Mount Shaula (the one that got away): 30 October – 1 November 2020

Mt Shaula GPS route

It’s been the hardest 6 months I’ve ever had and yet it’s also been a time of reflection, discovery and quite substantial growth, which is far from finished. When the core that you’ve built your life around gets ripped away, you’re kind of forced to reevaluate everything you do and decide how you want to do it now. Even in his death Graham seems to be teaching me things and encouraging me to be a better version of me. Everything has been in the firing line, ranging from little things like how frequently I floss my teeth to the bigger issues of work, hobbies, health and fitness. The only thing that’s staying pretty much the same is bushwalking (although even that might be being ramped up a tad, and obviously I’m back to solo walking too!). I haven’t been able explain why walking was the one thing that’s been working, but by the end of the walk I certainly had more of an idea.

I had 5 days set aside, but two weren’t looking flash with the weather and I had just planted out some tomato, capsicum and eggplant seedlings that were going to need more water than once every 5 days, so I decided to just go for the three good days . King William III, Shaula or Robert… hmmm. The decision was hard and I was going to go with KW3 for a couple of reasons, but then a message from a friend had me pretty keen on two nights camping high on the Western Arthurs. So Shaula it was. It was hard to believe it had already been 6 years since I’d last walked past the mountain and I was stoked to finally be returning :D! I’d first walked the Western Arthurs and all the peaks with Graham and Shaz on a magical 9 day trip. Before we left a friend said, ‘you won’t climb Shaula though, no one ever does on their first go’. He was right, we stood at the point you’d leave from, looking over at it and knew we didn’t have the time and energy to get there and back. So it had remained ‘the one that got away’ for 6.5 years. I always knew I’d be back and it was right near the top of the list for Graham and I, but we hadn’t got there together. So now it was just me. For a three day walk, the days were going to be long because there was a fair distance to cover (nearly 30km one way), but the going would be easy – tracked and open almost all the way, and the camping top notch.

The morning marking practical exams at uni flew by, as did a meeting at the tennis club and then I began a leisurely drive down to the southwest. I could have left the next morning, but I had a LOT of ground to cover, and preferred an early walking start without a ridiculously early driving start (or a mass of animals to avoid)! I wasn’t feeling quite as excited as I had been during the planning – courtesy of good dose of tiredness and feeling a tad under the weather, but that wore off as I listened to a new podcast (all about living with intention as it turned out!), practiced some breathing techniques (the specific episode delved a fair bit into breathing) and watched the sky turn lovely reds and oranges as the sun set. The colour hung around long after sundown and left me with a warm glow inside as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, keen to get at least 7 hours sleep before an early start.

I woke at 5:30 to the alarm, but it was light enough to not need the head torch. I boiled some water for my oats, popped the lot in a thermos for a brunch later on and packed the last few bits and pieces into my pack. It was feeling ridiculously light, a feeling I knew wouldn’t last long! By 6 I was on the track, each step stirring distant memories from previous visits. 

The sky was painted orange again, almost as if it had never left, although now it was a lighter, brighter shade. Again it hung around, reminding me all too soon how difficult it is to look at the views and walk on the track without stumbling! The track wasn’t much different to how I remembered it, perhaps just an extra sign telling unprepared walkers to turn back. Oh, and more of the typical southwest mud than I could remember, but that’s usual for me to forget!

The bright oranges from earlier settle into more subdued shades as the dawn grows stale

I set into a gentle plod, no need to race, and just went with the flow. It was going to be a warm day – it’s not often I have my shirt sleeves rolled up by 6:30! But for now, I was going to enjoy the pleasant smell and temperature of a fine spring day. Sometimes I thought about things, other times I just breathed and walked. I passed another solo female walker who had been in to the start of the range. That accounted for the only other car in the carpark, so I figured I’d have the range to myself! 

The cloud slowly burns off the back of the range.

I arrived at Junction creek at 9, remembering how Shaz and slipped on the little wooden ladder and bruised her tailbone – something to laugh at now but something that had given her grief for the rest of the trip! I had a refreshing drink and continued on along the plains. To this point there hadn’t been much sign of the 2018/19 fires, but that changed shortly after Junction creek and stayed around until my departure point (technically not Moraine K, I was cutting off the corner!). Here the ground was crunchy, although the button grass was coming back, as were some everlastings and the odd patch of sundews. The track was just as easy to follow – rocky underfoot with muddy and boggy patches, especially near rivers. The shortcut was perfect too. It was open going all the way except when crossing Seven Mile River, where there was a track (maybe an old route??). 

I’d forgotten how brilliant the colours and scenery was out here. Mt Shaula is the pointy thing on the right.

By midday I’d started climbing onto the range and didn’t take long to intersect the official route down Moraine K. It was a long slog up, made even longer by the fact I kept wanting to take photos. I’d really slowed down by now anyway, knowing I had all afternoon to travel what was now a relatively short distance and wanting to conserve my energy for the next day. 

Heading up Moraine K you can see where the fires started and stopped. There’s beauty in death here.
Slowly getting higher.
Looking towards the eastern end of the Western Arthurs, technically out of bounds still

When I did finally feel like I was up and on the range properly I started moving at snails pace, stopping repeatedly to take photos or even just stand and stare. I’d forgotten how much walking in the Arthurs fills you with awe and amazement. If ever there was a land of gods, this would be it. Every twist and turn or rise and dip presents a new perspective of folded ridges and dramatic, imposing mountains. To be able to walk in the midst of it all is just delightful. So I savoured every moment, moving only fast enough to keep from getting cold. Familiar bits of track and unique trees and rocks gave me déjà vu, and distant memories trickled back from a lifetime ago. I walked slower still. 

Finally on top, Shaula is the diminutive bump in the centre foreground.

There’s an old King Billy pine just before the descent to Haven Lake, which I’d forgotten about, and it was lovely to find it looking much the same as the last time I passed it by. Down to the lake I dropped. As tempting as the tent platforms and easy access to water might have been for weary feet, I’d been recommended an even better spot, which meant I still had a short walk to do. I partly filled an 8L dry bag with extra water (they do wonderfully as an emergency water bladder, so long as they aren’t too holey!) and continued around the lake. A short climb took me to a saddle in the ridge, which gave brilliant views NW along the range, directly towards the Beggary Bumps and Shaula. It was exposed, but the wind had died down and wasn’t going to pick up until after I was home, making it a perfect spot to stay!

Shaula up close. Looking pretty steep and scrubby from this side.
The eastern end of the Western Arthurs with Fedder in the background
The western end of the Western Arthurs. What a place to be!
Fedder!
Fedder, Aldebaran and some cool king billies.
One of my favourite trees!

While it wasn’t even 4pm I pitched the tent and got some soup and dinner going, and then settled in for an afternoon of reading, writing notes and simply enjoying being in such a lovely place. The sun had settled to a warming caress, and I watched as it turned the mountains different colours during its journey through the sky. Birds chirped in the distance and only the odd fly came to disturb the peace. It was a perfect afternoon, full of silence. To top it off I happened to glance behind the tent as the sun was setting, just in time to watch the full moon peak out from behind rock. And there I stayed, mesmerised as slowly it floated higher and higher, into the sky. 

Not a bad view from the bedroom?
Sunset that night
Followed shortly by moon rise.

I had no need to be up at any particular time so I set no alarm, what a luxury! My bladder had other ideas, and I read for a bit before dozing off again. It was close to 8 when I finally decided I’d best get moving, because while I might not have had a huge distance to go, I wasn’t sure how long the side trip to Shaula might take. If it was horrible scrub, it could be pretty slow! 

Sunrise the next morning.

It was cool and overcast to start and it took a while to shake off the stiffness that had settled in overnight. But the scramble up Taurus and then along the eastern end of the Beggary Bumps soon had me working up a sweat. It took a little longer to get over the disappointment of the morning – waking to find the SD card in my camera had suddenly decided to have an error. All the photos from the day before weren’t visible, and no new ones could be stored on it. I hoped it could be salvaged when I got home (It could! But it’s also getting replaced before the next trip)! Fortunately I’ve carried a spare with me on every trip for the last 8 years.

The Beggary Bumps are very up and down and my legs were feeling the slog up Moraine K from the day before, so it was with a fair bit of relief that I stopped just shy of one of the bigger ‘bumps’ and readied myself to plunge off track into the scrub. There was a little bit of a clearing where people had clearly sat before, so I made myself comfortable and enjoyed brunch – so yummy on a hungry tummy!

Heading over to Shaula, this one taken on the descent from Mt Taurus on the way towards the Beggary Bumps
The Beggary Bumps, aptly named!

When it came time to step down into the scrub I was pleasantly surprised. There was a little bit of a pad to start with, but more impressive was the vegetation. It was a lovely mix of low lying heath, pandani and moss. Later on a few more trees came into the picture but even here the scoparia was generous enough to be over head high so as to not cause any significant obstacle. What I expected to be a hefty scrub bash was more of a twist and turn through the lovely, ancient vegetation. Down into the dip and then back up the other side until I hit the ridge that runs out to Shaula.

Some lovely scrub to walk through on the way to Shaula
A curly haired pandani with a hairdresser who isn’t afraid of colour!

Even here the going was pretty good. There was a pad that wasn’t too branched and that didn’t have too many false leads and the further along the ridge I went the more open the going got. A final rocky scramble straight up a false summit and then the real deal. Ah, to be sitting on the summit of ‘the one that got away’…it would have been nice to have shared it with Graham and Shaz. I held them in my thoughts instead while I sat there looking back at the range, munching on a snack. 

On the summit of Shaula, looking back towards camp (the saddle in the middle of the photo).

The return flew by, even though I was moving no faster. I took great pleasure in the little things. The small tadpole filled soak on the middle of the ridge out to Shaula, the bumble bee a little further on who had chosen such a beautiful place to call home, the little spider dressed in Spider-Man colours, the characteristic flap of a startled Bronzewing, the grasshopper who was as stunned as I was to find him land in my mouth, and of course, the tree that appeared to be growing out of nothing but pure rock. I had just been talking to a friend, who had also lost his partner in the last 6 months, about how important the things were that filled us with awe (an idea from the book Phosphorescence). And here I was, in the middle of nowhere, completely alone, being bombarded by lots of little things that made me smile, sometimes even chuckle, and definitely filled me with awe and wonder. There was indeed so much to be grateful for.

Taddies!

Back at the tent I finished off a book Jess had lent me called Silence in the Age of Noise. It’s a lovely little book, easy to read, that sets out a case for the importance of finding silence in our lives. Right at its end, it puts into words the reason I go walking in a way I never could have. 

Which paths lead to silence? Certainly trips into the wild. Leave your electronics at home, take off in one direction until there’s nothing around you. Be alone for three days. Don’t talk to anyone. Gradually you will rediscover the other sides of yourself. The most important thing, however, is…that we each discover our own way…Sva marga: follow your own path. 

And so, in a world that may not be any more uncertain than it always was, but where I’m more acutely aware of uncertainty and transience, I am clear about one thing. I will always be able to find silence and rediscover myself when I walk in the wild. That is my path. I am not much one for the treadmill of commuting, working, earning and spending money, keeping up to date with the news, social media or the latest series on Netflix. But maybe I don’t need to be ;).

One more glance towards Fedder, with PB on the right

The following morning I woke in the middle of the cloud, as expected, but had a lovely show as I packed my gear, with the mountains appearing and disappearing just as fast behind the white veil. When it was time I said my goodbyes and made my way slowly off the range. I was in no rush, again I had the whole day, and there wasn’t anywhere better to be but here. I had a moment with one, and then two, currawongs, who made me feel like I was part of the landscape rather than someone simply passing through… then again perhaps they just wanted to see if I’d put down my pack for a bit!

Good morning world!
A brief reveal
Close up of the Western Arthurs summits
Haven Lake reflections
A misty Haven Lake
Still the cloud came and went.
A currawong came to check I wasn’t too lonely… and then his mate joined him. It was kind of cool.
Stunning walking, whether you can see the views or not!
Mt Scorpio is a stunning mountain for anyone who loves scrambling!

Down I went, then across the plains again. Still shocked at how beautiful the place was. I met several people walking in. The first, a pair of older women, who asked me if I’d made it to Shaula. I was delighted they’d taken the time to read and remember this from the log book, but even more at the fact that here were two women enjoying some of the most stunning walking at an age I can only hope I’ll still be walking at. The next was a guy who was part way through traversing Tassie from north to south. I was impressed, if slightly envious… it’s something that’s been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a little while now ;). He’d even been through the POWs as part of it. I could have spent much longer chatting, but he clearly needed to be getting on, as did I. When he left I was struck how clean he looked – I’d been out for 3 days and was covered in mud, he looked in mint condition in comparison! The final guy, who I met maybe 45 minutes from the car park simply asked me if there was anywhere to camp within 2-3 hours, so I mentioned Junction Creek, slightly puzzled by the question, and the fact that he was walking without a shirt on. Hmmm…

On the way down I figured this was as good a place as any to have brunch.
A last look back. I’ll be back, and it won’t be in another 6.5 years!

While I was glad to be back at the car to get off my achy feet, and heading in to town where I could get some salmon for a bit of a treat for dinner, there was part of me that could easily have stayed out there for a bit longer…

Day 1: 24.5km, 10hrs, 1437m ascent

Day 2: 8.4km, 6:51hrs, 993m ascent

Day 3: 24km, 9:17hrs, 862m ascent

I was surprised at how dry it was in light of how much rain we’ve had recently. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of boggy mud patches, but there was also a lot that was way drier that I expected!
I love these guys, they always remind me of SW Tassie, especially the Arthurs.
An ant on some everlasting daisies
Pristine
It’s spring time!
New growth. Love you??
Lots of young shoots post fire – it was lovely to see!

Raglan Range and Flat Bluff: 18-21 April 2019

Raglan Range and Flat Bluff GPS route

In doing some research for a trip out to Mary, Maude and Madge, I went in search of some photos I’d taken from the area during a trip to the Raglan Range and Flat Bluff. But I couldn’t find them here, and eventually realised I’d never written up the trip. So this is one very short post that should give you a rough idea of what the terrain was like, but I’m afraid there won’t be much fat around the bones because I can’t remember the little details (I imagine many of you are sighing with relief about now!). 

It seems we went in late on Easter Thursday, probably because we spent the morning packing and driving up. We parked at the Nelson River Falls carpark (thankfully, and you’ll find out why at the end of the post!), and hit the track at about 3pm. We picked our way across the River, taking time to keep our feet dry, and then wove through the very overgrown road. As we gained height the road was much less overgrown, but increasingly steep. I remember travelling slowly enough, finding our walking legs and lungs. 

Start of the track, just after the river crossing, looking back towards the road. Needless to say, there is no bridge. Apparently that makes it dangerous!
Heading up we start to get views, it had been a rainy morning but the sun was trying and it was quite nice!
Part of the road. At times it was much more open and gravelly underfoot. It was only really overgrown down low.

We didn’t have too much of a plan, and ended up deciding to camp at a flat spot by an old ruin because we weren’t going to make the summit of Raglan range before it got dark and we weren’t in any rush. This also gave us time to explore the ruins and take a few photos. 

Some of the ruins near where we camped.
An old drum
More ruins
Random machinery, no longer workable
It was clear that lots of drinking had been done here!

The next morning we had a lazy start, setting off at about 9:30. We still had a fair bit of climbing to do to get to the summit, but it seemed easier, still on the road. We didn’t stay long, keen to get further along the ridge to set up a high camp, and then duck over to Flat Bluff. We did just this, choosing to camp bang in the middle of the road at the intersection between the ridges to Flat Bluff and Wards Bluff. We then had all afternoon to eat lunch and wander over to Flat Bluff, which was a lovely walk with amazing views towards Frenchmans Cap. I don’t remember any nasty surprises in regards to the terrain

It was nice to have the views start to open up as we gained more height!
There were lots of stags, this one looking north-east towards Lake St Clair.
And then Frenchmans appears!
The view from the summit of Raglan Range, looking west. You can see how obvious the road is here.
High camp at the intersection between the ridges to Flat Bluff, Wards Bluff and Raglan Range. Not a bad view west!
Heading out to Flat Bluff, Graham weaves between low scrub. That’s the bluff to the left, pretty open going.

On the rather flat summit we had a bit of a look at routes towards Mount Mary and shared a chocolate Easter Bunny I’d been given – I figured we should have a little bit of Easter seeing it was that time of year ;). We wandered on back to the tent, and enjoyed dinner as the sun set. Nothing speccy, but nice all the same.

In the saddle leading to Flat Bluff there’s a lot of dead stags. Imagine what it would have been like!
Flat Bluff is exactly that…FLAT. There’s Frenchman’s from the cairned high point. We ate a chocolate Easter bunny and decided to wander out to the edge…
Checking out Frenchman’s Cap from the southern edge of Flat Bluff. Nice view. Mt Mary to the right… another day for her.
Frenchman’s Cap and a work colleague in the sky!
Mount Mary. Looks like you should be able to find an ok route through there.

The following day we had our eyes set on Wards Bluff, but it wasn’t to be. After a bit of a pad and then some old roads, we hit the scrub and the going was just awkward along the broken ridge. We realised we weren’t going to get there and I vaguely remember just not feeling it. I think we were both pretty tired from accumulated work and not enough rest, and so it was no surprise we only got 10km in 8 hours. We decided we’d come back again better prepared (it’s still on the list too!). On the return Graham made a new friend with a lone pandani. He reckoned it was a good dance partner, and it certainly wouldn’t take much to be better than me in that respect!

Not a great photo, but you get the gist of the ridge to Ward’s Bluff. A little broken and scrubby.
Fascinating the stuff you find in the bush! This was on the way to Wards Bluff.
Walking home from Wards Bluff, Graham with his new found friend!

Our final day was an easy 3.5 hours back down the road and out to the car, which wouldn’t start. This was, however, one of the rare occasions we were parked in a tourist carpark, and we found someone who was kind enough to spend 10-15mins to charge up the battery with jump leads. There were plenty of very remote places we could have been, that would have meant a very long walk out!!

All up:

Day 1: 5.4km, 4hrs, 506m ascent

Day 2: 12.1km, 8hrs, 684m ascent

Day 3: 10.1km, 8:11hrs, 581m ascent

Day 4: 9.8km, 3:38hrs, 115m ascent

Pine Knob: 14 October 2020

Pine Knob GPS route

There’s a wealth of evidence showing that the most meaningful contributor to life satisfaction is strong social bonds. Working on this premise, or simply trying to fit as much walking in as possible with different friends, I found time in my last week of leave to squeeze in a 3 day walk. It was the forth in a row, each separated by only a day or so, and it did seem to be keeping a smile on my face. I had also become as good at cleaning, drying and repacking as I was at ignoring the lawn that needed a serious mowing!

This time the plan was a little more set in stone. I was initially going for a walk with Bec, a fellow paramedic from the north-west. But she had other friends trying to organise a time to get in to Frenchmans Cap and it coincided almost perfectly with our three days. It seemed like the perfect plan to book it in and I’d walk in the day after them and meet them wherever they were. 

For once the weather was looking pretty good, which was just as well given we’d chosen our destination well before we knew what it was going to be! I’d have a sunny day, wet day, then a sunny day. The others would have an additional sunny day before I caught up with them. What wasn’t to like about that?

I finished up volunteering, raced off to a tennis meeting that went much later than expected and then drove to the Frenchman’s Cap carpark despite feeling abnormally tired. I arrived safely at 2300, having taken a little extra time to avoid the mass of wildlife. It was the one time I wasn’t all that thrilled to be spotting wombats! I set up a spare mat, sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the car so I could quite literally dress and go in the morning without having to pack anything else up. The stars were out and the night was crisp and cold. I was feeling excited for a big day of walking in the morning. 

My bladder woke me in the early hours of the morning, which proved a cold and brief but beautiful venture out under the stars. Then the alarm went off a few hours later and I started walking at 0540ish by head torch. The sun wasn’t due to rise till 0630 so it wasn’t quite light enough to see without the head torch, especially in the forest sections. I settled into a plod, knowing I had quite a long way to go. The birds were singing a soft but sweet morning chorus, as if in an effort to rouse the sun from slumber. 

First views of the range in early morning light

The sun slowly cast enough light that I could see without the head torch and the mountains gradually came into view as I wove through the landscape. It was cold, and the button grass plains were frosted over, the spiderwebs like white fishing line across the track. My fingers and arms were weak and numb, but fortunately they weren’t really needed. In one bit I could see where the fire had been through, round the corner there was most in the valley and then I was in the mist. Gradually it burnt off and the mountains of the range came into view. It was also nice to see the pink climbing heath and the bauera in flower. To the off-track bushwalker bauera doesn’t have much going for it, except that it’s little white flowers make it slightly nicer to look at, but no less of a trip hazard! Looking at the scrub on either side of the track I was most grateful for the clear walking ahead. 

The mist in the valley was just lovely
Having descended into the mist, it now starts to burn off

I arrived at Vera at about 0945 and feeling a bit peckish I had some oats for breakfast before heading off again just before 1000. I’d stolen some ideas from Charlotte on our last walk, so the oats had dehydrated banana, apricot, sultanas and cranberries with them, as well as dedicated coconut, cinnamon and a bit of peanut butter. Delicious! The walk around the lake then up to Baron Pass was longer and steeper than I had prepared for, even though every time I’ve climbed it I’ve had the same experience. You’d think I’d learn, but no, memories like that seem to fade with time!

White Needle at Baron’s Pass

I was glad to be on top by 1130, though my legs were pretty knackered. It didn’t take long to move along the ridge to Artichoke valley, although I was stopping now for photos and to just enjoy knowing I had plenty more time than I’d anticipated. The reason I’d been moving fast was because I wanted to climb Pine Knob on the way in to Tahune. It was the last mountain in the range that I had yet to climb and it was achievable to do on the way in while the weather was good. 

Looking towards Pine Knob from Artichoke Pass

I had some lunch, sent a message or two to let people know I was fine and then did a wonderful job of making the walk over the bumpy ridge to the summit a lot harder than it needed to be. This was largely due to my innate tendency to climb up and over things instead of sidling around them. There was a pad but it wasn’t always the easiest to follow as it was overgrown in spots and gave multiple options in others. I always chose to go high, which worked a bit, but at least twice had me climbing up two steep knobs and then sliding/falling down steep and scratchy scrub on the far side. Coming back it looked like you could actually climb up the rock, but when you were standing on top looking down it hadn’t been so clear and I was hesitant to get part way down the rock and come to a dead end. The scrub had definitely been the safer option, but sidling to the west on the return was even better. I was kicking myself for not bringing scrub gloves though. All my recent scrub had been through everything but scoparia and I’d forgotten how prickly it can be on hands when it’s close enough that you have no choice but to grab on to it. Fortunately it didn’t persist too much past the first knob, just enough to have me wincing a few times!

About to leave the track to walk along the ridge to Pine Knob. There’s a bit of a pad here.
Looking along the ridge towards Pine Knob from early on. I learnt the hard way that it wasn’t always a good idea to go over each ‘knob.’

It was early afternoon by now and the sun was warm. I’d not taken any water with me and was paying for the extra effort of my average route selection with a parched mouth. I started to look around for water and just before the final climb to the summit came across a whole heap of yabbie holes brimming with clear water. There was nothing to do but lie down and press my face into the ground and suck up as much water as I could. It was clean and deliciously cold, but I resolved to add a yabbie tube to my emergency kit so I wouldn’t have to face plant in the future!

You can see why it’s called Pine Knob. Fitting indeed.
Frenchmans behind, the ridge I’ve walked along in front.

The final ascent was nice and easy, and the view back towards the range was lovely. You could see why it was called Pine Knob, there were a lot of great big dead stags along the undulating ridge. Unfortunately I only came across a few little King Billy pines that were still alive. I took a fair bit of time on top and then was surprised to hear the voices of Bec and her friends from the summit of Frenchman’s. I could even see them! It was a cool little moment of connection, even if they were oblivious of me. The hut was visible too, as was a fire out at the King William lookout on the Lyell Highway, which I hoped was a planned burn off. Eventually I started to head back, shaving at least half an hour off the time it had taken me to get there by sidling round two of the larger knobs!

The view from the summit towards Sharlands and Philps/Agamemnon.
From the summit of Pine Knob looking back to Frenchmans. You could see the hut from here too!
Can you see the figures on the summit?

It didn’t take long to walk the last bit of track down to the new hut at Tahune, which is incredibly glamorous and a bit too warm (it even has a heated towel rack??!)! The warmth was nice after a very cold and brief dip in the lake, but quite uncomfortable in the middle of the night. You can’t adjust the heating as it’s run on solar and seems to be preset. So while I had the chance to sleep in ‘Gentleman Jack’s bed’ (named after Jack Thwaites) it wasn’t the nicest of nights and next time I’ll definitely be renting, even if it means packing up in the wet. The evening was otherwise a pleasurable one spent meeting new people, eating, sharing stories and lots of laughter. And we had the space all to ourselves!

Back with my pack I head the short walk to Tahune, casting a glance back at the Pine Knob ridge from the western side this time.
At Tahune I slept in ‘Gentleman Jack’s’ bed (they all have names), mostly to avoid packing up a wet tent in the morning! I quite liked some of his words that were imprinted elsewhere in the hut too (as photographed here).

The following morning three of our party were walking the whole way out, while two others and I had an extra day so we figured we’d stay an extra night at Vera. Three hours of walking in the rain was enough to enjoy the mist swirling around the mountains and the beauty of an old rainforest in the wet and it was nice to be able to get warm and dry and then have lunch knowing we weren’t going back out that day. We spent the afternoon chatting, reading, napping and eating more than we needed to. It was another of those times where you relax much more than you would have if you were home simply because there wasn’t anything else you could do. And it was just perfect. Later than night another group arrived, and even with 8 in the hut we had a better nights sleep, courtesy of the temperature being only 5 degrees!

Patterns in rock.

It was a busy affair with all of us getting ready the next morning but kind of nice and communal too. The blue sky and sun was back, though it had been a clear night so things were frosty and cold again. It took a little to warm up but once we got there we settled into a steady plod, which we held all the way back to the car. We chatted about all manner of things, many the kind you only talk about with people you know really well. I don’t know if it was the place, the fact we were all paramedics or just because we were us, but it was comfortable and enlightening. 

We passed three groups of three and one solo walker on the way in, and were glad we’d been in when we had! We made it to the Hungry Wombat by 2 for a yummy burger for lunch, which all made us feel like we then needed an afternoon nap. No such luck, we still had to get back to Hobart. A rollover on the way back and one incredibly lucky woman certainly made sure I was awake and alert!

Slightly distorted panorama of the Frenchman’s group from Pine Knob.

Pine Knob side trip:  3.5km, 3:12hrs (all breaks included), 340m ascent.

Scotts Peak: 10-12 October 2020

Scotts Peak GPS route.

How one thing leads to something unexpected… It always fascinates me how things somehow just work out and the results can be better than you could have imagined. A sore foot and therefore a desire not to walk much on 3 days we had set aside to do just that lead to a really cool alternative plan that involved paddling on Lake Pedder and revisiting two old friends of mine. As the plan materialised our excitement grew!

Charlotte and I had set aside Friday night to Tuesday morning to go on a walk, wherever the weather was good. Charlotte’s partner, and a work colleague of mine, asked if he could come too. I’m not sure he even needed to ask, there was only ever going to be one answer! The final arrangements fell into place smoothly, with only the small hitch that I could only find one set of kayak cradles for the roof racks. Never mind, we’d figure out a way. It proved as easy as inverting the single kayak and laying it alongside the double in the cradles. 

We cruised out to Lake Pedder, putting the boats in the water at the Scotts Peak boat ramp, and paddling into the moderate breeze for a bit over an hour. It was windy enough that Charlotte, who was sitting in the front of the double kept getting fresh water over the bow of the boat every time we smacked down over the larger waves. But her and Kenny’s wetsuit gloves and booties keep the extremities warm even if they were wet so it wasn’t a miserable affair. We had intermittent light showers, but nothing dense enough to steal away the partial view we had of the surrounding mountains. 

When we beached on the isthmus to Scotts Peak we set up our tents and had some lunch, sheltering from the latest rain cloud. Charlotte was pretty keen to climb her mountain and I liked that the first walk we were doing together was the first one I’d done in Tassie. Scotts Peak is a brilliant little mountain to climb, one where it’s got to be nearly impossible not to fall in love with the southwest. A small island in the middle of Lake Pedder, on a clear and still day it’s surrounded by blue sky reflected in tannin stained fresh water, with mountains in every direction you look. That was my first experience of Tassie bush. 

Photo by Simon Kendrick, taken on my first ever bushwalk during the paddle over to Scotts Peak. You get the idea about a mirrored sky and mountains all around!
Another of Simon’s images from that first walk, showing the Frankland and Giblin ranges mirrored in Lake Pedder
And a final one from Simon, as we descend. Clearly an appropriate walk for young kids, or even those without any real gear!

The weather was slightly different this time around and I was much more experienced as a bushwalker, but still it was lovely to climb to the top with two people who hadn’t been there before. It barely rained on us, and on the way down shafts of sunlight shone through the cloud some distance away, casting white patches on the surface of the lake. The wind whipped up waves in lovely patterns, the clouds were dark and moody. The terrain was much as I remembered it, a mix of low southwest scrub – button grass, boronia, tea tree and melaleuca at the comfortable level of ankle to shin high. The climb was short but steep enough to make you feel it. The rain made it very slippery underfoot, the ground was coated with that clear-muddy goop that often has you slipping back further than you just stepped forward. 

This time, the sky was moody, the sun intermittent, the wind whipped up patterns on the water. It was a different kind of beautiful (even if I only had my rather old iPhone SE to capture it with)!
Summit photo. It was cool, but not too wet! Clearly I’m in perfect company too :D!

Back at the tents we had a surprise visit from a sea eagle, who flew quite low to us, and continued on around the island! It shocked me that one was so far from the coast and it had us all feeling full of awe, I think. When the moment had passed, Charlotte and Kenny got busy preparing a delicious dinner while we had an entree of bikkies and cheese and quince paste. The benefit of kayaking over walking was that you could afford to be luxurious! The main course was couscous with falafels, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, chickpeas, olives, sauerkraut and a few other bits and pieces that I’ve already forgotten. Exotic, no? We shared a dessert of raspberry intense chocolate while we played cards and then called it a night.

Rainbows, clouds, mountains, fresh air, sea eagles… no where else to be!
One of the best dinners ever and a hint of blue sky!
Said dinner up close – photo by Kenny Yap. Yum!!

The next day we waited for the rain showers to mostly finish before getting back in the kayaks to visit Mount Solitary. I’ve written about this one elsewhere, so won’t repeat myself. It’s just worth noting that the same approach is now almost completely burnt out to the summit, sadly, from the 2018/2019 fires. It makes for a slightly spikier, blacker approach, that’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing. It was nice to see little everlasting daisies starting to regenerate though. 

The weather was better for kayaking, although still a little bumpy. Photo by Kenny.
An idea of the fire damage right near the top of Mount Solitary. Compare it to photos from my original post on the walk at https://rockmonkeyadventures.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/mount-solitary-22-23-march-2015/
Another of the fire damage, along with a rather dirty me! Photo by Kenny.
Kenny and I. Again, you can see how extensive the fire damage was. Must have been hit by lightening in 2018/2019. Photo by Charlotte Blake.

Another gourmet dinner that we nearly didn’t have enough gas for was followed by an evening lying on a tarp, wrapped in our sleeping bags, gazing up at the stars, chatting intermittently. It was one of those evenings that are just right and I had no desire to be anywhere else. 

Kenny cooks another delicious meal as the sun sinks low behind Mount Jim Brown.

This was a trip of a lot of reflecting, remembering, a little bit of missing, but also a lot of being grateful for what is. It’s interesting that I chose to start my blog post on Solitary with a paragraph on change and what it can bring. It was from 5 years ago, a time still near the beginning of my relationship with Graham, so the changes I was referring to were significantly positive. The changes over the last 6 months (yikes!) have been quite different, but it’s a fitting reminder that change does bring new possibilities. I’m trying hard to be grateful for the amount of time I now spend with friends, some old and some new; the personal changes and developments I’m making; and to be hopeful that somehow, at some point, I’ll look back and be able to identify what the experts call post-traumatic growth. We’ll see…

All up: 2.6km, 1:45hrs, 395m ascent (Just the walking part. Approximately 45-60mins kayaking depending on level and direction of wind!)

Nescient Peak and Mount Oana: 27-29 September 2020

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.

GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana
GPS route to Nescient Peak and Mount Oana

Once again, some consistently snowy, wet and windy weather had thwarted a planned 5 day solo trip, so when a 2.5 day weather window popped up on days I had few other commitments I jumped at the chance. Especially knowing the first few days of another extended trip planned from October 1 were looking very foul as well! The choice was easy, there was only a small window and not many trips I could do something productive in such little time. As it was I wasn’t entirely sure I’d have enough time to get all the way out to Layatinna. It would all depend on the weather and how easy the terrain was to negotiate, which I wouldn’t know till I was committed. Oh well, it’s about the journey and having a crack more than the destination or success, isn’t it?

The 3.5 hour drive up was smooth and uneventful aside from a lovely sunrise and a swamp harrier. There was no one in the carpark, though people had been in recently according to the log book. I was off walking by 9, dressed in board shorts cos I figured they were going to get wet. Not so much from the light sleet that came and went throughout the day, but more from pushing through snow laden branches that were bent across the track. I didn’t see any point in getting both them and my overpants wet, so the latter stayed in my pack for the morning. Probably a tad silly, as the dry overpants came at the expense of my legs, that quickly turned bright pink from the double assault of the freezing snow and the scratchy scrub.
The track itself was hard to recognise from when I was last in. I’d forgotten about the fires and it had been hit hard. Someone had been through and chainsawed the worst of the trees, and erected track markers where the track was most indistinct but it was still easy to step off it in some spots. Some opportunistic lower storey scrub had started to grow back, but by and large the landscape was 50 shades of grey and rather barren looking. It was lovely to get to the pockets that had survived intact, so much so I couldn’t even get frustrated with the bauera or scoparia as it tried to trip me up and scraped at bare knees and thighs. It was as if even this walk, much like this year in general, was echoing the same sentiments about being grateful for what is, because you never know when it’s going to change for the worse.

I'd forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I'd been here years ago.
I’d forgotten all about the fires. Starting out the walk was vastly different from the last time I’d been here years ago.

I plodded along, eating a late breakfast as I puffed my way up hill. I wasn’t in a huge rush and I was happy to go at a continuous pace rather than trying to break records. I enjoyed the light sleet and sunshine both at the same time, the birds twittering away, and even the cold wet slushy snow as it ran down my legs, inside my gaiters and eventually had my boots squelching. It was good to be back out.

It didn’t take long to reach the open button grass plains and the turn off to Nescient Peak. It had evidently been a slightly green and scrubby climb, but now it was just a matter of avoiding getting too close to the sharp and black burnt remnants. It was easy enough to weave through an open route, although I did discover close to the summit that there was actually a cairned and taped route. I tried to follow it back down but it wasn’t easy since the fire had been through and I actually found it better to pick my own route. The benefit of the fires were a clearer view through the skeletal remains of trunks to some familiar snow capped peaks. It was a lovely little winter wonderland kind of walk, and it brought back memories of climbing Howells Bluff in the snow with Graham. There was a little less snow this time, but the terrain was similar.

Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it's a tad less green than it would have been.
Nice to see the button grass plain was still there. Nescient Peak (on the right) looks like it’s a tad less green than it would have been.

Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)
Mt Rogoona commands attention (and features appropriately in many of my photos!)

The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.
The summit of Nescient Peak is a tad barren. I imagine the views are easier to see as a result.

Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)
Rogoona from Nescient Peak summit (or close to)

Reunited with my pack I set off on a much longer plod to as far as I could get towards Oana. I said hello and goodbye to Rogoona as I passed by Lake Myrtle, awakening more, somewhat hazy, memories. And then I was on new terrain for me. Just in time for the sleet to pick up and the scrub to occupy more of the track. By the time I got to Lake Meston I wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about heading off track at the southern end and climbing up through scrub onto Chinamans Plains. My fingers were cold and struggling even to undo buckles. I decided I definitely needed the overpants, and chided myself for not starting out in them. It would have saved me a lot of hurt, and probably time as well! They went on slowly – my fingers were moving at the pace I seem to move in bad dreams. But they warmed up as I walked, moving much faster now through the overgrown bits of track. I reckoned I had a couple of hours of off track walking, which should get me well and truely on the plateau. I didn’t like my chances of actually getting a tent up if I kept going much after 5pm, even though there would be almost two more hours of daylight – that’s how fast the temperature can drop in the late afternoon and being alone makes you realise how much more vulnerable to these things you are. I was also pretty knackered, even though I’d not walked as far as I hoped.

Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!
Lake Meston.. it sprawls a long way to the left and right of this photo too!

The hut at Lake Meston
The hut at Lake Meston

I’d be lying to deny that I thought about turning around as I stood on the track to Junction Lake at the point I was due to plunge into the scrub. I didn’t rate my chance of climbing both mountains the next day too highly anymore and momentarily wondered why go to all the effort for just one if I’d still have to come back. But I think that was more an excuse to avoid the cold and wet scrub bash with a full pack than anything else. After all I was out to walk as much as to climb peaks, and I’d return just as fresh regardless of where I actually got to. I chuckled at my stubbornness as I hauled my weary body up and over the scrub and rocks, and worked on enjoying it for what it was. I smiled at the small reprieve as I popped into a section of myrtle forest with a thin blanket of snow on the ground, and breathed a sigh of relief at finding a perfectly fallen tree across the Mersey River. And of course I cursed and swore as I was stabbed, tripped up or lost my footing in the scrub. I missed having company, it makes an especially huge difference in scrub.

I let out a whoop when I broke out, up and over the edge of the plateau, and checked my watch. I’d see how far I could get in 45 minutes. Probably not far enough, but I found a nice little spot tucked out of the wind next to a largish tarn that I couldn’t pass up. And then ensued the process of getting dry and warm, cooking a new dehydrated recipe for Moussaka (5 stars from me!) for dinner and discovering that I would have at least a 12 km walk ONE WAY just to get to Layatinna the next day… oh dear, another early start I guess, and a lot of playing things by ear.

After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?
After another hour on the track, and a fair bit of time pushing up hill through scrub, and I figure this looks like a good enough place to call home. In the middle of nowhere. I wonder if anyone has camped here before me?

I set the alarm for 5, but everything was frozen and I couldn’t bring myself to put on wet gear straight away. The world looked like someone had come along during the night with a great big sieve and dusted the land with a very generous layer of icing sugar! Instead I dozed a bit, made a cup of tea and then couldn’t put it off any longer. I actually put my socks in hot water and poured some into both boots. They weren’t frozen because I’d put them inside the tent but I figured I could at least be warm and wet. It worked quite well actually!

At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It's a painful, brittle world for a while.
At 6am the next morning everything is frozen solid. It’s a painful, brittle world for a while.

I set off shortly after 6, crunching my way between tarns, contour lines and trying to stick to rock or alpine heath. It took a little while to read the landscape. The satellite imagery hadn’t been super helpful so I was relying a lot on reading the terrain accurately and a bit of guesswork. I ended up taking a decent route with only two slightly scrubbier patches, but even then it was the kind you could mostly weave through. It was nice to be accompanied by the frogs and lots of different types of birds. I was especially grateful to the olive whistler who made me smile when I was going through a tougher patch of scrub. They do have a pretty good wolf whistle equivalent!

The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade
The sun warms the day up and the clouds gradually disperse, but the icicles remain in the shade

More icy patterns on scrub
More icy patterns on scrub

From the southern end of Eagle Lake the direct approach to the summit of Oana looks horribly green and scrubby. I headed southeast first, climbing onto the ridge that leads to the summit where the contour lines were more gradual. It was a longer distance to walk, but again the going was pretty open. The final meander up the flat, rocky ridge to the summit was lovely. There were better than expected views too!

On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can't discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.
On the summit of Mount Oana, which has surprisingly ok views given you can’t discern an obvious top to the mountain from below.

Looking from Oana towards Layatinna Hill. It's a LOOONG way off. I'd planned to climb it this day, and while it was only 9:15, I'd been walking for 3 hours already to cover a similar distance. I didn't think I was up for a 12 hour minimum day. As it turned out, I made it into a 12 hour and 26.7km day - imagine how much longer it would have been if I'd headed all the way out there?The downside to this was that Layatinna looked awfully far away. And although the going is supposed to be pretty good (despite looking green!), I was still not moving fast enough. It had taken me 3 hours to get to Oana, and I had at least as far again to get to Layatinna. I um-ed and ah-ed over whether I should opt for an epic day or whether I should save Layatinna for another day. I’m not one to leave mountains I set out to climb, but I was feeling tired, and although I knew I could push through and walk as long as needed, I wasn’t sure how strong my mind was going to be if I had to route find in the dark when I was well and truely knackered. I’ve also been working on slowing down, so I went with the sensible option and sat on the summit enjoying the views. It was the first time I’d set eyes on Lake Malbena in person, and it was interesting to actually be there while thinking about the proposed developments.

After an hour on the summit I couldn’t feel my fingers and I figured it was time to head back. It would mean I would have time to pack up the tent and drop back to camp under Rogoona by Lake Myrtle, in turn making for a short third day so I could get back home and open up the beehive to see how the bees had fared over winter!

Off track walking can be very nice, don't you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..
Off track walking can be very nice, don’t you think? Bit too cold for a swim this time though..

In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn't see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few
In spots it was hard to know if you were standing on solid ground. Some of the water channels went deep enough you couldn’t see the bottom. I reckon I could have got lost in a few!

It was a long walk back, and when I started stumbling over my own feet I was very glad I’d left Layatinna this time (and check out the distances at the bottom – I’d have been crazy to have added an extra 10-15km on!). I was back at the tent by 2pm, happy to find everything mostly dry. I wasn’t moving fast by any means. I was concentrating instead on not straying too far from the route I’d taken on the way up, so that I avoided running into drop offs or really thick scrub and so I managed to intersect the river exactly where the tree was down. It was wonderful to finally find my feet back on a track. I could switch my mind off completely and simply just walk. And so I did, all the way to Lake Myrtle.

Back at the tent at 2pm and it's a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hr walk out.
Back at the tent at 2pm and it’s a completely different world and feel.. time to pack it up and head back towards the car to make day 3 a quick 2 hour walk out.

A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash
A small patch of myrtle forest was a welcome reprieve from the scrub bash

Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!
Track walking never seems easier than after a long solo off track walk, even if the sun is in your eyes!

The evening was pretty, as were the little flies that danced in groups just above the ground, their bodies glowing gold in the low sunlight. I arrived at the campsite nearly 12 hrs after having started walking that day. There was still an hour of daylight but I wasn’t going to get anywhere nice in that time so I called it a day. I spent the hour pitching the tent, cooking home made and dehydrated creamy pasta and typing up some notes (have you ever wondered why there’s so many typos? Fat thumbs typing on my phone and a failure to proof read ;)!). I was so tired I got no more of my book read than I had the night before, going to bed at 8pm instead!

Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it's paws
Will this do for night 2? I always think Rogoona looks like a lion resting on it’s paws

I made the mistake of leaving my gaiters out on a log where I’d put them to dry the bottom halves out, and my boots in the tent vestibule. I woke to a tent that glittered on the inside and immediately knew what I’d done. My water bottles were frozen shut, the boots were solid and my gaiters blended into the silver log, sporting 1-2cms of frosty growth on their upper side. The whole world was clear and silent, the lake like a mirror with a layer of mist above the unbroken surface. The stars were brighter now the moon had set too. In time, as I set about making tea and porridge, the sun bathed the back of Rogoona in warm orange, and she looked more than ever like a lioness lying down with her head above front paws, calmly surveying the realm before her.

The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn't needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.
The night was clear, the moon so bright the head torch wasn’t needed, and in the morning everything was frozen solid again, even though it had been dry before nightfall. The frosty ice on my tent stayed there until I hung it out on the line at home.

Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam
Perfect reflections and a little bit of steam

More reflections
More reflections

I had the urge to move quickly, wanting to be back home in time to open up the beehive with a friend while the weather was still and warm. It would be the first time since Graham died, and given it was my first proper time, I wanted some assistance so I could ask all my questions. But the morning case a spell over everything, myself included, and so it took me an uncharacteristic hour before I was ready to go shortly after 6am. A few more photos of the reflections and I was off. It was an easy, mostly flat or downhill return walk on the track, with the major obstacles being my weary feet, the odd muddy section, and slippery, still partly icy roots. As I approached the final descent I expected to see the lake down to the left, and was delighted instead to see the top of low cloud hovering in the valley. It was spectacular, if a little deceptive, as it gave the impression the bottom was closer than it was!

I was back at the car in about two hours, and began the drive home. As I got closer it seemed hard to believe just how far I’d been over the last few days and how easy it was to be in the middle of nowhere and then all of a sudden to be back in the middle of somewhere. The bees were very happy, we found my queen and then I buckled down getting everything clean, dried, and packed for the next adventure (which looks like it’ll be rather wet!). Stay tuned!

A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.
A last glance backwards. The fire had been through here too, although it was nice to see so many robins flitting between the lower shrubs.

All up:
Day 1: Car to Chinamans Plains: 8hrs, 19.3km, 1162m ascent
Day 2: Chinamans Plains to Oana and back to Lake Myrtle: 11.52hrs, 26.7km, 918m ascent
Day 3: Lake Myrtle to car: 2.15hrs, 7.5km, 101m ascent

Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf: 28-30 August 2020

Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf GPS routes

How easy is it to become frustrated when you want something, but the rest of the world seems oblivious, or even conspiring against you?! Too easy, it would seem. Until you realise it’s all in your head and in the end, you don’t actually do a very good job of knowing what you want for the future by the time the future becomes the present.

The days I had off in August and had set aside for walking were expertly chosen to coincide with wet and windy weather. As the weekend approached it seemed history was repeating itself. I’d ambitiously put a 2-and-a-bit day walk on the Pandani program as a flash walk for the last weekend in winter. Risky, but walking and connecting with people was at the crux of my new ‘mental health’ plan. At the beginning of the week everywhere seemed to have 90%+ chance of rain. By mid week things were looking better, then they deteriorated, but by crunch time on Thursday it looked like we’d have a bit of a window on Saturday afternoon for some good walking weather (or at least not miserable!). We hatched a tentative itinerary that was as flexible as a super stretchy elastic band, but no one seemed to mind.

It just so happened we could get away early, and so four of us set off from Hobart on Friday afternoon. We’d meet the fifth member of our party at Waratah that night. The drive was long but pretty – and it was hard to imagine that we were probably leaving the sunniest spot in the state for quite the opposite! We were still chatting away happily as we pulled into Waratah, somehow avoiding the odd kamikaze, usually a pottaroo, as it darted out from the throng of wildlife that lined the roadsides.

Jess and I gave the others a brief tour of the facilities, with heavy emphasis on the hot running water (it’s always the simple pleasures that get us really excited!). We set up tents and set about cooking our respective dinners, which ranged from 3-ingredient wonders to gourmet style home-cooked and dehydrated meals or just whatever you could find in the freezer that would reheat over a stove. We cemented our plan for the next day with a slight tweak – we’d climb Mount Pearse and Rocky Sugarloaf after all, but we’d do them as separate walks rather than a circuit. The weather was better later on in the day, so we wouldn’t be racing off in the morning. The cold drove us into our tents early, and most of us read a little before sleeping relatively soundly, woken briefly by a hissing competition between either possums or devils.

A relaxed start to the morning meant we were ready to go shortly after 8. We detoured via the falls, because they’re always worth seeing, especially after all the rain we’ve had. Then to the corner shop to pay our camping fees, and finally off to Staffords Road. As soon as we turned off the A10 onto Staffords Road we spotted the gate we’d read about. In 2014 it had been closed but unlocked. 2020 isn’t as trusting, it would seem, or perhaps just lucky. So we parked our cars 1km earlier than hoped, and took to foot. It might have been a good thing, the road was pretty wet underfoot, overgrown, and we wouldn’t have got much further anyway.

The tapes were abundant from the get go, and we had no trouble walking straight onto the track that by all accounts is a good track. And so it is. Fresh tape has been added aplenty, and there’s little excuse to get lost (except where it leads you astray!). And so we were lead through lovely open wet forest and then out into button grass and tea tree scrub. Up we climbed, taking a slight detour when one lot of tapes had us sidling off the righthand side of the ridge, before we ran out of tape and decided to look in the sensible place, finding much more tape and an obvious pad!

Setting off up Mount Pearse. After a short road walk courtesy of a locked gate, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through lovely forest.

It was grey and misty, but this didn’t subdue the mood too much. We caught glimpses of the world beyond our bubble, but largely we had a very small sphere to work within. Upwards we went, bodies complaining differently at the rust and cobwebs that had accumulated during the COVID-19 restrictions to our old ways of life. And then the scrub gave way to wet rock, but not the conglomerate that you might expect for this part of the state.

After the forest came tea tree in button grass, then a fun climb up mixed scrub and rock. We were grateful for the track. Check out the speccy ridgeline we got to walk along! As you can see, there were a few undulations, or false summits (depending on how poetic you want to be).

Finally, the true summit lies ahead. And we get the feeling the sun wants to burn the cloud off…

Looking back northish along the ridge we’ve just walked. Isn’t it speccy. There were lots of exclamations of joy.

It was a little bit of a challenge for some of us, and a pure delight for others as we spent the next hour weaving our way up and along the jagged ridge. The rocky formations were beautiful, and the mist accentuated the effect as it controlled what and how much we got to see at any one time. Two wedge tailed eagles – black spots against the bottom edge of the cloud, a splotch of blue sky, later a moment in which someone poured warm sun over us for a few seconds… our souls were singing. Onwards we moved. The many false summits made the real summit seem further and higher than it was, and we found ourselves standing on the top a tad surprised! A quick duck further south to the Sprent mark, then back for a snack, and down we headed.

From the trig point, looking south towards the highpoint with the Sprent mark.

These decisions were all about staying warm and having enough time to climb Rocky SL as well. But nothing was going to stop us lingering as the sun dried the clag out, and the views opened up to the west first, then north, and eventually even east. The warmth on skin was glorious. We soaked it up with smiles and laughter. And eventually we continued on, the walk transformed entirely by having a world with horizons where the sky met the sea and mountains.

As we turn around and head back down, the cloud slowly lifts, and the world opens up.

Rocky Sugarloaf appears.. our next destination!

Wonderful clambering along the ridge!

Russell and some pretty speccy rock formations

Final glance back at Rocky as we start to drop onto the buttongrass plains

Jess and Ben lead us back to the car – it feels like a different walk now that we can SEE!

A final look back at the start of the ridge that leads to Mount Pearse as Urszula descends

We ate lunch at the car before driving just over 2km south to Mountain Road. Here a great big tree over the road had us pull up short. It looked like it had been there quite a while and as it turned out, the road beyond would have been impassable in any kind of motorised transport anyway. We ducked and weaved through the VERY overgrown greenery, and found ourselves surprisingly close to Rocky SL by the time we had exhausted what the road had to offer. There were tapes that led us a little further before petering out. But no worries, after crossing a creek we popped out onto the most glorious looking button grass plain, complete with a few little tarns, wombat pads that headed in the ideal direction, and what looked like some reasonable going up onto the ridge that led to our mountain.

Ready to head up Rocky SL, there’s a bit of an obstacle across the road. Guess we walk from here!

The road walking is open at times

Already the mood is high, we can see our mountain, and it looks like fun!

Urszula had been toying with the idea of a quiet afternoon reading a book in the car, but fortunately she changed her mind :D!

After the road walk, and the tinest bit of forest, we pop out into this world… WOW!! 😀

The sun was out and bouncing up off the plain, there was little more than a whisper of cloud left in the bright blue sky, the breeze was slight, we had sweat on our brows and down our backs where our packs stuck our shirts to our skin. It felt like summer. We spent plenty of time just enjoying it all as we plodded our way up onto the ridge.

Just wonderful walking as we make our way up onto the ridge that leads to Rocky.

And there she lies. Rocky SL to the left, Pearse to the right. There’s just the small matter of 400m of pretty average scrub…

On the ridge, Russell checks out some snow covered familiar friends

The going was good, almost too good. And there we stood, 400m from the summit, about to dip into the shadow of the mountain. A very accurate account of this particular route mentioned 400m of scrub just before the summit. It was true to its word, unfortunately! We plunged into it, Ben spearheading the charge. We started off walking on air, the scrub over our heads. As we slipped and wrestled, fell and grunted our way through, it gradually became more stunted. It still wasn’t easy to move through. You could aim for the rocks but they weren’t continuous, and back down you stepped into the thick of it, unsure exactly where your feet were going to come to a stop.

The shadows grow long and Jess and Urszula make the final climb in the shade. The ridge we’ve walked up extends beyond them.

About 100m from the summit Ben let our a whoop that turned into a gleeful little ditty, “I’m walking on the ground, I’m walking on the ground”! Like I said earlier, out here it’s the little things, the things that only fellow scrub-bashers really understand, that can completely transform your mood. And I tell you what, it was fantastic to be walking on the ground, trusting once again that where you put your foot was where it was going to stay! It was even better again to pop up over one rise to find ourselves bathed in low, late afternoon sunshine, the kind you have to squint through to see the path ahead, but also the kind that means there is no more climbing ahead that’s blocking the sun from view.

There was a small cairn on the summit but it was paid much less attention than the 360 degree views! We struggled a little to work out what was what from the unfamiliar viewpoint, but that didn’t dampen the enjoyment. The moon was out, and Jupiter and Saturn were in alignment with it. Later they were to be joined by thousands of stars. After much longer than perhaps we should have we dragged ourselves away, aware that the more we sat up there the longer we’d be walking in the dark. It was something we were all used to except for Russell, who had never done it before but took it in his stride.

That’s our shadow there! Wonderful views, even if the unfamiliar perspective had most of us confused.

Ben relaxes in the evening glow, just taking it all in, with a couple of squares of cadbury’s chocolate. What could be sweeter? And to top it off, we had a short walk in the dark back down the mountain – just like old times!

The return through the scrub was much faster than the way up, as Jess and Russell retraced our steps. The head torches came out for the descent to the button grass plain, and I took over with the GPS to avoid any unnecessary detours through scrub we couldn’t see. Without any bearings and nothing to see past the few metres illuminated by our head torches, we could have been walking anywhere. It was impossible to subjectively measure direction or distance, and even time seemed to be warped.

But a slow and steady plod – not one where you ever felt like you were in a rhythm for though – eventually got us back to the car, tired and hungry but very satisfied! We decided to head back to Waratah for some dinner, and make the call on where to go for Sunday’s walk after consulting the weather map. It transpired that the weather was going to turn wet and horribly windy everywhere by the afternoon, so we headed north that evening (through the worst fog I’ve ever driven in) to Riana. The next day we checked out the Dial range (which already has a blog post dedicated to it from a previous visit), before driving back home at the very civilised time of 11:30am!

All up:

Pearse: 4:44hrs, 7.3km, 481m ascent, all breaks included (quite a few)

Rocky: 5:06hrs, 6.2km, 357m ascent, all breaks included (and a lot of slow walking in the dark!)

Molly Yorks Nightcap: 21 July 2020

MollyYorks Nightcap GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ridge traverse to Millers looks simply horrid!

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

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

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

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

More views from the way back down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detention Peak GPS route
Detention Peak GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mount Cleveland GPS route
Mount Cleveland GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mount Everett GPS route
Mount Everett GPS route

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

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

It even has some pretty views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mount Riana GPS route
Mount Riana GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

Summit heath.. it was pretty..

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

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

Gog Range

Gog range GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All up:

Ride: 6.4km; 43 mins each way

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

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

Pretty easy, mostly open going

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

Gog range summit cairn

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

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

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

Mount Roland peaks around the corner

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

Brewery Knob

Brewery Knob GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast at Weindorfer’s hut

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

Old King Billy trunk detail

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

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

King Billy pine cones!

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

One of many track markers with a splash of rock colour

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

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

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

King Billy – half green, half white!

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

Brewery Knob summit cairn

Ice artwork

Mount Read

Mount Read GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s still pretty.

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

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

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

Mount Huxley

Mount Huxley GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On top, and the Jukes range looks so very close

Mount Owen panorama from Huxley summit

And one more of Frenchmans and Lake Burbury

Koruna Peak: 11-12 June 2020

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

GPS route to Koruna
GPS route to Koruna (on the Wilmot range)

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

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

Serpentine Dam, start of the track
Serpentine Dam, start of the track

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery
Looking back towards the car, the sun turns everything silvery

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

Southwest Tassie - there's some familiar friends out there
Southwest Tassie – there’s some familiar friends out there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sun sets, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely none-the-less
The sun begins to set, nothing spectacular for a photo, but lovely nonetheless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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