Penny West and Patrick (Great Lakes): 29 April 2019

Mount Penny West GPS route

Mount Patrick GPS route

What better way to celebrate a birthday than to go for a walk? Graham’s birthday was during the week, so we figured we’d celebrate a tad early. Though we had all weekend and the Monday to head out, the weather meant Monday was the only feasible day. A last minute call on Sunday to the Triffits had key arrangements in place so we could climb Mount Patrick up at the Great Lakes. We also planned on climbing Mount Penny West (no key needed) and Sandbanks Tier (for the 4thtime for me) because they were both close and short and would allow us to make a full day of the outing.

A relaxed start became even slower when we got stuck behind a convoy of massive trucks ferrying wind farm parts up north, and we arrived 10 minutes late to pick up our key. A short drive later, following the Abel’s accurate instructions, and we found a spot to park to climb Penny West.

We didn’t do so well determining what the ‘clearing’ 300m down the road was, as it all looked pretty much the same, but never mind. The going was open enough, with the knee high scrub easy to weave through, if a tad prickly on now soft knees (yes, it’s been that long since the last scrub bash!). We found the gully the Abels described and found it easy going. Close to the top we weren’t sure exactly where the high point was, so we climbed on bit of rock and used it to get a bearing. We weren’t far off, perhaps 30-40 metres WSW, and we ducked over to climb the cairn and enjoy views of the lake from the top.

On the way back we ignored the GPS and walked in a rough line, knowing if we veered slightly left we’d just hit the road earlier. It was just as easy on the way down, although the uneven and not often traversed terrain was quick to punish moments of inattention.

All up: 2.7km, 90m ascent, 1:07 hrs (including 10 minutes on top).

Car park spot at the foot of Penny West

Car park spot at the foot of Penny West

Graham on the summit of Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

Typical walking off Penny West

We jumped back in the car and made our way through the two locked gates, stopping at the third. We realized the Abel’s description of the walk up Patrick made for the shortest off track walk, but given the terrain wasn’t difficult we decided to improvise.

Instead of walking north up the road and approaching from the north, we headed east instead until we gained the ridge leading NNE to the summit. It was all on open scree, with small bands of scrub that could be easily avoided with a bit of weaving. With the sun out, the breeze minimal and the birds singing away there wasn’t much lacking.

The summit was a small cairn with stick, but not much of a view. We ducked over to the west of the summit where we could sit and eat lunch while looking out towards the lake. It was so relaxing I nearly dozed off in the sun while Graham played with his new camera. We chose to retrace our footsteps back as the walking had been so nice. The downhill was even more enjoyable than the up had been, mostly because my viral infected lungs could breathe a bit easier!

All up: 2.3km, 147m ascent, 1:32 hrs (including 30 minutes lunch on top).

Locked Gate #1

Locked Gate #2

Climbing up Patrick – awesome scree field

Mount Patrick summit cairn

We dropped the key off on the way back, and made a quick duck up Sandbanks Tier before heading back home. The route is not described here as I’ve written about it before, though the going is much the same. Some kind soul has built cairns over the scree fields. They’re not really needed but I imagine they’re reassuring for less experienced walkers. We celebrated with yummy Thai takeaway – not something we do often, but a perfect finish to the day and a lovely treat for hungry tummies!

While Penny West and Patrick aren’t worth any points on the HWC peakbaggers list, they are both Abels, and mean Graham and I have 25 and 9 left to climb respectively. We’ll have to savor them for as long as we can!

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Little Eldons: 26-29 December 2018

Little Eldons GPS route (ignore the straight line, the GPS ran out of batteries on the way back)

Little Eldons GPS route (ignore the straight line, the GPS ran out of batteries on the way back)

 

It’s always exciting when you haven’t been walking for AGES, and you know you have 4 days and some good weather. Our choice this time was the Little Eldons – not an official name, I don’t think, but that’s what they are. The Little Eldons includes the smaller range from Pyramid Mountain to Last Hill that runs east-west and sits south of the Eldon range. This was to be a ‘get fit’ trip in preparation for the POW, which didn’t actually happen due to the bushfire situation.

We knew a little of what we were in for, having walked out Pigeon House Hill track from the Eldon range a few years ago, and from other friends’ trip reports and photos. We also knew we were very unfit, which was apparent from how long it took us to pack and how rusty we felt doing it. What had once been a streamlined process took double the time it should have!

Sure enough, after getting home from a Christman night shift, we drove up and enthusiastically began the plod up Pigeon House Hill. We could feel the unfamiliar weight of a full pack on our backs and the strain in our legs and lungs almost immediately. My knee started niggling. The heat was oppressive. It took much longer than we expected to make it to our campsite at the base of Rocky Hill, and we were so tired we didn’t even get round to writing notes.

Early views.. nice part of the world!

Early views.. nice part of the world!

And home for the next three nights is in that bowl over there, under Rocky Hill

And home for the next three nights is in that bowl over there, under Rocky Hill

Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains

Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains

There was to be no reprieve though, we had two even bigger days to follow. For the first we decided to head up Rocky Hill and to the west. We found the scrub free route up pineapple grass to the Rocky Hill ridge, thanks to our GPS route from our Eldons trip. We would further refine this route throughout the the trip – we’d walk up or back from the camp site a total of 4 times.

It didn’t take us long to be back on top Rocky Hill, where we weren’t surprised to find there was no water. The ridge to Camp Hill was obvious, and we headed initially in a NW direction along an open topped ridge, before dropping down into open forest. It took some attention to ensure we stayed on the ridgeline, which was pretty narrow at the saddle. The climb up the far side then began to Camp Hill.

From memory (which is a bit fuzzy by now), the scrub was worse climbing up Camp Hill than it was between Camp Hill and Last Hill and it took us 3 hrs (from Rocky Hill) compared to 1.5 hrs (from Camp to Last Hill). By the time we arrived at Last Hill it was mid afternoon and we were tired and a little scratched up. We took a few summit photos, before heading back to camp. It was a VERY tired plod back, and it felt wonderful to sidle around the northern side of Rocky Hill and drop back down to camp.

I was ready for bed before the sun had even set. Fortunately Graham was still doing his teeth and told me in no uncertain terms I’d better get out of the tent. I didn’t quite understand, but it was quickly apparent. Not only was there a full rainbow on the horizon, the sky was bright pink. While Rocky Hill blocked our view to the west and therefore the sun set, the effect to the east was possibly just as spectacular. It was enough to put a smile on our weary faces.

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Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit

Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit

Last Hill summit

Last Hill summit

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High Dome and a few other friendly faces

High Dome and a few other friendly faces

Sunset and rainbow

Sunset and rainbow

Day 3 we were headed in the opposite direction, to Pyramid Mountain. We knew there was a pad to Junction Hill, but had forgotten how overgrown it was. Our knees were already tender from the previous day, and this part definitely woke us up. Junction Hill was almost as dry as Rocky had been, though we found one or two small puddles that we would later return to when we needed to fill our bottles.

The ridge to Pyramid Mountain looked great from here, and we headed off happily across low alpine heath in a SE direction. A few very old pine markers were redundant on such an open ridge given the sunny weather we had. They might have been more appropriate in a whiteout, except that they petered out unexpectedly! When the ridge turned 90 degrees to the left, and we had to head more NEE, we hit the worst bit of scrub. The knees were on fire now, and Graham decided it was worth wearing overpants despite the heat. It’s amazing how you forget simple lessons when you haven’t been walking, and I decided I was going to try the walking in long pants from now on for scrubby walks! I was too stubborn to sacrifice my overpants this time though, so we made quite slow progress through the scrub. The worst of it was at the start, after which it was much easier to weave an open path and avoid the big clumps.

We chose not to climb up and over the next high point, but sidled around on the contour. This meant we stayed in fairly open forest where the going was easy, until we popped out onto the next saddle, which was open. And then we just had the climb up the mountain! We zigged and zagged, keeping the rocky parts and avoiding the scrub. It was really hot, and we were pretty tired, but eventually got to the top. While the views were stunning, the ants detracted from the dining experience, and we didn’t spend a lot of extra time on top after we’d eaten.

Once again, the plod back was a slow and weary exercise in putting one foot in front of the other. The only energy we had left came from the satisfaction of knowing we’d achieved what we’d set out to do. We slept long and deep again, barely aware of the rain on the tent.

The walk out was not a great deal faster than the walk in had been, because we weren’t in any rush. We took the time to avoid the scratchy scrub as best we could, enjoy the birds, avoid the snakes and take photos of the Christmas bells.

Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.

Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.

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Pyramid mountain summit, looking south. There’s a Frenchman there

Towards Gould's SL and a friend (we discovered later)

Towards Gould’s SL and a friend (we discovered later)

Those mountains again

Those mountains again

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The moment Graham slipped… crossing the Collingwood

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Reacquainting myself with the mountian flowers

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Christmas Bells… well named!

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Three everlastings

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And a bit of lichen stuff….

All up:

Day 1: 11.5km, 7:11hrs, 871m ascent

Day 2: 13.5km, 11:18hrs, 941m ascent

Day 3: 18.2km, 12ish hrs, 990m ascent

Day 4: 11.6km, 7hrs, 333m ascent

Norfolk Range: 12-21 February 2019

Norfolk range GPS route

Well, it’s been a while! In that time I’ve completed honours, finished my internship, secured a permanent job, and got to play the current (and very long reigning) royal tennis ladies world champion! But enough, you’re here to read about walking (I assume!).

The Prince of Wales range was off for the second year in a row. The fires across Tassie meant Gordon River Road was closed, and though it reopened a day or two before we were due to leave, we then had the opposite problem of heavy rain! We were already on Plan b, which we delayed for 4 days, coming up with a fairly flexible Plan c.

The walk was chosen because it was sufficiently long, sufficiently challenging and remote enough to be off track but still within less than a day’s walk to the road if we needed to get out. It was also one of the few ranges we had left to check out. A FB message to a veteran bushwalker who I’d first met here led to an invitation for a chat, and that meant we had some fairly solid intel (if a little dated), a few route suggestions we’d never have come up with and a warning or two about the scrub!

Day 1

We set off on a rainy day, hoping we’d cop the worst of it in the car. We certainly did, although the frequent but short lived squalls of rain and at times hail were to be a feature of our first few days walking too. After more than 7 hours in the car, we arrived at the 4WD track to Hazelton. There is a sign that prohibits motorbikes or dirt bikes, and perhaps also 4WDs but that’s not certain, the little icon has been ripped off. There’s nothing to say where the track leads, however!

We were so excited to actually be out walking that we raced along so fast we all walked straight past our turnoff a few kilometres after starting. We only realised when the track we were on petered out to something much less substantial. We briefly considered cutting across to meet the track we were meant to be on, but quickly realised the road was a better option. It didn’t take us long to find a camp spot near the Daisy River, at the foot of the climb up Hazelton, only a few hours after having started out. We chose a sheltered spot amongst the mud walled castles the yabbies had chose to build atop their holes, almost as if it was a symbol of status to have the tallest, most impressive looking one. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t going to wait for us, and we pitched our tents under yet another wind driven shower, full rainbow in the background as if to make it a little more cheery. We didn’t get back out until a break in the rain around midnight allowed us to relieve our bladders while staying dry. The rain and hail continued throughout the night, along with some distant thunder.

We start the walk with more than 7 hrs in the car, and 2 on a 4WD track.. It’s not long before we see our first mountain, Hazelton

We’re nearly at our camp site, getting excited for tomorrow.

The rain doesn’t wait and we get soaked pitching our tents

Day 2

We were pleasantly surprised to wake to some blue sky and even a bit of sun. We set off shortly after 8, Graham seeking recognition for only being 10 minutes late ;)! The first part of the day was to be done with day packs, for which I was grateful. The climb up Hazelton was steep enough that I was surprised the 4WDs had made it up as far as they had. We puffed our way up, soon warm in our rain jackets that were on more for the wind than anything else, although partly in anticipation of inevitable rain.

Eventually the double track became a walking pad, and a short climb later we found ourselves in the forest. There was indeed quite a nice camp spot, as recommended in Tarkine Trails. The only downside to it was the distance you’d have to lug full packs and water. We continued on, popping out of the forest and taking a very short walk to the summit of Hazelton. It was marked by an impressive cairn, and would have been much more enjoyable if the wind wasn’t so vicious and the latest squall of rain approaching rapidly (we got about 30 seconds warning each time).

It was 9:30, and we had a long chat about whether it was feasible to walk out to Lily and back, and then all the way along the plains with our full packs to the foot of West Bluff. We ended up deciding to give it a crack. That meant we had roughly an hour to get to Woody Peak and another hour to get to Lily. We got to the start of the scrub on Woody peak (aptly named!) after 30 minutes, feeling pretty good. We then decided to head to the top of the scrub free zone, then contour round the peak in the scrub, heading down as and when needed. As it so happened this cost us 30 minutes of tangling through bauera then horizontal rubbish, until we headed directly for the ridge line, where we found an old cut track! Well didn’t that make for much easier going!! From there it took something like 45 minutes return to Lily!

On the return we stopped for lunch just shy of the summit of Woody peak, where the cut track just ran out. Though we looked around for a bit, we ended up going for a scrub bash straight down to our other track, intersecting close to where the scrub had started. Even though it was downhill, the bauera was foul and you were often a few feet above the ground (before you fell through!). We reasoned that the track was old enough that it had been put in before the bauera had grown up, so while we had lots of scrub to get through, those that had cut the track probably had done so to the end of the scrub. We trudged back up Hazelton, pack covers cracking in the wind like freshly washed sheets.

We made it back to our tents at 3pm sharp, right on our estimated limit. We got to pack up in sun, and set off on the long trudge through open buttongrassy plains to the foot of West Bluff. Horizontal, wind-driven rain blinded us shortly after starting out, forcing us to stop and stand, backs to the wind as we literally couldn’t see where we were going. 10 minutes later we were drenched, but in the sun again. It wasn’t tough going, but it was a long way. There were an increasing number of creeks to cross, and John managed to fall in one. Graham did an exceptional job navigating, and we made good progress even through the scrubby creeks, until we got to the biggest river we had to cross all trip. It involved a 40m steep and scrubby drop and climb back up through horrible green stuff. It took it out of us so late in the day and we ended up stopping a bit short of our intended goal at the foot of West Bluff so we could set up tents in the light. Once again rain had us cooking in our respective tents.

Day 2 and we start with a climb up Hazelton. It’s super windy but still warm for the climb

The forest camp before the summit of Hazelton is nice, unfortunately you’d have to lug all your water up

On the summit of Hazelton looking south, there’s more rain and a touch of hail!

There was some open walking as we head out to Lily

And heading back. Hazelton in the far right, Woody peak lived up to its name, until we found an old cut track! Only took us half an our of scrub bashing through horizontal

Back on Hazelton, it’s a bit brighter and the guys let me take a photo

Hazelton is a nice summit

We get back to our tents, pack up and move around to below West Bluff. It’s a long day.

Day 3

We woke, sluggishly, to a claggy day. The first question was from John, something along the lines of what do we want to do?! He’d developed some blisters from his old shoes, selected for this walk specifically to avoid that (not happy), and Graham had a sore back and knee. I wasn’t faring too badly, except a tad tired. The fatigue was prevalent, secondary only to a distinct reluctance to get out and wet with no views for reward, and we decided to stay in our tents, ditch the walk up West Bluff and Mabel, and just do the short distance from where we were camped to the foot of Norfolk. We spent the morning dozing on and off instead, listening to the gentle drizzle of rain as it came and went. Gone was the heavy wind driven explosive bouts of rain and hail of the last two days, but with the gentle drizzle came mist and a generally much more subdued mood.

We ate an early lunch and set off shortly after 1pm. The next three hours were a very cruisey wander through ankle to knee high buttongrassy, heathy low lying stuff typical of the north west, with the odd creek to cross. Fortunately none were of the magnitude of yesterday! The raincoats went on and off more than ever for such a short walk. The wildlife was just as elusive as the last two days, and we only saw the odd ground parrot, flushed out from their cover when we walked too close for their comfort. The tally for the last two days was something like a few more ground parrots, rosellas, a yabbie, a whistler (by sound only), a kangaroo and some kind of bird of prey. Others for the trip would include wedgies, a whip snake, frogs, cicadas, crickets and shrike thrushes. On our arrival at the river next to Mount Norfolk, we spent 5 or so minutes flattening our knee high scrub in order to set up tents, and ended up with something that gave us a very comfortable night’s sleep! We then had a lovely entree of biscuits, brie and port while we rejigged our plans to ensure we could still have a crack at all the mountains we wanted to climb. This was our kind of glamping ;)! We rejoiced at a brief ray of sun, hoping the fine weather would come in time for tomorrow, and then prepared for an early dinner and even more sleeping.

We did a lot of camping in scrub. We were so exhausted after day 2 that we took an easy day and only walked 3 hrs to the foot of Mount Norfolk, instead of attempting West Bluff and Mabel

Day 4

Today was the day. Well, it was just another day, but it was the day we would set out to climb the mountain after which the Norfolk range was named, along with Helen Peak. When Chris was answering all my questions he told me whatever I did, I wasn’t to come back and say Helen was easy. So while this would be one of the shortest (distance-wise) days of our trip, it was bound to be a big one.

We were up and ready to go at 8. There had been a bit of rain overnight so the scrub was nicely damp, but the weather was looking like it might behave. The grey clouds were still hanging around, but there were lighter patches, and even the odd blue bit. We set off and found an easy way across the river. Graham and John had thrown a few extra rocks in the night before to build up a preexisting ford, and the scrub wasn’t thick on the far side. Then it was up and up. We made excellent progress and looked to well and truely be on top in the time we’d set.

Then John asked for a break at the top of the next rise… We never got there. We hit scrub thick enough you couldn’t tell where it was. We floundered for a bit, then hit some slightly more open forest on the right hand side of the ridge we were on, right between it and top/left hand side of the ridge, which seemed to be pretty thick bauera and cutting grass and other horrid green stuff. We headed upwards in that fashion until our lead ran out, and once again we were having a bash.

We confused ourselves with grid references that didn’t make sense until later, when we realised we’d headed up a different ridge to the one we thought we were. But that didn’t change the scrub. We were glad to pop out into waist high tea tree and at least get a sense of where we were. We found the summit by gps, or at least the scrubby patch that marked it. The bigger highlight was heading for the trig point and actually being able to see part of a view! Even better we had unexpected phone reception, and we sent a few quick messages.

Given the time it had taken to get through the unexpected scrub to the summit, we weren’t sure we’d have the time to get to Helen and back. Chris might have mentioned scrub that was best tackled walking backwards, and some of the worst bauera you can imagine. We’d already seen a bit of that, and weren’t keen for any more than necessary. While Graham was doing last minute stuff on his phone and John was taking a photo of the trig, I went to scout ahead. We’d already agreed we’d walk ‘to the edge’ and see what the terrain looked like. You can imagine my surprise and glee, then, when I walked straight onto a cut track. It was the thing of dreams. An hour later we were standing gleefully on Helen, feeling like we owed someone lots of beer. It was as easy going as you could possibly have had!! The sun came out to celebrate with us, so we hung out all our wet gear while we ate lunch and felt pretty lucky for having such good fortune.

We were tempted on our return to use the ridge we had meant to climb up, but such is the top of Norfolk that it’s not actually possible to walk to the edge and see said ridge. We had to choose then between the devil we knew (and already had a bashed track up) and the chance of an easier route down. We wimped out and went with retracing our steps. When we finally pushed out of the last bit of scrub we enjoyed every moment of the dry, sunny walk down the open ridge. The crickets were out, the sun shone so brightly it hurt to look out to sea where the sun reflected silver off the water, and for the first time the scrub crunched instead of squealched underfoot. It finally felt like summer!!

Back at the tents by 6:30 and we celebrated with another round of brie and biscuits, accompanied by soup instead of port (there was none of that left ;)! ). While we ate we cemented our plans for the next day’s walking. We were slightly off course from our original plans due to us scratching West Bluff and Mabel on day 3, so we were trying to fit them in slightly differently. Only tomorrow would tell if we had got it right, or been way too ambitious!

Day 4 we head up Mt Norfolk. We didn’t expect so much scrub. On the summit we find a slightly more open patch within the trees. I don’t think the map helped much

We then headed for the trig, not sure we could take a whole heap more scrub to get to Helen

We checked out the route to Helen, and it looked scrubby. just as well we found a cut track!!! Made it much more enjoyable!

And now you see why they call it horizontal. This is a very young example. Imagine lots of thick sturdy branckes, add another few layers of the same, and now you have some of the ‘play equipment’ we had to climb our way through.

Just shy of the summit of Helen Peak, the sun came out and we dried off while we ate.

Back down, we’re happy we got to the top, Graham and John pose for the photo. It doesn’t give any indication of the scrub below Norfolk!

Day 5

We woke to the sound of our alarms, tiredly so given all of us had spent some time during the night listening to the wind roar around us, but only very occasionally buffet our tents. This was to be another big day – but more so because of the unknown component. The start was easy: eat, pack and walk the few kilometres back to a spur we had identified might take us directly to Mabel… IF we didn’t run into too much horrendous scrub. If we did, well… we could waste a lot of time and energy and have to turn around before we summited. Never a thought we like to entertain, but always a possibility when walking in unfamiliar territory. And this was very unknown terrain. The maps we were using were 40 years old, our intel was from the 1990s, and while we’d looked at satellite imagery, that was also not proving to be super accurate. But there’s nothing like a bit of mystery to spur you on. And I was feeling slightly sheepish that we’d got off so lucky with the cut track to Helen yesterday. Maybe today would be the day to really cut our teeth on this walk.

We were at our planned camp site in just over an hour and got to work setting up our tents. The weather was weird. The clouds were moving from an easterly direction (everything so far had been driven from the west) and they were bringing with them low mist. It was not the fine and rain free day we were expecting. As we started up our ridge and entered the cloud, visibility was cut to about 20 metres. That certainly kept us wondering when we’d hit the scrub. We couldn’t believe our luck that we were still moving freely as we approached the main ridge, though we could see why we’d thought the ridge looked scrubby. It must have been burnt out some years back, and the top had only regrow to a stunted length, but as we approached the main ridge where we’d turn right to get to Mabel we could see thick tea tree scrub looming in the mist on both our flanks. It was quite a weird experience, much like the parting of the sea, but we were getting used to that on this walk!

We turned right and continued along the ridge, getting ever so close to Mabel, still walking relatively easily, though now having to weave more between thicker, higher scrub and cutting grass clumps. And then the inevitable, we came hard up against a solid wall of tea tree. The fire had only made it so far. But never mind, almost as if I knew it was there I walked us straight onto yet another cut track. This was becoming more than just coincidental. Does anyone know who was responsible? A North West bushwalking club perhaps? We were certainly very grateful again.

In any case, our track took us through some scrub, some lovely forest, and a bit more scrub. We popped out just before the summit and found a very rusted handsaw hanging from a tree! By now the cloud was breaking up a bit so we had patches of sun in amongst the rolling mist. We ducked over to the summit, another of those ones that’s covered in scrub, where we took it in turns to stand on the highest clump of cutting grass to take a photo of the ‘view’. We then walked back to an open bit with some slightly more extensive views (when the cloud allowed). We had enough sun to dry our gear out as we ate.

Feeling happy with our progress and the prospect of there being cut tracks through scrubby sections, John suggested we do a circuit up and over West Bluff. We had been saving it to climb from the plain to its west the next day before walking out, but this option would definitely save us time. We’d originally thought it would be too ambitious as we knew there were two scrubby sections, but the prospect of a cut track changed that. We decided to check the first scrubby section out to see if we could find the start of a cut track, and make our choice based on that. Sure enough, it was close to where we expected it. And so we started out on a lovely walk down the ridge that leads off Mabel, popping out of the forest near the bottom, and wandering happily along open ridges and rises on the way to West Bluff. We startled ground parrots and the odd rosella as we went, and made sure we took time to absorb the views.

When we got to the start of the scrub up West Bluff we found a very overgrown cut track and managed to follow/clear it all the way to the first high point. Then, try as we might, it became impossible to stay on. We’d find random bits of cut wood, but nothing resembling a track. We spent a good deal of time making our way across the saddle to the actual summit of West Bluff, another scrubby one. By this stage we were pretty stuffed, and we discovered the northern edge was scrub free, so sat there, ate, drank, and told the world we were ok. As we did, we were treated to a fly-by of two wedgies at fairly close range – just amazing! Once again, we also enjoyed the sound of the sea – a slightly odd experience when sitting on the top of a mountain, but one we were getting used to!

We eventually recovered our senses, realised it was nearly 5pm and we had a fair way to go still, so decided it was time to check out the trig on the way down. We disturbed a resident wallaby on our way to the somewhat worse for wear trig. West Bluff is another of those mountains you can’t immediately see the ridge down, you just have to trust it’s there until you get far enough down that it materialises. This meant it was quite steep, but there was a good mixture of rock and alpine heath/scrub to make it not too slippery. We made it down in one piece then walked the plain back to our tents. By this stage we were pretty hungry, and made the mistake of dreaming about sherry trifle for dessert ;)! A chai latte, a cup of tea and half a chocolate bar had to suffice!

Day 5 we drop back to a ridge we reckon we can take to get to Mabel. We expect scrub at a similiar height as Norfolk. The guys do the map thing while I wait for them to start walking. Again it’s a wet start.

The going is actually really open, until we hit scrub just before the summit, but it’s all ok, again there’s a cut track (seeing a theme yet?!). This was sa really cute moss ball, Graham spotted it.

On Mabel we change our plans again because we’re making such good time, and we decide to do a circuit via West Bluff. There’s a section of really nice open walking..

But the climb up West Bluff is scrubby and the track peters out. We end up bashing… AGAIN. But the summit is nice if you stick to the northern side. Looking back north along the range to Hazelton

The one night it’s dry enough to sit out, chat, cook and enjoy the evening together

Day 6

This was the final day of the first part of our trip, and we woke to lovely cloud patterns. It was to be a relatively easy day in terms of distance and elevation, but hard in regards to the monotony of walking along the plain through mostly ankle, but sometimes knee or waist high scrub. We’d have all preferred to climb over a mountain! We took it in turns to retrace our steps, and all of us struggled with feeling tired. Nearly stepping on a whip snake didn’t wake me up much and we eventually plodded back to the car shortly after 4pm.

We then drove down to the Donaldson River to car camp, and enjoyed a treat of pringles and alcoholic beverages while we waited for dinner to cook. My lunches for the next part of the trip had fared poorly in the car, and I spent a little time rubbing mould off my tomatoes and peas and hoping they’d be ok. I’d already forgotten a second lot of nuts, and Graham generously shared his with me. Even so, the next 4 days were going to be hungry ones. John discovered two holes in his water bladder, which he was going to try to repair overnight, but in the meantime we shared our various water-carrying containers. Water was a concern for the next part of the trip despite the rain, as we were sticking to the ridges and camping high. We were going to have to be extra careful. As darkness fell we settled in for a good night’s sleep, accompanied by the sound of the river.

Day 6 and this is as close to a sunrise as we get.

The clouds were cool

Ants doing their thing

A cheeky bullant

The worst of the river crossings, a 40m drop through scrub. It was yuck.

Graham finds the bottom a little faster than intended. Fortunately uninjured!

How many eyes can you count?

And finally we’re out, and the car isn’t far off… Time to find some more mountains

Day 7

The first day to the second part of our trip. It was weird to be heading out again on the one trip. We packed up camp, drove a little way from the river, had a loo stop, and continued to the high point on the road where we were due to head off across the button grass plains in a south westerly direction. We were roughly following the description in the Tarkine Trails book, and it was fairly accurate for this bit. The best route did indeed head south west, until you were almost past due north of the point you had to gain the ridge to Mount Edith. Heading south, with a touch of east, you did indeed cross three river gullies, which actually weren’t that scrubby if you chose your spot carefully. Not sure where our next water was coming from, we filled all our bottles/bladders here.

The climb up the ridge was steep and sunny but also very windy so we walked a tightrope between being hot and sweaty and freezing cold! I happened to score the lead on this one, which was lots of fun, though I got into trouble for not stopping frequently enough. The going was open, and the route obvious, with bits of pad that had been frequented by a wombat or two. The summit was a mix of rock and low alpine scrub, with some very wind stunted banksias and even a little cairn. The views were pretty good too, and it was clear to see why it was described as perhaps being the ‘jewel’ of the range.

We spent some time there before the next rain shower had us scurrying on, to generate heat and keep us warm more than anything else. We followed the ridge down to the saddle between Edith and Hadmar. Graham needed a little convincing and a whole lot of faith that it was in fact, less scrubby than the one he had seen. When we did indeed hit the scrub, we walked straight onto someone else’s bash, which we followed until it felt like we were going way to far right off the ridge and heading towards a gully that would eventually become a river. It was tempting to continue in this way because we were mostly in fairly open forest and still following where someone else had been before, and there was only towering bauera and other nasty green stuff to our left. At this point though we decided to back track a little then push back towards the middle of the ridge, and hope the going wasn’t too bad. Funnily enough, however, we yet again chose the same point as others had before us, and instead of the scrub bash we expected, we ended up following much the same quality bash as before – lovely!!

We popped out near the saddle at the bottom, and decided to have lunch while we talked about options. We’d made good time, and could push on to the far side of Hadmar, camp there, walk to Sunday tomorrow, then Vero on Wednesday and out on Thursday. The other choice was to camp near where we were, and just say walk to Hadmar and Vero the next day, and head out on Wednesday. John decided he’d be camping in the saddle and wouldn’t do Sunday, but told Graham and I he didn’t want to stop us from going. We were both tempted – it was definitely possible and completing all the peaks of the Norfolk range would have been a nice way to end the trip. But we come walking to do it together, and I don’t think either of us would have felt quite the same about it if we’d gone off on our own. Besides, when I’d talked to Chris to get some info, he’d made the very attractive suggestion of taking the boat from Corrina, and walking along the coast then inland to get to Sunday (and coming out over Edith, Hadmar, Vero to the road). This had piqued our interest, but because of our time restrictions we hadn’t been able to fit it in. Choosing not to do Sunday this time gave us the perfect excuse to check out the coastal route another time! Perhaps even as a club trip?

So we spent some time getting to the true bottom of the saddle (it’s actually a bit of a maze, with the next part only revealing itself when it’s time), then finding water and a suitable place to camp. We ate snacks, had a cup of tea, lounged around and snoozed a little. Graham was contemplating a short walk part way up Mount Hadmar, but another bout of rain looked like it was coming. Luckily he decided to wait for it to pass. It was perhaps the longest and at times heaviest of all the rain we’d been in. The wind sounded like it was hurling itself around everywhere but our little camp site, which proved more sheltered than we’d realised. And so we wrote notes, ate more snacks, and chatted about places we wanted to go in the world (we ended up with a list a few pages long!). We steered clear of yummy foods this time ;).

Day 7 and we set out for Edith, hidden under cloud on the left

We start the climb, and the sun comes out between the rain showers

And then we’re on top of Edith, the banksias were cool, and that’s Hadmar in the background

Banksia close up on Edith

Day 8

We thought today would be a fairly easy day over Mount Hadmar, out to Mount Vero and back, and all things going well, relocate our camp to the car side of Edith so as to make the walk out a brief affair the next day. Ha, well, it didn’t quite work that way. We woke to rain, despite the forecast from just yesterday still having today as the best looking weather we’d have. We set off in the rain, shortly after 8, filling our water bottles as we left. The climb up Hadmar wasn’t as straight forward as it looked. There were a few little dips to negotiate, though none with serious scrub, and then we got straight into the climb. We took the prominent ridge on the left as you look at the mountain from where we were camped, weaving around the scrub the higher we got, and once again making use of someone else’s bash where necessary. This made for relatively easy climbing, and we were on the summit while it was still wet, windy and frankly, freezing cold! John had some business to attend to on the phone, and Graham had to call the police and reassure them that the do-gooder who had reported his car sitting on the side of the highway need not have worried and that we were actually all ok. I was too cold for anything but squats while the guys did their thing. Graham was kind enough to show me a photo a friend had sent him, of a very warm sunny beach at St Helens. Thanks for rubbing it in Brett ;)!

We got our first real glimpse of the route ahead from the summit of Hadmar, and our spirits fell further. There was a lot of scrub to get through. The saddle was so narrow that we figured we’d find someone else’s bash if they’d been through. No one had, or at least not recently (I did find half a fishing rod that I’m sure didn’t swim itself up there!). And so we had a long, wet and slippery fight with everything from bauera to tea tree, cutting grass and forests of horizontal. It can be pretty hard to orient yourself in the thick scrub, but we did a pretty good job of staying on the ridge. When we were a few contour lines above the low point in the saddle we broke out of the scrub and it was nice to see we had a lovely open walk the rest of the way, and that the sun was finally about to break through the cloud. And it did, as we wove between burnt out skeletons of banksia bushes on the otherwise open ascent of Mount Vero.

Once again we sat on the summit and enjoyed lunch in the sun, while drying out all our wet gear, except socks and boots. One of the resident wedgies showed off again. While we were there we had a look at a direct route off the summit to the road. Chris had asked if we could tape it for a friend, and while we had the tape, we didn’t have our bags (probably just as well, lugging them through the scrub would have been a nightmare!). It looked pretty good, with only one or two bands of scrub, and potentially a steep sided Toner river to negotiate.

The way back was considerably faster having our bashed route to follow, although we were pretty knackered and not moving with great coordination or speed! Tea, soup, red chicken and vegetable curry, chocolate and dried mango followed. We prepared for an early night, so we’d be up bright and early the next day for the walk out and drive home.

Day 8 and we take a ‘quick little stroll to Hadmar and Vero’… turned out to be a pretty big day, with nothing quick about it! Here we are on Hadmar, in the freezing wind and rain

Finally through the thick scrub between Hdmar and Vero, and we just have nice walking to go. Sunday in the distance – the only mountain in the range we chose to save for another time

On Vero, pretty happy, and just in time for the sun!

Looking back towards Hadmar, that green stuff was foul

Day 9

It was time to leave, on yet another typical northwest coast kind of day: unpredictable, rapidly changing, but always a little wet, windy and cold. Although the latter predominated this time. There was a brief gap in the rain that allowed us to pack tents in the dry, but after a few paces in the scrub we were already drenched. John started us off, but soon couldn’t see his GPS without needing to wipe his glasses every time, so I got the job of leading back up through the scrub to Edith. Put it this way, I might have been covered in bauera leaves, but I didn’t think I needed a shower after my 9 day walk – I got such a decent drenching. Once we were out and sidled under the peak, the walk down the ridge and across the button grass plains went relatively quickly. We raced the rain to get changed before the next downpour then ate our last lunch in the car, before a long drive back.

All up: 107km, 5303m ascent, 9 days

Great Pine Tier: 3-6 April 2018


We’re going on a bushwalk!! It’s going to be a good one… after a few days of lamenting what looked like horribly wet weather across the north, west and south of the state, and reluctantly settling on a brief car camping trip to the north east, the mood took a turn for the better. The latest forecast had us excitedly considering a few days wandering around the Walls of Jerusalem region, with only a tiny bit of hesitancy (we never trust the weather man entirely!).

And so we muddled our way through packing – it had been a long time and was no longer something I could with my eyes closed. But we got there (and didn’t forget anything too crucial), and were good to go only an hour late on Tuesday morning.

We’d chosen to head in via the Lake Augusta/Ada route, for something different. It made for a shorter drive, but we still managed to spot three wedgies (turns out this was only a taster for what we would see)! Pulling up at the cleared dirt carpark we couldn’t believe the blue skies around, and set off happily, but tentatively – each nursing pre-existing sporting injuries.

The track is a very decent 4WD road for some time, and the walking less exciting as a result. There are, however, plenty of lakes and the odd hut to check out. And the wildlife was something else indeed. Two platypus, a giant wild spider, a dragon (the lizard kind) and a funny fat insect with super skinny legs made up the ‘before lunch’ count for us.  A cormorant who’s flown inland came shortly after. This was, of course, on top of the usual grasshoppers, skinks, ducks and green rosellas. The funny insect thing turned out to be a mountain katydid, I was informed by a friend, which have a cool little trick where they camouflage in nicely, unless a predator gets too close, whereby they lift their wings up to reveal super bright apparently scary colours on their bums!

By this stage we were on the foot track, walking through landscape that is so typical of the region. While not arduous – incredibly flat and no scrub to contend with – both of us were weary by the time we arrived at Lake Fanny, and paused for a snack while we contemplated our plan of attack up what looked like a rather green Great Pine Tier.

We took our time crossing the outlet from Fanny to keep our feet as dry as possible, then wound our way between the scrub around the southern end of the lake. So far so good. With some excellent decisions and the odd guess we continued in the same fashion up a green but not scrubby chute onto the spine of the tier, where the going continued to be just as easy, winding through eucalypts, over rock and low heath.

The true summit was a tad evasive (not clearly marked on the map), so we did a bit of a tour of some of the higher points to ensure we actually had claimed our first peakbaggers point for 2018! Though it was 5-5:30 hrs after having set out, we were knackered and decided to set up camp near the largest lake on the plateau. Though the views west to the Overland Track mountains were a tad obscured, and the site wasn’t beautiful, it was a pretty place to be nonetheless. We watched an orange moon rise in the cloud free sky, then fell asleep without a problem at all!

Near Ada lagoon – lots of fishermen huts to explore here

Ada Lagoon – we saw 2 platypus here!

Typical walking in this area

Reflections in a tarn on Great Pine Tier

Think we’ll camp near here, on Great Pine Tier

From the summit of Great Pine Tier, looking towards Mersey and Turrana in the distance

Graham claims his first peak and point for 2018

The colour was pretty as the sun set

Very different colour on the trees the next morning

We awoke to another lovely day, explored the campsite a little before cooking breakfast, doing some physio, and packing to leave. We continued to wander our way along the tier’s ridge, then dropped down and headed to intersect the track coming off Jerusalem, ultimately headed towards Dixon’s Kingdom. Graham had yet to climb King David’s Peak, so that was our next stop.

It was a beautiful sunny day, almost felt like summer, and it was a bit of an effort climbing up the last hill to the track. There, we dumped our packs in the scrub, took water and snacks, and bounded down the track, feeling very much lighter without packs. There were heaps of people out and about, and Dixon’s Kingdom was full of Wilderness Equipment tents (I was pleased to see!). We greeted everyone we passed, and they all seemed pretty happy!

It didn’t take long till we were turning left off the track up to Solomon’s Throne, and after a very short sharp ascent, were on top, looking over to King David’s, which had a tiny figure standing on top. That was our true destination so we kept on moving, tracing our way along the edge, attempting to stay on one of the multiple branching pads.

It’s a decent way between the two peaks, but the figure that we’d spotted from Solomon’s Throne was still on the summit, lying on the rocks out of the wind, enjoying the sun and listening to something through headphones. We ducked out of the wind as well and had a snack, before deciding we should return and take our packs over the far side of Jerusalem. And so we did, enjoying the easy walking and being grateful we didn’t have to camp with everyone else. As we walked we passed numerous middle aged people, most with Wilderness Equipment packs and gaiters. Just as I was telling Graham I thought they must be a group, who should come along but Zane, otherwise known as Abel Zane, or one of the three we had had an impromptu meeting with at Lake Curley when we were doing the Spires! It was great to see him happy and out on the track again.

We eventually made it back to our packs, feeling pretty tired by this stage. We were due for a late lunch, however, which temporarily boosted the energy levels. It was still a slog with full packs up Jerusalem, and we sidled round the right hand side of the summit to avoid unnecessary effort.

Picking our way down the far side, we popped out just south of Zion Gate and wandered across soft green heath and moss. We weren’t in a huge rush, knowing the further we walked, the further we’d have to walk out in two days time. We also knew we’d be camping close to five, to avoid walking in the dark. As it was, we picked our way up the hill in front of us, and found a lake a short distance over the far side, with some lovely and flat sites to camp. We barely had to voice the question, before packs were off and we went about the usual end of day routine.

From the end of Great Pine Tier looking towards the Walls over the country we’d walk

Great Pine Tier would have been fabulous before all the pines were burnt out

Graham takes in the route ahead as we approach the Walls

On King David’s Peak looking towards the Overland Track

The chute on Solomon’s Throne

The pines were a big feature of this walk

How about we camp here?

Pretty colours again that night, followed by stars and moon

We woke to another lovely day, though we were expecting some rain later in the afternoon. We also had a long day ahead with unknown terrain, so we were up and breakfasted fairly early. Graham started us off on a route that changed with every new view – such was the nature of the terrain. But we chose well, and avoided and serious scrub, ducking and weaving so much at times we felt we were going round in circles! The route we finally took followed the high points to the west of Daisy Lake.

Just over 2.5 hrs after setting out we were sending the odd message from the top of Mersey Crag, happy with our progress. We still had Turrana to go, but it looked feasible. It did, however, take a lot longer than we expected to get off Mersey, and the walk up Turrana was longer than I had remembered. Three wedgies were playing in the wind and stole our attention momentarily.

We were both stumbling over the smallest of obstacles as we walked the last few hundred metres, and I knew I was glad we’d be having a slightly longer break given we had lunch to eat. It was windy on top, so we took the view in quickly before sheltering off the summit out of the wind. As we ate we decided on the route back to the tents. We opted bravely not to retrace steps (the ‘known’ route) and instead follow the continuation of the Little Fisher track south along the edge of Long Tarns, until a point closer to camp, where we’d head up and over a series of smaller rises (the ‘unknown’ but less up and down option).

Conscious of the time, distance and of the rather cloudy turn in the weather, we were keen to get going. We made excellent time back down to the track, and had an enjoyable half hour wandering along it. It made for very easy going, and there were a number of stunning spots that would be worth camping at.

Where Long Tarns juts out to the west we headed up and over Richea Ridge, managing to avoid all the scoparia! Two more knobs and we could see our little orange tent. A most welcome sight! We’d got back safely with time to change into warm clothes and cook some soup before the rain set in.

The next morning the sun turned the pines orange

It was a nice camp site

Looking towards the Walls as we start climbing up the ridge towards Mersey Crag

Graham on Mersey Crag

Climbing up Turrana and loving the pines

Mersey Crag from the walk up Turrana

Graham and one of the multiple cairns on Turrana

True to our excellent luck this trip, the rain stopped over night and we woke to a damp but clear morning. Just as well, we figured we had a long walk out. After packing the very wet tent into Graham’s pack (thanks!!) we set off with a few extra layers on. Encouraged by our success the day before, we once again chose to be creative with our route, scrapping the ‘retrace our footsteps’ for a more direct route straight down to Lake Fanny and round the edge. Why would you want to go over Jerusalem and Great Pine Tier if you didn’t have to??

As it turned out, the walking was very open, very flat and very easy. We made record time to the top of the lake and my suspicion that there might even be a pad round the side was confirmed with a few cairns and the odd stick. It was a different matter trying to stay on it, however, as the wombat pads were often more distinct than the track itself. It also clearly wasn’t a bushwalkers track, and usual unwritten ‘rules’ didn’t seem to apply. To be honest I found the off track walking we’d just done much easier – there at least you could go wherever you wanted!

We celebrated our speedy return to the track head at the southern end of Fanny with a super early lunch, then plodded the very long way back out, seeing more mountain katydids than you could have imagined (and being rather shocked that we’d never seen them before this trip!). A surprise encounter with an older couple on their way in to spend a few days at Fanny was as delightful as it always is, and momentarily diverted attention from our sore feet.

We arrived back at the cars in perfect time, with enough daylight to drive home and keep the wildlife safe.

All up: 70.8km, 2221m ascent

Day 1: 16.6km, 5:44 hrs, 391m ascent

Day 2: 15.7km, 8:04 hrs, 821m ascent

Day 3: 20.0km, 9:18 hrs, 788m ascent

Day 4: 18.6km, 6:48 hrs, 263m ascent

Walking out, it wouldn’t be the Walls area without at least one photo of cushion plants!

Pines and reflections, what a beautiful area

The long road out.. love the colours though

Mountain katydid in all its camouflage

Mountain katydid showing it’s colour under threat

Wolf spider blending in well

Sphinx and Pavement Bluffs: 21-22 December 2017

Sphinx and Pavement Bluff GPS route

To say this was the first time I’d climbed these mountains would be a lie, but it was the first time I could see what I was doing! My first visit had been a club affair when I was still green at the bush walking business – back in the day we went regardless of the weather and during the year that Simon (leader of the walk) managed to score whiteout conditions on something like 11 or his 13 walks!

Graham hadn’t done either of these walks, so to pacify my desire for new adventure he agreed to climbing these two on a day we’d have view. We had been somewhat disappointed not to be able to go to slightly more exciting territory in the southwest, but the weather was far from agreeable anywhere but the northeast.

In an attempt to increase our fitness for an up and coming epic trip in January, we decided we’d lug packs up on top and camp there. There is, of course, no need to do this, as both mountains are easily climbable as a day trip. But a high camp is always nice!

We set out very late, I’d just come off night shift (not the same as when I was baking – the longer nights take it out of me much more) and we both had to pack. Graham kindly drove while I tried to get a bit of sleep. I think we got to the start of the track and were ready to set off at about 4.30pm. There is parking out of sight of the road, if you head a short way down the gravel track. It certainly doesn’t feel like the kind of area you’d want to leave a car for an extended period of time.

Caterpillars at the carpark

The track starts off as an old vehicle road, and dirt bikes would have made things rather fast. Signs say it’s 2 hours to the plateau. It’s heads in a bee-line north west, and eventually turns into a foot track, marked by blazes, red arrows, tape and cairns. The gradient increases and the pace drops off the closer you get to the top. The smell was pungent, and it brought back vague memories of teenage scents – lip balm I think, but I couldn’t quite place it!

The track starts off like a road

Higher up, the track becomes a foot track only

We managed to do the 2 hrs in 1:45, which we thought was acceptable with the weight on our backs. We chose a spot to camp, tucked out of the wind as best we could. You’re a bit spoilt for camping up there, and though we’d lugged water up, there was plenty up there for those wanting a slightly lighter trip.

We left our gear behind and ducked over to Sphinx Bluff, ignoring the pad and finding our own way (it’s that open one doesn’t really need the pad). The wind was like a caged lion below, racing around and flinging itself at the rock walls that formed the edge of the plateau. If you stood in the right (or wrong) spot you got a taste of the full force of its power. 35 minutes later, we were back at our gear, ready to set up the tent, eat and fall asleep nearly before our heads hit the pillow. Though I’d been keen to stay up for sunset, it was both too windily cold and I was way too tired.

Heading across to Sphinx Bluff (back right)

Easy open going to Sphinx

The bluff – a little rocky mound

Looking down a wind chute, west-ish along the edge of the plateau

Me and the summit of Sphinx

Towards the coast

Sphinx Bluff summit cairn

Stacks Bluff from Sphinx

Similarly, I was in no state to be up for sunrise and it was no warmer. We had an easy morning, packing up then moseying over to to Pavement Bluff. The walking was equally open and undemanding in the navigational sense, and we were back at out gear within an hour. The walk down was nearly as tiring on legs as the way up, due to the gradient and the need to break each step lest we find our feet getting ahead of ourselves!

All up: 6 hrs, 12.7km, 913m ascent (time includes choosing tent sites etc)

The summit of Pavement Bluff

Sphinx from Pavement Bluff, the tiny little knob on the horizon!

Proteus: 31 December 2017

Mt Proteus GPS route

Marking the last day of the year with a 10.5 hr walk in constantly drizzling rain doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? It wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was the reality!

Graham and I had another four days to get fit with, but the weather was almost just as bad as the last four. We thought we might be able to get away with ducking into New Pelion and timing Oakleigh, Pelion East and Proteus for in between the fronts. Unfortunately the weather forecast left a lot to be desired, and the day we walked in (after a second 14hr night shift with next to no sleep) was the only day without near constant rain!

But this write up is just about Proteus, which we did on our third day, or the last day of 2017! We set out a tad later than planned, by 8:45. We ran into Shelly, now parks ranger, who we’d first met at Lake Curly. She was looking good and very happy and it was nice to say a brief hello! In a quick 2 hrs we were at Pine Forest Moor, just before the start of the forest. We looked out across the button grass moor into the whiteout – it gave nothing away. So we set off on a rough bearing, trying to make sense of the ridges as they materialised in the mist so we had a visual bearing as much as rough line of the gps.

Leaving the Overland Track, we’re heading for that thing over there in the mist.. I think!

The going was slow, as we wove in between button grass mounds, trying to stick to the grassy or coral fern patches. We quickly tired, and gave in to the fact we weren’t going to be breaking and speed records. On the southern side of the first rise we spotted the ?little weather station that Shelly had told us to check out. She wasn’t sure what it was, and neither were we, but a weather station certainly seemed plausible!

Pelion West hides, but you can see the little weather station thingy that Shelly told us about

The going improved even though the weather didn’t and by about the second rise there was much less button grass. In patches we strode through low scrub, but nothing that slowed us down anywhere as much as the button grass had.

Lemon scented boronia predominated higher up, and mountain rocket and flag irises made an appearance too. As we crushed the boronia underfoot we inadvertently released quite a nice smell in our wake! As the ridge curved around and we approached the main climb, we attempted to stay on the northern side as per the notes in the Abels. As we were to discover on the return trip, there’s a very decent pad that runs along the southern edge!

We reached the summit somewhere around 2.5 hrs after leaving the Overland Track. We expected to find the summit cairn, it had been described in the Abels, but found it quite puzzling as we couldn’t figure out where the rocks had come from – there weren’t any others in sight!!

Summit cairn of Mt Proteus – yay!!

It was white, wet and cold, so we didn’t stay very long before beginning a much slower plod back down. We did, however, catch glimpses of Pelion West and Oakleigh as we lost a bit of height. It would have been speccy to see them on a clear sunny day!

Glimpse of Oakleigh as we make our way down, you can see the rough route, we’re headed to the tiny clump of trees just above centre of the photo and below the craggy bit of Oakleigh – that’s where we left the OT.

A glimpse of part of Pelion West

We sheltered behind a shrub for lunch somewhere on the moor but the fuel did little for our energy levels. An hour later we were happy to be back on a formed track, and even happier, 2 and a bit hours later, to walk into camp.

Approaching the clump of trees that marks the Overland Track and the final leg of the day – we’re looking forward to getting OFF the button grass!

We celebrated with soup, lentils (yummier than that sounds) and lollies ;)!

All up: a very tiring 31.3km, 10:28 hrs, 843m ascent (NB, this was after the 12km walk in, and a 22km half-day to Pelion East and Oakleigh, so we were a tad tired!)

Agamemnon, Philps and White Needle: 26-28 October 2017

Agamemnon, Philps and White Needle GPS route

Three years ago Graham and I spent our Show weekend climbing Frenchmans Cap, Clytemnestra and Sharlands Peak. This year we were heading back in to check out Agamemnon, Philps and if we were lucky, White Needle. It seemed right somehow, although we were both doubting our fitness and our ambitious plans for the 2.5 days!

We left the car park in the early afternoon, recognising with excitement one of the names in the logbook. The walk in raised the usual feelings of enjoyment at being back in the bush, impatience at still being on a track, and excitement about what the next two days would bring.

The acidic smell of ants, the musical note of the first olive whistler, hard quartz underfoot and squint-inducing sun all had a relaxant effect. Graham had other plans, however, and decided the short day would be a good way to stretch his legs and test his fitness. We tested it well, and by the time we approached the final hill before Vera we were travelling at a much more reasonable plod! 

The hut and campsites were well occupied, but we found a cute little spot and refamiliarised ourselves with how to pitch the tent (it’d been a while!). Soup and dinner followed. The last thing I remember is Graham stating that if he was going to be organised he should get his head torch out before it got dark… we both fell asleep before he did!

On the half day we had heading in, Graham leads the ‘charge’ towards the still distant mountains we hope to be climbing the next day!

The morning dawned crisp, and we kept warm jackets on though we knew they’d be off in 5 minutes. The brief climb up from the hut back took us to where the new track work sears a white scar through the button grass plain, blinding in the morning sun. We stripped off and headed up the very obvious button grass lead that would take us to the ridge line connected to Agamemnon. It was easier going than it had looked, and there was clear evidence of many parties having gone before us, some more recent, some yonks ago. 

Scrub scraped against our knees, sweat formed on our brows and I finally felt free again. I was surprised at how much I missed being off track exploring the secrets and treats of a new mountain. A friend had recently referred to me as a ‘wild girl’ and I don’t think she could have been more on the money – I felt like I was home. 

At the top of the rise we were greeted with a magnificent view, that we’d have from various perspectives for the rest of the day. Frenchmans Cap, Philps, Sharlands and Barron Pass were centre stage, Agamemnon waiting behind the undulations for a later introduction. 

The ridge we were on that would take us to the summit of Agamemnon was fun, and we spent a fair bit of time mucking around early on. It was such that you’d pop over a rise, or sidle round a rocky outcrop and find the route ahead was quite unexpected. We found ourselves on steep drops more than once – often intentionally! In fact, we were pretty spot on with our route finding – the odd cairn helping us along when we weren’t sure. 

After one more scrubby rise, again better than it looked, and some open climbing we found ourselves negotiating rocky outcrops on the way to the summit. 

The view was perfect – it was the kind of place you could stay for a long time!! We felt pretty good having got to the summit in 3.5 hrs, but unfortunately we had more walking to do. So after a short break we dropped off and headed across a lovely bowl (looked like nice if exposed camping with flowing water!). 

The Abels description was pretty spot on, except that the small band of scrub might have been small, but the scrub certainly wasn’t! I had been warned, but the walking had been so reasonable till then that I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. Graham in particular wasn’t impressed to find himself in scoparia that was well over his head. We ducked and twisted through the branches and were happy to pop out the far side. 

We were soon on the open ridge leading towards Philps, and trudged along, legs getting weary but mind refreshed. We were surprised at how long it took to reach the summit from Agamemnon, but were having a break for lunch regardless. Philps marked my 650th point on the HWC peak baggers list (I have to mark the 50s now because the 100s are few and far between!). 

We briefly entertained the possibility of completing the traverse across to White Needle and down to Barron Pass but sensibility prevailed – we’d heard stories of people being benighted for exactly the same thing! Given we’d now been out for 6.5 hrs including breaks we thought it safer to head back than to go on and potentially have to turn around with even less time to spare. 

The walk back was quicker, if a little more stumbley, but no less enjoyed. We chatted happily with a couple who had day tripped out to the Cap that day, and wrote briefly in the logbook. It had been a big, off track walking day, and we were more than ready for dinner. We raised a toast to two fellow walkers, and their wives who must surely be finding it hard to adjust to their absence. Again, we were asleep almost as soon as we got into our sleeping bags. 

Leaving the track near Vera and heading up the opening in the scrub

Looking back down at the track after the first climb, it’s just a bit obvious!

Happy much? Sending Philps (left), White Needle (next left, directly before Barron Pass), Sharlands (right of the pass) and Frenchmans (behind Sharlands – almost looks like one and the same) a wave!

Frenchmans sticks out behind Sharlands

Frenchmans hiding behind Barron Pass.. Philps to the left.

The scenery was stunning, and the land we were walking on was wonderfully convoluted and craggy in parts

We did take the time to muck around 😉

One of the lakes, Marilyn, that seemed to elude us a lot of the time, despite being really quite close!

L>R: Philps, White Needle, Frenchmans

Looking back along part of the ridge we’d followed, the Eldons along the horizon

On Agamemnon, looking at the Prince of Wales range – feels pretty close from up here!

Graham takes it all in – it is a lovely mountain, with stunning views around

Heading off Agamemnon and towards Philps – proved longer than expected, with one or two scrubby sections (one involve walking under scoparia!)

On the ridge to Philps! Fun and easy walking for what were now fairly tired legs

Frenchmans and Philps up close

Looking back at Agamemnon.. you can see that green scoparia scrubby band nicely in this one!

Waving to a friend further north.

Reckon this would make for lovely camping!! Beautiful water just off Agamemnon.

We woke early to the sound of the alarm, happy the heavier rain from earlier that morning seemed to have subsided, but aware there was more forecast. We decided we were going anyway unless things deteriorated further. We were a tad anxious about this one. We had a short time frame, and White Needle had eluded us once before. Not just the out-of-time or no-view-no-point kind of eluding. Our first attempt had been the closest we’d been to giving a mountain a good crack and failing to get to the top. Understandably, we’d turned around our confidence shaken after Graham went swinging from a small scoparia bush by one hand when the rock under his feet gave way. 

This time we’d done more research and were armed with a route and reassurance that if we went right instead of left, we’d find a much cruisier and less exposed way up. The source was a hard core walker himself, so we were still a tad hesitant about what his ‘easy’ might mean. 

We set off round Lake Vera, walked through quite a dark forest, and pushed up the climb to Barron Pass. We timed it perfectly, the mist lifting to reveal blue skies around. The rock was wet, but we had no real excuses now. We sorted our gear and set off. 

The start was as we’d done it, good pad to the left hand side of the foot of the mountain, a bit of a scramble up rock face and we were heading back to the right. Then one more scramble up rock and all of a sudden we found ourselves on much more promising terrain. White Needle seemed possible. The pad was still evident and we followed it up, cross checking from time to time that we were still on the right route. Very quickly we stood below the final bit of climb: a gentle scramble up rock that promised all fun and no real challenge. 

And there we were! On the summit of White Needle with great big grins on our faces. The view towards Sharlands was the best, and probably the most impressive you’ll ever get of the peak! We spent too long enjoying the moment, and eventually dragged ourselves away. We had the long walk back to Vera then out to the car ahead, and we didn’t want to be driving 14 mile road in the dark. It was an exercise in patience, persistence and sheer doggedness, and by the end it was the birdsong that kept us going. 

We made it, tired and sore, but pretty stoked with our 2.5 days and just over 50km of walking. Even better, we ran into the two guys we knew as we were about to leave the car park!

Day 1: 15.5km, 4:41 hrs, 691m ascent

Day 2: 13.5km, 10:36 hrs, 1370m ascent

Day 3: 23.7km, 10 hrs, 1312m ascent

White Needle looks much more imposing than it actually was (given the right route!).

After setting out armed with Jared’s correct route, we were surprised to find that after two small climby sections, the going was surprisingly gentle!! We were pretty happy to be on top – the view to Sharlands was by far the best ;)!

Graham salutes Sharlands – pretty happy to have made it up this time, having felt disappointed in our retreat of our first attempt.

Heading back, you get a bit of a sense of the terrain!

Sharlands, from the top of a chute we still had to go down – a tad too big to fit in one photo, but you kind of get the idea!

A wave to an old friend – Clytemnestra was my first solo off track multi day walk if I remember correctly!

A last look back, and a rough approximation of which way we went

Some nice forest for when the views are more immediate, accompanied by frequent and very tuneful birdsong.