allow me, the path you have chosen
a restless road, no turning back
one day, you will find your light again,
don’t you know,
don’t let go, be strong…
follow your heart,
let your love lead through the darkness,
back to a place you once knew…
(I Believe in You – Il Divo)
Having been kind of hurt by a friend’s suggestion that moving too fast through special places (mountains) was just disrespectful, I’m not sure why I was so determined to do this walk, or why I even thought of it. But once I had it in my head as a real possibility and the weather seemed to agree (slight chance of rain in the early morning), there was no letting go. Probably because I don’t believe I’ve ever been disrespectful of mountains, nor do I think that’s possible, given the relationship I have with them. If I could spend more time in them (and I already spend a lot), I would. Sadly, I can’t just yet.
But I had a day, and I wanted to spend it somewhere nice. The Hippo was the perfect mountain for it.. it was both old and new at once; it had associations for me with the once known, now unknown; and while it evokes a range of memories, I figured it would also allow for the forging of new ones, with each step I took. It seemed right, in any case…and a bit of a challenge.. and so my heart was set on it.
Funnily enough, the day before (out to Mt Foster) was, in my eyes, the harder of the two walks because of the unknowns of what I might find and the added challenge of navigation. While the Hippo was going to require me covering a fair bit of distance, it was on track, with the last bit on what I expected to be a pad or cairned route. So no real intelligence or thinking required, just a little bit of grunt (funny how the unexpected always happens though!).
The down side to this meant an early start, so that fingers crossed I’d get back at a reasonable time and get a little bit of sleep before a 3am start at work on the Tuesday morning! But early starts are what I do, so I got everything ready to go, set the alarm, and had an early night.
3.30, and I was up and making lunch. By 4 I was in the car and on the road, listening to a discussion on the Duke of Edinburgh Award program. Somehow I’d got the timing right without having gone to the effort to work it out. I arrived at 5.30 and put on boots and wet weather gear by head torch (it wasn’t raining.. yet!), but 15 minutes later when I was good to go it was light enough to not need it. The log book showed no one was in, so it was just going to be me!
Off I set, immediately aware of the early morning birdsong, which was particularly melodious. I smiled. A few moments later I disturbed three lyrebirds just off the side of the road, and stood for a few moments, watching them switch trees jumpily. Then it was head down, legs moving, as I was anxious to make a good start to a long day, and get the climb over with as swiftly as possible.
I got to the river and it was flowing a bit faster and with more volume than I’d seen it before. A quick search around, and I had me a stick for added balance on the wet and submerged rocks (I wanted dry feet if I could help it), and then I was over and away.
To occupy my mind on the climb (on something other than my wingeing legs and gasping lungs), I thought a bit more about a blog I’d read a day or so earlier, written by a woman who married her partner of 10 years, gave birth to their son, only to find him cheating on her with her best friend. Ouch. But that’s not nearly half of who she is. And she has a way with words. What she’d written was (see http://365daysadiaryofanewlysinglemum.com/2014/10/27/day-547-the-day-of-naughty-bunnies/):
The self worth thing really is a good idea to look into. Since paying more attention to my thoughts, I’ve realised I can really be quite nasty to myself. Indeed, I’d never speak to other people the way I speak to myself. I spent a day consciously writing down my thoughts as I noticed times I wasn’t feeling very good… and what I got was pages and pages of shitty things. Telling myself I’m not good enough, that I screwed up, that I should just give up and even, god forbid that I’ll never be happy because I couldn’t even keep my husband happy. Some of these thoughts were things I was not even aware I was thinking. Brains are funny things.
I wonder what would happen if I spend a day consciously telling myself nice things instead?
And someone had commented:
I heard someone say once, imagine you are your own best friend, would you say the things you say to yourself if your best friend was going through the same thing as you? No, you would be full of reassurance, encouragement and love, say those things to yourself instead.
Another good tip was to have a really gorgeous photo of yourself at about 3 or 4 years old in the house, or on your phone and when you feel yourself being unkind to yourself, look at that little girl in the eyes and think, this is what I am saying to this little girl, is that what I would say if she was standing in front of me now?
The self worth thing she’s talking about is an experiment to see if it’s possible to create positive change in her life by being aware of the negative things she thinks about herself, stopping them, and thinking positive things. So each blog she posts one thing she likes about herself, or one negative thing she’s noticed she keeps thinking about herself.
I don’t like this kind of thing. At all. And it’s not something I find easy. So why was I still thinking about it? Just drop it… but no, much as I tried, I kept coming back to it. What would I say I liked about myself? Nup, scratch that.. too hard… And so the cycles went. By the end of the day though, despite no conscious decision having been made, I knew I was going to try the challenge… I figured it couldn’t hurt, except in making me take 2 hours longer to write each post!
So, with plenty of food for thought, the uphill flew by. I began to get excited when the snow was substantial enough for me to be walking primarily on a paradoxically soft but crunchy white carpet. I had been hoping for a little bit of snow, to make the experience and views different again from the last two times, and clearly I was going to get it.
Higher up, I started to worry that maybe I might have just a little too MUCH! I was glad I’d kept the stick I’d picked up at the river, as snow on uneven ground is not something you can walk through elegantly. On top, with hints of a view out towards Bruny, a snowcapped Hill One shone bright under a spot of sun that had found its way through the low cloud/clag, a rainbow brought colour to a monochrome world, and there was a brief hint of Hippo crags amongst the mist.
It was apparent I definitely had plenty of snow to deal with. Shin deep in most places, I quickly found that trying to stay on the pad was a bad idea. Not only was the snow closer to thigh deep owing to the fact that more snow settles in the depressions, the thick white fluff gave false reassurance of an even surface, while it hid some seriously deep holes. By the time I’d fallen into my second, down to my waist and singularly unimpressed, I gave up on the track, and walked alongside it as best I could.
The going was therefore much slower than anticipated, and the drizzle had started and seemed like it was going to set in for a bit. I ploughed away, started to doubt if I’d make it for a variety of reasons: time (I wanted to turn around by 12pm), navigation (I’d figured I’d be able to see where it was going, and had no idea what to expect. Could I find my way in clag? Would the snow cover cairns or pads that might be necessary for success?), terrain (how slippery was the final climb going to be in snow?), coldness (I already had numb toes, and the wind was guaranteed to be worse on the ridge.. how bad would it get?).
But doubt, I have long since discovered, and this was to be reinforced again as I climbed one of the Hippo peaks, is no reason not to go on. I told myself I had a day to go walking and exploring, and a day I would use. We’d see what we’d see, and hopefully enjoy every little bit of it. So on I went.
A phone call to brighten the day, in response to a message I’d sent earlier. It was nice to hear a friendly voice, tell someone where I was going, share the snow and wind, and talk about where they were going.
I arrived at the sorry sight of Moonlight Creek in good time, under my 3 hour estimate, and a little while later was grateful for more solid ground underneath the snow (mostly, anyway!). I climbed up into the unburnt, snow covered scrub, and anything that wasn’t drenched soon was. The Hobbit garden was a carpet of white, with pandani heads poking through. I had no idea where the track was, but knew roughly where to go, and just round the corner the markers started.
By now I was well and truly in the cloud, and it was a blue, grey and white world. Cold and bleak, wet, windy and attempting to be miserable. But I was quite enjoying the wildness of it, and had to chuckle at the figure I must have cut, determinedly staggering and slipping along on icy snow (it was only a thin covering here, but much slipperier as a result), stick in hand, hood drawn tight against the biting wind and drizzle.
Pockets of greater visibility came and went, but mostly went. The snow deepened with the descent off Hill One, and stayed that way for the rest of the Hills. It always amazes me that you can pick where a boarded path lies by a very faint but equally quite distinct line on which no tiny tufts of grass stick up through the snow, or where the trench like pad runs because the slight depression in the snow that snakes out before you.
I did have the gps route of the path taken from when we were in last doing Alexandra, but that only went to part way round the side of Hill Three. I couldn’t remember whether the route went straight over the top of the hill, or round the side, so I took the line that looked best to me. It just so happened, that that’s exactly where the track went, as I discovered every time I fell off the edge into the dip.
When it was no longer useful to stay on track, I headed for the top of Hill Three. This would be crunch time. I’d planned on being able to see where I was going, and make calls based on that, but the mist was heavy and visibility wasn’t great. I needn’t have worried. As I made the rise I could see a faint line of white extending down and beyond, into a void. There was no evidence of anything at the end just yet, but the ridge was distinct, and even better, open.
I went for a bit of a happy bounding run, and the sun must have sensed it, popping out for a second and casting a rainbow out to my right. Ah the warmth! Amazing how different the world seems with a little bit of blue sky and some heat, even though nothing else had changed. It was gone just a quickly, but it had my hopes back up that the weather would pick up as forecast, if I was really lucky, in time for me to get views before having to head back. Along the Hippo’s ‘folded’ back I danced (well, I felt light on my feet, so I’m going to call it that), then down. Out of the mist it loomed, and I got excited again.
As I descended into the saddle before the climb I started guessing at routes. Left then right, I’d been told by text that morning.. but how far left I wondered? With a few ‘back up’ options sorted in case I couldn’t find a cairned or padded route, I put my stick aside for safe keeping, and started over, ready to climb.
I spotted a cairn with relief, as I couldn’t tell what was pad or not in the snow. Mind you, the rest of the climb was to be a matter of trusting instinct, climbing a bit, then searching for a cairn nearby. It worked remarkably well. The climb was shorter than it looked from below, and just a little bit of fun :)!
Standing between the two summits (ears, perhaps?) I checked my GPS. It said the left or eastern most was higher. Righto. A short easy scramble up and I was there, with a stunning view of the other ‘ear’ and nothing else! Oh well… can’t win ’em all. I looked across at the other summit, pretty sure the one I was on was higher.. but was it? There was a niggling… I couldn’t go back only to find I’d climbed the wrong one! I fired off a message, but no reply… Fine, I’d climb it.
Normally I wouldn’t hesitate. But this one was a little less easy. The rock was slippery and I wasn’t wearing shoes whose soles I trusted. Though a number of routes looked perfectly fine, when you were on them you found the rock seemed to slope slightly backwards, or the ledges gave you much less purchase than you’d like, or the hand holds were flat with nothing to grab, unless of course you managed to pull them right off.
I made a bad call the first time, and dead ended. An uncomfortable slither pressed close to the rock and I was back to a spot I was more comfortable with, thinking to myself, ‘do I really want to be doing this?’. The answer, a pretty solid ‘NO’. But, having watched other friends push themselves when uncomfortable, I resorted to my ‘one step/foot/hand’ at a time policy. If I was comfortable to place one foot or hand forward, I would, until such a time I wasn’t. That approach takes out the questions and doubt about getting to the top, and makes everything a lot more simple. Before I knew it, I was on the top.
The view was no different, and I was keen to get back down, so the camera didn’t even come back out. Down was easier than expected, and in those few moments the whole world changed. The cloud broke up, revealing blue sky and mountains, and the sun cast its colours in yet another rainbow. So I scrambled back up to the first summit to take it all in, and let out a whoop of delight (or something similar)!
I couldn’t quite believe my luck… even more so when it closed in again a short while later. Probably just as well, or I’d not have left, and it was just gone 12. Back off the first summit, to realise I’d dropped keys in a dry bag.. back up, and a huge sigh of relief to find they hadn’t been blown off. Then down… the fun way.. like skiing without skis!!
I was feeling on top of the world as I headed back down. The views stayed for a bit, La Perouse even popped out, a massive waterfall running like a thick white scar off to the right. Then the squawking of currawongs had me look up, to find a sea eagle circling overhead, and I laughed with joy. I don’t know quite why these things make me feel what they do, but knowing why seems kind of irrelevant. It was just really good to be somewhere nice, with so many things around to make me laugh and smile, and be glad about.
With that settled, I took out my roll for lunch, and munched as I walked (aware I couldn’t hang around without moving for too long). Even when the cloud blew back in and sapped the colour from everything again I was still smiling. Sometimes when everything is grey it’s hard to imagine it being anything else, yet time and time again, in a matter of moments, the grey can lift and it’s as if you’ve been transported to another place, which bears little resemblance to that which you’ve been looking at all this time. It takes a lot of trust when you’re in the middle of it to know that despite the greyness, there’s blue skies above, and snow capped mountains beyond.
I wasn’t fussed anymore if the views didn’t open up again. I knew they were out there, and I’d had enough to be grateful for. But they did! I half ran half skied down Hill Three, into the saddle, and was surprised to find that my tracks had turned into the pad. The snow had melted much more than I’d expected, which meant although I was mostly walking in river, I could also see the bottom. No more falling into holes and jarring an already sore back.
I raced round the side of Hill Two, eager to get up onto Hill One and see if I could see Fedder. The cloud needed to lift just a tad further! Progress was faster… when I was moving!! The problem was, now that there were views, I spent more time looking, and a bit of time taking photos… The blue, grey black that had been Hill One had its colour back, and I shook my head. What a transformation. The snow was still banked up over the Hobbits Garden, though the track was now discernible.
I said a farewell to the mountains, then headed down to the flats. More of the snow was gone than was left, and the track was a lively little river. I was already soaked through, so that was irrelevant. I was more than happy just to be able to see where solid ground was! Part way across the flats I ran into 5 middle aged men and had a chat. I doubted their chances of getting to Pigsty Ponds, and felt for them, as I knew just how wet the Moonlight Creek campsite was. I wished them good weather, and continued on.
The down was fun, and I took it fast, without running. Sometimes snow on the ground actually makes it easier to do that. Again, I made good time. Except just as I was about back at the quarry, laughing at the repertoire of calls the lyrebirds were making, one bold little guy came to say hi. Or rather didn’t move when I nearly flew straight past. I stopped, was extra careful going for my camera, but when that didn’t phase him I just moved normally. For the next 10 minutes I stood and watched him scratch around in the ground for juicy somethings (he was pretty fast at finding them), fly up into nearby trees, look at me and pose, have a bit more of a scratch and gobble as close as 3 metres away, then back to the trees. Occasionally he made the odd noise, something I likened to a lyrebird version of a cat’s purr.
But I did have to leave him, so I said goodbye, and continued on. Half an hour later, and I was back at the car. My back was rubbed raw from a wet shirt and pack, as was just above one ankle courtesy of my boot. My feet were sore and I was tired, but I was good.
And… cos I can’t get out of it now.. the thing I like about me today: my determination (sometimes, I believe, better known as stubbornness ;)!)
All up: 30.1km, 12.17hrs, 1161m ascent.. A decent day’s walking!
Thank you, by the way, to everyone who was concerned, or sent messages checking that I was ok.. both friends and those I haven’t even met yet but seem to know me. I’m lucky to know you 🙂