, and we enjoyed it for longer this time.

Graham puts Fedder into perspective.

Graham puts Fedder into perspective.

Our timing was a tad off though, and a Par Avion plane flew over shortly after we’d left the summit. Back at our packs, we started the walk back to Goon Moor. We spotted two wedgies, but they didn’t stay close. As we walked back, something triggered a vague recollection of another peak we hadn’t done. Sure enough, the Gables was out there.

Time to head back to Goon Moor

Time to head back to Goon Moor

We had to factor in the fact we hadn’t planned to climb it, fatigue (we were pretty tired from accumulative work), and water shortage (we had a bit over a litre between us, and it was hot). We decided to stand on the edge and check it out. A kestrel hung in one spot despite the wind, and we allowed ourselves to be distracted… Then we decided to go for 15 minutes and see how far we got. We got far enough. We decided to go the whole way.

But we had to climb the Gables on the way ;).. lovely climb it was too!

But we had to climb the Gables on the way ;).. lovely climb it was too!

Probably we chose the unconventional route. We contoured around the northern side to start with, but neither of us was too keen on scrub, so we ended up finding ourselves climbing straight up the rock. Straight enough that Graham decided we’d find an alternative way back down! But it was good fun. We ducked under a hole to get by a cook stone, then turned for a final scramble to the top. It was a lovely little summit, it made our day, and we both felt better after it.

Looking back at Fedder

Looking back at Fedder

We did find that easier way down, through (or rather under) some giant scoparia. The sun lost its strength much as we did ours, and we found the cooler walk to camp considerably easier. We drained the last of our water with our final few steps. We concluded that we work well together, and make a good team…. even when we don’t!

That night, the last of 2015, we watched the sun set.

That night, the last of 2015, we watched the sun set.

Dinner was very much enjoyed, washed down with a final sip of muscat (for the next few months anyway) after which we headed for the nearby lookout point to watch the sun set on the last day of the year. It didn’t disappoint.

It was quite spectacular

It was quite spectacular

It felt a bit weird, because out there, the day of the week is meaningless, marked only by what the weather is doing and how far we have to get/what peaks we’re set to climb. Time follows the rising and setting of sun. And yet it all seemed just right…to be, to reflect and to dream. And to be honest, there couldn’t have been a better way to bring in the new year. So we sat with the king billies, watched the reds and oranges, and set off some party poppers and glow sticks.

Here's to the new year!

Here’s to the new year!

The following day was another big one, due to our wet weather on the way in. We thanked Jess for her weather update, and hoped it would be accurate. I hadn’t started the day so well, learning that the spare battery I carried for my camera wasn’t charged, meaning no photos for the rest of the trip for me.

The following day I resort to my phone camera. Here we look out to East Portal.

The following day I resort to my phone camera. Here we look out to East Portal.

We began with a scrub bash up the nonexistent ridge of East Portal. The first bit, heading down, was open and lovely, and gave us false hope. Then we hit the scrub, which wasn’t so bad, just the usual scratchy stuff. But it started to get to us when coupled with the ridge, which was as broken as a ridge can get. You’d aim for a rocky bump only to find when you got there that there was a huge drop in front of you, and you had to head sideways for quite some time before it was safe to drop down into it.

Looking back towards the Needles with part of the broken ridge in the foreground

Looking back towards the Needles with part of the broken ridge in the foreground

It took us a while to realise we were better off staying below the ridge, wandering deep amongst some really interesting mossy green foresty channels. It was like you were in another world entirely, and made for lovely walking (you can tell which way we came back!). But anyway, after much longer than we expected (1:40 hrs), we finally stood on the jagged crumbly top, and were a little bit pleased that the views were different enough to have made the hard work worth it.

Heading off to the Needles

Heading off to the Needles

We didn’t stay long, knowing we still had plenty to get done. The way back was slightly easier, taking us past two whip snakes, the old landslide (?2005), and of course, the underground forest bit. We weren’t any faster back, but it was more enjoyable.

East and West Portals

East and West Portals

We then went back for a second go at the Needles. We tried to follow the suggested route in the Abels, but found the sidling west only good for the first small bump. We got to the same point as last time and decided a continued sidle would be madness, so we went over and down the eastern side, and popped back up to the saddle on the ridge. From there we followed our noses, which meant we took the direct route, ending with a lovely little climb to the summit.

The Needles were a bit fun!

The Needles were a bit fun!

It was lovely to be standing up there, I only wished I had my camera! On the way back we spotted another kestrel, but it was more Graham’s pure joy at its effortless movement, its show of effortless grace as it cut through the sky, that had me feeling perfectly happy. As we walked back around the bottom of the Needles to Stuarts saddle, and looked back up, we thought how crazy it would be to attempt a climb straight up the Needles from there!

One last look at Fedder!

One last look at Fedder! And you can see a massive rock slide on the Gables.

Because it was still early, and we both preferred a shorter final day walking out, we chose to keep on moving, and make it to the Pass creek campsite. Round the boiler plates we went (which were lovely to see this time!) then down the ridge. It was beautiful walking in the low evening light that turned the button grass a shade of gold. Oh, to have a camera!

The next day was just an out day. We knew we wouldn’t get the whole way, but we aimed for Harrisons Opening. Off we plodded. An array of birds kept us company: cuckoos, shrike thrushes, whistlers, lyre birds, parrots, cockatoos and currawongs. We kept plodding. We reached camp tired and ready to stop and a shared hot chocolate really hit the spot.

The final day took us 6 hours to walk the 18km, giving us plenty of time to manage to cook, and more importantly eat, steak and chips for dinner. YUM!!

All up: 119km, 7105m ascent.

Wright and Stepped Hills: 18-19 December

Mt Wright and Stepped Hills GPS route

Mt Wright and Stepped Hills GPS route

It had been so very long since our last decent walk that I was more eager than usual for this one, especially as it promised to be fine weather (a bit too fine perhaps at around 30 degrees!). To add to the excitement we were also heading for two mountains I’d not yet climbed. I couldn’t wait!

Heading towards Mt Wright

Heading towards Mt Wright

Though we only had a day and a half for the two, we figured we’d be ok, even with the heat. We set off at midday on Friday, battling last minute shoppers through the city and hoping we’d break through the worst of the traffic relatively fast. After rendezvousing with Michael and Jess, we headed for the start of the Lake Rhona track, arriving shortly after 3 to find something like 4 other cars already there. But no matter, they were in at Rhona.

Mt Field West from the slope of Mt Wright

Mt Field West from the slope of Mt Wright

The first half an hour of the walk, which took us to the log over the Gordon River, was always going to be the least exciting bit of the trip, as it was through forest. But the birds were out and brought back memories from the last time I walked the track, which was quite a fair bit more overgrown this time round.

On the summit of Mt Wright, the Denison range behind

On the summit of Mt Wright, the Denison range behind

But soon we were out of the forest and on the button grass plain, looking at Mt Wrights very steep east-facing side. It looked a bit daunting, but was still some distance away, and I at least took comfort in the belief that it wouldn’t look so bad when we were at it’s foot. So we picked a ridge and headed for it.

North from Wright summit

North from Wright summit

As we discovered half way up, we weren’t on the ridge we’d intended (which would have been the next one to the north, and the one with the arch), but we weren’t going back. It was hot, and we were all puffing under the heat and the weight of our packs. I, for one, was feeling very unfit, but thoroughly enjoying myself nonetheless.

Heading back to set up camp

Heading back to set up camp

The mountains to the southeast – Mount Field West, Mueller, the Needles – were darkened dramatically by streaks of cloud in a bright sky. We plodded slowly upwards, no match for the sun, which beat us over the top. It was only a tad cooler in the shadow of the mountain, but enough to be grateful we hadn’t started out any earlier!

Jess sets up a Goondie

Jess sets up a Goondie

Stops became more frequent, and we held our breath once or twice when the ridge broke up and we weren’t sure we could get from where we were across the cliffy stuff. But we were in luck, and in both cases we found a way. Just shy of 4 hours after having started there was no more up to go, and were delighted to see a small tarn nestled amongst the rocks and low alpine plant life.

We wake early the second day... Wylds Craig rises above the blanket of cloud

We wake early the second day… Wylds Craig rises above the blanket of cloud

The question to camp up here instead of dropping down to tarns between Wright and Stepped Hills didn’t really need to be voiced – we were all thinking the same thing. So we located three tent spots, dropped our packs, and made for the short walk north along the ridge line of Mt Wedge to its summit. The views were expansive and the sun was turning everything golden as we celebrated our summit, and we agreed the hot, tiring climb was worth it.

The sun starts to rise

The sun starts to rise

Dinner became a somewhat individualised affair unfortunately, perhaps because we were tired, or because we were keen to escape the swarms of mosquitos, or simply because the four of us had not walked as a group before and had not developed that particular communal ritual.We agreed, in any case, that if we were to get to Stepped Hills and walk back to the cars the following day, which was to be a real scorcher, we’d best start early, and get as much of the walking done as we could before it got too hot. Alarms were set for 5am.

Early morning Thumbs.. oh what a day it would be!

Early morning Thumbs.. oh what a day it would be!

And at 5am they woke us rudely, but that was quickly forgotten at the sight of low lying cloud in the valleys, blanketing all but the tops of mountains, tinged bluey-pink by the threatening sun rise. We took the luxury of taking a few photos before getting to breakfast and packing.

Michael plays on our arch, before we set out

Michael plays on our arch, before we set out

As a result, it was just shy of 6.30 by the time we were good to go. Jess opted for a rest day, while the three of us discussed which route we were going to take off Wright, and then back up Stepped Hills. With that sorted, off we set, through low scrub and slippery scree, downwards.

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That’s where we’re headed.. quite a way it seems!

It was longer than expected, and being in the shade the scree was damp enough to cause each of us to slip more than once. We did a pretty good job of avoiding most of the scrub, and popped out onto the button grass plain well within an hour.

Graham leads the way to Stepped Hills

Graham leads the way to Stepped Hills

The going from here was easy, if a tad pothole-y (I managed to put a leg in exactly the same well-obscured hole on the trip there and back!). We refilled water at one of the tarns at which we’d initially planned to camp, and decided we’d made the perfect call to camp high on Wright.

Graham claims his 400th point on Stepped Hills!! Well done :D!

Graham claims his 400th point on Stepped Hills!! Well done :D!

Having selected which ridge we were taking up Stepped Hills, we made a beeline across the rest of the plain, down into the final valley, and back up the other side. While it wasn’t as steep as climbing Mt Wright, and while we only had daypacks, it was still hot going, especially now that it was after 9, and we had frequent breaks.

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Just a bit happy to be here.. Clear Hill behind!

But sure enough, as time passed, and we placed one foot in front of the other, the summit drew nearer. Michael handed the lead over to Graham, who was on track for his 400th point, as we hit the summit ridge and traced it south. As Graham stood on the small summit cairn, we congratulated him and took in the spectacular views together. We celebrated the moment with huge smiles and laughter.

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Clear Hill again

The photos say more than any words I could write, so have a look at them. It was pretty cool, as Graham pointed out, to see both Fedder and Frenchmans from the same spot, and what we could see of the Spires was also tempting. We ate, sat, and enjoyed some more, before figuring we should get started on the return trip.

The Thumbs again

The Thumbs again

By now it was stinking hot, and we even had to take breaks on the descent. The little scrub-lined stream we’d crossed in the valley before the final ascent was a welcome reprieve from the sun, and we sheltered there a while, pouring water over our arms and heads cooling ourselves in preparation for the final, very hot slog across the plain and back up Wright.

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Looking north to the Denison range

A tiny and temporary bit of cloud cover made the journey a little easier, until we got to the last climb. We procrastinated at the foot with discussions on cable cars, milk bars and wilderness preservation, but we knew we were going to have to do it one way or another.

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Hot work on the slog back up Wright

Off we set, straight into scrub. We chose a super thick bit, but it was short, and then we were on the scree. Though no longer slippery, and much easier going than the scrub, the sun virtually bounced off the rocks, assaulting us from all directions. It was hot, really hot. We managed to stay mostly on the scree, until we spotted Jess sitting on top of a rock, at which stage we contoured around, and crashed in the shade by the mini-arch near our campsite. And there we rested for quite some time!

We finally get back to our campsite.. how lovely is the view?!

We finally get back to our campsite.. how lovely is the view?!

Our tents

Our tents

An hour and a half later we’d packed our tents, wetted our caps again, and filled our bottles with rather warm water from the tarn. Off we set. While you know a slope is steep when you have to slog up it, going back down always makes you marvel at quite HOW you got up it. It was so steep that every step had to be fairly carefully placed, and even then each of us went for the occasional slip. I’d have not wanted to have been doing it in the wet!

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Jess wets her cap before we leave

Again, we needed rests on the way down – which is fairly unusual! But we got there, to the river, and our to the car.. slowly, but surely!

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It’s a steep climb back down Wright

All up: 25.2km, 1714m ascent, 5.15+11hrs.

Ragged Range: 20 September 2015

Ragged Range GPS route

Ragged Range GPS route

So it’s been a while.. like a rather long while.. and plenty has happened, and plenty is still happening (on that note I’ll keep this short, so I can get back to the studying!). There’s been a little less walking (but plenty of snowshoeing!), and its often been to places that are within reach (which means they’re not so new).

Forest curtains in dappled light

Forest curtains in dappled light

You can imagine I was just a bit excited about going somewhere I hadn’t been for the first time since June/July (I think?), even if it was to what was a fairly low little bump near Lake Gordon.

Between the trees on the final walk across the ridge

Between the trees on the final walk across the ridge

Apart from some nice forest and hopefully less scrub than its neighbour, the Saw Back Range, expectations were set relatively low, but that didn’t matter – we were going somewhere new, with people I was looking forward to seeing. To spoil the story, expectations were met and exceeded on all accounts.

Wedge and the Sentinel Range

Wedge and the Sentinel Range

The Ragged Range isn’t just some average little bump. It’s quite a nice walk that starts off on an old 4WD track or something, and then turns into a taped pad through some pretty stunning forest, before changing again to a final ridge walk (or squeeze – there’s a few closely growing trees to get between) and clamber to the summit. The views were much better than expected, even if the Gordon looked seriously low.

We pop out to check out the best route to the summit

We pop out to check out the best route to the summit

As for the company, well, it just the usual crazy bunch of Pandanis plus a few extra (who I don’t think we managed to scare off ;)!)… but it’s been so long since I’ve seen some of them, and this walk in particular brought home just a few of the things I like and respect in them: their acceptance, non-judgemental-ness (yes, it’s a word), encouragement, patience, interest, care and, as always, their ability to take the piss out of everything and everyone!

Bec approaches the summit, while Ben drinks in the views

Bec approaches the summit, while Ben drinks in the views

And so we had a lovely day of chatter, laughter, pranks, forest and mountains, topped off by an almost too close encounter on the drive home with somebody trying to escape a cop car!

Looking over Lake Gordon

Looking over Lake Gordon

All up: 6.9km, 6.37 hrs (very easy pace and a break on top), 461m ascent.

Clear Hill, and the Spires behind

Clear Hill, and the Spires behind

Summit cairn and Lake Gordon

Summit cairn and Lake Gordon

A bite to eat on top, and a view of Mt Field to admire. Saw Back range in front.

A bite to eat on top, and a view of Mt Field to admire. Saw Back range in front.

Kind of liked these guys..

Kind of liked these guys..

 

 

 

 

Saw Back Range: 18 June 2015

Saw Back Range GPS route

Saw Back Range GPS route

It’s funny how some things speak to you. An underlined quote in a borrowed book, and all of a sudden I was planning a walk for the following day. It had to be a short and nearby one, given we were only 4 days off the winter solstice and I had work that morning, and the following morning. And so I figured I’d check out either the Saw Back Range or the Ragged Range (I only made up my mind when I got there!). Both were on my list of mountains to climb this year (it’s already proving to be an ambitious one – I just don’t have the time), and both are perfect winter scrub bashes. In fact, there couldn’t have been a better choice for this particular day.

Had to duck off the side of the road to check out the forest! Lovely, no?

Had to duck off the side of the road to check out the forest! Lovely, no?

Rain was forecast in most parts of the state, but the southwest seemed a little clearer. I was doubting that as I drove through the mist near Maydena, and wondered if my walk might turn into a drive, but my mood picked up when I left the mist and blue sky appeared on the western horizon. I made note of the wisdom in choosing a low peak to climb – the higher ones had their heads in the cloud.. mine didn’t. Things were looking better than I could have expected.

Ibsens Peak... one day I will return!

Ibsens Peak… one day I will return!

I started walking at 10, figuring I’d have about an hour walking on the road first. It’s a 4WD and mountain bike track, and though the start seemed in very good condition, there were a few quite rutted sections, and one decent sized tree down that would take a bit of chainsawing to clear. I came across random bits and pieces off cars – testimony to the nature of the track. I was very glad I was on two feet. A bike would have been handy, though there would still have been a fair bit of dismounting, unless, with child like glee, you dared to test the depth of every single puddle you came across… beware though, there are some very boggy bits ;)!

The Ragged Range.. looking equally scrubby!

The Ragged Range.. looking equally scrubby!

I couldn’t help but admire the forest by the side of the road, and hoped that that might be what I would be walking through (though I was highly sceptical). In case it wasn’t, I took a slight detour, just so I COULD walk through some of it. As I approached the Saw Back Range, I was on the lookout for Ibsens Peak, but it hid behind the trees until I was past. Looking back, I decided if I didn’t have time for it then (and I doubted it) I would return one day. It was nice and pointy, both rocky and scrubby, and it appealed to my idea of a mountain. I happened across a cairn on the right of the road, and two tapes.. on closer inspection there was a pad too.. I optimistically hoped it might be for my mountain, but it was still much too far away, and I assumed it went to Ibsens.. I made note for next time.

The awesome lunch rock, Wedge, the Sentinels and the Franklin range behind

The awesome lunch rock, Wedge, the Sentinels and the Franklin range behind

When I got to Welcome Rock an hour and ten minutes after having started, I felt less than welcome.. I stood on a mound, then another, checking out the route ahead. It looked green.. and scrubby. Oh well, it was to be as I’d heard and expected. No surprises there, unfortunately. On went the overpants and rain jacket.

Ready to climb up the last bit of scrambly conglomerate to the summit.. Mueller just out of the cloud

Ready to climb up the last bit of scrambly conglomerate to the summit.. Mueller almost out of the cloud

I set off and after the first few metres found the going surprisingly easy. I seemed to be on something that had pad-like characteristics heading in the direction I wanted to go. It was largely button grass and tea tree, and a bit of other stuff. Thicker clumps surrounded rockier sections as I contoured north, and though a tad annoying as they necessitated either a climb or a drop to get around, the conglomerate was impressive.. One rock in particular was massive, and as I passed I thought how it would make a perfect lunch spot for a walking group (except it wasn’t in an ideal location – you’d reach it either too early or too late for lunch).

Looking south along the ridge, Mt Bowes stands out.

Looking south along the ridge, Mt Bowes stands out.

I continued on, the relatively easy going lulling me into a false sense of security, along with the number of broken trees and branches that seemed to suggest something heavier and rougher than wildlife had been through on the same path. After I’d passed below a number of ‘the saw teeth’ that make up the southern end of the range, I headed up to climb my ‘tooth’. Probably I should rewrite that.. I slipped and slithered down almost as much as I clawed, pushed, fought, sweated and swore my way up. The bauera had chosen the wrong place to grow, and I wasn’t particularly patient with it! In parts it was easier to almost crawl, in other parts I was paradoxically as glad of it for the purchase it gave as I tried to haul myself up particularly steep bits, as I was frustrated that it wouldn’t then let me through.

Wedge, Sentinels, Frankland range etc from the Saw Back summit

Wedge, Sentinels, Frankland range etc from the Saw Back summit

After a lot of puffing and panting I finally found myself on the ridge, in a saddle between my bump and the one next to it, and was grateful that the scrub was minimal in comparison to what I’d just come through. Following nose and head, there was really only one way up, and there was definite evidence that people had been this way before. A short sharp climb led to conglomerate rock, which was nice and slippery. I took extra care, as I wasn’t wearing boots I trusted, and had completely forgotten to tell anyone where I was (I only thought about it when I parked my car, by which stage it was too late). It was also a little bit ‘straight down’ in (most) spots from there to the summit. A slip would be painful, if not dangerous. But the scramble over the rock was short (and still fun), and there I was on the summit. I checked to make sure it was the highest point (yep, phew!).

Looking north along the ridge at rain and snow flurries. I only got hit on the drive over and back, fortunately!

Looking north along the ridge at rain and snow flurries. I only got hit on the drive over and back, fortunately!

It wasn’t such a bad view, either, and certainly better than I’d expected given the forecast. The Needles and Mueller out eastish, Thumbs and Clear Hill to the north, Wedge and the Sentinel Range to the south, with the Frankland Range behind. I checked out the Ragged Range to the west, doubting it would be any less scrubby! The sun came and went, and rain and snow clouds hid and revealed mountains as I watched. They stayed away from me, for which I was grateful, though I doubt I could have got any wetter!

One last glance back.. yep, just a bit of scrub.. and you can see how the range got its name!

One last glance back.. yep, just a bit of scrub.. and you can see how the range got its name!

A few photos, before my fingers went numb and I figured it was time to find my way back. I started off retracing steps, then figured I’d just head straight down. When that got horrible, I decided maybe contouring back was a better idea, but I’d dropped too low, so when the nicer stuff ran out I went back to the straight down approach. At least it was downhill, which tends to make falling an almost productive form of movement. There were a lot more holes and cutting grass, and parts where I found myself walking a metre or so above the ground, waiting to fall through. A good deal of effort later, and I hit the road. I looked back, shook my head, and was glad I hadn’t gone that way up!

The 4WD track.. bit interesting in spots.. one other blog says it took 4 hrs to drive from the road to Adamsfield, only 12-14km.. it'd take half that to walk it!

The 4WD track.. bit interesting in spots.. one other blog says it took 4 hrs to drive from the road to Adamsfield, only 12-14km.. it’d take half that to walk it!

Needless to say, I enjoyed every easy step of the road walk back! Oh to feel tired from physical exertion :D!!

All up: 5:02 hrs, 602m ascent, 13.4km… of that, 2.5 hrs and 11.3km were on road, 1:20 hrs and 1.1km for the ascent, and 1 hr and 842m for the descent. It’s not often that the descent is pretty much as slow as the ascent, particularly through scrub!

Oh, and the quote… ‘The cure for loneliness is solitude’.. Not that I was lonely, far from it actually.. but I did feel like some solitude, in a place that feels more like home than my own house (even though I might have cursed the scrub most of the time I was in it!)

PS, sorry for the lower resolution photos.. I’m running out of space, but you get the idea!

Mount Solitary: 22-23 March 2015

Mt Solitary GPS route

Mt Solitary GPS route (minus the return leg home)

Change was never something I particularly looked forward to, let alone embraced. Usually, I’d meet it with a reluctant, grudging acceptance, for it always seemed to disrupt what I’d become used to, the things and people I’d grown to love. But the last year or so I’ve come to learn that it’s much, much more than being only about loss. Yes, that is one element at times. But even loss opens up the potential for other opportunities, renews or clarifies appreciation and the true value of things we once might have taken for granted (a lot, or even just a little bit) without even realising it. Change is also about growing, learning, exploring… living really. It can be scary, but equally exciting and rewarding and full of possibility. I’m now encouraged by it, and try to (at times somewhat tentatively!) embrace it for all that it might be.

Setting out. the lake shimmers silver and it's hard to tell where water ends and mist starts. It's beautiful though!

Setting out. the lake shimmers silver and it’s hard to tell where water ends and mist starts. It’s beautiful though!

I’m in week 5 of my first semester, of a 6 semester course (over a fast track 2 years). Lots of things have changed. I’m studying 4 days and working 4… in a 7 day week! Yep, I know. There’s mathematically no time to go bushwalking. But effective stress management is going to be part of my job (when I get it!), so I’m intent on starting early, and bushwalking is definitely a part of it. Two weekends ago three of us made use of the long weekend to go on a rather wet walk around the Anne circuit (via the NW ridge), where regardless of the weather, it was just really good to be out in the mountains with friends.

The cloud stays low, but gradually the mountains start to poke their heads above it. We head for Solitary.

The cloud stays low, but gradually the mountains start to poke their heads above it. We head for Solitary.

I’d thought I’d not get another chance for a walk until Easter, but a very nerdish approach to completing essays/assessments super early (with the sole intention of freeing up time for walking, of course!), and an invite from an equally keen friend sorted that, and what had been impossible became way too easily possible. A list of day and overnight walks pretty much wrote itself, from which the best option could be chosen based on the weather.

A tree, rocks, and the Western Arthurs.

A tree, rocks, and the Western Arthurs.

I was pretty keen on somewhere new, but also a really nice, cruisey trip that scored high on the refresh and relax scale (i.e. not a lot of work scrub bashing, route finding in difficult terrain/conditions etc). Solitary was my pick. We watched the weather closely. Sunday looked pretty good, weather and wind wise. Monday looked wet (VERY wet) and rather a bit windy. I suspect Graham sensed my preference… you can guess what we settled on.

But a drop in the lake. Barrier Islands and the end of the Frankland range behind, separated by low cloud.

But a drop in the lake. Barrier Islands and the end of the Frankland range behind, separated by low cloud.

After 8 hours at work and a little bit of stress as I was due to leave at 6am (on account of another baker not waking up), I was finally free to indulge in my excitement, ‘I’m going on a walk!!!’. It certainly wasn’t something I took for granted anymore, and my renewed and acute excitement was a result of that.

We have arrived. And once a map man, always a map man!

We have arrived. And once a map man, always a map man!

A coffee in New Norfolk (yes coffee! Ok, ok, well mocha for me… it’s a start!), check of the kayak ties, and we were on our way, catching up on one another’s news, discussing the weather and our plan of attack for the day, and otherwise just enjoying the views of Tassie’s SW wilderness as they opened up (or the mist in the trees when they didn’t!).

Solitary under just a light bit of cloud, with some lovely patterns.

Solitary under just a light bit of cloud, with some lovely patterns.

We were at the boat ramp by 9, where I was taken by the beauty of very low mist covering Lake Pedder. It was shimmering silver, and most atmospheric. I think Graham was more concerned, worried that the forecast cloud cover might mean it wouldn’t burn off. Visibility would certainly make life a lot easier!

Anne sits on a smokey horizon.

Anne sits on a smokey horizon.

But in the time it took us to get the kayak down, and filled with gear (minus a pair of gaiters, ehm!), a fair bit of it had burned off, promising good things. Still, as we started out, paddling towards and then around Scotts Peak, there was a thick bank of cloud sitting just above the water, revealing only the tops of mountains.

Hmmmm… not bad. I'm not old enough to have known the original Lake Pedder, but despite this one being fake, I do find it rather lovely all the same.

Hmmmm… not bad. I’m not old enough to have known the original Lake Pedder, but despite this one being fake, I do find it rather lovely all the same.

We must have taken long enough on the paddle over though, because as we approached Solitary and looked for a place to pull up and camp, all that was left was more decorative cloud patterns above the summit. We located the ridge we liked best then cruised along the shore a little way, looking for a spot to camp. Nothing took our fancy quite as much as the isthmus on Scotts Peak, so we settled on going for our walk, then returning and paddling back there.

A short way into the climb, and it's hot, sweaty and steep work. Perfect excuse to enjoy the view for a bit. The Barrier Islands, with the Giblin range (Jim Brown this end) and the end of the Frankland Range.

A short way into the climb, and it’s hot, sweaty and steep work. Perfect excuse to enjoy the view for a bit. The Barrier Islands, with the Giblin range (Jim Brown this end) and the end of the Frankland Range.

By now it was hot! I was regretting forgetting my gaiters (not packing into a pack with my usual system had thrown me), but Graham came up with an effective solution and after an early lunch (to avoid lugging it up the hill), we set off. The walking was pretty much open (unless, you know, you CHOSE to go through the scrub), though typically button-grass-slippery underfoot, and steep enough. And did I mention it was hot? Think it needs to be said again.

Scotts Peak and Schnells Ridge in the background

Scotts Peak and Schnells Ridge in the background

We were both feeling unfit, but it was easy enough to find photo opportunities that couldn’t be missed. We followed the ridge up and it became more spine like, rocky vertebrae protruding through the button-grassy skin. But still the going was easier than expected. We did have our eye on a scrubbier section near the top of the ridge, but I confidently (optimistically??) told Graham we’d find a pad.

Time for a sit down on rock. Looking at Scotts Peak and the Western Arthurs.

Time for a sit down on rock. Looking at Scotts Peak and the Western Arthurs.

And sure enough, he walked straight onto one. Part way up a hesitant ‘I daren’t say it’ expressed what we were both thinking. But it wasn’t too good to be true, and we followed it up to the top of the bump, from where we could see the summit cairn, just a short and easy walk away! We were there, pretty much!! And the views were speccy.

Did I mention steep? And a tad slippery underfoot, but really not bad walking at all!

Did I mention steep? And a tad slippery underfoot, but really not bad walking at all!

We did our own thing, exploring the summit region and capturing slightly different views of the somewhat hazy mountains on the horizon. Despite both being keen and aware of the need to return to the kayak in good time so we could paddle back to Scotts peak and set up camp before it got too cold and dark, it was also important to enjoy the moment. We made two insignificant figures, standing on the top of a mountain in the middle of a wild and beautiful place. Cool breeze on sweaty backs nicely countered warm sun on skin. Time hung…

Nearly there, Looking along the flank of the ridge towards Anne.

Nearly there, Looking along the flank of the ridge towards Anne.

I could have stayed there much longer, and for once it was Graham who was waiting for me to get my act into gear! I happily took the lead on the way down, and we decided that there was actually a pad pretty much the whole way along the ridge, except where you didn’t really need one. We didn’t hang around, both of us were low on water and keen to quench our thirst straight from the lake.

And we're on the ridge! Looking along it to Anne.

And we’re on the ridge! Looking along it to Anne.

We did just that, packed our gear back into the kayak, and had a really lovely calm paddle over to the isthmus on Scotts peak. What had started out as ‘I feel a bit selfish enjoying all of this on our own’, turned to horror at the thought that maybe there was someone already there, but what might have been a kayak turned out to be a false alarm.

Graham heads the short distance to the summit cairn. We were impressed at it's size!

Graham heads the short distance to the summit cairn. We were impressed at its size!

Paddling in we marvelled at the stillness of the water, the clear reflections, and how lucky we were to be out in it. We ran aground, found a rather flat and not too boggy sandy patch of ground amongst the pebbles, and designated it home. The usual domestic duties followed, with promise of a very cold swim in lengthening light on their completion. So cold, in fact, that the swim part was cut short to a wade – I didn’t like my chances of getting warm again after a full dunking.

On top of the world :)!

On top of the world :)!

My new(ish)found enthusiasm for taking on challenges had had me elect to do something I don’t do (and by that I meant DON’T DO.. well, not any more than two or three times A YEAR at the most): cook dinner. And I don’t mean the boil water, add a dehydrated meal, stir and wait kind of meal (cos that’s boiling water, not cooking). It wasn’t particularly fancy: steak with port wine and onion jam, corn, carrot, bok choy and mashed potato (I was limited by the practicalities of space and gas after all, not to mention my non-existent cooking skills), but it was challenge enough.

Pretty steep if you chose to come up this side! The haze smooths everything over.

Pretty steep if you chose to come up this side! The haze smooths everything over.

And it worked pretty well, if I say so myself! It was certainly greatly enhanced by a glass (well, plastic mug :p) of red wine, which accompanied both it and an entree of biscuits, cheese, apricot paste and apple. Later on, chocolate as a ‘pencuci mulut‘ (look it up, it’s Indonesian). Just a tad luxurious!

Can't take my eyes off you ;)! Anne sits majestically.

Can’t take my eyes off you ;)! Anne sits majestically.

The stars came out that night, and we found Jupiter sitting over Mount Solitary. But the wine, the day we’d had, and work the night before caught up with me, and there was no keeping my eyes open. A solid 8 hours sleep later, and I woke to the sound of rain pattering on the tent. But it wasn’t too bad: though we had some moody and atmospheric views out west, the mountains were mostly out, and there were times the rain did stop completely.

Solitary summit cairn, Western Arthurs behind.

Solitary summit cairn, Western Arthurs behind.

With the better than expected conditions, our planned early start was unsurprisingly delayed. Perhaps a bit too long, as the rain started again as soon as we got serious about packing. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold, so all we had to worry about was trying not to fill the kayak with water. We managed, and were ready to go in record time.

We check out this end of the ridge, contemplating a trip in to that lot of unfinished business over there: Terminal Peak, Secheron and Lloyd-Jones.

We check out this end of the ridge, contemplating a trip in to that lot of unfinished business over there: Terminal Peak, Secheron and Lloyd-Jones.

After a short section with the wind at our side, and a brief stop over to check that we were heading in the right direction (interesting how easy it is to get confused in those kind of conditions), we pushed back solidly, enjoying riding the waves whenever we could. 40 minutes after having set out, we were standing on land again. Some tourists who drove up as we were unpacking must have thought we were nuts – they drove off without hanging around!

Back on the summit, looking over to the Frankland range.

Back on the summit, looking over to the Frankland range.

It was nice, very nice, to get into dry clothes and a warm car! As we drove back we both found it hard to imagine that it had only been the morning before that we’d set out. There’s something about being out in the wild, and doing the activities that go with it that seems to warp or stretch time, though I’m not quite sure what it is.

Not entirely alone on Solitary ;)

Not entirely alone on Solitary 😉

The Possum Shed wasn’t open (it might have felt like the second day of my ‘weekend’, but it was Monday after all) so on Graham’s suggestion we checked out the Salmon ponds. Neither of us had been before, and after making use of the toilets (most important!), we checked out some pretty big, kind of ugly, fish. An informative conversation on fly fishing ensued (it seems it too can be an art, as much as a sport), interrupted by lessons on medlars and conkers, and topped off by an encounter with a pretty tame platypus!

Wedge :)

Wedge 🙂

A pretty special weekend indeed.

And time to head back down our chosen ridge

Time to head back down our chosen ridge

All up: 17km return in the kayak; and 4.5km, 563m ascent, and a bit over 3.5 hours worth of walking.

 

A little later in the day, and the definition is starting to come out in the mountains

A little later in the day, and the definition is starting to come out in the mountains

Another wave to Anne :)

Another wave to Anne 🙂

 

A short paddle later, and we find ourselves looking at Solitary from a slightly different perspective. Pretty nice!

A short paddle later, and we find ourselves looking at Solitary from a slightly different perspective. Pretty nice!

Jim Brown is the dominant feature out that way

Jim Brown is the dominant feature out that way

And of course, Scotts Peak, where it all began!

And of course, Scotts Peak, where it all began!

The following morning is a tad moody and wet, but better than expected!

The following morning is a tad moody and wet, but better than expected!