Prince of Wales Range: 16-25 February 2020

PoW GPS route, day 1-2

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

9.0km; 9:22hrs; 398m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PoW GPS route, day 2-4

Day 2: Denison River to just below Mount Humboldt

8.4km; 10:40hrs; 788m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3: Mount Humboldt to Mid Range (south)

9.1km; 12:11hrs; 701m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3 dawn is pretty!

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering along mid range. What country to walk in!

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

8.5km; 10:53hrs; 562m ascent

Ok guys, you’re safe now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knackered, but we still have energy for some fun.

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

Looking back. What a ridge!

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

Steep country in places.

The Spires were a constant feature out to our right

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

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

Day 5: Rainy rest day

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

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

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

PoW GPS route, day 6-8

Day 6: Mid Range (north) to Diamond Peak

4.6km; 6:41hrs; 481m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love this little lump, with Spires behind

Macro fun with lichen

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

Sun setting on Spires

Photographer at work – or just posing?

Day 7: Diamond Peak to Observation Peak

10.6km; 11:54hrs; 784m ascent

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

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

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

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

The morning dawns clear. Sunrise behind Diamond Peak

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

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

Check out that ridgeline, and our camp site!

Diamond Peak 😀

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

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

Emerging from some scrub, Spires behind.

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

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

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

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

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

PoW GPS route, day 8-10

Day 8: Observation Peak to Algonkian Mountain

7.9km; 9:26hrs; 622m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following morning there’s another pretty sunrise

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

Another look back at Diamond Peak from my loo spot 😉

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

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

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

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

Scoparia. Pretty. Spikey!

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

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

The entire PoW range from Algonkian summit cairn

Diamond peak framed by King Billy stags

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

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

15.3km; 10:38hrs; 270m ascent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushrooms galore here!

Some big man ferns.

The most pristine snow berries I’ve ever seen

Moss!

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

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

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

PoW GPS route, day 10

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

19.7km; 7:56hrs; 564m ascent

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

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

Jane River Track walking… where the walking was good!

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

Old bridges across rivulets

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

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

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

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

Leillateah: 9 February 2020

Leillateah GPS route

Leillateah GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.

Fortunately the thicker forest was actually easier going.

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

Southern ranges

Southern ranges and Leillateah

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

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

The Hippo

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

Horrid scrub

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

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

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

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

Final steps up to a nice summit!

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

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

Looking towards the ocean

Jeramie – chief scrub basher, at home in the mountains

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

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

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

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

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

Terminal, Lloyd Jones and Secheron GPS route

Terminal, Lloyd Jones and Secheron GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

Camp site with a view

Camp site with a view

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

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

Tent with Terminal behind

Tent with Terminal behind

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

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

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

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

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

It's a silvery kind of day - just perfect

It’s a silvery kind of day – just perfect

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a photo of me!!?

Take a photo of me!!?

Looking back along the ridge, lovely lines

Looking back along the ridge, lovely lines

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

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

That way, it turns out!

That way, it turns out!

Frankland from Secheron

Frankland from Secheron

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

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

More lovely ridge lines, Solitary in the background

More lovely ridge lines, Solitary in the background

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

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

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

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

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

All up:

Paddle in: 2:20hrs 9.6km

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

Paddle out: 1:40hrs 9.2km

Pink swamp heath

Pink swamp heath

Millers Bluff: 21 July 2019

Millers Bluff gpx route

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in the cloud was kind of nice

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

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

Ducking under a tree in a short bit of forest

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

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

It’s pretty white on top Millers Bluff

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

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

And eventually this is the summit!

The views of the valley are awesome

The southern end of Millers Bluff

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

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

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

Enjoying blue skies and views all the way down

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mount Penny West GPS route

Mount Patrick GPS route

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

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

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

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

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

Car park spot at the foot of Penny West

Car park spot at the foot of Penny West

Graham on the summit of Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

View of the lake from Penny West

Typical walking off Penny West

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

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

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

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

Locked Gate #1

Locked Gate #2

Climbing up Patrick – awesome scree field

Mount Patrick summit cairn

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

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

Little Eldons: 26-29 December 2018

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

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

 

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

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

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

Early views.. nice part of the world!

Early views.. nice part of the world!

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

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

Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains

Walking in, we were greeted with familiar mountains

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

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

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

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

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Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit

Looking back at Rocky Hill from Camp Hill summit

Last Hill summit

Last Hill summit

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High Dome and a few other friendly faces

High Dome and a few other friendly faces

Sunset and rainbow

Sunset and rainbow

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

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

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

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

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

Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.

Harsh light, but works for silhouettes.

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

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

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

Those mountains again

Those mountains again

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The moment Graham slipped… crossing the Collingwood

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Reacquainting myself with the mountian flowers

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Christmas Bells… well named!

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Three everlastings

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And a bit of lichen stuff….

All up:

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

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

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

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

Norfolk Range: 12-21 February 2019

Norfolk range GPS route

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

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

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

Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was some open walking as we head out to Lily

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

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

Hazelton is a nice summit

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

Day 3

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 6

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

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

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

The clouds were cool

Ants doing their thing

A cheeky bullant

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

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

How many eyes can you count?

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

Day 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banksia close up on Edith

Day 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back towards Hadmar, that green stuff was foul

Day 9

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

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