This was an unexpected walk. I was expecting a quiet weekend, with just a paddle/walk/paddle on Sunday. But as the weather shaped up, that looked like it was turning into just a paddle, and then Geoff from the HWC put up a flash walk to Frederick on the Saturday on Facebook. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’d been on a recce from the east by myself a month or so back, and the scrub was pretty bad (slithering on stomach kind), but I’d also missed the chance to go with Pandani last week because I’d been at Cathedral. That meant if I was going to do it, it was likely going to be solo. But Geoff’s flash walk meant maybe I could go with company, which would make whatever scrub we encountered much more manageable. Being the week after the Pandani crew had been meant we would likely have a good bash to follow.
I was also looking forward to finally meeting Geoff, who I’d been in email contact with several times, often sharing GPS tracks. So I put my name down, and made the necessary preparations for starting work early on Saturday, so I could make the generous start time of 8am. That went relatively smoothly despite the fact that I was a bit out of it, and I got to Fitzroy Gardens with plenty of time to change and get everything ready.
Sitting in the car I watched as a dozen or so people started to gather, and I was a little confused and concerned. I was sure not that many people would be coming, and hoped it was a different walk. Sure enough, they were off to Bluff River Gorge, and there were to be just five of us: Geoff (our leader), Mark (our doctor), Bianca (our chemisist), Fulvio (our mechanic) and me (the baker).
I was again grateful for not having to drive, and had the pleasure instead of listening to the crazy ideas people have about chemistry… and I had thought I was relatively ignorant in matters of science for not knowing things like how you control which way a gene is inserted into something whose genome you’re trying to alter, and what happens if it’s inserted upside down.. at least I do know that you consume DNA and chemicals every time you eat something, and that carbon dioxide is not an element! Hmmm.. the things you learn on a bush walk!
Thanks to Murph’s gps route of the road from the week before, we arrived at the logging coup where we were to start the walk in good time, popping out of the mist just before we parked. Perfect! Gear on, last minute changes and we were off at 9.30.
Geoff led the way, up the coup and into relatively open forest. After about 30 minutes we switched leads, and I found myself in the front. I had been trying to be good, aware I was with a group of people I hadn’t walked with before (except Mark), and had sat in the middle or towards the back of the group. But there’s something about being in the lead, trying to find the best way forward, being eager to see what’s up next, that gets me every time. So I gave in, and figured I’d have at least a little turn leading.
I managed not to race off too much, and paid special attention to making sure I could always hear or see whoever was behind me. But otherwise I just had fun. There was something pretty special about following the footprints and elephant sized bash of the Pandani group, and I could imagine them walking it the week before. So while I wasn’t on that walk, I was still following their feet, and that made me smile.
We climbed our way through open myrtle forest, breathed in the smell of damp wood and leaf debris, celebrated the appearance of pineapple grass and decided it’d be rather nice if bauera and cutting grass was replaced with myrtle and pineapple grass! We weren’t to be that lucky this trip, and had a little bit of the nasty stuff to wade through, but it was relatively short lived, and having a pad to follow made it a lot easier.
There were also gigantic pandanis, which were seemingly trying to take on the eucalypts for height, to distract us from the scrub. Every so often Geoff checked if I was still ok to lead, and I’d ask if anyone was sure they didn’t mind me hogging the front! No one seemed keen to take over, so I stayed where I was. With Pandani there’s usually a handful of people who enjoy the challenge and are itching for a run, so I was perfectly happy to have more time out the front!
The scrub was noticeably more stunted as we headed up the final climb, and for the first time since leaving the cars we had a partial view across to the Snowy range. A message or two to make me smile from a couple of Pandani friends who were out on the Needles with fine views, and we were off again. A short while later and all but a few hundred metres from the top the scrub opened up, and the Weld ridge stretched out to our right.
At this point, my camera decided it didn’t want to turn on, even though I knew the battery was fully charged. Some annoyance, and determination to figure out why, and 5 minutes later it was working again, with a slight modification: a little bit of scrub jammed between the battery and its door, to ensure the battery remained pressed against the contact points. For some reason, it had come lose.. not so happy, but pleased it was fixable.
A short walk over, and there we were, standing on a long flatish expanse of rock. Weld out to the northwest, the solar panel tower thingy out to the southeast. Further exploration south revealed lovely views down over to Hartz and Snowy, then Riveaux and Picton, and across to Fedder, the Eastern Arthurs, and the end of the Western Arthurs (West Portal). Mist still filled the valleys for added effect. And of course, north of us was a snow dusted Snowy South and Nevada.
We each did our own combination of photos and lunch and some lying down in the rather warm sun for a full and luxurious hour (that tells you just how nice it was). A group photo in front of Weld, and we were heading back down. I happily gave up the lead. I was a little tired by now, and more than happy to put the gps away, drift off with my thoughts, and just follow the feet in front of me. Every now and again I chatted with Bianca, who’s a pretty cool person. It was nice to have someone with whom to drop back to take photos of fungi and other things that took our fancy. I sensed I wasn’t the only one who could have spent much longer doing so!
Despite us girls slowing things down towards the end, we made it back to the car 6 hours after having started out, pretty pleased with the weather, views and day in general.
All up: 6.2km, 6 hrs (including the hour break on top), 485m ascent.