Mount Solitary: 22-23 March 2015

Mt Solitary GPS route

Mt Solitary GPS route (minus the return leg home)

Change was never something I particularly looked forward to, let alone embraced. Usually, I’d meet it with a reluctant, grudging acceptance, for it always seemed to disrupt what I’d become used to, the things and people I’d grown to love. But the last year or so I’ve come to learn that it’s much, much more than being only about loss. Yes, that is one element at times. But even loss opens up the potential for other opportunities, renews or clarifies appreciation and the true value of things we once might have taken for granted (a lot, or even just a little bit) without even realising it. Change is also about growing, learning, exploring… living really. It can be scary, but equally exciting and rewarding and full of possibility. I’m now encouraged by it, and try to (at times somewhat tentatively!) embrace it for all that it might be.

Setting out. the lake shimmers silver and it's hard to tell where water ends and mist starts. It's beautiful though!

Setting out. the lake shimmers silver and it’s hard to tell where water ends and mist starts. It’s beautiful though!

I’m in week 5 of my first semester, of a 6 semester course (over a fast track 2 years). Lots of things have changed. I’m studying 4 days and working 4… in a 7 day week! Yep, I know. There’s mathematically no time to go bushwalking. But effective stress management is going to be part of my job (when I get it!), so I’m intent on starting early, and bushwalking is definitely a part of it. Two weekends ago three of us made use of the long weekend to go on a rather wet walk around the Anne circuit (via the NW ridge), where regardless of the weather, it was just really good to be out in the mountains with friends.

The cloud stays low, but gradually the mountains start to poke their heads above it. We head for Solitary.

The cloud stays low, but gradually the mountains start to poke their heads above it. We head for Solitary.

I’d thought I’d not get another chance for a walk until Easter, but a very nerdish approach to completing essays/assessments super early (with the sole intention of freeing up time for walking, of course!), and an invite from an equally keen friend sorted that, and what had been impossible became way too easily possible. A list of day and overnight walks pretty much wrote itself, from which the best option could be chosen based on the weather.

A tree, rocks, and the Western Arthurs.

A tree, rocks, and the Western Arthurs.

I was pretty keen on somewhere new, but also a really nice, cruisey trip that scored high on the refresh and relax scale (i.e. not a lot of work scrub bashing, route finding in difficult terrain/conditions etc). Solitary was my pick. We watched the weather closely. Sunday looked pretty good, weather and wind wise. Monday looked wet (VERY wet) and rather a bit windy. I suspect Graham sensed my preference… you can guess what we settled on.

But a drop in the lake. Barrier Islands and the end of the Frankland range behind, separated by low cloud.

But a drop in the lake. Barrier Islands and the end of the Frankland range behind, separated by low cloud.

After 8 hours at work and a little bit of stress as I was due to leave at 6am (on account of another baker not waking up), I was finally free to indulge in my excitement, ‘I’m going on a walk!!!’. It certainly wasn’t something I took for granted anymore, and my renewed and acute excitement was a result of that.

We have arrived. And once a map man, always a map man!

We have arrived. And once a map man, always a map man!

A coffee in New Norfolk (yes coffee! Ok, ok, well mocha for me… it’s a start!), check of the kayak ties, and we were on our way, catching up on one another’s news, discussing the weather and our plan of attack for the day, and otherwise just enjoying the views of Tassie’s SW wilderness as they opened up (or the mist in the trees when they didn’t!).

Solitary under just a light bit of cloud, with some lovely patterns.

Solitary under just a light bit of cloud, with some lovely patterns.

We were at the boat ramp by 9, where I was taken by the beauty of very low mist covering Lake Pedder. It was shimmering silver, and most atmospheric. I think Graham was more concerned, worried that the forecast cloud cover might mean it wouldn’t burn off. Visibility would certainly make life a lot easier!

Anne sits on a smokey horizon.

Anne sits on a smokey horizon.

But in the time it took us to get the kayak down, and filled with gear (minus a pair of gaiters, ehm!), a fair bit of it had burned off, promising good things. Still, as we started out, paddling towards and then around Scotts Peak, there was a thick bank of cloud sitting just above the water, revealing only the tops of mountains.

Hmmmm… not bad. I'm not old enough to have known the original Lake Pedder, but despite this one being fake, I do find it rather lovely all the same.

Hmmmm… not bad. I’m not old enough to have known the original Lake Pedder, but despite this one being fake, I do find it rather lovely all the same.

We must have taken long enough on the paddle over though, because as we approached Solitary and looked for a place to pull up and camp, all that was left was more decorative cloud patterns above the summit. We located the ridge we liked best then cruised along the shore a little way, looking for a spot to camp. Nothing took our fancy quite as much as the isthmus on Scotts Peak, so we settled on going for our walk, then returning and paddling back there.

A short way into the climb, and it's hot, sweaty and steep work. Perfect excuse to enjoy the view for a bit. The Barrier Islands, with the Giblin range (Jim Brown this end) and the end of the Frankland Range.

A short way into the climb, and it’s hot, sweaty and steep work. Perfect excuse to enjoy the view for a bit. The Barrier Islands, with the Giblin range (Jim Brown this end) and the end of the Frankland Range.

By now it was hot! I was regretting forgetting my gaiters (not packing into a pack with my usual system had thrown me), but Graham came up with an effective solution and after an early lunch (to avoid lugging it up the hill), we set off. The walking was pretty much open (unless, you know, you CHOSE to go through the scrub), though typically button-grass-slippery underfoot, and steep enough. And did I mention it was hot? Think it needs to be said again.

Scotts Peak and Schnells Ridge in the background

Scotts Peak and Schnells Ridge in the background

We were both feeling unfit, but it was easy enough to find photo opportunities that couldn’t be missed. We followed the ridge up and it became more spine like, rocky vertebrae protruding through the button-grassy skin. But still the going was easier than expected. We did have our eye on a scrubbier section near the top of the ridge, but I confidently (optimistically??) told Graham we’d find a pad.

Time for a sit down on rock. Looking at Scotts Peak and the Western Arthurs.

Time for a sit down on rock. Looking at Scotts Peak and the Western Arthurs.

And sure enough, he walked straight onto one. Part way up a hesitant ‘I daren’t say it’ expressed what we were both thinking. But it wasn’t too good to be true, and we followed it up to the top of the bump, from where we could see the summit cairn, just a short and easy walk away! We were there, pretty much!! And the views were speccy.

Did I mention steep? And a tad slippery underfoot, but really not bad walking at all!

Did I mention steep? And a tad slippery underfoot, but really not bad walking at all!

We did our own thing, exploring the summit region and capturing slightly different views of the somewhat hazy mountains on the horizon. Despite both being keen and aware of the need to return to the kayak in good time so we could paddle back to Scotts peak and set up camp before it got too cold and dark, it was also important to enjoy the moment. We made two insignificant figures, standing on the top of a mountain in the middle of a wild and beautiful place. Cool breeze on sweaty backs nicely countered warm sun on skin. Time hung…

Nearly there, Looking along the flank of the ridge towards Anne.

Nearly there, Looking along the flank of the ridge towards Anne.

I could have stayed there much longer, and for once it was Graham who was waiting for me to get my act into gear! I happily took the lead on the way down, and we decided that there was actually a pad pretty much the whole way along the ridge, except where you didn’t really need one. We didn’t hang around, both of us were low on water and keen to quench our thirst straight from the lake.

And we're on the ridge! Looking along it to Anne.

And we’re on the ridge! Looking along it to Anne.

We did just that, packed our gear back into the kayak, and had a really lovely calm paddle over to the isthmus on Scotts peak. What had started out as ‘I feel a bit selfish enjoying all of this on our own’, turned to horror at the thought that maybe there was someone already there, but what might have been a kayak turned out to be a false alarm.

Graham heads the short distance to the summit cairn. We were impressed at it's size!

Graham heads the short distance to the summit cairn. We were impressed at its size!

Paddling in we marvelled at the stillness of the water, the clear reflections, and how lucky we were to be out in it. We ran aground, found a rather flat and not too boggy sandy patch of ground amongst the pebbles, and designated it home. The usual domestic duties followed, with promise of a very cold swim in lengthening light on their completion. So cold, in fact, that the swim part was cut short to a wade – I didn’t like my chances of getting warm again after a full dunking.

On top of the world :)!

On top of the world :)!

My new(ish)found enthusiasm for taking on challenges had had me elect to do something I don’t do (and by that I meant DON’T DO.. well, not any more than two or three times A YEAR at the most): cook dinner. And I don’t mean the boil water, add a dehydrated meal, stir and wait kind of meal (cos that’s boiling water, not cooking). It wasn’t particularly fancy: steak with port wine and onion jam, corn, carrot, bok choy and mashed potato (I was limited by the practicalities of space and gas after all, not to mention my non-existent cooking skills), but it was challenge enough.

Pretty steep if you chose to come up this side! The haze smooths everything over.

Pretty steep if you chose to come up this side! The haze smooths everything over.

And it worked pretty well, if I say so myself! It was certainly greatly enhanced by a glass (well, plastic mug :p) of red wine, which accompanied both it and an entree of biscuits, cheese, apricot paste and apple. Later on, chocolate as a ‘pencuci mulut‘ (look it up, it’s Indonesian). Just a tad luxurious!

Can't take my eyes off you ;)! Anne sits majestically.

Can’t take my eyes off you ;)! Anne sits majestically.

The stars came out that night, and we found Jupiter sitting over Mount Solitary. But the wine, the day we’d had, and work the night before caught up with me, and there was no keeping my eyes open. A solid 8 hours sleep later, and I woke to the sound of rain pattering on the tent. But it wasn’t too bad: though we had some moody and atmospheric views out west, the mountains were mostly out, and there were times the rain did stop completely.

Solitary summit cairn, Western Arthurs behind.

Solitary summit cairn, Western Arthurs behind.

With the better than expected conditions, our planned early start was unsurprisingly delayed. Perhaps a bit too long, as the rain started again as soon as we got serious about packing. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold, so all we had to worry about was trying not to fill the kayak with water. We managed, and were ready to go in record time.

We check out this end of the ridge, contemplating a trip in to that lot of unfinished business over there: Terminal Peak, Secheron and Lloyd-Jones.

We check out this end of the ridge, contemplating a trip in to that lot of unfinished business over there: Terminal Peak, Secheron and Lloyd-Jones.

After a short section with the wind at our side, and a brief stop over to check that we were heading in the right direction (interesting how easy it is to get confused in those kind of conditions), we pushed back solidly, enjoying riding the waves whenever we could. 40 minutes after having set out, we were standing on land again. Some tourists who drove up as we were unpacking must have thought we were nuts – they drove off without hanging around!

Back on the summit, looking over to the Frankland range.

Back on the summit, looking over to the Frankland range.

It was nice, very nice, to get into dry clothes and a warm car! As we drove back we both found it hard to imagine that it had only been the morning before that we’d set out. There’s something about being out in the wild, and doing the activities that go with it that seems to warp or stretch time, though I’m not quite sure what it is.

Not entirely alone on Solitary ;)

Not entirely alone on Solitary 😉

The Possum Shed wasn’t open (it might have felt like the second day of my ‘weekend’, but it was Monday after all) so on Graham’s suggestion we checked out the Salmon ponds. Neither of us had been before, and after making use of the toilets (most important!), we checked out some pretty big, kind of ugly, fish. An informative conversation on fly fishing ensued (it seems it too can be an art, as much as a sport), interrupted by lessons on medlars and conkers, and topped off by an encounter with a pretty tame platypus!

Wedge :)

Wedge 🙂

A pretty special weekend indeed.

And time to head back down our chosen ridge

Time to head back down our chosen ridge

All up: 17km return in the kayak; and 4.5km, 563m ascent, and a bit over 3.5 hours worth of walking.

 

A little later in the day, and the definition is starting to come out in the mountains

A little later in the day, and the definition is starting to come out in the mountains

Another wave to Anne :)

Another wave to Anne 🙂

 

A short paddle later, and we find ourselves looking at Solitary from a slightly different perspective. Pretty nice!

A short paddle later, and we find ourselves looking at Solitary from a slightly different perspective. Pretty nice!

Jim Brown is the dominant feature out that way

Jim Brown is the dominant feature out that way

And of course, Scotts Peak, where it all began!

And of course, Scotts Peak, where it all began!

The following morning is a tad moody and wet, but better than expected!

The following morning is a tad moody and wet, but better than expected!

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