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

Agamemnon, Philps and White Needle GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frenchmans sticks out behind Sharlands

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

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

We did take the time to muck around 😉

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

L>R: Philps, White Needle, Frenchmans

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

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

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

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

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

Frenchmans and Philps up close

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

Waving to a friend further north.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mt Beecroft: 3 July 2017

Mount Beecroft GPS route

My first walk to Beecroft was early in my bushwalking days, so when we chose to head off for a couple of days escape in winter to Cradle, I certainly didn’t mind going back. And with blue skies, very little cloud, a little bit of snow and perfect views towards Cradle, there was nothing to complain about!

We’d travelled up the day before after I’d finished my last night shift and climbed Kate before having a much needed early night. Graham was generous enough to also give me a sleep in, so it was late morning before we got out and into the car. Beecroft is only a short drive from Cradle though, so we were parked on the side of the road and set off just after 11.

A slight uphill rise very quickly rewarded us with views towards a snow covered Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff, and for the next hour or so we strode south across the gradual undulations. The track was easy to follow, if a tad boggy in spots. New markers had been put in since I was last there and made it impossible to doubt where the track went.

Less than 5 mins from the road, and the view is already rewarding!

The track is as easy as this to follow, and the walking just lovely

You end up sidling even the tiny rises in the landscape

When we were below Beecroft (after an hour and 15-20 minutes) we departed from the PCT and followed more stakes (they hadn’t been there when I’d first been through), over to and up a steeper bit of climb, which eventually brought us out onto the summit plateau. We could see the trig point a short distance away, and took our time getting there as it was just too good not to enjoy!

Beecroft gets closer, and is quite a nice mountain to look at!

The summit itself is a rocky podium, which proved to be very windy, noisy and bitingly cold! We hunkered down in lee of the wind and ate a quick lunch. It sounded as if a mix of a twin prop aeroplanes and some decent sized waves were racing by. With full tummies they soon had us making a hasty retreat – half running just to get warm again!

Part way up the steepest part of the climb up Beecroft, we paused to frame Cradle and Barn once again

The summit trig, with those two mountains yet again

Looking south towards some familiar mountains

As we lost height we also lost some of the wind and adopted a more leisurely pace. It’s fair to say that this was in part mediated by us feeling rather tired. While it wasn’t a demanding walk, it was a reasonable distance and each step required attention least we stepped in an icy cold water-filled hole.

And back we raced, wrestling the wind for every bit of warmth we could hold on to

It was, therefore, with contented tiredness that we returned to the car under 4 hours after starting out. We felt we’d earned our dinner and didn’t even mind too much that the forecast for the next day was looking very average – we counted ourselves lucky to have had such a glorious day already!

All up: 11.3km, 3:50hrs, 469m ascent.

We finished the day with a quick visit to Dove Lake – why not??

One last one of Cradle 😉

Mount Connection: 30 April 2017

Mount Connection GPS route

I first did this walk very early on in my ‘walking life’, back when I didn’t have a car, was restricted to where I could get to on a road bike, and barely knew what a cairn was (honestly, I’d had to ask a friend). It was also before I had a GPS, and therefore didn’t get written up as a blog post. It probably doesn’t really need a post, because it’s so close to Big Bend and fairly straight forward, but in the interests of being as complete as possible (and I’m already missing enough) I’ll do it but keep it short.

This time it was Graham’s birthday, and having gone on a walk the day before he was updating his peakbagging list. We noticed he hadn’t done Mount Connection, and it seemed the perfect thing to do when he got back from lunch with his son. We met up in town, drove slowly up behind the flocks of tourists (despite the late hour), and were read to leave from Big Bend at 3pm.

Start of the walk from Big Bend.. hard to miss

The start is well signed, and after 20 minutes following the 4WD track we came across the sign on the left hand side of the road that marked the track to Collins Bonnet via Mount Connection. The walking was much nicer here, no more road and a rather nice rocky track with sections of board walk.

The road walk begins

Off the road and onto a much nice walking track!

We were motoring along, it turned out Graham wanted to get to the summit within the hour (!), and sure enough, just before the hour we stood on the track 100m to the north of the summit. When I’d first come, I hadn’t found a pad to the top, so we just ducked into the very low scrub and small scree. On the way back, we found a cairned pad that was patchy in places because it was so open, but there was one there. If we’d walked another 20m we’d have found it!

Looking back at Mt Wellington after a section of boardwalk

Graham adds another rock or two to the cairn marking the pad to the summit

We spent 15 minutes on the summit enjoying the view, trying not to cool down too fast. Graham had enough time to do a birthday FB post, while I sat and thought about how different walking was from the last time I’d been up that way. I think the biggest difference was that I had long since replaced my pre-walk self-doubt of ‘am I going to make it or am I going to get lost and make a fool of myself’ with a confident belief that any mountain is climbable even if there’s always a sense of caution as to what restrictions weather, injury and terrain might place on intended plans.

Graham on top! Happy Birthday :)!!

Wellington (can you see the tower?) from Connection summit

The walk back was a tad more relaxed, although it seemed we were forever chasing the line where the shadow of the mountain met the edge of the sun’s rays as it sank low and golden to the west. We ducked off the road and onto a nearby scree field at one point just to catch it on the trees. Despite all of that, we made it back in 1:10, in what proved to be a lovely birthday afternoon walk!

All up: 9km, 2:30, 419m ascent.

Chasing the sun back home

Off track onto some scree, just to catch the sun’s glow

Dromedary and Platform in the distance, while the sun makes gum leaves shine like gold

Last bit of pinky red

And we’re back.. a lovely 2 hours!

Forty Lakes Peak and Fisher Bluff: 26-7 November 2016

GPS route of Forth Lakes Peak, Blue Peaks and Fisher Bluff

It seems I’ve been very slack and missed writing up a few walks I’ve actually done, so this is my attempt to do what I should have done long ago. Unfortunately, the finer details of the walks have been buried deep in more recent memories, so the description might be rather vague.

I’d just started my third and final semester of uni, and that seemed to be a perfect enough excuse to get away for the weekend. We chose to go the Blue peaks (written up in it’s own blog from an earlier trip), Forty Lakes Peak and Fisher Bluff, mostly because a friend from uni was looking for somewhere where she could go trail running and it would have suited both her and our plans. She pulled out, but we decided to stick to our plans.

We were our of the car at Lake Mackenzie just before 11.30, and in less than 2 hours were at a conveniently central stand of pines (central in relation to our three mountains). We had taken a bit of time walking in looking at the fire damage, and for me, remembering how things had been before the fires had gone through. Nevertheless, we pitched our tent amongst the pines so we were out of the wind, and had lunch. An hour and a half later we decided we were going for Forty Lakes Peak, and after heading further south along the Blue Peaks track a short distance we pretty much made a beeline for the mountain, making only slight detours to negotiate the river, a slight rise, and then the lakes.

The terrain was much kinder than we’d expected and we had lovely open walking the whole way. We found an easy spot to cross the river without getting boots wet, although you could imagine the water getting much higher after rain. When we came to the lakes to the west of the peak, we had a ball of a time walking between Lake Chambers to the north and Douglas to the south. It was mostly fun because it was quite evident that the lakes flooded with heavier rainfall, and the waterline could rise to a good foot above the ground we were walking on.

Even the climb up Forty Lakes Peak was good going, and again we kept a pretty straight line without getting stuck in scrub. It was open and fairly flat on top, and all the lakes we could see did have us wondering if we counted them, would there be exactly 40? We didn’t hang around to find out, however, as it was rather windy (which meant I was cooling down fast). Also, the two hours we’d taken to get to the top meant it was now 4.30, and we didn’t need to be back to camp too late. After the necessary posing on the summit for photos, we headed back somewhat tiredly, taking another 2 hours to get there.

Heading up, this is so different from when I was last here. Provoked a range of emotions: it was sad to see the beauty taken out of the land, it was scary to think of the things we’ve done as humans to contribute to these kind of events, and yet there was a sense of acceptance that this kind of thing happens in nature too, whether we like it or not

Little bits of green amongst the black

A stark difference

Forty Lakes Peak, behind Lake Douglas

Walking between the two lakes, we still have to cross the little river that joins them. You could see that in times of more rain, the ground we were walking on would have been under a foot of water

Heading up Forty Lakes Peak and looking back west

On the summit and looking east towards Ironstone

And south towards the Walls

Graham poses on a rock and cairn on the edge of the summit plateau 😉

Lake Douglas.. can you feel the wind and cold?

The next morning we headed up and over Blue Peaks towards Fisher Bluff. While the day before had been windy and overcast and really quite cold, today the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, and the walking was a pure delight. Blue Peaks was as short and lovely as it had been last time (it took all of 15 mins from our tent), and after another 15 minutes enjoying the views and watching two people walk in to what we guessed was the Walls, we continued on. Once we were off Blue Peaks, we again made a beeline for the summit, and the lovely open alpine walking allowed us to look more at the views than where we were putting our feet. The live and dead stands of pine trees were a constant attraction, and it was hard not to spend too much time trying to take photos of them. If Emily had been with us, she’d have had a lovely run out that way!

Despite being distracted by the landscape, we were soon at the final climb and within 2 hours of having left our tents that morning, were standing on the summit (or perhaps more correctly, hanging from the trig). Our concerns about scrub, having heard some stories from a Pandani trip, turned out to be completely unfounded, and that coupled with the warmth of the sun and views from the summit was plenty of reason to smile.

We spent a very generous hour on top, before deciding we’d better head back to our gear and think about walking out and driving home. We were back at our gear in 90 minutes, and 20 minutes later were traipsing back the way we’d come. Despite being a little more tired than the way in, and the fact that we were heading home (both factors that tend to slow us down), we made excellent time, helped in part by taking a wrong turn that took us on a different path back to Lake Mackenzie. It was certainly a better route, more well defined except for where it met the dirt road (near the foundations for a small dwelling, that you can’t really see from the road unless you go looking). We were back within 1:14hrs.

Day 1: 7:20 hrs, 17.6km (guess we had reason to be tired!), 568m ascent

Day 2: 6:11 hrs, 15.5km, 407m ascent.

Spot the tent! A nice sheltered site

Blue Peaks summit in the sun!

Off we head, west towards Fisher Bluff (off to the right of this photo)

Remains of a pine stand, burnt out some time ago

The skeletons were very beautiful

And the same one again!

Graham celebrates being on Fisher Bluff

The view from Fisher.. what mountains can you see?

Graham checks them all out.. we’ve been there.. and there.. and there!

Looking north towards Western Bluff.. we’ve been there too!

Heading out, that’s a newly destroyed stand of pines 😦

Guardians and Horizontal Hill: 14-16 April 2017

 

Gould, Guardians, Horizontal Hill circuit GPS route

Easter means a lot of different things. This year, it gave me a chance for a 3 day walk before I started full time work. Both Graham and I had been flat out in the lead up and had left the choice of destination until we had a full weather forecast. When two friends extended an invitation to join them on their Gould, Minotaur and Guardians trip we thought it would be a lovely way to celebrate Easter.

And so we started devising a plan that would allow us to spend a bit of time with them, but also worked within our 3 compared to their 4 days, the ferry availability and our desire to camp on top of the Guardians and attempt Horizontal Hill. We ended up with something that was mostly solid, but did have an escape plan should we not be able to find our way off the Guardians’ cliffs towards Horizontal.

We broke all records on the Friday morning, leaving five minutes EARLY, despite a last minute search around for the Olympus map for two other friends who had shifted their walk from the Southern Ranges to Olympus that very morning! It was nice to catch up with them briefly before they headed off, and also with a customer I’d met just the day before – Tassie is a very small place!

After failing to convince the ferry lady we really wanted to pay for the return trip and we certainly wouldn’t be deciding the weather was too nice on the Sunday (it was due to rain all day) and we’d walk out instead, we sat in the sun and ate our lunch. As we did so we tried to figure out exactly where a group of 9 who had signed the multiday logbook would be walking if they planned to do Gould, The Guardians and Lake Marion as stated. We were slightly concerned there might not be much room for all of us around the two small tarns on the Gould plateau, and could only hope we wouldn’t all end up in the one place! There was nothing we could do but wait and see…

We hopped aboard the ferry just after midday. Its master had a somewhat perfunctory manner about him and conversation was kept to the bare minimum, but it would take a lot more than that to dampen our excitement – we were going on a walk after all!!

As we approached Narcissus we hollered out to Bec and Meredith who were just finishing their paddle up the lake. We’d be sharing the night with them but left them to beach and hide their boats, sort their gear out, hide their paddles elsewhere and have some lunch before starting the walk.

It had been a few years since our first trip in to Gould and the Minotaur (written up in its own post), and a lot of the terrain had been conveniently forgotten – particularly the knee-scratching-overgrown-bauera part. But the track was still in good nick, and only difficult to follow in one or two places in the forest if you didn’t take care.

We entertained ourselves as we walked in our own ways. Graham wrote things in the mud for Meredith and Bec, while I struggled to cough and breathe and walk all at once. I might have had a bit of a cold, and hadn’t thought about the effect cold air might have on my lungs. Needless to say, Graham had lots of time to craft his messages and draw his pictures!

When we popped out the top of the rather lovely but increasingly steep forest, we were reminded of why we loved the plateau as much as we did. As soon as you get up I reckon it must be obligatory to head left to the slab of rock and admire the views. Though they extend all around, Byron and Olympus stole centre stage, followed by the Geryons and Acropolis, and of course Gould. Many other familiar faces played supporting roles and I think we both felt like we’d returned to the bush.

We enjoyed taking numerous photos of the same mountains, just to capture the changing light, before dragging ourselves away to see if we’d be sharing the campsite with 9 others. We’d seen evidence of fresh footprints, but weren’t entirely sure. Rounding the small hill we found that the tarns were all ours, which caused us some confusion but not enough to dwell on for too long.

We chose a site that left plenty of room for Bec and Meredith, and set about pitching the tent and unpacking our gear. Even with all our phaffing it had taken us only 2 hours to get up, so it wasn’t all that late but it was pretty damn cold. That meant we didn’t hang out for too long before sliding under our sleeping bags and cooking up some soup. Bec and Meredith weren’t too far behind us and we had a nice catch up, shared Easter treats, then got an early night because it was just too cold to sit out.

Byron from the lip of the Gould Plateau.. the light was nice

A few moments later and the light had changed again!

A lovely camp site, we pitched our tent and waited for Bec and Meredith to join us

We took a few photos, despite having been here before.. the Geryons are always nice to look at

Evening light on Olympus.. Two of our friends were somewhere over there

We had an excellent night’s sleep on the new mattress configuration that Meredith had designed us (anyone who uses two single mattresses instead of a double will know the exact nature of our discomfort), and we thanked her profusely (she’s the best go to person you’ll find). The usual mix of breakfast, photos and packing up followed, with the mist and reflections making the place even more magical than it already was. It was only unusual in that Graham did a sterling job of trying to cook pancakes with wholly inappropriate gear – and I have to say they were pretty good for bush pancakes, even if I teased him at the time!

We eventually set off and made it to the start of the rather steep climb up Gould together. Meredith and Bec had been in two minds about whether to sidle or go over Gould, and we did our best to give them the information we could remember from our first trip. They chose to follow us up and over, but to do so at their own pace.

We wished them the best and headed off. Our memories must have faded with time, or perhaps it was a matter of looking at the terrain through other people’s eyes, but we realised as we approached the crest at the southern end of the ridge that the information we’d given might not have been as accurate as we’d have liked.

As we crested the end and started across the rocky ridge to the summit the walking was much easier, the peak was visible, and there were easy routes down to the low scrub off the side. We just hoped Bec and Meredith would persist to that point – we had no doubt they could, it was just a matter of whether they would. Neither of us could shake a slightly uneasy feeling however, which only grew the longer we sat on the summit eating lunch.

We kept an eye out for them, as well as one out to the north because we could hear voices quite clearly, could see tents pitched below the Minotaur and half expected to be joined at any moment. We exchanged ‘hellos’ with the voices, which was pretty cool, and we guessed they were part of the party of 9. As we left the summit we watched them strike camp and head to the west, and guessed we’d be meeting them sometime that evening!

Part way down my phone buzzed. I’d accidentally left it on from the summit, and had an uneasy feeling it was going to be word from Meredith and Bec. It was. They’d had, as can so easily happen out there on big rocks, a big bit of a scare and had made the sensible choice to turn back to Gould’s plateau. Graham and I were somewhat subdued. I think we both felt a mix of worried, disappointed for them for not having made it to any of the mountains they’d planned or their intended camp site, and partly responsible for having given the information that had swayed them to attempt the up and over route.

We continued on, however, sliding more than walking down the shale-y chute to the saddle between Gould and the Minotaur, then up the far side, before turning left and taking the scrub free route out along the southern side of the Guardian plateau. Graham, bless him, is like a dog chasing a rabbit when he has other walkers in front of him, and he shot off ahead (must be a male thing – my brother is exactly the same on his bike). I struggled to keep up, coughing and panting in his wake.

Part way up the only real climb along the plateau he caught up to the group ahead of us, who, as it turned out, had already figured out who he was courtesy of his yellow gloves and glasses! They’d also guessed who I was too, courtesy of the rockmonkey reputation, which is always nice but does make me a little nervous that I might not live up to expectations if they’ve got out of hand, as reputations can (I am, after all, just like many other bushwalkers – a lot of passion, a little bit crazy but nothing extraordinary).

When I finally arrived at their resting spot we had a formal introduction. They were indeed the group of 9 and as we’d guessed from the leader’s name in the book, were on a Launceston Walking Club walk. They were a lovely bunch and we looked forward to sharing the evening with them at the Guardian’s summit tarn (for that was where we were both headed).

We continued on at our own paces, and found the tarn wasn’t far away (less than 2 hours from Gould’s summit). We selected a spot around the far side, out of the wind and with excellent views, and in a location that gave the LWC walkers (and one NWWC walker) plenty of room to pitch tents. We then headed for the summit, aware that it was going to get cold and dark early, and wanting to have enough time to scout out the right gully that we’d need for the next morning.

The summit was a simple affair, but the views unique and not hard to take. As we sat there enjoying it all the LWC group made their way up too. We chatted some more (they were very generous with their gratitude for this blog – and it was lovely to hear that they were using it as it was intended!), celebrated the summit, and accepted (and enjoyed!) their generously offered Easter eggs.

We then went our own ways, some went to a second high point, some went to check out the gullies that ran like scars down the cliff face. We did the latter, keen to know where we’d need to go the next morning, and aware that we wouldn’t have time to make mistakes then given we had a big day and a ferry deadline to meet.

We found one that Graham really liked the look of, but it didn’t have a cairn marking the top, as we’d been told to look out for (see the Abels description). After scouting back east-ish along the cliff line we finally found a cairn and picked the gully we thought it most likely to be associated with. We weren’t sure though, so decided to suss it out till we were confident we could get the whole way down. We got a fair way down, in the process ruling out any of the other nearby gullies as they were just too steep, but came to a 3-5m drop without much to hold on to. While it might have been possible, it wasn’t going to be safe with full packs and in the rain, and we still had concerns for sections further down. We wrote it off and went back to the gully we’d first liked the look of.

As we headed over we had a chat with the LWC leader, who had also thought it was the best pick. As they went back to camp and dinner we decided to make sure. We picked our way down and although we came to two steep but not impossible bits, we opted to work our way around them, each time heading to the left. By the time we got to a little gap in the rocks to the left side of the gully we knew we’d be fine getting down the following morning, so we marked it with a cairn for future walkers and headed back to the top. There we erected another cairn, just to keep the Abels accurate and to help out any other walkers who might try the circuit!

When we returned we headed over to the LWC tents with biscuits and cheese. We’d been intending on sharing them with Meredith and Bec but seeing we’d not get the chance, we thought it was pretty fitting (even if they weren’t chocolate Easter eggs!). We shared what we found and chatted about all sorts of things. They also seemed to get along really well with each other and gave off an infectiously happy vibe that it was a pity we weren’t still in the longer days of summer so we could sit around a chat for longer. But again the cold and dark drove us to our tents early that night.

The next morning was still, and the mist slowly lifted to reveal the mountains

Guardians and Horizontal Hill – our two ‘mountains’ for the trip

Olympus had a sleep in

By the time we’d climbed to the foot of Gould, the cloud was gone and views back to the lake and Olympus were perfect

The Eldons feel different now we’ve been there

Ahh.. the Guardians sprawling out in the midday sun

And another one of that ridgeline.

Horizontal Hill, gives a sense of the route we took

Lake Marion from the edge of the Guardian’s plateau

Can you spot the LWC walkers enjoying the cliff edge?

Not a bad place to camp, just shy of the Guardians summit

Tent was up as the LWC group follows suit. It’s time for us to check out the summit

The top of the gully we took down, in case you want to use it!

A brief bit of colour before the cloud took over

Warm light on Macs and Walled… we thought about another friend who was having an ambitious crack at Nereus that day

Guardians summit with Gould behind

We woke at some ridiculously cold and wet hour, trying not to think about having to get out of our sleeping bags and packing up the tent as our fingers progressively and paradoxically became painfully numb. But we did, and the rain was good enough to pause a while as we did so.

We scuttled over to the cliff edge, haunched and withdrawn into our wet weather shells in attempt to escape the cold caress of the wind and rain. We found the cairn we’d erected the evening before and complimented ourselves for its position. From the direction we’d approached it, it had really stood out on the horizon and we only hoped it would be that way for other parties. Down we went, taking care in the new slipperiness. We were really glad we’d already scoped it out because the poor visibility was disconcerting enough.

We were now walking blind, quite literally, with only very limited information with which to make route-finding decisions. We managed to strike lucky, however, and made the use of the scree, followed by some weaving through the trees in what was really quite low scrub until we hit the saddle. It would have been awesome to be able to look back up at the Guardian’s cliff line, but it wasn’t to be. Instead Graham took over the lead and charged into the scrub. It was a fair bit thicker here, but again we ended up on a pretty good line and he was able to make the most of patches of open myrtle forest.

After climbing a few contour lines the scrub got short, wiry and robust and we were slowed down a fair bit. We altered our plan of attack, choosing to sidle over to the ridge to our left, where we reckoned the going would be much better (it was, after all, the recommended route). We found some nice pads when we got there, which lined up nicely with a GPS route we had. We dropped packs and followed the pads all the way to the summit, finding a tub of sunscreen on the way (are you missing yours? Send me a message!).

We didn’t spend much time up there, enough to duck around to all the possible high points (it’s pretty flat up there – good camping in fact, as we’d been told just before we left!), pull out a snack and take one photo in the rain. We were back at the packs in no time, put on extra layers, and kept heading down the ridge, trying to figure out where the voices and laughter we could here were from – likely the LWC group, though they weren’t in sight. We were expecting to hit scrub at any moment but were kept hanging in suspense and weren’t at all disappointed when it never eventuated. Instead we had open forests and low bauera all the way to the water’s edge, where we were treated to a small spot of sun and a hint of the Guardian’s cliffs.

It was a good feeling to be down in the time we’d hoped and to just have the very easy walk out on the Lake Marion track. First we had to wade the edge of the lake, which meant wet and cold feet and a swarm of tiny little gnat like flies that seemed determined to get in eyes, noses and mouths. At the far end of the lake we had a chat to a guy who’d bought his family complete with kids in (pretty cool) and then followed his directions to the start of the track. The next few hours took us through some stunning button grass plains and then lovely myrtle forest (which had plenty of other species of tree in it too!). We were both feeling pretty tired by this stage and kept to a slow steady pace.

It was really nice to change into dry clothes at Narcissus, but even better to see Bec and Meredith walk around the corner shortly afterwards! We caught up, enjoyed hot chocolate and cheese and before we knew it we were hopping on the ferry. The circuit is definitely worth consideration if you don’t mind a bit of route finding, and well exceeded our expectations! Though Horizontal has been described as a oncer, I’d even consider going back.

It just so turned out that this easter was a people-y easter, and it was very much enjoyed – it’s hard to beat spending time with good people.

Day 1: 5.4km 2:10hrs, 491m ascent

Day 2: 9km, 8hrs, 924m ascent

Day 3: 12.5km, 7:12hrs, 309m ascent

The flat summit of Horizontal Hill. It was quite fun despite the wet, and Graham raises a (half eaten!) chocolate bar in celebration

At Lake Marion, the cliffs of the Guardians are covered in low cloud

Old River Circuit: 8-15 March 2017

Mountains in the Old River circuit: Mount Wilson, Mount Norold, Richea Peak (no peak bagging points), Ripple Mountain, Mount Castor, Mount Pollux, Harrys Bluff and High Round Mountain.

Old River circuit GPS route

This was a Hobart Walking Club Walk that had Graham and I making an impromptu, break all the rules, decision to join in. It had sparked our interest because it was to an area I’d not even been near, and to mountains that we’d barely heard about, let alone had any information on. In addition, the walk description seemed almost too good to be true: there was mention of pretty good walking and not an excessive amount of scrub. It was being run by Tony, who we’d heard of curtesy of his reputation, and who we’d had the very brief pleasure of bumping in to on our Olympus trip. From that, he was someone we trusted enough to sign up to his walk. That we would be going on a walk to new mountains where we didn’t have to do any of the ground work (obtaining GPS routes, asking around for handy tips, finding out info on water availability, campsite quality etc etc) was going to make it a real holiday!

Putting our names down did involve breaking our key principle of not walking with people we hadn’t walked with before (as dynamics can be very important on these kind of walks), and it was a little scary booking flights and a boat before Christmas, not knowing what the weather would be like, or even if I’d be able to go (I didn’t know quite what was going to happen on the job front at that stage). Graham was very generous, and bought my plane flight as a Christmas present (aren’t I lucky??!). The following is a day by day account of the trip.

Day 1: 8/3/17

We woke to a beautiful day, cool and calm. After the usual last minute packing of food and the like we drove the short distance to Cambridge airport and met the others as we waited excitedly in the queue. It turned out someone had been a tad enthusiastic in taking bookings and there were more people and weight than should have been flying, so after a hectic start, with our packs spread across 3 different planes, we boarded a twin engine plane and were off!

It was a smooth and fast flight, and on the way we waved at friends who were due to climb PB that very day, and marvelled at Federation Peak as it stuck its head above the clouds. It was quite a funny feeling flying in to Melaleuca, as the mountains were not familiar and I wondered as we flew over a bunch if they were ones we’d be climbing. I told myself I’d find out soon enough!

When we landed we had to wait for our 3 of our packs (we were on the first plane), so made use of the loos and visited some of the touristy attractions (Deny King Museum etc). It wasn’t long before we were good to go though, and one of the pilots took us out on a boat to where we’d start walking. When we were out in the harbour the water was calm and the reflections unspoilt, and I could understand why the area attracts so many yachts (I hadn’t even realised how many!). I don’t think we could believe quite how lucky we were, perhaps even more so for those of us who had been down that way countless times before, and possibly never had such a perfect flight or boat ride. It was just beautiful. The swans were also out enjoying it, but flew off quite early at the sound of our engine, keeping low to the water and flashing the white undersides of their wings. 

The trip was quick and we had landed and were ready to start walking by 11.30. We got straight into it crunching our way across the undulations – the sound of our boots on very dry alpine scrub made me think of eating dry cornflakes! The greens yellows and browns were perfectly offset by the blue sky and reflective lake, and it was hard not to take photos. As new mountains appeared with our increasing height we took time to make sense of what they were and how they might be to climb. While we made some mistakes initially, they were quickly remedied. Some mountains were old friends, including the Eastern Arthurs, with Federation at the end.

I decided I was quite liking the terrain and views! We had no scrub, and a fairly mild incline most of the time, although enough to present a bit of a challenge to those who didn’t have much water or hadn’t walked with a pack for some time. Graham and I were both in good shape from the Eldons, and found it fairly easy… so much so it was difficult to resist the urge to walk off the front just to see what was over the next rise! This made us both chuckle, as we’d initially been a bit concerned we might not be able to keep up with the HWC bunch!

At one point we spent time looking for yabbie holes for one walker who was short on water, until Graham happened across an unexpected but lovely supply of water – which we all indulged in! The heat, dryness, and relative lack of water on the ridges were to become defining aspects of this walk. 

Unfortunately, as we neared the summit of Wilson the sea breeze or something brought the mist in and we were left with fairly limited visibility. By this stage it was evident we wouldn’t be making a high camp on Norold, but would camp not overly far from Wilson, at the first fairly reliable water source. I attempted to provide progress reports and updates of the path ahead from my gps for those who were fairly tired and more than ready to pitch tents, but I’m not sure it had the desired effect. Sometimes it’s hard to know how things are done, and what people want and like when you’ve not walked with them before. I hope they knew I meant well. 

In any case, we found our river, found appropriate camp sites on a bumpy little ridge and pitched our tents. No one seemed overly keen on a communal dinner (our tents were spread out a fair bit), so Graham and I set up on some rocks near our tent. A little while later Rod came and joined us and we had a bit of a chat as we ate and watched the mist partially lift before closing back in. It was quite nice, actually.  

Our walk started out with a flight in to Melaleuca in pretty much perfect conditions. Federation looked wonderful. This was my Christmas present from Graham, and it was very much enjoyed!

Then we got on a boat.. all the arrangements made by Tony (thank you!)

Out in Bathurst Harbour the reflections were flawless!

We were almost ready to go by 11:30

The open walking started immediately.. and so too did the up! It was so dry the vegetation crunched under our boots – sounding like someone eating cornflakes or the like!

Rugby remained a constant attraction as we worked our way around our little circuit

As we climbed we started to see a few of the mountains we’d climb, and become familiar with their names and faces.

Here we are, heading up our first mountain, Wilson.

It got a bit steep the closer we got.. and this photo shows a good shot of the ridge we worked our way up. We started somewhere to the left of this photo down by the water.. we were to walk 12km this day with full packs (including 1.16km vertical ascent).

As we approached the summit, the sea mist rolled in. Harrys Bluff, shown here, was soon to disappear.

Sadly our first summit and points were to be in the mist. But never mind, we’d have plenty of sun by the time the trip was over!

We made camp on a ridge just past Wilson, and the sun tried to break through the mist. It was a bit nice to watch

Day 2: 9/3/17

The moon and stars appeared overnight, giving us hope for a clear morning. And sure enough, when we woke we had mountains with low mist in the valleys. Understandably, it took us a lot longer than normal to cook and eat breakfast as we allowed ourselves to be delightfully distracted by the changing colours and light. Eventually we set off, just after 8, for a short walk to the ridge we’d take up Norold. After dropping our packs it wasn’t long before we arrived at the spot where the group whose route we were using for guidance had camped and where I’d hoped we might also camp. It was a lovely flat spot without scrub, and with superb views. If I ever make it back, I’d definitely camp there and recommend it to any readers who don’t mind a longer first day!

The final few hundred meters were also nice and easy and it was lovely to have 360 degree views for the first time!! We soaked them in, aware that most of the rest of the day would be descending to the river. As the highest point of our walk we checked for phone reception but had no success – we were just too far away and not quite high enough. That’s probably almost a first for me as signals on mountain tops are fairly reliable in Tassie (I wasn’t complaining though!).

On the way down we went by Richea Peak, which was a short and lovely little side trip (also recommended). There we met a number of swifts, who raced around and around the summit catching little insects. They were wonderful to watch, and it was hard not to laugh joyfully at their speed, effortlessness and agility! Amanda had chosen to skip the side trip and head back to the packs (understandably for coffee, I think!), so we met her back there then began our descent down our chosen ridge. 

It started off well enough, if a tad steep and increasingly hot. Progress was slow and steady, with frequent pauses, but that allowed for plenty of photos! We got our first taste of scrub as we descended to a river we had to cross, which wasn’t much fun. Graham did the majority of the work out the front, which gave the rest of us a fairly easy and open bash to follow. Up the other side the sun was hot and heavy, and radiated off the button grass. There was no wind and the cicadas were in chorus – it felt like summer as a kid and I was as happy as I was hot! 

The final ridge we had to drop down looked ok from up high, but proved a little difficult to stay on and by the time we realised we weren’t on it we were in a gully of thick scrub, where the only real choice was to go straight down, rather than across. It was horrible stuff – the kind you might be 2 metres off the ground one moment, only to find yourself face against the soil the next, with the choice of climbing back up on top, or fighting, twisting, pushing and clawing your way through. It was a long and scratchy fight the whole way down (looking back we couldn’t have chosen a worse path with any more scrub!), to another bumpy campsite. Water from the river wasn’t as easy to access as we’d hoped, as it required a bit of a walk. Graham and I bashed down near our tents, while Tony and Amanda did the sensible thing and found a really good pad to a smaller creek a little further away! It was cool and clean and most gratefully drunk! We set up our tents on the most open ridge we could find, ate dinner and retired to bed as the light waned, bringing a close to a day that was much tougher and longer than we expected (compared to those whose GPS route we were following, it took us double the time (2 hours instead of 1) to descend 300m!). 

The next morning we woke to this!! We waved to friends who either camped on, or were just below PB, and took LOTS of photos!

Rod came to say hi as we sat on the rocks to eat breakfast and bask in the gentle warmth of early morning sun

The light eventually grew hard and thin, and the mountains cast their shadows over the mist that would hang in the valley for a few more hours yet.

We took our packs to the ridge we’d take to climb Norold, and had plenty of breaks on the way to take in the views!

We climbed the last little bit free of our packs – It was a lovely free feeling!

Looking back towards Bathurst Harbour from the upper slope of Norold

We played with the cairn on Norold for a bit – it was a stunning summit, and marked the high point of our trip. No reception meant we were contactless for the rest of the trip!

Given we’re in the region, 4 of us decide to check out Richea peak, while Amanda heads back to our packs for a morning coffee.

On the summit of Richea peak, the swifts zoom around and lift our spirits even further, and the mist starts to dissipate. Harrys Bluff sits on the right.

Back at our packs, we make a slow descent towards the junction of the Solly and Old Rivers. Slow, because we figure we might as well enjoy the views while we have them. And later, due to a navigational oversight!

There were plenty of old friends to accompany all the new ones!

After a scrub bash, part of which took us 2 hours to cover 1 km (during a 300m descent), we arrived at a ridge below Harrys Bluff, and above the river junction. We were very happy to have finally made it. Instead of managing to stay on the ridge we’d hoped to take down, we’d mistakenly veered into a scrubby gully that proved impossible to get out of, and we had no choice but to work our way straight down it. In many spots, that involved walking on top of bauera that was strong enough to resist your weight even though you were a couple of metres above the ground, until you eventually fell through it, and then you either had to bash through it or try to climb back up. Progress was understandably slow, sweaty, spikey, and a fair bit of damage was done to shirts, skin and scrub gloves!

Day 3: 10/3/17

We made an early start on the third day, the original plan being to get up Ripple Mountain and then move camps. Judging by how long it took the party whose gps route we had, that didn’t look so likely, despite a 7.45am start. We were, admittedly, lucky in having a route and in having had a separate party go thorough only 5-6 weeks prior, which meant we had a decent pad to follow through the worst of the scrub. Progress was still hot and slow, and we had frequent breaks as a result. 

We took it in turns to lead, and slowly waded our way up the ripples that formed the spine of the mountain. It was very aptly named, although Graham thought ‘Wave Mountain’ might have been a more accurate descriptor (‘ripples’ might have been more manageable!). The scrub was only at a generous height (for the walker) just before and on the summit, which we enjoyed immensely. We took our time with photos and lunch and were surprised to find a trig marker, before beginning the downward journey. Having our upward route on the gps meant I got a fair chunk of the downward trip to lead (so we didn’t have to ‘find’ the route both ways) and it was nice to be able to pull a bit of weight, even though I knew others, particularly Graham, were equally adept at doing that kind of walking. 

As we descended, a pair of black cockatoos squawked at us, and later an olive whistler made its presence known. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’re likely to know their presence always brings a smile to my face, and usually cause Graham to whistle back in reply. While Ripple Mountain was by no means an easy trip, it was thoroughly enjoyable. At the creek crossing, nearly back at our tents, we sat and enjoyed the cool refreshing water. Graham and I also decided to have a swim before dinner (which turned into a wash due to the temperature of the water!), which was even more refreshing. 

The next day we wade our way up Ripple mountain, which was aptly named! We were fortunate to have a good gps route to follow, and to have had a group come through a month prior and create a fresh bash over the top of that same route. If you look closely, there’s green and orange specks of two of our tents. Harry’s Bluff watches our progress silently.

It’s another long and hot climb, but we make it to the summit, enjoy the views, then head back down.. this is the only part of the side trip that’s really open open.

It was wonderful to get back to this small creek a short distance from our tents, and we sat here quite a while cooling down.

Day 4: 11/3/17

Today we started the morning with a sleep in. Seeing we hadn’t moved up the river we were only up for a 5 hour walk (if we kept to the rather relaxed pace we’d been going). So we assembled by 8.30 and headed off shortly afterwards. Though it was partly cloudy we didn’t have any of the rain that had been forecasted when we’d left, and it was still surprisingly hot. We weren’t complaining however, we knew at some stage we’d be getting wet!

We started with a walk along the pad to where we could cross the Old River safely enough. Graham and I chose to remove boots and keep our feet dry, which was well worth the effort! We then commenced up a lovely little ridge that had us sweating but offered a nice line of view down to the river and back across to Harrys Bluff. The cicadas made their high pitched incessant trill, and the odd plane added a low rumble as we worked our way along. Graham spotted some little orchids, and I found and caught a cute little black cicada – I still marvel at how different they are here compared to Victoria! We stopped for frequent breaks, that took us about as long as the walking itself!

We soon dropped off the ridge and wandered across the plain through ankle to waist high scrub – far less scrubby than we might have expected. At the largest creek we crossed we stopped for lunch, seeking reprieve from the heat of the sun and enjoying the refreshing trickle of water over rocks. The scrub presented an increasingly annoying defence as we approached where we thought we should find a lovely camp site amongst the trees. I think we were all a tad skeptical given the scrubbiness and unexpected steepness of the route in. I was in the lead and know I certainly was full of doubt, but everyone followed skeptically or otherwise! I felt a little like it could be a make or break moment – I’d made an educated guess about exactly where the camp site was (having forgotten to transfer the waypoints I’d created marking each spot at home) but I could have been wrong. Fortunately, no more than 10-15 metres from the bank of the Old River, we walked out of the bauera and onto a beautiful spot right on the bank of the Old River. We finally had a flat camp site! 

We pitched tents, then made straight for the river for a wash/swim. Hot drinks and some biscuits and brie followed and we sat around and chatted, whiling the afternoon away. Later that night we fell asleep to the sound of the river and a boobook owl – I don’t think it gets much more pleasant than that. 

Day 4 started with a river crossing, then a walk along Junction ridge, before we dropped back down to the plains beside the river to make camp in the forest below Castor. Although only half a day’s worth of walking, it was necessary as the following day would be our biggest.

It was still hot, and we had lots of time, so we had frequent breaks on the ridge. Here, Rugby can be seen in the distance.

Down on the plains, the going was fairly good, although a tad scrubbier towards the end. We also had a few river crossings to negotiate, which always means scrub! Fortunately we left enough of a track to make coming back much faster and easier!

As we approached camp Castor looked pretty nice – check out that ridgeline! Also, the weather wasn’t too bad for a day that had been forecast for showers!

After a bit of logical reasoning and lots of faith in the GPS, I led everyone into the scrubby forest. I’d nearly lost hope when we walked straight to this little spot, and the nice little forest camp site we’d been promised suddenly became a reality. The Old River is 2-3 metres to the left of this photo. We had an afternoon to relax, so we sat out, ate, chatted, washed, wrote notes, and generally speaking just enjoyed ourselves.

Day 5: 12/3/17

Yesterday’s rain began as we slept and by the time we woke at 6 it was a constant light patter. It was still going at 7 when we were set to leave, causing Amanda to pull the plug on the expected 11 hour day trip. The four of us set off, decked out in our wet weather armour and ready to climb a couple of hills. 

The going started off alright, a little bit of openness to give us a glimpse of a patch of very green stuff. But it was no match for Graham, who ploughed us a way through it. A few more green spots in amongst the leptospermum-button grass combo, which both Rod and Tony put paid to in turn, and we were at the bottom of an open, but very steep ridge that would take us to the top of Castor. It was still raining, but not too cold, and I think we all were rather grateful we didn’t have the perfectly hot weather of the last few days! While there was low cloud, the summit was clear, so we did indeed seem to have the best of both worlds. 

Our very slow but constant plod took us higher and higher, and soon had us admiring the rock formations that were to be a big feature of the walk. Further still and we were climbing up the summit rock, admiring our good time and the fact that the rain seemed to have exhausted itself – at least for the time being! 

After as long a break as we could afford, a clothing adjustment, food, photos and some water we proceeded to make our way along the somewhat rollercoaster-like ridge that connects Castor and Pollux, taking our best guess at which of the bumps along the way we should sidle around, and which we should go over. That’s always an interesting game when you can’t see the other side of said bumps! But we made it without too much to fault and once again found ourselves at the bottom of a steep and long enough climb. 

I was given the lead. By this stage the plod had slowed considerably and we were all finding our wet weather gear a tad on the warm side. But as is always the case somehow our legs got us to the top and we walked the short distance along a much more reasonable incline to the summit. Again the rocks were a feature, as were the dead trees on the western side from a fire some years ago. If you had the desire, camping anywhere along that ridge would provide you with some really nice photos. 

We were pretty ravenous by this stage, due to the amount of time we’d been walking for (about 6 hours), the incline and the fact that the weather had kept us going without many snack breaks. We thoroughly enjoyed lunch on the summit and were lucky enough to even get the faintest hint of sunwarmth (yes – that’s now a word)! We had pretty good views of the immediate mountains, some lovely clouds and mist to make them look even nicer and the odd patch of blue sky to lift our spirits even further (if that was possible?). 

It was certainly warmer and no longer wet so we stripped some more layers then began the long journey back. It was a steady walk largely back the way we’d come and didn’t require too much thought. We chatted intermittently, or otherwise were happy to be left to our own thoughts. Federation Peak poked through the clouds at one point and a small rainbow appeared later on as we summited Castor for the second time in the same day (just because we could!). As we were getting ready to take on the steep downhill of Castor a rain shower started again – enough, we figured, to make the slope nice and slippery (if we’d had bodyboards we’d have got down in record time, but perhaps not so safely)! Graham, wearing contacts instead of his glasses which doesn’t do anything for his near vision, did a fine job leading us down the ridge that was in fact so steep you couldn’t actually tell where it was except by consulting the GPS. 

At the bottom it was too hot to wear rain gear and it wasn’t raining anymore, so jackets went away again. That was only slightly problematic for me, who had the job of leading us back out through the scrub on the same lead we’d taken on the way up. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was completely drenched from the scrub! We made it back safely and successfully to the tents; weary, wet and elated, having been out for just over 11 hours. 

Getting dry and eating food were both high priorities, and they happened almost simultaneously. We sat around and chatted while we went about our business, in what was a really nice finish to the day. It had been an awesome side trip – tough but rewarding, and one that allowed me to feel I’d been able to make a valuable and appreciated contribution, and to get to know Tony and Rod a little bit better. 

The following day was wet, as forecast. But we weren’t really that upset. We’d have 11 hours of walking and 14km, so a slightly cooler day was a good thing! We did, however get drenched, especially during the first hour of scrub to get to the open foot of Castor. But what a lovely mountain it looked – and it was a bonus that we could see the top even though it was rainy!

As we climbed up the very steep ridge to Castor we quickly realised the rocks were going to be a big feature. The cloud was good not to restrict our views too much either!

On Castor, the rain had stopped, and we looked along the ridge towards Pollux. It looked pretty good!

Tony leads the way, almost out of sight behind the rock, and the mist keeps things looking just a bit magical.

The rock was VERY awesome! If only it wasn’t so wet and we had more time to play!

It was just delightful, and even the weather couldn’t dampen our delight!

After a long ridge walk negotiating each little bump (which didn’t always feel little), Tony heads up the final climb to Pollux

We enjoy a well deserved lunch, and are by this stage relatively dry (save for all the sweat!). This gives you a good idea of what I had to eat each day for lunch (although I was eating one more biscuit with cheese as I took the photo!)

Just playing around with the camera and rock.

More rock on Pollux

Tony waits for us to get ourselves together, as we’ve now got to get all that way back again

Graham’s having a bit of fun 🙂

Back down and along the ridge we go

Little spot showers come and go.. making the steep descent off Castor just wet enough for us!

We can’t resist the urge to summit Castor for the second time in the same day, and glance back at Pollux. There’s a rainbow out there!

Day 6: 13/3/17

We woke early, knowing we had a big climb with full packs over Harrys Bluff. It was dark when we rose, and only just light enough as we struck camp to not need our head torches. We’d been promised a warm, sunny day but to start with we were below the mist that on day 2 had looked so pretty from above! We weren’t complaining – it would get hot enough, soon enough. 

Having done a good enough job yesterday following our exact track back through the scrub, that again was my job for today. It was probably a good thing we didn’t have any views, as I wouldn’t have seen them if we did! When I didn’t have my eyes glued to crushed button grass, broken branches of leptospermum or other signs of destruction that suggested we’d passed by, they were checking out our route on the gps. I got drenched from the scrub again, but as we climbed up Junction Ridge the mist started to burn off and soon enough the sun was drying me out again. 

At the appropriate point we dropped off the ridge and made a beeline for the Solly River, just above the rapids where it looked like we could cross easily enough. And we did, save for Rod who managed to slip over, ironically because the significant sized ‘stick’ he’d chosen to help ensure he made the crossing safely broke on him. He got up laughing and the rest of us joined in (not before taking a photo though!). Having said that, he did have some excellent tips on pole/stick placement when crossing a river that would be wise to follow, and that I’ve now added to my ‘practice’ as such (which now includes pole going upstream, not using the wrist straps on poles while crossing and having chest and waist buckles on packs undone especially in deeper water).

After a break to refill water and psych ourselves up for the climb ahead, we set off, Graham leading the charge at a blistering pace. It was as expected: not much scrub, very hot, sweaty, breathless and straight up. We did, however, have lunch to look forward to within the hour, which kept us going more than anything else I think. 

The view back from where we’d come was pretty spectacular and as we gained more height Federation began to appear between Pollux and Castor. At lunch, Tony, perhaps the most seasoned of us when it comes to bushwalking, went straight for the shade of a lone banksia tree, while the rest of us sat on rocks. It was certainly a wise decision, and Rod, also a seasoned walker, was quick enough to join him before someone else took the only other spot. 

Refuelled, onwards and upwards we went. After the initial steep climb we had a short reprieve at a flatter area with heaps more really nice rock sculptures. Amanda’s face lit up, her pace quickened and it was clear she was loving this particular spot – understandably, giving her passion for climbing. We all spent plenty of time with our cameras out here! But we couldn’t keep putting the climb off and we headed for a final rocky bit of ridge. Graham generously handed the lead over to Amanda. Half way up Tony pointed out two wedgies who had come over to check us out, before heading off to some other part of their territory. I figured I’d see them again on future trips – they’re always a nice constant. Not long afterwards we were standing on the summit of Harry’s Bluff, unable to wipe huge smiles off our faces and feeling awfully pleased with our achievement. We celebrated with a nice long break, drinking in water with the views. 

We did manage to drag ourselves back to our feet and off the summit, but only because of the promise of a campsite that wasn’t too far off (the first saddle past the bluff). The saddle provided some flat but exposed camping, and enough water to suffice if you went for a bit of a look. We pitched tents, lay clothes out to dry in the sun and cooked dinner. We congregated together around Amanda’s tent to eat, which we followed up with a dessert of sunset and photos. When the show was over the frogs started up a chorus, but didn’t last too long to keep us awake all night. I think we all went to bed pretty happy with what we’d done and the fact that we were out of reach of both the mozzies and the leeches! The night was cooler than down in the forest too, and the stars and moon were all out – what more could you want? The place was just as beautiful as it was under the light of sun. 

We start the next day under the valley mist, which we don’t mind at all, knowing that it’s going to get hot enough fast enough! It lifts just as we arrive at the end of Junction ridge and prepare to drop down to the River Solly. We have to climb back up that steep thing, and then the bit that’s mostly hidden by the cloud! It’s time to visit Harrys Bluff.

Rod chooses a big stick to make the river crossing a bit safer, but it breaks and he goes in with it. He gets up laughing, and soon we’re all joining in.

The up is torturously steep and hot, and dry if it wasn’t for all the sweat dripping off our noses, running down our backs, and glistening on our arms. Part way up we get a bit of a reprieve in the incline, and Graham celebrates. Castor and Pollux are behind, and Federation behind them.

We did do a lot of route finding the old way. That’s Junction ridge ahead, and we’d come from near the base of that little mound.

Tony checks out the route ahead, Federation behind.

Amanda’s eyes light up at the sight of the rock up here, and off she scoots!!

We scramble up, Harry’s Bluff turning out to be every bit as much fun as it looked like it was going to be

Just a gentle slope to the final high point, with some magnificent mountains around!

Amanda was pretty happy – in fact we all were!!

Graham checks out where we’re going. Camp is just over the near bump in a saddle, and High Round mountain, which we’ll walk out over tomorrow, is on the left.

I did like all our views of Federation Peak.

Eastern Arthur and the Castor-Pollux ridge (Spiro range).

Down to camp we head the ridges ahead weave around and mark our way out.

That evening the setting sun turns PB red.

Day 7: 14/3/17

The alarm sounded early for another big day: for Graham and I the morning consisted of trying to fit a cooked breakfast, a trip to the loo, packing up and sunrise all into an hour and a half. That was difficult when the latter took up half that time! As it turned out, we were a little late thanks to the somewhat lengthy sunrise, though I think Tony understood, and everyone was patient enough with us. No one could deny it was a beautiful morning, with the most in the valleys below us again, though it already heralded a hot day. 

We got straight into it, following the ridge, weaving through the scrub behind Tony’s experienced lead so as to avoid the worst of it. The aniseed smell of boronia exploded around us as we crushed it under our feet, and the pink and white flowers of bauera did look pretty, even if the plant can be a walkers curse at times! We did a pretty good job and when we got back on it the ridge was very open. It was hot and dry very early, the light quickly glaring harshly over us and the landscape and the scrub still cracking and crunching under our boots. It was raw and wild, and utterly enjoyable. Part of the enjoyment I think stemmed from the feeling that it could also be quite a harsh landscape, if you weren’t well prepared for it. We had sweat streaming off us by the time we climbed up High Round Mountain, where we waved at a Par Avion plane as it flew overhead. Graham offered lollies on the top and Amanda told us about the Launceston Walking Club tradition of eating as many lollies as points you’d got for the mountain – I thought that sounded like an ok idea!!

As we set off again after a lengthy break there was some concern about water, but just as we started the climb up a hill that would become our lunch spot we found a lovely little soak that we all made use of to top up water bottles, drink from and soak hats in. Lunch was enjoyed with views out to the Ray Range – one of the few that Tony has still to climb – and we shared more stories of walks we’d been on, routes up mountains and future plans.

We eventually dragged ourselves back to our feet and proceeded to work our way down the ridge; our crunch another instrument in the orchestra of nature that at this point in time included the hum of cicadas, chatter of birds, and occasionally, slight rustle of breeze in foliage. It was really nice going, until right near the end. I had been enjoying a lovely time out the front as no one else seemed to mind me hogging the lead, but that now meant I’d be picking our way through some particularly scrubby looking bits of ridge! Fortunately, the gps route we had gave some suggestions as to a good route and the bash was much shorter and easier than expected.  

We quickly at the point we’d drop off the ridge and onto the plains below, crossing a creek on the way. The creek had really nice clean and cool water, and we all filled our bladders and bottles, knowing that the chance of finding good (non-brackish) water closer to where we’d camp next to the harbour was slim. I sensed an eagerness now to get to camp – it was so close and the promise of a swim in Bathurst Harbour was right at the front of our minds!

But there was one last challenge as we stood 50 or so metres from the shore, yet we were looking down on a horribly green scrubby forest into which our our GPS route descended. We soon decided to ignore the route we’d been following and headed further left, finding a much less scrubby way down to the waters edge. There we followed the rock around and located some good camp spots in amongst the trees, as well as a little rock cave/cache built in the 1800s for storage!

After some minor landscaping, tents went up and we got straight into the water. It was beautifully warm, sandy underfoot and so perfectly refreshing!! Certainly a wonderful way to end such a spectacular walk. Later, we sat on the rocks and cooked dinner, chatting away and watching the sun set over Mount Rugby. The water lapped at the rocks gently, and swans across the other side of the lagoon made soft, happy flute like sounds. 

The next morning, the valley mist is back, the sky is colourful agin, and the button grass makes photos lots of fun.

Later on the sun is up and everything turns golden.

More button grass and PB misty shadowy photos.

Tony gets us going early (although I fear my photo-taking has delayed us 15 minutes!)..

Soon we’re in the thick of the heat again, but the ridges are wonderfully open (at least, till right at the end). Tony walks past a familiar mountain.

Amanda beat us all up High Round mountain, though Graham was hot on her heels. They wave at a plane leaving Melaleuca, which were a frequent sight and sound of the trip.

With some pretty good choices, we managed to weave an excellent route through the scrub, find a great source of water, and end up at our drop off point in faster than expected time. We found and made camp sites in the forest, went for a delightfully warm but refreshing swim in the harbour, then set about eating dinner.

This became our kitchen and dining room, and it was just lovely!

We ate and chatted, listend to the yellow throated honey eaters and the swans and watched the sun set behind Rugby.

Later, when it was really quite, you could hear the distant rumble of the ocean.

Day 8: 16/3/17

Rod had made a call on his satellite phone when we’d got to camp the night before to let our pilot/coxswain know we’d be ready to come out whenever he could get to us, but we knew that wouldn’t be before 11, and perhaps not before 3! Expecting to have a fair wait, we finally got to have a sleep in!! For me that just meant not setting an alarm, but Graham and I were still up to see the little bit of colour that the sun cast across the lake as it rose, singling out Rugby. We couldn’t help but smile at the little fish that jumped out of the water near the shore as we walked by, while the yellow throated honey eaters chatted away behind us.

We were joined slightly later by Rod, Tony and Amanda and enjoyed a lovely last breakfast and chat. While it might have taken us most of the 8 days, we now seemed really quite comfortable with each other and ourselves and this was one of the unexpected gifts of the trip for me, and I think also Graham.  At 10 we packed up our tents and by 11 when we were back on the rocks Amanda spotted our boat and we watched it approach excitedly! As we motored back to Melaleuca and passed the magnificent Rugby, Graham and I decided it would be a fitting ‘last mountain’ to climb – that is, the last mountain we’d climb to complete the HWC peak baggers guide, if we got there and had a choice in the matter ;). 

The day after returning, I got the phone call I’d been waiting so long for, and had been a tad worried might come when I was out of range. I now have a job as a paramedic intern with Ambulance Tasmania, which should open up all sorts of opportunities to go on a few more walks than I have the last two years!

The next morning was cloudy to start, but the sun somehow managed to find its way through to light up Rugby. Reckon we’ve decided that if we ever get close to finishing the HWC peak baggers list, Rugby might have to be the last mountain we climb 😉

As we wait for our pick up, Graham finds Rod a better and bigger stick for crossing rivers (or harbours!) with!!

Amanda spots our boat, and we watch excitedly as it approaches!

Rod welcomes it, and we all jump aboard. We explore Melaleuca for the next few hours till it’s time to fly back home. I got to see both a firetail and an orange bellied parrot (a very special one – the first male whose female has had two clutches in one season, and who, in the feared death of the female, has taken to raising the second clutch alone)!!

All up: 73.8km and 6360m ascent (now that is impressive!!)

Day 1: 12km, 7hrs, 1165m ascent

Day 2: 10.1km, 10:30hrs, 593m ascent

Day 3: 8.1km, 8:40hrs, 904m ascent

Day 4: 5.7km, 5:30hrs, 302m ascent

Day 5: 14km, 11:10hrs, 1550m ascent

Day 6: 9.5km, 9:40hrs, 1095m ascent

Day 7: 14.3km, 9:50hrs, 733m ascent

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

 

Eldon range traverse

Eldon range traverse

Day 1 (and the night before):

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

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

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

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

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

Brad's boat and the weather surprise that awaited us

Brad’s boat and the weather surprise that awaited us

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

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

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

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

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

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

We set off, across the Eldon and South Eldon rivers

We set off, across the Eldon and South Eldon rivers

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

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

We can't believe our luck with the view!

We can’t believe our luck with the view!

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

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

Let's camp here!

Let’s camp here!

Day 2:

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

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

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

We wake to this, it’s a bit cold..!

Still beautiful!

Still beautiful!

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

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

And of the mountains!

And of the mountains!

At times it was so still

At times it was so still

Day 3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barn bluff was out

Barn bluff was out

The tarns were partially frozen

The tarns were partially frozen

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

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

This was to be the bulk of our day

This was to be the bulk of our day

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

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

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

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

Frenchman looks on :)

Frenchman looks on 🙂

Day 4:

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning pandanis!

Good morning pandanis!

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

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

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

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

As we sit on the crag, the bluff is revealed

As we sit on the crag, the bluff is revealed

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

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

We head towards the bluff.. looking magnificent!

We head towards the bluff.. looking magnificent!

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

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

We camped this side of that pointy thing the night before

We camped this side of that pointy thing the night before

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

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

The bluff's plateau!

The bluff’s plateau!

John on Eldon Bluff!

John on Eldon Bluff!

Looking down at Ewart

Looking down at Ewart

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

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

Frenchmans!

Frenchmans!

Sidling down under the cliff line

Sidling down under the cliff line

On the ridge we'd camp on

On the ridge we’d camp on

Drying everything out!

Drying everything out!

Day 5:

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

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

Magnificent sunrise

Magnificent sunrise

Sun rise

Sun rise

Later on at sunrise

Later on at sunrise

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

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

We head down towards Ewart

We head down towards Ewart

On the plains Eldon Bluff still looks impressive

On the plains Eldon Bluff still looks impressive

We sign the log book

We sign the log book

Graham before we hit the scrub!

Graham before we hit the scrub!

On the ridge, we camp by this tarn.

On the ridge, we camp by this tarn.

There was a rather nice pandani nearby!

There was a rather nice pandani nearby!

Pelion West and co

Pelion West and co

The sun sets and the button grass glows

The sun sets and the button grass glows

Eldon Bluff dominates

Eldon Bluff dominates

Day 6:

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

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

Castle Mountain in clag

Castle Mountain in clag

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

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

High Dome and the reserve

High Dome and the reserve

Wow!! :)

Wow!! 🙂

Our repair job holds, and we camp below High Dome

Our repair job holds, and we camp below High Dome

Day 7:

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

The extent of our views as we leave High Dome summit

The extent of our views as we leave High Dome summit

Day 8:

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

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

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

At Five Duck Tarn, we enjoy water drops

At Five Duck Tarn, we enjoy water drops

Camping at Five Duck Tarn

Camping at Five Duck Tarn

Five Duck Tarn

Five Duck Tarn

Sunrise at Five Duck Tarn

Sunrise at Five Duck Tarn

Beautiful pandani and myrtle forests

Beautiful pandani and myrtle forests

The Pandani grove!

The Pandani grove!

An old Ewart Blaze

An old Ewart Blaze

Graham takes the pulpit on Junction Hill

Graham takes the pulpit on Junction Hill

View from Junction Hill

View from Junction Hill

Everlastings

Everlastings

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

More Junction Hill views

We head towards an unnamed hill and Rocky Hill

We head towards an unnamed hill and Rocky Hill

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

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

Looking back at High Dome and the Amphitheatre

Looking back at High Dome and the Amphitheatre

On the top of the world

On the top of the world

Let's camp down there

Let’s camp down there

Enjoying Rocky Hill

Enjoying Rocky Hill

Looking back along the ridge to Rocky Hill

Looking back along the ridge to Rocky Hill

It's a lovely ridgeline

It’s a lovely ridgeline

Day 9:

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

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

All up: 86.1km, 5137m ascent

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

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

Day 2: Rest day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunrise at our pine camp

Sunrise at our pine camp

Pine camp - lovely spot

Pine camp – lovely spot

Saying goodbye to Eldon Peak

Saying goodbye to Eldon Peak

Crossing our final river

Crossing our final river