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 :).
All up: Mt Charles: 904m, 1 hr, 87m ascent.
The Beehive: 6.3km (road) + 3.1km (button grass) + 6.3km (road) = 15.7km, 5:31 hrs, 429m ascent.