Molly Yorks Nightcap: 21 July 2020

MollyYorks Nightcap GPS route

According to placenames.tas.gov.au, Mole York was a convict girl who worked on the Formosa and other Estates in the Campbell Town and Cressy districts. I’m not sure how a mountain came to be named after her, but the Abels (vol. 1, ed. 2) suggests it might have been a similar course of events to the naming of Cummings Head or Mother Cummings Peak. The story here describes Martha Cummings as a teacher who climbed the mountain in long dress and hat (as was the accepted bushwalking attire for females in the day) in the early 1990s following a dare from her pupils. The mountain may have been subsequently named in her honour. This may or may not be true, of course, and still doesn’t really tell us about Mole York’s story! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mountain named after you though?

Molly Yorks Nightcap was the closest mountain on the HWC peakbaggers list that I had left to do. It was the last one because it required making a phone call to seek permission to access private land. This is not my strong suit and I would usually avoid climbing these mountains until someone else did the leg work! But it was a perfect winter day walk – it was close, looked relatively easy and was likely to have better weather than something on the west coast.

And so the arrangements begun. A FB post identified a friend who might know something, but in the end came up with another person to chat to, who sent through some information on the walk and the contact details he had used 10 years earlier when leading a HWC walk to the mountain. Whether they were still the same remained to be seen! I started calling, but no answer. I tried all hours of the business day and even left a message. I gave up for a bit and sat it in the ‘too hard basket’. And then I took to telemarketing tactics and called at dinner time. Finally an answer!

I spoke to the mother of the man who owns the property and arranged permission for the walk. She described the house to pop in to, told me her son would be there at 9am, and then all I had to do was assure her I would be quite safe on my own (might have hinted at my current occupation there!). We were all set to go.

Unfortunately, a 9am start translated to an early wake up. But I was much more motivated when it turned out I’d have company for the days after all! It would seem I’m a bit of a bad influence, and a walk with me was more enticing than other responsibilities. I have to say I didn’t try really hard to argue against the shirking of said responsibilities, because it meant a much more enjoyable day for me (rather selfish indeed!). Ehm!

We set off with no time to spare and enjoyed a pretty sunrise as we drove through beautiful Tassie countryside on our way north to Ross. It always surprises me how much it changes and just how pretty it is when I take the time to really look. Sometimes it’s too easy to become used to what we’re familiar with and to not actually notice the changes unless making a conscious effort. At Ross we turned left down Auburn Road and followed it along through farming land, until we turned left again, onto Isis Road.

We drove past a large paddock packed with sheep and they were ALL looking at us (on the return all we saw was their bums!)! A couple of escaped sheep looked very sheepish as we tried to pass, and panicked at not being able to work out how to get back over the other side of the fence. They received no help from their flock, who just watched on and grazed away on the green grass. We eventually squeezed past without causing too much trauma to the escaped sheep and still arrived early.

We waited until it was close to 9am, and went knocking. No one was around, so after knocking on doors to the other houses in Auburn we decided to just head on in and hope that the gates weren’t locked. There was a little bit of phaffing about until we were finally on the right road, heading through a paddock with lots of baby lambs. Sadly one hadn’t made it through the night and was guarded closely by a grieving mother.

We continued on, driving slowly along a road that was everything from green and smooth to muddy and slippery, rocky, uneven and in one spot it even passed through an ankle-calf creek. The mini handled it wonderfully, barely receiving a scratch on the undercarriage, and all the gates were unlocked. How lucky! However when we arrived at where the road crossed one of the tributaries of Potters Creek we decided to call it quits. Technically we could have driven across the bridge, but part of it had fallen through and there was no knowing how much weight the remaining part could take – it just wasn’t worth the risk!

We continued on foot, setting what seemed like a cracking pace along the road. But it turns out it was only 4.6km, which we covered in just under an hour. We were accompanied by the constant and grating shrieks of a number of white cockatoos, which seemed to be stalking us. It made for a less than tranquil walk and at times I struggled to hear Jess talk!

The bridge I was never going to trust enough to drive the mini across! 4.6km of road walk ahead.

When we were west of the summit we left the road and headed straight up, expecting to walk onto a scree field in a short distance. We found what looked like a very old overgrown road and took that until it ran out. The scree was just a stone’s throw away and we made our way over to it.

Oh the joy at standing at the bottom of a massive dolerite scree field!! Typical of many of the mountains in the area, it was something I hadn’t done for a long time. Boulder-hopping has always been one of my favourite things to do. And we were lucky. The misty cloud that we’d seen hanging over the mountain when we were driving up had burnt off and the scree was nice and dry. It moved under our feet as much as it always does, including some of the rocks that were bigger than us. But while we might have looked ridiculous as we tried to keep our balance, we got away without any injuries.

The first very short bit of off-track walking – nothing too onerous!

Up and up we went. It was only something like 600m horizontally to the summit, but over 400m ascent, so it felt like we weren’t making as much progress as usual. But no matter. By this stage someone had turned down the volume on the cockatoos, replacing their harsh cries with the much softer melody of a yellow throated honey eater. It made for a much more peaceful atmosphere and we stopped a number of times to take it all in.

Oh the scree :D!!!
View from part way up the scree field looking back towards Auburn and Ross direction
Stacks Bluff lazing across the horizon
Pretty views for a mountain like this, which often have NO views!

We arrived at the top of the scree field and found we were very close to the cliffy summit block. It looked like we could shoot around to the northern side on more rocky scree so we didn’t have to scale the cliff face itself or take to a scrubby gully. Sure enough, we ran into some cairns. Or at least the odd rock balanced on a rock. Couldn’t hurt to follow them and see where they led.

There were cairns! Sometimes they were simply a rock on a rock and it was entirely up to your own interpretation of whether they should be followed or not!

Wise choice, indeed! We avoided the scrub and climbed up a much more manageable route. In time, we got that sense that we were getting closer and closer. Up the spine of the mountain we we hopped, in a southerly direction now, over another rock and behind a bush and there we found the lovely little summit, howling in the wind!

We’re getting closer, and the climb is flattening out. Here we take a turn south to follow the ridgeline along to the summit. Millers Bluff sits to the north.
The summit of Molly Yorks Nightcap. What a glorious winter day, even if we were being blasted by wind from the moment we stuck our heads over the top!

We looked up the ridge at a very broken, scrubby line. Not a traverse either of us would ever be keen on doing – it just looked painful!

The ridge traverse to Millers looks simply horrid!

The view north towards Millers Bluff dominated, especially because an interesting phenomenon was happening with the cloud. It was light and wispy, hanging off the eastern side of the summit. There seemed to be a force pushing it up, but each time it rose above the height of the summit it would be pushed fiercely away, twisting and twirling, this way and that in a tumultuous battle of forces.

The cloud and wind was just crazy – if only this was a video you’d see how fast it was moving!

And then look! Over there. Where? Out to the east where we’d come from? The view we’d had moments ago had been stolen, all that was left was white. Thick white. Just like that, out of nowhere. We’d had perfect visibility as we’d climbed up, without a cloud in sight, but now the same phenomenon that had been happening near the summit of Millers Bluff was also happening right next to us. It was pretty cool.

In fact, it was freezing cold!! We had a random lunch, both of us seeming to have grabbed whatever was available and easy enough to be eaten on the run. There was a mix of banana cake, bananas, nuts, dates, carrot and celery! We took as much time to eat as we did to take photos and send a brief update, and then we began the clamber back down, escaping the wind shortly after leaving the summit. We were conscious of the need to keep on moving so we could get back to town before the car mechanic went home for the day (no, not for the mini!).

More views from the way back down

It’s amazing just how much concentration clambering down scree requires, and while our lungs were much happier than on the way up, our knees and thighs were a tad shaky by the time we joined back up with the road. We contemplated a jog back to the car, but weren’t really feeling it and went with a brisk walk instead. The cockatoos had moved on and we only heard faint cries now.

Having descended off the ridge, taking a brief look back up to the summit block. You can see why we ducked to the right to avoid a vertical climb!

The car was where we’d left it and survived the return drive out, before racing us back south, arriving with 15 minutes to spare. We were most grateful for the generosity of the Molly York Nightcap owners (Darren and his mum) in allowing us to walk on their land, even if we never got to thank them in person. Molly Yorks Nightcap is a fine little mountain, featuring the most pleasurable of rock scrambles!

All up: 12.5km; 5:08 hours; 853m ascent.

Final views of a brilliant day out. How lucky we are!

Detention Peak, Mounts Cleveland, Everett and Riana: 4-6 July 2020

For the first time in a long time I found myself looking forward to something with a hint of my old excitement and enthusiasm. Jess, a bushwalking friend and teacher, was starting school holidays at about the same time as my days off were due to fall. Did I want to go for a walk? Hell yeah! Where? Wherever the weather was good… and if it wasn’t? Well the northwest then. Car camping always allows you to get warm and dry, and there are plenty of peaks to choose from that have no views.

We didn’t settle on exact destinations until we were driving up. But it turned out we had much the same idea. We’d head to Detention Peak and wind our way south from there. We chatted away, intermittently returning to the matter of which mountains we’d have a crack at and how we’d approach them. Detention, it seemed, might well be a scrub fight. Others were more of the road walk kind. Parsons Hood got the flick because of all the info about trespassing and our last minute decision meaning we didn’t have time to get permission to access the site.

After a long drive we finally found ourselves having to pay attention to navigation. Shortly after Sisters Creek we found ourselves turning left of the highway, and then a bit later left again, until we were heading south on Newhaven Road. One more left and we had a much more familiar sight. An old, single-lane, eroded and bumpy road with plenty of puddles and creeks lay before us. We went a short way, forded a river that had the exhaust pipe smoking, got the undercarriage of the car close enough to the road for it to protest, and checked out a number of puddles before we got to a large one that seemed to be bottomless. We left the car as it was, deciding to deal with a 30 point turn after the walk, and took off on foot. The road walk went quickly and we soon found ourselves heading up hill through low bracken and button grass. It seemed too good to be true, and indeed it was. When we got to the top of the rise we had a decent drop ahead of us down to a river. It was unavoidable but we were a tad dismayed to see it was rather green going ahead for as far as we could see. Sadly we had expected as much – we’d been forewarned!

There was nothing to do but drop down the steep embankment to a cute little river. The other side started off open enough, and we duck and wove our way upwards as best as we could, sticking to the path of least resistance. Sometimes we were under the trees, other times we were battling the green and brown tangly mess of head high bauera. Ah how it felt to be in the thick of the scrub again, doing battle the old fashioned way! And all the nicer to be doing it alongside Jess. Are you having fun yet? The question not entirely sarcastic in tone. Hell yeah, with a great big smile on my face!

Just as things started to tighten up, we found we’d walked straight onto a taped pad, fairly fresh judging from the tape itself. It was wonderful, and it certainly made for a much easier, scrub free weave all the way to the summit. The summit itself was a bit of a let down, and the tapes just petered out without so much as a small symbolic cairn to mark the achievement. Never mind, we had a quick bite to eat then headed back down, keen to make good time back to the car and to avoid cooling down too much.

It was misty and the scrub was wet, but otherwise the weather wasn’t as bad as we expected. It made for a slippery descent though, and at one point the bauera grabbed both my ankles and I found myself in a downhill face plant. Whoops!! Even that didn’t wipe the grin off my face though. We took an even better route back down than we had on the way up, and were happy to be back to the car before dark and in quicker time than expected. It was just as well – I don’t think I was the only one with a rumbling tummy!

We had a rather slow drive south to Waratah, down through the Hellyer Gorge, where we thought we’d make use of the pretty little camp ground there. Unfortunately it had been closed in March until further notice, which necessitated a creative solution. Fortunately you could still use all the facilities, which included hot running water, toilets and a light in the cooking shelter!!! We were so excited, it was like all our Christmases had come at once, and I’m sure I spotted a little dance of happiness from Jess. Dinner was delicious: soup and bread for me, washed down with homemade hot chocolate, and stir-fry for Jess.

Detention Peak GPS route

Detention Peak GPS route

Do you see a mountain? Yep, that’s Detention Peak… it’s known to be rather green, even if it looks like one of the 50 shades of grey…

The first little rise is easy enough, but guess what’s over the lip.. yup, a 40ish metre drop and only the best of the green stuff!

But it turns out once you’ve had a taste of bauera and practised imitating wombats, there’s some nice walking… and, when you least expect it, a taped pad!!

Here’s Jess trying to figure out exactly which spot is the highest point.. eeny, meeny, miney, moe…

We both hit the sack early, and managed a fairly solid sleep before being roused by a whole heap of noisy plovers. They then set off the currawongs and ducks, while a solitary kookaburra sat on an electricity pole and laughed as the scene unfolded before him. The sun was soon up, and we figured we’d best drag ourselves out of warm sleeping bags too – we had a big day ahead (for winter standards).

Breakfast for me was chia seeds soaked in kefir, with yoghurt, stewed apricots, toasted muesli and hemp seeds while Jess had weetbix, real milk and banana. The luxuries of car camping! We checked out the Waratah waterfall before leaving – it was most impressive and a tad noisy, even though we were up on the road and not down at the base of it. If you’re in Waratah it’s worth a look and can be seen from the pub.

The next morning we check out the Waratah waterfall. Quite impressive, and a cute little town (known as the tidy town??!).

We doubled back and continued west from Waratah towards Mount Cleveland, turning north onto the road named after the mountain. The road goes all the way to the summit, but we knew full well we’d not be driving that far. We’d heard it was steep, even for 4WDs, which we didn’t have. We’d ignored the more direct road to the south of the mountain hearing that it was rather overgrown (and that was apparent on the satellite imagery too). In any case, we were able to drive far enough along Mt Cleveland Road to end up with a road walk that was at least no longer than the overgrown one from the south. We could have driven a bit further, but after our experience of the day before and knowing we were going to have to get out at some point, we decided to do it on our own terms, rather than when we were sliding backwards down a particularly muddy and rutted section without anywhere to turn around.

We found the perfect spot a few kilometres from the summit and pulled off the road. It was such good weather (again, surprising!) that we ditched our overpants and I even went up without gaiters. It was cold, but we were both puffing away in no time and a little while later we had to stop to strip off coats. We chatted in between deep breaths about all manner of things. Jess was pretty sure we were going to have a view from the top. Pale colours she described, with some green, and maybe even a touch of blue. And she was spot on. Add a hint of rainbow or fog bow (it couldn’t quite decide), some swirling mist, a hint of sun, and a stiff breeze and there you have it. The summit itself was home to a rather large telecom installation, and not much else. We didn’t spend long up there, just enough time to take a photo and send a birthday message. And then we had the pleasure of a much easier walk back down. Part way down Jess wondered if we could get back within 2 hours of setting out, but neither of us was keen on running. It was pretty slippery and steep, and running could have made staying upright an interesting exercise! We got back 5 minutes late, but that was ok ;).

Mount Cleveland GPS route

Mount Cleveland GPS route

We start our middle day with a muddy, and at times steep, road walk up Cleveland.

Even though the weather is supposed to be foul we’re not wet yet, and there’s a hint of blue, and even a mix between a rainbow and fogbow! Got to be grateful for all the small things, and there are lots of them!

The top isn’t all that impressive.. and no, we didn’t technically climb to the very highest point – we thought that might be pushing our luck!

A bite to eat kept the sides of the stomach apart as we drove towards Mount Everett, which is bang in the middle of a huge logging coup. The road we tried first had a locked gate across it at Talbots Lagoon, and we were forced to retrace our route back to the main road, head further north, then take the logging roads that weave under St Valentines Peak. At times it felt like we were driving through a wasteland, and Jess likened it to a scene from The Lion King. It was quite depressing indeed, and both of us were keen to drive out of the destruction and back into the green, even if it was plantation green.

The road was a decent one and in time it took us as close to Everett as we were going to get. The backtracking had been costly in regards to time, however, and it was well into the afternoon before we were ready to start walking. I don’t think either of us looked at the time though, or realised how late we were until we were standing on the summit! Probably a good thing…

We took some very old logging roads to get us a tad closer to the foot of the mountain before we took to the scrub itself. It started off fairly open, and again we weaved our way up the contours. We edged too far right, it turned out, and found ourselves at the foot of some impressive rocks. We choose to sidle left around the base of them, a sound decision that rewarded us with a run of fairly open walking amongst button grass and melaleuca.

It wasn’t to last though, and the ridge proved to be quite broken at times, with plenty of scrub to slow things down. We didn’t always choose the best option, but made slow progress nonetheless. At times it seemed like we were on a pad, but then we lost it. The closer we got the thicker the scrub seemed to get and the slower our progress. But we did get there, and even had some views of the heavily logged wasteland – piles of logs waiting to be trucked out, to be sold at a loss, subsidised by tax payers.

Jess realised the time before I did. We only had 1.5 hrs before it was going to be dark, so we’d best get moving! Down we went, following Jess, who took us a much less scrubby route than I’d led up. And it paid off. We got down in record time, and it wasn’t just due to all the slipping and sliding!! As we walked the last few hundred meters or so through the forest it was pretty dark, but we made it back to the car without needing head torches.

Again the drive out was slow to avoid the wildlife as much as the potholes. We enjoyed the full moon and were excited by being able to see some stars instead of just misty rain. When we saw two spotted quolls you can imagine the squeals we gave! The story at the Riana Pioneer campground was much the same as at Waratah, minus the hot water… Jess’s dinner was a more impressive affair, however, as she cooked up a tasty looking pasta from the random things she’d found in her fridge when packing.

Mount Everett GPS route

Mount Everett GPS route

That afternoon, after coming across a locked gate and driving further than we should have had to through forestry wastelands, we arrive at the foot of Everett… it’s hiding behind there…

It starts off ok, just a mix of open forest, then buttongrass, melaleuca and the odd bit of bauera.

It even has some pretty views

Especially if you take care not to look too hard at the logging coups

But the closer you get, the more horrid the scrub!

The summit seems further away the closer we get as we fight tooth and nail with bauera and cutting grass. But we do make it, at the late time of just before 4pm.

The amount of wood stacked up waiting to be trucked out was mindblowing.. this is just a small pile

Not the best of views from the top, and just as well, we needed to scoot off if we were going to get back to the car without needing our head torches (we made it, just!)

This time we woke to a morning chorus from a flock of happy kookaburras and what a beautiful noise it was! Full bladders and a long day of driving ahead of us denied us a sleep in, and we were soon up and preparing breakfast. Fuelled and ready to go, we drove the very short distance to the start of the southern ridge of Mount Riana. We had initially thought about following closer roads to a starting point to the west of the high point, but it was clearly on private property. The owner of said property stood at the window looking at us as we drove by, while his dog tried to round up the car as if it were a great big disobedient sheep.

This proved to be fortuitous, and instead of a broken and scrubby tussle with the mountain, we had a lovely, rewarding and easy walk up the ridge. Again, tapes and a pad appeared, although the walking was open enough so as not to really need them. At times you broke out from the forest, and found yourself on rock, with the beautiful northwest landscape to behold, and ducks flying by. Rain was apparent to the south west, but it was far enough away and again we had cause to be grateful for being bone dry!

The summit itself was another flat one, but there was an awesome log out to the east, that provided the perfect viewing platform for walkers who wanted to pause to enjoy the moment just a little longer. So of course we did (although we sat on the ground in front of it because it was drier!). Sadly we did have to leave, and begin the long drive home. The mountain continued to give, however, and three wedgies flew past on our way down! Riana was unanimously voted the best mountain of the trip, and the only one of the four not to go on the ‘oncer’ list! A perfect way to end a refreshing weekend away :).

Detention Peak: 8.1km, 4:21hrs, 530m ascent
Mount Cleveland: 7.7km, 2:05hrs, 652m ascent
Mount Everett: 4.8km, 3:45hrs, 280m ascent
Mount Riana: 3.3km, 1:52hrs, 247m ascent

Mount Riana GPS route

Mount Riana GPS route

Our final morning was spent climbing up the southern ridge to Mount Riana. It proved to be a wonderful little climb, and about the only mountain of this trip that didn’t get the ‘oncer’ label!

We saw three wedgies as we headed down.. pretty awesome :D!

It had views and all! Here Roland is peeking through the trees

The ridge looked broken and rocky, but the route through was fairly obvious, and if in doubt, someone had even taped most of it!

On the summit, another one of those very flat affairs, we checked out the eastern view. There was the perfect log seat, should you want to spend some time just being… so we did (only we sat on the ground because it wasn’t as wet!)

Summit heath.. it was pretty..

And there was time to check out the seeds too.. Eventually we dragged ourselves away, and all the way back to Hobart.

Gog Range, Brewery Knob, Mount Read and Mount Huxley: 17-19 June 2020

Gog Range

Gog range GPS route

I’ve been restless – perhaps a result of the massive change and feeling a little lost in what I want to do with my life now that it’s so very different. The best thing that makes me feel grounded is walking (although gardening isn’t too far behind). So guess what I’ve been up to? No surprises…

It’s winter, and we’re approaching the winter solstice, which means short days, lower mixing heights and plenty of chill in the air. In fact, it surprised me that the first real snow for the season was only this week! When I first started walking, this didn’t mean much to me, but now it does. It means I preference shorter walks, or multiple day walks with some car camping. And that is exactly what I planned for this trip – one that would allow me to move around to ensure the best weather for the walks I planned, and that meant I could continue to visit some mountains I’d not yet got to see. 

The Gog Range was the first on my ‘list’. We’d looked at it a year or so back, but I was down as an ‘if we have extra time’ kind of walk, so of course we didn’t make it. It seemed appropriate now, and would be the first I’d come to on my circuit around the state. 

What I didn’t realise was that the roads I’d decided to drive in on were part of Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, and they’d closed a boom gate 6.4km prior to where I wanted to start walking from. Bugger… I also didn’t really do too much research, just did the whole ‘get as close as you can and start walking up’ thing that I do way too often! A last minute message from a friend warned against going straight up the rock… Hmmm.. ok! Apparently there was a pad to follow – that sounded good!

Fortunately I had a bike with me, I was planning on another couple of walks that had long roads before the actual walking, so I’d popped it in. I pulled it out as I rejigged the itinerary I’d planned, now that I’d be spending a few extra hours climbing this range. 

The riding wasn’t all that easy – the road was pretty good but there were loose and sandy sections, and at times I was too light that the bike’s back wheel just skidded on the spot when I tried to put extra energy into getting up a hill. There were spots I had to push the thing. It was definitely worth it though and much quicker than walking.

I arrived at the spot I thought I’d head up onto the range, but couldn’t find a track.. I searched further along the road. Nothing. Oh well. It looked open enough, so I tucked the bike away and set off into the ferns. It was pretty open forest with only some ferns to push through, which do a good job of getting out of the way when you need them to. Just as well, because it was pretty much straight up. Straight up to the base of the cliffs. 

I saw why I was told not to go up the rock (even if that advice related to the southern side of the range). I tried sidling east, hoping to find a gully I could follow up without getting too climby. That idea didn’t last long – sidling led to just as many steep drops as climbing straight up. The rock up above didn’t look too bad, so why not just try it! 

What wasn’t apparent was that there was always one little bit that wasn’t so easy, even though in general what you could see looked reasonably ok. I managed to find a way off the rock and into a gully that provided a way up in between the slabs. I only hoped it lasted. Perhaps the one thing I detest on walks is having to retrace steps due to a dead end! It doesn’t happen often, but it’s always a possibility. 

I was in luck, and the gully turned into a ridge, that intersected with another ridge, along the top of which appeared to be something with pad-like characteristics. A cairn appeared… shortly afterwards some very old, worn orange tape that had fallen off whichever branch it had originally been tied to. I was on something, even though I didn’t know where it had come from. I assumed it headed to the top, and resolved to follow it for as long as it was helpful. 

The ridge I was on took me to the main ridge that is the back-bone of the Gog range, running east-west. The pad wasn’t so distinct, but a bit of hunting revealed more tape, this time usually attached to trees. It duck and wove through the trees, which left me in no doubt that this was going to be a summit without views! Presently the pad arrived at a burnt out tree trunk with a reasonable sized cairn at its foot, which I took to be the summit cairn.

A short break and I was retracing my steps as best I could, with the exception of avoiding the steep rocky section I’d climbed up, staying in the gully instead. There were lovely little pink bell-shaped flowers out and about, which would have been all the lovelier if their leaves hadn’t been so prickly!

I found my bike at the bottom, exactly where I’d left it, and rode back in exactly the same time as it had taken to ride in. On the drive to Cradle Mountain NP I spotted an echidna hurrying across the road. He barely glanced my way before tucking his head down a little further and waddling off into the scrub at a remarkable speed for a creature with such short legs and a round fat body

All up:

Ride: 6.4km; 43 mins each way

Walk: 4km; 2:35 hrs; 481m ascent

The forest at the foot of Gog, northern side. Think I’ll head up here.

Pretty easy, mostly open going

On top of the range, there’s even orange tapes and a pad to follow!

Gog range summit cairn

Looking back on the drive home. The Gog range stretches across the horizon.

A glimpse of sun on the Gog summit from the closest road I could find

Heading back down, one wonders when this rock will take a tumble!

Mount Roland peaks around the corner

Gog’s best views are from part way up (or down) the mountain

Brewery Knob

Brewery Knob GPS route

The following morning I went for a wee wander over the most beautiful snow-covered moorland. Brewery Knob is not worth any points on the HWC peak baggers list, but it is an Abel. I’m not specifically targeting Abels, but given I only have a handful left, I figured I should pay it a visit. It seemed perfect for winter walking – short, with a beautiful forest walk at the start that is perfect regardless of the weather. It wasn’t supposed to rain, but I donned all my wet weather gear, a warm jacket, beanie and gloves nonetheless. Just as well too!

The walk starts at Weindofer’s hut, as described in the Abels. It’s very hard to start walking because you’re immediately surrounded by magnificent King Billy pines and fagus, and you walk on a carpet of their discarded leaves. As can be expected, especially at this time of year, it’s very wet underfoot and the path is very much a mass of lethally exposed tree roots that have been worn smooth from thousands of feet. 

I’ve never seen such large fagus leaves (or perhaps it’s just been a while) and it struck me that this walk would be magnificent if you timed it for when the fagus turns. I eventually dragged myself from the trees, and started climbing up the track. Lumps of snow kept falling from the trees above onto my head or pack. It was just as if my usual walking companions were with me in spirit, making sure I collected a few missiles!

The forest gave way to smaller myrtle beech, which hung over the track laden with snow. It always amazes me how much a bare twiggy branch can hold! I brushed past, enjoying the moment, glad of the wet weather gear and knowing it wouldn’t be quite the same on the way back.

The flora grew smaller and smaller in size the higher I climbed (and it’s not a very long climb!), until there was only easy open walking. From what I could tell of the snow covered landscape it consisted largely of alpine grasses and shrubs, including boronia. 

I stuck to the track because it was the only thing telling me which way to head into the cloud (aside from my GPS). It had progressively turned from a rocky-bottomed creek to an ice covered bog, that crunched and cracked under my weight, occasionally sending my feet slipping in every direction but the one I wanted them to go in. And now it changed once again, the crunching replaced by a groaning of the now heavier, fresher layer of undisturbed snow. It was akin to the protest of an old leather armchair as you sink into its seat. 

The weather was of a kind that some might have found depressing, or pointless, but for whatever reason, I loved it. I was warm on the inside while the cold stiff wind chilled my face and made me feel very much alive. The racing cloud occasionally revealed glimpses of a world beyond my immediate bubble, which in some ways was more impressive than had I had the whole vista to look at. The landscape was very much in greyscale, but it was raw, untouched and just perfect. No one else had seen it quite like that – mine we’re the only footprints.

I took my time slipping and sliding along, occasionally sinking much further into snow covered bog than I’d have liked. That’s the interesting bit about following snow-covered tracks, you never quite know how far your feet are going to travel, except that it’s rarely what you expect! Funnily enough, there were parts where I was lucky enough to also be following animal tracks (wombat, potteroo and something else!) and I mused at how they instinctively seemed to know where to tread to ensure they were on solid ground underneath the snow! 

I arrived at the two tarns described in the Abels and did exactly as instructed. The description of the walk was spot on and the pad I now took to was easy enough to follow even in the snow. Just before the summit plateau I disturbed a flock of green rosellas, who took to the skies protesting loudly. I then spent a good deal of time with a King Billy, that was green on one side, and icy white on the opposite. You could tell which way the wind was blowing, that’s for sure! 

A short dip across a VERY exposed plateau and I’d arrived at the distinct summit cairn – it’s quite a nice little one. I didn’t stay long, as to stop was to get very cold very fast (especially the fingers), so I shared the cold to the rest of my world via the mighty FB, and set off back the way I’d come. 

The Abels describes a circuit, but I had so loved the way over along the tops, and I really wanted some more of it, so I took to retracing my steps instead of completing the loop described. 

All up: 8.2km; 3hrs; 352m ascent

Breakfast at Weindorfer’s hut

King Billy and Fagus forest ground. Apparently a lovely place to grow and bring up a baby too!

Old King Billy trunk detail

Natures red carpet. Just look at it! So lush…

The world turns to grey, and I feel like the trees are being a bit too cheeky. I keep getting snow dropped on my head!

King Billy pine cones!

Bleak or beautiful? I was definitely feeling the latter.. only one set of footprints here.

One of many track markers with a splash of rock colour

Anyone know who these belong to? Interestingly they were always in a dyslexic Y shape – I wondered if it was normal or a sign of injury… 1-2cm for scale

At the two tarns you leave the track and head off to the summit of Brewery Knob on a pad.

Just a reminder that there is sun out there, even if you can’t feel or see it all the time!

King Billy – half green, half white!

A decent build up of ice. Guess which way the wind was blowing?!

Brewery Knob summit cairn

Ice artwork

Mount Read

Mount Read GPS route

The weather was due to be slightly better further west, so the next mountain I’d chosen to visit was Mount Read. I’d looked at it a few times, but each time the length of the road walk had usually turned me off. I like bushwalking after all, and road walking is a bit dull. But because I had a bike, I figured I’d best make the most of the walks where a bike might be of use. I didn’t realise there was a great big gate with multiple ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ signs, but decided not to read and to just go with the Abel’s description (which only talks about access issues if you go the shorter but steeper way).

I severely underestimated my ability to peddle up hills again. Usually it wouldn’t be a problem, but when you added in the soft and loose gravel surface it was. It was a big problem. I couldn’t stand up or my back wheel just spun and I could only climb up to a certain gradient before I started doing wheelies every time I cranked the peddles over. 

The way up became an exercise in peddling as much as I could, then getting off to push. I had to find a relatively flat section to jump back on or I’d just end up doing wheelies again. Fun times! When it started to get really steep, and the road surface more eroded, the bike was popped in a ditch and I proceeded on foot. 

For a road walk it wasn’t bad. The views were interesting as was the forest on either side. I couldn’t believe the King Billies either! Unfortunately as I approached the summit I walked straight up into the bottom of the cloud that I’d seen hovering over the top when I was down at the car. I thought mid afternoon would provide the highest mixing height and therefore a chance that the cloud might have cleared from the summit, but I was out of luck. 

Instead I got freezing cold cloud and a howling wind. It was a pity, I’d heard the summit was really interesting and the view towards the Eldon range in particular was pretty speccy. Seems I’ll have to go back ;)! The up side was that all the man made towers were shadows hidden in the mist, and I’m sure I only saw some, not all, of them. 

The trig surprised me – someone had cable-tied a naked doll to the top, and it was looking decidedly pale and blue! I sympathised, and only hoped the views on a good day more than made up for it. My fingers were already numb, so I made a hasty retreat until I was out from under the cloud, which had only dropped in the time I’d taken to climb to the summit. I jogged some of the downhill sections back to the bike just to keep warm, and then had a very easy spin back to the car. All that pushing was definitely worth it!

All up: 16.5km (mixed riding and walking); 2:45 hrs; 866m ascent

Half way up Mount Read the views open up. The road is lined with King Billy stags and living trees.

Its actually quite a pretty walk for a road walk. Dundas beckons in the distance.

The first hint that I might be walking into the cloud for this one.

It’s still pretty.

Sure enough, thick soup. Anyone know who put the baby up there?

Ghostly man-made shadows. The wind howls through them.

A last look back, with a glacial erratic to the right.

Mount Huxley

Mount Huxley GPS route

The final mountain for my car-camping weekend. Again, I’d initially chosen it because it would be a good one for the bike. Except that my two experiences this trip of riding a bike up steep and somewhat neglected gravel roads had all but turned me off. I took one look at the start of the road (in fact even drove a short way up it!), and decided the bike wasn’t coming. If you had a 4WD that you knew how to use, you could drive right to the foot of Huxley, and it’d make the walk a whole heap shorter!

I decided I’d best make an earlyish start, and set off at 7:30 when it was light enough not to need artificial lighting. I was glad very early on I didn’t have the bike, there would have been an awful lot of pushing! Instead I plodded along, not stopping for anything other than to take photos, retie my runners when the laces came undone, and pee. As I walked I did something unusual for me, I listened to a podcast. Usually in the bush I like to take in the sounds and just be, but the road walk was a tad different, and at a time when I’m trying to refigure a few things out I’m finding the wisdom of other people’s stories to be helpful. 

There were plenty of glimpses of mountains to be had as I trudged along. In fact, it took me a while to realise which one I was climbing, such was the winding nature of the road!When I arrived at the end of the road and the foot of Mount Huxley a few hours later I turned the podcast off to enjoy an undistracted clamber up the mountain. I’d checked in with a friend to make sure it was relatively open, and had decided on the basis of his information that trail runners and bare legs would be ok. I had a few doubts when I first saw the mountain, but fortunately it looked greener than it was and the going was relatively open if you got the weaving thing happening. There were even a few cairns to make you feel good about yourself! It actually reminded me very much of walking up to the Jukes plateau (unsurprising really, given their proximity to each other). 

In very little time the open walking stopped abruptly at a rocky outcrop, the kind you know you just have to get up because the summit will be just beyond it. Left, right or straight up? I chose wrongly. After a bit of sidling left looking for a way up between the steep conglomerate boulders that were surrounded by scrub I gave up, and went for the climby route. I wasn’t going to be retracing those steps, that’s for sure!

Fortunately it was a brief climb and then I was on the plateau, with the trig a short distance ahead. A bit more weaving and there I was, wondering at what looked like brand new bolts in the rock, for no apparent reason. I didn’t wonder long, the view distracted me, and so I turned my attention to it. Jukes (well Proprietary really) looked so close, a stone’s throw to the south, while Owen was only a tad further away to the north. And then there was Frenchmans across Lake Burbury.

I drunk it all in, enjoyed some nuts, a banana and a pear, and then set off to find a better way down the rock. Turns out I should have gone for the straight up approach – no climbing involved, just a bit of weaving. It certainly hadn’t looked so simple from below! I slipped my way down the loose rocky and at times wet and slimy terrain, not too concerned about retracing exact steps but opting instead to take a rough bearing in the general direction of the road. It was much easier to pick a clear route coming back down, and I hit the road in what seemed like no time at all. 

The walk back was significantly faster, even if I was a bit on the tired side. I chose to jog down the downhill sections in the hope I’d get back home before the animals came out at dusk to play chicken on the road!

All up: 23.3km, 5:12 hrs, 1432m ascent

Not exactly the first glimpse of Huxley from the road, but here it is. Looks a long way off still.

Getting closer, with sun’s kiss on its slopes, beckoning

Heading up, I discover there are cairns! Pausing here to look north back to Owen. The access road is clearly visible.

Such a distinctive shape. Frenchman’s commands attention once again

On top, and the Jukes range looks so very close

Mount Owen panorama from Huxley summit

And one more of Frenchmans and Lake Burbury

Koruna Peak: 11-12 June 2020

GPS route to Koruna

GPS route to Koruna (on the Wilmot range)

What changes we’ve all witnessed, most especially these last few months. Some collective, many individual as well. Why should we be surprised – the only certainty in life (apart from death, but we’ll get to that) is change. I’ve revisited a poem Graham first introduced me to a few years ago, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s titled Allow, by Danna Faulds.

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in
the wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or
sadness veils your vision with despair,
Practice becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.

Serpentine Dam, start of the track

Serpentine Dam, start of the track

The last five lines have played over and over in my head as I’ve tried to turn them from something I can understand on an intellectual level to something I actually feel and trust in. It will come as a shock to many of you who don’t know me in person, that Graham died on the morning of Good Friday. Yep, the strong, healthy, always smiling, super adventurous bushwalker that he was (amongst other things). He had an undiagnosed, completely asymptomatic, perhaps genetic, condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy for anyone who is wondering) that lead to a sudden cardiac arrest. And so I’ve spent the last two months trying to get my head and heart around losing my best friend, partner, lover, mentor and fellow adventurer. 

I wonder what the river looked like before the dam wall was built?

Bushwalking in Tassie wilderness was where I first discovered myself, grew a healthy sense of self-confidence, esteem and belief, discovered mindfulness and worked on perfecting the act of being utterly in the moment. It remains the place where I do this best. It was also where I met and fell in love with Graham and where we shared so many magical moments. I was hardly surprised that the one thing I wanted to be able to do was to get away to the mountains for a few days. I didn’t know what I was going to find, just knew I really needed to go. I’d become increasingly restless deep down, not so much that it showed on the outside (I think!). Part of it was having lost all certainty in living a meaningful life. It wasn’t that all the other things in my life besides Graham had lost their meaning or worth, it was that I’d planned them and undertook them in such a way that they fitted in with the overarching goal of sharing as much time with Graham. I didn’t do extra study to move up a level at work, I didn’t play more tennis, I no longer went on solo bush walks. In general, I had much less ambition in those aspects of life because none were anywhere near as important, fulfilling or as special as Graham.

A near perfect start to the day - nothing like abstinence to make one appreciate all the small things in life

A near perfect start to the day – nothing like abstinence to make one appreciate all the small things in life

People say it takes time, not to rush, be gentle on yourself. I’m prepared to do that in my grief for Graham. I don’t actually want to get to a point that I can speak about him without tears in my eyes or a waver in my voice. But I’m not very good at floating along without a sense of purpose, something meaningful to work towards and, most importantly, a sense of self-worth. Again, I know in essence who I am and what I mean hasn’t changed to the people who know and love me. In fact, I’ve been blown away by the love and care people have expressed, even those who haven’t spent a lot of time with me. But my perception of my worth has changed regardless. Loving someone in a way that no one else does, being able to make every atom of their body smile whenever you walk into the room, knowing and facilitating all the little things that make them happy multiple times a day – that gives a huge sense of self-worth and identity. Nothing in my life was more meaningful than that. And I don’t know what you do when it’s gone. 

Very quickly the views open up, and they’re lovely

So I turned to the mountains, trusting that I’d find myself out there again. John Muir’s words came to mind, Into the [mountains] I go, to loose my mind and find my soul. Where exactly I went didn’t matter (too much!). I did, of course, prefer a mountain I hadn’t climbed before, and one with a high camp. Track or at least easy open walking was probably a sensible option – I already know what a fragile mind and unrelenting scrub in unfamiliar territory can do to my mind! And so the weather window dictated a small, 2 day window. I don’t usually go on overnight walks because I think I can move faster with a day pack and cover the same territory in a day. But I wanted to spend a night under the stars, and was prepared to make any exception to do so.

Following the track onwards and upwards, it's beautiful terrain

Following the track onwards and upwards, it’s beautiful terrain

Koruna it was. Koruna is part of the Wilmot range (thanks for the correction Chris!), which lies to the north of the Frankland range, and is usually traversed at the same time as the Frankland range. The Frankland range was the first big, multi-day walk I did and I found the honour of being invited on a private walk huge. In some ways it marked my acceptance as a fellow, equal bushwalker, even though I was still very much a novice. Time restrictions dictated an abbreviated walk, and so we’d taken a boat ride up to the foot of Coronation Peak, and ascended the range from that point, traversing south. This meant we skipped the two northern most mountains usually climbed to access the range – Sprent and Koruna. I’d climbed Sprent on a day walk early on in my bushwalking career, in celebration of a friend’s birthday. But Koruna had escaped us, and was on our short list of mountains to climb. With a two day weather window in the southwest, it was the only mountain that met all the criteria.

Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery

Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery

It took a bit to get my head around packing just for me, but we got there in the end. The weather window kept on shifting forward, so a late afternoon walk in on Thursday turned into an early morning departure. I left the suburbs in inky darkness, brightened only by the artificial city lights reflecting on falling drizzle. As I drove on the day turned to misty grey. I listened to an ABC conversation with Cheryl Strayed, on her life and memoir, Wild . It wasn’t planned, but her story touched a few notes with me, and I can definitely recommend it!

Southwest Tassie - there's some familiar friends out there

Southwest Tassie – there’s some familiar friends out there

By the time I’d arrived at Strathgordon (Serpentine Dam) the sky was largely blue, although the sun stayed hidden behind a cloud bank. I put on boots, donned my pack and set off. Straight up. The log book was brand new, put in place in September last year. I was the first entry. This shocked me, then I realised there had been fires and then COVID-19, so it made sense after all. 

Nearly there, one final climb to the top of Mt Sprent

Nearly there, one final climb to the top of Mt Sprent

The track was much as I remembered it – steep, the kind of overgrown that gets you dipping wet if the scrub is damp, and more like a rivulet than a track! It’s pretty badly eroded, such that the boards that were put into place to act as the front part of steps are still there, but the dirt behind them that you step up on to is often boggy and not much higher than the step below. In this way some of the steps are less of a step and more of an obstacle to have lift your feet up and over (and not trip up on!). It didn’t seem like having 9 months off from the pounding of boots had given the land much time to heal. In places, boots had worn away so much and the trench was so narrow it was hard to pass one boot in front of the other. In other spots people had decided it was all too hard and had braided off to one side, starting a new section of track that would in time become just as eroded.

Wedge and the Sentinels - the latter being one of my favourite day walks

Wedge and the Sentinels – the latter being one of my favourite day walks

The forest quickly gave way to an open, flatter section, where the views north and east started to open up. It was sunny but the breeze had a winter chill to it that turned a sweaty shirt into an ice pack if you paused too long to take a photo and fingers felt permanently painful. I drunk it in deeply, fresh air filling my lungs. I felt alive, if incredibly unfit! It was definitely good to be back in the southwest wilderness.

On Sprent, what views! How I've missed them

On Sprent, what views! How I’ve missed them

A bit more overgrown track – the kind where the scrub was only knee to thigh high but because the track was an eroded channel you found it up to your chest or shoulders (if you’re short like me!) – and then back to the lower stuff with lovely views. I stopped a lot to take photos, I think because I didn’t have anyone with me to share the moment in person. And finally, a last little climb and I was on top of Sprent for the second time in my life. It was just over 2 hours after starting out and I knew my glutes and thighs would complain about it in due course, they were well out of shape (turns out my foot, back and shoulders wanted in on the complaining too!).

A black trig, white moon, silver sky, mountains in 50 shades of grey

A black trig, white moon, silver sky, mountains in 50 shades of grey

The views were much better than last time, but the company lacking. And there was no cake or fresh raspberries to indulge in. I didn’t linger long, it was still cold and I’d decided to camp high in a nearby saddle, then scoot off to Koruna. This was a last minute change of plan that had materialised as I had started walking, and had grown out of the axiom to make hay while the sun shined. It was lovely weather, rare enough at this time of year in the southwest, and there was something about the way the forecast had changed over the course of the week that had me not trusting that Friday was going to be the better day after all. It was quite a distance to cover (more than I realised, actually) and because I’d meandered around and hadn’t driven down to start walking at the crack of dawn I wasn’t going to have a lot of daylight with which to play.

I think I'll camp on the saddle in the middle, just past that first knob

I think I’ll camp on the saddle in the middle distance, just past that first knob, in the patch of light brown

Thankfully there wasn’t much wind forecast, because I like choosing exposed camp sites for the views they offer! I pitched the tent, ate a sandwich (no need to go light weight on a 2 day walk, yeah?) and set off at 12:30. After an hour of walking I knew I was going to be walking in the dark on the return leg. Koruna was something like 7.5km from my tent in a straight line, and I was only averaging 2 an hour (obviously you don’t ever walk in a straight line!). Early on Graham used to get upset at me informing him of the number of ‘bushwalking kilometres’ we had to go to a set point until he got used to the idea that a bushwalking kilometre was much closer to a mile than a kilometre!

The colours of the southwest

The colours of the southwest. Wedge and the Sentinel range feature again.

The walking was beautiful, open, ridge-top walking. The terrain shifted seamlessly between alpine grasses to low scrub, and the odd rocky outcrop. The Frankland range has some of the best ridge-top walking in Tassie, and that was true of the Wilmot range too. I remembered back to advice we were given before our traverse 7 years ago – if you find yourself in scrub and you’re not on a pad, you’re in the wrong spot. Unfortunately I remembered this about an hour in, when I was standing in waist high scrub about to descend to a river and back up the other side! It was too late to go searching and I pushed down, through and back up the other side, cursing my stupidity only a little bit. I didn’t have time to spare on unnecessary scrub bashing. Up on the ridge I walked straight onto the pad I should have been on, and resolved to follow it on the return.

And there she lies, still a long way ahead, but that's ok!

And there she lies, still a long way ahead, but that’s ok! Koruna is the dark, cloud covered mountain. Coronation Peak to the left and behind.

I continued along, forcing myself to slow down, enjoy the moments as they rolled into one, and take photos. I had an unusual urgency, knowing deep down that if I was going to climb Koruna I’d be walking back in the dark for 2-3 hours. I told myself my turn around time was 3, when I could just turn around wherever I was and make it back as dusk was falling. I think I knew that wasn’t an option I’d seriously entertain for too long. I kicked myself for not carrying the tent further, thereby reducing the distance I’d have to return today. And so the rest of the walk was an interesting experience in examining the unease, almost fear, I was feeling at the thought of walking in the dark. It seemed ridiculous – I’ve done it numerous times before. Solo and with others, on-track and off-track. I remember some times being really excited by the challenge – the Loddon range was one example! Even through scrub. But perhaps I’d just become so used to sharing all these things with Graham and being wholly comforted by his presence, the unwavering sense of protection he gave and having him there to bounce thoughts off. Either way I was still the one who had to do my own walking. Again, the practical reality hadn’t changed much, but my mindset and internal dialogue certainly had – food for thought.

Turn around time, but how can I when Koruna is so close!

Turn around time, but how can I when Koruna is so close?!

3pm came, Koruna was the next mountain in front of me, but still more than a kilometre away. Of course I was going to climb to the top, couldn’t turn around so close having come so far! I might have been feeling uneasy, but I had a point to prove to myself, especially on this first trip back out, and turning around short of a mountain has never been my strong suit. The pad took me to the base and started circling around to the left. I imagined the track just continued on to the rest of the Frankland traverse. I couldn’t see evidence of a pad heading up to the summit. And so I took to the scrub and rock for one final climb. That part slowed me down a lot. Especially the rock. I’d already had an uncharacteristic slip coming off Sprent, just as I was musing about how I’d shake my head as Graham would tell me the rock was slippery and to be careful! The rock here was quartzite, which can be especially slippery in the wet. All of a sudden my 3:30-3:45 summit time became 4pm. I told myself that was ok, it wasn’t going to change much. 

And then we're on top, looking along the rest of the range, the light is soft now. The Frankland range is always going to be one of my favourite ranges

And then we’re on top, looking towards the Frankland range, the light is soft now. This range is always going to be one of my favourite!

The views were spectacular, the light lovely as the sun started to hit the cloud on the western horizon. I took as long as I dared to savour it. I donned overpants, rain jacket and warm gloves in preparation for the 3.5-4 hour walk back to the tent. The head torch came out. And I began the walk back. The darker it became the more comfortable I got, mostly out of resignation to the fact. I’d made the choices, so I might as well enjoy the experience. I settled into a steady plod and was surprised at how indistinct pads suddenly seemed easier to follow by head torch. The water that sat in puddles over areas of high tread appeared to link up, forming a black line leading into the darkness. I was surprised that even out here, parts of the track were more rivulet-like than track-like. 

Looking at Sprent from Koruna summit, boy it's a long way back!

Looking at Sprent from Koruna summit, boy it’s a long way back!

The stars slowly came out, the sky turned pitch black, and the bite of the air grew crisper. The scrub underfoot went from squelching to crunching as it froze. Shards of ice formed in puddles. The whole world glittered. At one point I turned off my head torch and leant against a bit of scrub, looking up at the millions of stars and the Milky Way. It had been such a long time since seeing stars without artificial light around. It brought back memories of other times lying under the stars, trying desperately to stay awake to hold the moment for just a little longer. I felt connected, safe and home. I was in one sense alone, but I wasn’t exactly lonely. The cold drove me on, although I kept glancing up.

The sun sets, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely none-the-less

The sun begins to set, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely nonetheless

As I got closer to the part where I’d gone for my short scrub bash I grew increasingly nervous. I’ve always been one for retracing steps because you know what you’re in for, and if it’s scrubby then you also have a bit of a bash to follow. I was tempted to do this, but decided to follow the pad and see where it lead instead. My concern here was that it wasn’t always present or obvious, and if I lost it hunting around for it or reading the terrain for the best route forward was risky business in the dark. But the pad was decent, and I followed it a long way north. It sent me on a completely different route to the one I’d taken over, which increased my unease, because now I didn’t have the option of reverting to my old route easily enough. And sure enough, the scrub disappeared at the next knoll and I didn’t know where to go. I used the GPS for a rough direction. There was a rocky and scrubby rise ahead and I decided to check out the left hand side, as all the others had been traversed to that side. Bad idea, I found myself in steep thick scrub, concerned that I’d end up walking off the ridge. A bit of back tracking and some more cursing at the scrub and I walked straight back onto the pad! Phew, I’d just mentally prepared for a maximum 300m scrub bash (the distance between me and my mapped route). As it turned out I just had nice open walking back to the tent, albeit a bit steep. I took one last look at the stars, zipped open the frosty fly, and plonked myself down, suddenly very stiff and sore!!

The following morning is misty and mysterious, I like it

The following morning is misty and mysterious, I like it.

Wet clothes came off and I got some dinner cooking, even if the cold doubled the time it took for water to boil! Anything important and wet came inside – I wanted to be able to put my boots on the next morning instead of battling with frozen gear. A cup of soup, red curry and hot chocolate all helped warm me (and the tent) up. I read for a bit then called it a night. By now the moon was up and I could have walked anywhere without a head torch!

Imagine the views this bush has seen as it grows from the rock!

Imagine the views this bush has seen as it grows from the rock!

As it turned out, the decision to wander over to Koruna on the Thursday was a good one. Friday morning was spent in the midst of a drizzly cloud, true southwest weather, and was much better suited to reading, thinking, being and writing notes. So that’s what I did. I didn’t need to be anywhere else, and it was only a few hours walk out and a slightly longer drive home. By early afternoon I figured I should think about making a move, so I packed up and got dressed for a wet day of walking. The inside of the cloud stopped drizzling in time for me to pack the tent up, and in another 10 minutes I was back on Sprent. It was a grey, but not miserable, day, the kind where the view is constantly changing as the mist swirls around, hiding and revealing glimpses of what lies beyond. Typical southwest weather, just enough to remind you gently that you were at the mercy of Mother Nature! I loved it, and I walked somewhat reluctantly down the mountain, back to the car. I saw two lyre birds on the way home, they made me smile at their frantic scuttle to get off the side of the road.

I’m not sure quite what I found out there, but I returned all the richer for it. 

All up: 29.1km, 12:15hrs (over the two days), 2018m ascent

Prince of Wales Range: 16-25 February 2020

PoW GPS route, day 1-2

Day 1: Pearce Basin (northwest corner of Lake Gordon) to the Denison River

9.0km; 9:22hrs; 398m ascent

So very excited!! Little kid in a lolly shop kind of excited. First day of a long-awaited walk excited. And it waslong-awaited. The three of us had first planned to visit the Prince of Wales (PoW) range two years ago. Sadly, Graham’s father had died the week before we were due to leave, so Graham packed his suitcase for the UK instead of a bushwalking pack. Last year the state was on fire and access was impossible. This year we watched with bated breath as fires started early but were controlled quickly, with no further dry lightning before we were due to leave.

A week or so before our start date we scrambled to find a new boat-man to take us across Lake Gordon because the one we’d arranged had gone AWOL. This brought our departure forward one day, and all too soon it was time to pack, get a car up to the Frenchman’s Cap carpark, and make sure the house was in order for the next 10 days.

The alarm went off at 4:30am, and we had less than an hour to get sorted and out of the house. We were, unsurprisingly, a tad late, leaving at about the time we were supposed to be at John’s house! ‘Danger Darren’, who was super chilled but equally punctual and efficient, was ready to go by the time we got to him and his boat in South Hobart. Charlotte was coming along for the ride too so Darren could go for a surf off the back of his boat on the trip back across the lake after dropping us off. The five of us made quite a party.

The drive to Lake Gordon went fast, too fast – we could have chatted much longer. Then Darren had the boat in the water in record time and we found ourselves sitting up the front, life jackets on, wind trying to rip hats from our heads. We had time for Darren to take a photo of the three of us and then we were off the front of the boat onto a little sandy beach, and in the time it took us to pull out our cameras Darren and Charlotte were waving goodbye. It was lovely to have had the company of two other keen and equally crazy people (the good kind of crazy) to share the last few hours before the walk and then to see us off; somehow it made it all the more significant.

It was 10:30 and now we were on our own, just us, for the next 10 days. We booted up and headed around the lakeside to the spot we thought there might be a rafters route to the Denison. We’d heard about it somewhere, and had a rough grid reference, but I wasn’t sure I was holding out a whole heap of hope. There was nothing convincing at the point we chose, except it would be an ideal spot for landing a boat, and topographically it made sense. There was something that looked vaguely pad-like, but it had plenty of wombat scats on it so could just have been that. A short way up the ridge however we found old, and then fresher, tapes and eventually evidence of a cut track, which was wonderfully exciting. It meant this first day should be much easier going with full packs, for which we were grateful. Progress would have been horribly slow and difficult without it. As it turned out, this ‘easier’ part of the walk was to cause John the most grief. Early on he slipped off a fallen mossy tree trunk and landed on it, right hand side of his chest taking the brunt of the fall with the full weight of his back behind. He broke a rib and put a tooth through his lip. Hats off to him, he didn’t so much as mention his rib to us until a few days later, and even then he never complained. The only signs we got that he was in discomfort was when we happened to catch him taking some analgesia when we stopped for breaks!

Other than that little mishap, we enjoyed the cut track so much we didn’t really stop to think what it meant when it dropped off the ridge to head WNW, towards the Denison River. We did indeed want to get to the Denison, but 3.5km further north of where the rafters track took us. It was only at the river, after we rejoiced in the fact that we’d made it and filled up with water, that the reality became apparent. We started trying to follow the river north, but the scrub, horizontal and forest was depressing. It took us an hour to move 700m, and all of a sudden my excitement and enthusiasm turned to concern, disappointment and fear of failure as it became clear that we weren’t going to be camping by the Denison at the point we wanted. It was only Day 1 but already we were going to be dipping into our precious ‘extra’ days on a range renowned as one where ‘you never make up time, you just keep losing it’. That had ramifications, and suddenly we were considering and mentally preparing to eke out the food we’d brought. We became a bit more intelligent at this point, headed back to the ridge we’d left (through horrid scrub mind you), and eventually popped out onto button grass and scrub. We wove our way through this, trying to stay in the areas that the satellite imagery and map legend suggested was easier going. This proved quite accurate, and made me feel a bit more optimistic about the next morning. At 7:45pm we called it a day and made a surprisingly comfortable camp on a flatter spot in the button grass beside a creek that fed in to the Denison.

And we’re off. Rescued at the last minute by Kenny and Charlotte’s mate Darren, who was super cool and efficient, and not a bad photographer either!

Landing site selected, and they’re off, our last human contact for 9 days. Thanks guys!!

On our way to where we think the rafters route might start.

We all agree where we should go, and walk straight onto the rafters route.

Half a day’s walking and we have views of our range. Humboldt is up there, and our target for Day 2

PoW GPS route, day 2-4

Day 2: Denison River to just below Mount Humboldt

8.4km; 10:40hrs; 788m ascent

This was a day where distance was measured from one gum tree to the next; where ‘clear patches’ were judged by a particular colour and the amount of sunlight spotted through rare openings in the scrub; and where speed was inversely proportional to how many flies were buzzing around your head. Our success with route-finding and sticking to the ‘open’ patches continued and we had mostly button grass and open enough tee tree to weave around, with the occasional scrubby creek to cross. We popped into the forest and then arrived at the river 2.5 hours after setting out. We hit it at the perfect spot to cross but spent the best part of an hour drying our feet, donning boots again, taking photos, eating snacks, drinking water and just enjoying making our first milestone.

I hadn’t realized how much weight we’d placed on getting to the river, but at the end of the day Graham mentioned it as one of the highlights of his day and I was certainly aware of a weight lifting off my shoulders being on the far side of the river. The PoW range requires two river crossings, one at the start and one at the end. Both are significant rivers, and have the ability to swell rapidly, stranding walkers who wish to cross, sometimes for days on end. So now that we were over the Denison, there was no reason not to get to the Prince of Wales. In Graham’s words, ‘now we’re starting the walk’.

The Denison was beautiful. Lovely tannin tinged water, so refreshingly cold on a day that was only going to get warmer, and an oasis on a walk where water was going to be scarce. The sides were lined with huon pine, with little seedlings trying to grow out of rocks in the river – perhaps an indication of how low water levels have been for some time. We drank our fill, loaded up all our bottles and bladders (6.5-7 litres for me) and began a much heavier plod up to the ridge.

We were expecting a foul, scrubby ascent in keeping with the PoW reputation, but again we’d mapped out a route based on satellite imagery to maximise the areas that looked like button grass and low scrub. This worked remarkably well and while progress was slow due to the incline, the heat and our desire to choose the best route we ascended steadily.

The cicadas were out and the scrub crunched as we walked. It was very peaceful, out in the middle of nowhere, until you slowed down too much and the flies invaded your personal space. The day grew hot and dry and yet it was probably only in the low 20s. But button grass radiates heat like nothing else and sweat was running down our faces into our eyes and dripping off foreheads, noses and cheeks for most of the afternoon.

One more green patch, a creek to refill our water, some climby stuff and a lost glasses lens, and we found ourselves on a shelf just below two peaks, behind which lay the hidden summit of Humboldt. We were grateful that, so far, the craggy rock and scrubby towers that we’d begun to ascend had been passable without any back-tracking. It was nearly 6pm, a spectacular site and we were so knackered from the day’s climb that we decided to make it our home for the night. Our bruised hips and shoulders sighed with relief as the packs came off for the final time that day. A yummy dinner, an experiment in washing up with no water (moss is amazing!), fun with campsite echoes, a weather update (yup, there was reception!) and an early night completed the day for us.

We’re already behind, courtesy of some yucky scrub close to the river. But only by a few hours. This is early on day 2, and we’re heading over there, to ascend on the right hand side of that great big cliff/rock.

First, we have the Denison to cross. Not too deep fortunately, and super sweet to drink!

The Denison was lined with huon pine.. here a few seedlings trying to grow out of rock

And now we start the climb up. Satelite imagery has identified a longer but less scrubby route up. We’re grateful, but still dripping in sweat!

We don’t quite make it to the ridge on Day 2, but this is a pretty speccy place to camp. Just have to find a way up that rock and scrub wall in the morning!

Day 3: Mount Humboldt to Mid Range (south)

9.1km; 12:11hrs; 701m ascent

We didn’t have the best night’s rest, and managed to be most deeply asleep at 5:30 when the alarm sounded. This was becoming a pattern, allowing us to breakfast the dawn in and be ready to walk as the light grew stronger. Our porridge had no trace of last night’s peanut butter and tomato lentils in it so waterless washing up got the tick of approval.

We continued to head up to the ridgeline, negotiating the towering rock pillars accurately without needing to retrace steps and otherwise finding a relatively pleasant route to the ridge that was better than it looked at first sight. We dropped our packs on the ridge, and ducked left over a bowl to the summit of Mount Humboldt. In true SW bushwalking fashion the clag rolled in for the 10 minutes we were on top. It was hardly going to dampen our spirits however, and we celebrated attaining the ridge and climbing our first mountain of the PoW range 1.5 hours after starting out that morning. As we returned to our packs the mist lifted and now we could see north along the range.

Off we set, with renewed enthusiasm for putting some distance under our belts and making up some of the time we’d lost. The range, however, was hard to read and just when you thought you had a grip on what was what, you came to a rise and there was something different over it… more often than not a cliffy drop! We realized very early on that we weren’t going to be moving great distances fast, as we grew accustomed to negotiating rocky pillars, usually by descending down steep green, scrubby gullies. Occasionally we had to retrace steps, but usually not too far, and in several spots we sent a scout ahead (whoever had the most energy at the time!). In this fashion we found ourselves on Princes Peak in time for lunch at 1pm.

Lunch had us refueled and ready for some more walking with the next objective set on finding water and moving as far along the range as possible. We had been keeping an eye out for water as we moved and while you could tell where it could usually be found, it was just too dry to be reliable or predictable. Good fortune was on our side and each of us found some water in the saddle below Princes Peak, with John winning first prize for the best source by far – it was clear, you could fit a whole cup in without disturbing the bottom, and it more than accommodated the several litres we took out of it without showing any sign of depletion. Ah, the simple things in life!

All set now to walk as far as we pleased, we set off with slightly uncomfortable, overfilled stomachs. The going was good, the best it would be for the trip as it turned out. Mostly we traversed button grass ridges with a few smaller rocky outcrops to negotiate. One or two were scrubbier and took us a little longer. The rest were either a matter of going up and over, or around to the west. Almost always the west. We were starting to get the hang of this ridge and the nature of the PoWs.

Drizzle set in late afternoon, if you could even call it drizzle. It wasn’t enough to have us in wet weather gear, though we did eventually pull out pack covers. Perhaps that was more because since we were carrying them they might as well do their job! Over time the physical exertion turned us into drunkards, unable to walk straight (hard enough in button grass as it is) and eventually unable to keep our balance full stop. When one of us had two falls in as many steps, and I was certainly walking a bit like a zombie, we made the call. Although a tad short of where we’d have liked, by this stage we weren’t too fussed and we were making good progress. Tents went up, we got warm, had dinner and fell asleep before the sun went down. We woke some time later for the last rays of light.

I had the joy of discovering the one thing I don’t like having to deal with on a walk – my period. Sorry guys, feel free to jump to day 4 if you’re not interested or don’t want to know. I’m not writing about this to gross anyone out but because it’s something that’s relevant to most women and yet not something that’s talked about much. I knew it was coming, most of us do, though it’s not something I can time to the day. When I first had to learn to deal with the problem, I managed in the same way as my mother and sister had done, with pads and tampons as the occasion dictated. Only fairly recently did a post on a friend’s Facebook page prompt me to take a leap and try something different: a menstrual cup. I was willing to try it out to reduce my impact on the environment , although it had the added benefit of being cheaper as well. Its ramifications for bushwalking came as a significant surprise. In Tassie, where you can’t light open fires and burn waste (in most places anyway), there’s no choice but to carry waste out. A week’s worth of traditional sanitary products is smelly, bulky and heavy – not something you want to have to carry on a 10 day bushwalk where you’ve already cut as much weight as possible out of your pack. A menstrual cup is a piece of medical grade silicone that weighs a few grams. The only care it requires is a boil before and after use. In my case I boiled it just before we left, then stored it dry in a zip lock bag. It had another boil when we got home. It can stay in for up to 12 hours, and I just give mine a rinse before reinserting. It means no waste products and a much cleaner me, especially when water is as scarce as it was on this trip. It was the first time I’d used it for an extended length of time on an overnight walk, and the first time I didn’t have any back-up products. It worked flawlessly, and I won’t be using anything else in the future! If you’re female and don’t have a regime you’re happy with at the moment, I’d suggest having a look online and maybe taking the leap to try something new ;)!

Day 3 dawn is pretty!

Body language says it all. It’s a heavy slog up with full packs, and as much water as we can carry.

We arrive on Humboldt in the mist. This is looking as far south as we got to see!

Looking north, it’s speccy country, less fun to have to pick your way through the scrubby towers in the clag 😉

Typically, we descend and the weather improves. Here we are about to descend down a scrubby gully to bypass a pinacle we can’t get off any other way. It’s a long way down and a long way back up. It’s also not the only time we’ll have to do this!

Which way off? Left or right? Or backtrack again! Princes Peak looks like easier going.

Wandering along mid range. What country to walk in!

Day 4: Mid Range (south) to Mid Range (north)

8.5km; 10:53hrs; 562m ascent

Ok guys, you’re safe now!

We thought we were up for an easy half-day – from where we were at the southern end of ‘mid range’ PoW to the northern end, just before the ridge breaks up on the final 2km approach to Diamond Peak. We still started early, and wisely so. The drizzle of yesterday afternoon had cleared up, but the scrub was wet and the sun was struggling to lift its head above the clouds. We walked most of the morning in warm tops, beanies and with pack covers on, pants soaked to the waist, and shirts wet to elbows as we muscled our way through the button grass, tee tree and other assortments of scrub. It was both better and worse than I expected with some areas of open walking but others that were scrubby, steep and rocky, or both. John probably had the better approach – to have no expectations. That way, he explained, you don’t get disappointed, or start off so disillusioned you don’t want to go!

Progress continued to be slow as we discussed and picked our way across the terrain. I was starting to realise that this was not a range where you moved great distances in a day (either that, or I’m slowing down in my early middle age!). We got used to finding patchy evidence of previous human presence where the terrain dictated you take a precise route through an obstacle, largely in the form of a slight foot pad or a broken piece of scrub. This was not something I expected given the remote nature of the range, yet it was undeniable if your eyes were tuned in to the signs and surprisingly reassuring.

In the afternoon we approached some jutting rock cliffs separated by scrubby gullies, each higher than the last. We had to choose which gully to try to get on top, where the going looked to be best. The higher the cliffs, the more they looked like they had overhangs on the way up so we decided to head for the first, and try each one out in turn. The first was a goer, and it was relatively easy to get ourselves on the high, eastern side of the sharp rock edge. In parts it was like a knife blade. The western side was an overhang, but even the eastern side was so steep you needed to hang on with hands to the low scrub. Fortunately we didn’t encounter any chasms in the rock and the climb up was really quite fun (at least for a rock monkey!).

We popped out on the saddle and found a way up the next rise, sticking to rock to avoid the scrub. The ridge opened back up, and we turned our attention back to water. Our info suggested we’d have water at our next camp site, but Graham wasn’t in a trusting mood, and when we walked across some boggy ground he suggested we hunt around for water downhill a little. It was a brilliant suggestion and once again we found the start of a creek. It wasn’t flowing this high up, but there was enough water trapped in the pool we found for us to drink our fill and once again load up our reservoirs. The down side, we now had a heavy trudge up the next hill (but we weren’t really complaining!).

We found ourselves sitting on the remains of a cairn, that John reckoned came down in a lightning strike. We’d thought it might be a Sprent cairn, but John delved into its history on our return and found very little evidence of who might have raised it (if anyone reading this knows, we’d love to hear from you). We tried our hardest to imagine what it had been like for the men who had been here before. It was just too hard, though I have no doubt we were a great deal more comfortable than they had been. We savoured the moments: the last of the sun’s warmth on our backs, the clear blue sky, the crisp breeze, the wonderful views north and south along the range, the quietly pleasant company, the feeling of having achieved all we needed to that day, the sense of peace, contentedness and even belonging.

The breeze helped encourage us on our way, and we dropped the short distance down to the beautifully open, mostly flat, and a tad boggy saddle to set up our homes for what would turn out to be the next two nights. There were yabbie holes galore here, and a few that were full to brimming. Turns out they contain a lot of water, and even after taking 2-3 litres out of one it was still brimming near the top! We discovered the MSR pump and filter I’d bought especially for the trip worked wonderfully here – it was not only an effective way to get water out of a hole that didn’t have a downhill slope (necessary for siphoning via a length of plastic tubing), it filtered at the same time (although it was pretty clear for us and probably not necessary). I’m not a gear junkie, but it would prove to be useful numerous times on the trip and went down as money well spent.

Day 4 and we move closer to Diamond Peak, although it’s hiding behind that block

Knackered, but we still have energy for some fun.

The scrub is often deeper than it looks. Which way up that thing shall we go? We decide on the first green scrubby gully and then up what turns out to be a knife edge rock.

Looking back. What a ridge!

You can’t tell, but there’s a sheer drop either side of this rocky pinacle. It was a fun scramble up this part.

Steep country in places.

The Spires were a constant feature out to our right

On the old cairn of unknown origin, we finally get a closer view of Diamond Peak!

A spectacular camp site with the Spires behind. Just as well it was speccy, we were to spend a wet rest day here, not keen to walk the hardest section of the walk in whiteout. As it turned out, we did!

Day 5: Rainy rest day

To Diamond Peak… or not? We woke for a 7am start to find ourselves in the middle of cloud. Who knows how big, but it felt like it went on forever. It wasn’t really raining, perhaps just misting, but each time the wind blew gusts over the saddle it was driven onto our tents, sounding like it was raining properly, even though it wasn’t. Our notes told us the next part was the hardest of the walk, particularly if in whiteout. Hmm… we felt it would be foolish to have a crack, especially as we had a bit of time to spare and the forecast had the rain clearing up by 11am the following morning. And so the waiting game began. 10:30 it was still claggy, and our decision was cemented.

Graham and I settled on half rations for lunch with the other half for dinner, to give us an extra day should we need it. We had plenty of extra warm drinks with us and water was now in abundance, so we made the most of it. Today time was measured in how long it took to fill a cup with water from the tent fly. How many drops made up a cupful? I lost count. We whiled the time away drinking, chatting, dozing, making lists of gear to fix or replace, and getting thrashed by Graham playing cards. It might seem frustrating to be holed up unable to do much, but it was actually really nice to be in a position where you couldn’t make yourself too busy, as we so often do these days. I was happy just to be. And we probably benefited physically from the rest day as well. It grew dark, the wind buffeted us half the night and then settled. In the silence we slept.

Half rations for lunch (and the same for dinner) on our tent-bound day. Still tasty! It was all just as fresh by day 10 too!

PoW GPS route, day 6-8

Day 6: Mid Range (north) to Diamond Peak

4.6km; 6:41hrs; 481m ascent

We woke and peeked out eagerly. It was still solid mist, but the rain was absent. Perhaps it would bode well for a later start? We decided on hourly checks, ready to leave as soon as we could see. The latest weather update confirmed no more rain after 11am. Our hopes rose each time the tent seemed to brighten just a little, then fell again as a bit of drizzle started. At 9:00 in a moment of brightness we decided to be ready to leave at 10, reckoning we had about an hour of walking up an easy enough ridge before we hit the nasty stuff. We hoped the weather would be clear by then. Ha, what false hope!

Packed and ready to go, despite cold hands we strode confidently into the mist. It kept pace with us, though we let out a small cheer at the first glimpse of proper sunshine and a hint of blue sky. Perhaps we scared it off as it disappeared again behind the light grey curtain. We were sent more rain and, at one point, hail as if to punish our optimism. We were wet and cold, with no choice but to keep moving to stay warm. We negotiated by poorly-contoured GPS maps and lots of intuition, somehow getting it right most of the time. We dropped off cliffs into green tinged mist, and tried to walk on ridges that disappeared without hint of which direction they went in. Part way along, we caught glimpses as the mist parted, and were probably better off not knowing what we were walking through! But the terrain was spectacular, and it was a pity we couldn’t see more of it. And then we stopped. We were standing on the edge of a cliff, again. We’d arrived. At the chasm. The one we’d been told about. It was unmistakable. Back we went, to a spot we thought we’d be able to safely work our way down a scrubby gully underneath the western side of the rock. We plunged into head high scrub (and then some), wet and slippery going and followed the small traces of those who had been before us. Back up a chute we scrambled, climbed and, in one spot, passed packs between us. We squeezed back out the top, once again on the edge of a sloping, rocky ridge.

A hint of sun was enough to convince us to stop for a very quick bite to eat for lunch, none of us wanting to pause too long and get too cold in the wind. We continued on, the rain gone but the wind bitterly cold. The sense was the weather was improving, even if it was well overdue. And so it was when we were 600m from Diamond Peak that we actually got our first close up view of the mountain. Wasn’t she magnificent, emerging from the mist! We knew we were close – excitement grew and the weather continued to improve even if the sun was still hiding from us. Cold, wet and tired by more scrub and scrambling around bluffs and buttresses, we chose to set up camp in the most amazing of spots and save climbing Diamond peak for the morning, though we had a good look at possible routes. The rest of the afternoon saw us spread our wet gear over the bushes by our tents in an attempt to begin the drying process and make it less painful to don in the morning. Lentil curry with peas for dinner was all the more divine, having missed a cooked dinner the night before. The sunset cast pretty colours over us as if to make up for the rest of the day, and everything was well in our part of the world.

Day 6 we wait till 10am when the rain is supposed to be stopping and the weather clearing, before we head for Diamond Peak. Unfortunately, as is usually the case in the mountains, it took much longer to clear. We walked in mist and rain, and at one point hail. It was cold, but raw and liberating at the same time.

We climbed down this, navigating solely by GPS, having no idea of the drops we had to figure out a way around. We got there though!

Another gap in the clag – it’s a pity we don’t get a better look at the craggy, dramatic landscape we’re apparently walking through.

And then, 600m from Diamond Peak, it finally reveals itself!! Wow!

We go check her out straight away, but save climbing for tomorrow morning.

The late afternoon brings blue skies, though we’re still cold and wet. Isn’t this just a brilliant camp site?

Love this little lump, with Spires behind

Macro fun with lichen

The sunset is spectacular, looking back at the ridge we traversed that day in the clag

Sun setting on Spires

Photographer at work – or just posing?

Day 7: Diamond Peak to Observation Peak

10.6km; 11:54hrs; 784m ascent

We slept in for half an hour, but were quick to get up when we heard John shout out that there was going to be a good sunrise. A fingernail moon hung over a rainbow horizon, just to the right of Diamond Peak. We got to enjoy our breakfast without having to worry about trying to pack gear in between mouthfuls because we’d agreed to climb the peak and then come back to pack gear up when it would hopefully be a bit drier (the downside to such a still night was a very wet inner fly). Wet socks and boots still had to go on, but the reward would be more than worth it so we gritted teeth and got on with it.

We shot off, spring in our step, feeling weightless with no packs on our backs. Up to the saddle connecting Diamond Peak to the ridge, down into the beautiful forest and along the side of the rock we went until we located the bottom of a steep gully marked by a tall pandanus palm. The scrubby start had now turned into a green carpet of moss and we followed it tentatively up and up, hesitant to tear it up with our unforgiving boots, onto rock and the eastern shoulder of Diamond Peak. John and Graham let me lead, which was super cool and very generous, and I enjoyed every step of the way. There was nothing tricky about it, just sheer pleasure. Then there we were, on top of the world! Elation, excitement, happiness, contentment and celebration filled the morning. We enjoyed the moment, then tried to record it, then shared it with people who may not have even noticed our absence, then sat and savoured it some more.

Reluctantly we turned to leave the summit, aware we still had a long day ahead of us. After taking down tents and donning full packs, the ridge continued to surprise us, and we took the best part of an hour pack hauling down one cliff. Probably the boys should know better than to send me to scout out a route down rock, of course I thought it was do-able. Turned out we had a double pack haul to do, without great foot holds or a lot of room. It didn’t help that part way through I was ready to catch Graham’s pack when the rope caught against the very sharp quartzite and snapped without warning. We were lucky the pack didn’t fall far and happened to land in front of me in my arms (with a bit of assistance from my face), rather than over my head where it would have overbalanced me. It was a timely warning. We were much more careful with the remaining pack hauls, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to feel much relieved when we were all standing below the rock.

That was the worst of the day, and the longer we walked the more the terrain improved. We had a lot of scrub to negotiate, the kind that covers little legs in bruises, although even this improved after the PoW North high point. Our pace improved here, hampered only by the unevenness of walking through decent sized button grass clumps with tired legs. We spied a flat platform just below Observation Peak and made a beeline, all of us ready to stop walking by now. As we chose our sites and pitched our tents I reflected on how well we worked as a team. We were each leaders in turn, but none of us was ever head chief and it was special to be a part of such a team!

The morning dawns clear. Sunrise behind Diamond Peak

Time to climb Diamond Peak. Loving the mist in the valleys

Can’t wipe the smiles off our faces, it’s a special mountain!!

Check out that ridgeline, and our camp site!

Diamond Peak 😀

Time to continue along the range, heading for camp below Observation Peak. Here we are heading down into the scrub to bypass yet another cliffy drop.

Looking back. Today is a day of broken ridgelines and thicker than expected scrub. Although at least here it’s only waist height.

Emerging from some scrub, Spires behind.

Making the most of some yabbie hole water on the way. Not a bad back drop either!

The walking gets easier as we progress, although our feet get more and more clumsy as we tire. It’s another long day.

Button grass ridges in evening light. That’s Observation peak in the distance.

600m to go, we take a breather. Camp is off to the right of this photo.

Looking back at Diamond Peak from our campsite at the end of day 7.

PoW GPS route, day 8-10

Day 8: Observation Peak to Algonkian Mountain

7.9km; 9:26hrs; 622m ascent

The sun rose behind the Spires, painting pretty button grass silhouettes and creating a spectacular backdrop for my chosen loo spot for the morning. We had a short, straight and easy climb through damp button grass and ankle to knee high scrub to the summit of Observation Peak, which rewarded us with 360 degree views. It was the last peak on the Prince of Wales range proper, so we spent a little time enjoying it before casting our eyes westwards to the very green looking Algonkian.

We’d heard bad things about this one and we were about to find out how bad they would prove to be. We duck and wove our way down the ridge, taking a few hours but managing to stay in reasonable scrub right through to the creek, where we washed faces and refilled water in preparation for a waterless high camp on Algonkian. Unfortunately it was starting to warm up, just in time for the 2.5km ascent. Again, the scrub was manageable. It was the kind you could weave through without too much effort, and we took it in turns to lead. We stopped about ¼ of the way up for lunch in the bauera and were once again swarmed by flies and mozzies, something the higher summits had fortunately lacked!

Onwards we plodded, passing a section of beautiful forest that had more king billies than I’d ever seen in one spot, as well as sassafras, celery top, myrtle and pandanis. This gave way to a section where the less enjoyable species of scoparia, cutting grass, bauera and horizontal dominated and we realised we were indeed getting closer to the summit.

And then we broke out, finding ourselves looking back towards the entire PoW range stretched across the horizon…wow! It provided the motivation to overcome fatigue and make our way past the first camp site we found, over to the summit of Algonkian. What views!! Just spectacular. Definitely worth celebrating with the last bit of Old Jamaican Rum and Raisin chocolate 😉 while Graham rescued maps and hat from a burst tube of sunscreen.

We entertained the idea of continuing on, heading off the slopes of the mountain to camp in the forest somewhere to give us extra time the next day. It made logical sense, but the summit was just too nice and we were only going to be there once, not to mention we were feeling pretty buggered too. We opted for a high camp with views for our final night and found a lovely flat camp site just down from the summit that looked out along the entire PoW range, framed by king billies. For me it marked the last proper night of the trip, the following days falling into the ‘walking out’ category rather than part of the journey itself.

Camping here also gave us a few hours before dinner and bed to reflect on the trip, how perfect it had been so far and how lucky we were with weather, water, route finding, the boat trip in, and all the information we’d gathered from various sources (thanks guys, you know who you are). Even the mozzies, flies and ants seemed to know to leave us alone!

The following morning there’s another pretty sunrise

Observation peak glows in the early light. It’s only a short distance up.

Another look back at Diamond Peak from my loo spot 😉

Heading from Observation Peak to Algonkian, where we’ll camp for the night. It looks a tad scrubby.

Heading up Algonkian. It is a tad scrubby, but most of it can be woven through easily enough

We walked through King Billy forests. Never seen so many in one spot!

The breaks grew longer, and I played around with the macro

Scoparia. Pretty. Spikey!

And then we’re out, and get to look back at the PoW range

And then we’re out, and get to look back at the PoW range

The entire PoW range from Algonkian summit cairn

Diamond peak framed by King Billy stags

I think we’ll camp here. Diamond Peak in the distance.

Day 9: Algonkian Mountain to Jane River Track (Bests Rivulet)

15.3km; 10:38hrs; 270m ascent

The morning dawned cloudy but fine, and the possible showers that had been forecast didn’t look like they’d eventuate. We enjoyed a final high breakfast, then went to survey our possible routes off Algonkian. The guys we knew who had been through some years before had talked about a horribly scrubby ridge to the west and we weren’t keen to repeat that, though we expected to run into scrub at some point. I’d found one source somewhere at some point in the last three years that talked about the plains to the north providing easier going. So once again I mapped several possible routes according to satellite imagery and now we chose one of them. We would see how it would fare.

Down we went, finding ourselves in deeper and deeper scoparia as we tried to stay on the ridgeline. We veered off to the right into open forest. For some time we tried determinedly to keep heading left and regain the middle of the ridge but it was scrubby there and eventually we gave in. It was the best decision and the going remained fairly open under rainforest. It felt like we were constantly sidling left across the slope, as if staying on the same contour line, but the GPS told a different story. We had lovely open forest and the occasional patch of more condensed horizontal to weave through (for good measure), but nothing that actually felt like a scrub bash. There were a few cliff lines and steep gullies to negotiate, but always we found a way through with ease.

At the bottom we wove through forests of tall skinny paperbark trees (I think) and cutting grass. It was weird terrain, but we weren’t going to complain. It got a bit scrubbier, but nothing that required super physical work to clear a way through. In the last kilometre before the Jane River Track we finally arrived at the open button grass plains I had been boasting (only a tad overdue!). Graham scared us all with his loud reaction to yet another snake we’d startled, and then we hit ‘road’. Overgrown, but road nonetheless. We’d done it… mostly.. and in record time! High-fives all round. Definitely the way to go, we agreed.

John checked his GPS and confirmed the goldminers hut was only 500m south of where we were and we agreed it was worth a visit – even if it was in the wrong direction – so we left our packs and headed that way. It was well built (it even had a shower!) and was holding up with time, although a sad deserted feeling pervaded and I was happy to turn our backs and leave it to the quiet of the bush again. Again, it was so far removed from my own experiences of life I couldn’t imagine how things might have been, how the guys who had walked the same road as I was now walking had felt about being there.

Reunited with our packs we began the long road walk out, keen to make a dent on the 25km so we could definitely make it out in good time the next day. The road was in better condition that I expected, the going slowed only by frequent large trees that had fallen across it. Most had been there for some time, and those who had been in before us had already established obvious routes around them. The pace still wasn’t that fast, we were tired, and it was hard to muster great motivation to keep moving with speed when we were further ahead than we’d expected. We made it to Bests Rivulet before tempers started to fray with the constant insult of having to go up and over or down and under fallen trees and so we called it a night, camping in the middle of the flattest section of road we could find.

It was home to almost all the mozzies in the world, and we had no choice but to lock ourselves in our tent inners for protection, despite the evening being a muggy one at this height. Graham spoiled me with lollies and snacks that he now knew were surplus to his needs. We hadn’t been sure we’d get out on day 10 until that point, but we were very keen to do so knowing there was a front coming through the following night that would bring heavy rain all night and the next day. We didn’t want to take any chances that the Franklin river wouldn’t be passable. (A week after walking out we found out from a fellow walker and friend that the Gordon River was flooded and unpassable, so who knows, perhaps the Franklin would have been after all that rain? Lucky our original boat trip fell through and the alternative option meant we left a day earlier, hey?!)

We found a lovely, and largely scrub-free way off Algonkian.

Mushrooms galore here!

Some big man ferns.

The most pristine snow berries I’ve ever seen

Moss!

And then we hit the button grass. Looking back at Algonkian

We go and check out the goldminers hut. Graham reckons his hair needs combing?? I think he has more on his chin at this stage…

Inside the hut. The shower is in the room behind me. Yes, they had a shower!

PoW GPS route, day 10

Day 10: Jane River Track (Bests Rivulet) to Lyell Highway

19.7km; 7:56hrs; 564m ascent

Definitely my least favourite day. I always struggle with walking out, and this was perhaps one of the worst walkouts. The road seemed to get worse and worse as we got closer to the end; the cutting grass, bauera and other scrub seemed keen to taunt, pulling at tired stumbling legs just to spite me. The bog sucked me down, filling both boots that I had actually managed to dry out. Grrrr… I found myself getting angry and grumpy at the scrub each time, and was surprised and fascinated. I tried hard to treat it as a challenge, but wasn’t much in the mood and did a pretty poor job. I can’t imagine I was much company for John and Graham, but they didn’t seem to let my spirits get them down and I just hope I didn’t taint their experiences of those last few hours.

The best parts of the day were examining the condition of each of the bridges we came to and also arriving at the Franklin to find we could rock hop across without getting our feet wet. It was also pretty funny trying to figure out which one of us would have the greatest luck flagging down a ride the 2-3km to the Frenchman’s Cap car park, where John had parked a car a week and a half earlier. John got the job, and it didn’t take him long before he was back with transport home. We all had smiles on our faces as we flicked the last of the leeches off our boots and gaiters, changed into semi-clean clothes, and tucked into chips and later an ice cream.

Jane River Track walking… where the walking was good!

And some more.. in parts it was very overgrown though!

Old bridges across rivulets

Finally we arrive at the Franklin river, which we rock hop across. Luckily we went in a day early, and got through in 10 days, or we’d have been walking out in a day of solid rain, and higher river levels.

And now, which of us has the highest chance of flagging down a ride to the Frenchman’s Cap carpark, a few km down the road?? The marker behind signifies the start of the currently closed JRT.

We spent the next two days cleaning, repairing and sorting gear, smiling happily that we weren’t walking in the heavy, blustery rain and cold conditions. The emphasis on basic needs that had been such a focus of the last 10 days grew less prominent as we immersed ourselves back into the business of our everyday lives. It had been a lovely reset and it still makes me smile, breathe deeply, and feel warm and happy inside. I feel very privileged to be able to do such things in a beautiful part of the world with special like-minded people.

All up over 93km and 5000m ascent and a whole lot of fun!

Leillateah: 9 February 2020

Leillateah GPS route

Leillateah GPS route

What a way to start the year’s walking off… An unexpected invitation to join Amanda and Jeramie on a scrub bash out to Leillateah and a date on a weekend I actually had free… It was impossible to say no, even though it’s not the kind of mountain you talk about lightly. Located south of the Southern Ranges, Leillateah’s reputation for a long scrub bash is well deserved. I’d looked at it once before when I was doing a lot of solo walking, put it in the ‘too hard’ basket, and not given it so much as another thought. Having a group to share the bashing and to keep you going when it seemed all a bit too hard was exactly what was needed! If it hadn’t been for the invitation, I doubt we would have been going any time soon.

We left Hobart the evening before, knowing we were in for a very long day and opting for a later wake up than we’d have been able to manage if we’d left the morning of the walk. None of us had eaten at at Post Office 6985 in Dover, so we treated ourselves to wood-fired pizza in anticipation of the energy we’d be expending the next day. We were pleasantly surprised by the meal, and managed to finish it at 8pm, just as they were closing the doors for the evening (typical Tassie trading hours!).

We drove on to the bridge that crosses the Esperance river, and pulled right into the logging coup just south of it. Here we found some flat ground off the side of the road and set up our tent. We tossed and turned our way through the night, seeming to fall into the deepest sleep as the alarm sounded at 5am! We breakfasted and threw the tent and gear into the back of the car, no time wasted on packing it away nicely.

We knew we were in for a long trip out to that mountain on the left, so we set off at first light (or there abouts).

We knew we were in for a long trip out to that mountain on the left, so we set off at first light (or there abouts).

By 6:20, only a little late of our pre-determined starting time, we set out eagerly, taking the first of many thousand steps for the day. The logging road gave way to a much more overgrown road, and then to the wonderful vibrantly scrubby growth of abandoned forestry coups that always catches the bushwalker out. We should have known better. The cutting grass was big and nasty, wrapping razor sharp tentacles around anything it could find – arms, legs, torsos, even necks. It zapped enthusiasm right at the start, and we began to wonder if we might make the walk in a day after all.

Straight into an overgrown forestry coup. Reunited with cutting grass once again.

Straight into an overgrown forestry coup. Reunited with cutting grass once again.

Fortunately the scrub was (relatively) short lived, as we broke into more open forest, and then finally out onto button grass plains. The next 5km was delightful, easy, open walking with lovely views of the Southern Ranges, and we made sure we enjoyed every moment.

Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.

Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.

And after a bit we popped out onto the buttongrass plains, our mountain on the left again. It would be madness to head straight for it, there’s way too much green stuff that way.

Southern ranges

Southern ranges and Leillateah

By the time we arrived at the ridge we’d be ascending, the button grass clumps began to grow in size, as if inversely proportional to their height above sea level. It made for some tough climbing on legs that were starting to feel a tad weary. But it was only a warm up for the real challenge, and we soon found ourselves in horrid, over head high scrub of the worst kinds. It would take almost 3 hours to climb 1.8km to the ridge line, and that included one short section of open forest.

Scrub that you could kind of see the way ahead. Amanda has a go at walking backwards through it.

The Hippo

Out of the horrid stuff, looking up at the very green stuff we have to go, hoping it’s kinder to us (Ha!)

Horrid scrub

Yeah.. horrid green stuff and a taunting summit off to the left.

When we did pop out onto the ridge, we thought we were set. But no. The scrub never stops on this mountain. Two or three more times we found ourselves plunging into head high greenery, only this stuff was super tough. It wasn’t budging for anyone. No surprises then that it took us 30 minutes to walk the final 250 odd metres to the summit!

The ridgeline was even worse, promising nice walking but stinging us with scrubby sections. Although I can’t complain about the view!

Amanda recieves first aid for a cutting grass cut on her finger.. while the paramedic takes photos!

Final steps up to a nice summit!

Oh but was it worth it. The view towards the Southern Ranges was one of a kind, and the elation of having made it wasn’t dampened by the realisation that we were only technically half way through the walk (even though it was now 2:30pm). We ate the most delicious of lunches and savoured the moments, knowing we didn’t have long.

And we made it!! Stoked.. it’s only 2:30 (having set out at 6:20!)

Looking towards the ocean

Jeramie – chief scrub basher, at home in the mountains

Our retreat was as hasty as we could make it while taking the time to follow our route closely enough to ensure we didn’t have to bash our way through any scrub unnecessarily. Jeremy was spot on when he remarked how this was, ironically, the most enjoyable walking of the trip – downhill and with a highway set out before us through the scrub.

We each retreated into our own thoughts as we plodded back along the button grass plains. Graham and Jeremy both set a blistering pace, which was probably just as well. It meant there was little energy to expend on feeling tired and there was no time to settle comfortably into a slow plod. It also meant we were back to the final bit of scrub just before dark and saved having to brave the worst of the cutting grass with reduced visibility. The road was a sight for sore and weary eyes, and we spanned its width.

We agreed that none of us would have made it to Leillateah without the others and in this way, for us, Aristotle’s axiom about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts was true.

All up: 18.8km, 847m ascent, 14:28 hrs (a bit over 8 up, and 6 back – all breaks included).

Terminal Peak, Lloyd Jones and Secheron: 22-24 December 2019

Terminal, Lloyd Jones and Secheron GPS route

Terminal, Lloyd Jones and Secheron GPS route

It’s been a long time since Miller’s Bluff, though not through lack of trying. Our last three ‘walks’ had such horrid weather across the state we didn’t get past the front door (well and truely a weather snob now!). Christmas, however, is supposed to have a certain spirit attached to it and at least the weather gods were aware of it, even if the same couldn’t be said for the crazy drivers or impatient shoppers we’d both come across in the past week. I was, understandably, super keen for this walk, not least because a week before I’d been feeling like I was on my death bed with gastro and wasn’t sure I was going to be fit to walk anywhere!

We had a whole day to get ready after my last night shift, which only added to the anticipation, even if I was a bit sleepy. We woke at a relaxed time on Sunday and eventually made it out of the house before midday and found our way to the Scotts Peak boat ramp by 2pm.

It was the furthest I’d been since the fires of last summer, and I wasn’t really sure what I felt seeing the changes they’d made to the landscape. If only it was as simple as the press seems to think at the moment, then we’d ban Scott Morrison from any holidays and we’d be free of fires for good! Sadly I don’t have much faith in that solution. Pity, because a few days ago dry lightening started another fire right in the middle of the range we’ve been trying to traverse the last three years, and February isn’t that far off.

Anyway, we arrived to a brisk westerly that sucked the warmth out of the full sun. Unfortunately we were also heading west, which made for a very bumpy ride, and gave me (sitting up the front) a good soaking every now and again. We were both freezing cold and wet in no time. Even the effort of fighting the wind for 2 hours wasn’t enough to keep me from shivering and making my fingers go numb and yellow. Graham was steering though and made a beeline for Mount Jim Brown, which got us into calmer waters a bit earlier than otherwise. As we headed north towards the foot of Terminal Peak a beautiful white beach sang out to both of us. It was in the perfect spot, and the ground around pretty flat. A scout around found us the perfect spot to make home for the next two evenings.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with all the usual things like dying off, setting up the tent, reading maps and notes, deciding our exact plan of attack and eventually cooking dinner. All accompanied by the sound of Lake Pedder laying at our feet and frogs singing happily in the distance. The sky was a tad hazy but you could still make out all the old favourites, and it felt good to say hello again. It was hard to keep eyes open long enough to think of all the special things to be grateful for. That was ok, tomorrow would be a big day and we’d need all the sleep we could get!

Camp site with a view

Camp site with a view

Not a bad campsite. Where are we going tomorrow, Graham?

Not a bad campsite. Where are we going tomorrow, Graham?

Tent with Terminal behind

Tent with Terminal behind

We’d agreed on setting the alarm for 6, but in typical fashion dozed off and didn’t get moving till quite a while later! It was after 8 when we finally took our first steps up the mountain. The sky was overcast and the lake mirrored in shades of silver. Neither of us minded, we knew we’d be hot enough with all the up we’d be doing. The longer the sun hid the more comfortable we’d be. The gentle slope at the base of Terminal very quickly turned steep, and we were both feeling generally unfit. The terrain didn’t have any sympathy for us, becoming only steeper with thicker vegetation underfoot. Neither were particularly horrid if you took them alone, but the combination saw us taking frequent breathers. Melaleuca, tea tree, pink swamp heath, native lemon boronia and banksias shared the soil with the button grass. Most were in flower, brightening the otherwise greyscale day. The breaks gave us the chance to hear the olive whistlers over our heavy breathing and racing hearts and the occasional thumping of helicopter rotors as they continued to try and put out the fires in the southwest. We were on top of Terminal Peak within an hour and a half, where we had a lengthy break. Lloyd Jones and Secheron lay ahead, with amazing views all around. I felt at home again!!

Easy open ridge walking eventually gave way to a couple of cliffy sections, both of which we sidled around to the right till we found gullies we were happy to scramble up. Neither proved particularly hard or involved too much of a detour, but were certainly easier to identify heading up than if you were heading down off the range. The final climb up Lloyd Jones was straight forward enough and we treated ourselves to another break. Secheron dominated the view and the conversation. It looked like a sheer wall of rock, and not one that was easily climbable. We had also only heard how difficult it was from the one friend we knew had been there before.

I was all for having a crack at a greenish looking line that didn’t seem too steep and that wouldn’t involve too much of a drop around and under the cliff face. To be fair, we did give it a crack but didn’t get very far before Graham pulled the pin-I don’t think I’d really convinced him it was doable from the start. So we went to plan B, and sidled down and around the rock aiming for the saddle between Frankland Peak and Secheron. It turned out to be really nice easy walking without too much scrub. As soon as we could start heading back up we did, and we ended up coming up just to the left of the saddle. A steep but easy enough walk took us from there to the summit. We were both surprised and grateful for how straightforward it had been, although we recognised it wouldn’t be easy doing it in reverse without knowing the route in advanced. It could get quite hairy if you went the wrong way!!

We’d made it up in 6 hrs and finally got to have a late lunch. We mused at how easy it was to travel a relatively short distance and feel like you were in the middle of the bush, unlikely to see another face. We were well aware, however, that had there been no flooding of Lake Pedder then we may well have been disturbed by seaplanes and the sounds that throngs of tourists make. We drew some interesting parallels and played with some of the contradictions inherent in our views of the flooding of Lake Pedder and the development of wilderness areas that have been talked about of late. We ended up with lots of shades of grey, and were quite happy to see them as they were without needing to take sides.

Enough yakking, we figured we’d better scoot back to make sure we weren’t walking the last bit in the dark. We made better time than expected even with both of us tripping over our own feet as well as all the tree roots and slippery clumps of button grass that seemed to prey on tired walkers. We managed to avoid each of the 6 whip snakes we encountered, despite their dangerous habit of sunning themselves right where we wanted to step. We stumbled back in to camp a bit more than 11hrs after having left, and treated ourselves to a hearty meal and a much needed lie down!

It's a silvery kind of day - just perfect

It’s a silvery kind of day – just perfect

On the ridge to Terminal, and we have views towards Lloyd Jones

On the ridge to Terminal, and we have views towards Lloyd Jones

Graham leads us from Terminal to Lloyd Jones, for his 600th point!

Graham leads us from Terminal to Lloyd Jones, for his 600th point!

A slightly scrambly bit before Lloyd Jones. Straight on up!

A slightly scrambly bit before Lloyd Jones. Straight on up!

Take a photo of me!!?

Take a photo of me!!?

Looking back along the ridge, lovely lines

Looking back along the ridge, lovely lines

From the summit of Lloyd Jones, looking towards Secheron (and Frankland).. wondering how we're going to get up that chunk of rock

From the summit of Lloyd Jones, looking towards Secheron (and Frankland).. wondering how we’re going to get up that chunk of rock

That way, it turns out!

That way, it turns out!

Frankland from Secheron

Frankland from Secheron

Heading back, descending into the gully at the saddle between Secheron and Frankland

Heading back, descending into the gully at the saddle between Secheron and Frankland

More lovely ridge lines, Solitary in the background

More lovely ridge lines, Solitary in the background

Out comes the sun, the silver is replaced with vivid colours

Out comes the sun, the silver is replaced with vivid colours

Home, sweet home. Out tent is down there in that patch of sunlight. Don't we live in a beautiful place??

Home, sweet home. Out tent is down there in that patch of sunlight. Don’t we live in a beautiful place??

Our third and final day greeted us with perfect weather. Sunny, still and just the right number of wispy white clouds in the sky. We took our time to enjoy it as we ate and packed, then made our way slowly across the water. It was so lovely we had frequent pauses to stop and look at all the mountains around us, or lie back and feel the sun on our faces as the water gently lapped at the kayak. It was such a different trip from the one in (half an hour faster too!) and we enjoyed every moment. A lovely way to end our trip on Christmas Eve!

All up:

Paddle in: 2:20hrs 9.6km

Walk: 11:16hrs, 14.6km, 1458m ascent

Paddle out: 1:40hrs 9.2km

Pink swamp heath

Pink swamp heath

Millers Bluff: 21 July 2019

Millers Bluff gpx route

Everyone knows that feeling when it’s been too long between walks in Tassie, and when you finally have one planned that’s going to go ahead regardless of the weather. Oh the excitement! Especially when it’s one you’ve not done before.

Graham, being the more dedicated Pandani walk leader, had scheduled Millers bluff for a day I actually had off. We were going even though it seemed no one else was overly keen. As it turned out, we had a third member, which made for a brilliant day. 

We met up at a casual 0700, on a day that was looking better than we expected (at least in Hobart!). We’d all kept an eye on the weather, and were aware if the forecast was accurate, we could expect a wet front to hit us at about 1000 before we had any chance of nice weather. We understandably took things nice and slowly, enjoying gate scenic drive. We picked up the key from Connorville at a civilised 0930. Another slow drive (with the odd detour due to my inattention) and we arrived at the start of the track up Millers Bluff by 1030, just in time for a second dump of rain. 

We remained calm, and opted for an early morning tea (or half lunch), while changing into wet weathers in the dry of the car. We were rewarded for our efforts and were able to get off to a dry, if somewhat misty, start at 1100. Fresh legs and the enjoyment of finally being out on another bush walk meant we strode quickly up the start of the fire trail, forcing our lungs to catch up with our legs. I smiled at feeling truely alive again. 

We arrive at the start of the fire trail to Millers Bluff. Technically you can drive further than this, but they prefer you not to due to erosion

Walking in the cloud was kind of nice

It took us little time to reach the end of the fire trail where there’s an old shed, and we walked straight onto the taped and cairned pad that would take us to the summit. It was pretty easy to follow. A brief bit where the pad took us through scrub, then onto scree, then into myrtle forest, and eventually back out onto a rocky outcrop. The only slight challenge was slippery, lichen covered dolerite rocks, but they didn’t slow the three of us too much.

At the end of the fire trail we check out the shed

Ducking under a tree in a short bit of forest

We had moments where our little world became brighter as a hole appeared in the cloud and the odd ray of sun shone through. It was still pretty thick mist by the time we reached all the towers at the top of the bluff, and very windy, but we bunkered down out of the wind to finish our lunch and wait hopefully for some more sun. It had taken 1:20 to get here from the car. 

Out onto the boulder field and you can see the towers on the summit if you look closely

It’s pretty white on top Millers Bluff

Once again, we were spoiled with luck. With our final few mouthfuls the clouds parted as suddenly and unpredictably as they do, and we were treated to a lovely view of the summit, south along the ridge to the other high point of Millers Bluff, and out over Connorville and the valley. It was definitely worth waiting for!

As we eat the rest of our lunch it starts to break up

And eventually this is the summit!

The views of the valley are awesome

The southern end of Millers Bluff

Looking more towards Lake Arthurs/Great Lake – not that you can see them!

All objectives achieved, we departed the summit and tried to get some warmth back into frozen fingers as we picked our way back down the slippery rocks. We were even more aware of the now very open view and largely blue skies, having missed them on the way up. 

Still a bit of rain left in the clouds, but not much

Enjoying blue skies and views all the way down

The last bit of road walk – lovely way to finish the day off

Graham (I’m not sure which one, but I can I reckon I can guess!) decided to play a practical joke on me when I took a loo break on the way down, and ran on ahead. As I tried to catch them up I couldn’t quite figure out if they’d done that or ducked behind a tree and were walking down behind me, but I knew they certainly hadn’t walked the rest of the way down the road. Sure enough I found them at the car and they asked cheekily what had taken me so long!! The joke was back on Graham when he gave me the key to open the gate on the way out, but didn’t realise he’d given me our house key instead of the correct one.  

The rest of the drive home was uneventful and we made it back to Hobart in daylight – not bad for a winter walk!

All up: 6.4km, 3:09 hrs (including 30 minutes for lunch); 575m ascent

Millers Bluff, taken on the drive home. Photo by Graham Flower

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!

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