Mesa: 28 January 2021

Mesa GPS route (as well as the Calf and Adamsons Peak)

Never has a bush walk been so long in the planning. This one even surpassed the Prince of Wales, which took a good three years to finally attempt. The idea was first hatched when Ben knew he was about to begin a family of his own, prior to the birth of his first son. He now has three kids, the youngest of whom is 11 months, so you can do some rough maths to figure out quite how long we’ve waited (and nope, he has no twins). The thinking was that he was going to be tied up with all things family, but still wanted to go on a bit of a crazy walk here and there. So the concept of the epic day walk was hatched. Mesa was somehow always going to be our first mountain. This kind of walking would allow us to push our physical boundaries, hopefully get to some distant mountains, hang out where we love to hang out most AND get Ben back home within the same day. Rachel, his equally awesome wife who is also a bushwalker, was generous in her support of the idea and it’s practical realities.

And so, more than half a dozen or so years after its conception, the plan was finally seeing fruition. We weren’t going to take any chances so kept two consecutive days free for the walk, choosing the one with the best weather a few days out. It seemed we would have ourselves a mild day with a bit of wind. We weren’t sure of timing, there was one report from a small group of guys we know to be speed walkers, who had set out at 6 and returned at 4. We knew we’d be slower. But 6 sounded like a good start time to us. Unfortunately that meant getting up at 3:15 for some of us, which wasn’t as easy as it might sound!

The drive was shorter than expected, even with a few detours as I drove straight past Esperance Road, thinking I was heading for Adamsons Road. The drive now was slow to minimise the risk of colliding with abundant wildlife despite otherwise well kept forestry roads. But still we found ourselves at the start of the track, which looked like it hadn’t received any love or care in a long time, before 6.

Ben um-ed and ah-ed over taking a light fleece (we suggested he did) and we discussed water, all of us keen to be carrying as little as possible for the long slog ahead. A forgotten alarm went off at 6 and when I’d silenced it we headed off, starting on boardwalk that quickly turned into forest floor. The birds roused with the dawn and lyrebirds let off alarm calls as we passed by.

The walk up Adamsons Peak is long, with some of the greatest altitude gain you’ll ever get in a day walk. Believe me, you feel every bit of it too and in no time the cold shivers turned to dripping sweat. Ben set a cracking pace which soon mellowed out into something we could all sustain despite still breathing hard. We made good time, ducking under or climbing over many fallen trees, trying hard not to slip backwards on the steepest of slopes, or later on wet slippery rocks and tree roots. We rejoiced in the short flatter sections around Manuka Flat, for they presented a chance to slow our pounding hearts.

Uh oh… maybe we’ve hit it too hard and fast. Ben doesn’t want to get out of bed, having made it to the lookout in pretty good time. Only one more climb to go to the top of Adamsons Peak (in the cloud), which will be the bulk of our height gain for the day.

We made better than expected time, arriving at the lookout less than 2 hours after having started out. It was overcast with the easterly weather and the wind had a bite to it. The bottom of the cloud was sitting just over the summit of Adamsons. As we wove a muddy, squealchy way across the flat, past Creekton Rivulet and to the base of the final climb the temperature dropped, our sweaty shirts became icepacks and our fingers turned yellow and numb. All we could think of was how glorious some sun would be.

Heading down the ridge after the summit of Adamsons. It’s a tad cool and cloudy and there’s not much ridge to be seen at the moment.

We’d donned warm jackets and gloves before we made the summit, Ben grateful for having carried the extra 200 grams he’d been tempted to leave behind! The summit was a very brief affair as Ben claimed his points, before we ducked out of the wind and ate a mixture of breakfast, lunch or snacks. We were happy to have made it 3 hours after starting out, which was only 30 minutes slower than the group of guys whose trip report we’d read (we’d anticipated taking at least an hour longer).

We drop lower down the ridge and perhaps the cloud is also lifting. Suddenly we start to see the Calf. Here we are about to drop over the right edge, then sidle under the rocky ridge to take us to the ridge that leads to the Calf. It looks like it could get interesting, but remains easy open walking.

As soon as the eating was done we moved off, the heat of the climb having already worn off in no time. We wove our way down the ridge, which mysteriously materialised from behind the cloud as we progressed. As we dropped lower and the day warmed up the cloud lifted, and we got glimpses of the Calf ahead. The Calf is secondary to the Cow, which is actually Adamsons Peak (and a better name, I think, although I mean no disrespect to whoever Adamson was). It’s a lovely little pointy peak that makes for a most pleasing walk in all respects.

Sidling around, heading for the ridge towards the Calf. As we pop round the shoulder Ben takes delight in the new view!

Sidling down and around to meet the ridge that heads out to the Calf, Ben, who was in the lead at this point, let out a great big ‘Oh yeah!!’. Jess and I couldn’t see what he was exclaiming at, and asked him to hold on to it. A few meters later, however, Precipitous Bluff stuck its great big knobbly body around the edge of the ridge, in an instant we understood, echoing Ben’s delight and awe.

Sitting on the Calf. It’s still cold and windy, but the sun is coming out. Check out the view to the Southern Ranges and PB!

Feeling slightly warmer, with the promise of sun in the not too distant future, we backed off the pace and gave ourselves more time just to soak everything in. The Calf wasn’t far away though, and soon we were scrambling after Jess, straight up the ridge to the summit. Again, the Calf provided a glorious summit which was windy but at least in the sun by now. We spent a good deal of time there, shooting the odd message to special people and even having a brief video call with Ben’s family. We live in such a different world to those who pioneered walks to these places, don’t we?

The view along the ridge ahead towards Mesa, the high point being the bump on the right of the thing that looks like a pair of breasts.
It is beautiful walking with the best of views

The terrain ahead was new to us all and we wondered how bad it was going to be, even though the first bit looked lovely and open. We made our way down the Calf, feeling rather guilty and all too aware of our impact on the wilderness as we picked out individual footsteps so as to avoid stepping on cushion plants and other fragile alpine grasses. In some ways while this was the easiest and most open of walking it also required the most concentration.

Looking back at the Calf and Adamsons
The wild flowers were pretty

We stopped many times to take photos of the amazing scenery and alpine flowers. I’d not really given it much thought during the planning, I’d been that caught up in the destination that it was an additional lovely surprise. Mesa itself was a diminutive form much lower than our current height and it felt weird to be walking downhill towards it. It’s not a mountain, a peak or even a hill. It’s not even much of a mesa, to be honest, and this had us all confused. To be fair, there is a very small cliff line you can see obscured in the scrub on one side as you approach it, but nothing like some of the impressive sandstone ones you see elsewhere.

Hartz and Snowy mountains on the horizon, basalt rock under our feet?

We had the unexpected pleasure of wandering into a couple who had made an unsuccessful attempt to head out to Vanishing Falls, shortly after having our own discussions about pioneering a route out this very way! Jess spotted them in the distance and I have to say I thought she must have an overactive imagination until I saw what she was looking at!! It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to run into others. We had a chat then made our way to the edge of the open section on the saddle, just before the scrub started.

Heading down to the saddle before the final ‘scrubby’ climb up Mesa. It’s better than it looks.

From the info we now had, we figured we’d be in for some scrub, but might find some relief in a section of King Billy forest with pineapple grass underfoot. As it turned out, we wove through the early scrub with no real bashing involved, then walked straight into the lovely forest. We couldn’t believe our luck although we were reluctant to talk too much about it until we reached the summit.

Ben popping over the edge of Mesa, just shy of the summit, Adamsons and the Calf in the background.

I got to lead the final section, as it was the only peak I hadn’t climbed. It had worked out that we each got to lead up a mountain we’d not climbed, which is always nice :D. The finally pinch on Mesa got a little less open, with big scoparia bushes growing horizontally out of the pretty vertical sides, but it was at least a short distance and we grunted our way up, somehow avoiding any real cliffs.

Jess and Ben on the summit of Mesa, brilliant walking mates!
PB might have dominated the view for most of the day. Here alongside Bisdee and Victoria.

The summit itself was another glorious one, open and sunny, with plenty of spots to sit or lounge and views to everywhere! We felt particularly close to the Southern Ranges and PB, but even Fedder was close. Bobs looked different from this angle too. We spent a long time there, having lunch (or a second lunch as the case may have been). It was only sense and a desire to get back before it was too late that finally dragged us away.

Heading back down through the mostly open forest – the walking was actually delightful.
There was a short band of scrub on the ascent back to the shoulder of the Calf, and some impressive rock too.
An idea of how impressive the rock was. The way down was quite easy, right next to a full-on rock cave thing you could bivvy in if need be.

Fortunately the way back was more down than up, all of us feeling rather weary and lacking in juice for the legs. We opted for a sidle around the Calf, which worked out very well. After the slog back up Adamsons we were wearily grateful that it was now downhill all the way. We celebrated with another decent break to enjoy the views we hadn’t had when we’d first summited and to procrastinate from what lay ahead! I ate dinner, this being one of the rare occasions I took some on a day walk.

Sidling around the Calf, looking along the ridge back to Adamsons Peak
Jess makes her way to the high point on Adamsons, the Calf behind. You can even see Fedder.

Then commenced the rather mindless traipse back, each of us fairly quiet, off with our own thoughts (or lack thereof). I certainly was weary enough to have a pretty empty mind and simply enjoyed that feeling. Sore knees aside we made relatively good progress down, arriving back at the cars before 7:30. We figured it still counted as an epic day trip, despite not needing head torches at all, based purely on the figures below. Ben reckons it’s a record for elevation gained in a day walk. I wouldn’t think he’d be wrong in that either.

All up: 23.6km, 13:28hrs, 1780m ascent

One last look back along the ridge from the summit. Check out the mountains we climbed, and all those ranges in the distance!
And down we go, the climb up Adamsons is brilliant in its own right.
Last glance before we head down and into the forest. The sun is still warm and later would light up the sky in pinks and oranges.

Hartz, Snowy, Esperance, The Calf, Adamsons: 26-28 May 2013

GPS route
GPS route

Well, I’d done Hartz and Snowy by myself before, and Adamsons twice before, so I really only needed to do Esperance and The Calf, and one day Mesa, but when the opportunity came to do the traverse from Hartz to Adamsons I jumped at the chance.

 

The weather was said to be pretty average for the first day, but good the next two. And average it was.. but that didn’t matter, we were only doing the car shuffle and walking up to what ended up camp just below the saddle between Hartz and Snowy. Probably made more average by me being right in the middle of a cold. It was wet and cold and very windy, especially for walking on wet scree. So windy that on the flats it was hard to actually walk on the track, it was more like a drunken stumble.

 

Sunrise between Hartz and Snowy
Sunrise between Hartz and Snowy

 

Anyway, I’d worked from 12-8, then driven down to Huonville, and we’d completed the car shuffle and were walking by 11. We had planned to walk up the track but not go over Hartz, avoiding the climb and taking a pad via the tarns to just below the saddle of Hartz and Snowy, but the visibility wasn’t great, and we must have walked straight past it, so up and over we went. My lungs weren’t happy, nor was my head, but I knew I’d be in my tent soon. The track up Hartz is clearly marked, and though I still haven’t had views from the summit, it’s said to be quite a nice walk. You can’t really go wrong. For those who want a bit more adventure, head along the ridge to Mount Snowy. There’s a faint pad, which I didn’t know about the first time, but it’s easy enough walking even if you’re not on it, and even with strong winds!

Brrrr, packing up and putting on frozen gear
Brrrr, packing up and putting on frozen gear

 

Not knowing what the camping would be like over the other side of Snowy (as it turned out, there was quite nice camping on the other side), we opted to set up tents just off the saddle between the two peaks. It was slightly more sheltered, but was still interesting setting up tents (glad mine can be done one handed!). It was 12.30 by this stage, as we looked around for the most sheltered but still flat site, and took a little while to get things organised. But I was in my tent shortly after 1, and spent all afternoon shivering! Neither of us got much sleep, mostly due to the ferocity of the wind and I discovered that sideways gusts of wind can completely collapse my tent, until said wind abates, when it pops back up.. interesting! I didn’t have complete faith that my tent would come out unscathed, but true to form, the One Planet Goondie proved itself up to the task.

Just past Snowy, looking towards Esperance, the scrubby part lies ahead
Just past Snowy, looking towards Esperance, the scrubby part lies ahead

 

We awoke to snow.. frozen fingers, and yep, frozen boots too.. someone had been too lazy to completely loosen them off, so I had an interesting time trying to get them back on.. at least it warmed me up a bit.. then for trying to unpeg a tent from frozen ground.. I didn’t even try to pack it up properly, dexterity was not happening!

 

We set off a bit after 8, sidling round the right hand side of Snowy. It took a little while to thaw out, and a little longer to feel my toes, but the walking was beautiful. The scree was covered in a thin layer of snow, all fresh and unspoilt, and I love walking across that, it’s like you’re the first to experience the moment.

Colours of sunrise the following day
Colours of sunrise the following day

 

As we headed down the other side, looking across the green that we were to walk through, at a few knobs on the horizon that we had to get to, it looked ok.. initially.. when we were still standing in the waist high stuff that was easy enough to wind through.. there had been reports of a little bit of scrub that side of Snowy. Well.. little bit!! More than I expected, and being sick really took it out of me. There was even a time when the guy I was walking with, more experienced and probably more crazy, was thinking of a turn around time if we hadn’t got far enough, cos our speed had really dropped, and we were down on hands and knees every now and again, trying to squeeze through branches, then wriggle our packs through with us!

View towards the Calf and Adamsons from Esperance
View towards the Calf and Adamsons from Esperance

 

I was knackered, and it was a relief to pop out and actually see a horizon part way along. It was short lived, but at least the going thereafter was slightly easier, though the scrub remained constant. I don’t think I was the only tired one, but definitely the most tired, as we made the first knob and decided to set up camp there, as the site was nice, and the path onwards looked like more scrub with no definite camping we could see from afar. Again, as it turned out, there was some very nice camping a little further on (see map, poss camp 2). It was just before 4, we’d taken 8 hours to cover 8.2 km.

Nearly done with the up, The Calf and Adamsons
Nearly done with the up, The Calf and Adamsons

 

It was another cooler night, but the wind was leaving us alone, and we both got more sleep, pretty tired after the days efforts. Probably one of the harder days walking I’ve done, largely perhaps because of the effects of the cold I had and the mental effort of getting through the scrub as much as the physical (though I’ve gotta say my legs were getting hard to lift over scrub by the end!).

 

The following morning was beautiful again, crisp, but it’s always so nice to wake in the middle of the mountains, and know you’re right in the middle of ‘nowhere’. There was the usual reluctance to pack everything away, get out of the warm, and put the wet wet-weather gear on again – at least this time it wasn’t frozen solid!

Love the rock on Adamsons :)
Love the rock on Adamsons 🙂

 

And so the day began, setting off again, shortly after 8, back into the scrub. From here on, the scrub always looked worse than it actually was. Though it was relatively constant, it was easy enough to weave a way through, with very little of the heavy stuff of the morning before. Then we popped out and were on the nice open run up to Esperance, which with tired legs was harder than it should have been, purely because it was up hill (what do you expect when you go to climb mountains)! I was almost too tired to be able to look up and enjoy the view, but fortunately I did take a few photos.

View of Adamsons from the old hut, taken on a different day
View of Adamsons from the old hut, taken on a different day

We were on the summit by 9.40, and had a 10 minute break, checking out the way ahead, and hoping like anything that the scrub immediately in front of us on the descent wasn’t too bad, and that the ridge we had to walk along to get to the Calf really was as open as it looked. And we were lucky! Little bit of scrub, but again easy enough to wind a way through without too much extra exertion and then glorious open walking once we’d made the ridge!! Could hardly believe it.

 

We walked the 3-4km along the top in an hour and a bit, then headed up through small bit of scrub to get on top of a bump, after which the walking was open but up all the way to the bottom of the calf.

 

Not having done the Calf, I ducked up the easy hundred or so metres to the summit, then we headed over to Adamsons, making the summit shortly after 3. I knew then that I was home and hosed, but the walk back was much longer than I remembered it, and I remembered it long! But at least there was no more scrub or uphill! We were back at the old hut in an hour, and after a brief pause kept going. We were racing the dark but we were never going to win. The last part was done by head torch – as if it wasn’t hard enough to stay upright with the fatigue by this stage :p!! Another hour and a half and we were back at the car. It was just before 6, and we’d walked for 9.40 hours, covering 20km. All up just over 33km, and just under 20 hours walking.

 

Went to bed that night very tired, but happy, the cold no worse, and work the next morning, bright and early.. and a tad stiff and sore!

All up: 32.6km, 1782m ascent.