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!

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Tyndall and Gieke: 20-21 October 2013

 

Tyndall and Gieke GPS route

Tyndall and Gieke GPS route

Knowing that I was going on the Pandani walk to Mother Cummings Head on the Saturday, and it being my birthday on the Monday, I had the perfect excuse (like I need one) to stay up north for two days and have some fun exploring other mountains. The weather was looking not too shabby, few showers on the Sunday, cloudy on the Monday, so I planned to check out Tyndall, Gieke and Sedgewick.

 

Part way up the climb, Dundas in the distance

Part way up the climb, Dundas in the distance

They’d been on my ‘list’ for some time, after having seen some photos on the bushwalking forum. The late finish on the Sunday though, and me having been up since 9pm Friday night working then walking, meant that the planned walk up to camp on the plateau turned into a drive to Lake Plimsol and a night in the back of the car under a full moon. We were both too tired to pitch tents, and as I got into my sleeping bag and checked the time, I realised I’d been going solid for 24 hours, on not much sleep. No wonder I was tired! But I still had energy for a bit of excitement before sleeping – I discovered that static electricity is visible as small flashes in the dark!! That was kind of cool!

 

On top, and the views open out. Gieke (R) and Sedgewick (L)

On top, and the views open out. Gieke (R) and Sedgewick (L)

Despite the slight discomfort of the back seat (I hadn’t even bothered to inflate my mat), I slept the whole night, waking slightly to turn when the aches got too much. Shortly after 6 I was up and ready to go, albeit a tad stiff and weary. I went for a wander, climbed a few small hills to check out the view and take some photos in the morning light, then it was back to the car, pack everything up and into the pack, and drive to the start of the walk.

 

Imagine this in April!!

Imagine this in April!!

We headed off at 7.30, though I’m not sure what we were doing, because it took us nearly 30 minutes to walk to and sign the log book! But the slow, relaxed pace continued, neither of us too fussed, given we had all day to make camp and wander over to Gieke. I had to save one mountain for Monday so I could open a birthday card from my awesome sister while sitting on the summit. Sedgewick was only going to have been possible if we’d made it up on top the night before, or if we were going to push. But the mood from the day before was still hanging around, and it was definitely one of peaceful relaxation and enjoyment. This was not a ‘peak bagging’ trip in that sense, and that was quite appropriate.

 

Perfect camping!!

Perfect camping!!

So we took our time, and enjoyed the views countless times as we plodded up the 700 metre climb, chatting about rocks and all sorts of other things. Rocks had to feature, given Bec was on swot vac and she’s studying rocks ;).. besides, it was rather nice to be walking amongst conglomerate instead of the usual dolerite, and I was  interested in how it was formed. So frequent were our pauses to take in the view northwest/west over Reed and Dundas and out to sea and our chatting that it took us about 3 hours to get on top! Whoops!! The logbook container has etched onto its lid that Tyndall (400 m to the north of where you pop out on top) was a 3.5 hour RETURN walk… well…

 

Heading out to Gieke.. love those rocks

Heading out to Gieke.. love those rocks

Anyway, we headed straight for the campsite described in the Abels, and it was perfect. The flattest, softest ground I’ve ever camped on, surrounded by beautiful views, with abundant pools of water to swim in or drink from.. oh, and a chorus of frogs all day and night to sing you to sleep!

 

Uh-oh.. Eldon Peak is calling my name!!

Uh-oh.. Eldon Peak is calling my name!!

The tents were quickly erected, and we had a bite to eat, before donning seemingly weightless daypacks and heading off in the direction of Gieke. The views only continued to open up as we wandered along, and I set eyes on Eldon Peak for the first time… uh-oh.. there’s another mountain calling my name! We also got to check out the approach to Sedgewick, and I was satisfied it would be a good little walk for a later date, with one scrubby band to negotiate.

 

Gieke up close

Gieke up close

Onwards we went.. having a number of private, and sometimes shared ‘Oh wow’ moments as the views unravelled. The approach to Gieke is quite interesting, as you’re walking along a flatish plateau, which climbs slowly as you approach, then bends round to the left, and as you get closer you realise the right side of the plateau starts to fall away, quite a fair bit sharper than you’d imagine, leaving quite an interesting and unique looking peak given the right distance and angle. There’s just a little bit of a climb at the end, to make you feel like you’ve actually been ‘up’ something, and more awesome views from the summit.

 

View towards Sedgewick, Eldon Peak from Gieke

View towards Sedgewick, Eldon Peak from Gieke

We sat there and chatted some more, munching on yummy ginger cake (ta mum!), until the freshness in the wind and the threatening rain drove us back to the tents. We were relieved to find them standing where we’d left them, the forecasted ‘light winds’ being a tad stiffer at height (given my experience on the Frankland range I think I’ll always have that feeling every time I return to find my tent still there).

 

View from Tyndall summit

View from Tyndall summit

We drunk soup (ta Bec) then decided it was time to read some Kindle.. then the weather decided the rest for us! Rain and a fast descending mist kept us in our tents, and I ended up dozing off, waking and eating a bar or two (I’m the laziest walker ever, and I don’t like to cook in my vestibule), reading some more, then sleeping all night long! I didn’t get the sunset, or even the sunrise I was so keen on, but my sleeping bag birthday present was amazing.. I wore less than I’ve ever worn, and was nice and warm all night long! That’s just cut back on weight for the Western Arthurs this summer :)!!

 

View from Tyndall high point

View from Tyndall high point. Pretty impressive cliffs!!

So the next morning we weren’t in any rush to get moving, given the mist was still down nice and low (mental note: cloud means whiteout when you’re camping up high, duh!). So we packed leisurely, and headed off when we were ready. We dropped our packs near the edge of the plateau, and made off into the mist towards the waypoint I had marked as the peak on my GPS. It seemed rather flat when we got there, with no sign it might be a high point (a look at my GPS now that I’m back says it was the highest point in metres above sea level), so we wandered north, spotting a possible cairn in the mist. We did come across the trig point, VERY clearly marked (with survey markers at all four corners), though there was no actual trig. It was definitely worth walking up here, as there were some very tantalising misty views down the cliff face that I hadn’t been aware was even there!

 

Conglomerate

Conglomerate… lovely to walk on!

I got to open my birthday card (great big smile), eat some snakes, read lots of nice messages on FB from friends, and take in the view. Then it was a matter of moving once we’d cooled down, and we were back at the packs quite fast. The walk up Tyndall is not much of a climb at all.

 

Donning our packs again, we headed back down, reluctantly, as neither of us really wanted the walk to end. Bec at least had a few more days of west coast exploring up her sleeve, I had to return to go to work at 1am the following morning… Despite dragging our heels, we were back at the cars 1.40 hrs later, with enough time to have a delicious lunch at “The Track” (at the old train station, thanks again Bec!).

 

Plenty of these to look at and dream about on the way home!

Plenty of these to look at and dream about on the way home!

We parted ways, and I enjoyed the drive through the mountains..

 

As I lay in the dark that night, I thought of just how special the day had been. Happily content with life, I said a silent thank you to all the good people I know and am lucky enough to call friends.

 

All up: 18.2km, 1229m ascent.