What a way to start the year’s walking off… An unexpected invitation to join Amanda and Jeramie on a scrub bash out to Leillateah and a date on a weekend I actually had free… It was impossible to say no, even though it’s not the kind of mountain you talk about lightly. Located south of the Southern Ranges, Leillateah’s reputation for a long scrub bash is well deserved. I’d looked at it once before when I was doing a lot of solo walking, put it in the ‘too hard’ basket, and not given it so much as another thought. Having a group to share the bashing and to keep you going when it seemed all a bit too hard was exactly what was needed! If it hadn’t been for the invitation, I doubt we would have been going any time soon.
We left Hobart the evening before, knowing we were in for a very long day and opting for a later wake up than we’d have been able to manage if we’d left the morning of the walk. None of us had eaten at at Post Office 6985 in Dover, so we treated ourselves to wood-fired pizza in anticipation of the energy we’d be expending the next day. We were pleasantly surprised by the meal, and managed to finish it at 8pm, just as they were closing the doors for the evening (typical Tassie trading hours!).
We drove on to the bridge that crosses the Esperance river, and pulled right into the logging coup just south of it. Here we found some flat ground off the side of the road and set up our tent. We tossed and turned our way through the night, seeming to fall into the deepest sleep as the alarm sounded at 5am! We breakfasted and threw the tent and gear into the back of the car, no time wasted on packing it away nicely.
By 6:20, only a little late of our pre-determined starting time, we set out eagerly, taking the first of many thousand steps for the day. The logging road gave way to a much more overgrown road, and then to the wonderful vibrantly scrubby growth of abandoned forestry coups that always catches the bushwalker out. We should have known better. The cutting grass was big and nasty, wrapping razor sharp tentacles around anything it could find – arms, legs, torsos, even necks. It zapped enthusiasm right at the start, and we began to wonder if we might make the walk in a day after all.
Fortunately the scrub was (relatively) short lived, as we broke into more open forest, and then finally out onto button grass plains. The next 5km was delightful, easy, open walking with lovely views of the Southern Ranges, and we made sure we enjoyed every moment.
By the time we arrived at the ridge we’d be ascending, the button grass clumps began to grow in size, as if inversely proportional to their height above sea level. It made for some tough climbing on legs that were starting to feel a tad weary. But it was only a warm up for the real challenge, and we soon found ourselves in horrid, over head high scrub of the worst kinds. It would take almost 3 hours to climb 1.8km to the ridge line, and that included one short section of open forest.
When we did pop out onto the ridge, we thought we were set. But no. The scrub never stops on this mountain. Two or three more times we found ourselves plunging into head high greenery, only this stuff was super tough. It wasn’t budging for anyone. No surprises then that it took us 30 minutes to walk the final 250 odd metres to the summit!
Oh but was it worth it. The view towards the Southern Ranges was one of a kind, and the elation of having made it wasn’t dampened by the realisation that we were only technically half way through the walk (even though it was now 2:30pm). We ate the most delicious of lunches and savoured the moments, knowing we didn’t have long.
Our retreat was as hasty as we could make it while taking the time to follow our route closely enough to ensure we didn’t have to bash our way through any scrub unnecessarily. Jeremy was spot on when he remarked how this was, ironically, the most enjoyable walking of the trip – downhill and with a highway set out before us through the scrub.
We each retreated into our own thoughts as we plodded back along the button grass plains. Graham and Jeremy both set a blistering pace, which was probably just as well. It meant there was little energy to expend on feeling tired and there was no time to settle comfortably into a slow plod. It also meant we were back to the final bit of scrub just before dark and saved having to brave the worst of the cutting grass with reduced visibility. The road was a sight for sore and weary eyes, and we spanned its width.
We agreed that none of us would have made it to Leillateah without the others and in this way, for us, Aristotle’s axiom about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts was true.
All up: 18.8km, 847m ascent, 14:28 hrs (a bit over 8 up, and 6 back – all breaks included).