Cathedral, Twin Spires, Bishop: 19-21 July 2014

Cathedral, Twin Spires, Bishop GPS route

Cathedral, Twin Spires, Bishop GPS route

This weekend was one that I’d thought might not actually happen, for a few reasons. I’d even thought about not going, which is almost unheard of. But a particularly unique and generous woman changed all that, and so here I am, lying in my tent which is about the equivalent of an ice cave.

Up through forest. Dogwood here.

Up through forest. Dogwood here.

There’s crystals glittering on the walls and roof in the light of my head torch as I turn it on, and everything else has a layer sprinkled over it. My wet boots and socks are frozen solid, despite them being inside. I later found out that my lunch (egg and avocado) was also frozen! It’s hardly a wonder that I’m awake and typing this on my phone to pass the time at some ungodly hour!

Grail Falls

Grail Falls

This was another of those set aside three day weekends, with no particular destination. The weather chose for us, coupled with the fact that the Lake St Clair ferry doesn’t run according to its usual schedule in winter and neither of us wanted to pay $240 one way. So, with a desire to camp up high (it had been a while), we settled on Cathedral: the forecast was good, cold but hopefully not too wet, not too windy, and maybe a bit of cloud on the walk out.

Grail Falls again.. hard to choose which to use!

Grail Falls again.. hard to choose which to use!

After the usual night’s work, and an accidental nap before meeting up, we set off, Graham kindly driving again. The 4+ hour drive flew by as we talked about important things, joked about less important things, and enjoyed thin bands of mist, shadowy trees, and early morning light, and later clear blue skies and the happy hope that the weather would hold.

Icicles under the makeshift bridge near the falls

Icicles under the makeshift bridge near the falls

We got to the end of the road, found the makeshift car park and got our gear ready. Then, neither of us having been before, made the assumption that the old logging road that seemed to head off in the direction we wanted was indeed the way to go. Yep, it was, but it was a gentle reminder not to be too complacent when walking with people you trust. There is no substitute for research and knowing where you’re going, which we were to learn the slightly more interesting way!

More icicles..

More icicles over flowing water

Off we trundled, up the road, which quickly turned into a single file walking track through mossy green forest. Quite nice walking really. The suspension bridge was just a bit more fun than the usual ones, because there was no sign that limited the load to one person only. That meant a little bit of bouncing ;).. until the bridge made some funny noises! A little further in and Graham was signing the book, I was taking off thermals – it was a lot warmer than I’d anticipated! There was one party ahead of us, but not going to Cathedral.

Chapter lake patterns and a bit of a long fallen tree

Chapter lake patterns and a bit of a long fallen tree

More forest, blackwood trees, myrtles, and a whole lot more… the vegetation changed as we gained height. I took a moment to breath in the smells, listen to the birds (mostly rosellas), run a hand over ferns. Back home, and ready to enjoy a weekend with nature. Another log bridge, and then we were into snow.. light, and on and off, but definitely a feature now!! It made light pattering sounds as it dropped off branches and onto the ground.

The falls again.. probably a good thing we went the wrong way!

The falls again.. probably a good thing we went the wrong way!

Finally on top of the ridge, we looked down at a steep descent towards Chapter Lake, and carefully picked a way down, aware of how slippery things were. Glimpses of patterned water tempted, but logical reasoning said that if there was a good view point there’d likely be a decent pad out to the water’s edge, and we didn’t come across one, so we figured there wasn’t one.

On the rock slabs above the falls

On the rock slabs above the falls

A little further around we happened across the campsite, and the cameras came out to photograph a pandani in front of our first view of Grail Falls. Not knowing what lay ahead, we took another pad out to a spot further along the river that runs from the falls into Chapter Lake. Pressed back against scrub, and trying not to get wet feet, the cameras were out again.

On the plateau. Rogoona hiding on the right.. one of many frozen tarns on the left

On the plateau. Rogoona hiding on the right.. one of many frozen tarns on the left

That did have us laughing a very short while later when we popped out onto the perfect viewing platform, that gave a complete view of the falls. It was complete with a tripod and other bits and pieces of gear that the two guys ahead of us had left in place while they went off and explored. We took more time for photos, and I was glad not to have to rush off.

Twin Spires.. one of the peaks we hope to climb!

Twin Spires.. one of the peaks we hope to climb!

Silver grey skeletons with their many hands and fingers stood guard, like sentinels. The roar of cascading water, powerful and yet peaceful, has a similar effect on me as the sound of the ocean. Though I had always thought of climbing Cathedral in summer, so as to go swimming in the tarns, I was kind of glad that we’d chosen to go now, when the falls had a decent amount of water. Little did I know what else lay in wait for us!

The frozen tarns were just awesome!

The frozen tarns were just awesome!

We explored a little further along the track, found some icicles, then decided that we must be heading along the track to Rogoona, and turned back, deciding not to consult Chapman’s notes (which Graham did have with him) and go with the Abels instead. That resulted in a backtrack, some searching around, and finally settling on a crossing of the river just before  Chapter Lake, on the right of the falls. Wet, COLD, feet.. and then scrub and no sign of a track.

Making our own way.. oblivious of the cairned route closer to the lake!

Making our own way.. oblivious of the cairned route closer to the lake!

Oh well.. a bit of push and we were into the myrtle forest, as promised. Still not much of a track to be found, but we happened across the bottom of the falls, where the sound was rather thunderous and had me smiling. More photos, and a play with shutter speed for me. Then up something looked kind of pad like and took us out onto rock platforms above the falls, with a cairn or two. Finally, some reassurance that we were ‘on track’. Oh, how wrong you can be!

Arriving at Tent Tarn as the sun starts to work its end of day magic

Arriving at Tent Tarn as the sun starts to work its end of day magic

The two guys (and their dog!) had returned to their tripod and gear below. The water still had us mesermized, as did the folded rock and trees, and it was a little while before we thought about where we were going from there. Instinct told me to cross the flow of water, and continue up the relatively open looking rock on the other side, but there was no mention of that in the Abels. So we stayed on the right hand side, and pushed and climbed our way up through myrtles and rock. It wasn’t particularly difficult, nor was it easy, but it was time consuming, and irritatingly not as expected. It niggled, but not enough to question. Eventually we broke out, and in light of the directions to ‘fan out’ so as not to cause a pad to form, we weren’t expecting one.

Evening light on pines

Evening light on pines, footprints to follow

Instead we kind of beelined towards the northern side of Tent Tarn. Again, progress was slower than anticipated. Snow ranged from nothing to mid-shin/knee deep (for me, the ‘short arse’), and seemed particularly thick round the patches of scrub we descended into and had to then climb back out of. The minor undulations seemed innocent, but felt anything but! Graham spotted a wombat, and later we disturbed a possum (a bit weird to see one out in the snow in daylight!). Progress was further hampered by the desire, verging on need, to capture some of the beauty of the many small frozen or semi frozen tarns we walked by, partially reflecting the clear blue of the sky, lined with green pines and colourful rock, under the watchful eye of Rogoona.

Last light

Last light

You couldn’t have more perfect walking conditions in winter, I don’t think, and the number of times we made comments to that effect was indicative of our amazement and sheer delight. By mid afternoon though the light was changing, we still had a way to go, so after Graham took an unintended mid-thigh dip in a snowed over water hole/creek we put our heads down and upped the pace. The night’s work was catching up, so I stopped looking at things I wanted to photograph, and tried just to keep up and not fall prey to too many of the hundreds of trip hazards lying in wait under the innocent soft white blanket of snow.

Home for two nights, under the moon (and later, stars).

Home for two nights, under the moon (and later, stars).

As the sun laid golden tips on the pines we rounded the northwest end of Tent Tarn, looking for somewhere sheltered and not too boggy to pitch tents. I had my own third criteria, if possible: little to no snow on the ground. Graham found a spot he was fairly happy with, and we dropped packs, but both continued to have a bit of a wander. I was too tired to go far, and quite fancied a spot under two pines, on a bed of low coral ferns, that only had a light sprinkling of snow. When Graham returned from his search, I asked him what he thought, and he gave his approval.

Everything new, crisp, crunchy underfoot, and untouched in the morning

Everything new, crisp, crunchy underfoot, and untouched in the morning

It was all about speed and comfort now. Ok, not quite.. first a photo of the last bit of light over a frozen tarn with what might have been Twin Spires behind (definitely more important!). Tent up. Get in. Wet gear off. Warm gear on. Thermal top and bottoms, two synthetic insulation layers and a downie, beanie and gloves, socks. Sorted. A lie back for a moment or two just to be, and to wonder whether I’ll get out of having to cook and eat dinner, I’d much rather just sleep.. I don’t like my chances though!

A hint of sunrise.. almost fake looking.

A hint of sunrise.. almost fake looking.

Sure enough, when I reappear, it’s soon apparent that it’s going to be easier to cook and eat dinner than have Graham to reckon with. But first, there’s the minor issue of frozen toes to attend to. I knew mine weren’t too happy, and I asked Graham how his were, aware that he’d taken the more recent dip in freezing water. I was a little concerned to hear they were still numb too, and figured now was as good as time as any to test out some hand warmers (thanks John and Wendy!). I was a little dismayed to read they took 15-30 minutes to activate, but figured it’d have to do.

Sun behind the Walls of Jerusalem

Sun behind the Walls of Jerusalem

Funnily, while I was shaking hand warmers in my tent to activate them, Graham, who knows how cold I get especially when tired, was pulling out two reusable gel packs for me/my feet! So we laughed as we exchanged warmers, chattered away as we thawed out, and eventually got around to cooking dinner. Despite feeling too tired to eat, warm soup followed by noodles, then custard and strawberries, and (of course) chocolate, went down relatively easily. A brief peek at the stars, too cold for a proper gaze, too tired to even write any notes.. it was time to sleep and I was out like a light.

First kiss of sun and Rogoona

First kiss of sun and Rogoona

It was no warmer in the morning, but the hand warmers I’d given Graham were still going (I’d stolen them back after they got too hot for him – a good thing, I figure). I have to say I was pretty (ok, VERY) impressed. Definitely a few of them going in the first aid kit. I didn’t particularly want to take them out of my socks, but the light was changing, the sun was on its way up, and no amount of cold was going to stop me from getting out to see it!

A bit blurry, but everything sparkled under golden light

A bit blurry, but everything sparkled under golden light

Frozen boots (oh yep!), camera, and off to find a nice spot for a view. Instinctively we headed eastish, and found a slight rise that gave a nice view out to Rogoona and the Walls of Jerusalem. Looking back, the tip of the Twin Spires had turned a bright, almost violent, orange. The only bit of colour in a greyscale snowscape.

Branch in frozen tarn..

Branch in frozen tarn..

Everything was crisp, and except for our footprints, new and untouched. And then the first kiss of light as the sun rose behind the Walls. As the light softened, then warmed, the frost that coated everything started to glitter, and the world seemed almost magical. I was torn between just standing and watching, and trying to capture even just a tiny part of it while it lasted. A wallaby had been out too, after water, and I wondered if it had had any luck with the frozen  tarn.

Frozen bit of Tent Tarn, Twin Spires behind.

Frozen bit of Tent Tarn, Twin Spires behind.

It’s probably a good thing sunrises don’t last any longer than they do, or I’d have struggled to leave. As it was, after returning to our tents for breakfast, the menial task of filling up water bottles for the day turned into another photo taking session (I’m still not sure how I got lumped with that task for the both of us, while Graham took photos).

Little islands in early morning light on frozen tarn

Little islands in early morning light on frozen tarn

It was 10am by the time we actually started to head for the hills, but I know I wasn’t particularly fussed. Snow and frozen water has a way of bringing the beauty of a place to your feet, and there is less of a pressing need to go out and find it in the views.

Snow up close

Snow up close

That’s not to say we weren’t set on climbing mountains though! We were, and Graham set out at as decent a pace as the snow and scrub would allow. Reading over a trip report back at home I later discovered that apparently there’s a decent pad up the ridge, but we were clueless, and made a rough beeline through the scrub. Higher up it was lower and more sparse, and theoretically progress was quicker. But of course that meant we found other things to slow us down: frozen icicles, the view back to Chalice Lake and Rogoona, the hint of views out to Ida and Olympus, snow drift patterns, colourful lichen, shadows..  and maybe.. just maybe the odd snowball fight.

Getting ready to go exploring

Getting ready to go exploring

And then we popped round the side of a small bump we had to climb before Cathedral, and what we had thought had been awesome views, just became a whole lot better. Blue snow dusted mountains lay before us along the horizon, from Olympus on the left all the way through to Cradle. Geryon South in particular stole my attention, but Ossa and Pelion West were also impressive. It was hard not to laugh, which was kept in check only by a very strong feeling of gratefulness.

Icicles on the way

Icicles on the way

It was hard to take it all in at once, actually. But slowly, with plenty of just standing and looking, some photographing, and a bit of talking, it started to sink in. And we walked the last 800m to Cathedral. I missed the rosella that had been sitting on top and flew away with a sqwark when we approached, probably too preoccupied thinking about this being the mountain that would take me over the ‘halfway’ point on the peak baggers list, and all the other mountains that had been before.

Colourful lichen and Olympus

Colourful lichen

As would be the case with the other peaks on this trip, Cathedral was less of a ‘mountain’ and more of a view point and an experience, and there was nothing to do but soak it up. The drop straight down, the expanse of forest between us and the Overland track/Du Cane mountains, glimpses of huts, the sun and snow and kind of cool breeze. There was a very decent sized rock column just past the summit, that required a short leap across a chasm, and so begged to be stood on for photos too.

Wind and snow patterns.. awesome!

Wind and snow patterns.. awesome!

We did eventually decide we should be moving on to Twin Spires, and dropped back the way we’d come, pausing at more frozen tarns with views out towards Ossa and Pelion West, thinking it’d be a nice place to camp in summer. The going was open and relatively easy now, it was just the views slowing us down.

Starting to get views! And get very excited!!

Starting to get views! And get very excited!!

40 minutes later and we were on the northern summit, once again enjoying the views. This time we had a wedgie, spotted by Graham, to entertain us. Just when you thought things couldn’t get much better…

Checking out Olympus

Checking out Olympus

It was probably about here, at 1pm, that Graham tentatively mentioned that we might not get all the way out to Dean’s Bluff. I’d already thought that myself, just hadn’t brought it up, but the almost hesitant way he spoke had me smiling. He knows all too well that I get rather disappointed at not getting to places I think we should be able to make on a walk, he was there for the three big ones: Mt Jerusalem (my first), Jim Brown (250m off), and Shaula (middle of the Western Arthur range). But the last few months or so things have changed, and on this particular day I was enjoying just being, as much or more than needing to climb peaks, and it honestly didn’t raise even the smallest niggle. I’m not sure whether he believed my attempt at reassurance that really, it was ok.

Snowdrift and the northern of the Overland mountains

Snowdrift and the northern of the Overland mountains

But we had time for Bishop Peak, and so we wove our way down the descent. I might just have been a bit naughty, realising that being behind gave me the higher ground as well as the element of surprise, and therefore a perfect advantage for another snowball fight. I was a little bit kind though.. allowing Graham the time to zip his camera case shut this time (having landed a snowball in it last time, which might have annoyed him more than just a little bit, though he tried not to show it)..

GERYON SOUTH!!! :D

GERYON SOUTH!!! 😀

Some decent shots, a lot of laughter, and eventually an unspoken but accepted truce, and on we went. Down and back up the other side, to a point that didn’t seem like much of a summit, but did have a cairn if you looked closely enough.

Ossa and Pelion West

Ossa and Pelion West

The views were pretty similar, just a slightly different perspective, but the real treat was in TWO wedgies. We both stopped in our tracks, on our respective bits of rock, and watched as they glided up and out over Convent Hill. Then up, and up, towards the sun, dancing together. I could have stood there for hours! As it was, I’ve no idea how long the moment was.. it just was. And it was awesome.

Cathedral Summit

Cathedral Summit

On the way back the light was just starting to get nice, and with a little extra time given we weren’t going out to Dean’s Bluff, we did enjoy some more photos of snow drift ridge thingies, frozen tarns, and trees. It looks like there’d be more lovely camping up that way too. It was a bit of a pity we couldn’t stay for sunset, but already frozen toes would have made that very uncomfortable, if not dangerous.

Felt like you could almost fly!

Felt like you could almost fly!

Back at the tarn after finally having some luck with an open lead, and we were taken by the evening sun on grass stalks in the water, reflections and pines. It seemed that the day had been less about peaks and very much more about just enjoying and capturing moments of time.

Nice camping!!

Nice camping!!

We finished it off cooking dinner while looking at stars, warming toes, and chatting. It was even colder than the night before, and retiring to my tent wasn’t much fun. And so I watched as the roof and sides grew ice crystals, and everything on the floor developed a frost.

Twin Spires summit

Twin Spires summit

That resulted in not so much sleep and a bit of note writing, and it was only 6 or 7 that I started to feel slightly warm again, and like I could get some sleep. But when the sun started to rise, what started out as a challenge of ‘how many photos can I take from inside the tent’, turned into ‘how far can I walk in thongs and socks without getting wet feet, and will my camera battery last’ (I was already taking it in and out, warming it up every time it died just to get a few more photos out of it).

Twin Spires summit view

Bishop Peak summit view

Turns out you can walk a fair way if you stick to the patches where the coral heath sticks above the snow (not always possible).. and that the Olympus OM-Ds will keep going for a bit if you keep the battery warm. It doesn’t help when you go resting it on a partly frozen tarn to take photos of frozen stalks in front of the rising sun.. but I just couldn’t resist! It also doesn’t do good for your own body temperature to be lying in the snow while doing so!!

Snow drifts on the way back from Bishop Peak

Snow drifts on the way back from Bishop Peak

A warm breakfast while sitting in my sleeping bag helped warm me back up, but that changed pretty fast when it came time to pack up. I’ve never had a problem before, but when I put my frozen boots on (and that took some doing, they were like metal) my feet froze, instead of warming my boots up. They were colder than they’ve ever been, hurt to stand on, and were making me feel really rather nauseous. I had trouble concentrating on what I was doing, and I think Graham was even ready to go before I was (usually I’m one of the first to be packed).

Another frozen tarn.. but you never got sick of them!

Another frozen tarn.. but you never got sick of them!

As a result, we didn’t muck around, and Graham made the wise decision to stick closer to the edge of Chalice Lake on the way out. That meant he walked right onto the cairned pad that leads all the way to Grail Falls. We did kick ourselves for being such dopes, double checked the Abels description and ascertained that we’d interpreted it correctly, but then decided that despite the fact that we could have avoided getting wet feet on day 1, we wouldn’t have seen all the frozen tarns that we did, and that it was kind of worth it.

Back at tent tarn.. enjoying light on grass

Back at tent tarn.. enjoying light on grass

After very easy walking along the cairned pad we eventually arrived back at the top of the falls, and then zig-zagged our way down the south/eastern side, deciding to take ‘a quick look’ down a pad we thought might lead to the bottom of the falls.. hmmm, we don’t do quick too well sometimes! It was probably just as well my camera was well and truly dead by now, and my point and shoot just not up to the job, or we might have taken even longer! The falls were still thundering, water falling so heavily it propelled jets of mist out horizontally, which then swirled around in the wind before gradually descending.

And some lovely reflections

And some lovely reflections

But we did keep moving, eventually, wanting to be back at a decent time. We discovered we had been on the right track, gave ourselves another kick, then decided we might as well enjoy the falls for a little longer while we ate (in my case, frozen) lunches. And so we sat with feet dangling over the edge of the ‘viewing platform’, listening to the sound of water falling.

Sunrise.. just brilliant!

Sunrise.. just brilliant!

And then it was just a bit of down to go, through the forest. Plenty of time to reflect on the weekend, the sheer beauty of the place and the perfect conditions, and how lucky I am to be able to experience it all. I wonder how long for.. who knows? I hope until I’m old…

A little play with the macro...

A little play with the macro…

All up: 28.7km, 1500m ascent.

Easy walking on the way out.. a lone tree and a lone mountain..

Easy walking on the way out.. a lone tree and a lone mountain..

Ice patterns

Ice patterns

Nearly at the top of the waterfall.. looking back towards Chalice Lake

Nearly at the top of the waterfall.. looking back towards Chalice Lake

Crossing the river.. the dry feet way!

Crossing the river.. the dry feet way!

 

Acropolis and the Parthenon: 22-24 March 2013

Acropolis, Parthenon GPS route

Acropolis, Parthenon GPS route

This weekend was the first of two set aside since December for the all important mission to finally attempt Fedder. Ever since knowing of its existence, I have always wanted to attempt this particular mountain, if I didn’t climb anything else (and what a ridiculous proposition that is!). And so started a form of courtship, that has progressed over time, becoming stronger with each sighting from the tops of ever closer mountains.

 

Lake St Clair (Leeawuleena, sleeping water) looking very much asleep as we head out

Lake St Clair (Leeawuleena, sleeping water) looking very much asleep as we head out

Standing on Wylly Plateau in early December, having just experienced a magnificent and magical day climbing PB and watching the colours of the setting sun light up the sky behind Fedder, something clicked, and it was suddenly time. No more ‘one days’.. no more toying with the idea of running in and out solo. Graham, by virtue of chance (wrong, or right, place and time perhaps? Or some greater engineering outside either of our control), was the victim of this particular moment and set of circumstances, and was asked (or perhaps told.. and in no uncertain terms ;)!) that I wanted to climb THAT mountain, and he was coming..

 

A bounce on the suspension bridge and the smile is on my face, where it'll stay for the rest of the weekend!

A bounce on the suspension bridge and the smile is on my face, where it’ll stay for the rest of the weekend!

Nothing more was organised then and there, but I knew I had a willing conspirator to court this mountain with me when once we were back home, settling in to the routine of normal life again, I was asked about dates. We pencilled in two weekends, 4 days, in and out. Fingers crossed for the weather. This weekend just gone, as I said, was the first. It wasn’t to be. Pity, because although it wasn’t planned, I’d realised a few weeks ago that if I successfully climbed all the mountains between then and Fedder, that Fedder would be my 200th peak.

 

Nice open rainforest

Nice open rainforest

But doubts rose at the beginning of the week leading up to the weekend, Graham was down with a nasty cold, I was over worked (deadlines and translation aren’t fun) and under-rested, and the weather wasn’t looking flash. It wasn’t a fun week of waiting. The mood turned from slightly hopeful, to dreading that neither of us would be going anywhere (and that is ALWAYS worse). Fedder was called off on Thursday, a plan B walk was still up in the air, it could go either way. Friday morning and Graham felt a little better, we’d have a crack at a slightly more relaxed weekend of walking: AWESOME!!!! Disappointment at not being able to do Fedder, had turned into relief and excitement at going for a walk after all. Perspective is everything!

 

The waterfall 5 mins from Pine Valley hut.. I can't remember it's name!

The waterfall 5 mins from Pine Valley hut.. I can’t remember it’s name!

The plan was very tentative, and would be down to how we felt each day, but we were headed in to Pine Valley. We decided this at the last minute on the ferry across Lake St Clair. We could have gone just to Olympus, or in to the Labyrinth, but opted agains the former if the weather was less than good as we wouldn’t see anything (and this day, which was forecast to be the best of the three, was grey and misty and none too promising), and three days was a bit excessive for one mountain. We also went against the latter, because we were toying with the idea of climbing Geryon South, which would require going north from Pine Valley, rather than west to the Labyrinth.

 

Heading up the Acropolis. On the plateau, and this is the view we get.. we think we're pretty lucky with even that! But wait, it gets better..!

Heading up the Acropolis. On the plateau, and this is the view we get.. we think we’re pretty lucky with even that! But wait, it gets better..!

We were off the ferry at about 9.30, and straight in to the walking. I plodded for a bit, trying to fit into rhythm with Graham’s long legs. Being sick didn’t slow him down at all on the flats! We came across the first suspension bridge quite quickly, Graham having the obligatory bounce in the middle, before allowing me to cross in a similar fashion. It was on reaching the other side of the bridge and smiling at Graham’s child-like bouncing, that I finally let go of the part of me that was back in the real world, that worried about Graham being sick, me being tired and not 1oo% either, the tentative nature of our plans and whether we’d actually climb ANY mountains (ok, that wasn’t exactly a big risk), and of course, how bad the weather was going to be. It was gone, I was out where I belonged, and whatever happened would be fine. I was happy :).

 

Snowgum colours on the Plateau, Gould in the background

Snowgum colours on the Plateau, Gould in the background

Onwards we walked, making quite good progress. There were no views of mountains to distract us in the forest, which gradually turned from dry schlerophyl into predominantly myrtle rainforest, which was quite nice. We arrived at the hut just over 2.5 hours after having left the ferry, having met a number of people on the track. It seemed we were walking in on the right day. Apparently the day before the hut had been packed, the ferry guy taking out over 60 people!

 

After the pandani garden, we start sidling round/along the main bulk of rock

After the pandani garden, we start sidling round/along the main bulk of rock

There were clearly a few people still there (more than my liking), so we set about first making a call on what we were going to do (Geryon South or no Geryon South). What we knew of Geryon South was that it featured a ‘slab of death’, and a few chock stones. We probably needed to have done a bit more research, but it didn’t end up mattering as our criteria for an attempt was a clear, non-mist impeded view of the route up. A wander out to the helipad made this a no go. The mountains were in mist, and we reckoned we’d be walking blind. The rock was also likely to be wet. So we went with the next option, camp here and climb the Acropolis that afternoon.

 

It's pretty impressive rock.. we wonder at a recently fallen section..

It’s pretty impressive rock.. we wonder at the questions a recently fallen section raises in our minds..

We selected a campsite, got everything set up, and headed off. We didn’t get far before being distracted by the very nearby waterfall, where we took a few photos that just didn’t do it justice. Walking up the lovely rainforest (described as a steepish but well graded climb) we met a number of small groups coming down, and from them we gathered that the plateau was beautiful even if you couldn’t see the views (great). We also had one couple tell us that they’d had glimpses of views on the way up but hadn’t taken any photos because they’d thought it would lift further. It didn’t, the mist only descended and they’d been kicking themselves. With this in mind, we were sure to take photos of everything we could see as we gained the plateau: Parthenon and Walled Mountain, and the southern most end of the Acropolis as it peaked out from under thick mist…

 

Popping out onto the top for the first time.. WOW!!!

Popping out onto the top for the first time.. WOW!!!

True to what we’d been told, the plateau was lovely. And if you timed it after rainfall, or didn’t mind searching around, it’d be a lovely place for a highish camp, in amongst the snow gums on alpine coral fern, with mountains around. We took our time moseying around, taking more photos, in which the reds, oranges and yellows of snow gum bark featured almost as much as the mountains! And later we couldn’t resist a quick off-track look at the pandani groves..

 

Yep, the right of those two rock fingers is the real high point..

Yep, the right of those two rock fingers is the real high point..

Rather than detracting from the experience the mist added mystery and mood… and excitement, as we watched and walked, walked and watched, and witnessed the revealing of Acropolis’ rock fingers from under her misty cloak. And then a patch of blue appeared, and another, and we were like excited children. The higher we climbed, the more was revealed, which made it all the more stunning and exhilarating. The pull of the plateau was great, and rightly so! The views were so magnificent that for once I forgot my desire to get to the summit and was fully mesmerised by the world before me and the incredulity of our timing and luck.

 

Looking out towards the Labyrinth and the Guardians (left) and Walled Mountain (right)

Looking out towards the Labyrinth and the Guardians (left) and Walled Mountain (right)

But after many photos were taken, and the view had started to sink in (or rather the realisation that we could move and it wouldn’t vanish!), we figured we’d better check out the summit. So we took the short hop along rock, and sure enough there was a highish point on the top, and then just a little further out, there were two rock turrets, reaching for the sky. From the top, they were clearly the high point (from below, when we’d been sidling, they looked distinctively lower).

 

And the view south.. Olympus, Byron, Gould, Minotaur, The Guardians, Parthenon… you name it!

And the view south.. Olympus, Byron, Gould, Minotaur, The Guardians, Parthenon… you name it!

I couldn’t keep my eyes off them. My ‘can I go, can I go?’ rhetorical questions were met with apprehension, but true to my mothers word, I have selective hearing, and I went, not really registering the reply.. it was easy enough to find a way down, then across to the foot of the two pillars.. round the back.. more ‘can I”s, and again, not actually registering the reply, though it was clearly not an enthusiastic yes.. I remember a warning, concerned tone, but I couldn’t recall the words. It wasn’t an outright no, which is all I needed to know.

 

The view from the point closest to the true summit.. standing between the two rock fingers.. bit disappointed I can't get to the top

The view from the point closest to the true summit.. standing between the two rock fingers.. bit disappointed I can’t get to the top

So up I went, a little bit of climbing, and some wriggling, and I was standing between these two pillars. I could reach up the highest one to the part where the top most rock sat perched on the pillar, but there was nothing I could do to get up. The pillars were too close together to be able to use them for leverage, and there were no real foot or hand holds. There was nothing I could do but admit, somewhat begrudgingly, defeat. The mountain gained a new respect, and, if I can claim the points, it was confirmed to be a fitting and extra special 200th peak (I’d already thought as much, and this only increased as we spent more time on top).

 

But I can't fault the views from here either!

But I can’t fault the views from here either!

Not quite defeated, I had to go a little further along the rock/finger ‘line’. I had my eye on one in particular pillar that stood a little higher, a little further out, and would have made a fine photo. This time though I thought I’d better heed Graham’s ‘no’ and ‘Beccaaaa…’ to my seeking permission to try to find a way around the other side and see if it was possible to climb. His voice seemed to contain a little more concern, and was almost plea-like. Or maybe I was just listening this time? So I stood and took in the views, processing emotions.

 

Not to miss out (or to keep an eye on me?) Graham heads out too..

Not to miss out (or to keep an eye on me?) Graham heads out too..

Myself and my disappointment sorted, I was surprised and delighted to turn around, ready to head back to ‘safety’, to find that Graham was making his way down, tracing the same route I’d taken. So I stayed out there, and watched as he also had a bit of a climb up the two rock pillars, also unable to go any further than I had, and then head along the finger line to the point I’d wanted to climb. He made a hasty retreat, and I knew there’d definitely be no climbing that one. It was just a little hairy, a little intense, but exhilarating, and lovely to have someone to share and explore it with… and as we sat there on rock, it was just perfect, the way so many seemingly random strands had been woven, not necessarily intentionally, together to culminate in this particular moment.. mind-blowing, magical..

 

Graham climbs as far as I did.. but even long legs and arms don't help here.

Graham climbs as far as I did.. but even long legs and arms don’t help here.

I have to hand it to Graham. What I like to do isn’t always easy for other people to watch. I’m often more comfortable than most people with heights, exposure, and climbing straight up stuff. I knew he was uncomfortable with what I was doing, and what I wanted to do, though perhaps I didn’t realise at the time just how much. But he let me go as far as that point where I could decide for myself that I couldn’t go any further, even though it was well past his comfort point and his own ability to control consequences. That demanded a certain trust… not a small thing to ask of someone.. thank you :).

 

Walking the 'finger line'.. drops on either side, just for added excitement :)

Walking the ‘finger line’.. drops on either side, just for added excitement 🙂

So that’s  a bit of what the Acropolis was, and is, to me. A wonderful mountain, complete with challenges, surrounded by beauty, and full of exhilaration and intensity. We spent a great deal of time just wandering, bouncing or sitting around the summit area, taking photos, enjoying the light, feeling the warmth of afternoon sun on skin, and unable to resist inadequate exclamations about the views. Geryon South was very impressive, and the ‘slab of death’ was distinct. It’s now a lot higher on the list of mountains to climb! The beauty of the views and light looking south over Parthenon to the Minotaur, Gould and Olympus also vied for attention with Geryon’s magnificence, and I know I couldn’t decide what to look at! Not to mention everything else, the Labyrinth included.

 

Back on solid ground, the smile returns ;).. no, it didn't really leave for very long..

Back on solid ground, the smile returns ;).. no, it didn’t really leave for very long..

I was most reluctant to leave, and I think Graham was too. But we did need to get back, and before it got too dark. And so down we went, I lingered behind. A minor issue and a flash back to the last week’s experience on Ironstone slowed us down a bit, but we found one another and proceeded the rest of the way down together. The light being what it was, we just had to stop and spend some more time with the snow gums, no question. I knew by now that whether or not we got to do Fedder, this would also be a lovely way to end an amazing summer of walking. I could find no fault.

 

Looking at Geryon South.. and the slab :D

Looking at Geryon South.. and the slab 😀

The down was quick and we were enjoying a rather crowded dinner in the very warm hut, mingling in the end with some Queenslanders and French guys. Chatting walks, gear, but primarily food! The warmth and dryness of a hut also has its downsides, and it was nice to retire to a quiet tent for a very long and uninterrupted sleep.

 

Lots of photos and just enjoyment!

Lots of photos and just enjoyment!

I caught up on a week’s worth of sleep that night, and was still reluctant to get out of a warm sleeping bag the following morning! But the drizzle that had been forecast was not to be seen, instead we had more patches of blue sky and sunshine! So after a late breakfast (which worked quite well, we avoided most of the hustle and bustle as a whole heap of walkers left) we headed off towards the Labyrinth, with Parthenon in our sights. The mist had increased a bit, but again it was a beautiful mix of sunny spots dashing across the landscape like someone was controlling a light show from above, contrasting with mist and clouds, and as time went by, approaching rain that engulfed the Eldons as we watched. The snow gums bled red.. it was beautiful, in a completely different way.

 

Heading down.. the light only improves

Heading down.. the light only improves

The sound and then sight of a rescue helicopter made us pause, and we hoped all was well. But on we went, following the very decent track parallel to the ridge that is the Parthenon, before picking an appropriate point to ascend. It was a short distance, but with a bit of light scrub and one or two sections of rock. Again, on top we had a a similar, but slightly different vista to entertain us, and as always we enjoyed looking at the mountains we had explored, and those we had yet to set foot on.

 

Othrys and Olympus

Othrys and Olympus

The wind and the approaching rain were what eventually drove us down, and had us decide to retreat to the hut rather than explore the Labyrinth further. That could wait for another day. I wanted to spend time camping there after all. Besides, I was all for a relaxing afternoon, and apparently I was still sleep deprived, so you can guess what I did all afternoon, woken occasionally by an olive whistler, the light patter of intermittent drizzle on the tent, or an American accent. In fact if I was walking solo I wouldn’t have bothered getting up for dinner, I’d have just slept right though! But it was good to eat in the hut, this time with a much smaller group, and we had a lovely chat with a Western Australian couple and an American guy (to whom the American accent belonged), all of who seemed as passionate about walking as any of us.

 

More snow gums.. and the beauty of new growth

More snow gums.. and the beauty of new growth

We eventually retired, and as I lay in my sleeping bag I reflected again on just how right the trip was, on all levels. I don’t think we’d have been able to do Fedder being as sick and tired as we were, or to have enjoyed it as it should be. Instead I felt rejuvenated, and Graham seemed to be recovering. We toyed with the possibility of climbing Byron on the way out the following day, and made it back to Narcissus in a speedy 2.15hrs. But as if to send a message, although we watched the mist lift and clear from off the mountain tops, one by one, Byron stayed under. Even as we boarded the ferry, a whisp of mist caressed the summit.

 

Pine Valley hut.. if you haven't been and want to know what it's like..

Pine Valley hut.. if you haven’t been and want to know what it’s like..

The excitement wasn’t all over, as we discovered the ‘hanging’ challenge on the ferry. I’m a sucker for challenges, particularly physical, so it caught my attention straight away! The idea is to hang as long as you can from a bar across the roof of the ferry.. the guide that told us about it mentioned something about a 2 minute something record for females, and a 4 min something for males.. thought the ferry driver later said something about 7 mins.. with a minimum 3 min to get your name recorded… It was a lot harder than it seems, and though you still have strength the build up of lactic acid or something means you get to the stage where you physically can’t hold on any longer and your hands just slip right off. My first attempt set the bar at 2.32 mins..my excuse, the fruit cake the Western Australian couple had kindly shared with us at the hut as we waited had weighed me down excessively ;)!! Will have to have a crack each time I take the ferry!!!

 

Looking back at Gould on the way to the Parthenon on a misty morning

Looking back at Gould on the way to the Parthenon on a misty morning

All up, a relaxing 34.6km and 1581m ascent… Definitely a place to visit!

 

Heading towards the high point, looking south to that particularly lovely view

Heading towards the high point, looking south to that particularly lovely view

Oh, and stay tuned for a report mid next week.. weather is looking excitingly ok-ish for a Fedder attempt, so we have a date!!! Eeek :D!! Will we succeed???

 

Trees in the valley between Parthenon and the Acropolis

Trees in the valley between Parthenon and the Acropolis

 

The rain arrives and the mood changes again.. time to retreat to the warmth of hut and sleeping bags.

The rain arrives and the mood changes again.. time to retreat to the warmth of hut and sleeping bags.

 

Olympus on the walk out

Olympus on the walk out

 

Doing the hanging challenge on the ferry :)!

Doing the hanging challenge on the ferry :)!

Black Bluff Range: 15 February 2014

Black Bluff GPS route

Black Bluff GPS route

Expectations can completely change an experience. Dramatically. For better, or worse I suppose. Saturday’s walk to Black Bluff was an exceptional example of the pure surprise, joy, gratefulness and awe that comes out of having low expectations greatly surpassed. As with the Mother Cummings walk, the track itself was more of a delight than I’d anticipated (Greg seems to be developing a knack of putting on walks like that), but the biggest influence was the unexpected weather, and the views we didn’t expect to get.

Picnic ground turned car park

Picnic ground turned car park

I, like many of the others intending on joining the walk, had been monitoring the weather throughout the week, and was a little discouraged, but not put off, by the ‘isolated showers’ forecast right up until Thursday night/Friday morning. A phone call from Greg on Friday night surprised me: the weather was now expected to be heavy rain between 11am-5pm, as much as 10-20mm depending on your source, right when we’d be walking, Sunday was looking better, could I switch day? That wasn’t going to work for me and one other walker, so Greg made the call to stick with Saturday. I was hoping the weather wasn’t going to be too dreadful, or I’d be feeling bad.

Paddys Lake on the way up, perfect beauty hidden and revealed as desired by the cloak of mist

Paddys Lake on the way up, perfect beauty hidden and revealed as desired by the cloak of mist.. there is something special about the mystery of the unknown and its gradual discovery

Off to work I went, the usual 9pm to 5am, steady and productive, then a race home for a quick shower before a gratefully accepted lift to meet the others, where we all jumped into Greg’s car. I was admittedly tired, but excitement and anticipation about the day’s walking (despite the weather) and catching up with awesome people I hadn’t seen or walked with for ages meant the sleeping was postponed for the drive home.

On the Black Bluff not so high big point, watching the others climb up

On the Black Bluff not so high big point, watching the others climb up

As we drove up Graham spotted a wedge-tailed eagle sitting on a branch of a dead tree by the side of the road, and Rachael explained how each time she and her husband, Ben, had been out walking recently they’d had a close encounter with a wedgie. I joked with her that this wasn’t it, that there’d be a closer one. It was the kind of joke about an outcome that you wistfully hope for, but know is highly unlikely to happen…

Which way are we going?

Which way are we going?

The journey continued on, broken up by a brief coffee and food break, timed to meet up with the two Pandani members coming with us from Launceston. Our team consultant-turned-navigator took us on a lovely detour through Ulverstone (because I hadn’t been before and wanted to see the sights, was the devised excuse ;)!) before directing us safely to the lovely grassy picnic area by the Leven river. It would make a great place to camp for anyone wanting to turn a long day of driving, walking and driving, into a more relaxed overnighter.

Across the top.. love this kind of walking! So did everyone else!!

Across the top.. love this kind of walking! So did everyone else!! And even better, we can see!!

We were grateful that it still wasn’t raining, it was rather humid in fact, though I think we all had our wet weather gear near the top of our packs, ready to pull out at the first drop. It was quite misty higher up, and we knew we’d be walking in to it, if it didn’t drop down on us first!

Looklook!! The ridgeline.. and.. BLUE SKY!!!

Looklook!! The ridgeline.. and.. BLUE SKY!!!

And so we began the walk alongside the river, wondering how far we’d get before we got pelted. It was flat to start off with, and the humid smell of damp bush mixed with quite a fresh, tangy smell of newly cut trees was a pleasure to breathe in. I let out a sigh of relaxation and settled in to the walk. We’d been going five minutes when the flapping of large wings and an exclamation from Greg had us all jerking our heads towards the source of the sound, a decent sized wedge-tailed eagle who we’d disturbed from a tasty meal of possum. He didn’t fly very far, and we admired from a distance. Apparently sometimes those wistful wishes do come true :)!!! It was the first of many delightful and unexpected surprises for the day.

Opening and closing views.. every one appreciated for what it was.

Opening and closing views.. every one appreciated for what it was. This one, Tor.

Shortly afterwards the climb began. It isn’t a tough climb, in fact it’s almost the perfect gradient: steep enough to feel like you’re doing work and getting somewhere, but not so steep that you feel the need to stop much. It was humid though, and I know I had sweat dripping off my nose! It was still pretty misty, and there wasn’t much of a view, just the scrub the track was taking us through, and the glimpses of rocky outcrops as we neared Paddys Lake. By this time we were high enough to be in the mist. It brought with it a gentle and most welcome breeze, and that beautiful, slightly isolating, silence of natural noise, dampened by the mist. It was just what I needed.

Approaching the rocks on the horizon, the summit just beyond

Approaching the rocks on the horizon, the summit just beyond

We arrived at Paddys Lake and took much delight in the mist as it revealed small bits and pieces of the lake, the rocks by its shore, the pencil pines and King Billies around its edge, and then, momentarily, the shore on the other side! What excitement. Sometimes it’s so much easier to accept and be grateful for a gift when you don’t expect it, and you’re aware of exactly what it means not to have had it. And when the mist covered the beauty it had briefly revealed, we turned instead to the necklaces of cobwebs and the brilliant green of new King Billy growth.

Just love this rock!

Just love this rock!

A snack break, and we were pushing on, hoping to make the most of the fact that it still wasn’t raining. Around the lake we wandered, until we reached the signed turnoff heading right up to the Bluff. And up we went, at our own pace. Some continued on, others stopped to explore the view from the edge, and the seemingly bottomless drop into grey white mist.

Watching the others approach the summit, from the summit.

Watching the others approach the summit, from the summit. The mist is light enough to be swirling now.

I was finally formally introduced to strawberry pine, thanks to Rachael and Ben, and thought about how lucky I was to be able to walk with a number of different ‘teachers’. I love learning new things, and always appreciate those who willingly and passionately share their knowledge. Later Ben would point out small brown-blue and grey butterflies, which flitted round the alpine plants, very low to the ground, that I hadn’t even noticed, despite their ubiquity!

Our play equipment :)

Our play equipment 🙂

Onwards I skipped (not literally, my body wouldn’t take skipping uphill on this particular day), caught up to Graham where he was waiting just below the trig to the not so high high point. I’d spotted him as a silhouette in the mist 50 metres back, but in the time it took to walk up to him, visibility had improved remarkably. The others weren’t far behind, and Louise was somewhere exploring the far side of the trig, so up we went, climbing up the trig for a bit of extra height and a fun little challenge.

And the view only continues to open up.. greens, greys, blues and whites.. :D

And the view only continues to open up.. greens, greys, blues and whites.. 😀

There wasn’t much to see, the mist was still closing in then dissipating around us, but never too much. So we sat in a little rocky shelter a short distance to the northwest of the trig, had a bite to eat, and after a longer discussion than was probably necessary, had everyone on the same page as to which direction we were heading off in for the untracked section to the Abel/slightly higher high point of the range. GPSs are certainly quick and handy in whiteout!

But there comes a time to head back..

But there comes a time to head back.. we’re wondering if that new dark cloud will bring the anticipated rain

As we began wandering across beautiful open alpine terrain, a perfect mix of conglomerate rock, cushion plants, pineapple grass, scoparia, and gentians amongst other things, our hearts sang and we voiced exclamations of joy as we were given a brief glimpse of distant mountains. Then as that particular curtain of mist closed, it opened elsewhere to unveil the saddle and ridge ahead, and we took delight in each revealing, each patch of blue sky.

We might be heading back, but there's still treasures to delight in

We might be heading back, but there’s still treasures to delight in

Before we knew it, we were walking in a perfect summer’s day, with a little bit of cloud about. In fact, perhaps we didn’t realise as fast as we should have, more than a few of us are a bit pink as a result!! Words can’t describe the emotions we felt and shared. There was a purity to them, a perfectness and happy innocence that usually comes with a new experience or discovery – something I usually attribute to children before they lose the immediate instinct to wonder and marvel at everything. But the unexpected good weather had taken us back in time, and we were children again at heart.

The trig point (off to the left) summited a second time, and we're off to check out the view of the lake!

The trig point (off to the left) summited a second time, and we’re off to check out the view of the lake!

We completed the lovely walk up and over a low rise, towards a rocky line on the horizon, and on to the true high point. It was just shy of 1.30 and lunchtime. But as everyone knows, for children, lunchtime is called playtime.. so we had to have some playing, especially with all that conglomerate rock around. A few metres from the summit was a rectangular block, and a couple of us used it for a bit of climbing practice. After a few goes, each time taking a slightly more challenging route of course, we settled into lunch and some mountain naming. As we sat there the cloud continued to burn off, and gradually the faint outlines of Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff were revealed, amongst others  (these were the two that particularly held our attention).

And what a beautiful view.. somebody definitely was spreading the love on this day!

And what a beautiful view.. somebody definitely was spreading the love on this day!

Eventually we had to go back, not wanting to push our luck, thinking it would be nice to check out the Leven Canyon if we had time, and aware also that we had a 4.5 hour drive home.  A last climb up our rock, a last look across at the view, before turning our backs and heading down. I was reluctant to leave, but still so happy, and I couldn’t help but stretch out arms and run/skip across the ridge. Louise describes this in her blog as ‘flying’ like the eagle, which made me smile (though I’m quite sure I’ll never be that graceful or effortless). It wasn’t just me though, she was singing from time to time, others just stopped to take in the view, and we all had smiles on our faces. Beauty and perfection, accentuated by unexpectedness.

Checking out the view to the lake.. wow :)!

Checking out the view to the lake.. wow :)!

We re-climbed the trig (it really isn’t far off the track, maybe 20 metres at most) just to check out the views, but we were really after a view of the lake, so we didn’t stay long. Heading back down, we all stopped at the spot that some of us had paused at on the way up, taking in the heart-shaped Paddys Lake below us. Once the serious admiring was done, a little bit more tomfoolery had a few of us mucking around on the edge of the drop while talking about how some people/friends/family members have very little idea of the things we get up to (perhaps a good thing, though if they knew, really knew, they’d probably understand).

Mucking around.. the mood was contagious! One Facebook friend likens this photo to classic Greek art featuring the discus thrower, while another notes Graham's lack of seriousness or considered movements..!

Mucking around.. the mood was contagious! One Facebook friend likens this photo to classic Greek art featuring the discus thrower, while another questions this for Graham’s lack of seriousness or considered movements..!

Back at the lake, which has a lovely spot for a tent at one end, we sat, nibbled, and watched as the mist swirled around above Black Bluff, hiding the top once more from view. We wondered again if this heralded the expected rain, but it didn’t, and we walked down in dappled sunshine. It was a long constant down, and I was at the tripping-over-nothing stage, but I still took delight in intermittent conversation.

Back at the cars we swam, waded or just dabbled in the Leven river – beautifully warm I was told, and I cursed myself for not having a complete change of clothes or a towel. I took to sitting on a rock with my feet immersed, until the sun was just a little too hot on my already pink face, and it was time to head off.

A detour to the Leven Canyon lookout, followed by fish and chips in Ulverstone (I think, I was a bit sleepy by this stage), just to round the day off. We finally got our rain part way through the drive home, just to remind us of what we COULD have been walking in all day.

Very grateful for a day more beautiful and special than I could ever express!! Perhaps the trick is not to have expectations, and to just delight in the gifts each and every experience gives you.. difficult perhaps, but I’m sure with practice it could be perfected.

17km, 7 hours and a nice 1178m ascent.

Western Arthurs Full Traverse: 25 January-2 February 2014

Western Arthurs Full Traverse GPS route

Western Arthurs Full Traverse GPS route

The Western Arthur range has got to be one of the most dramatic, rugged, isolated and challenging of all the tracked ranges in Tasmania, and (as I’m sure is true for most avid bushwalkers) has been high on my ‘list of things to do’ ever since I heard of it and set eyes on it.

Western Arthurs Panorama from road, courtesy of Shaz

Western Arthurs Panorama from road, courtesy of Shaz

Interestingly enough, just over two years ago I climbed my very first mountain, Scotts Peak, which lies in the middle of Lake Pedder with views towards the Western Arthurs. At the time I didn’t know the significance of that walk, the friendships it would result in, or what I was looking at. All I knew was that I loved sitting on the top of that mountain, surrounded by still blue water the colour of the sky and so many mountains, on a brilliant summers day.

Fire through the plains near Junction Creek

Fire through the plains near Junction Creek

And as I did more walking, the mountains I’d seen were given names, and reputations to go with them, and then I heard about the Western Arthurs. I knew I was going. One day.

Then at this time last year I was invited on my first serious multiday walk to the Frankland Range (yes, I tend to jump straight into things, and was very lucky and grateful for the invite!). I fell in love all over again with mountains.. in a new and different way that comes with traversing a range, rather than just climbing individual mountains. It was on that walk that I decided ‘one day’ was here. Well, in a year’s time.

Part way up Morain A, resting, trying to take it all in, just wow!

Part way up Morain A, resting, trying to take it all in, just wow!

Having just started a new job time off was an issue so it was going to have to wait to this year. A year of impatient anticipation and planning, and then all of a sudden it was on us, and more than the usual amount of nervous excitement took over, perhaps for the first time the nervousness outweighing the excitement? It was the biggest trip either myself or Shaz had done (we were planning 12 days to allow for weather, Graham was going to join us and walk as far as he could for 9 of those days), neither of us knew how we’d go with the weight, how we’d find the steep, climby or challenging sections, how the weather would treat us, whether we’d be free from injury, whether we’d succeed or not. It didn’t help that we had no real marker of success (more on this later).

Checking out the rock on the edge of the ridge.. our rocky rock!

Checking out the rock on the edge of the ridge.. our rocky rock!

But one of the things you learn quite early on with bushwalking is that you just put your head down and do what needs to be done in the face of a challenge, despite nerves, fears or doubts, and see what comes of it before reassessing. So, relatively happy with the initial weather forecast, off we went, one step at a time (and there must have been a lot, my GPS says we walked over 115km, with 7870m ascent).

Day 1: Car park to Lake Cygnus (Hesparus and Capella Crags)

Lake Cygnus, seconds before the mist covers it up

Lake Cygnus, seconds before the mist covers it up

I had done my usual overnight shift from 9pm Friday to 5am Saturday morning, raced home for a shower, and got a lift with Graham to Granton, where I jumped into Shaz’s car. We chatted a bit on the drive, feasting on cherries, raspberries and peaches generously picked freshly from Graham’s garden (enjoyed even more with the knowledge that it would be the last fresh fruit we’d see for over a week). But as we approached Scotts Peak road we grew quiet, and despite my excitement I found it harder and harder to keep my eyes open. I drifted in and out until just after Mt Anne, and was then wide awake. Everything felt so very different from a normal walk, it didn’t feel real, the range felt so far away, and it was VERY weird to be looking at mountains and not knowing a single one of them. It was quite disconcerting actually, and was doing well to keep what would have been an excessive amount of excitement in check.

Brokenspectre on Hayes

Brokenspectre on Hayes

The weather seemed to reflect this. Showers were forecast, and though you could see the whole range stretching mightily along the horizon as you drove along the last section of road, the tops of the higher peaks were covered by dark cloud, and most of the range was in shadow. In some places this cloud looked menacing, but if you shifted your attention slightly to the left or right, you’d see where the cloud was broken, revealing blue sky and white fluffy tops to the grey bottoms, allowing patches of sunlight through to light up spots on the flanks of the range. It seemed fitting, perfect in the contrasts, the uncertainties, and I smiled. What would be, would be, and it would be right. Anxiety over pack weights and keeping up with Graham waned, and disappeared entirely as I took my first few steps.

The rare Campynema lineare, thanks Chris!

The rare Campynema lineare, thanks Chris!

The ‘whole’ was suddenly cast aside, and all there was was today’s walking, which was further split up into manageable sections, to Junction Creek, to Alpha Moraine, to the Ridge, Hesparus, Capella Crags, and finally, Lake Cygnus. And this was how it would be till we got back to the cars. The tireder I got, the smaller the sections I divided things into in my head (up the next climb, down to the next saddle, round the next bump). The whole was just too much to take in in one go, and the nature of the range meant plans had to be flexible and indeed, they changed on a day-to-day basis. And maybe that’s why it’s hard to put it all back together now and feel like we’ve actually done the full traverse. Though it’s slowly sinking in.. slowly!

My 'strawberry' plants.. don't they make you think of strawberries??!

My ‘strawberry’ plants.. don’t they make you think of strawberries??!

My pack was heavy, and I was moving slower than usual, but once into the rhythm I was feeling ok, and started to think 12 days were manageable. We headed through forest, then out over the open plains, winding our way between and around small rises that obscured and then revealed glimpses of our mountains. At each new revelation we shared smiles, and I knew I was where I belonged, where I am at home, and that the following days were going to be ok. I wondered what secrets the mountains I was looking up at held, what experiences and memories they’d create, but for once, I wasn’t impatient to find out, I was more than happy to savour each moment as it came. The squawking of black cockatoos brought me out of my thoughts, and I listened as Shaz and Graham remembered the cockatoos the last time they were walking the track, during their ill-fated attempt to get to Federation Peak.

Love these ones :).. and I discovered Shaz has a tattoo of them too!

Love these ones :).. and I discovered Shaz has a tattoo of them too!

A little while later who should we run into but Marc and Greg, two friends and Pandani members. It was great to see them, have a bit of a chat about what they’d done and how it had been, and learn about the hungry mice at Cygnus. They’re both really decent guys. Greg might tease, but he’s caring underneath and is always there to help those who need or want it. Marc is gutsy. He’s got muscular dystrophy, but that doesn’t define or limit his vision. Every time I greet him with a hug his bony frame, which is remarkably well hidden by baggy clothes, shocks me, and I hope he’s doing ok, but his upbeat and determined outlook on life means there’s no feeling sorry for him, just a lot of respect. Plenty of people with no physical disability would question whether they could or should attempt the Western Arthurs, and maybe Marc did too, but the answer was a definite yes. And that, I think, is the battle won. All he needed then was a good friend, and the humbleness and willingness to ask for, and accept, help. I reflected on this in the middle of the trip in response to another friend’s questioning of the difficulty of the ascents/descents, and again towards the end of the trip in reflection of my own reluctance to ask for pain medication/strapping for a rolled ankle (because I hadn’t brought anything strong, or learnt how to strap an ankle, and therefore should just grin and bare it). And again, I shook my head at how inspirational Marc continues to be, and also decided I would try to take a leaf out of his book.

P1050533As we approached Junction Creek the extent of the bushfires was clear, and quite shocking, especially I imagine for Shaz and Graham, both of who had been in before. It’s such a different feel walking through black and grey skeletons of burnt out trees and scrub, that claw at you with bony fingers, juxtaposed with the brilliant emerald green of new growth and life, which was further lit up by the blues, yellows, whites and purples of small happy flowers. The image of life and death, side by side, was beautiful but was also confronting. And there was something unsettling that I couldn’t quite put a finger on, despite knowing fire is a part of the cycle of life out in the wild, and that the Aborigines most likely routinely burnt out these very plains.

The ridge walk really begins!

The ridge walk really begins!

We ate our first lunch at Junction Creek, Shaz receiving the first injury for the trip as a foot slipped on the wet steps down to the river, and she landed on her coccyx. Every step up, and every misstep, would prove to be a lot more painful for her than the rest of us for the next 8 days. I indulged on cherry tomatoes to reduce a bit of weight before the climb ahead (that was my reasoning anyway).

Hmmm…. :)

Hmmm…. 🙂

When deciding 12 days worth of food wasn’t too bad to carry, I’d overlooked the fact that I hadn’t actually started to climb yet, and heading up Moraine A I’m not sure I still felt that way. I know Shaz didn’t, but she’s lighter than me at 58kg, and her pack is just shy of half her body weight. Graham strode ahead on the plain, then bounced up the ascent, looking like he had nothing in his pack, I plodded along a distance back, and Shaz brought up the rear. Again, as I looked at them both, and took photos to remember the moment, I knew I was so very lucky to be in a place I loved, doing something I loved, with people I loved. I smiled, then laughed, and said a quiet thank you.

Handsome little fellow!

Handsome little fellow!

Then it was head down, blinkers on, and all energy went into propelling me and my gear upwards. I stoped each time I reached Graham, who had either stopped to take photos, wait for us to catch up, or both. We switched the lead around later, sometimes walking together, most times we were some distance apart, but there was a tie that bound us despite our individual journeys, and pausing for breath on a rock chosen usually for its vantage point, we’d send smiles that said what words couldn’t (both because of the distance, and because there were no words for what we were experiencing – it would be like this for the whole trip).

The 'hole' up to Procyon Peak.. someone else loves these challenges as much as I do if that smile's anything to go by!

The ‘hole’ up to Pegasus.. someone else loves these challenges as much as I do if that smile’s anything to go by!

I was grateful for these stops, as it gave me time to take in the view and marvel. The rocks were beautiful, sculpted by earth’s forces; the ranges around majestic, some covered in cloud, some clear, some in rain, changing moods with the weather. It was beautiful to witness; the power of nature humbling. We were all too aware of how it would shape our experience of the Western Arthurs, as it does everyone’s. But on this account, we were to be very very lucky.

Shaz's first points on Procyon!

Shaz’s first points on Pegasus!

On top of the ridge, we expressed our joy and relief at having done the hard work for the day, and then plunged straight into enjoying the reward, running to nearby rocks on the rim to take in the view. Graham and I somehow ended up on a rocky rock and proceed to a) see how far it would rock, b) see how far we were willing to let it rock, and c) see who would be scared off first (maybe that was just me though!).

After a straight down bit, we go under this overhang, then back up, only to repeat this.. again and again!

After a straight down bit, we go under this overhang, then back up, only to repeat this.. again and again!

My attention was drawn to what lay ahead, and again experienced that weird and new feeling of knowing I’d be intending on traversing the range ahead, and climb most of the peaks I could see, but not actually knowing what was what. But I set that aside, I’d find out eventually. For now, a cartwheel was definitely in order! I was excited about the days ahead, there was no suppressing it anymore.

The wind was cold, and the weather was starting to threaten to settle in (we were expecting rain, it had just been awfully good to hold off for so long), so we stayed only as long as we felt we deserved. There was just a small distance to walk, two nearby mountains to climb (Hesparus and Capella Crags), and a drop into lake Cygnus where we’d spend the night.

Sidling.. at least it's flat!

Sidling.. at least it’s flat!

So we headed along the track, dropping our packs at a spot we thought was the best place to head left up Hesparus, and sure enough, there was a pad. We were working on the understanding that there was a pad up everything that wasn’t on the track, except for Shaula, and it was reassuring to start off with one (the understanding proved pretty accurate). A very short walk, one that didn’t quite feel right for a mountain, and we were on the summit. I had my first views from a peak on the range I had wanted to traverse for over a year, it was not a feeling easily forgotten. I doubt I’d ever tire of the views around us, and I hurried to post a photo on Facebook with fingers numb from the cold so that I could share just a little bit of what it was like.

Beautiful rock!

Beautiful rock!

It now looked like it’d be a race against the rain, so we got down fast, took packs to the top of the rim before the drop down to Lake Cygnus, and donned overpants. We got a glance at the lake before the mist clagged it in, and all that was left in its place was white fog. Again, the walk to the summit of Capella Crags was short, and easy, hardly befitting of ‘mountain’ status, but that was ok in the mist. We wasted no time, and headed back down to the packs, then onwards to the campsite.

It was misty more than rainy, which made pitching tents easier. With surprise and delight, we gratefully accepted a Freddo Frog from Sue, who we’d met along the track earlier, but who had moved more steadily than we had. Once sorted, the rain had us cooking dinner in the vestibule. I held the fly away from the Jetboil with one hand, and held the pot on the stove with the other, while Shaz worked her magic on the most delicious Thai chicken curry risotto. YUMMMM!! Thanks to Shaz’s cooking, and Bec’s breakfasts and snacks (a huge thank you to both, you are so very generous), I ate much better for the 9 days we were out than I usually eat at home!

There were some easy bits!

There were some easy bits!

It wasn’t hard to fall asleep that night, despite somehow managing to have put a hole in my mattress, which meant it deflated every hour or so (if I bothered to blow it back up, in the end I gave up, as the ground wasn’t too hard). And though we worried about the mice, they stopped bothering us after Shaz had dealt one a blow with her book after it had chewed three holes in the side of her tent where I had my food (all in dry bags, and most in Ziploc bags within them!).

But the beauty and magnificence made every drop of sweat, every step, so very much worth it

But the beauty and magnificence made every drop of sweat, every step, so very much worth it

Day 2: Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon (Hayes, Procyon, Orion and Sirius)

This was another long day (but at least I hadn’t worked all night, and had finally had some decent sleep, despite my mat issues), full of pure delight at everything around us. We started out in mist, but it was clear it would burn off, and the forecast backed that. It was lovely to walk the ridge with views opening and closing, the shadowy turrets of rock that we guessed was Hayes poking their heads out of the misty cloud every now and again. I felt like we were finally on the range.

Climbing Columba for sunset.. Shaz is well camouflaged!

Climbing Columba for sunset.. Shaz is well camouflaged!

We dropped packs and made the short walk up Hayes, opting for the ‘easier’ route described by Chapman, and heading for the summit marked on our GPS’s. There are two high points, so we had to check out the second, just to be sure. It was good that we did, as it meant a little more time to hope for the mist to burn off, to give us more glimpses of the beauty that lay ahead and behind, and for Graham to catch sight of a brokenspectre (thanks Mark N) or what I referred to as a circular rainbow. That was a pretty special thing to see. Graham and I opted to investigate the ‘caves and ledges’ alternative route, and found that just fine too, if you went the right way!

Sun on the mountains.. I'm at home :)

Sun on the mountains.. I’m at home 🙂

Off we headed for our first taste of the up and down-ness of the range, when we weren’t descending steepish (but not as bad as it would get) gullies or climbing energy zapping ridges, we were weaving our way round majestic rock obelisks (you just had to marvel at them), spotting a rare flower (I was oblivious until I posted a photo on Facebook and Chris W informed me it was Campynema lineare – thanks!) until we arrived just above Square Lake (which is square from a vantage point on the far side).

Climbing Dorado

Climbing Dorado

Procyon was a bit of a hike up to the left, and though we thought we’d done a good job interpreting Chapman’s notes, we ended up turning right instead of left once we’d made the saddle he refers to, which was not at all an issue, just a bit confusing. We ended up coming back down a different way, which was very easy too, and avoided crossing the slightly scrubby gully (it did have a pad through it).  We were still so very overwhelmed by the place, and I remember Graham throwing out his arms wide, as if to try to embrace it all, to take it all in, at the same time as expressing amazement and delight at the enormity and magnificence of it all. I laughed, I knew that feeling.

We loved each summit!

We loved each summit!

Lunch was eaten sitting on stones in the water at the edge of Square Lake, laughing at the tadpoles with legs, some of which looked more like frogs than tadpoles! They were more trusting than the shrimps, and Shaz even had one nibbling at her finger. A perfect spot to stop, if you didn’t think too hard about the grind up hill we knew we had to do when we’d finished eating!

We did get pretty tired!

We did get pretty tired!

But it wasn’t too bad, and once we were up and standing on Sirius (a nice easy climb), we were rewarded with even more magnificent views over Oberon, and across the range which to me looked like a three dimensional spider web, but is probably more accurately described, as Graham commented, as a honeycomb. It’s… well, there isn’t a word that works, though Graham’s choice, shouted across the range, seemed fitting, perhaps because it was more descriptive of the overwhelming feelings the view evoked than the view itself. It’s definitely a view worth seeing in person. Not to mention the appearance of another mountain I have a serious, but so far rather distant, relationship with – Federation Peak. I would enjoy the gradual progress we made towards Feder over the week, and our relationship would have yet another layer added to it. PB was also there, looking on from a distance, and I dipped my head in salute to this favourite.

Mist in the morning.. lovely sense of mystery

Mist in the morning.. lovely sense of mystery

On the way down we each took the mandatory Dombrovskis shot, of Pandani in front of Oberon, with Pegasus and Pegasus South in the background, then back past the packs and on towards Orion, which was just perfect to walk to. There were lovely gardens to wander through, which were dotted with those attractive pink-tinged white paper-like flowers and bordered by fascinating rock forms. This was followed by a shortcut for me and Graham, over rock that required longer legs than I had, and as a result had me calling on the hallway climbing skills I developed playing hide and seek in the dark as a kid (one hand and one foot on each side of a gap, and a slow walk up the gap, outward pressure keeping you from sliding down.. I believe Graham has a less than flattering photo, as I was in the lead!). More speccy views, and another rock for Graham to go surfing on, while Shaz made contact with home. A lazy half an hour later, at 5.30, wishing we could stay for sunset, but deciding it was time to set up home for the night, we headed down.

:) the Beggary bumps were very enjoyable!

🙂 the Beggary bumps were very enjoyable!

With some advice Shaz had received from a friend playing in our minds (“if you don’t like the descent into Oberon, turn around, it only gets worse”), we were careful, climbing backwards down the steeper sections. I enjoyed the little bit of a challenge, but it would only be in the days to come that I’d really understand that advice, and the wisdom in it. If you’re not comfortable, or with people that make you feel more comfortable, do go back.

Climbing down the Beggary Bumps

Climbing down the Beggary Bumps

As we neared the campsite I think we were all ready to call it a day. A fine looking gentleman of a grasshopper wearing a smart green suit with red trim decided to make my acquaintance and jumped onto my hand, where he posed for a few photos before going on his merry way.

We chose to camp by the water rather than on the tent platforms, which would have had us separated, and then enjoyed the end of the day taking photos of the evening light on the rocky mound across the water. Not having a DSLR like the other two, I was happy settling with taking photos of them instead.

Tilted Chasm.. wouldn't a slide be fun?!

Tilted Chasm.. wouldn’t a slide be fun?!

Shaz had had a tough time the last two days – weighing only 58kg and carrying at least a 25kg pack just wasn’t working, not to mention the tailbone issue, so a slight redistribution of weight, agreement on even more flexibility over schedules, peaks and exit points, and a take-each-day-as-it-comes approach was initiated. I was glad Graham was there, realising my promise to ‘look after Shaz’ could only extend so far, as I too was pretty exhausted. This highlighted the uncertainty, the remoteness, and the challenge of the range, but it would also prove to accentuate the sense of achievement as we realised with each peak climbed, each campsite made, that we were, in fact, walking the Western Arthurs.

A very well camouflaged toad/frog!

A very well camouflaged toad/frog!

Again, I slept well, waking every now and again to attempt the futile exercise of reinflating my mattress. A repair was definitely in need on a day we got into camp early enough to dunk my mat in water, find the leak, then dry it out before I needed to sleep on it. That hadn’t been possible yet, and wouldn’t be for another two nights Shaz popped out to photograph the stars at one point, I was too tired to look. So tired I even fell asleep in the middle of writing notes, something I was to repeat most nights!

Day 3: Lake Oberon to High Moor (Pegasus, Pegasus South, Capricorn, Columba)

Sidling the bumps

Sidling the bumps

A beautiful clear morning marked the start of a warm day (we were wary, aware that there was no established water source until camp that night), packed with mountains. Dorado was also on the way, but we decided to insert a rest day and climb it from High Moor the following day instead. That gave us a bit more time to just enjoy. And enjoy we did.. again!

Looking back at the bumps

Looking back at the bumps

We started off with a real taste of the climbing we’d have, up a section near to the foot of the ascent towards Pegasus, which must be the part Chapman refers to when he notes that some groups might like to pack haul. We didn’t. The next fun bit was the hole. I was in the lead, and as much as I was determined to get through that hole with my pack on, it was clear it wasn’t going to work. I was also determined to see if I could push it up and through on my own (one of the many little challenges I set myself). With a bit of grunting that had more success! Then I was back down to take Shaz’s pack from her, and she was up too, then Graham followed, a big smile on his face.

Simple lunch, thoroughly enjoyed.. looking at the one that got away (Shaula)

Simple lunch, thoroughly enjoyed.. looking at the one that got away (Shaula)

The rest of the climb was easier, and when we finally established where to drop our packs and head up, we were up in no time. Shaz threw her hands above her head, which was dropped forward, as she celebrated her first points for the range (she’d been in before, and had ‘bagged’ the first 6 mountains). A friend, Simon, had sent us each a hug, which was waiting for us there too. More views, always different, to admire, though we were aware we had a big day so we were soon on our way down and along the protruding ridge that connects Pegasus South to the range.

Climbing up to Taurus, looking back at those ridges

Climbing up to Taurus, looking back at those ridges

Though there were always more photos to take, the similarity in views meant we could also stop to enjoy the smaller things, like the wind as it skimmed across the tops of the lakes, creating patterns that shot off in different directions. A lucky find of a small tadpole inhabited soak was appreciated, and we gratefully drained then filled our bottles as we headed back to our packs.

The steep downhill climb off Pegasus was put into perspective by the even steeper climb a little while later off Capricorn, which was perhaps the steepest of the trip. We were watched by three Czechs, who’d arrived at Oberon shortly after us, and were doing the full traverse, but without the peaks. They’d got to the saddle below Capricorn, and must have found it fascinating to see exactly where the track went as they watched us pick our way down the steep face.

Trees grew almost out of rock

Trees grew almost out of rock

Towards the bottom Shaz came the closest any of us came to seriously harming ourselves. As she negotiated an overhanging rock that required a swing around, her pack pulled her off, and she fell and rolled, her head narrowly missing rock. Clearly shaken, she picked herself up, dusted off, and after a few steadying breaths, continued on down. There was still the worst of the downhill to go, and she did brilliantly.

Despite this, the day was marked by lots of laughter at where we were, and the precious moments spent on summits were well savoured. When the photos and messages home were taken and sent, we either stood, sat or lay on rock, trying to soak it all in.

'My' tree :)

‘My’ tree 🙂

We headed straight to camp, set up tents and ate dinner, having decided to go back and climb Columba for sunset, it being only 10 or so minutes from camp. And so we did, climbing up in the soft, warm orangy-yellow glow of the setting sun. And we sat there on the summit, chatting about how good it was to see the three Czechs also enjoying the evening and the walk in general, and taking plenty of photos, although the cloud on the horizon was a bit too thick that it wasn’t a particularly spectacular sunset in and of itself.

Sunrise at Haven Lake :D!

Sunrise at Haven Lake :D!

But it was special just to be sitting up there, chatting or in silence, watching the sun, the shades of mountain range upon mountain range, or looking at the Beggary Bumps and wondering what they would hold in store for us (they look, and sound, fun).

Graham brought out a treat of expensive whisky, which to me tasted like disinfectant and I’m afraid I said so quite bluntly (sorry Graham, but it is the thought that counts after all!). I much preferred the chocolate that followed ;).

Sunrise at Haven Lake.. my favourite photo.

Sunrise at Haven Lake.. my favourite photo.

When we headed back down, we had a bit of a chat to the Czechs before bed, looked at and talked about the stars, learning that Venus is personified by Hesparus in the evening (when it is the evening star, or, as Wikipedia tells me now, by Phosphorus, Hesparus’ brother, in the morning). I was fascinated by the connection, and I have plenty of research to do into the names of the peaks and lakes of the Western Arthur range!

We drifted off to sleep again to the sound of frogs, which, as Graham most fittingly described, sounded like the crackling of electricity.

Walking the (ridge) line...

Walking the (ridge) line…

Day 4: Rest Day (Dorado)

Woohooo, a rest day! We’d been pushing a solid pace until now, and I have to say my heavier than normal pack had slowed me down more than expected. Though I probably wouldn’t have granted myself the luxury of a rest day had I been alone, I was very grateful for it.

Of course, a rest day in bushwalkers terms means you go and climb a mountain anyway! So, after a luxuriously lazy start (breakfast at 7.30, off at 8) given that we didn’t have to pack tents etc, and a good-bye and good luck to the Czechs, we headed off with our oh-so-light daypacks. We retraced our steps of the day before until we came to the ‘insignificant’ bump that Chapman mentions. It didn’t feel so insignificant climbing up and over it with weary legs, and the views from the top were as good as many of the peaks along the range. The fun bit was coming back down the other side (straight down) though it was only short and not so difficult.

Yep!

Yep!

A lovely little stroll across the open saddle saw us at the foot of the mountain, and after following cairns to avoid the scrub it was mutually agreed that we (I, and the others were happy to follow) could go straight up the more fun looking slanting rock. So we did, and the summit was just over the horizon. It was another slightly different vantage point, as Dorado sits a little way out from the range, and we exchanged more smiles and high fives (or a version thereof).

Making contact with home from Scorpio

Making contact with home from Scorpio

We indulged ourselves by staying for quite some time, getting in contact with family, learning of the bushfires and the 39 degree day in Hobart (yuck) but otherwise just enjoying. I even made the acquaintance of a little pale green bug wearing 3 pairs of golden shoes! When he flew, he looked like he was hanging between two green parachutes (couldn’t quite get a photo of that though!).

We also got a good look at Shaula, which looked manageable, but time and energy and mood would tell on the day (tomorrow) whether or not we’d attempt it. The weather was now (largely) irrelevant, as we’d received, and would continue to receive daily, updates from Simon (thanks!), which forecasted conditions that seemed almost too good to be true (and true to word, it was)!

Promontory Lake

Promontory Lake

Showers forecast for the afternoon (the last of the rain we’d have for the trip) and our reluctance to get caught in them meant we eventually wandered back. On our return, the real rest and relaxation began. We took it in turns to wash ourselves on the now vacated second tent platform, using Trangia and Jetboil pans filled with water from the ‘stream’ and a little bit of soap. Oh the delight of water on skin (even if it was rather chilly when the wind blew)! Not to mention feeling clean in fresh clothes afterwards – only a bushwalker truly knows this feeling. Washing was hung on makeshift lines, and it dried in not time at all in the stiff breeze.

After a lazy afternoon, dinner became a rushed affair, as the rain came while we were cooking, and we took to our tents to eat and wash up. I’m not sure any of us slept particularly soundly that night, as the wind buffeted our tents.  Though we knew they weren’t going anywhere, there’s something about that kind of wind that keeps you half awake all night.

Carina and Promontory Lake, with majestic King Billies

Carina and Promontory Lake, with majestic King Billies

Day 5: High Moor to Haven Lake (Beggary Bumps, Taurus, Aldebaran)

We started out a little later than usual, waiting for some of the mist to burn off (the rain had stopped over night but the mist lingered), letting out yells of delight at each glimpse of blue sky that vanished as quickly as it had come.

Today was a day I was looking forward to. We’d all heard about the Beggary Bumps, and read Chapman’s description of the Tilted Chasm (which I reckon would be so much fun with a slide down it!) and Lovers Leap, so we were expecting to be in for a bit of a downhill challenge. As it turned out, we all found it easier than we’d anticipated, and we took so long on the steeper sections because of all the photos we took, rather than because it was particularly tricky!

Climbing one chockstone on Carina :D

Climbing one chockstone on Carina 😀

We spent more than enough time trying to capture the experience, enjoying the flowers we came across, marvelling at the zigzag patterns in rock and admiring the toad/frog that Graham had found that was so well camouflaged he’d only given the game away because he’d moved. As we progressed along, over or around each bump, up and down the rises and falls, we looked back and felt an amazing sense of achievement.

I remember thinking that we’d now become a very good team, helping one another out where needed. Shaz seemed to have overcome most of her self-doubt, and it was great to see her laughing and joking again!

Across the open saddle to the Phoenix

Across the open saddle to the Phoenix

Around the last major bump, we got to the saddle where we’d been advised to attempt Shaula from. And sure enough, there was a pad leading down into the scrub. We stood in silence looking over at her. I didn’t want to break it, I thought I knew what it meant, but someone had to. And sure enough, the consensus was not today, she’s not going anywhere. It was the right call, I knew it in my head, but there had always been a part of me that had still hoped we might just climb her. Before leaving I’d been told ‘no one climbs Shaula on their first traverse of the Western Arthurs’, and that, of course, became a challenge. Shaula was in a way the mountain I wanted to climb most, just to prove the point. As it turned out, the point was proven! Oh well, I will be back :).

Cloud over the range as I glance back to Promontory Lake and Carina

Cloud over the range as I glance back to Promontory Lake and Carina

The remainder of the bumps were less significant, and we climbed up and over Taurus before dropping down to the beautiful Haven Lake. We were early enough to set up tents before heading off to climb Aldebaran, and (yes finally!) I submerge my mat in water to find the leak. The leak was found (I think probably caused by the zip on my shorts) and my mat was tied down to the tent platform to dry. Shaz was amazing here as fixer/finder of solutions to gear issues, just as she had been with fashioning an under the chin strap for my hat so I didn’t have to hold it on my head every time the wind picked up!

We headed off as quickly as we could, Aldebaran was 2-3 hours return and we wanted to be back before dark, and before we got too hungry! But it was a nice time of day to be walking: the sun was shimmering on the surface of the lake, the light was soft, though not good for taking photos!

High fives on the Phoenix

High fives on the Phoenix

I was a bit tired and grumpy (sorry guys), and annoyed at myself for staying too low initially, but it was hard to stay that way for long. When we’d got back down to the saddle above the lake after a quick break on the summit, we had lots of fun taking and laughing at photos of our dancing shadows in the evening light.

A late dinner, during which we kept a wary eye on a bold but well-behaved mouse, was followed by some stargazing. Snuggled in my sleeping bag, cool breeze on my face, looking up at the Milky Way that lit up the dark sky, occasionally seeing a shooting star (or were they fire flies?), I reflected as we chatted intermittently.

Walking sticks a good idea.. I picked one up on the second last day

Walking sticks a good idea.. I picked one up on the second last day

I realised I’d never spent so much time in one chunk just enjoying the pleasures, beauty and wonder of nature, and that it had been a long time since I’d looked at the stars for any length of time. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of things I hadn’t done since I was a kid, that I was now rediscovering pleasure in, and I wondered why we stop, why we don’t have or make the time for such important things, why we seem to forget to wonder about and explore these things. It was unbelievably peaceful, and I didn’t want to fall asleep, but we’d had another long day, and my newly inflated mat was proving amazingly comfortable, and my eyes kept drooping… zzzzz…

West Portal and Feder!!

West Portal and Feder!!

Day 6: Haven Lake to Promontory Lake (Scorpio, The Sculptor, Canopus, Carina)

It was hard to wake up after the late night (well, technically early morning), especially finding my mat still inflated (yay!) but the sunrise was beckoning, and it was definitely worth it (thanks for the heads up on that one Graham)! We climbed up the hundred metres or so to the saddle above the lake and to the east the sun was glowing browny-yellow through cloud, lighting up the ridges in varying shades. That was stunning enough, but to turn around and see the colours it cast on the King Billies in the foreground, the hand shaped rock in the middle distance, and the clouds in the background was just breath taking. We laughed with joyful incredulity at the beauty of it, could it be real??! What a stunning moment and place we found ourselves in!

Feder!!!!

Feder!!!!

When the show was over we hurried down, anxious not to be too late – we had a few more mountains to climb and some distance to cover. As I cleaned my teeth I saw my first crane fly, excited by its feather like antennae. I would later see one in flight and they are quite like cranes.. their long legs dangling in the manner a hook dangles from the boom of a crane!

Anyway, clean teeth and all, we were ready to head off again, the day promising to be ‘easier walking’. And it was, though I know both my legs and body needed it. As we traced the ridges along, still ascending and descending as necessary, and I felt like I knew the range a little better, finding it less confronting, more familiar, and less disorientating, but still quite convoluted! Now that we were more than half way through, I found myself wanting to put the breaks on. Shaz was ready to get home and sleep in her own bed, and perhaps Graham was somewhere in between?

Hmmmm… very high on the list.. from the summit of West Portal

Hmmmm… very high on the list.. from the summit of West Portal

We were at Scorpio before I knew it, and I was eager to be naughty and run straight up a slanting slab of rock. But I was good, and asked permission (though it was more as a ‘do we have time’, than ‘may I’ kind of question), though permission was categorically denied, softened later with a touching explanation along the lines of ‘we care about you too much to have anything happen to you’. It was clear there was to be no arguing, so over we went the proper way, down and around, and after dropping packs, back up to the summit the safer way.

One of the easy bits on West Portal

One of the easy bits on West Portal

Quite different views again, still very impressive, and we surveyed the route ahead. Down and along the ridge, dropping down off Moraine K and then over and down past two lakes to the large Promontory Lake. Here the scrub was more overgrown, and the walking less enjoyable, especially when it tore a 25cm gash in my shorts – not happy!! Fortunately I had a roll of tenacious tape with me, and that had me back to being decent, if a little funny looking!

Patterns in rock

Patterns in rock

We circled round Promontory, taking some time to find the campsites which were more sheltered than expected, but left the setting up of tents till our return (it was a little too windy for comfort, and given the experience Shaz and I had on the Frankland range we were not going to risk it). In our to-ing and fro-ing, we met our first snake of the trip, a small whip. We also took plenty of time to admire and photograph the majestic King Billies, most of which were silver skeletons, and count the ducks on the water.

Towards the Crags of Andromeda

Towards the Crags of Andromeda

After a bit of indecisiveness as to which way to go to get to Canopus, we ended up heading for the ridgeline and following it up and over the Sculptor (no points for peak baggers), and then set out along the bumpy ridge to Canopus, which lies at the end. We went over all the bumps on the way there, but sidled around them on the way back (proving much easier).

Lake Rosanne.. beautiful place for a swim!

Lake Rosanne.. beautiful place for a swim!

On the summit I reached 350 points (not realising it at the time, because we’d worked out the day before that it would probably be Carina as we thought we’d climb it first, but then we’d changed the order so that we did the longer of the two first, just in case we ran out of time). I also had the lovely surprise of receiving a message from Bill Wilkinson (editor of the Abels volumes), who had read my blog and liked my photos! That was just a bit exciting :D, even more so that the other two seemed equally excited and pleased for me!! It seemed fitting to receive the news out there.

A lone tree on the beach, turned towel rack at one point!

A lone tree on the beach, turned towel rack at one point!

We didn’t have a lot of time to spare, and we were all exhausted (it’s amazing what the body will endure – the problem is there’s just so much to try to fit in between the sun, stars, nature and walking!), so we headed for Carina. A bit of looking and we found a decent pad and cairns to take us close to the top, at which point the rock beckoned, even though the pad looked like it went round to the right through scrub.

Early morning as it's time to leave the range :(

Early morning as it’s time to leave the range 😦

Shaz gave Graham and I the go ahead to test ourselves against the rock (thanks Shaz), while she went up the conventional way. We had lots of fun, climbing up and over two chock stones. Shaz was up well before the two of us were, and waited patiently. We celebrated my 350 points (whoops, bit belated!) then went over to check whether or not the other high point was higher (it wasn’t, our gps’s proved right). On each of the three summits that day, my attention had been increasingly drawn to West Portal and Federation Peak. They looked stunning, and having read the route description for West Portal, which was supposed to be a little challenging, I was excited and impatient!

But first it was time to get back and set up our home for the night.

My cicada shell

My cicada shell

Day 7: Promontory Lake to Lake Rosanne (Phoenix, West Portal)

Our last day of climbing mountains :(.. Not sure I knew what to feel, I didn’t really want this to end. But there was no time to ponder that, we were up, breakfasting and packing at the same time, and listing to the plopping as hoary crested grebes dove underwater for their breakfast. It was already hot, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before we all wished we were able to do the same.

Strike River.. delicious water!!

Strike River.. delicious water!!

Despite the heat it was a little bit cloudy, which seemed to reflect my mood perfectly (funny how the weather seems to do that). We found a cairned pad through the scrub to the saddle before the Phoenix (where Chapman says there is no pad), but then struggled to find the ‘defined’ track up the Phoneix (not that it mattered, but we did eventually spot cairns).

One last glance back

One last glance back

Sitting on top I let the mixture of feelings, happy and sad, wash over me, rather than trying to box them in. I watched and smiled as Shaz and Graham exchanged a high five, celebrating the summit. Then looked at the cloud sitting low above West Portal, the smile slowly dissipating, only to be renewed at the thought of the airy climb we were promised. I lingered on top for a bit, then followed the others back down.

Along the open ridge we walked, climbing and descending in spots, but not nearly as much as we had in the earlier days. Sheltering under a rock from the sun we snacked, then continued on towards West Portal. On one of the flattest bit of track between there and the start of the ascent, I rolled my ankle, not badly, but enough to be of concern, and to put me off balance. Fortunately we weren’t going too fast, and though slower than before, I could just keep up as we wound our way between the tooth like rocks that protruded from the flanks of West Portal. Two more whip snakes made an appearance, one curled up on the track didn’t move until both Shaz and I walked over it, the other was much faster to slither off.

And a few more.. what a view!!

And a few more.. what a view!!

At the appropriate spot we dropped packs, and both Shaz and Graham said separately to me that this was mine to lead. I was thrilled and very moved that they both felt that way, and had given it so much thought. I also knew how much Graham would have loved to have led (I hope you both know how much that meant).  So off we went, and I was charged. A nice short bit of up, over rock and low alpine vegetation (not enough to be called scrub), guided initially by cairns, to a flat bit, the first but lower summit ahead. Feder looking so close, beckoning, on the horizon. We spend a moment or two admiring, then headed up over more rock, grey with fish-bone like patterns of quartzite, until we were on the lower of the summits, looking across the short distance to the marginally higher point.

Just before Hesparus

Just before Hesparus

Now for the fun bit, and it looked good! I love the challenge of finding a good way across, especially for people who aren’t as confident on rock as I am. So up and over rock we scrambled, swung around a knob and down a short vertical face, stretching our little legs to make the foot hold. Then some more up and over, and the next challenge appeared: a diamond shaped chock stone. I went ahead to check out if it was possible, and sure enough, though a little exposed, there were plenty of good hand and foot holds, and I loved the feeling as weight was transferred smoothly from one point to the next, as I moved up, down or sideways. I was free, completely secure and confident.

Leaving Lake Cygnus

Leaving Lake Cygnus

I had the pleasure of watching as Shaz (for whom airy climbing is understandably not so much fun) applied courage and determination to make it over each section, with only the occasional steadying hand or guide to the next foothold. I admired her for being able to be outside her comfort zone and place complete trust in us, and still to be able to laugh. I suspected though that that’s one of Graham’s strengths. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. And he encouraged and motivated in such a way that had us trusting him, even when we doubted ourselves.

:D Ridge lines

😀 Ridge lines

And then we were there, on West Portal. It was an emotional summit, and we had a group hug, followed by a decent break. I phoned home, and hearing news that not all was well I figured maybe it was a good thing we were on the way out. Though I know there’s a part of me that never wants to leave, and that’s the part I come back to every time. I was also very grateful to be able to be sharing that part of me with friends, rather than walking solo. The experience is always so much richer.

Walking amongst rock towers

Walking amongst rock towers

And now, with the mountains done, all we had to do was to head down, across the Crags of Andromeda where the grey shark teeth gave way to smoother white quartzite, along the ridge, down the gully, which turned scrubby for a section, then back up and over the ridge, to the beautiful Lake Rosanne. Graham disturbed a tiger snake in the scrub, which moved away but continued to hiss at him, while Shaz and I hobbled along with our injuries. To distract myself from the scrub I pondered how lizards physically manage to detach their tails, but come to no conclusion (Google reveals it is possible through muscular contractions at weak points in the vertebrae, fascinating). The button grass on the ridge was in flower, and it was impossible not to smile. I remembered seeing it in flower for the first time pretty much a year previously to the date, when we were on the Frankland range! I still wasn’t quite sure I could believe that I had actually done the Western Arthurs… and even now it’s taking its time to sink in!

Taking it all in!!!

Taking it all in!!!

But as soon as we saw the lake, it seemed everyone was thinking the same thing and nothing else: a swim is a must! It was cold, but oh so beautifully refreshing!! Graham was in fast and had a bit of a proper swim, then got out, while Shaz and I took considerably longer to lower ourselves gingerly into the cold water, staying as close as possible to the warmer shallows. In the end we settled for lying on our tummies in the shallowest spot, facing the sandy beach, mimicking the tadpoles.

As we prepared for dinner and bed the frogs started singing, these ones letting off a honking sound that could easily be mistaken for geese, as opposed to the crackling of the frogs earlier on the range (and yes, I did have to look up when they first started, just to make sure there weren’t any geese!). It’s intriguing how they’d stop all of a sudden, and then one would start back up and the others would slowly follow. As I headed to bed, Venus/Hesparus, was out, reflected in the lake. Good night….

Square Lake, not looking so square from here

Square Lake, not looking so square from here

Day 8: Lake Rosanne to 7 Mile Creek

This short day of mostly downhill walking started out in beautiful early morning light, smelling and feeling like it was going to be hot. And it was! Going was steady, Shaz’s toe not liking the downhills, though the strapping job Graham had done on my ankle made things much easier for me. While the day before I had felt like a bird with broken wings, unable to jump, skip or otherwise move in the way I usually did, he’d restored some of the more important powers of flight. I still had to be careful (no jumping or running down the button grass ridges), but I was moving more freely.

Lunch at Square Lake

Lunch at Square Lake

The button grass plains don’t disappoint with their rich colours, that I associate so closely with bushwalking, and we got a final close look at Federation Peak. My eyes were still spending much more of their time looking at the track and selecting the flattest spots for my right foot, but I was able to take glances at the little blue butterfly-like flowers that lined the sides of the track and find a yellow and black stripy feather from a ground parrot to go with the cicada shell I’d spotted when making a call of nature that morning. Graham found the rusted head of a pickaxe and we wondered at its history, who might have held it, where it had travelled.

On the ridge towards Pegasus South

On the ridge towards Pegasus South

The going was long and hot, we were swimming in sweat as we trudged up and over the Razorback, but it was easy walking and we made it to 7 Mile Creek by 2ish. Graham’s newly discovered stash of lollies, and Shaz’s sour worms helped fuel us. We had debated going further, but the day was hot, and we weren’t sure the campsite at 2 Mile Creek would be as good, and to be honest, I think another swim in the river and a relaxing afternoon was on all our minds. We decided an early start the next day to beat the worst of the heat was a better way to go, and it was the right call.

Lunch in the shade, nice little spot

Lunch in the shade, nice little spot

The water was so cold the ‘swim’ part didn’t really eventuate. Instead we sat on rocks in a sunny part of the creek and bathed, scrubbing off the dirt and sweat as best we could with no soap. Sitting there in the cold water that was soothing once you got used to it, sun warming bare back, to the lullaby of flowing water… priceless!

Looking back at Capricorn.. we came STRAIGHT DOWN that!!

Looking back at Capricorn.. we came STRAIGHT DOWN that!!

After organising our gear we were left to our own devices. I sat on a log across the river, dangling my feet in the water, enjoying the dappled sunlight and relaxing sounds of the water as it moved effortlessly over pebbles, while updating my notes. Graham sat a little further away on rocks by the water’s edge, also writing notes, while Shaz sorted some more gear, rigged a decent clothes line, typed some notes into her phone, and then went off to play with her camera and take photos of the river (I was looking forward to seeing them!).

Dinner at High Moor.. lovely spot

Breakfast at High Moor.. lovely spot

I changed positions, lying on the log, and I knew I could easily fall asleep I was that peaceful, if only it wasn’t for the bold flies that often required physical removal to get them to dislodge. The river was deliciously dark in the deeper, shadowed sections, but turned coppery in the sunny shallow parts. The sun glittered on the bubbles and ripples formed as the water ran through the built up pebbly section that serves as a bridge, and reflections danced on the undersides of the dead tree branches that had fallen across the river. It was mesmerizing to watch.

Canopus

Canopus

But a rock thrown by Graham snapped me out of my reverie as it landed below me, sending a splash of water that was remarkably well aimed. I probably deserved it for having flicked him with water as we crossed Strike river earlier that morning!

Back with my thoughts, I realised I wasn’t feeling quite so emotional about leaving. The sleep had probably helped, and the walk out was a nice wind down. It was a fitting end to be able to walk alongside the range and try to name the mountains we’d climbed. We knew them more intimately, though the different perspectives/angles and the fact that only parts of the range were visible at any one time still made the exercise challenging (we did get it right in the end, I think!).

Pandani on the Phoenix

Pandani on the Phoenix

As I sat on my log I wondered if the others had had as good a time as I had, and looking at them, and thinking back, I think they did. I thought about my favourite mountain, and decided it was West Portal, but I couldn’t choose a favourite campsite, they’d all been pretty spectacular. Graham must have been thinking similarly, and later when we were sitting around cooking he asked the two of us these questions, and a few others, and we had fun reflecting on the trip together. It was good to get a bit of an insight on the best parts of the trip for the others, and interesting that none of us would have changed anything!

The flies finally left us in peace as the light dimmed, and we made for an early night. Alarms were set for 5am so we’d get an early start and a few kilometres under our belts before it got too hot.

Day 9: 7 Mile Creek to Car

We were ready to go by 6.30, just as it was light enough to see. The walk out was pretty much flat, with a decent track most of the way, and though it was long (20.9km) we moved quite steadily. We stopped a bit at first to admire the morning light on the range, and the warmth and softness it gave to the button grass plains, but otherwise stopped only for short snack breaks.

There wasn’t much talking. I’m not sure if that was from tiredness, because we were off with our own thoughts, or concentrating on just getting back. Sad to be leaving, I thought about the coming days, looking at Shaz and Graham’s photos and reading their words, understanding a little bit of the way they saw the experience; sharing my own experience with friends and hopefully inspiring them to also put the Western Arthurs on their bucket lists; and reflecting on and reliving parts of the trip as I wrote this blog. I knew I’d struggle being back, I always do, but I had a lot to look forward to too!

And there’s still Fedder ;)!!

All up, 115+km, 7870m ascent, 9 days, 18 peaks, 45 peak bagging points, 2 very awesome friends :)! Gee I’ve been lucky this summer!!

Tyndall and Gieke: 20-21 October 2013

 

Tyndall and Gieke GPS route

Tyndall and Gieke GPS route

Knowing that I was going on the Pandani walk to Mother Cummings Head on the Saturday, and it being my birthday on the Monday, I had the perfect excuse (like I need one) to stay up north for two days and have some fun exploring other mountains. The weather was looking not too shabby, few showers on the Sunday, cloudy on the Monday, so I planned to check out Tyndall, Gieke and Sedgewick.

 

Part way up the climb, Dundas in the distance

Part way up the climb, Dundas in the distance

They’d been on my ‘list’ for some time, after having seen some photos on the bushwalking forum. The late finish on the Sunday though, and me having been up since 9pm Friday night working then walking, meant that the planned walk up to camp on the plateau turned into a drive to Lake Plimsol and a night in the back of the car under a full moon. We were both too tired to pitch tents, and as I got into my sleeping bag and checked the time, I realised I’d been going solid for 24 hours, on not much sleep. No wonder I was tired! But I still had energy for a bit of excitement before sleeping – I discovered that static electricity is visible as small flashes in the dark!! That was kind of cool!

 

On top, and the views open out. Gieke (R) and Sedgewick (L)

On top, and the views open out. Gieke (R) and Sedgewick (L)

Despite the slight discomfort of the back seat (I hadn’t even bothered to inflate my mat), I slept the whole night, waking slightly to turn when the aches got too much. Shortly after 6 I was up and ready to go, albeit a tad stiff and weary. I went for a wander, climbed a few small hills to check out the view and take some photos in the morning light, then it was back to the car, pack everything up and into the pack, and drive to the start of the walk.

 

Imagine this in April!!

Imagine this in April!!

We headed off at 7.30, though I’m not sure what we were doing, because it took us nearly 30 minutes to walk to and sign the log book! But the slow, relaxed pace continued, neither of us too fussed, given we had all day to make camp and wander over to Gieke. I had to save one mountain for Monday so I could open a birthday card from my awesome sister while sitting on the summit. Sedgewick was only going to have been possible if we’d made it up on top the night before, or if we were going to push. But the mood from the day before was still hanging around, and it was definitely one of peaceful relaxation and enjoyment. This was not a ‘peak bagging’ trip in that sense, and that was quite appropriate.

 

Perfect camping!!

Perfect camping!!

So we took our time, and enjoyed the views countless times as we plodded up the 700 metre climb, chatting about rocks and all sorts of other things. Rocks had to feature, given Bec was on swot vac and she’s studying rocks ;).. besides, it was rather nice to be walking amongst conglomerate instead of the usual dolerite, and I was  interested in how it was formed. So frequent were our pauses to take in the view northwest/west over Reed and Dundas and out to sea and our chatting that it took us about 3 hours to get on top! Whoops!! The logbook container has etched onto its lid that Tyndall (400 m to the north of where you pop out on top) was a 3.5 hour RETURN walk… well…

 

Heading out to Gieke.. love those rocks

Heading out to Gieke.. love those rocks

Anyway, we headed straight for the campsite described in the Abels, and it was perfect. The flattest, softest ground I’ve ever camped on, surrounded by beautiful views, with abundant pools of water to swim in or drink from.. oh, and a chorus of frogs all day and night to sing you to sleep!

 

Uh-oh.. Eldon Peak is calling my name!!

Uh-oh.. Eldon Peak is calling my name!!

The tents were quickly erected, and we had a bite to eat, before donning seemingly weightless daypacks and heading off in the direction of Gieke. The views only continued to open up as we wandered along, and I set eyes on Eldon Peak for the first time… uh-oh.. there’s another mountain calling my name! We also got to check out the approach to Sedgewick, and I was satisfied it would be a good little walk for a later date, with one scrubby band to negotiate.

 

Gieke up close

Gieke up close

Onwards we went.. having a number of private, and sometimes shared ‘Oh wow’ moments as the views unravelled. The approach to Gieke is quite interesting, as you’re walking along a flatish plateau, which climbs slowly as you approach, then bends round to the left, and as you get closer you realise the right side of the plateau starts to fall away, quite a fair bit sharper than you’d imagine, leaving quite an interesting and unique looking peak given the right distance and angle. There’s just a little bit of a climb at the end, to make you feel like you’ve actually been ‘up’ something, and more awesome views from the summit.

 

View towards Sedgewick, Eldon Peak from Gieke

View towards Sedgewick, Eldon Peak from Gieke

We sat there and chatted some more, munching on yummy ginger cake (ta mum!), until the freshness in the wind and the threatening rain drove us back to the tents. We were relieved to find them standing where we’d left them, the forecasted ‘light winds’ being a tad stiffer at height (given my experience on the Frankland range I think I’ll always have that feeling every time I return to find my tent still there).

 

View from Tyndall summit

View from Tyndall summit

We drunk soup (ta Bec) then decided it was time to read some Kindle.. then the weather decided the rest for us! Rain and a fast descending mist kept us in our tents, and I ended up dozing off, waking and eating a bar or two (I’m the laziest walker ever, and I don’t like to cook in my vestibule), reading some more, then sleeping all night long! I didn’t get the sunset, or even the sunrise I was so keen on, but my sleeping bag birthday present was amazing.. I wore less than I’ve ever worn, and was nice and warm all night long! That’s just cut back on weight for the Western Arthurs this summer :)!!

 

View from Tyndall high point

View from Tyndall high point. Pretty impressive cliffs!!

So the next morning we weren’t in any rush to get moving, given the mist was still down nice and low (mental note: cloud means whiteout when you’re camping up high, duh!). So we packed leisurely, and headed off when we were ready. We dropped our packs near the edge of the plateau, and made off into the mist towards the waypoint I had marked as the peak on my GPS. It seemed rather flat when we got there, with no sign it might be a high point (a look at my GPS now that I’m back says it was the highest point in metres above sea level), so we wandered north, spotting a possible cairn in the mist. We did come across the trig point, VERY clearly marked (with survey markers at all four corners), though there was no actual trig. It was definitely worth walking up here, as there were some very tantalising misty views down the cliff face that I hadn’t been aware was even there!

 

Conglomerate

Conglomerate… lovely to walk on!

I got to open my birthday card (great big smile), eat some snakes, read lots of nice messages on FB from friends, and take in the view. Then it was a matter of moving once we’d cooled down, and we were back at the packs quite fast. The walk up Tyndall is not much of a climb at all.

 

Donning our packs again, we headed back down, reluctantly, as neither of us really wanted the walk to end. Bec at least had a few more days of west coast exploring up her sleeve, I had to return to go to work at 1am the following morning… Despite dragging our heels, we were back at the cars 1.40 hrs later, with enough time to have a delicious lunch at “The Track” (at the old train station, thanks again Bec!).

 

Plenty of these to look at and dream about on the way home!

Plenty of these to look at and dream about on the way home!

We parted ways, and I enjoyed the drive through the mountains..

 

As I lay in the dark that night, I thought of just how special the day had been. Happily content with life, I said a silent thank you to all the good people I know and am lucky enough to call friends.

 

All up: 18.2km, 1229m ascent.

 

 

Mother Cummings Head: 19 October 2013

Mother Cummings GPS track

Mother Cummings GPS track

There are some walks that are nothing like what you expected them to be. Often, expectations are exceeded.. occasionally, they’re blown out of the water.. I suppose sometimes they’re not met, but I’ve been lucky enough to have that happen only once. This was one of those walks that was just so unexpected with the surprises it had in store for us.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe... which way to go?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… which way to go?

I’m not so sure about the others, but I was under the impression Mother Cummings was an easyish climb, short, and probably similar to other central plateau peaks with a little bit of sparse scrub of the NE variety that gradually gives way to scree as you ascend. Well, talk about an underestimation!

The open road/track at the start of the walk

The open road/track at the start of the walk

We went in via the smoko creek/river track, and that’s definitely the way to go. You follow the directions in the Abels, and the signs along the road, arriving at a carpark when you hit the river. Clearly the road once went across the river, but there’s no longer a bridge.  We picked our own way across, taking care not to get wet feet so early on (not all succeeded here), and followed the road for some way. Part way along there’s a clearing and an array of old signs, directing walkers to various other walks (including Ironstone, for which I will return). The road eventually becomes a track, with tapes, markers and cairns guiding the way.

River crossing

River crossing

This is where the real delight begins! The track works its way gently up the climb, alongside the river and in the shade of the quite green (predominantly? I didn’t really check though) myrtle forest. The river was flowing steadily,  a constant and soothing rush of water over and around rocks, with mini waterfalls cascading over rocks and down drops at very frequent intervals. Climbing the peak lost some of it’s allure, and we spent much time admiring, and trying to capture on our cameras, the beauty around us. We gradually made progress, and towards the top of the valley were surprised again by the height of Smoko falls.. though perhaps not as photogenic or as beautiful as the many little falls along the river..

Beautiful greenness and abundant waterfalls

Beautiful greenness and abundant waterfalls

Then it was out of the forest, with a view across the tops of King Billies, then into a bit more, but not quite as green, and eventually out onto the scree and through the light scrub. The scree was the nice kind of stuff, that lets you dance from one rock to the next without worries of things moving unexpectedly underfoot. I was in my element. After a wait on one particular scree field, the three of us most prone to summit suction were given the go ahead, and with the leash off, we bolted :p! Well, not quite.. we followed the track through the scrub, danced across the boulders, and when on top did a mixture of hopping, skipping and jumping.. oh, and some walking, towards the summit. We did start out mistakenly following the cairns to the east, but a sense that that wasn’t quite right, and a check on the gps, revealed we should head due south and ignore the cairns. We did, and the slight bump on the horizon was proved to be the summit.

Smoko Falls.. nice and tall

Smoko Falls.. nice and tall

We ducked over the edge, out of the wind, and sat down to eat some lunch and wait for the others to catch up. We then spent a pleasant lunch break chatting, sharing nibbles, or wandering about the plateau as we desired. It was finally time to head back down, and so we did, lazily, enjoying the sun, lying on boulders to wait for others to catch up (no, I wasn’t the only one having 40 winks, but I did have an excuse, having been up since 9pm the night before, hard at work before the walk).

King Billies

King Billies

We all moved  at our own pace, perhaps rather like the playing of an accordion if viewed from above, as people stopped to take photos, take off or put on layers, make a pit stop etc. At the first river crossing we stopped for a regroup. About half the group had crossed the river and was sitting on the opposite bank. I crossed a little further down, and stopped midstream, sitting on a rock. I was only about 10-15 metres away, but couldn’t hear the animated chatter of the group, drowned out as it was by the sound of the water racing downhill. It was peaceful and beautiful, sitting there tired but very relaxed, enjoying what was.

Fungi

Fungi

As one walker approached and stood at the edge, picking out a route over the rocks, one of the guys on the other side of the river threw a rock so that it landed near her feet, splashing her. Then another one follows. I watched as those sitting on his side of the river laughed at her surprise, which was quickly followed by her own laughing reprimand, and a return volley. I can’t hear the laughter, or the words, but I don’t need to. As I sit there and look on, at the ability to be a child, at the friendship, but also at the underlying respect, I feel alive, happy, and like I’m in the right place. This is life, and right now, it’s perfect.

Summit cairn

Summit cairn

We wander back, still chatting away (sometimes I’m sure we do more chatting than walking), learning more about each other and the world through our exchanges, deepening friendships, enjoying the natural beauty of the world we live in. And then we’re back at the cars. The supposedly 5 hour walk (which could probably be done in almost half that time) was stretched to 7 hours, though had it been warmer I’m sure we could have added a swim or two in to make it even longer! It was 10.4km in total, with just over 700m of climb (which was surprisingly well graded, despite appearances on the map and as you approach the mountain).

We said our goodbyes, as I had a few more days of walking planned with the other Bec, though our late return necessitated a slight change to those plans!

Table Mountain: 29 September 2013

Table Mountain GPS track

Table Mountain GPS track

Well I was in luck for this one! Table Mountain was the only mountain in that part of the state that I hadn’t yet explored. I’ve spent the last few months of winter getting in some short winter walks, and many of those walks (up mountains like Woods Quoin, Old Man’s Head, Quoin Mountian, Jilletts Tier etc) were in that area. Naturally Table was high on the list for that fact alone. I had a route, but the long road walk and the fact that there is apparently one land owner who can get a bit upset (as evident in discussions on the bushwalking forum) had me waiting for a chance to go with others. When it became Plan B for a club walk that couldn’t go ahead I jumped at the chance! What’s more, it was being led by a fascinating lady who I quite enjoy talking to and always learn a lot from.

 

Jumping the gate at the start

Jumping the gate at the start

I was even more in luck in that this was the first week I’ve had a full two day weekend for a bit, so I didn’t have to worry about work or catching up to people after they’d started. It was just to be a nice relaxing walk! And so it was.. There was a spot of gate jumping to start with, then a longish road walk which wasn’t so bad because it was covered with deer, wallaby, wombat and Tassie devil tracks. When you round the final bend Table Mountain looks like it’s going to be a bit of a climb, but a fair bit of that’s done on the road, and when you’re actually standing at the start of the true climb it’s really quite short. Steep enough to make you feel like you’re climbing something worth climbing, but still rather short. A short distance to the right once you pop out and you’re on the summit.. Or if you’re like me and you like having fun on rock, you go and explore the crags on the edge :p!

 

Road walk, Woods Quoin in the background

Road walk, Woods Quoin in the background

We had plenty of time, and it was really quite pleasant despite the wind, so we wandered along the old road up on top (there used to be a fire tower up there) until such a point as we got a view of the Lake (Crescent I think). I must admit I’m much more of a mountain person, but it was still nice. Sheltering from the wind, we had some lunch, then headed back down. As if to end the day perfectly, as we headed down and out the sun came out and warmed us nicely… gotta love that blissful relaxed feeling you get from the sun’s gentle heat in spring. Felt like a thawing out.. and that’s how the day ended.. plodding along.. off with our individual thoughts, occasionally chatting away, free to move up and down the strung out group to talk with different people, or just to be.. hmmm…

 

Our Mountain appears

Our Mountain appears

All in all, 16.1km, 5.14 hours, and a few metres short of 500m ascent.

 

On the summit.. looking south-ish

On the summit.. looking south-ish