Eldon Range from Burbury to Pigeon House Hill: 18-26 February 2017

 

Eldon range traverse

Eldon range traverse

Day 1 (and the night before):

I had long ago decided to celebrate my completion of an intense three-years-in-two paramedic course with a walk to the Eldons. It had been on the list for a long time, and after the Spires last year, I finally felt like I’d earned my ‘stripes’ to complete such a remote and difficult walk. I didn’t get a chance for quite as much pre-walk excitement as usual, finishing the last piece of assessment at uni on the Friday morning (17 February), and heading up that evening for a car camp off the side of the Lyell Highway. Even the very rare treat of fish and chips for dinner and a good old catch up chat as we drove didn’t seem real just yet. We pitched the tent during a much-desired break in the rain showers. We were expecting three days of pretty high chance of rain showers, including that evening, so we would take whatever reprieve we got!

We slept a bit too well, which made for a rush getting packed the following morning. Brad, who had driven all the way from Strahan with his boat, was earlier than we were but waited patiently as we sorted ourselves out, and seemed at least as enthusiastic as we were about his part in our little adventure. It’s always good to meet other people who pursue what they love with passion, and Brad was just that. This was pretty clear from the way he spoke about what he did, his care in explaining surface tension, dead insects and why the fish could be found where they were as he took us on the bumpy ride across Lake Burbury. He knew the lake bottom like the back of his hand, and fortunately for us could spot the submerged rocks and trees he knew were there well before we could (which was pretty much as they passed by us!).

Having dropped John and myself off on the first run, Brad returned to get Graham. John and I spent the time drying ourselves and our wet weather gear in between passing showers (we’d got rather wet on the crossing), and having a bit of a scout around. When Brad returned with Graham, he also presented us with a lovely looking rainbow trout, which he gutted and scaled before handing it to us in a bag. It was certainly a first for us, and very much appreciated. We said our goodbyes, and set off to begin the walking. We had our boots back on as we walked a short way up the western side of the river, until arriving at an appropriate point to cross first the Eldon River, then the South Eldon river. The first was wide but shallow, while the latter proved more of a challenge for those of us with short legs if we so desired to keep our undies dry!

On the far side we donned our boots, adjusted clothing to better reflect the weather (much better than forecast and expected!). As we made our way through an extensive flat section we admired beautiful open forest and cursed hidden trip hazards. We finally commenced on the climb, which was to be over 1200m with our full 9-day packs. We had a rough gps route, which we consulted at times, but otherwise took our cues from others who had been through before and left evidence of their route. We were very grateful for this in parts, particularly as we gained height and the scrub became more dense. While progress seemed way too slow initially and I probably wasn’t the only one worried if we’d make Eldon Peak, we made better time as we got higher. We were wet, but by no means uncomfortable. When we finally broke out of the forest and onto low scrub, then the boulders, it was just wonderful to see the peak ahead, even if it was under sunny hailstorms. In some ways, it was a false sense of achievement, because the final climb took much longer than it looked like it would. The weather, however, didn’t hold, and the cloud dropped and we found ourselves in a very slow crawl over slippery lichen covered boulders in snow. All of a sudden we were very cold, tired and ready for the day to be over. But we got there, and stood with relieved smiles on the summit cairn. We’d made it!!

It was a short walk off the summit to a beautiful flat area dotted with lovely tarns where we pitched tents on pineapple grass interspersed with cushion plants. Graham learnt what it was to get such cold fingers mixed with not eating enough food that it made him feel physically sick, but after a bit of first aid he was feeling good enough to poach our trout in his gas converted trangia. We had an indulgent dinner that night of soup for entrée, followed by poached trout and balti chicken. The trout was by far the best I’ve tasted – so good that it didn’t even need the salt, pepper and butter we’d got out in preparation. I don’t think it took much for any of us to fall asleep after the 8 hours of walking we’d just done.

Brad's boat and the weather surprise that awaited us

Brad’s boat and the weather surprise that awaited us

John and I try to get a bit dry as we wait for Graham. Eldon Peak looks on.

John and I try to get a bit dry as we wait for Graham. Eldon Peak looks on.

Brad arrives with Graham - we're lucky to have got so far up river

Brad arrives with Graham – we’re lucky to have got so far up river

Brad cleans the rainbow trout he's caught us - aren't we lucky!!

Brad cleans the rainbow trout he’s caught us – aren’t we lucky!!

We set off, across the Eldon and South Eldon rivers

We set off, across the Eldon and South Eldon rivers

Finally out of beautiful forest, and we can see our peak!

Finally out of beautiful forest, and we can see our peak!

We can't believe our luck with the view!

We can’t believe our luck with the view!

The view doesn't last to the summit, but we're pretty happy to be on top regardless - we're exhausted and freezing, but it doesn't dampen the mood much!

The view doesn’t last to the summit, but we’re pretty happy to be on top regardless – we’re exhausted and freezing, but it doesn’t dampen the mood much!

Let's camp here!

Let’s camp here!

Day 2:

The next morning we woke to a rather white world, and all our best-laid plans went out the window. Our 6km-long boulder hop would be near suicidal in the snow covering they had so we chose to bide our time and see how the weather panned out over the next few days. We were all conscious that the first group Brad had ferried up had done similarly to us, got snowed in, and had no choice but to turn back… we would bide our time hoping for a different fate, and knowing there wasn’t anything at all we could do to influence it!

We ate and slept, and got glimpses in between showers. It was just lovely!! Fortunately, the snow melted pretty fast, even though it continued to snow, hail and rain on and off all day. A weather window allowed for a weather update, which seemed more favourable. It also allowed us to enjoy partial views and even a touch of sun. Reassured there was still hope for us, it was nice to enjoy yummy food and just be, doze and wander around. I felt like I was finally catching up on the last two years worth of missed sleep!

We wake to this, it's a bit cold..!

We wake to this, it’s a bit cold..!

Still beautiful!

Still beautiful!

We catch glimpses of the ridge we'll be walking along the next day

We catch glimpses of the ridge we’ll be walking along the next day

And of the mountains!

And of the mountains!

At times it was so still

At times it was so still

Day 3:

We woke early to stars and a good feeling. Sure enough at 6am the skies were mostly clear and it was lovely to have the tables turned and be able to look down on a sea of cloud in the valleys. It was beautiful. Bloody cold though, with tarns and tents both frozen.

We soon warmed up, dried out, stripped off and started making very slow and convoluted progress on wet, lichen covered massive boulders. Though we only had to cover a short distance as the crow flies, I’m sure we walked, climbed and clawed more than double it!

We did make sure we enjoyed it, however, and decided to keep walking past our first camp option as it was mid afternoon and we thought we should make up for the rest day we’d just had. As we climbed back up from the lowest point we tasted our first real scrub, and it wasn’t much fun. We were shortly back on boulders and that was a bit wearisome too. When it started to rain (unexpected if we were trusting the morning’s weather forecast), John suggested we go with a rough camp even though we were short on water. Both Graham and I wanted to go the final 900m to a possibly nicer spot. John agreed but I’m not sure he was that happy about getting wet again.

The 900m included a very slow 500m of more big nasty boulders that were now wet again. Then we came to a bit where the gps route had us sidling around a long slender single contour line. The cloud chose that moment to part just enough to see a huge towering rock structure. I think all our hopes sank – it certainly didn’t look easy or inviting. But it turned out to be ok, and the going was much easier than we feared. We arrived at a nice but wet campsite and set about getting warm. It had taken us 11 hours all up, so it was probably understandable that we were feeling rather tired again! It was a pity about the last hour’s worth of rain, but we acknowledged we’d been lucky not to have had it all day!

Early morning, waiting for the sun to rise, it was freezing but we were excited!

Early morning, waiting for the sun to rise, it was freezing but we were excited!

Barn bluff was out

Barn bluff was out

The tarns were partially frozen

The tarns were partially frozen

Jukes, Darwin and Sorell all looked fine as the sun struck them

Jukes, Darwin and Sorell all looked fine as the sun struck them

This was to be the bulk of our day

This was to be the bulk of our day

We've been going for some time, but progress is convoluted and slow

We’ve been going for some time, but progress is convoluted and slow

Graham leads on along the ridge, we can feel we're slowly getting there!

Graham leads on along the ridge, we can feel we’re slowly getting there!

Frenchman looks on :)

Frenchman looks on 🙂

Day 4:

I woke and made first use of the amenities. I was somewhat distracted however, as the cloud parted and revealed the surprise of Eldon Bluff and Castle Mountain so close! The others followed suit as we slowly struck camp, and though it clagged back over and we were forced to start walking in the mist, I had high hopes for a lovely day ahead. We dropped our packs between Eldon Crag and Bluff, where we’d initially intended to camp, and headed to the crag. On the summit we watched the mist lift and began to relax into the warmth of the sun. It was nice to get things dry a bit, to walk without our packs, and to have such wonderful views!

Back at our packs we admired the campsite, which gave views of Eldon Peak to one side, and Eldon Bluff to the other – a lovely spot, we unanimously agreed. Our packs went back on as we headed along the ridge towards Eldon Bluff. We dropped them at the appropriate point, fought a stack of ants over lunch, then took the very short climb up what were (today!) very nice scrambly rocks! Then emerged onto a beautiful, fairly level top of cushion plants, small tarns and the odd rocky outcrop. It’s an absolutely stunning spot. There were mountains all around and we all thought it would be one of the best campsites ever – in good weather! We celebrated with brie and crackers, with mango and cranberries for dessert, and took a stack of photos on and around the summit before leaving by an indirect but more scenic route.

Back to the packs and we knew we had ahead of us a long scrubby traverse under the bluff’s cliff line. It was better than expected, if more up and down-y, and we soon popped out the bottom, disturbing the local wombats and finding the bluff too big to fit in a photo. We camped a short way along the ridge in amongst the scrub. It was the earliest we’d made it in to camp and the first night we’d not had to cook in tents due to the weather, so we hung gear out to dry in the sun and sat out and chatted as we ate our food.

Loo with a view!! Was lovely to discover this on our doorstep!

Loo with a view!! Was lovely to discover this on our doorstep!

Good morning pandanis!

Good morning pandanis!

Eldon Peak is shy.. we'd walked all that way yesterday!

Eldon Peak is shy.. we’d walked all that way yesterday!

Graham leads off into the mist, Eldon Crag is faintly visible

Graham leads off into the mist, Eldon Crag is faintly visible

As we sit on the crag, the bluff is revealed

As we sit on the crag, the bluff is revealed

Back at our packs, and the beauty of the campsite is evident

Back at our packs, and the beauty of the campsite is evident

We head towards the bluff.. looking magnificent!

We head towards the bluff.. looking magnificent!

The walking here is a pure delight. That's Eldon Crag in the background.

The walking here is a pure delight. That’s Eldon Crag in the background.

We camped this side of that pointy thing the night before

We camped this side of that pointy thing the night before

Elon Peak from Eldon Bluff plateau.. isn't it lovely?

Elon Peak from Eldon Bluff plateau.. isn’t it lovely?

The bluff's plateau!

The bluff’s plateau!

John on Eldon Bluff!

John on Eldon Bluff!

Looking down at Ewart

Looking down at Ewart

High dive anyone?.. we're heading down that ridge to camp, and off to Dome hill to the left the next morning

High dive anyone?.. we’re heading down that ridge to camp, and off to Dome hill to the left the next morning

Frenchmans!

Frenchmans!

Sidling down under the cliff line

Sidling down under the cliff line

On the ridge we'd camp on

On the ridge we’d camp on

Drying everything out!

Drying everything out!

Day 5:

We woke early to lovely sunrise that turned the sky and bluff almost unreal colours! At the same time I discovered I’d passed my degree (not really unexpected, but nice for it to be official). After the excitement was over and we’d eaten some breakfast, Graham and I went off to Dome Hill while John dried and mended gear, had a wash, and otherwise enjoyed the morning. It proved to be scrubber than we’d anticipated in parts and our bare knees paid for it. It was also a decent distance, but we had Zane and Nick’s footsteps to keep us company from time to time, which was kind of cool given how remote we were (we wouldn’t see another person for 9 days) On the summit we celebrated Graham’s 500th point with the left over bikkies and cheese, then headed back to John, arriving at 12.30 with all our curses about leptospermum.

As we ate lunch, Graham found out he’d got a bit of work he wanted, then we headed off to Lake Ewart. Again, it was scrubber than expected till we hit the lakeside, and we were happy we were at least heading down hill! We found and signed the log book, discovering there were only about 7 entries since the first in 2010. Then we headed across the button grass plain for the final scrubby push up onto the flat area below Castle Mountain. I was in the lead and probably did a positively horrid job of pushing through the scrub for the two guys, both of whom are taller than me! When we popped out, we found some lovely sheltered spots for the two of us out of the wind next to the largest of the tarns. We took photos of the mountains, pandani and tarns, and shared dinner together again. We retired to our tents hoping that the next day wouldn’t be toooooo wet.

Magnificent sunrise

Magnificent sunrise

Sun rise

Sun rise

Later on at sunrise

Later on at sunrise

On the summit, looking back at the range we've traversed so far

On the summit, looking back at the range we’ve traversed so far

We head down towards Ewart

We head down towards Ewart

On the plains Eldon Bluff still looks impressive

On the plains Eldon Bluff still looks impressive

We sign the log book

We sign the log book

Graham before we hit the scrub!

Graham before we hit the scrub!

On the ridge, we camp by this tarn.

On the ridge, we camp by this tarn.

There was a rather nice pandani nearby!

There was a rather nice pandani nearby!

Pelion West and co

Pelion West and co

The sun sets and the button grass glows

The sun sets and the button grass glows

Eldon Bluff dominates

Eldon Bluff dominates

Day 6:

It wasn’t so wet to start with, and was far from cold, so we headed off on a side trip to Castle Mountain. We were pleasantly surprised as the going wasn’t as bad as we expected, given the trip reports we’d read. We found places where others had been through scrub, marked by bent back branches. When we came to the final climb we came across a pretty good pad that took us all the way to the summit. By now it was rainy and cold, so we made the stop a brief one. We were back at the tents within three hours and set about an early lunch before striking camp and heading for High Dome.

Graham managed to break a pole and split the tent fly as he zipped up the door, so the three of us made a hasty repair with a roll of tenacious tape in a period without too much rain. Finally sorted, we set off for a scrubby climb, accompanied by the odd olive whistler. When we made it up, we wound our way along a waist-high scrubby ridge and onto a nicely cut track up an unnamed hill. As we walked along the ridge the sun appeared and began to dry us out, and the view opened up the further we walked up the hill. I put in an order for a new tent when we got reception (given we’d need it in 10 days of being back!), then we dropped down to the saddle between the hill and High Dome, where we would camp for the night.Again, the wombats raced off as we intruded, and the currawongs squawked in protest. It was nice to see our repair hold as we gently pitched the tent. Again, we cooked undercover.

Castle Mountain in clag

Castle Mountain in clag

Half way through the day and we get some views and sun!

Half way through the day and we get some views and sun!

High Dome and the reserve

High Dome and the reserve

Wow!! :)

Wow!! 🙂

Our repair job holds, and we camp below High Dome

Our repair job holds, and we camp below High Dome

Day 7:

We woke to a disappointingly and unexpectedly wet morning and not much of a sunrise. We stayed in tents waiting for the rain to clear so we could climb High Dome with the hope of some views. No luck. John made the wise call to just head off. We did so, climbing to the summit in whiteout conditions. We had a brief glimpse of outlines on the saddle between the two peaks of High Dome on the way back, but that was all. Oh well, we’d just have to come back and do it with views another time. We packed and made our wet and scrubby way towards Five Duck Tarn. None of us had any desire to push on in the wet and cold towards Junction Hill, even if it afforded more impressive views. We got warm, and spent the afternoon listening to rain on tent flies.

The extent of our views as we leave High Dome summit

The extent of our views as we leave High Dome summit

Day 8:

We woke to a crispy cold clear morning, and spent the sunrise hour watching mist on the tarn, drops of water on buttongrass stalks and spider’s webs, and golden light across the plains. We eagerly awaited the sun’s warmth and delayed our start by an hour so we could hang clothes out to dry to make things more comfortable before we set off. After a bit of a bash we hit a lovely little pandani grove near the saddle, then walked onto a good solid track (Ewart’s track) up the other side. This made for some easy, and purely delightful, walking in parts! We enjoyed finding lots of the original blaze marks from Ewart’s track, and felt a lot of gratitude to the man. Otherwise we took simple delight in being dry and having both sun and views, which wasn’t bad for the ‘cloudy’ forecast, and low mixing height we had expected. When we arrived, Junction Hill proved to be a wonderful little hill with spectacular views and quite large tarns. It would make fantastic camping if the weather was right. It was so nice, in fact, that we had rather an extensive lunch as we just couldn’t draw ourselves away and there didn’t seem to be too much reason to rush.

The lovely walking continued, with some spectacular track work amongst myrtles as we dropped off Junction Hill and towards the next unnamed hill on the way to Rocky Hill. It also awarded us with open walking and excellent views, giving the feeling of walking on the top of the world. Onwards we walked, taking our time, frequently expressing our delight till we reached the end of the saddle connecting the unnamed hill and Rocky Hill. We dropped our packs and made the final open climb without any weight on our backs. Again, we drank up the views. We could have sat there for ages, except we needed to drop down to the flat area some way below to make camp. It was, unfortunately, a very scrubby descent through a forest of scoparia (we found out on our return that there’s a track there if you look hard enough), but the campsite was nicely nestled amongst pine stands that were thousands of years old.

We ate together again for the final night, shared John’s dessert then got into bed to avoid the mozzies and the cold!

At Five Duck Tarn, we enjoy water drops

At Five Duck Tarn, we enjoy water drops

Camping at Five Duck Tarn

Camping at Five Duck Tarn

Five Duck Tarn

Five Duck Tarn

Sunrise at Five Duck Tarn

Sunrise at Five Duck Tarn

Beautiful pandani and myrtle forests

Beautiful pandani and myrtle forests

The Pandani grove!

The Pandani grove!

An old Ewart Blaze

An old Ewart Blaze

Graham takes the pulpit on Junction Hill

Graham takes the pulpit on Junction Hill

View from Junction Hill

View from Junction Hill

Everlastings

Everlastings

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

We head towards an unnamed hill and Rocky Hill

We head towards an unnamed hill and Rocky Hill

Beautiful open walking - we'll be back for the little Eldons

Beautiful open walking – we’ll be back for the little Eldons

Looking back at High Dome and the Amphitheatre

Looking back at High Dome and the Amphitheatre

On the top of the world

On the top of the world

Let's camp down there

Let’s camp down there

Enjoying Rocky Hill

Enjoying Rocky Hill

Looking back along the ridge to Rocky Hill

Looking back along the ridge to Rocky Hill

It's a lovely ridgeline

It’s a lovely ridgeline

Day 9:

We all knew today was our last day, which usually comes with mixed emotions. We had both the desire to linger, savor and enjoy, but also to get back to all the things we knew we had to do. We started off with some nice walking, which turned into a slightly scrubbier knee-waist high fight through painful leptospermum, with intermittent tracks. Lower down we said goodbye to the swifts and walked onto very recent track work! The sound of traffic became more and more dominant as we descended. The river crossing was straight forward, and we popped out onto the highway sooner than expected. We were surprised to find two other cars in car park, but had chips, tarts and mint biscuits on our minds to give them too much more thought.

We decided this one was definitely an epic. Special thanks to all those who played a role in making it possible!!

All up: 86.1km, 5137m ascent

The following includes all lunch, snack and striking of camp breaks.

Day 1: 10.3km, 1255m ascent, 9:31 hours

Day 2: Rest day

Day 3: 10.6km, 643m ascent, 11:08 hours

Day 4: 9.8km, 615m ascent, 9:11 hours

Day 5: 14km, 490m ascent, 9:43 hours

Day 6: 10.2km, 611m ascent, 9:46 hours

Day 7: 7.6km, 453m ascent, 5:29 hours

Day 8: 11.8km, 727m ascent, 9:25 hours

Day 9: 11.7km, 361m ascent, 7:23 hours

Sunrise at our pine camp

Sunrise at our pine camp

Pine camp - lovely spot

Pine camp – lovely spot

Saying goodbye to Eldon Peak

Saying goodbye to Eldon Peak

Crossing our final river

Crossing our final river

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Darwin, Sorell and South Darwin: 2-4 January 2017

Darwin, Sorell and South Darwin GPS route

Darwin, Sorell and South Darwin GPS route

This adventure all started with an attractive option to join the Hobart bushwalking club on a trip to Tramontane. It didn’t matter too much that I was in the middle of my final uni semester, or that exams had been moved forward a month so I’d have to have learnt content and handed in essays before I left (in 5 weeks, essentially). The crazier uni got (3 of those 5 weeks were intensive face to face classes) the more I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately the weather turned foul just in time. We delayed two days. It stayed horrid. The problem was we had to cross the Collingwood River and we didn’t fancy having to swim it then walk for the next 4-5 days in rain. The walk was cancelled. 

We stayed home for the next three days, because the weather was still no good. But it looked like it would be good enough for 5 days before either of us had to be back working/studying so we decided on a split trip to Darwin, Sorell, South Darwin, and then back to the Jukes range. We adjusted our packs accordingly and made an early (enough) start. 

On the drive the weather got worse after passing Lake St Clair and we started to doubt the forecast that had the rain set to stop by 11am. As we neared our turn off I discovered that half the data I’d transferred to our GPS hadn’t made it (or more accurately, wasn’t visible to us). We didn’t have the crucial route we wanted for Sorell, which had quite a reputation, or South Darwin and Jukes. I was kicking myself and Graham wasn’t too happy either!! 

Our collective mood was made worse by having to start out in the drizzle, which just hung around. It was humid and muggy and we were soon as wet from sweat as we were rain. If we’d had a 4WD we could have saved the road walk and it’d have been super fast.

After some time we hit the Mt Darwin turn off to the right. We dumped packs and geared up for the fairly short walk. We were most delighted to find that at the end of the 2km road there was the start of a taped track – we’d not expected it at all, and it was very gratefully used! The scrub would have been nasty to push uphill through. Unfortunately there were a few spots where the track branched in more than one direction and eventually all sign of it ended prematurely, just before reaching the much more open ridge. It was a pity, but it did make us all the more grateful for having had it for so long. 

As we climbed the final bit of ridgeline the drizzle stopped and the clouds started to lift. We caught glimpses of Lake Burbury and by the time we reached the trig at the top the view was, comparatively speaking, quite extensive. We rested a while and attempted to dry out. I managed to download memory maps and the Sorell route onto my phone AND figure out how to make them work. While it wouldn’t be as accurate as our gps, it would prove very handy!

Heading up Darwin as the clouds part and we have views!

Heading up Darwin as the clouds part and we have views!

We walked down feeling much better. Partly because it wasn’t raining anymore and we could see blue sky, partly because we’d finally stretched our legs and climbed a mountain. Back at our packs, we sorted ourselves out and headed for a little knoll just off the Darwin/South Darwin saddle. It provided us with a near new pair of scrub gloves for Graham (if you lost a pair there recently, do be in touch!) as well as beautiful flat camping, half a view, and a head start on what we knew would be a big day. 

Heading back down, we can actually see where we've come from

Heading back down, we can actually see where we’ve come from

At the bottom, we look back at what we'd been up, the cloud is back again

At the bottom, we look back at what we’d been up, the cloud is back again

Flag irises

Flag irises

We woke to the same cloud, but it was high enough we could see where we were going, to a point. The summit of Sorell remained hidden, but that just added to the majesty and mystery of the mountain. We set off early, so that we’d be back at a reasonable hour for dinner. 

Sorell hides away

Sorell hides away

The road walk was short, but left us with a taped and cairned ‘track’ – probably once used by prospectors (maybe still by some fossickers) – to follow. Again, we were very grateful. After a short descent through knee high buttongrass and leptaspurnum we hit the rainforest. It was wet and slippery underfoot and quite steep in places. The track gave us a lovely straight line to follow. Unfortunately the newer tapes petered out and we were left searching for very very old remnants of what had been pink tape. 

When we popped out next to a huon pine at the river crossing we were glad we’d not camped down there. There were no attractive sites (although I’ve heard since there are?), it was humid and plagued with mozzies and leeches. We determined that the spot we’d chosen was pretty well chosen.

We left the river behind and continued on our way. Presently, we broke out of the forest and into the same kind of low sparse scrub described earlier. The track was nearly impossible to follow, but it didn’t matter. We knew where we were heading and it was all about staying on the ridge. We duck and wove, wishing the sun would hide behind cloud for just a little longer. Occasionally we walked past little bits of pink tape. 

We're getting closer

We’re getting closer

Gaining height, we approached the visibly scrubby foothills of what we knew would be the hardest part of the trip. Descriptions included horrible/diabolical scrub, and near vertical ascents. We were, however, pleased with our speedy progress to that point so plunged head long into the scrub where we thought the track most likely went. It took a little while to confirm it, but it was. And how lucky we were to be on it!!! We crawled, clawed, scrambled, slid and someone managed to propel ourselves forward and up (though mostly up at this point). It would have taken considerably longer to complete the trip without the ‘track’. 

After the steep stuff - so steep you can't see the bottom if you look straight down

After the steep stuff – so steep you can’t see the bottom if you look straight down

At the top of the worst of it we expected a nice easy stroll up onto the ridge proper and along to the summit. But no luck. The walk onto the ridge was steep enough it felt more like a climb and while the ridge itself wasn’t too bad, there were enough ups and downs and unevenness. 

Finally on top, looking towards Macquarie Harbour

Finally on top, looking towards Macquarie Harbour

I'd never seen these before!

I’d never seen these before!

Sorell's summit under cloud as we approach

Sorell’s summit under cloud as we approach

Darwin escapes the cloud

Darwin escapes the cloud

Not a bad ridge to walk on

Not a bad ridge to walk on

But we made it, if quite slowly in the end, in just under 6 hours. Though we didn’t have much time to spare, we did enjoy the summit for 40 minutes. Partly to eat lunch and muster our strength for the next 6 hours, but partly because like the day before the cloud that had been kissing the summit most appropriately disappeared as we approached. It came back as soon as we departed. 

The slightly worst for wear trig on Sorell

The slightly worst for wear trig on Sorell

A very small and high up native laurel

A very small and high up native laurel

Looking towards Darwin from Sorell

Looking towards Darwin from Sorell

We were much faster on the descent, although we had to take care not to slip too much! We were hot, tired and drenched in sticky sweat and scrub. The plodding began and step by step we made our way back. We did still have the energy to enjoy the olive whistlers, the three different types of sundews, the Christmas bells, Waratahs, Hewardias, orchids and a number of flowers I’d not seen before! We got there in 11 hours all up and celebrated tiredly with a home cooked and dehydrated meal, then watched the sun set from out little rocky lookout. I fell asleep while trying to write notes!

Back at camp.. time to relax!

Back at camp.. time to relax!

Sunset and buttongrass

Sunset and buttongrass

Setting sun

Setting sun

Enjoying the light and little things

Enjoying the light and little things

We woke and packed at a reasonable time, and headed straight up the road to where we’d branch off to climb South Darwin. We dropped packs and made the very short easy walk in no time. It was a tad cloudy, which was a pity, but at the same time we were enjoying not being too hot. The road walk out was long, but at least it was downhill. 

Sorell hides again the following morning

Sorell hides again the following morning

From South Darwin, looking towards Darwin

From South Darwin, looking towards Darwin

The trigger plants were nice

The trigger plants were nice

Flag irises

Flag irises

Back at the car we turned further along the road to check out access to Mounts McCall and McCutcheon, before having lunch at the dam and then heading to Jukes. I’ve already written a blog about my first trip up, so won’t bore you with more details here.. maybe just a few photos instead 😉

All up:

Day 1: 7 hours, 14.3km, 1115m ascent

Day 2: 11 hours, 12.7km, 1438m ascent

Day 3: 3:35 hours, 8.5km, 417m ascent

Photos from Jukes:

Mount Black: 22 June 2015

Mount Black GPS route

Mount Black GPS route

The power of a photo on Facebook! It was the whole reason I found myself climbing Mt Black yesterday… I’d seen photos on Facebook quite some time ago that suggested a route using what looked like old roads was in fact a horrible scrub bash, though it might prove easier than trying to get access to use the mining roads (or avoiding detection by mining personnel if you decided to use them regardless). As a result, Mount Black had dropped down my list somewhat.

Start of the track

Start of the track

But then another friend had posted a photo from the ‘Mount Black track’, and another bushwalker had been a tad faster off the mark than me in asking ‘what? where?!’. Though the question was slightly rhetorical given that if there was another track, it was fairly obvious where the sensible departure point would be. Sure enough.. it was on the high point of the road between Tullah and Rosebery.

It had been a grey start to the day, and the forest was soothing :)

It had been a grey start to the day, and the forest was soothing 🙂

That in itself wasn’t enough to send me racing off, but the question that if I was going, could I bring back a GPS track for the Tarkine in Motion movement, was more than incentive. I was going to be out that way anyway to check out the start to Kate, so why not. West Bluff and Mount Sunday were also needed, and I was all set to go to West Bluff, except the weather wasn’t looking so great when I needed to make my call, so Mount Black it would be instead.

I liked the trees :)

I liked the trees 🙂

A slow and frosty drive from Cradle Mountain saw me park at the high point on the road just before 9am. Walk a little way back and then have a search around in the forest for tapes, I’d been told… I walked straight on to them. Easy.

Just short of the summit, looking southeastish

Just short of the summit, looking southeastish.. loved the King Billies

And so began a lovely walk through the forest. Sassafras, ferns, myrtles and, nearer to the summit, lots of little King Billies (they do make you smile). The track was taped, and mostly easy to follow, though there were a few fallen trees to negotiate, or sections in which the pad seemed to disappear and you had to hunt around for the next bit of tape. But that was all part of the adventure.

Murchison!

Murchison!

When I came across the first survey line, I was puzzled by such a straight path, perpendicular to where I was headed, until I remembered another friend telling me that the track made use of some survey lines. It all made sense! Onwards I went, laughing at the irony behind the use of ‘Danger, no entry’ tape to mark the pad now. I wondered where it might have come from initially.

The less than impressive summit

The less than impressive summit

The summit was very unimpressive, complete with helipad, solar panels and a few other installations, so I didn’t stay long. The view out towards Murchison grabbed my attention most, and I thought again about one day camping on top, and walking around the bowl up there (in good weather, mind you!). I have no doubt it will happen :)!

The wind was up now, and the rain was expected, so I wasn’t going to delay any more, and down I went. I thought about what I’d do next. I felt a little guilty for driving all the way out west for just two 3 hr walks (that’s a pretty bad drive-walk ratio), but at the same time it’s not about ticking mountains off… it’s more about sharing and savouring the experience, and I’m increasingly aware that although I still have quite a few mountains left on my ‘list’ and quite a few that I’d like to revisit, the list isn’t getting any longer.

So home I drove… my frustration at being stuck behind not one, or two, but THREE logging trucks (funny, wonder why there’s so many out and about this week?!) and one even slower car, was only surpassed by my frustration at the weather. It would prevent us from seeing some very, and I mean VERY, impressive aurora action. Oh well…. when I do get to see one, I’m going to enjoy it very much!

All up: 3:09 hrs, 7km, 517m ascent.

Alma: 19 January 2015

Mount Alma GPS route

Mount Alma GPS route

Another weekend of translating… But everyone seemed to be going away, walking, enjoying the east coast or whatever else. By Sunday I was past having itchy feet. Before I knew it I was checking weather and choosing between a couple of short scrub bashes. Alma won. I shot off a message to Jess to see if she was interested too, with a word of warning about the scrub. She was, so it was on.

Off we set, the initial ridge we have to get on to. Mostly open going

Off we set, the initial ridge we have to get on to. Mostly open going

After a coolish Sunday night sleeping under the stars (when they poked out from pockets in the cloud), and a lazy start to the morning, we were off. Quiet time is not only reserved for the afternoon, and Jess used the chance to catch up on some sleep.

And up we climb.. Frenchmans now a feature on the horizon

And up we climb.. Frenchmans now a feature on the horizon

We arrived at our chosen departure point, just after the Frenchmans Cap track start, and I was relieved to see we wouldn’t be starting off in thick scrub. I’d heard that it was going to be a scrubby walk, from a source that I would usually interpret that to mean it was going to be VERY scrubby (mind you, they’d taken the wrong ridge, I believe). So much so, I had my rarely used and much detested pants on, instead of shorts.

Lovely view for the day!

Lovely view for the day!

Never one to complain about lighter than expected scrub, we got changed and set off. It looked like we’d have a fairly clear path to the top of the ridge. Mind you, looks can be a bit deceiving, and though it wasn’t scrubby per se (shoulder high tea tree stuff at the worst, but not dense and easy to weave through) it was slimy and slippery underfoot, which meant the climb was on the slower side, having to ensure each step was secure (or risk sliding backwards, which we both did!).

On the ridge, looking towards Alma.. just a bit of scrub to get through

On the ridge, looking towards Alma.. just a bit of scrub to get through

It was hot, and though the pants made pushing through stuff much more comfortable, there was part of me that wished I’d worn shorts. Instead, Frenchmans Cap (which popped up on the horizon after we’d gained a little height) was a good excuse to stop every so often, and there was a slight breeze, which we hoped would increase when we got to the top.

View of the Eldon range from just north of the summit

View of the Eldon range from just north of the summit

With at least half the climbing done by the time we stood on the ridge, we stopped for a snack, a cool down, and a drink, and a ponder of the way forward. It didn’t look as bad as feared, though there was definitely some scrub to get through. So down we plunged, onto the open saddle and paused, only momentarily, before we ducked our heads and burrowed into the start of the scrub.

Lunch time, and Gell behind Jess.

Lunch time, and Gell behind Jess.

A few metres in and we found ourselves walking in relatively open forest, hardly believing our luck. We were slightly to the right of a GPS track I’d found on the internet, but I was hesitant to try to stick too rigidly to it, given how good the going was so far. But it did come in handy!

Heading back.. in slightly different light.

Heading back.. in slightly different light.

We were out of the first band of ‘scrub’ in no time, and back to the button grass, tea tree, bauera mix (which in some ways was harder to push through). The hill had started too, which didn’t help! A little bit of weaving through the lighter sections (and the GPS track proved reliable here), and we found ourselves at the start of the real scrub.

And back down the final hill.. slipping down is much easier than slipping up!

And back down the final hill.. slipping down is much easier than slipping up!

Despite fears of a serious, physical bash, we seemed to be on a clear pad. Someone had been through and had cleared a decent tunnel in the scrub, and had also been kind enough to break the scrub at regular intervals, leaving the tops still attached, in a more natural way of marking the route than using tape. It was heartening, and the pad was decent enough, and definitely the ‘path of least resistance’ for it to be too difficult to veer off (on the way up in any case, down is always harder).

So I was a bit excited by this.. had never seen Christmas Bell seed pods before. I do approve!

So I was a bit excited by this.. had never seen Christmas Bell seed pods before. I do approve!

And so we made good progress, sheltered a little from the heat of the sun, and popped out of the scrub quite close to the top. Then it was a matter of deciding which was the true summit. There was Alma south, just to our right, which we ducked over to (a whole 28m away!) then we headed north to the point I had marked as the summit, and finally further north again, stepping over the only cairn on the whole walk, towards the point that looked highest (and would hopefully give us a better view north)!

We got there, found the ‘high point’ in the middle of a clump of trees, then went and found a rock with a view to sit on for lunch. Eldon Bluff looked pretty dramatic (I’m really looking forward to the day I’m camped below it, looking back up at its wall of rock), and it was kind of cool to look over towards the Labyrinth area, and wonder what next week would bring (for the Du Cane traverse).

Pretty happy with how the walk had turned out, in light of our expectations, conversation turned to other things in life. It was really rather nice just sitting, chatting, enjoying the views and the sun, and I know I was reluctant to get moving again. But it had to be done, I needed some sleep before work the next morning, and it was getting late-ish.

It was much easier and faster going on the way back, mostly because it was largely all flat or downhill, but in part because we knew what to expect, and then, towards the end, because we wanted to be back at Derwent Bridge before the Hungry Wombat closed (and we weren’t sure if that was 5 or 6!).

All up: 6.8km, 5.36 hrs, 646m ascent. Quite a nice one after all!

Sedgwick: 16-18 August 2014

Sedgwick GPS route

Sedgwick GPS route

Apparently I’m not the only one who can’t decide where to go sometimes. This time the two of us were equally as bad. We started off with 8 or 9 different options, and narrowed it down to three (Murchison, Jukes and the Tyndall range) on the West Coast. But by the time we got in the car on Saturday morning, we still had to nut out exactly which mountains we’d climb, or which combination.

Sedgwick and Eldon panorama

Sedgwick and Eldon panorama

I’d done all three, but not Sedgwick of the Tyndall range. I wasn’t particularly fussed which we did as a result, and I still want to go back to Murchison for sunrise/sunset, and to Jukes just because it’s so nice and I’d like to share it with friends. But I’m always excited by the prospect of walking new terrain, and was pretty sure Graham took this into account when he decided that we’d make the call depending on the weather in Queenstown. If the weather was good we’d go up Murchison, then move on to the Tyndall range. If not, we’d just head up to the Tyndalls, try for Gieke that afternoon, leaving the possibility of adventuring out to Sedgewick on the Sunday, and ducking up Tyndall on the way out on Monday.

Our treat for the drive.. a young rather hungry looking wedgie, with some decent sized legs!

Our treat for the drive.. a young rather hungry looking wedgie, with some decent sized legs!

As we drove past Lake St Clair (the drive being as educational and informative as usual.. did you know redbreasted robins are not actually ‘robins’ (as in the European or American robins) as such..? They’re part of the flycatcher family), noting a decent amount of snow still lining the road side from the weekend before, the weather closed in, and we were in grey mist and patchy rain. The mood dropped.

The mist lifts as we ascend, and there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon!

The mist lifts as we ascend, and there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon!

A young looking wedge tailed eagle standing over road kill on the side of the road temporarily lifted it (though he was looking less than energetic too), and we doubled back for a closer look. But in general I think we were both slightly unimpressed with the weather all the way to Queenstown. And so the decision was made, and the Tyndall range it was. We drove the short distance to the turn off, which we managed not to drive straight by (it’s easy to do coming from the south, as it’s not really visible until you’re at it), and were somewhat dismayed to find four other cars there.

Heading towards Gieke, and Sedgwick starts to emerge from behind cloud

Heading towards Gieke, and Sedgwick starts to emerge from behind cloud

Bugger.. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but when you go for a three day walk to be in and part of nature, it’s a bit of a dismay if you have to share it too closely with others, particularly those you don’t know. I was aware that if I felt a little like this, that Graham probably felt it more strongly, and sure enough he seemed to hesitate, and kept the car running (the rain probably didn’t help finding the enthusiasm to get going). I didn’t want to push him into doing anything he was going to be unhappy with, so said that there was plenty of spots to camp on top, which would allow us to avoid the others, but also raised the possibility that we could do something different if he wanted.

Eldon Peak!! One day.. one very special day!

Sedgwick, up close.. Frenchmans a little shyer

I then got out to check out whether the cars looked like they had bushwalking gear in them. Two did, one didn’t, one had a boot you couldn’t see into. I left the choice to Graham, and he decided to go with it anyway. By this stage the rain had stopped, but it was still misty and we expected more, not to mention some overgrown track at the start, so the wet weather gear went on straight away.

Graham heads towards Gieke (right).. grateful for the views and SUN!

Graham heads towards Gieke (right).. grateful for the views and SUN!

We took guesses as to how many other walkers would be up there, and who would take such a big group, as neither of us entertained the possibility that there might be more than one party. But the log book cleared things up a little; there were two parties, one of 7 from NWWC, doing the usual mountains, and one of 3 heading out to Lake Margaret (and, as we discovered later, mountain biking out from there).

Sedgwick again..

Sedgwick again..

That cleared up, we set off. A short bit of button grass bog, then the overgrown stuff, then quite quickly we were onto the more open, and very much straight up terrain. My back was sore, especially with the bigger steps up which meant bending it further forward than it liked, and I struggled to keep pace with Graham. Having worked that night and being tired in general didn’t help, but I did get a little excited to realise that the higher we climbed, the higher the mist seemed to lift! The humidity wasn’t so bad higher up either, and as we arrived on top we had glimpses of Sedgwick and then Gieke through gaps in the mist.

Last bit of climb up to the summit of Gieke

Last bit of climb up to the summit of Gieke

I was glad, I didn’t want to have driven all the way out here, chosen such a beautiful place, for us to be sitting in cloud all weekend. I began to have a little hope. We headed straight for the place I’d camped last time with Bec (it is a lovely little spot, though there’s one other I really want to try too on some other occasion), and were relieved to find the NWWC group had camped around the other side of Lake Tyndall. We could see their tents, and hear some laughter as we walked in, but that was about all.

Looking back along the ridge.. a bank of mist sits to our left, but seems to be held off by an invisible wall for the moment

Looking back along the ridge.. a bank of mist sits to our left, but seems to be held off by an invisible wall for the moment

With tents up, it was 2.30, so we figured we had time for a quick trip out to Gieke. That would allow us all of Sunday for an attempt on Sedgwick should the weather agree. As we walked I was reminded of all the things I loved about the range from the first trip in just under a year ago, as I revisited the alpine grassy terrain and all its colours, the conglomerate rock, the lakes, and, when the mist allowed, the views of distant (and not so distant) ranges. They appeared one by one, as if to ensure we fully appreciated each in their own right. First Sedgwick, then Eldon Peak, Frenchmans and some of the Overland mountains, including Geryon (:D).

Another brockenspectre, on the summit of Gieke

Another brockenspectre, on the summit of Gieke

Though we weren’t dawdling, we did have plenty of time to enjoy the late afternoon sun, and take more photos than were necessary. My back complained every time I went to jump from rock to rock, or a foot didn’t quite land where or how I thought it would, but as against my walking style as that was, it didn’t manage to dampen the joy of walking along an open alpine ridge, surrounded by some pretty impressive mountains. Misty clouds came and went, providing atmosphere (and even a brockenspectre on the summit) but still allowing for decent views.

I do love the rocks and colour of the alpine grass up here!

I do love the rocks and colour of the alpine grass up here!

We didn’t stay on top for long, just enough for Graham to make contact with the outside world, before we headed back, partly to avoid getting too cold, partly because of how late it was getting. The wander back down was equally beautiful, with a thickish band of cloud out to our left in the west, and some lovely colours in the sky and on mountains in the east as the sun got lower and lower. It was a lovely way to end the day, especially given the weather when we’d started out.

Evening colour on Eldon Peak.

Evening colour on Eldon Peak, Geryon to the left.

Back by 5.45, it was time to get warm, eat some dinner, enjoy the starry sky (and a little later, the moon rise), and fall asleep to the sound of what Graham had referred to as ‘sheep frogs’ (they did bleat just like sheep!). Fingers crossed for what tomorrow might bring… I was a tad worried the weather would clag in until after we’d called Sedgwick off (the Abels suggesting visibility is a big help).

And a little later.. only a bit of light left in the day

And a little later.. only a bit of light left in the day

I was up and out for a nonexistent sunrise, Graham sensibly chose to stay in his tent. What started off as being a nice clear morning quickly became bluey-white/grey mist, and stayed that way through the rising of the sun. So I headed back and we talked about the days plans over breakfast. I wasn’t sure Graham would be happy to go ahead with the weather the way it was (not great visibility at all, and I know he puts a bit more weight than I do on these things), but he was up for giving it a crack.

Dropping off the plateau, looking right (southish) to Gieke (under mist)

Dropping off the plateau, looking right (southish) to Gieke (under mist)

So off we set shortly after 9, wandering a little hesitantly across the plateau, unsure of exactly where we should drop off. We’d been walking some distance away from the party of three, who were heading in the same direction as us, so we popped over to see where they were going. Over Gieke and down to Lake Margaret, they said, so we bid them safe walking and turned back to finding a way down.

Where are we? Grateful to have the company of the map man on this one ;)

Where are we? Grateful to have the company of the map man on this one 😉

The mist was lifting a bit, and with the better visibility and the GPS track I had, we made a choice on where to head and went. And so it proceeded, decisions being made one at a time, based on what we could see ahead and the GPS track, often quite close together if need be, a lot more sporadically when on the longer ridges.

I swear it's getting further and further away the more we walk!

I swear it’s getting further and further away the closer we get!

We enjoyed views back up to Gieke and the cliff line from which it protruded, across to Sedgwick, and out to the Overland track too. More immediately, we marvelled at really old banksia trees with swollen roots and trunks, which had over the course of time survived by growing horizontally with the wind, finding shelter in the nooks and crannies of rocks. And there were plenty more beautiful rocks out here too..

Finally.. only that to go!

Finally.. only that to go!

After a few hours walking it was clear we’d come quite a way, but still Sedgwick seemed so far off, further than before perhaps. The unknowns about terrain and route finding accentuated this distance, and though nothing was said, there was a general consensus that we didn’t have much time to spare mucking around, taking breaks or photos.

The effort was worth it though :D

The effort was worth it though 😀

As it turned out, the little bit of extra time we spent discussing route options on the way paid off, and we both agreed that without knowing any different, we’d managed to walk a pretty good route. THis was despite ignoring the Abels notes in one spot, and taking a decidedly different route to the GPS plot I had.

And time to head back.. you can tell which way the wind blows up here! Overland mountains sit on the horizon

And time to head back.. you can tell which way the wind blows up here! Overland mountains sit on the horizon

By 1pm we were at the foot of our mountain, 4 hours after having started. It finally seemed achievable, just one last slog up through the scrub. I took the lead, armed with GPS track, which we hoped might lead us onto a pad. No such luck. The scrub itself wasn’t particularly difficult – waist high bauera mostly, with a touch of cutting grass – but I was already tired, and the combined effort of trying to through it and up the relatively steep incline took it out of me.

The day grows old and tired as do I.. but still quite beautiful.. which is more than I can say for me!

The day grows old and tired as do I.. but still quite beautiful.. which is more than I can say for me!

At one point Graham asked what our turn around time was. When we get to the top, was my answer, but figuring he wasn’t so keen on walking back through scrub in the dark I changed that to 2pm, reckoning we’d be up by then. Not having maps on his GPS meant he had no idea how much further we had to go, and his turn around time was 2.30. I didn’t expect it to take us that long to get up the last 4-500m, despite how slow I was going.

A little bit of pink :).. Have I ever mentioned how much I like rock?

A little bit of pink :).. Have I ever mentioned how much I like rock?

Here, Graham took over, and I just tried to keep him in sight. Long legs and being fit have a definite advantage! Fortunately, shortly afterwards the scrub gave way to dolerite, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was quite bizarre to be walking on a dolerite topped mountain on the west coast, when almost everything around is conglomerate! But its golden yellows went perfectly with the greens and blues of the day.

Walford Peak and the Sticht range in the background

Walford Peak and the Sticht range in the background

As we walked the last flatish section towards the summit trig (not expected at all!), the mist came in, to our disappointment. But we were there. It was 1.45. I was too tired for anything but a smile, though Graham mustered up enough energy to yell at the mist and the mountains and anything else that listened.

Walford again.. and camera away for the final climb

Walford again.. and camera away for the final climb

After a photo or two, it was back down to the start of the rock for a quick bite to eat, but not a proper lunch, there wasn’t enough time. It was enough time, however, to allow the mist to move a bit, and we did get some nice views north before dropping back down through the scrub. Going was much easier in this direction, thankfully, and had the added value of providing entertainment for Graham who was sensibly in second place and got to watch every time the bauera kept hold of a leg for a bit too long, or I discovered I was no longer walking on earth, but was a few metres above it (until the scrub inevitably failed to hold my weight).

Midnight phaffing… got a bit to learn still

Midnight phaffing… got a bit to learn still

I took the lead, with the sole duty to retrace our steps (that’s how good we thought our route was) using the GPS. The pace wasn’t going to win us any races, but it was based on turtle and hare philosophy, which ultimately seemed to work. Every now and again I had enough energy to let out a laugh, not quite believing that we’d actually climbed Sedgwick, and being very grateful that I’d had someone to do it with. I suspect there will be increasingly more solo trips to out of the way, difficult, or not particularly easy mountains as time goes on. I’ve been aware of this for a while now, and it has only made me more grateful for the times I do have company, especially on the untracked and more challenging of walks.

Frosted over myrtle buds.. promise of new growth

Frosted over myrtle buds.. promise of new growth

And so we plodded… there wasn’t much time for photos, just one or two. When we approached the final climb through light scrub (there was a bit of a pad here) Graham said he was putting his camera away. It made sense. It was getting dark and some of the climbing was a bit climby – enough that a camera in front would be a bit annoying. I also still had the task of retracing steps, and was tired enough that I didn’t think I could concentrate on doing that and taking photos, not to mention the fact that I’d have felt guilty taking time to do so, when time was something we didn’t have a lot of.

Waiting for the sun, for the beginning of a new day

Waiting for the sun, for the beginning of a new day

So up we went. In one regard it was very well timed. The orangy-pinks on the mountains behind us to the east provided a perfect excuse to stop every now and again and just enjoy while we caught our breath or steeled ourselves for then next bit of climb. My legs were just about running on empty, but there’s something nice in that.. just like there’s something reassuring or hardening in the knowledge that even when you’re past tired, somehow you still have enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes I wonder just where the point of exhaustion really is.

Loved the light on the cloud

Loved the light on the cloud

Back shortly after 6, with no use of head torches… a solid, challenging, but very satisfying and rewarding days walking. I hadn’t been that physically tired for a while, and it felt good. Dinner by head torch, followed by a few hours sleep, and a midnight interlude where I experimented with taking photos of my tent and stars just for fun (and learnt that camera lenses frost up fast, but no, I’m NOT going to buy a lens warmer… grrr), which I paid for with a few hours of missed sleep while I tried to warm back up. Oh well..

The only time I'll ever be as tall as Graham.. or at least appear to be!

The only time I’ll ever be as tall as Graham.. or at least appear to be!

The next morning WAS clear, and we enjoyed a muted sunrise out on the edge of the plateau, finally able to say hello to all the mountains at once. After mucking around with macro photos of ice and frost on plants and the like we headed back for an unrushed breakfast sitting on a rock in the sun, a play with the ice that had formed over the surface of the nearest tarn, and eventually, packing up of tents and gear.

Frosted alpine grass

Frosted alpine grass

A wander up Tyndall on the way out was in order, and I was looking forward to seeing the cliffs I’d only had glimpses of through the mist last time I’d been up. They were even more impressive, and it was great to see someone else as excited as I’d been when I first saw them. Needless to say we took more photos than necessary, had fun (in my case, better not speak for Graham here) climbing on rocky pillars on the cliff edge, and were treated to a display by a wedgie as he circled higher and higher. It was a nice and relaxed way to end the weekend, even if there was a snowball or two to duck!

Time to leave :(

Time to leave 😦

All up: 37.4km, 2266m ascent.

Sedgewick day trip: 20km, 1094m ascent, just over 9 hours (including breaks).

Mucking around on Tyndall.. taking photos of a wedgie seemed to distract Graham from the reality of his precarious position

Mucking around on Tyndall.. taking photos of a wedgie seemed to distract Graham from the reality of his precarious position for just a moment 😉

The wedgie over the end of Murchison..

Wedgie over the end of Murchison..

Frenchmans and Sedgwick from Tyndall

White capped Frenchmans and Sedgwick from Tyndall

Not sure if this is a reason for Graham to like walking with me, or dread it.. If we happen across rocks like this they just demand to be climbed.

Oh, and there’s another one!! Not sure if this is a reason for Graham to like walking with me, or dread it.. If we happen across rocks like this they just demand to be climbed… my fault entirely

Caught red-handed.. lucky for me it went high!

Caught in the act.. lucky for me it went high!

Proprietary, Jukes, Pyramid, West Jukes, Owen: 31 May – 1 June 2014

Proprietary, Jukes, Pyramid, West Jukes GPS route

Proprietary, Jukes, Pyramid, West Jukes GPS route

No club walk planned, no friends asking to do anything, meant I had a weekend that I set aside just for me. The weather cooperated, a tad too well – it was actually hard to choose where to go! Winds were minimal, which meant camping high was a definite. The choice was made a little easier after cutting out a few walks I’d promised to save for doing with other people, or that were going to be on the Pandani program. And so I chose Mount Jukes and the three other peaks nearby. I’d talked about how nice it seemed to be to a few people, but no one seemed to understand just HOW nice (and truth be told, there’s not a lot of people who know about it, or who’ve done it, I was just lucky enough to have seen stunning photos from some Facebook friends and have their highly regarded recommendation to go by). Owen was my ‘in case of extra time walk’. Easy, short, no thought required. Perfect.

Out of the mist, into this.. just right.

Out of the mist, into this.. just right.

Friday wasn’t a particularly easy day, but help from two different friends meant I had newly blacked out windows, and some help getting back to sleep if and when I woke. That translated to a record 7 hours sleep with one short interruption, and instead of waking well before it, I was both impressed and unimpressed to be rudely awoken by my alarm at 9pm! Sleep had helped, but I still wasn’t feeling great. I found it hard to concentrate on work, and made some stupid, frustrating mistakes. Fixable, but annoying, the kind I don’t usually make.

Approaching Lake St Clair.. nature was talking to, comforting, a grateful recipient

Approaching Lake St Clair.. nature was talking to, comforting, a grateful recipient

Out shortly after 6, I drove wearily to New Norfork, trying to stay focused on the road. A grudging surrender to an energy drink worked wonders, as did the breaking of day. I was driving through mist, a nice thick white soup, no idea where I was, or where I was going. It didn’t seem to matter, did I actually need to be anywhere? And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, I popped out into a clearing, and had part of the sunrise I thought I must have missed. Soft colours, a low band of mist amongst the trees, and frosted grass. Quite a contrast to the loud music I had on, but it proved to be a good combination. I smiled, and drove on in better spirits, determined to enjoy having the next few days to myself.

Starting out.. got to get up there, that's the hard bit. Hint: head to the dip on the left of the high point, not right!

Starting out.. got to get up there, that’s the hard bit. Hint: head to the dip on the left of the high point, not right!

I was lucky enough to be excited by frosted grass that was almost white, twinkling in the sun, which further along the road lit up young pines in that early morning yellow glow. There was more mist, frost, lone trees, and of course, mountains! The wildlife was also out, and I was treated perhaps to a visit by the same wedgie as last week (same spot anyway), who was being troubled by a crow, then later on a fat little mouse who’d ventured onto the side of the road in pursuit of something tasty and didn’t budge as I passed, a swamp harrier (pretty sure, but it’s a new one in my repertoire) and finally a light brown spotted quoll! A male lyrebird ran across the road in front of me on the return trip too!  I was to see more wildlife on the drive, than on the walk, where the only creatures encountered were hundreds of bright green grasshoppers on Jukes. Even the birds were silent on the Saturday, only breaking into soft and distant song on the Sunday.

So I got sick of sidling the bluffs in the scrub, and took to going straight up..

So I got sick of sidling the bluffs in the scrub, and took to going straight up..

The drive went faster than I’d expected, despite stopping for photos much more than I’d planned, and just over 4 hours after having started out, I was parked at the Jukes lookout. I wasn’t overly impressed by the views from there, but mostly because I knew what lay in store. Little did I realise that after only a few minutes of walking up the hill would I get to see a fair chunk of it. Someone should have built a short road heading in that direction for the lookout instead, the view would have been a million times better!

Main bit of climbing done.. now I can see where I'm going. Jukes on the left, Proprietary on the right.

Main bit of climbing done.. now I can see where I’m going. Jukes on the left, Proprietary on the right.

The walking was warm, ok hot, without a hint of breeze, and with each step placed gingerly, because once past the rockier more open ground, I was into the steeper scrubbier stuff. It wasn’t particularly thick, but was wet underfoot and steep enough that if not careful, the energy put into moving forwards and up was wasted as you slid straight back down! I got a bit annoyed with this, and given I had no real idea which way to go (short of southwest, and contouring to avoid rocky bluffs, according to the Abels), I headed straight up (that’s me!).

So I have a bit of a love affair with a certain mountain...

So I have a bit of a love affair with a certain mountain…

When I got to the first rocky bluff thing, I chose to sidle right. I did so for a bit, until I got sick of the scrub, and figured straight up was going to be easier, and more fun. It was, well, definitely more fun anyway ;)! I then decided to stick as much as possible to the middle of the ridge, and found some cairns along the way, more the higher I got. They made the going much easier, and directed me onto pads through the scrub. There were still occasions where there was guess work and intuition as to where to go, but following instincts worked pretty well there. I did discover on the way back down that the cairned routes were almost rabbit-warren like, and had a habit of coming and going, but I found one that made for pretty good going, slightly further south, and it’d be the one I’d recommend.

The ridge line walk is almost over.. just that small bump to get around, then up to Proprietary on the left. Hint: drop down into scrub on the left, rather than going over that little rise!

The ridge line walk is almost over.. just that small bump to get around, then up to Proprietary on the left. Hint: drop down into scrub on the left, rather than going over that little rise!

The good thing about being not quite sure about just where to go meant that I had plenty of reason to pause to admire the view, particularly of Frenchmans, sitting behind an island dotted Lake Burbury. I haven’t been out this way much, and certainly with not such good weather, so I took my time to enjoy. Having said that, once finding the cairns and pads the going was really much easier, just up, and I mozied happily on to the top of that first rise. Oww, the views!! Proprietary and Jukes were visible (I love being able to see where I’m headed), and so too were all the mountains of the Overland track and a whole heap of the northwest ones that I don’t even know! Just brilliant :D.

All the work done.. now time to ENJOY. Frenchmans and Jukes :D

All the work done.. now time to ENJOY. Frenchmans and Jukes 😀

Ahead lay the ridge, at times requiring careful walking for the drops on one or other sides (just a bit more fun to have), and then one or two bumps to get over or around. I clearly wasn’t doing so well with the cairn spotting or interpreting, and ended up going the climby more direct route on occasion. I stayed within my comfort zone for having a pack on, but only just, and did wonder at one stage whether I should have brought a rope if it was going to get more interesting. I was being cautious, being on my own, and I was aware that had I had company, I wouldn’t have thought twice about some of the climbing – probably I would have been tempted to try even more interesting routes, just ‘to see’ if they were possible!

My only company for the walk.

My only company for the walk.

Really I probably should have taken more time to look around (properly!), and I might have spotted the cairned route heading down a slatey scree slope round one side of the first bump, and a pad heading down into scrub when I came to the second, rather than going straight along, over and down, the ridge!! Oh well, I had fun, relished the challenge and its successful completion, was just a little glad the mountain wasn’t a completely easy walk, and I now know for next time should I want to go a slightly easier way!

The ELDONS… hmmmm… why is it that some mountains just keep featuring, week after week??

The ELDONS (and everything else)… hmmmm… why is it that some mountains just keep featuring, week after week??

Then the final climb up a decent cairned pad and guess who could see the sea! I laughed, let out a whoop, and after more photos, wandered the last little bit up towards the cairn and stick marking the high point of Proprietary. It was still and silent, not a sound save for the rustling of my clothing, squeaking of my pack, and tread of my boots. If I stood still, there wasn’t even the sound of wind. I was all alone, me and the mountains. It was good, very good, but I was a little sad there wasn’t any one to share the beauty with, and so I resorted to posting a photo or two on Facebook.. not quite the same, but it was an attempt to share some of the specialness with people who might understand.

The other two mountains for today. Pyramid on the left, West Jukes on the right. Sorell behind.

The other two mountains for today. Pyramid on the left, West Jukes on the right. Sorell behind.

All the hard work done, and in a very relaxed 2 hours, I continued my wandering up the green garden of cushion plants and low alpine grasses and scrub, and laughed again at the grasshoppers as the collided with my knees. I walked along the very edge, why not, seeing I could, and it is the best ever kind of walking if you have the choice!

The rock, all the different types, was awesome.

The rock, all the different types, was awesome.

It took all of 15 minutes to walk from Proprietary to Jukes, where the views south to West Jukes and Pyramid, Darwin and Sorell, opened up. A new looking helipad, older looking trig, and a small cairn out on the edge, on an otherwise pretty flat summit. You could camp up there, if you chose, though you’d need to take your own water. I spied a lovely looking spot further down, so that’s where I headed.

Heading up the Pyramid, looking back to Jukes. A tree hangs on.

Heading up the Pyramid, looking back to Jukes. A tree hangs on.

It was just before 1.30, so I had a bite to eat, left my pack, and figured I’d go exploring the other two mountains to the south. I didn’t know how long it’d take, or what the going was like, but I wasn’t too fussed. I’d just take it as it came, and I had the whole of the next day if I wanted it. As it was, the going remained as easy as anything, and I loved that I could still wander along the edge (in fact, it seemed the best route).

Different rock.

Different rock.

I marvelled at the different types of rock and found elegance in denuded and stunted trees, forced to grow sideways by the currently absent wind. Route finding wasn’t difficult, and I was on the top of Pyramid 2.3km and 45 minutes later. Darwin and Sorell had me avert my gaze from Frenchmans, and jumped up the list for one weekend when I feel like finding enough mental toughness to deal with a solo mission of scrub and vertical climbing. I was feeling somewhat tired by now, the usual signs settling in, but West Jukes was on the way back (kind of!) so I headed back down, across the edge of a boggy flat expanse big enough to camp an entire school, and up towards the summit of West Jukes.

Frenchmans from the Pyramid

Frenchmans from the Pyramid

The rock had changed again, and I did like the small differences which made each peak feel unique rather than just more of the same. The views, by this stage, were pretty similar, and the tiredness and urge to get back to my pack and get sorted for the night meant I didn’t dally long, though again Frenchmans commanded the occasional stop and photo. I was back before 4, with enough time to pitch my tent, sort my gear, pack jetboil, hot chocolate and warm clothes, and head off to a nearby rock.

Darwin, Sorell, Strahan.. left to right, I think.

Darwin, Sorell, Strahan.. left to right, I think.

I’d chosen it on the way back, as it sat on the edge, was the highest point in sight, and had commanding views all around. That it had just a little bit of climbing made it all the more fun, particularly knowing I’d be doing it by head torch more than once. So up I went, found a lovely flat platform, and proceeded to don warm clothes. The Jetboil was next, and in a few minutes I had a hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm my hands and tummy.

On the way to West Jukes.. feeling about as spent as this!

On the way to West Jukes.. feeling about as spent as this!

I sat and sipped, took a few photos, thought a few thoughts, and watched as the sun set and the sky grew just a little colourful. Not as impressive as sunsets go, but still nice to be with. It took me back to the last sunset I sat on a mountain to watch, on the Western Arthurs, with two good friends, and I knew that that was the downside to walking alone. You could go at whatever pace suited, change plans as you pleased, yell out or laugh as loudly as you wanted, strip on a rock in the middle of the mountains, skip dinner without a fuss… but there was no one to sit around and eat dinner or share dessert with (I didn’t even bother to bring any), talk about the day and its discoveries, or wonder about tomorrow. And that’s a big loss. I realised I’ve been spoilt, my last solo multi-dayer having been in August last year (and that was only solo for one of the two nights) and before that, March. Very spoilt indeed. I know what I’d trade if I had the choice.

West Jukes slopes, looking back towards Pyramid.

West Jukes slopes, looking back towards Pyramid.

So instead of sitting around any longer in the cold (which wasn’t too bad, but my fingers could feel it), I headed back to my tent, and settled in to writing some notes as the horizon glowed red. I dozed off, woke at 10.30, and lay there, with the tent door and fly open, gazing up at the Milky Way. The clouds of the day had disappeared, and the sky was crystal clear. I wished I knew if and how to take a photo with my point and shoot. All I managed to get was white dots on a black screen (having managed to get them clear and not fuzzy didn’t make me feel any better). I lay there until I fell asleep again, waking a few hours later to the cold, and a slightly dewy sleeping bag, so I figured I should zip up. Sensible – the next time I woke it was to light rain!

Back to the tent.. loved the long line of Overland mountains.

Back to the tent.. loved the long line of Overland mountains.

By 6am the rain was gone (just as well, it wasn’t forecast!), venus was bright, there were lights out to sea (including a lighthouse) and I was out and up to my rock. Again, my camera (or rather more likely my inability) meant I found it hard to take photographs that represented what I was seeing, which was a bit disappointing, because sharing an experience is almost as important as having it (to me, anyway). Low mist covered Lake Burbury, and you wouldn’t have suspected it was there if you didn’t know. The larger of the islands poked their heads out. The mountain ranges were varying shades of blue, and the cloud above dark, the mood of someone not quite ready to wake.

Evening light over Burbury and Frenchmans

Evening light over Burbury and Frenchmans

But the day was starting, and the sun managed to push through gaps in the cloud, softly and gently at first, then with much more vigour. It cast its glow on Sorell and Darwin, on a band of cloud hovering near Frenchmans, and on the closer, but lower Fincham, Madge, Maud and Mary. Slowly, the mist dissipated. I was in no hurry to move, and stayed there for some time. Until my camera battery started flashing, and I realised when I went to switch it that I’d not charged my spare up at all. The flashing one went back in, I’d at least use it all up.

Sunset colours from my rock

Sunset colours from my rock

That ruined my mood, I was most frustrated with my own stupidity, and my phone was almost out of battery too. So my relaxing morning of reading and wandering got ditched (it was hard to concentrate on words when you had views to look at anyway) and I decided to head back to the car (where I could at least charge my phone) then on to Owen, and possibly home if I had time.

About the best the sun got.. spot the Goondie!

About the best the sun got.. spot the Goondie!

It was another warm day, and what had been thicker cloud in the morning quickly burnt off, leaving me with beautiful conditions to be walking down hill in. 2 hours to get from camp to the car, with plenty of time to just enjoy, though obviously less time for photos (I snuck in one or two, and my camera seemed to be fairing better now that it was warmer).

Sunrise the following morning. Light on Darwin and Sorell.

Sunrise the following morning. Light on Darwin and Sorell.

A short drive to Queenstown, then on to Gormanston, and I was ready to start walking at 11.40am. It was still warm, and an hour and 10 minute slog up the road had me sweating, a lot! It was such a different kind of walk, and I started out not liking it very much at all. It was barren, stark, hard and unforgiving, unwelcoming (the signs included). But there was something about it too, something that grew on me, particularly once I was off the road and facing the last 170m of off track walking. Somehow life grew there, the green-red-orangy tufts of grass colouring the mostly grey but occasionally pink graveyard of rock, blue sky overhead completing the picture.

Rays filter through the clouds, touching the flanks of mountains.

Rays filter through the clouds, touching the flanks of mountains.

The Abels was right, the conglomerate rock had some of the largest pebbles I’d ever seen, and true to word, the mountains you could see from the summit were as numerous and spectacular as from Jukes, particularly the Eldons! It was also especially nice to be able to look over to Jukes and wonder how I’d been up there just 4 hours before. The summit rock (that some people might find tricky to get on to) was not so tricky, and quite a nice spot to sit. The trig, however, wasn’t faring so well!

Gotta be hardy to survive..

Gotta be hardy to survive..

I didn’t stay too long though, aware that if I wanted to be home that night I needed to be at Derwent Bridge in time to get petrol. So down I went, running into a couple of guys who clearly paid as much attention to the ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ signs as me, and back to the car. A careful drive back on unsuspectingly slippery roads ensued, but eventually I was ‘home’.

Goodbye, lovely little spot. I'll be back!

Goodbye, lovely little spot. I’ll be back!

Pretty sure I’ll be back to this lovely little range, definitely with company. A big MUST for every off-track-walker’s list.

The road.. so much road.. up Owen.

The road.. so much road.. up Owen.

All up:

Jukes etc.: 13.9km, 7.5hrs, 1226m ascent.

Owen: 10km, 2.45hrs, 800m ascent.

See blog on Darwin, Sorell and South Darwin for more photos from the Jukes range :)!

It did grow on me.. very much, and quite to my surprise!

It did grow on me.. very much, and quite to my surprise!

Frenchmans makes another appearance.

Frenchmans makes another appearance.

More lovely views from near the summit

More lovely views from near the summit

Sitting on the summit boulder, looking over at Jukes and having a moment.

Sitting on the summit boulder, looking over at Jukes and having a moment.

And back down.. there's so many mountains out there...

And back down.. there’s so many mountains out there…

Owen GPS route

Owen GPS route.. I nearly forgot!

Sticht Range: 24-25 May 2014

Sticht Range GPS route

Sticht Range GPS route

It’s been a difficult few weeks, adapting to the changes in the weather and walking. Walking is my escape, it refreshes, revives and gets me through the week of work. Only for the last little bit I’ve been doing less of the overnight stuff, and for a few reasons it’s just not been the same. Often I come back as tired, or more so, than when I left. It’s also harder to look forward to a weekend of walking when the weather forecast is pretty foul! Donning cold, wet clothes and boots each morning, and packing away a tent in the rain or snow with frozen fingers is about the worst bushwalking can get.

 

Snot blocks in Queenstown!

Snot blocks in Queenstown!

Last weekend was supposed to be a ‘big one’, camping up high to enjoy either one or more of sunset, stars and sunrise, and a fairly significant mountain to climb (for my 400th peak bagging point – the point at which I become Peak Bagger Extraordinaire, apparently :p!!). The weather didn’t agree. It was forecast to be horribly wet and windy anywhere good, so plans were scratched and replaced with a two day wander round Freycinet. It was old territory, as were the three mountains we climbed, but there were lots of new things to enjoy, including hermit crabs, iridescent worms, a flock of 8 or so plovers, helmet orchids and yes, the sun as it set and rose. It turned out to be significant in ways other than planned, which was perhaps more fitting anyway.

 

Cars parked, blue sky, eager to get walking!

Cars parked, blue sky, eager to get walking!

That meant this week was now going to be the one, if we got to the top. I was organising a Pandani trip to the Sticht Range, which I knew very little about, just happened to see photos from other friends on Facebook and decided that they looked good, and we should go! So on the program it went, with little further thought. By Thursday the weather was looking pretty good, cloudy, but no rain for when we’d be walking. I was happy, and getting a bit excited. Friday was a lesson in not getting hopes up, with a revised forecast that promised to be wet and cloudy – great! But the weather was no better anywhere else, so there was no use enacting a plan b. A last minute pull out, and the group was down to 7, probably more ideal given the weather we were expecting.

 

That's our range!! :D and one of several random cairns by the road

That’s our range!! 😀 and one of several random cairns by the road

A night hard at work, knock off at 5am, and a sneak peak at the forecast lifted my spirits just a tad – the likelihood of rain had decreased, but we were still likely to be getting wet. Oh well, I had a great group of people coming, who all knew how to laugh in less than comfortable conditions, so I figured we’d be ok. The drive up had us going through rain and clag, but also showed promise with patches of lighter sky, and it was hard to tell just what we’d get. Again, I was most appreciative of the two who had volunteered to drive – very much aware that it would have been dangerous for me to be driving given how sleepy I was. I zoned out, listening to Urszula and Graham fixing the “world’s” problems, including everything from Tasmania’s health system to proposed federal changes to university funding. That sorted, I asked that they focus on the comparatively smaller issue of the weather… but Graham seemed rather a lot more reluctant to touch on that subject!

 

Just a few 'rivers' across the road! This the first of many.. no where near the deepest! One was after dark, just for something new ;). But as you can see, no one stopped smiling.

Just a few ‘rivers’ across the road! This the first of many.. no where near the deepest! One was after dark, just for something new ;). But as you can see, no one stopped smiling.

A regroup at Derwent Bridge, then at Queenstown, where we worked out how to use the unattended petrol station, found the loos, then came across our second car, in which the driver and three passengers were gorging themselves on vanilla slices (or snot blocks, as they are more familiarly known as!). The looks on our faces had them in tears laughing, a sound Queenstown seemed to need. Then we were off towards Zeehan, turning right onto Anthony road, and a short while later right again, onto the gravel road where we parked our cars in front of a locked gate.

Button grass, Lake Plimsoll, Mt Murchison, and rays of sun (no, not rain)

Button grass, Lake Plimsoll, Mt Murchison, and rays of sun (no, not rain)

 

It wasn’t raining, and we even had some blue sky and sunshine to start out with. That was exciting! We were aware that all this could, and probably would, change, but that just made us more grateful for it. And so began the 6km road walk. The weather remained favourable, cloud concealing the tops of mountains, including Murchison, but still giving us enough to be excited by. Some hadn’t ventured that far west at all, a fair few more of us not having done as much out that way as we’d have liked, and so we all had reason to smile as we took in the wilderness and wildness.

 

And another one of the lake.. love that some things manage to grow/survive in such places as this.

And another one of the lake.. love that some things manage to grow/survive in such places as this.

It was wetter than I’d expected, with a few unexpected waterways to cross on the road, that had half of the group wet footed relatively early on. Keeping dry feet turned out to be irrelevant, however, as it quickly became apparent that crossing the Anthony river was going to have us all wet footed! But first, we needed to find somewhere to camp. I’d not given this much thought or done any special research… figuring we’d find a place, and knowing from photographs that there were some corrugated iron sheds somewhere out there (but where, I realised, I had no idea!).

 

Our accommodation/concentration camp. Thanks muchly to the Rosebery Anglers Club!

Our accommodation/concentration camp. Thanks muchly to the Rosebery Anglers Club!

Bec’s wandering feet stumbled upon them though, and the decision was made to use them as our base camp (referred to, given a slight resemblance, as our concentration camp). The guys pitched inners in one bunker, three of the girls took the second, and two of us opted for a bit more air and room, and camped outside. There was another, which became our dining room. A very big thank you to the Rosebery Anglers Club, it was nice to know there was shelter to cook, eat, sleep and pack under if the weather became foul (and even when it wasn’t)!!

 

Ok, so maybe we won't cross right here!!

Ok, so maybe we won’t cross right here!!

It was after midday, so we ate a quick lunch around the outdoor picnic table, made the acquaintance of some cheeky leeches (at least Urszula did!), and then decided we better get moving, given we reckoned we only had 4 and a bit hours of daylight left. A quick recce before lunch to see if the river was going to be easily crossed further north had been answered with a definite NO, and so we wandered back south down the road, to a wider spot, where the water flowed more gently (but still with a bit of pull in places). Up to the knees, we now all had puddles in our boots – oh well!

Across the river, and on the way up.. looking towards Walford peak and the end of the Tyndall range

Across the river, and on the way up.. looking towards Walford peak and the end of the Tyndall range

 

There was some flat, and small patches of lighter scrub, but otherwise it was quite ok going through the button grass, thanks to decent leads by Ben and Graham. I think they’d both noticed I had hit a wall (pretty sure, given one’s ‘are you ok?’, and the other’s one-armed hug round my shoulder), and had stepped up to take the lead, but still consulted on whether I was happy with the line they’d picked. It was kind of unnecessary, I’m sure they both know I trust them implicitly when it comes to route finding/choosing, but it was thoughtful and nice to be included all the same.

A happy hiker :D!! Love it!

A happy hiker :D!! Love it!

We continued up in a stop and start fashion, pausing to enjoy the views and regroup whenever necessary. Not having walked in large groups for a while, I was reminded of the need to stay closer together, that everything takes longer as there are 7 people who need to do any one thing, rather than just one or two, and that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I became increasingly worried about walking back in the dark as it became a greater certainty. While it’s not something I mind at all, I was aware others might not be as comfortable with it, and was conscious that it was still supposed to rain, that it would likely get colder, and that walking in the dark is always slower, especially in a group.

 

:D More up.. and what a view we were lucky to have! Julia watches us.

😀 More up.. and what a view we were lucky to have! Julia watches us.

I began to worry that we wouldn’t (or rather, shouldn’t) make it, and I knew I wasn’t the only one making calculations about time, pace and possible conditions. I had the added worry of knowing that the high point I had marked on my GPS was the one on the peak baggers list, but I was pretty sure that there was a higher point to the north. The only problem was, I didn’t have its coordinates, and knew that if the mist dropped just a little bit further, we’d not be able to see it, and could potentially be walking around blind, trying to find a needle in a haystack. Oh well, I figured, somewhat fatalistically, what happened would happen.

 

Finally on the edge of the range, easy walking from here.. looking back south.

Finally on the edge of the range, easy walking from here.. looking back south.

Once over the steepest bit of climb, which happened to coincide with a slightly thicker bit of scrub too, the going was much easier, and we eventually found ourselves on the southern end of the range. We could see that the northern end was definitely the higher point. It was 3.30, 2.20hrs after we’d started out, and we only had about 2 hours of light left. We figured we had two choices, either all turn back then and there.. or have those that wanted to go for a run across the last 800m to the high point do so while the rest waited out of the wind.

 

And looking north at the real high point.. just a quick run ;)!

And looking north at the real high point.. just a quick (but not so flat) run ;)!

It was a decision that had to be made by the group. I felt uncomfortable enough for asking, being of the ‘where we go one, we go all’ kind of belief, but equally being selfish enough to want to celebrate 400 points with some really good friends, rather than on my own somewhere. And again, I was made aware of what good friends I do have. Ben and Graham were up for a run, and Catherine, Bec, Meredith and Urszula were all generous enough to urge us on, while they sheltered out of the wind.

Don't ask.. I don't know what's happening here! But that is the true high point ;)

Don’t ask.. I don’t know what’s happening here! But that is the true high point ;), and two crazy and wonderful friends!

I felt somewhat conflicted: guilty and wrong for wanting and asking to do something that not everyone could or would want to do, but touched that they were happy and kind enough to allow it (or join in in the craziness). I can remember all too well the disappointment of not reaching or continuing to a summit due to nightfall on a few of my earlier club walks, and it’s not something I want anyone to feel on the walks I lead.

Back out the following day.. reflections on Lake Plimsoll, just as the slightest of breezes starts to ruffle the surface

Back out the following day.. reflections on Lake Plimsoll, just as the slightest of breezes starts to ruffle the surface

Part of that could have been avoided through better planning and more research, but an element of the unknown is something I love about going to new places so I tend to resist doing a lot of research (and perhaps I’m also just a little lazy, and don’t like pestering others for too much information). It seems the real key is to have a good group of people around you, who are prepared to come for a run, or to sit and wait, to walk back by head torch with the threat of possible rain, and to place complete trust in your ability to follow a red line on a gps screen. People who remain happy even when they’re past being tired, who keep laughing and joking, sometimes singing, even if they might be concerned about something, people who you can rely on to play certain roles.. people who look out for one another, who praise, encourage, motivate and help as needed. I’m lucky enough to know and walk with friends like this, both on this trip, and almost every other trip I’ve been on.

 

So, the decision made, off the three of us we trotted…at what was supposed to be a sustainable pace! The going was relatively flat, but you don’t realise that when you’re running, even slight rises feel like hills, and you suddenly realise that even the flatter sections were far from it – every step you either hit a hard bump sooner than expected, or fell half a foot deeper than you thought you’d go. Not good for the two sore knees and a sore ankle between the three of us, but there were more important things to worry about! We did slow down for the final climb, and to negotiate a few metres of waist high light scrub.. oh, and the odd face plant from me (sometimes it’s easier just to go with the flow than to resist, especially when there’s a helping hand to get you back upright!).

 

9 minutes after having left the others we were standing on the summit, two rocks marking the high point. We heard a yell from the others, Graham spotted a camera flash, and I sent back a whistle. 2 minutes for a precarious group hug standing around the cairn, some photos that are better left without an attempt at explanation, and back down we ran. Another 9 minutes, a glance or two back as the summit retreated behind a white cloud of mist, and we were back with the others, puffed, a little sore, but mission accomplished! A celebratory mini Mars Bar each and it was time to retreat as fast as we could.

 

We made pretty good time back down, until we were left without sufficient natural light and on went the head torches. It still hadn’t rained, for which I was immensely grateful, because not only would it have made things even wetter and probably rather miserable, we were already having enough trouble staying upright on slippery ground! In one spot four of us who were a little further ahead than the other three went down one by one in the space of a few seconds!! But we were still having fun, and it was really lovely to be out at night in the mountains.

 

The constant lack of control over footsteps and movement did get a tad tiring, and I know at times I certainly felt like I imagine a drunk trying to walk in a straight line would feel! It was with relief that we arrived back at the river, where we found it a little calmer, but still strong enough in one spot. Across, water collected for dinner, and a short walk back to the cabins/concentration camp ;).. we all squashed in around two tables and cooked our respective dinners. Plenty of well meaning and parentally advice was given out in good humour but with a hint of seriousness, Miso soup was offered and gratefully accepted, and the banter continued.. Trangia meditation, food with numbers..all sorts of random topics.

 

I was exhausted, my eyes would barely stay open, so I sat back and listened, enjoying the sound of happy contentment. This, much more than the 400 points, was the highlight of my day, and perhaps a gift I’m not sure any realised they’d given.

 

The following morning I awoke and enjoyed a thin fingernail moon sitting low over Sticht, and the Milky way overhead, during a brief call of nature and wander around. An hour later, and a few spots of rain (but nothing more!), the cloud was in and the stars were hiding, but the mountains stood proud under the white blanket. It was nice to see their tops. We had a lazy start, woke up properly when it came time to put our feet back into cold and wet socks and shoes, and set off shortly after 9. The road walk was leisurely, interrupted by frequent stops to enjoy the perfect reflections of mountains in Lake Plimsoll, to take photos, to regroup, or just to keep on chatting. It was nice to have no urgency, I really wasn’t in a hurry to be going home!

 

Less than 2 hours later we were back at the cars, dressed, and enjoying a mixture of lunch, chips, chocolate and nuts. A long drive home, again very grateful not to be driving, a wedgie up close and a swamp harrier too (?)… there are lots of things to smile at in life :).

 

All up: 21.6km, 1016m ascent, 10 hours.. and some very awesome people to call friends.