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.