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.

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Federation Peak: 28-31 March 2014

Federation Peak GPS route

Federation Peak GPS route

Clearly it is no longer a question whether it was to be or not to be, but now becomes about how it was. It was a lot of things, more than fits appropriately into a usual ‘great little walk’ kind of descriptor. While the Fedder trip went, in the broad scheme of things, according to what was planned (we left on the Friday, returned on the Monday, and walked each day as planned), the experience itself was more ‘intense’ perhaps than one could imagine (perhaps that was partly psychological too). The good bits were far better than expected, and the bad seemed more hellish. What started off as a very disappointed ‘this is not the way I wanted to end my summer walking’ kind of feeling, turned into a ‘actually, no, the hard work paid off and the reward was amazing’. Certainly more complex, and fittingly so, than any of the ‘awesome walks’ I’ve been lucky enough to go on over the summer.

 

The only view on the walk in.. one very misty Hopetoun

The only view on the walk in.. one very misty Hopetoun

Climbing Fedder is not something that just happens out of the blue, and although for us it was a rather short few months waiting from deciding to go and actually going, those months were none the less filled with lots of nervous excitement and a touch of anxiety about weather, health, fitness and ability. The short story behind the seed for, and planning of, our trip can be found on the Acropolis, Parthenon entry, or is as copied below. Skip if you’ve already read it!

Camp at Cutting Camp.. watch out for the mozzies!

Camp at Cutting Camp.. watch out for the mozzies!

Standing on Wylly Plateau in early December, having just experienced a magnificent and magical day climbing PB and watching the colours of the setting sun light up the sky behind Fedder, something clicked, and it was suddenly time. No more ‘one days’.. no more toying with the idea of running in and out solo. Graham, by virtue of chance (wrong, or right, place and time perhaps? Or some greater engineering outside either of our control), was the victim of this particular moment and set of circumstances, and was asked (or perhaps told.. and in no uncertain terms ;)!) that I wanted to climb THAT mountain, and he was coming..

Nothing more was organised then and there, but I knew I had a willing conspirator to court this mountain with me when once we were back home, settling in to the routine of normal life again, I was asked about dates. We pencilled in two weekends, 4 days, in and out. Fingers crossed for the weather. This weekend just gone, as I said, was the first. It wasn’t to be. Pity, because although it wasn’t planned, I’d realised a few weeks ago that if I successfully climbed all the mountains between then and Fedder, that Fedder would be my 200th peak.

But doubts rose at the beginning of the week leading up to the weekend, Graham was down with a nasty cold, I was over worked (deadlines and translation aren’t fun) and under-rested, and the weather wasn’t looking flash. It wasn’t a fun week of waiting. The mood turned from slightly hopeful, to dreading that neither of us would be going anywhere (and that is ALWAYS worse). Fedder was called off on Thursday.

Heading up Moss ridge.. lots of fun climby bits

Heading up Moss ridge.. lots of fun climby bits

Obviously, this week was our last chance for an attempt this summer, as the days would be shorter, the weather less stable, and the chance of success would be reduced. We waited with more nervous anticipation, then with a hint of excitement, as the weather shaped up to be workable, although not necessarily perfect. Rain on the Friday walk in to Cutting Camp, possible rain on the Saturday for the walk up Moss Ridge to Bechervaise Plateau and a possible summit attempt, sunny on Sunday for a second possible attempt and retreat back to Cutting Camp, and fine for the walk out on Monday. Wind was negligible, slightly increasing on the Sunday night when we’d be back in the forest. We accordingly set our sights on a Sunday summit attempt.

 

Climbing a tree, to balance on a plank.. without it getting up the vertical wall to the left of the photo would have been very hard

Climbing a tree, to balance on a plank.. without it getting up the vertical wall to the left of the photo would have been very hard (photo courtesy of Graham F)

We had a quick turn around from the weekend before, filled with washing, restocking food, batteries, loo paper etc, and repacking. I worked an early shift on Thursday night, raced out the door armed with two apricot danishes at 5am, drove home, showered and was good to go when Graham arrived shortly after 5.30. It was nice to finally have something to do, rather than just waiting for the moment to arrive. The nerves disappeared, and the excitement, slightly surreal, remained.

 

The bivvy cave.

The bivvy cave.

We chatted a little, and were then quite quiet, left to our own thoughts. Presently though, the wondering about what the next four days might bring was forgotten, with an invaluable, if embarrassing, lesson on the need to check (when parked on a flat surface mind), and top up, engine oil. I’m supposed to be a semi intelligent person, but sometimes I feel quite the opposite! A stop at Huonville had that (and coffee) temporarily sorted, and we were off, negotiating our way along the long, and quite poorly maintained, forestry roads. When I’d been in last year to do Bobs and the Boomerang, there was just one major pothole, from which a stick sporting pink tape protruded to warn drivers of the danger. This time there were 3, highlighting the relevance of the concern many bushwalkers have over the recent handing over of roads from Forestry to Parks.

First view of Fedder!!! :D

First view of Fedder!!! 😀

 

It was shortly after 8 by the time we were ready to go, and we took in the humid, overcast and rather wet-looking (but not actually raining (YET)) conditions, and decided to go ahead in shorts and shirts. We were drenched in no time, Graham particularly so as he took the lead and therefore the full brunt of wet scrub, that, because wet, hung lower and more claustrophobically over the path as we attempted to push through it. Intermittently we unsuspectingly shook cold showers down on our heads, as we reached out for a branch or trunk to steady ourselves, or bumped our packs against something we hadn’t seen.

 

Looking back at the Crest Range

Looking back at the Crest Range

The going was slow and tiring, requiring all concentration to stay upright and moving forwards. Eyes were rivet to the forest floor, scanning for a spot to put each foot that avoided the super slippery tree roots, mossy rocks, or at times unsuspectingly deep patches of bog. Any opportunity to look elsewhere had you scanning for ‘head hunters’ (branches at head height that really HURT when you walked into them), or trunks/branches to hold on to on either side as you ducked uncomfortably low under a fallen tree, or tried to raise a leg over shoulder height to get over another one. There was very minimal time spent admiring surroundings, though the sheer masses and variety of fungi did not escape our attention, even though we didn’t stop to photograph any. Instead, it was the auditory delight of olive whistlers and lyre birds (and yes, a sighting or two too) that we were able to enjoy more as we walked.

 

Boardwalk.. and so so close!

Boardwalk.. and so so close!

A little way into the walk, completely drenched, not much conversation happening, I had the cheek to ask Graham if he was having fun. The reply was a none too convincing yeeeees, which in a few hours had more honestly turned into a NO. Like I couldn’t have figured that out from the occasional expletive that he let rip after banging his head for the 8th time, or slipping on an invisible root, or just at the sheer continual bombardment of it all. It didn’t let up. Nearing and after the turn off to Lake Sydney the bog got more fun (NOT), and the bauera and cutting grass made a timely appearance as if we didn’t already have enough trip hazards to avoid, or a patch of skin that wasn’t already soaked through and muddy.

 

Home, under the watch of Fedder.. just perfect!

Home, under the watch of Fedder.. just perfect!

Jackets went on at the Picton saddle, not to keep us dry, but to make things more comfortable. And then we were onto the ridiculous bush dance that comes with so many obstacles that it’s hard to call a path a path! We seemed to slow right down, but it’s impossible to go fast when you can’t take two connected strides, and we were actually on the faster side of Chapman’s times. It was a great pity that walking took so much concentration that we couldn’t enjoy the rainforest, which actually was quite beautiful: luscious and green, with happy little pink elongated bell-shaped flowers to brighten it further.

 

Heading up the initial climb. Tent platforms bottom left, part of the dirt track up bottom right.. and of course the view!

Heading up the initial climb from camp. Tent platforms bottom left, part of the dirt track up bottom right.. and of course the view!

As we walked in silence (there’s a saying, if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it, and I think we were both feeling pretty over the walking by this stage) I couldn’t help reflecting on what I’d expected of the trip. It wasn’t this! I was all for another amazing walk into a very special, very significant place, that while demanding, was going to be lots of fun. But I wasn’t having fun. Oh no.

 

Straight up at first.. but not hard.

Straight up at first.. but not hard.

Short of a full on scrub bash, this was some of the worst, least enjoyable walking I’d done, and I even had company, and good company at that, which usually makes a walk in horrid conditions alright. It wasn’t cutting the mustard. I discovered as we chatted later that evening that Graham was thinking and feeling the same thing. This wasn’t the end to a summer’s worth of very awesome walking either of us wanted. And I just hoped like hell that we got to the top and that that made it ok. The effort to get in and out could only be justified by an amazing climb and time on top.

 

Then a gentler slope on rock. Fedder looking on.

Then a gentler slope on rock. Fedder looking on.

But it was hard to be optimistic about even that. The day was so grey, the cloud low, the mood oppressive and dark, and though we saw glimpses of Hopetoun under the swirling mist, we saw no evidence of our mountain. Would the weather do as forecast? Would we get a window of opportunity? It’s amazing how hard it is to stay positive and have a little faith when you’re in those conditions.

 

The mist swirls beautifully.. on the flattish part now.

The mist swirls beautifully.. on the flattish part now.

There was nothing for it, but to trudge on. Even this, we both admitted, we did because the other was there. Had either of us been walking alone, we’d most likely have called it off and walked out then and there. We got through the tangled forest, across the boggy button grass sprinkled with more bauera and cutting grass (lethal trip-hazard, eye-poking, harm-inducing, pride-damaging combination that it is), and then along the enclosed riverside walk through each of the various camps, finally arriving at Cutting Camp, just over 8 hours after having started out. What a relief!

 

Now to head down that narrow and steep gully.

Now to head down that narrow and steep gully.

Exhausted, wet clothes were stripped off, a tick and a few leeches removed, and I stood in the freezing cold water of the river, trying to get the worst of the ingrained mud off me. It’s surprising how warm it seems after emerging from a river so cold it’s pain inducing, and putting on warm DRY clothes. I gave in very quickly to a loosing battle against the mozzies, and I’m paying for it now! No energy to cook dinner, I got straight into my sleeping bag to warm back up after cooling down, and fell asleep before even getting out my lunch (we hadn’t even stopped for that). Graham woke me after having cooked some dinner of his own and forced me to eat something, which he probably knows I did only to get him off my back ;). I don’t know that I was particularly sociable or agreeable, I was certainly more than half asleep!

 

Backwards was sometimes easier than forwards

Backwards was sometimes easier than forwards

The next morning was cold, and the sun was still stuck behind light grey cloud, that gave no hint of if or when it might lift. Our excitement for the morning came when Graham discovered one very fat leech who must have sucked his blood all night. We ate and then packed as much as we could, before gingerly struggling into cold wet clothes. The start of the track was in the same condition as the walking of the day before, but as we started to gain height as we headed up Moss Ridge, things improved. There was a lot more climbing over, under and around more trees than you could possibly imagine on a TRACK, but it started to get a bit more fun, and was less suffocating and claustrophobic.

Misty and atmospheric. Lake Geeves and pandani.

Misty and atmospheric. Lake Geeves and pandani.

 

We had hints of sun, which slowly thawed out the grey mood hanging over our heads, and it wasn’t too long before I realised yes, I was actually having fun! Graham was also finding the ducking and weaving easier now that I was carrying the tent inner and fly (nice to finally be pulling a bit of weight and not feeling so guilty for slacking off), as it made his pack that little bit lower. One of the super fast bushwalking friends I’d asked for info on route finding before leaving had told me I’d love the climb up Moss Ridge, and I agreed he was right.

 

At this point you stop going down, and head to the right of this photo, up a gully with a big chockstone.

At this point you stop going down, and head to the right of this photo, up a gully with a big chockstone.

The first part of the climb is straight up, but it’s not so tiring because the going is slow given the nature of the climbing and so you don’t actually get short of breath. For someone like me who likes using my arms from time to time, it was great, and a good little challenge in spots. In one, no hand holds meant Graham got a bum boost, and I got an arm pull up, only once we were up we found an alternative and much easier route round the other side. But we’d had fun, so no matter. In another spot we got to climb a skinny tree, balance precariously on a plank that ran from a fork in said tree to the top of a rock part way up a vertical wall, work out footing, before climbing up the remaining, less vertical, part of the wall. Lots of fun :)! I remember being grateful too, that I was walking with Graham. He seemed to know exactly when to keep walking after a climby section so as not to be patronising, but also when to pause to make sure I got up ok, even though I didn’t actually need a hand.

 

The gully you take, and the climb begins.

The gully you take, and the climb begins.

After passing the bivvy cave, we gained the ridge and had our first views. It was perfectly timed, and as we took a snack break we watched Fedder poke out of swirling mist. We wondered if what we could see was the summit, or if it hid round the back. We later ascertained it was indeed the summit. Spirits were now high, the hell of yesterday forgotten for the moment, and smiles covered our faces.

 

Did I mention atmospheric mist before? We wonder which is the summit.. shortly it's revealed to us!

Did I mention atmospheric mist before? We wonder which is the summit.. shortly it’s revealed to us!

This made the subsequent ups and downs and ups and downs actually quite easy, so much so I don’t even remember thinking ‘is THIS the last one?!’. And then a chuckle of incredulity as Graham spotted the first bit of track work on the whole trip, one of those seemingly irrelevant planks of wood put in at an angle across the track to make the water run off in a certain direction. But it gave hint of what was to come, and very soon we were walking on duckboard!! Oh the beauty of taking long strides!!! We were laughing, Fedder was right there, and we passed low camp (where signs ask you not to camp if possible to aid the regeneration process) and made our way on to the tent platforms at high camp on Bechervaise Plateau.

 

On all rock now.. let the fun begin!

On all rock now.. let the fun begin!

I couldn’t believe it.. nestled in right under the watchful eye/protection of Fedder itself. I checked my GPS, 342m!!! I couldn’t believe how close we were.. and about the same distance in elevation too.. EEEEK!!

 

Before we know it, we're on the summit, looking at the Eastern Arthurs!

Before we know it, we’re on the summit, looking at the Eastern Arthurs!

So we set up the tent, ate some lunch, and decided to set out on a recce mission. The weather was changing fast, mist would blow in one minute and everything would be white, or Fedder would be obscured, but five minutes later the sky would be clear. As a result, and after spotting some dark clouds forming over the Eastern Arthurs (from which direction the wind was blowing), we thought we wouldn’t be summiting, just checking out the route to make the going faster for the following morning (when the weather was supposed to be nice and sunny).

 

The second Melaleuca plane comes around again, and we wave. Pretty special!

The second Melaleuca plane comes around again, and we wave. Pretty special!

So a quick pack and off we set. I wasn’t feeling great, I had the inklings of symptoms I’ve had before when down with vestibulitis (an inner ear infection). I didn’t realise this was what it was until the following morning, I thought it was just tiredness. But it meant looking up made me feel dizzy and a tad nauseous, but I wasn’t going to say anything, or miss out on the chance to climb Fedder now that I was here. Instead, I was a bit more careful with how many photos I took looking up (down wasn’t an issue) and with how much I moved my head around.

Geeves Bluff and Hanging Lake.

Geeves Bluff and Hanging Lake.

When I was a bit too naughty (I couldn’t help enjoying the views after all) I had to pause, find a reason to take a photo or two until the nausea settled, and I could catch back up to Graham. He’d asked to lead, it gives him confidence in situations where he might not otherwise have it (and he’s a confident person in general), so that worked out just fine. It meant I didn’t have to look up to spot the route, I just had to keep his feet in view.

 

Happy might just be an understatement… :D!

Happy might just be an understatement… :D!

The initial bit is straight up, up stairs worn into the soil, then on slightly less vertical rock, and eventually to a flattish area about 150m above camp (which you look down on). At the edge of this you come to a narrow and steep gully that descends towards Lake Geeves. Checking that it was the right way forward, down we went, into the mist. It was very atmospheric, and changing constantly. We picked the right bit to start sidling across and climbed the the gully with the chockstone. The further we went up, the lighter the mist seemed to get, though it still came and went.

 

Crest Range

Crest Range

It was part way up the climb that both of us realised at about the same time that I’d left the rope back in my pack. Whoops. Oh well.. we were just going on a recce after all (not that we thought we’d actually need it, and we hadn’t needed to pack haul on Moss Ridge). So up we continued.. stopping to check track notes when a cairn wasn’t immediately obvious, heading up and climbing left, then right, left again, up some more, right across a ledge, up a section of steeper rock, oh wait, check that out.. it’s a rock with a bit of tape to fix a belaying line.. Hang on.. we’ve just climbed the ‘hard bit’.. ooops again! Oh well.. let’s keep on going..and hang on, maybe take a few more photos, because we might actually be climbing this thing!!

 

Heading back down.

Heading back down.

So a tad more up, less ‘up-ish’ too, and more across by now.. and wait… there’s that feeling like there’s not going to be any more up in a few metres. Graham paused for me to step up beside him, and we walked the last few metres to the summit together, smiling and laughing at the incredulity of it all, that we’d climbed Fedder without even intending to, and somehow we’d beaten the odds of weather and all the rest!!

 

Heading back down.

Heading back down.

As if on cue, one of the Melaleuca planes flew by and we both waved.. then shortly a second did the same.. Graham kept on waving, and wait, what’s that?! The pilot must have seen him, and turned the plane around for a circle around, saying hello. We were exhilarated by the timing and the contact, despite brief and at a distance, with the outside world. It was pretty special. I hope the passengers on the plane felt a similar thing.

Heading back down.

Heading back down.

 

It was just awesome being up there, and Graham had extra reason to celebrate – 250 points (congratulations!!). Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time, so short and sweet it was to be. It was 4.30 or so when we got up, and after posting a photo on FB to let everyone know we were ok, sending a message or three, and taking a few photos, enjoying the mist and clouds, laughing some more and writing our names with a great big smiley face in the log book, we figured we had to head back down at about 5 before it got too dark.

Heading back down. Hanging on tight.

Heading back down. Hanging on tight.

So down we went. Now that I was primarily looking down the dizziness and nausea weren’t an issue and I really REALLY enjoyed the climbing. I think Graham did too mostly, judging from the smiles. We mucked around taking a few photos, posing with the chockstone, but were still down in an hour. This was handy to know, as the times quoted by Chapman range from 2-5 hours return from the camp site. We were definitely closer to the 2, but it clearly depends on group size, whether a rope is being used, etc etc.

 

The ledge.

The ledge.

Spag bol for dinner, interrupted by an amazing light show on the horizon as the sun set, out of view, but casting a bright orange glow on mist that sat around some of the peaks on the Eastern Arthurs. When the light was gone, we returned to dinner, which was followed by a celebratory dessert of custard, fresh strawberries, chocolate and port. Topped off with a bit of stargazing, and admiring just how fast the misty cloud came and went, hiding and revealing the night sky. I struggled not to doze off, perfectly content as I was.

 

Lake Geeves detail

Lake Geeves detail

A bit of a wake up call when I got up, the dizziness was back and bad, I couldn’t walk straight along the boardwalk (no, I hadn’t had THAT much port!), and I was feeling sick and now rather shaky and cold. I put it down to being tired and run down, and vowed I’d take better care of myself once I got back (I am trying). For now, into bed with me. I was again most grateful for Graham’s company. Usually when sick I prefer to be alone, but it was nice to be reassured that there was someone else there, someone I trusted, and that things would be ok, one way or another. I shook for a fair bit of the night, but managed to get some sleep.

 

The chockstone on the way down. Graham as Atlas.

The chockstone on the way down. Graham as Atlas.

I was still feeling very average the next morning, and resorted to some drugs. We hung around, waiting to see if the Sunday would be the clear sunny day that was forecast, but it wasn’t too promising. We climbed up the first 150 metres to the flattish section, and waited there for a bit, as it rained, then cleared, then fogged up again. It didn’t seem to be able to make its mind up, and we couldn’t make ours up as to whether another climb up to the summit would be worth it (only if we were guaranteed views). Had I been 100% I’d have been pushing to go again, but I wasn’t and I sat on the fence. In the end we headed back down, and decided to eat an early lunch before departing for Cutting camp.

Part of the light show that night. What a treat!

Part of the light show that night. What a treat!

 

As we’d cynically predicted, as we were eating the sun came out, though the summit was still in and out of mist. If we’d have gone we’d have had a few minutes with views, but not the hour or two we’d ideally wanted. Oh well, we reasoned it was a perfectly good reason to come back with others on an Eastern Arthurs traverse! It also reinforced the sense that Fedder could choose the who and when of a successful summit attempt would be granted, and it was kind of fitting.

Clouds over Fedder as the sun sets out of sight.

Clouds over Fedder as the sun sets out of sight.

 

Just over 4 hours after having left Bechervaise, we arrived back at Cutting Camp, and went about the routine of pitching tent, washing and cooking. While I’d been ok during the day, after dinner the lack of balance, dizziness and nausea returned, had me wet my one pair of dry socks as I overbalanced over nothing while washing my dishes (grrrrr) and sent me reeling after a trip to the loo.. I was rather concerned, as it was worse than the night before, and I dreaded what I might wake up to. Again, it was nice to have a calm voice telling me all would be ok, and if it wasn’t then there would be other options. I hated to think of them.

 

One last look back. Fedder and the bumps of Moss Ridge.. what an awesome bit of walking!

One last look back. Fedder and the bumps of Moss Ridge.. what an awesome bit of walking!

I was immensely relieved to find my head somewhat within my skull, and not spinning too much when I woke. We were given glimpses of what looked to be the sunrise we’d wanted the day before, and then enjoyed the company of an inquisitive and quite trusting scrubtit as we ate breakfast.

 

Life feeds on life...

Life feeds on life…

An hour later than we wanted to be heading off (due to me forgetting to set the alarm, ehm), we spent the day plodding. We had the views we wanted on the way in, and the experience was so very different. It wasn’t as claustrophobic or depressing/confining, and neither of us found it quite as bad. By the time we got to the Lake Sydney turn off the track was surprisingly easy going, and we put it down to the fact that it was much drier, and the scrub wasn’t hanging across the track.

Fingers...

Fingers…

While I’d vowed on the first day that I’d never take a group in that way to climb Fedder, I had myself sitting on the fence, weighing up the time verses crappy walking. I think, in the end, it’s probably better to take more days and do the Eastern Arthurs, though for those who are time poor, the Farmhouse Creek track is a handy alternative, if you’re willing to put up with some of the worst walking you’ll do on a track.

 

More fungi.. there really were hundreds of different kinds and colours, you could have spent days just photographing them all!

More fungi.. there really were hundreds of different kinds and colours, you could have spent days just photographing them all!

So in all, a somewhat expected but equally unexpected end to a very special summer. The sad part, is the sense of a coming to an end of it all, and I’m not ready to let go just yet…Perhaps I just need to uitwaaien, as the Dutch would say (take a break to clear my head, lit. to walk in the wind 😉 )..?

 

Perfection, all about a particular moment in time.

Perfection: all about a particular moment in time.

In any case, on Fedder, I know I’ll be back, and more than once. And I know if I ever need to escape and be alone, it’s one I could now do solo too.

 

47.4km, 2562m ascent.

 

And one last look.. Fedder stitch taken from camp looking up.

And one last look.. Fedder stitch taken from camp looking up.