As it just so happened, such a small and fairly insignificant peak, was to be a decent sized milestone – my 600th peak-bagging point! There was no worming out of it either, as I’d put it down on the bushwalking club program.
As the day approached, the 7 or 8 who had put their names down for what I had expected to be a fairly decent scrub bash with not much reward dwindled to 3. Oh well, it would be a small celebration with two of my favourite walking ‘buddies’ (as my niece would say).
We set off early – always better to err on the side of precaution – timing the drive perfectly with the rain. Even better, we drove as far along the road as we could have, giving us a much shorter distance to walk than expected.
We geared up, delighted to find the scrub was actually quite dry despite the rain we’d driven through. One surprise followed another and though steep, the walking was much more open than expected, and really delightful.
Up through the forest we walked, marvelling at the changes it underwent, and stopping to enjoy the views when we broke out of the trees (yes, there were views!). Once on top of the climb, we bee-lined in the approximate direction of the high point, deciding that a decent sized cairn must mark the highest point of the otherwise very flat summit.
Ben whipped out profiteroles in celebration and we enjoyed them together. We hadn’t done enough work and it wasn’t even slightly close to lunchtime for anything more substantial, so after a bit of a sit and chat we headed back down. We got a bit distracted with conversations of books and prison and all sorts of other things that we took 20 minutes longer for the descent than we had done for the ascent!
We had lunch back at the car, and headed home for one of the earliest return times I’ve ever had on a bushwalk!
All up: 3:23hrs with significant breaks, 3.7km, 392m ascent.
Stay tuned – I’ll be posting a bush-tucker post by request ;)!
Having got my act together, signed up to go back to uni, and received word that I’d been accepted, I set about organising the most important thing: the remaining few weekends off I had between now and then, and the walks I would fill them with. I had a short list featuring mountains I desperately wanted to do (like Geryon South), club walks I’d already signed up for or had put down to lead, and a few others chosen partly for interest, partly because I had info on them, and partly because they would fit into my ‘3 days’ weekends.
The Loddon Range was one that I’d put towards the end of the list, largely because it was supposed to be scrubby. But having received a GPS track in a timely fashion (thanks Geoff!), I bumped it up a few notches, and it was on the ‘weather waiting list’ (featuring a range of walks, from which one is chosen each weekend based purely on wherever the weather is best).
It went back on hold a short while later, when Greg, a Pandani organiser, mentioned the possibility of leading a walk there. It was definitely one I’d rather do in a group, so I was more than willing to wait! We ended up with a group of 8 experienced walkers, which pretty much ensured we were in for a good trip.
Armed with 6 GPSs, and 5 PLBs/Spots, we left the cars on the side of the road, and found our drop off point. Choosing it is crucial, as it determines just how much scrub you have to descend down through to get to the river. We were all surprised by how open the spot we had was, though it was steep and a tad slippery!
Surprise River lived up to its name. Not only was it not as deep as expected, we also had a footbridge provided, and did not need to use the ropes we’d brought just in case, or even take off boots to keep our feet dry.
Overpants, which had been donned to ward off the scrub, were removed, as were the scrub gloves, before we proceeded to follow the ridge up.. and up.. and up some more. Again, we were surprised at the relative openness of the forest, the apparent pad through the ferns (even clumps of tied up cutting grass – hard evidence of someone else having been that way), and most grateful for having a route to follow (it made things much much easier).
It was warm (ok, hot) work, and we sought distraction in a glimpse or two of distant mountains from rocky ‘lookouts’, the changes in vegetation as we worked our way up, the sounds and evidence of olive whistlers and lyrebirds, or light conversation. When we finally popped out of the forest and into the scrub proper, the fact that the going would be a little more scratchy for a bit was ignored, and whoops of delight could be heard as people took in the views. The Loddon range might be overshadowed by the more prominent King William range to its east, but its views are just as good, if not better.
I’d managed to stay somewhere in the middle of the group till then, happy not to have to concentrate on navigation in the forest as I was feeling quite tired after a night at work and not a lot of sleep. But when we hit the scrub somehow I was put in the lead. As is usually the case though, having something to concentrate on woke me up, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to stick roughly to the GPS route we had, choosing the path of least resistance, trying not to duck and weave toooo much and avoiding where possible narrow bits that require interesting contortions (which, being small, I handle just fine, but some people really don’t like!).
When we were through the worst of it, and a distinct pad had appeared beneath our feet, Greg seamlessly took the lead back until we reached the top of the knob before Ronald Cross, and hungry tummies demanded they be fed there and then. So we sat with the bright yellow everlasting flowers, disturbed the ants, looked at fossils in rock, applied sunscreen and otherwise enjoyed the views while eating.
There was a lazy air about, despite intentions to get all the way to Loddon Bluff if the going was good and we had time. But we did eventually have to get moving, so we donned slightly lighter packs, and assessed the way forward. It seemed easier going now, and we wove our way on a rough pad, which disappeared as fast as it appeared, through low alpine scrub.
The summit of Ronald Cross seemed almost like a non-event, at least as I experienced it (being second last to arrive). It wasn’t quite as open as our lunch spot had been, and by the time I was there most of the group was looking at the next bit of the walk. I stood on the summit to get a better look at the view, then joined the others. It will, however, forever be remembered as the spot Raylea received the exciting news that she might be pregnant with her second child (we all think that if it’s a boy he should be named Loddon, or Ronald)!
On we went, the easy walking continuing as we followed the ridge along, small rises and drops to negotiate, and ever changing views to enjoy. None of us was too keen to check out Scoparia Lake, as it looked like it might have been aptly named! Church Peak, and particularly Needle Rock (it’s pretty obvious when you see it) and its associated tarn, were the main immediate focus, but mountains further away, including Diamond Peak, Frenchmans, Gell and Slatters were never far from mind (or discussion).
Negotiating the ridge started to take longer as the day wore on and the heat of the sun sapped as much energy as did the distance under our feet. It wasn’t particularly difficult walking, but nor was it easy. Stops became more frequent, and I think it was with relief that we finally arrived at our drop off point. We were buoyed on by what looked to be some quite nice camping next to the lake, and it didn’t take long for our long shadows and, a few steps later, us to reach it.
Tents went up, and gear was sorted, while we had a chat about our options and what to do. To go, or not to go? It was a tough choice, given everyone was tired, some more so than others. The group seemed to lean one way, then the other. It came down to a vote on personal preference, and I was most aware that in giving my answer, I was voting selfishly, based on what I would have done had I been alone (for a number of considered reasons). In doing so I felt uneasy, aware that a good friend might have done the opposite, and voted so as not to let the group down, rather than out of personal preference. Others might have too, but I was less sure about that.
I wasn’t the only one to pick up on the vibe, but our quiet enquiries were brushed off with a ‘She’ll be right’, which did nothing to allay concerns, perhaps only deepened them. But there didn’t seem anything else we could do, and so we set off, back up to the ridge, where we had rock and scrub and ups and downs to negotiate. It was slow going and the tiredness was really starting to show. Perhaps it was mental as much as physical, with the added pressure of needing to reach the summit of Loddon Bluff before our turn around time.
I felt a bit useless, not really knowing what was going on and feeling unable to help. So I tried taking a leaf out of another friend’s book, and without ignoring or forgetting about my worries, I made a conscious effort to enjoy all the rest of what was. And there was a lot to enjoy. I was out in the mountains, walking a ridge, the light and time stretching as the sun dipped lower, in the company of some special people. The trivial problems of life did not exist, there was nothing but the here and now, and it was perfect.
By 7.30ish, and still a distance from our summit, we had ‘the talk’. The going was easier, and we reckoned we’d go a bit further. By 7.40 it was time to make a call. Ben scouted up and gave his assessment: we could make the summit in 20 minutes. Greg told us to go, but we needed to be there by 8. The race was on!
Heart pumping hard and lungs gasping for air, I concentrated on keeping on Ben’s trail, followed closely by Graham, then John. Next door to no sleep, work, and a long and hot walk in and up didn’t matter any more. It was in the past and had served to get me to where I was, and there was no way now that I wasn’t getting to the top! I don’t think I was the only one thinking this ;).
There was something good and exciting in the race against time and, despite the discomfort of walking (with the occasional skip/run bit) quite so fast, I thoroughly enjoyed the change in pace and the freedom to just go, as well as the pressure of the challenge and the concentration it required. Ben stopped to catch his breath, and I paused for a moment too until he waved me on. Enjoying it so much, I went, trying to catch back up to Graham, but unable to go much faster than his long legs. I cut the distance a little, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch him.
At 7.58, I stood on the summit, gasping for air through a great big smile, and gave Graham a hug in celebration. The smile was to stay on my face for some time, as we watched, encouraged and congratulated the others as they arrived in their own time and joined in the celebration.
We weren’t sure what the go with turning back was, but Greg was still moving forward, so we figured we’d just wait there. It turned out they’d had a chat at the back and decided to make the summit regardless, happy to walk back to the tents in the dark. That removed some of the pressure, and we fittingly took time to sit around the summit, basking in precious moments of golden light. It was worth every bit of effort it had taken us to get there, and I was secretively not displeased that we’d got our timing spot on for the sunset!
We’d already opted for a different route back, following the ridge to just before the going got slower, and then dropping down off it into the scrub. Fortunately the GPS route we had also went that way, so we knew we could quite confidently find our way in the dark. But first we made the most of enjoying the last few moments of day as we walked the ridge. I lagged at the back, not at all concerned about a scrub bash in the dark (been there, done that), and eager to enjoy every moment I could up there.
When we got to our drop off point I was nominated to take the lead, and readily accepted (saying a silent thanks to everyone else for placing their trust in me). I do love the challenge, and despite having been up for 29 hours, was wide awake and full of energy. Head torches went on, and off we set.
It was, well, scrubby, and I was very glad we’d not chosen to ascend that way. But it was easy enough to descend through, even in the dark. One or two deviations from the GPS route were punished with slightly thicker stuff (though no one seemed to notice too much!), so I took a little more time to figure out which way to go when uncertain. By and large, it was a very decent route, which seemed to stick to the lighter patches of scrub that wove a way between the thicker stuff.
I had no idea where we were, except in relation to the pink line on my GPS screen, and I shook my head in amusement that sometimes that, and a little bit of faith, is all that’s needed. We hit the edge of Needle Rock tarn before I knew it, and were unzipping tent flys and doors a few moments later. Elation and relief at being back washed over, followed, finally, by a heavy tiredness.
Dinner and star gazing (they were beautifully bright) were a quick affair for me, as the cold, hungry mozzies and a desperate need for sleep rapidly took over. I said my good nights, and got into my sleeping bag fully clothed. I very quickly fell asleep to the muffled sound of distant chatter.
My alarm went off at 5.15 the next morning, and despite being tired, a quick look out the door had me awake and moving. It was clear (enough) to make a short walk part way up to the ridge to watch the sun rise worthwhile. I stopped a little below the mist line, happy with my spot, and settled down to enjoy the sea of soft white mist in the valleys and the glow of light behind Slatters.
I did some thinking, resolved some feelings, and then ‘meditated’ with a simple little bit of rock balancing. Graham wandered up and joined me, and we chatted a bit, in between moving around for photos as the sun lit up the sky. It was a lovely welcome to the day.
As the sun climbed higher the light it cast crept down the ridge we were sitting on, towards the tents. The mist above us had all but burnt off, some still remaining in the valleys. A thin film continued to waft its way across the surface of the tarn.
A very slight breeze would have gone unnoticed, had it not knocked over the rocks I’d balanced. There was something special, fitting about it, with no sense at all of destruction or loss or the end of something. On reflection, I liked the metaphors it gave as regards living in the present, accepting what is, the cycle of life, seeing ‘ends’ as ‘beginnings’, of possibility and invitation, of a place in the world. It was perfect, especially to have been shared with someone who also seemed to understand without actually needing to put things into words.
By now, Simon was up and about also taking photos, content to stay where he was rather than climb up to where we were. One by one the others appeared and said hello to the day and the world around them.
When the sun hit the tents we headed back down, and went about finding something to eat. My breakfast bar went down fast, but I spent time savouring a most delicious gifted hot chocolate and half an apricot. I did feel a little guilty for having chosen not to bring my own stove and still be able to enjoy the rewards (thanks!!)!
Raylea was energetic for that time of the morning, and had us admiring her ability to contort her body into different Yogya poses as we ate. Graham decided it was a perfect opportunity to practice headstands, but only received a whole lot of teasing for his efforts (which weren’t actually too bad, there was just a bit of a bend in his legs)!
Breakfast eaten, tents packed, hats soaked in the tarn, by 9am we were ready to go, though we lingered a little, reluctant to start the climb, or was it about leaving the place? But we had to, and it was only going to get hotter as the day wore on. So up we went. Straight up.
It was hot work, and a rudely abrupt way to start the day, but it ensured we were all well and truly awake! And so we wove our way back along the spine of the Loddon range, choosing a better line in one or two places, stopping enough to regroup or just be, but pretty keen to get into the cool of the forest as soon as possible.
It didn’t take long. In fact it seemed to go much faster than on the way over, but perhaps that was just a matter of perception. Back into the scrub, after veering off the path we’d taken on the way up, I got the pleasure of taking the lead for a bit (just in time to take everyone under some low tree-branchy scrub that required a bit of bum sliding – I knew I’d get paid out for that by a certain tall member of the group when we got to a spot where we no longer had to walk in single file!).
The forest was significantly cooler, and we made good progress, stopping at one of our lookouts from the day before for lunch. Here I had the pleasure of sampling one of Ben’s baby chook eggs and salmon in a ‘scrunch’ (kind of like a wrap, but more Ben-style – thanks!). It hit the spot nicely :)!
We continued onwards and downwards, I mostly hung at the back and left the navigation to the others, largely Greg. Entertainment came in the form of sticking branches of a ‘purple berry tree’ or, later, ferns, on the back of people’s packs (figuring Jess would get the blame – except for the one I put on her pack!). She’d already slipped rocks into a few different packs, stolen Graham’s pole once or twice or Ben’s trail mix.. so she was the automatic culprit when anything went missing, or was added to a pack.
In that manner, we made it back to the river. Hot and sticky, it didn’t take much to start a water fight, and Jess’s drink bottle was put to good use! We explored some of the rocks, and found a shale like substance, which Jess used to paint a black stripe on either of my cheeks. Graham added a bit more, and soon I had three stripes to each cheek, and two vertical stripes in the middle of my forehead. Apparently war paint suits me.. more so than one or two of the other names people called me over the course of the trip (like Lady of the Night – I preferred the alternative of Night Owl – or petal!).
The pinch back up to the road wasn’t so bad, and soon we were all standing out in the open again. I can’t quite remember why, but Jess and I ended up running the 400m back to the car. Ben resisted for as long as he could, but it wasn’t very long, and he pulled up shortly after we had! The crazy little things we do for fun ;). I’m lucky to have friends like these…
The mint biscuits I’d brought for afterwards were quite a gooey experience, and received a similar response from pretty much everyone as I offered them around individually (but everyone had one ;)!). Ice cream at the Hungry Wombat was definitely in order, and one last chance for Jess to nick Greg’s car keys…!
A fun two dayer, for which I was immensely grateful to have had company, and good company at that (thanks Greg, and everyone else)! Thanks also to Graham and Ben for driving my car (much appreciated!!), and for the stop at the King William lookout to take one last photo of our mountains as we reflected on the memories created, and the weaving of a little bit more ‘knowing’ into our individual tapestries of Tassie mountains and bush.
This was one of my club walks. I’d chosen it about three months prior (when writing my submissions for the program) because it was short, nearby (relatively!) and not one that I thought a bit of adverse weather would affect too much (the views were reported to be minimal on a clear day at best). I’d also put it down because it was one I wanted to do (yes, worth a ‘peak bagging’ point) but really would have preferred company for it. I didn’t expect great numbers, but even one other would make the walk far more enjoyable.
I was in luck. The walk description I’d written in the program painted a pretty bleak picture: a short but scrubby walk, no views promised… ‘book at your own peril’!! And so I got a lovely group of 6 of my crazy friends, which made the destination and the terrain now irrelevant: it was going to be a good walk regardless.
Just as well. More changes and added pressure at work, not to mention a few extra hours covering one girl who was at tafe, and I’d caught yet another cold by Wednesday. Friday was even more interesting, with unwanted and rather scary news making it difficult to get the sleep I was supposed to have before work and the walk.
Oh well. Just as well I’d already pushed the start time back to a VERY luxurious 8.30 (no one had seemed to mind at all!). What would have been another normal (but especially tired) day at work flew by when Jess came to visit at 4am, and stayed and watched me work for a few hours, chatting intermittently (very cool, and very much appreciated, THANKS JESS!). She was coming on the walk, but figured she’d fit a 10km run in first (as you do!).
Two hours later, I was off, picking Jess up on the way through to Granton. Smiles all round as we pulled up, and the laughter and teasing began at once. We got a little serious when it came to deciding on a stop in New Norfolk for coffees (very important), but otherwise set out in a light and happy mood, with which the weather seemed to agree entirely.
I drove a little tiredly, so it was just as well I had Bec and Jess in the car to keep me awake with a commando roll over the back seat to dig out my gps, and a wave to the car behind us out the sunroof. We did lament the fact that Jess didn’t have her bag of sheoak nuts to peg at them ;)!
We arrived without difficulty, and parked our cars by the lake. By the looks of things there were a few guys going fishing for the day or weekend there too. More mucking around while gearing up, and we set off. There was a short road walk at first, and we started off quite quietly.
But before too long chatter broke out between pairs or threes, and after a stop to adjust clothing we were soon all fooling around, throwing pink berries at each other, splashing people by throwing rocks into muddy pools of water as they passed and generally just having a good time being together. Mike found out very early on just how deadly Ben’s aim could be, as he took a nut on the head when he walked in front of Jess. He didn’t retaliate, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t get his revenge before the day was over!
We were having so much fun, that someone pulled up at one point to check where we were going and when I checked my gps realised we’d walked straight past the point I had been going to turn off. I had a route from another friend (thanks Jocelyn) and had intended to follow it, but given we’d walked a fair way past the turn off we figured we’d revert to Plan B and follow the ridge up. The going was quite ok, and Ben and Glen seemed to have fun finding the best possible route through the relatively light (but nonetheless a little tedious) scrub.
I was happy to follow, and so we weaved our way up through the scrub, where possible slipping and sliding our way across wet tree trunks or scrambling up rock. All the while collecting pink berry ammunition for use later on ;). An early sighting of a wedgie through the trees had us excited, more than all the ‘honeyeaters’ we could hear, and Ben led us to a rocky knoll where it looked like we might have a view. Not quite, but the next one over showed promise!!
This was very cool, as I hadn’t expected any view at all, and as a result, neither did anyone else. But sure enough, we sat on rock or climbed trees and looked out over Bradys Lake. The weather up here was not quite as ideal as the weather we’d left back in Hobart, so we didn’t get the extensive views out west that we could have had, but we could make out the Walls further north, and I think we were just grateful to be seeing anything other than trees!
As we sat and enjoyed, watching the cloud and mist come and go, the wedgie and its mate reappeared, and we stared, mesmerised. Catherine, sitting on a rock, wind blowing in hair, stretched her arms out and, for a moment, flew with them :). It always amazes me the way wedgies cast a particular feeling over the group, almost like a spell or drug, and it was clear that it didn’t really matter what else we did or didn’t see, the walk was already more than worth it.
The cold wind did have us up and moving, refuelled by Jess’s Starburst babies (a special blue one for me!). Up and down we bobbed, staying on the ridge, heading in the rough direction of the summit. It was a longish way in comparison to the planned route, but we were all in good spirits, despite the occasional unexpected lie down as feet went flying, or uncomfortable pokes by sharp bits of tree.
And then we were there. Trig, really old soft drink cans and all!! The weather chose to clag in for a bit, and Mike lamented the lack of view, but as we sat to eat the blue sky came back. So too did the wedgies and we stood on the trig cross bars and watched for some time as they dove and soared with barely a flap of wings, repeating the process a number of times. Pretty awesome!
I have no idea how long we stayed. We spent time climbing on the trig, hanging from it, planking across it, taking a group photo on it… teasing Bec who was too short to see something that Ben and Jess were trying to point out, trying to sneak rocks into people’s packs (and this is where Mike got his revenge on Ben really well!). While Ben and Jess were trying to distract me so they could put one in my bag he slipped one into Ben’s, and I took the opportunity to pick up Jess’s sunnies, which she’d left by the trig and had forgotten all about.
But as always, we did have to leave, opting this time to take the gps route down. It was definitely more direct, but the scrub was a little worse (not so much an issue going downhill though) and the road we expected to hit turned out to be rather overgrown that it wasn’t much different from pushing through scrub! We were all very glad we’d gone up the way we did, and had the views we otherwise wouldn’t have had!!
Back on the real road, Jess, Ben and I spent the last of our energy trying to push one another into the mud, which is hard to do seriously when you’re laughing so much! This was all interspersed with slightly more serious conversation about life and possibilities and realities – a perfect mix.
The ‘walk’ wasn’t over though. Back at the cars we were distracted by the late afternoon sun as silver shards filtered through the cloud and lit up the land on the other side of the lake. It was really quite peaceful and gave each of us a bit of time to enjoy it in our own ways: sitting, standing, photographing, skimming rocks…. then for a little bit more life and excitement, two puppies appeared nearby and stole our attention. We very nearly lost Jess to them 😉 (they were pretty cute!).
When we finally decided to get out of boots and gaiters, I popped Jess’s sunnies on the front seat of the car, hoping to surprise her. She’d realised she’d left the up there part way down, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of terrain conducive to a retrace. Probably I should have let her out of her misery when she’d realised, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun :p! Think she was pretty happy to see them… and I think I got a bigger hug than I deserved!
All up: 9km, 5.18 hrs, 404m ascent, and a really nice day out with some pretty special friends. Certainly appreciated and enjoyed.
Another busy week at work, not one full night’s sleep, and a minor incident on Saturday with the ovens dying meant I was a little out of sorts and skipped the usual week long anticipation for the weekend’s walk. But it had kicked in by Friday night (despite a game of bubble soccer leaving me somewhat sore), and on Saturday I had a little bit of time and energy to think about it. Just as well, because earlier the weather had looked pretty miserable – wet, cold, with snow down to 1300m or something.
By Sunday the rain was set to be over with by 7am (none of us were too trusting in that, I must say), but I think we all expected cloudy/misty/overcast conditions for the rest of the day. Given its reputation (from the Abels and other sources), we also all expected a rather scrubby walk, with none too impressive views. For some reason, sheer madness maybe, 14 (sadly 13 in the end) of us were prepared to give D’Arcys Bluff and Wentworth Hills a crack anyway. As if in reward of our loyalty and determination, Greg (true to his developing reputation) managed to pull off the (almost) impossible: great weather and an awesome walk with panoramic views (the company, I must add, was NEVER in doubt).
With all of us coming from different directions at different times, a logistical nightmare for a leader, we somehow managed to find one another (just) and park cars at a boom gate on a gravel road south of Laughing Jack lagoon, and northeast of D’Arcys Bluff. News that Catherine was at home in bed with a migraine wasn’t a good way to start things off, but Jess’s donning of a recently encountered shark hat (we have a bit of a thing going on of late with ‘crazy hats’) to take on Greg’s pink pig (see the Mueller post) had us all laughing.
We set off a bit after 8.30, decked out in wet weather gear, none of us game enough to trust the sky. A road walk is always good to do a bit of catching up with everyone (and there were plenty of people to catch up with!), and I found it went a bit too fast. Before we knew it we were at the point where the GPS track we were following headed due south for D’Arcys Bluff. We expected scrub, and nasty scrub at that, so were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves weaving between trees, and then into myrtle forest, before approaching some scree. The ‘fun stuff’, Ben commented, with a cheeky smile on his face. I pointed out that it was the mossy, less well trodden, move under your feet kind of scree, to which he insisted it was still the fun stuff!
And he was right. We each got to travel at our own pace, and I went off on my own. It gave me a chance to ponder the suggestion that perhaps a photo I’d taken on Pelion West wasn’t entirely sensible, which had initially hurt, as I was a bit offended that someone might think I’d act recklessly without thought or consideration. But it was a reasonable question given the nature of the photograph and likely one that stemmed out of care and concern, and different ideas of what safe might be.
The only bit of nasty scrub we were to encounter on the walk was next, and Graham did a great job of weaving and bashing through it, all the while climbing fairly steeply. Laughter rang out when people got stuck half way over logs, and it was infectious even for those of us who couldn’t see what was going on. Before long we had made the lip, and found ourselves in ankle/calf high scrub.
We wandered over to the summit, each at our own pace, choosing as we pleased different high points to climb up on the way for the sake of the view. Graham, having earned the honours with his route finding and scrub bashing, took the summit first. Having made it, attention turned once again to the views, and in some cases, to stomachs.
We were surprised to be able to see Olympus and surrounding mountains to the northwest, Rufus still with a snowy white tailbone. The view towards Wentworth was also pretty nice, and it was clear now that we were going to get much much more than we’d expected.
Aware of the time, and the distance we still had to go, Greg had us moving once we’d refuelled and rested sufficiently. I was strangely content to sit towards the back, watching our group of 13 weave a line down through the short scrub and out onto the open plain. One couldn’t be too relaxed however, so as not to be on alert for the odd snowball. There really wasn’t much snow at all, just a handful here or there, but that was enough for us to have some fun!
Very few of us seemed to be in a rush, happy just to take one step at a time and plenty of photos. Another stop at the lake, less for the need to rest from physical exertion, more perhaps from a desire to soak it all in. The pines seemed to agree that it was a good resting place, congregated as they were round its edge.
Leaping over the lakes outlet, we continued around and then upwards towards Wentworth Hills. It was quite open all the way up, though patches of scoparia reminded us to take a little care. Old grey eucalypt skeletons stretched bony fingers out to the northeast, and I remarked that it was like they were begging of the wind, “take me with you”.
And soon, there before us stood the summit, a final short rock scramble to the trig on top. But attention was diverted to the west as the King William range popped into view, and it was nice to share the pure excitement and delight with others, and see it reflected in their eyes, smiles, voices and behaviours. As joy settled to happiness, I took up the “let’s do this” invitation without hesitation, and turned eyes, hands and boots to the rock. The summit was off to the left, but the rock straight up was calling, and that’s where three of us instinctively headed.
We were rewarded with views spanning from Mt Field and Wylds in the south, round through the King William range, and all the way up to and beyond the Lake St Claire Mountains. Even the tip of (not stupid, Bec!) Frenchman’s was poking up. It was rather stunning, and we ignored a strong biting wind to try to capture it on cameras. As fingers started to turn numb the summit beckoned again, and we wandered over to join the few who were already up, and await those still to come.
Graham felt like a climb, and I joined in the challenge, so we tested the sturdiness of the trig. By now the wind had cooled off the heat produced from the climb, and we looked around for a spot to sit that was out of the wind but still had views to the west. A wedgie made an appearance, and put a smile on my face – it is lovely to see them on so many of the walks I get out on, and it always makes a walk that extra bit special!
An enjoyable lunch followed, with fresh strawberries for dessert (thanks Jess!!), and a pick on Graham session. Somehow he managed to misplace his green foam seat, pole and pack.. might not have been a coincidence that he was sitting by Jess ;)! Mind you, after the way he made her jump when he donned his gorilla ‘hat’ (mask), it was probably fair play.
Always too soon, the time came to head back, and a handful of us used the joking around, and some plain feet dragging to enjoy the mountain for just a little bit longer. We stood and looked at the views, found a rock to lie down on, pegged bits of stick at Graham… but still we had to leave. That wasn’t going to change, sadly. We wandered back to the lake, Bec’s rule no. 5 of (and I quote) “No talking in the after-fucking-noon” starting to kick in, as we drifted off, lost in our own thoughts.
Back at the lake, on the other side of the outlet, the mood prevailed, and Bec and Ben lounged on the soft alpine vegetation. It didn’t take long for Jess to join in, and I notice David doing likewise a little way off. Graham clearly had energy to burn, despite having a cold, and livened things up with the invention of a new challenge: how many people can I jump over in a line. Three was just too easy, four a little more of a challenge, but still effortless. Five wasn’t attempted though!
We wandered lazily back over the plain, watched a robin redbreast flit across the land, and chatted about all manner of things. We headed to the right of D’Arcys this time, straight for a break in the trees. This saved us the steep scramble down rock and scrub, and took us on a slightly more direct route back to the road. A little bit more snow provided the perfect opportunity for some long awaited revenge with a perfectly aimed throw. The retaliation some time later with some well thought out words probably got me back better than any snowball could have!
Appreciation again of the myrtle forest turned to awe at the size of some of the eucalypts, which by now wore ‘golden crowns’, gifted for a few moments by the sun. And then we were back on the road, and realisation that we were nearly back, that it was nearly over and it was time to say good bye to everyone hit, and a handful of us really started dragging our feet. But it couldn’t last forever, and we arrived back at the cars about 9 hours after having started out.
We said a slightly sad goodbye to Jess who was heading north alone, and turned south to take our chances with the wildlife. There was plenty out, including a wombat, cat and plenty of possums and wallabies. One had us laughing hard as it shot across the road, slipped on the gravel, managed to pull off a commando style roll, but (seemingly dazzled by it all) then bounded straight into one of the poles on the side of the road. Poor bugger!
A most helpful and encouraging chat on the way home (thanks again Bec and Graham), and I went to bed feeling mostly content and a little excited by the future and the possibilities it holds.
All up (maybe slightly out, given my GPS batteries died and it took me a while to notice, and I forgot to turn it back on after lunch for a bit!): 12.2km, 9.09hrs, 541m ascent.
Jess is one of the newer ‘recruits’ to the medium/hard Pandani crowd, and with her quick smile, give-anything-a-crack attitude, rock climbing inclinations and pretty good aim with sheoak nuts, she fits right in. Like everyone else, she also brings a bit of her own flavour to each walk. This week I had the pleasure of walking with her. She had a week break from uni, and Monday was the only day I had free that we weren’t already walking, so we set a date for a walk, destination to be decided.
On the Sunday (because we’re really organised, and some things can be decided last minute, in fact, need to be decided last minute, to make the best of the weather), I asked her where she wanted to go. This was her walk, and I was happy to go anywhere, though I knew that would most likely mean a repeat walk, as I’ve done a lot of the peak bagging peaks close to Hobart.
She surprised me though, and made me even more excited (if that’s possible) when she suggested Hobhouse. I hadn’t done it, in fact I’d been putting it off, aware that the Abel’s description mentions needing a key, and I’m not good at organising keys. I don’t like how it ties you in to going on a certain day, so that you can’t choose your weather. Jess had thought about doing Hobhouse a few weeks prior, solo, which I had thought was a pretty brave move. Even now, I knew I was glad for the company, aside from making for a much more enjoyable experience, company also provides extra security and reassurance, particularly for offtrack walking.
We decided to follow the Abels description, though a friend tells me after the fact that there is easy and quicker access from the east, from the forestry side of the mountain. The night before we’d bumped our start time from 8am to 7am, just to give us more options. Jess kindly offered to drive, for which I was most grateful. I was still tired from the work week, and the driving the day before to Snowy North.
We arrived in good time, and despite the mist for most of the drive the only wildlife that came close to the car was a line of parrots sitting across the dirt road, a brown hawk of some kind (goshawk or sparrow hawk, I’m not sure which) that flew one way, then back across the front of the car, and a billion currawongs! We put on boots, made last minute pack rearrangements, and set off. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Though it was still cool, there was evidence of blue sky behind the white, and we had high hopes. They were justified, and as we walked along the road the sun broke through the cloud, and lit up the trees and path in that new, fresh, crisp morning light. It was reason enough to smile some more.
The brisk road walk was interrupted when all of a sudden we came to the shore of Lake King William, and let out exclamations of pure delight, surprise and joy. The water was as blue and almost as still as the sky, the dead trees’ reflections almost as sturdy as their lifeless trunks, tinged golden by the sun. They were to look a lot greyer, more tired, older, when we returned on the way back. King William I sat nicely between more immediate land masses on the horizon, and we took some time to enjoy, and attempt to capture the moment. My new camera came out briefly for a bit of a test run before being returned to the pack in anticipation of wet scrub.
The road led to the log book, which hasn’t even had two whole pages filled in since 2008. That seemed a bit sad, because Hobhouse is rather a nice mountain, with some stunning views too. Jess did the honours, and then we followed orange tapes which led us to the old bombardier track. Once or twice we had to search around for tapes when it was indistinct, but in general Jess did an excellent job of just following the most likely route until we found more tapes. The birds kept us company as we walked, and I pointed out the call of the olive whistler to Jess, remembering when I’d first been taught it.
The change in vegetation was fascinating.. from dry schlerophyl (or however it’s spelled), to button grass, and then to wet myrtle forest! The button grass plain was awesome, with a lovely hint of the view to come out to the west. I learnt later from a friend that button grass plains are often evidence of Aboriginal firestick farming, where they burnt out areas to provide food (young button grass shoots) for animals to eat, and that certainly seems to be the case here!
After following the track through myrtle forest, and rounding a bend that marked the end of the ridge that we would be climbing up to get to the summit of Hobhouse, I mentioned to Jess to look out for any sign of a pad or track off to the left. We didn’t know if there was one, there was no reference to it in the Abels, but we assumed there might be. But after walking a little distance, and not seeing anything except for thicker scrub, we decided to head back to the bend, and go up the ridge through the more open myrtle forest.
So we did.. and after 5 minutes of walking ran into tape!! That was a surprise, and very much welcome, as it meant we might have some kind of pad to follow through the ‘trackless, difficult scrub’ (according to the Abels). As it turned out, the scrub, mostly bauera, wasn’t as thick as it could have been, and though it slowed us a little, it wasn’t so bad. The tape was generally speaking well placed, but as frugally as possible, so in parts you did have to walk on with faith that you’d spot the next piece before walking too far off the route. In this fashion we continued on, disturbing a flock of black cockatoos, and eventually spotting the kind of cliff line that the Abels mentions, and, as informed, finding it much easier than it appeared to climb.
Here we got our first views of the northern end of the King William range and the lake, and I think both our excitement levels went up a notch. Jess had a bit of a play on rock.. and there was plenty of it to tempt us, but I think we were both aware of the time, and the wise decision was made to get to the summit, and see if there was time for a play on the way back. The last little bit of climb, and we found ourselves on a bit of a plateau. Sadly, at the same time, the cloud came down, and we could only see a vague shadow in the distance that we thought might be our summit.
The tapes gone now, and just a pad to follow, I worked of my gps, and we discovered that no, the summit was somewhere beyond that shadow. As we got closer we had glimpses of where it might be, and after a bit of a rise, with rock ahead, I told Jess to go on, it was her mountain. Up a bit of rock (because it was fun), across, and up a slight rise, and there it was, a cairn with a stick poking out. We were mostly surrounded by white, with a few small patches of brightness out to the west, but the feeling was good.
As we stood there, taking photos, being in the moment, the mist continued to move around us, and opened and closed pockets of view. It became clear that it was racing up the northern side of the mountain, up and over us, and we wondered if there’d be a clear break in it. There were one or two, during which my eye was glued to my camera, before we decided to shelter behind a rock for a bite to eat.
Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As we sat and ate the western horizon cleared up, and though there were still clouds about, we actually had blue sky! The whole of the King William range was out, Diamond Peak sticking its head above the southern end of it, the Spires etc further south. Amazing how much you value something you don’t expect, have ruled out as a possibility, or expect to lose at any moment.
It was cold, having stopped, so cold in fact that Jess’ tights that she was wearing under her shorts had developed a thin layer of moisture on the outside. She made reference to the simple things in life and drew a smiley face with her finger in it. She was spot on, and it made me smile.
Given it was past 1pm and we were getting cold, after helping Jess eat some of her chocolate 😉 we pushed on. Realising I’d been in the lead a fair bit, and knowing that it’s the fun place to be (for me anyway, unless I’m really tired), I offered it to her. She did a fine job sticking to the route, despite not looking for the tapes, until I think I might have confused her! But it didn’t really matter, we were on a pretty good ‘pad’ of sorts (certainly no worse than the taped route) and it headed in the right direction. When it started to veer off we headed back to the pink tapes, and Jess continued in the lead. This time we followed the tapes right back to the road, just to see where they came out, and discovered that had we walked a further 80m from where we’d turned around, we’d have found a cairn and tape marking the track up! Oh well, we know for next time ;)!
We’d made good time, and plodded along steadily, off with our thoughts. I think I provided some unexpected entertainment by falling most ungracefully hard into one of the creeks we had to cross! That had us both laughing. We signed out of the log book, stopped by the lake again for one or two more photos, and made it back to the car as the sun started to get low. Though we didn’t quite have time for the usual mucking around and climbing just for fun that we do on Pandani walks, I know I thoroughly enjoyed the day :D!
After missing out on a two day weekend last weekend, and having had another busy week at work, I was rather looking forward to walking this weekend. It was an easy one, which I’d put on the winter program precisely for that reason. I knew nothing about it at the time, except that it was a pin on my map that I hadn’t yet explored. I did do a little more research over the last few weeks, discovered that you could drive almost to the top if you had a key or the gate was open, and that it was a hop, skip and jump from there to the summit.
I had been worried it wasn’t much of a walk for all the driving, so when Ben suggested maybe we pair it with something else I readily agreed. We decided to make the call on the day, depending on the weather and how everyone was feeling, but it seemed most people were pretty happy to throw in a second mountain. I settled on the Beehive. It was close, should be manageable in the time we had (I had a rough idea what to expect having led my first club walk to the nearby Calders LO and Arrowsmith at the end of last year), and no one had done it. It was also worth a point on the new peak baggers list (coined a ‘neo point’ by Ben), which, although I’m not actively working off it yet, was reason enough.
So after a sleep in, the surprise appearance of Graham’s kilt (he’d been threatening but hadn’t made good on it till now), and a slightly later than expected start, we drove through mist, pretty sure we weren’t going to see much of a sunrise. That didn’t seem to faze us, and in the dark we chatted about all sorts of interesting walks (Coralie’s a wealth of information and amazing stories – to have seen and experienced half the things she has would be a life well lived, I think). When Lou Reed’s Perfect Day came on, the music went up and we all sang along. Coralie happily made the observation that, yesterday having been the winter solstice, the days were only getting longer, and therefore summer was on its way! I smiled, and relaxed into letting the day be what it was.
As it turned out, we popped out the other side of the mist, and thoroughly enjoyed watching golden rays kiss trees, leaving behind a momentary smear of lipstick, as we drove along 14 mile road. Conversations about vegetables were interrupted with exclamations about how beautiful the light was, and as we rounded yet another corner we were assaulted with a bright, energetic, full-bodied hug as the sun threw itself on us. It was going to be a beautiful day, and there didn’t seem to be any sign of the possible showers that might eventuate.
We met up with the 10th member of our party at the Derwent Bridge Hotel (they must be getting rather used to us by now!), grabbed hot drinks, lamented that the fire wasn’t going (probably a good thing, or we might not have left) and then doubled back to the gravel road that would take us almost to the top of Mt Charles. Murphy had kindly put in the effort to organise a key for the gate (THANK YOU!!!), which saved us all a few kilometres of road walk, and so we arrived at the Telstra installation via the scenic route ;)!
Charles won my immediate approval when we looked up to discover that the hop, skip and jump to the summit was going to involve a lovely little bit of rock clambering that in places was as straight up as you can get without being vertical. That most were covered in slippery moss meant that while we had to take a little care and a few detours getting up, we could have a little bit of fun on the way down (but more of that later)!
So up we climbed, taking time to scramble up a steel installation that doubled as a ladder, and gave a slightly higher vantage point – but still not quite high enough to see over the tree tops! Then a short distance across, and we were on the summit, marked by a ‘tree cairn’. We were drawn immediately to the partial views we tried to glimpse through the tree tops, out over Lake King William to the King William range, Frenchmans etc.
A group photo, more teasing, and we figured we’d better get back down if we were going to check out the Beehive too. So down we went, this time climbing trees for a finally uninterrupted view out towards Olympus and other Lake St Clair mountains. We chose our own ways down the rock.. some retracing steps, others going straight down.. while the man with the kilt decided to literally slide down on his bum (if only we’d had some warning, he might have had some priceless photos to remember it by)!
After a short drive, we were parked at the start of the Burns Dam road (which I hadn’t arranged a key to) and started out. The road made for a good pace and lively conversation as we could walk side by side, instead of in single file. There were some brilliantly preserved wombat prints in mud, and Graham’s discovery of an antechinus on the road led to discussions of its suicidal mating behaviour. Our conversation then turned to animals and the amazing ways they live and survive – from spiders and their different types of silk, to aphids and their birthing methods, and even the lethal mantis shrimp that can boil water and shatter aquarium glass due to the speed and power with which it strikes out. Needless to say the time flew and we were at the end of the 6.3km road walk just over an hour after having left the cars.
A bite to eat, and into the light scrub we plunged. Graham picked a good lead, and we were quickly out onto the button grass, which we followed up to a knob (which three of us were keen to climb in its own right) before the summit. Here we farewelled Murph, who had to be back home by 5.30, and proceeded to the summit ‘the scrubby way’ ;). A look at the view, a photo or two, more looking.. more photos.. basking in the brief moments of sunlight that managed to penetrate the cloud.. more photos.. more view.. oh, and eventually a little bit of lunch. Frenchmans was nice, the perspective on Gell awesome, not to mention being able to take in the King William range, having just been out there two weeks ago. We could also see Mt Charles, sitting beside D’Arcy and Wentworth. All of this with afternoon light painting the button grass a golden orange, slightly moody clouds turning mountains dark, and a great group of friends chatting away happily.
We did eventually have to tear ourselves away. But that wasn’t to say the fun was over and it was now all about going home! The three of us who had set our eyes on the rocky knob at the end of the ridge that we’d come up on were headed straight for it, and as we approached (the non scrubby way this time!) Graham hinted at having a climb. That was more encouragement than was needed!
I must admit he had my admiration for being so keen while wearing a kilt. All through my school years I’d hated wearing summer dresses and winter skirts for the very reason I felt that it limited me from running and climbing, forcing me to behave like a ‘proper’ girl. I realise now that it needn’t have.. and nor, for that matter, should anything else!
So up Graham went, followed by Ben and myself. Half way up we realised most of the others were also starting the climb! On top, we searched around for a way off, Graham not liking my first ‘possible’ route, ready to retrace his steps. A second choice proved more acceptable, and down we clambered. Those who had come up a little later chose to retrace their steps and head around the opposite side of the knob. A little while later Ed and Urszula appeared on the top, also having decided to have a climb! It’s not too often a whole group climbs a bit of rock ‘just for the fun of it’!!
Once regrouped, we started on the down. After pondering the idea and fun in being able to run down button grass without breaking ankles, Ben started the button grass dance.. or jump.. or slide.. as the case may be! It was contagious, and for a bit all you could hear as a few of us jumped from tuft to tuft was the fffwoomp, fffwoomp, fffwoomp as we landed, with a more than occasional giggle, or outright laughter when footing was miscalculated and we took an unexpected (but quite soft and comfy) seat, or when one person stopped on a tuft that another was expecting to be vacated in a timely fashion, and collision was inevitable! The dance only works down hill though, as it’s rather tiring even on the flat!
By the end of the down hill run I was warmer and breathing more heavily than I had been on the way up, but had a smile on my face. A regroup before the start of the small bit of scrub was turned into a nut war, as we pelted one another with individual, and then whole handfuls, of nuts snatched from nearby branches. I think it’s as important for adults to play, laugh and fool around as it is for kids.. Sadly, we seem to do it less.. perhaps because we’re too busy, or maybe because we think there’s no one to play with…
A slightly more serious conversation about walking and exploring personal boundaries for the start of the road walk back, followed by contented silence.. a small buzz of excitement over leaches at the cars, farewell to Bec who’s celebrating the end of semester and exams with a few weeks in the bush, and we were back on the road. Coralie shared deliciously smooth Lindt chocolate to top it off, as if the day hadn’t been sweet enough already :).
So this little walk started out with the not so crazy idea that I should go to King William II and III, via Slatters. Quite a normal idea, really. Only I needed three days, which, if it was to be a club walk (which was the whole point), meant I had to wait till the long weekend in June. Mistake number one – don’t do hard long walks in winter when the days are shorter, and the weather more likely to be cold and/or wet. So it went on the program, with little more thought than a cursory glance at the Abels entry and a friend’s GPS route posted on Facebook.
I forgot enough about it, including the limit of 5 people I’d put down, to lull myself into thinking it was going to be easier than it was. I had a bit of a panic attack when I realised I’d accepted something like 10 people (thinking I’d put down a limit of 8), and did some more research, the results of which were contradictory enough to have me thinking maybe the walk was going to be a bit tougher than I’d been led to believe, especially with such a large group. Completely my error! A few drop outs, and I thought we’d be ok. Then the realisation I’d left a name off the list, and that one who’d done a serious ankle injury was actually going to be ok, and numbers were back to being high. I was worried I’d be jeopardising everyone’s chances of achieving the stated objectives, and not giving them the weekend in the bush I wanted to. I learnt my lesson fast. Be strict on numbers, learn to say no, and make sure you check the limit you’ve put down!!
But somehow things turned out ok on the day. A few days prior one participant made the difficult, but in hindsight, definitely the right decision not to come. On the morning of the walk another pulled or twisted something in one leg when locking up, and also decided not to risk a long hard walk. And a third broke a tooth, or part thereof, biting into a homemade cherry muffin with a rogue stone, and decided not to risk needing dental attention in the middle of the range. Probably also a blessing in disguise for her, given the weather on the first day, and the fact that King William III was the mountain she was after, and we weren’t to make it this trip.
So we were down to 7. We’d stopped by the pub in Derwent Bridge (the only place open at 8am on a Saturday that sells coffees), and had a chance introduction to Peter Grant – previously a name (eminent at that) without a face. I suspect, however, the pleasure was all mine!
Anyway, by the time all of this was settled, we’d selected a side road off the main gravel road that takes you close to the lake, picked a spot to park and had our gear on, it was gone 9.30. A little later than I’d have liked, but there was nothing I could do about that now. The day would be what it would be, hopefully not too long!
We started off on an old road, and took to a little bit of light scrub before popping out on the button grass plains. We had no idea what was best to do, but figured we’d stay away from the boggier areas, aim to cross the river where it was narrower (two crossings instead of one) and later on, checked out whether the going through the small sections of trees and low scrub was easier that the button grass (it was generally). Otherwise we made a beeline southwest, then south, for the lake.
Spirits were fairly good, we had views of King William I, even if there were grey clouds in sight (there was also some blue sky!) and by the time we neared the lake, climbed a small rise, Slatters appeared in front of us, looking closish, but definitely not a climb to be underestimated. Another creek crossing – each of these took a little more time than expected, as we tried to keep our feet relatively dry. Help was offered and given to those who needed/wanted it, and I was reminded once again of just how team oriented the Pandani group is. Apart from being genuinely very decent people, this is one thing I really love about our group. Of course, I did not manage to avoid more jokes about surprise river crossings on my trips – something I tend to overlook!!
And then eventually we were on the edge of the lake. My gps said we were walking on water, that’s how low the lake was (or inaccurate my GPS, but perhaps a mix of the two). It was slightly boggy going, and by now, rather grey. The stumps of dead trees, and one fallen giant dotted the shore in one spot (near the Fisherman’s camp, which we missed completely on the way in) and more reached gnarled fingers to the sky from the middle of the lake, as if in a last minute attempt to summon help as they slowly drowned.
An inlet to cross, and just to prove how good his boots (or he) was, Graham took up a light hearted challenge and ran across it three times.. and yes, I’ll grudgingly admit he had dry feet, of which he reminded all the rest of us wet-footed slightly envious clumsies countless times during the trip!
It was clear we were pushing for time, so lunch was a 10 minute affair just before heading back into the button grass. The mood now slightly apprehensive about the climb and scrub to come, the weather (which wasn’t agreeing with the forecasted clearing rain by mid morning!) compounding this. It was 1.15 when we left, so we had an estimated 4 hours of light left. I thought we could make it, but wasn’t sure.
We headed west first, making the most use of the button grass. When we got to a little clearing where it looked like others had camped, and where the scrub seemed to start, we figured we might as well go up through the scrub, than continue to go horizontal. Part way up we could spot a small waterfall, which we ended up walking past. The scrub itself wasn’t too bad, the bulk of it waist height, and it was less of a bash than a duck and weave, twist and turn, and plenty of leg lifting.
With a largish group (for scrub) of 7, the going was slow. Steady at first, but as time wore on, and people tired, the pace slackened too. The GPS showed us getting closer, but there was little sign of it. Eventually we came across some rock, which became more frequent the higher we got, then a boulder field or two, but this proved no faster way to travel as a group. It was misty-rainy now, and getting dark, and it was clear we weren’t going to make it without head torches. So on went an extra layer of clothing, and the head torches.
Walking in the dark is not something I mind so much, in fact it can be quite a lovely experience, especially when on a track. It’s not so much fun though when you’re on unknown terrain, need to route find, and can’t see anything for all the moisture in the air. I was very aware of the inaccuracy of my 20m contour lines on my GPS, as a bulk loomed up ahead and to the right. It looked a bit cliffy.. do we try going up and over, or contour around? Alone, I might have gone the direct approach, but in a tired and cold group with wet rock, contouring was really the only option. The terrain was giving nothing away, rock and scrub still, nothing friendly, as we stuck close to the base of the cliffy bulk.
Presently, another call about whether to keep contouring or go straight up. I was worried about dropping straight off the edge if we continued, so went for straight up. A slightly challenging climb in one spot, which everyone made with a bit of help, and we walked straight onto the start of a cairned section up boulders. Brilliant, what luck! They might only have lasted a short duration to take us up the final rocky climb, but they confirmed we were somewhere ok, somewhere people had been before, and gave a tick of approval to the choice to go up, instead of continue around.
Sitting in the middle of the field I watched as the group slowly climbed up. Ben patiently offering encouragement and support to another who was finding the rock difficult, Catherine clearly colder than I was which was saying a fair bit, Graham trying to keep an eye on me as I scouted ahead as well as keeping the group close enough together. Adam was the one I was least worried about, he’d come specifically for a hammering, which I figured he was getting ;)!!
After taking 1.5hrs, and managing only 650m, we popped out onto some beautiful flat cushiony pineapple grass, and I laughed with relief! It was short lived, I’d assumed that the going would be like that for the next 5-600m to the tarn/lake I was planning on camping at, but in no time we were back on rock and low scrub. Getting there was going to take at least another hour in the dark, when in daylight it should have taken no more than 15 minutes! So I went for a quick scout ahead, falling down the mountainside at times, to check whether the saddle on my GPS was camp-able..nope, all rock! Back to the others.. Graham suggested we return to the pineapple grass and make the most of it, and given there really wasn’t any other option, that was that.
There was plenty of room for our 6 tents, though by this stage everyone was so tired we ended up camping on one another’s toes. My tent went up pretty fast, though it was hard to peg down in the pineapple grass. Then a quick hand to help Catherine pitch hers, as her fingers were well past working – a feeling I know well. I was grateful she’d lasted so long, aware that had she gotten too cold any earlier we’d have been in a bit of trouble. As I finished pegging down the fly she jumped inside, got into warm clothes, sleeping bag, and started cooking something hot.
I used the offer of chocolate and sour worms to check how everyone else was fairing, all pretty good. I said silent thank you to everyone for the effort they’d put in, and the help they’d given others, to get us to where we were. There is no way leading that kind of walk is ever an individual effort. I might have been designated organiser, but I called on the leadership of several of the others that day, and we wouldn’t have got to camp if not for their help.
Everyone clearly all ok, I jumped into my tent, changed, and tried to warm up. Not hungry (I’d been up for 24 hrs now, and was a bit too tired for food), I skipped dinner, and focused on trying to sleep. It wasn’t easy, some of my clothes were damp, but I needed to dry them so kept them on, and I was feeling rather miserable about what I saw as my poor leadership: taking a group too large for the trip, particularly given the shorter days; asking so much of them; giving them little option about a climb through scrub, the last part of which was in the dark and wet; and ultimately buggering up any chance of actually getting all the way to King William III (for those who tend towards the peak bagging side of things). As it was, one was already clear about not coming on the day walk the following day. I found it hard to imagine how they could actually have enjoyed themselves, and that was the thing that made me most miserable.
So the night was spent tossing and turning, moving to keep warm, dozing off for a short period only to wake cold again. I think I finally dried out my clothes at about 5am, and was fast asleep when my alarm went off at 6! It was very much a matter of not thinking, just doing what needed to be done. In situations like that, thinking always results in the decision to chicken out for the sake of warmth and more sleep!! So I cooked some breakfast, packed a daypack, and sat and waited until just before 7, when I called out to the other two, Ben and Graham, who were keen on giving King William III, II and Slatters a crack.
My ‘tell me when you’re up to putting on the wet stuff’ prompted a ‘I’m pretty much there’ from one, and a ‘the weather’s not so encouraging’ from the other, the tone of voice saying as much, if not more, than the words. I’d not even considered not going (if I’d have been alone I might have entertained the thought, then probably pushed it aside), and it came as a surprise to realise that. I’d just assumed we’d be off, regardless, as the weather was set to clear. But it seemed ridiculous to push for something that the majority of the people in the group didn’t want, and so it was decided we’d leave a bit later, and just get to King William II and Slatters. That would hopefully give more people the chance to come, as it was, after all, a group activity.
People who know me know I get a bit disappointed at changes of plans that result in not visiting planned mountains, and Ben came over to check that I was ok with not going, letting me know that he would come with me if I really wanted to go.. and that Graham probably would too, even if he wasn’t really keen. I did tell him it was quite fine, though I’m not sure he was too convinced (thanks though Ben, for your consideration :)).
And so it was after 10 when we finally departed, taking Adam with us. Catherine had a sore throat and conscious of recurring bronchitis and the fact the only dry clothes she had were those she was wearing, made the tough decision to potter around camp. Urszula and Ed did likewise. So the four of us set off into the mist which swirled around us, but thinned quite soon after we started, and progressively burned off. It was to come and go as it pleased, as if into thin air, throughout the course of the day, revealing and then concealing again the terrain and views.
After a very short section of rocks, we were onto the nice walking, and it was just pure delight, especially after the day before. Still a bit miserable thinking of the others back at camp, Ben promised me that it was going to be a ripper of a day. I wasn’t so sure, but Graham and Adam both were. They were to be more than right, and I was to be so very very wrong!
The walking was beautiful, easy, and by and large flat, save for the short climb onto the ridge. I was glad, I was feeling rather unwell, and had a headache, and even the small rises were enough for me. Part of me was glad we were having a much cruiser day than planned.
The interesting thing was that getting to the top of King William II became less significant than marvelling at the views as they were revealed; wondering at the winter wonderland we found when we reached the ridge, where the southern side of almost everything was coated in a few centimetres of ice which glimmered in the bright sun; laying on tummies to drink straight from tarns; crunching on ice from off the top of the frozen ones; taking dozens of photos of the beauty around us; or the excitement of seeing a fogbow (a second for me, but first for everyone else.. was very cool to be with others this time).
Frenchman’s was sticking his cap above cloud, but that was about all. Slatters looked impressive, the Loddon Range scrubby, and King William I, Milligan and Pitt were all out. Diamond Peak, one I’d been looking forward to seeing, stayed safely tucked behind a white blanket. Oh well, just as well I have to go back.. and now I know there’s some stunning camping to be had on that ridge!
A quick lunch on King William II, and we started out towards the Abel, but turned around at the bump before the high point, keen to fit Slatters in instead (aware that we weren’t likely to have time the following day to do it). I wondered as I wandered, lost in happy and sad thoughts, both of which the mountains are particularly good at listening to.. I thought of the others back at camp and wished they could have seen some of what we’d seen, and that they’d at least managed to get out for a bit of a walk. I also wondered what kind of view they’d have from camp – we still hadn’t seen it!
Heading back up the climb to the shoulder of Slatters Graham spotted Catherine standing on rock part way up, and we hollered and whistled, happy and excited that she was there and we’d be able to go up Slatters with her. But little did we know she wasn’t prepared and ducked back to camp, thinking we’d head there first. We hadn’t realised quite how close it was, and were rather a bit focused on climbing the peak that maybe only Adam actually saw our tents (though they were in plain view!). So up we went, the light nice and golden, and discovered just how slippery the ice on the rock was. Everyone slipped at least once, and we were on to 3s and 4s. But the climb was short and sweet, and the reward, stunning..!
Beautiful light, mountains all around.. some already explored.. many more high up on the to do list, and the ‘bound to be a personal favourite’ list including the Eldon and Dennison ranges. It was really nice to just sit there and be. There was mention of getting down before the light was gone, to avoid even more ice, and Adam was keen to move his tent to a slightly flatter spot. I asked if it was ok if I could stay up till the sun went down. I would have loved company, but I’m aware I don’t mind doing some things (like crossing icy boulders by head torch) that others might not like, and I didn’t want anyone to feel they had to stay. I later learned that I’d given the impression that I wanted time by myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth, and that night I kicked myself for not having been clearer in communicating.
After watching the final bit of sun set over the west coast I headed back down pretty quickly, making the most of the last bit of light, and found Catherine sitting on her rock. She’d had a good day – some more sleep, some lunch in the sun with the views, and a bit of a wander around. I was glad to hear it :). She was pretty cold, so she headed for the warmth of her tent. Urszula and Ed were already doing the same. Adam, Ben and Graham started cooking dinner on a communal rock, and I joined them after a bit, having decided I probably should eat! Catherine ventured out, making the greatest of all sacrifices.. wet boots back on so that she could offer us her chocolate.. very delicious Lindt chocolate at that! But I think it was the donning of wet boots that touched us more.. we all knew what that took.
Dinner cooked, we sat back to back, eating, chatting, staring out and up at stars spread across a black sky, and watching the mist invade the valleys. One star shot across the sky and I let out a startled ‘oh!’.. no, it most certainly wasn’t a satellite, though there was one or two of them too. It was a perfect way to end the day, which I’d stupidly only just allowed myself to realise HAD in fact, been good!! I was freezing, but it was amazing to learn just how much warmth can be conveyed through six or seven layers of clothing when you’re sitting back to back to side with others. Adam kindly offered up his tent should I find myself unable to sleep again due to cold, and Ben offered to come and sit in mine until it warmed up. Again, I was touched by the generosity and selflessness.
But determined as I am, I was set on making it work. I brought pack, boots, gaiters and socks in and put them at the foot of my mat (sometimes being small has its advantages!) to stop them freezing overnight. That was a complete failure.. they were still frozen solid in the morning, which says something about how cold it was! As for me, I shivered a bit, and realised that in sitting on the rock for dinner I’d given myself a rather wet bum. This was where I learned it’s better to have no clothes on than wet ones, so they went down the bottom of the sleeping bag, and only went back on at about 2.30, by which stage they were dry.
It was by no means a solid night’s sleep (what do you expect, when camping at 1200m with a temperature of -3 at 7pm!), but it was much better than the night before. I wasn’t so impressed to find my frozen gear inside the tent (that’s only supposed to happen if you leave it outside!), but was rather amused and somewhat excited to watch ice crystals form in the water that I poured into my jetboil for breakfast. They started forming on the bottom, and then in the centre, and you could actually see them grow!! Fascinating! But I really did have to eat, so the excitement over, the jetboil was lit, and I had hot oats with dried fruit and hot chocolate to go with (which was cold in the 2 minutes it took me to get to it!).
I was packed fast, ended up wearing most of my gear because I didn’t feel like starting out cold, but left my tent up. I’d decided to scramble part way up the side of Slatters for some sunrise photos, and I kind of wanted one with the tent in it. Others seemed to have similar plans, and after sitting for a while, watching and waiting, I was joined by Catherine, and shortly afterwards, by Ben and Graham.
Together we sat and watched the sky turn stripy pinks, blues and oranges; the mist sitting over the lake take up some of the same colours; and eventually, in one very quick moment, the sun as it popped into view, golden rays spread wide, kissing the mountains with red-orange lips. We turned, as if one, mesmerised by the glow on Frenchmans, the Eldons, and much closer, our campsite. What a beautiful morning, shared with some very good friends. If only every day began like this…!
We did eventually have to tear ourselves away, which was slightly easier to do as the colour started to fade, but as we walked down I was still shaking my head at the chances of walking right onto that one little spot in the mist and darkness, and choosing to pitch tents there. Who’d have known it would be such a lovely spot!
The walk down was much faster, and we managed to pretty much follow the same track back down. I was a little surprised at how good the route up we’d taken had turned out to be too (mostly, if a little steep in one or two spots! Though that gave Catherine ample practice at assuming a meditative position, and finding zen with the different scrub types – particularly bauera and button grass). We still managed to enjoy ourselves, discovered Fisherman’s camp (though again almost walked straight past it) and with tiredness taking its toll, it was just over 8 hours before we were back at the cars.
I would like to say a special thanks to my two defacto leaders, who were careful, as always, to run proposed routes by me and one another, and who, for all their love of maps, I was rather delighted to see having fun practicing how to trace an exact gps route back. Their encouragement and steadfast belief that it was going to be a good trip was also very much appreciated, as too was everyone else who managed to joke, smile, or at the very least manage a grimace through the tough parts, and then really enjoy the good bits for what they were.
The first time I’d climbed King William I had been for my 200th point, a bit under a year ago. That was when I was still rather too optimistic about the weather and its ability to pleasantly surprise, and we got biting wind, rain and no views. I got my 200 points, but quite happily called off wandering out to Milligan and Pitt, reasoning I wanted to come back for the views, so I might as well have an even better excuse. I’m glad I did!
This week, it was time for a revisit. I had a day walk to Picton on Sunday, and Monday was just too good an opportunity to miss – the weather was forecast to be sunny with morning frost, and I desperately needed to escape, and recharge. Sunday had been good for that, Monday was to be a continuation. There was also the small issue of being on 396 points.. and a slightly larger desire to hit 400 on an overnighter to a special mountain the following week. Doing the two peaks would take me to 398, and increase options should the weather deteriorate (though Olympus, home of the Gods, was really where I wanted to be). It was also an easy option: I didn’t have to do any research, just had to walk a little further than last time!
So up I drove, winding round the bends at Tarraleah, and popping out to a pastel dawn of pinks and blues, golden grass tinged with silver frost. Not the bold bright sunrise we’d had the day before (which really was stunning), but a soft, gentle one. I checked out the road I was planning on taking to Charles in a few weeks time with the club, just to make sure it wasn’t gated at the entrance, and continued on. The last of the morning colours lit my mountains (well, I was making them mine for the day!) as I turned onto the gravel road that takes you to the parking spot, and I greeted them. A quick change into still damp gear from yesterday, and I was cold but good to go shortly after 8.
A brisk walk along the old 4wd track soon had me warm and sucking on water, and I was at the log book within the hour, with only a few pauses to adjust clothing, admire and record the view, or to smile at one green gum leaf, amongst hundreds of brown ones, with large fresh drops of water sitting on its surface (funnily enough, it stood out just as much on the way back, and I smiled even wider having spotted it the second time round). A moment to scribble in details of where I was going, a check to see that Jocelyn and the HWC group she was leading up there on the Saturday had got back fine (they had), and I was off again, this time on the proper track (as opposed to the road).
The climb was shorter than I remembered, and this time I enjoyed having a view of the summit, though it did make the going look steeper! At least the views meant I had good reason to stop at regular intervals. There was a fair bit of foggy mist hanging around in a band at the top of the three peaks, but most of it was to the west of King William I, with the view out southeast and east to D’Arcy, Wentworth and Hobhouse mostly clear (at least until I gained some height!). Everything to the north was hidden behind a white curtain, though there was nothing about it that was menacing, or permanent, so it failed to dampen my mood.
Half an hour after signing the book, I was on top of King William I, and turned my attention to where I was supposed to be heading. I didn’t quite make it, distracted, as it were, by a broken spectre! It wasn’t the first I’ve seen, but there is something special and exciting about them. My joy turned to dismay though, when I pulled out my camera to find condensation on the inside of the lens (and yes, it’s a waterproof camera). I’m doing an incredibly fantastic job of destroying pretty much everything I come in to contact with at the moment (yes, you’d do well to keep your distance!), and it was cruel to be reminded of that in the one place I’d gone to try and escape it all (for a little while at least).
I wasn’t sure whether to be optimistic when I discovered my GPS also had a bit of internal condensation, and something told me that maybe it was related to the very cold wind coming from the west. Relocation to my jacket pocket, closer to my body heat, proved the theory right (that’s what I’m claiming anyway!) as the condensation gradually disappeared. I wasn’t sure any of the photos I’d taken would work, but there was so much mist around you can’t really tell.
The excitement of the broken spectre, and the dismay over my camera were put aside, as I willed the mist to thin for a moment, so I could glimpse the best route down off KWI, and over to Milligan. Will power proved stronger than the mist was thick, and for a moment or two I could spot the saddle below, and had a rough idea of where I wanted to head. As it were, I needn’t have worried. There was a cairned and well worn pad down to the saddle, and in taking a sensible route up Milligan I found myself walking on worn terrain. A friend had long ago described the two mountains as some of the easiest off track walking you’ll do, and that was very true. A little more challenging, not being able to see and judge from a distance a best possible route, but that was mostly psychological.
Milligan was only a 20 minute wander from KWI, and while there was a bit more down then up than I’d thought judging from the maps on my GPS (but they’re never really accurate) there was nothing challenging about it. Another broken spectre on the summit, and this time there were more very distinct rings of rainbow colours. There were some views north, but mist was thicker looking out towards Pitt. In fact, you could pretty much see mist wrapping over the top of what must have been mountain underneath, like a warm fuzzy blanket.. except the wind was VERY cold and cut straight through!
What I really wanted to be able to see though, was where I was supposed to be heading. I could see enough to be able to make out dolerite amongst scrub, and was worried that if I went high, I might come to a drop off and have to back track, but equally If I stayed low and countered around, I might come up against a wall. Yesterday, staying high had ended us up in that exact predicament, but today it seemed right. I figured I could always reassess as I got closer, based on the 40 or so metres of visibility I had at any one time.
It worked quite well, a low scrubby ramp led to the highest part of the ridge, which was covered in cushion plants and the like. Not quite as nice as the gardens up on Picton, but pretty nice, and easy walking (except in trying to avoid the larger expanses of cushion plants which gave you nowhere to step!). Along the top I went, not in a particular hurry, it was nice, even if it was still fluffy white! I headed over to the edge to a few look out points, to see if I could spot the route ahead any better, but I must have been in the thick of the cloud. Each looming dark shadow had me wondering if it might be the summit, until I checked distance on my GPS.. nope, not that one either!
Then finally (not that long really, but enough ‘shadows’ spotted, climbed and passed), the cloud thinned a bit and I knew I was looking straight at my peak. The small dolerite columns appealed, an attempt at a defence, which had me looking twice in the mist, but probably wouldn’t have been noticed in clear visibility. But there was a definite bridge across, saving any real effort, and again, a well worn pad just in case you couldn’t figure out where to go.. a hop and skip and I was standing by the summit cairn.
No broken spectre here, but a fogbow instead!! And, as I ate eggs, salami and cherry tomatoes as fast as my could fingers would allow, the dark blue outlines of mountains to the north appeared over the top of the mist. The wind was strong and cold though, so I wasn’t standing still for long, and I ate and walked back, figuring the 2.5 hours it had taken to get there would be about right for the way back, maybe a little less.
The longer I walked, the more the mist dissipated, and I had longer windows of clarity between the drawing of the white curtains. Of course, it was only after having decided not to go back over Milligan (because there’d be only the inside of cloud to see) but to sidle around the side, that it really lifted! Oh well, I knew I was at least guaranteed a view from the top of KWI.
Hobhouse looked quite nice, and I decided I’d make a concerted effort to get the details for the key off a friend. There was still enough misty wisps hanging over the rest of the King William range, and I wondered how the club trip I have planned out that way would go.. it seemed rather a long way to go in short days..
Back on top of KWI, and a final look north to the mountains… another silent word to the gods of Olympus (who might just have to pass it on to the Centaurs of Pelion West instead, who knows), and then it was time to head back. Just shy of 12.30, 4:20 hrs since having started out, and I was back. I would have liked to have spent more time up there, but a long drive back, and the need to get some sleep before work at 1am, meant I didn’t have the luxury this time.
Recharge completed.. a sleepy drive home, made possible with the aid of a much detested but necessary Red Bull… and then the heavy crash back down to earth.. you can set up defences, you can pretend, you can try and escape.. but as I’ve had many a conversation with my mother about of late, life is ultimately fragile and uncertain, it takes faster than it gives, and it can be very scary and lonely.. and really quite sad. How to live with that? Who knows… the mountains, the bush, the birds and the moon, the sun and the stars.. they help, just a bit, to remind you how to smile.
Oh, and a lesson I learnt on this one? Be careful walking in wet wearing sports tape without the white stuff you’re supposed to put underneath, you can end up with some wonderful blisters under the tape!
UPDATE 2020 – I haven’t been but have heard that since the 2018-2019 fires the end of the tree we rely on to get across the Gordon River is now permanently in water, and is likely impassable with ANY rise in water level.
Anyone who likes to explore mountains in Tasmania has surely heard of Lake Rhona. It’s always described as a beautiful, stunning, and very special place. The only things people warn you about is the crossing of the Gordon river, which after decent rainfall can flood, making crossing back over the very conveniently placed tree(s) somewhat interesting, if not dangerous. Oh, and maybe the little bit of button grass bog (but nothing to rival the reputation of the South Coast track or the Soddon Loddons), or reports of gastro from some who have drunk untreated water straight out of the lake itself (the rivers are fine, we must have tested almost every one).. and one that I might add, the mozzies round Rhona (though this may well be weather dependant). None of these things really detract from the place itself though, they just require a little bit of forethought and planning for appropriate management.
Given its reputation, Rhona is a walk that most people have on their ‘list’. I’ve had it on mine for some time, and as with all walks on the list, the more I heard about it, the higher it climbed! So high in fact, I was set to go in a month or so ago on three beautiful days, but at the last minute had to work through my weekend to my immense disappointment. Not to be deterred, my next chance of three days off was to be the Sunday directly after returning from a week in the Southern Ranges (Friday night), and I tentatively toyed with the idea – a nice relaxing walk in after one day back at work, just to ‘work out the aches and pains’ I expected to have.. This didn’t eventuate either for various reasons, but it had never been set in stone so I wasn’t too put out. I had accepted by this stage that some things happen when they’re supposed to, and that I would get there eventually.
When I discovered about a week ago that there was going to be a few busy work weeks for me between Christmas and mid January I figured I needed to escape first, and again, it was the promise of a beautiful place, a beach to lie on, some mountains to climb, and in general a relaxing trip (for anyone who knows me I mostly do relaxing in a kind of fast-paced way, but this was to be a slightly slower pace).
Unlike either of the first two plans/ideas, this time I was lucky enough to be accompanied by another Pandani member and good friend, whose presence greatly enriched any experience I could have had solo. Lake Rhona would be a beautiful place to go for silent retreat and reflection, but there’s always something extra special about being able to share and marvel at all the wonders and beauty of nature and place with someone else, building connections that extend beyond just yourself and nature, but also with, and witnessed by, someone else. The nature of these connections depends always on the dynamics of the group you’re with, and I have to say I’ve been amazingly lucky in this regard. I have some very special friends. This trip, I most definitely saw things I never would have seen, did things I never would have done, and learnt things I never would have known, had I been alone. As I continue to walk, and especially over the last few weeks/months, I find I’m taking much more pleasure in having company (despite being my introverted self) than going solo (though that has some fun bits too).
Anyway, despite the odds with the trip being the weekend directly before Christmas, the weather forecast deteriorating , and the last minute notice, I not only had great company, but we were both equally determined to still go in to Lake Rhona at week’s end. I think we had both been looking forward to doing it for so long, separately and with our own, but likely very similar, motivations, that once we’d decided, that was that. It was, in any case, a walk that we thought could be enjoyed in any weather (save the kind that would have had us stranded on the wrong side of the Gordon, Graham unable to return to his family for Christmas Eve, and me unable to get in to work, where my boss would likely kill me for missing one of the busiest days of the year!). And I think it’s safe to say we were right, and neither of us have any regrets, despite the fact that both of us take great pleasure in the challenge, adventure and exhilaration of a climb.. Rather, we just had another excuse (like you need one!) to return and enjoy exploring other parts of the place that we didn’t get to see this time.. perhaps a slightly longer trip, incorporating Mount Wright and Stepped Hills.. hmmm 😀 (a note on this, you never ever come out of a good walk without at least one new place added to the list)!!!
So after a fast-paced 8 hour shift, 7 of which I spent baking bread alone (I do quite like that), I headed home, and had a few minutes to pack last minute food etc before Graham arrived and it was time to go. As always, I was most appreciative of the lift, even though it would have made more practical sense for me to drive. We were at the start of the track (directions are as per the Abels description, though ignore Chapman’s grid references (for the car park and tape) if working from his book). We were walking by 9.30, wondering what the day, in particular the weather, would hold in store for us. The track starts off nice and flat, with a gentle downhill tendency, weaving through forest. After having it pointed out, I took great pleasure in running my hands through and then inhaling the distinct smell of lemon boronia (boronia citriodora, I’m reliably informed 😉 ). It’s probably a smell that all bushwalkers are fond of, and I’d certainly smelled it a number of times before, but had never actually identified by sight which plant produced it. It has beautiful pinky-white flowers, that Graham described as origami like.
As we walked along the forest slowly changed, a green mossy myrtle section here, then into the clearly identifiable grey-brown messy flood zone. Instinct said the river was near, and I know I approached with excited anticipation. And there it was, nature’s bridge stretching easily across the river, as if extending permission on the proviso you didn’t take it for granted. As I took a photo of Graham walking along one tree trunk, becoming smaller and more distant as he approached the middle, I was again reminded of the true power nature holds over us, and (sometimes I think gratefully) our relative insignificance in the scheme of things. And with this in mind, I figured that no matter how foul the weather might turn, and whether or not we climbed any or all of the three mountains, we would come away with something, you always do.
Once across the river, in no time at all you’re on the button grass plains. Ah, the button grass :)!! Some people hate it, for the jolting, jarring, twisting and turning of the dance it demands you perform, again and again, and even when you do perfect one section, it throws you into the mud as you put half a boot out of line, or sends you stumbling and sliding around as you slip off the side of a wet clump that seemed deceptively level. But I do just love the colours, as it stretches out before you, up to the feet of the blue mountains that frame it, or is it the button grass that frames the mountains? Either way, they go hand in hand, and you’d have to be blind not to smile. It’s something that I associate strongly with Tasmania and bushwalking, which, if you hadn’t guessed, is very dear to me. So after admiring and identifying the mountains we could now see (Wright, the Thumbs, and Reed in particular), we headed off, eagerly performing for the button grass as the mountains looked on at our slow progress.. It wasn’t helped that the weather, much better than expected, and the excitement of being out in the midst of it again, had us stopping to take it all in, and as usual, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. There were times I just had to stretch out my arms, hands brushing the tops of button grass stalks, or melaleuca (I also learnt what this one looks like) or other species of boronia as I walked along. The wild part inside me making contact with the wilderness outside. I was happy and I was home.
We met two guys who had spent three days walking in, up Reed Peak, and back out, and they too described it as a very special place. That only compounded my excitement. But the long walk through the button grass, up a slight rise, down again, only to rise again then descend, always staying perplexingly close to 500m above sea level, and the increasing tiredness did take a tiny sliver off the edge (not much mind you!). The walk was broken up by findings of relatively intact skeletons of small marsupials, the discovery of numerous cool and welcoming creeks whose water never failed to satisfy thirst or cool a hot head (and be a source of a bit of mischief), the photographing of small tarns where small dragonflies danced in pairs, the marvelling of the new emerald green growth of ferns, not to mention the brief exploration of Gordonvale.
I’d heard of it, but being my usual self, ignorant of matters unless they directly impact me, I had little more knowledge than a vague recollection of having heard the name somewhere before. Gordonvale was, I have since been delighted to learn, the home of a Tasmanian bushman, Ernie Bond, who was apparently very hospitable to bushwalkers, feeding them as they passed through. I wonder what that kind of life would have been like?
The land has fittingly reclaimed much of what once was, leaving evidence in the form of grown over tools, a fallen down building (toilet perhaps), some metal implements, foundations, and introduced flowers. It would have been beautiful to see the daffodils in flower, but we missed it by a few weeks. Gordonvale, protected thanks to the TLC, actually looks a pretty place to camp (bar the lack of mountain views), and the history would add to the experience, though the leeches would necessitate a certain vigilance.
But back to the walking, and in the fashion described above, as the successive climbs up the bumps seemed to increase in length and gradient, and the subsequent descents decreased (and no, my GPS confirms it was not just my imagination), we were standing at the foot of the ridge up which the pad heads, taking us on the final climb to Rhona. Graham took the lead, and I just concentrated on plodding onwards and upwards, my legs complaining of a lack of energy. He waited up for me at the top of each major bump, and I dread to think what I look like in some of the photos I think he took! But the anticipation and the view that seemed to increase with each step up was more than enough motivation to counter any increase in tiredness and though it seemed to take forever, it was paradoxically quite fast, and you could sense that the lake was just over that last rise.. A snack break, and appreciation of the view from where we sat on rocks on opposite sides of the track (always important not to get too carried away in getting to the destination, but to enjoy the journey and views along the way just as much), and then we were moving again.
And there it was.. the tannin stained lake and its private pristine beach that was to be all ours for the next two nights, nestled in amongst the mountains and ridges, the greeny-yellow-orangey-brown of button grass and the pink and white tinged grey of conglomerate rock in the foreground.. rendering any attempt to express the feelings of those moments insufficient…
It is most definitely a very special place, and over the rest of that day, the following tent bound day, and the morning of our last day, it served to bring out the almost child-like parts in us. We wondered with fresh eyes at nature and its beauty, whether it was the Snowgums that looked newly painted in earthly colours under rain’s brush; or the drops of water that hung from button grass stalks like jewels, glittering in the silver light; the looming shapes of mist covered jagged mountain ridges; the arrangement of conglomerate rock along the ridges to evoke a range of feelings (a fun obstacle course to bounce across, a challenge to shin up (the challenge is still on for next time), or there purely for aesthetic purpose); or the wildness and thrill of the sound of thunder and the flash of lightening, that highlights your world even through closed eyes.
We were dared to brave the freezing water of Lake Rhona.. refreshing yes, bracing, perhaps more accurate.. or down right freezing! But there was no chickening out after Graham had charged in like a bull at a gate, and straight back out, with plenty of noise just to make sure I knew how cold it was ;)! I took the slower approach, but no less painful I suspect. Perhaps a little quieter.. Some slightly more controlled bellows from Graham were also necessary to announce our presence to the mountains, and listen to the echoes as they reverberated mightily around us. More laughter.. oh the simple things that delight! And on another occasion, writing in the sand. But unlike childhood memories, there were no waves you had to race to finish messages before the slate was wiped clean, your words taken out to travel the oceans of the world. They remained there to be slowly dissolved into the sands of time by the gentle but constant massage of rain, or of the footsteps of new visitors making their mark.
That night after dinner and a battle to keep the swarming mozzies at arms length, we set off again, with the idea of climbing Reed Peak for sunset, but first, to respond to the beckoning of one particular twisted but strong snowgum, that I’d seen the first time we walked along the beach. It had a branch perfect for sitting on, and so begged the question of whether it was climbable. It looked quite doable, no tough bits, and so I was a child again, climbing a tree of my choosing (or did it choose me?) and sitting out as far as my weight could be safely born by the snowgum’s twisted arms. It swayed in the wind, in a way that was not noticeable to the human eye but that gave a very distinct feeling of being rocked in a cradle, or on a boat out at sea. On my slightly less dignified or elegant retreat, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Graham was also going up! I had thought he was just letting me indulge my craziness, but it was kind of nice to have someone else partake in it too (or some of his own, as the case may be).
The tree monkey pacified, we wandered up, going over a hill we needn’t have, but following a well worn pad nonetheless, then up the ridge. It became clear that we’d underestimated how long it would take us to get to the top, the sky was looking like a nice sunset wasn’t on the cards, and I for one was very tired, having been up just short of 24 hours. That we’d be returning in the dark with already stumbly feet was not something either of us were too keen on, so we agreed we’d take our chances the next day, come what may. A quick check of the weather on the phone, not so promising, a check back to base for Graham, and it was time to head down. I might have been tired, but there’s something about walking down the top of a ridge line (or down anything really) that awakens an urge in me to spread my arms out wide, and run, skip, jump, or otherwise descend at speed, flying as it were, along the mountain top. I even had Graham trying it at one stage.. and I wonder what he thought? It requires a sharpness, a concentration, a precision, the making of split second choices where weight placed on any single step is determined by assessment of balance, angle, friction, surface type and direction of travel, where perfection from one moment to the next is necessary, or you’ll end up head over heels. I love it, I love the challenge, I love the thrill, I love the freedom. It’s the closest I might ever come to flying.
We might not have seen the view west from the top of the ridge, or had a speccy sunset (which it was never going to be), but we had had a nice view south from on top, and did get a lovely golden glow across the lake on the way back for just a few moments, and that was certainly special enough. Having walked close to 20km that day, after working all night, I was more than ready for bed, and I slept more soundly than I had all week, waking at dawn the following day.
The morning was one of those misty, moody, atmospheric ones, where all attention is necessarily focused on the more immediate, as anything beyond hides behind a veil of grey-whiteness. Here the not knowing, not seeing adds mystery and intrigue to the place, even though the day before we’d had perfectly clear views. We weren’t going anywhere though, there is little point in climbing rock in conditions in which you can’t see a few metres ahead (you could be anywhere after all) and I know I for one wasn’t too keen on getting wet and cold. Instead we perfected the art of cooking breakfast and dinner in between the raindrops, chatted about life, and discussed future walks, both planned and (as yet) unplanned. There was no question about returning, that was almost taken for granted.
The following morning was still wet, but the mist had lifted a bit, sitting on the top of the ridge line. With a bit of luck, we somehow managed to time our departure to coincide with a period of no rain. As we descended the views opened up, in between rain fronts sweeping through. We avoided some, got caught in others, but none were particularly heavy or concerning, nor was it too cold. We walked with a sense of measured concern, over whether the river would be in flood by the time we got there. Apparently we had nothing to worry about, but it did do us good time wise.. with numerous breaks on the way up having made a total of 6.45hrs walking from the start to Lake Rhona, we walked that same distance on the return in a much faster 4.40hrs.. granted there was more downhill, but there was a lot of flat too!
All up, 34.4km, 1231m ascent, in about 13.5 hours, resulting in an even stronger desire to return and continue the exploration of Lake Rhona and the Denison Range..
****PLEASE NOTE: AS OF 5 JANUARY 2015***
Due to windfalls on the normal access road to Lake Rhona, please be advised that access is now via the following changed route: Junction of Gordon River Road & Florentine Road: Odometer 0; Drive along Florentine Road for 20 km, where you’ll come to the junction of Florentine/Eleven Road (Odometer 20); Turn left into Eleven Road; Eleven Road changes name to Gittus Road. Drive for 11 km along Eleven/Gittus Road (Odometer 31). At a T junction, turn left, drive for 1.2 km (Odometer 32.2) Turn left onto Range Road, drive for 3.3 km (Odometer 35.8); Turn left onto Terry Walsh Road, drive for 3.2 km. Carpark for Lake Rhona is at the end of this road. (Odometer 39).
I’m really supposed to be sleeping, but I just got woken by a message from one of my bosses to say we’d easily won the latest Bakers Delight bread competition. Now I need a little bit of time to settle down and go back to sleep, so I’m giving myself half an hour to write this while it’s still fresh. If I don’t do it now, it’ll be a week and the Southern Ranges ( :o) away.
What a week it’s been. I haven’t been feeling all that well, and it had been getting worse at the beginning of this week, and I’d been trying to ignore it. So what do I do? Decide that yup, I’ll see if I can fit a walk in after work on the Wednesday.. just a short one to Lanes Peak and Mt Lord on the western boundary of the Mt Field National Park. Should be home by 5 or 6 at the latest, with time for plenty of sleep. Major error in judgement there!
Three others met me at the bakery at 9, when I knocked off. I hadn’t been feeling great, and was thinking it really wasn’t wise to go, but it was a mountain (well two actually, and I don’t say no to mountains when probably I should) and part of me wanted to see if I could walk after a days work when I was feeling crumby, knowing I’d be doing precisely that on Saturday, but with a full pack of 6 days to lug up Moonlight Ridge.
Things started out ok, we drove to the spot two of us had selected independently on our GPSs, and it looked ok. It was just north of Lanes Peak, heading up to the top then south to Lanes Peak. It was straight up, and I wasn’t dying, though I was aware I was much slower than one guy who happens to be one of the two I’m going with to the Southern Ranges. Uh-oh.. I don’t usually feel the climb that much. Put it down to tiredness, more denial. We continued up, straight up, through myrtle forest, then a small bit of scrub – not too hard to move through, then as we hit the top, we headed right (south) and made for the summit we caught glimpses of between the trees.
The scrub and trees gave way to rock and trees, then just rock, and we were close. A short rock scramble and we were on top.. I did what I usually do on rock, and bounced ahead. Bad idea.. racing heart (more than usual), short breath, and nausea were the result. It calmed down as we discussed which rock was highest, ate lunch, named the mountains to our west (of particular interest, because I want to do them soon, were the Thumbs, Clear Hill, Wright and Stepped Hills, and the Dennison Range and Lake Rhona) and I had a lie down on a comfy rock, though I still didn’t feel quite right.
Up again and I felt positively horrid as we descended over the rocks, though a tiny bit of scrub, then out on the very spongy pineapple grass interspersed with scoparia. I was struggling to keep my heart rate and the nausea in control, even walking as slowly as I dared, and I contemplated just heading straight down. But a few well timed stops, including one at a pool of water, did the trick, and my body rallied enough to make the last climb up Mt Lord, though it seemed to take forever! Again it was rock interspersed with scrub, but the rocks were smaller than coming off Lanes, and the climb probably less steep, at least to start with. The final bit required a bit more navigation, but we got there.. very much later than expected!
Mt Lord had a nice little cairn (I do like summit cairns) and a pair of butterflies dancing around it. And still those fairly new views for me out west. I think we were all pretty tired by this stage, but the rest was short because we were all aware of how late we were too. A brief consultation on how to get down as fast as possible without running into any cliff lines (bummer, no paragliding or BASE jumping equipment), and we were off.. Down off the rocks and scrub, and into the scrub.. straight down. very straight down. Glad we didn’t go UP that way!! First through knee high tangly stuff that was surprisingly cushioning and helped to hold you from rolling straight down, then through the open myrtle forest stuff which definitely required the breaks on.
The hill seemed to go forever, or maybe that was just me (?), and then finally we were onto the road. Yay. Short road walk back up hill, and we found our car. I was very grateful to not be driving, and I dozed across the back seat, aware that I needed as much sleep as possible before work, which was a most terrible morning, followed by a visit to the Dr who is putting it down to exhaustion. Whoops.. I should probably try not to do QUITE so much in a day perhaps! And I should get back to sleep 🙂