As a bushwalker, you learn pretty quickly that there will always be times you won’t get to the top of a mountain, and you respect that, which adds to the elation when you do. Sometimes the mountains must just want to be left alone, and conspire with the weather to prevent an ascent. Sometimes it comes down to timing, fitness, or group dynamics/enthusiasm.
Usually, as disappointing as it might be, this is acceptable. It’s one of the unknowns, and it’s part of the adventure and challenge. On three occasions, I’ve been sorely disappointed to have not made a summit I believed should have been possible. Yep, you guessed it, Jim Brown was one of those, the second, in fact.
That made it a little easier to accept, as well as the fact that I had been generously invited on my first real multi-day trip (6 days on the Frankland range), and I was therefore hardly in a position to protest. It was, if you thought logically about it, the sensible decision to make. But it was rather hard seeing the summit all of about 200 metres away, and knowing that it could be very quick to just duck up. I must not have hidden my feelings too well, as even a year later one of the guys on the trip was still apologising for having been firm in saying it was a no go, concerned that he’d upset me.
But it wasn’t him, it was the idea that you could be so close to a goal and have it dangling beyond your reach. That you could walk so far, and have to skip a final 200m, knowing that it might well be a long time before you got to go back.
And a long time it has been, just short of 2 years, but as it turned out, well worth the wait. What could have been a quick run to the summit late on that miserable clagged in day, was traded instead for about 10 hours of paddling and walking, in near pristine conditions, with equally good company.
We started out nice and early from Granton, and had the boats on the water 3 hours later. It was nice and sunny, but the wind was up, creating a nice bit of chop. Though I was most grateful to be able to share Graham’s double, the downside was that I was much closer to the bow, and got soaked every time we put the nose into a wave. That coupled with the wind meant it was hard to stay warm, even while paddling, and my fingers were a lovely numb shade of yellow.
But that was easily forgotten, or at least cast aside, to allow full enjoyment of all the mountains surrounding us as we paddled into the wind. They brought back good memories of some pretty special walks and company.
The usual culprits got up to no good, mischievously splashing one another, and there was plenty of joking around. At one point, Graham even reckoned he saw a dolphin (Really?? I’m not THAT gullible).
When we hit more open water we concentrated on the task at hand, occasionally regrouping, but preferring to keep moving forward. An examination of our gps route afterwards revealed that each time we stopped we drifted a lot further than any of us realised, adding a total of 2.4km to the paddle! A beautifully calm bit of water marked the end of our paddle, as we (well, some of us) drifted gracefully onto a small rocky beach at the foot of Jim Brown (others paddled in at full speed – Simon!!).
It was good to be out of the wind, and attempt to get warm and dry (the back of my shirt was about the only thing that wasn’t soaking for me). Cherries and shortbreads were generously offered around, and thoroughly enjoyed, as we exchanged paddling gear for the walking stuff, and some of us discussed which way we might like to go to get to the top of our mountain (others were more than happy to just follow whatever happened).
We made a last minute change back to a route we’d spotted on the paddle over, but had discounted as it looked a little steep in one spot. But from the beach it looked less scrubby than the alternative, and not too steep, so Simon gave the go ahead, and Graham took the lead. We hadn’t gone very far at all before the first banksia pod was pegged at someone, triggering a war that would last on and off all day. The wind added an extra element of skill (or luck!).
The going was pretty much up, through kind of slippery button grass, and so we had frequent stops to regroup, take photos (it was just beautiful out there) and catch our breath. I didn’t mind too much, I was a bit run down, and was aware that every time I pushed past a certain point I didn’t feel so good. But still, when there was all but the last ridge to climb on to, and a short dash across the top, the summit suction kicked in ;).
Having received the ok from Simon on our last regroup, I followed Graham to the top (well almost, he gave me the undeserved honours of leading for the last little scramble). What a view there was! It was hard to believe we were only 800m above sea level, it felt like we were on top of the world. Unexpectedly, even Fedder was poking out behind the end of the Western Arthurs! We laughed at the vastness of it all, Graham let rip with a yell, and then we sat down to enjoy and await the others.
Jess and Catherine arrived shortly afterwards, followed by Simon, then Bec. Meredith had decided she’d had enough button grass, and was content with the view from further along the ridge. Having eaten, we settled in for desert, a lie down, or more fooling around, before Simon gave us a 5 minute warning. It went all too fast, and we were being herded back down.
Down was easier, though we all went sliding every now and again! To keep us entertained there was more banksia throwing, with Catherine joining in too (yay!). We also had a mini ‘game’ of banksia-ball (think baseball), with Graham attempting to hit banksia pods I threw in his direction with his walking pole. Catherine kept feeding me banksia ‘balls’, while Jess was a somewhat superfluous fielder (the wind and small striking area of the stick meant there wasn’t a lot of contact happening!). Further down, Meredith played stacks on Jess and Bec, and Graham followed suit. We really are very mature for our age!
We opted for the alternative route down (the one we’d considered as a possible way up), which despite a small band of scrub, was easy enough too, and it was a bit of fun to go a different way back to the boats. Once there, Graham attempted to hide Jess’ boat in revenge for all the times she’s pinched his gear, but he was a bit too slow to do it unseen.
A short while later we were geared back up for the paddle, and got out onto the water. I think we were all looking forward to having the wind at our backs this time! It had died down a bit, but still made a considerable difference, more than halving our paddle time. It was much hotter work, but that just justified splashing people ;).. or dribbling water off a paddle onto their faces as they lay back to stretch a sore back and enjoy the sun at the same time! Grrrrr…
Back at the boat ramp, gear packed away and kayaks loaded onto cars, we sprawled on the ramp and chatted while sharing rock melon, pringles, more short bread and cherries. It was a fun day out, the last walk I’d have for the year, with some lovely company. Definitely worth the wait ;).
All up: Paddle over: 8.8km, 2.31 hrs, ascent 168m (!); Walk: 4.4km, 4.24hrs (lengthy breaks included); 538m ascent; Paddle back: 6.4km, 1.10hrs, 39m ascent (quite a difference with the wind at our backs, and the waves a lot calmer!).