People call me crazy, a nutter, mad and a few other things, both bushwalking friends and work colleagues. I guess that probably has some truth in it, but I’m not about to change. Rather, it seems I’m just getting worse. Oh well. The latest act of madness was my decision to go back to Lots Wife. Having missed out on successfully climbing it last time due to a lack of information and me going half way up the wrong (airy) way up before calling it quits (seriously not a nice way to go, but probably ok for a rock climber), I’d been partly relieved to discover just that (that I’d gone the wrong way) but immediately even more determined to settle the score. Lots Wife might have fooled me once, but I was set on getting to the top.
Unfortunately, work being the way it is at the moment with the boss out of action, I don’t have my usual 2 day weekend (which I can make a 2.5 day weekend due to my hours), so the ante was upped.. I was going to do it in a day trip. Biggish ask, but given my times the previous time, I estimated conservatively that I’d take about 12 hours all up. So if I finished work at 4am, got there by 6, I’d probably be back at the car just as it was getting dark. I didn’t mind walking the last bit by head torch if it came to it, but I would have preferred not to as boggy button grass isn’t much fun even when you can see! I had planned to car camp, and climb the nearby Mt Bowes on the Monday, before heading back for work Tuesday morning. But, as is often the case, even the best laid plans require a bit of tweaking!
All started off on track, work was fine, I got to the start of the track by 6, despite some heavy fog and animals that came out of nowhere as a result. As I climbed I got to watch the pinks and blues colour the mountains of the southwest, and Lake Pedder gradually emerge from the mist that had been completely obscuring it. The duckboard was frosty and icy, and made for some slippery going, but fortunately there was a bit less water, and the button grass plains, though still boggy, weren’t nearly as bad as last time, and in parts were semi frozen and I made much better time than expected. I was just under 2 hours in, and was ready to start the 500m climb up to the ridge. I was happy with that, already an hour ahead of where I wanted to be.
I had a bit of a shock shortly after starting the climb, as I headed into the snow line. The track, overgrown at best, was in parts almost obscured by the weight of the snow forcing scrub across the path. I was glad I didn’t have my full pack on, as it was the branches continually reached their fingers down and snatched at the beanie on my head, pulled on my clothing and backpack, or just formed a wall and refused to let me through.. almost as if they were taunting me, seeing if I was up to the challenge. By the time I broke out of the scrubby bit, the snow covered the ground, and now I had an ankle-knee high slog ahead.. optimistically I hoped it would be better on the other side of the ridge.. hahaha.. how naive!
I was on top at 9, still an hour ahead despite the snow slowing things down on the uphill, and I felt good, thinking all I had was the easy two hour mostly flat walk to the bottom of Lots Wife, with beautiful views to entertain me. Oh no.. apparently, I’d just done the easy bit! When what should have taken 10 minutes to walk at the most took me 20, I realised I’d have to up the pace. So puffing and panting even more than I had going up the climb, I thought to myself that Lots Wife might just manage to allude me a second time round. I imagined her watching, tittering at the hilarity of my attempt. But the effort Marc had put in two weeks back getting up the climb to the bottom of Sarah Jane inspired me, and there was no choice but to keep going. I learnt not to try and beat the snow, but to keep a steady brisk pace and to stay off one side of the track (preferably the higher) to avoid sinking in too deep. And slowly, Lots Wife became closer.. and closer..
And then there was the forest walk (an interesting exercise in navigation thanks to the snow – but pink tapes saved the day) and before I knew it I was on the ridge! And there she was, standing proud and tall in front of me. I considered her for a moment or two, then put my head down and approached. As I sidled round the snow was at its deepest, and I wasn’t too sure I was walking on anything solid at all, except that I’d been there before. I was amused at how the greatest quantities of snow seemed to lie on the very path I needed to take. I passed the point I’d tried to climb last time, and found the cairn in the tree that would have signalled continuation of the sidling round had I spotted it last time. So round I went a bit more, and came to the real spot, recognising it immediately from photos I’d been sent from friends.
This was where Lots Wife was kind to me. The one and only spot where it was most crucial, there was no snow! For the 2 or 3 metres where you have a bit of a climb (the part most people don’t like) I had boot and hand on solid rock, and as a result it was the fastest and easiest bit of the climb. Compared to my climb last time, the hand and foot holds were abundant! It was the next part I found harder, as it was still steepish, but again, covered in snow and I had no idea where to wedge feet. I relied heavily on clinging to trees, as my feet kept slipping out from under me. It was slow going, heading west round the north side, then back a bit to get over a bit of rock, and more steep slippery uphill on snow, before popping out on a rocky top, 10 metres to the east of the real summit. A brief drop down and climb back up, and there I was! On a snow covered summit. I think all of Hobart (and a friend in Vietnam says there too) heard my whoop of delight!
The ‘easy 2 hours’ across the top (which meant 1.5 at the pace I was planning on travelling) had turned into 3, but I still allowed myself a half hour to enjoy the summit, before reluctantly saying good bye, knowing if I didn’t start the long journey back I wouldn’t have the energy. It was easiest and safest to slide most of the way back down Lots Wife, hanging on to trees to arrest my slide. Safely down, the rest of the trip was purely physical – head down, one foot in front of the other, ask no questions, think no thoughts, just do it. It was slightly easier following my footprints back, except when I was too tired to take strides as long as I had on the way up.
I said a brief hello and goodbye to Sarah Jane as I passed, having taken another 3 hours walking back across the top, then slowly made my way down the still snow covered rocky path, aware that the last thing I needed was to trip from tiredness. The down was thus rather slow going, as slow as the up had been, but once at the bottom, I gathered my energy and upped the pace again, wanting to be out by sunset. With a block of hazelnut chocolate to give me energy when needed, I made it out from there in 1:37 hrs, 11:45 hrs all up, with a little bit of daylight to spare!
I was exhausted and had already decided to call off the mountain planned for Monday as I knew I would be too tired to enjoy it as it should be enjoyed. At the car I was glad of that decision, as the top of my legs, which had been rubbed by my wet gaiters all day long, were rather bloody and sore. I drove home, very slowly, and so tired that I could barely focus. Today my arms are a bit stiff, and my legs are rather sore and weepy, but I have a smile on my face, and they’ll heal in time :).
This one will go down as an epic. I have a special spot and a lot of respect for Lots Wife, and I’ll never forget the challenge she threw down on that day. It was perfect, exactly as it should have been.
All up: 30.3km, 11.45hrs, 1770m ascent.