It’s been a long time since Miller’s Bluff, though not through lack of trying. Our last three ‘walks’ had such horrid weather across the state we didn’t get past the front door (well and truely a weather snob now!). Christmas, however, is supposed to have a certain spirit attached to it and at least the weather gods were aware of it, even if the same couldn’t be said for the crazy drivers or impatient shoppers we’d both come across in the past week. I was, understandably, super keen for this walk, not least because a week before I’d been feeling like I was on my death bed with gastro and wasn’t sure I was going to be fit to walk anywhere!
We had a whole day to get ready after my last night shift, which only added to the anticipation, even if I was a bit sleepy. We woke at a relaxed time on Sunday and eventually made it out of the house before midday and found our way to the Scotts Peak boat ramp by 2pm.
It was the furthest I’d been since the fires of last summer, and I wasn’t really sure what I felt seeing the changes they’d made to the landscape. If only it was as simple as the press seems to think at the moment, then we’d ban Scott Morrison from any holidays and we’d be free of fires for good! Sadly I don’t have much faith in that solution. Pity, because a few days ago dry lightening started another fire right in the middle of the range we’ve been trying to traverse the last three years, and February isn’t that far off.
Anyway, we arrived to a brisk westerly that sucked the warmth out of the full sun. Unfortunately we were also heading west, which made for a very bumpy ride, and gave me (sitting up the front) a good soaking every now and again. We were both freezing cold and wet in no time. Even the effort of fighting the wind for 2 hours wasn’t enough to keep me from shivering and making my fingers go numb and yellow. Graham was steering though and made a beeline for Mount Jim Brown, which got us into calmer waters a bit earlier than otherwise. As we headed north towards the foot of Terminal Peak a beautiful white beach sang out to both of us. It was in the perfect spot, and the ground around pretty flat. A scout around found us the perfect spot to make home for the next two evenings.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with all the usual things like dying off, setting up the tent, reading maps and notes, deciding our exact plan of attack and eventually cooking dinner. All accompanied by the sound of Lake Pedder laying at our feet and frogs singing happily in the distance. The sky was a tad hazy but you could still make out all the old favourites, and it felt good to say hello again. It was hard to keep eyes open long enough to think of all the special things to be grateful for. That was ok, tomorrow would be a big day and we’d need all the sleep we could get!
We’d agreed on setting the alarm for 6, but in typical fashion dozed off and didn’t get moving till quite a while later! It was after 8 when we finally took our first steps up the mountain. The sky was overcast and the lake mirrored in shades of silver. Neither of us minded, we knew we’d be hot enough with all the up we’d be doing. The longer the sun hid the more comfortable we’d be. The gentle slope at the base of Terminal very quickly turned steep, and we were both feeling generally unfit. The terrain didn’t have any sympathy for us, becoming only steeper with thicker vegetation underfoot. Neither were particularly horrid if you took them alone, but the combination saw us taking frequent breathers. Melaleuca, tea tree, pink swamp heath, native lemon boronia and banksias shared the soil with the button grass. Most were in flower, brightening the otherwise greyscale day. The breaks gave us the chance to hear the olive whistlers over our heavy breathing and racing hearts and the occasional thumping of helicopter rotors as they continued to try and put out the fires in the southwest. We were on top of Terminal Peak within an hour and a half, where we had a lengthy break. Lloyd Jones and Secheron lay ahead, with amazing views all around. I felt at home again!!
Easy open ridge walking eventually gave way to a couple of cliffy sections, both of which we sidled around to the right till we found gullies we were happy to scramble up. Neither proved particularly hard or involved too much of a detour, but were certainly easier to identify heading up than if you were heading down off the range. The final climb up Lloyd Jones was straight forward enough and we treated ourselves to another break. Secheron dominated the view and the conversation. It looked like a sheer wall of rock, and not one that was easily climbable. We had also only heard how difficult it was from the one friend we knew had been there before.
I was all for having a crack at a greenish looking line that didn’t seem too steep and that wouldn’t involve too much of a drop around and under the cliff face. To be fair, we did give it a crack but didn’t get very far before Graham pulled the pin-I don’t think I’d really convinced him it was doable from the start. So we went to plan B, and sidled down and around the rock aiming for the saddle between Frankland Peak and Secheron. It turned out to be really nice easy walking without too much scrub. As soon as we could start heading back up we did, and we ended up coming up just to the left of the saddle. A steep but easy enough walk took us from there to the summit. We were both surprised and grateful for how straightforward it had been, although we recognised it wouldn’t be easy doing it in reverse without knowing the route in advanced. It could get quite hairy if you went the wrong way!!
We’d made it up in 6 hrs and finally got to have a late lunch. We mused at how easy it was to travel a relatively short distance and feel like you were in the middle of the bush, unlikely to see another face. We were well aware, however, that had there been no flooding of Lake Pedder then we may well have been disturbed by seaplanes and the sounds that throngs of tourists make. We drew some interesting parallels and played with some of the contradictions inherent in our views of the flooding of Lake Pedder and the development of wilderness areas that have been talked about of late. We ended up with lots of shades of grey, and were quite happy to see them as they were without needing to take sides.
Enough yakking, we figured we’d better scoot back to make sure we weren’t walking the last bit in the dark. We made better time than expected even with both of us tripping over our own feet as well as all the tree roots and slippery clumps of button grass that seemed to prey on tired walkers. We managed to avoid each of the 6 whip snakes we encountered, despite their dangerous habit of sunning themselves right where we wanted to step. We stumbled back in to camp a bit more than 11hrs after having left, and treated ourselves to a hearty meal and a much needed lie down!
Our third and final day greeted us with perfect weather. Sunny, still and just the right number of wispy white clouds in the sky. We took our time to enjoy it as we ate and packed, then made our way slowly across the water. It was so lovely we had frequent pauses to stop and look at all the mountains around us, or lie back and feel the sun on our faces as the water gently lapped at the kayak. It was such a different trip from the one in (half an hour faster too!) and we enjoyed every moment. A lovely way to end our trip on Christmas Eve!
Paddle in: 2:20hrs 9.6km
Walk: 11:16hrs, 14.6km, 1458m ascent
Paddle out: 1:40hrs 9.2km