Bishop and Clerk 2017 Jun

Bishop and Clerk. 10 June 2017.

I have waited all this long time of my life to visit Maria Island and climb its famous Bishop and Clerk. I hadn’t been in a rush; I knew it would wait for me, and the the right moment would eventually come. This June Long Weekend, it finally arrived. Anne-Marie put Maria Island on the club programme of LWC, and I thought that trip would be perfect for my husband, so we signed up.

The trip to the ferry terminal at Triabunna was serenely beautiful, with sheep in pink, icy paddocks, swathed in roseate swathes of light mist. We even got in a tiny climb en route as we passed Lake Leake (see One peak bagger point more. One funny little mountain to add to our wealth of Tassie riches. On we drove.

The ferry ride was also wonderful, made even more so by a pod of dolphins playing around the boat as we nudged our way towards an ever-growing Bishop and Clerk which, for me, dominated the approaching island. The others teased me that they could feel me pawing the floor in my eagerness to get going. First, of course, however, we need to do mundane things like choose the perfect camping spot, have some lunch, set up the tent and other domestic chores. Then, at last, copious photographic equipment assembled, I was ready to go.

Although this was a club trip, it was a delightfully free, relaxed one, so Bruce and I set out as a duo to do this climb. The others who wanted to do it (no compulsion anywhere here) would do so on day three. Bruce would accompany me as far as he could, after which I would be solo and have the mountain to myself. I like sitting alone on top, contemplating sublimity and being peaceful up there without noise or distractions. I also, of course, like summiting with friends – a mixture is perfect. I’d climb with the club next day (Mt Maria).

Wombat living life on the edge.
I am struggling to find words that describe the feel of this wonderful island. I loved its unpretentiousness. It is remote and there is history all around you – ruins; intact, antiquated little cottages popping up like lonely toadstools in the forest or on hillsides, just every now and then, tiny treasures to be discovered;  fossils. There are discreet signs sometimes, but you’re free to just discover things without brazen hoopla and huge billboard-type signs noisily advertising every treasure. You have the pleasure of serendipitous findings. Self-directed wandering is the norm. There is no “historical tour route” that regiments visitors into a single direction or “must see” line. Meanwhile, roos casually and gracefully hop by, paddymelons hop too, but with less grace and more flurry; fat wombats wobble along, but mostly they’re too busy grazing to be bothered moving. The landscape was peppered with wild animals who were only half wary of the humans.

The land is open in a lot of places, making undirected wandering particularly easy. Children could ride mountain bikes about the place without their parents having to worry about traffic. The worst accident would be a bike-wombat collision, and neither child nor wombat would come to grief in the soft landing.

But Bruce and I headed purposefully east, to the cliffs on that side of the island (where, indeed, someone could fall to his or her death) but, oh joy, no huge notices telling you the obvious. The place felt fantastic.  (Don’t worry parents: no small child would wander that far alone. It took me over twenty minutes – carrying a lot of gear – to reach that side of the island).

After the cliffs, the real work begins, at first very gently, through open bush with teasing vistas, and finally the big haul. When we reached the loose scree, Bruce called it a day and returned along the clear track to camp. I continued solo, I was glad he was not there, as higher up there were some airy moments and tricky manoeuvres that were not for him. I was free from worry, and free to relate to the mountain on my own terms. Up the top, I had blissful solitude as I gazed out to infinity. There are very many ways you can tumble up to 600 ms to your death up there, so I didn’t cavort in the manner I may have liked to. It was so windy on top I didn’t even trust my sturdy tripod to indulge in a tiny selfie. I followed a tiny pad higher behind the rocks, but then returned to the most spectacular and interesting spot. The forceful wind and the vertiginous nature of where I was combined to be a little unsettling, so I actually sat to do some of my photographing. I began my descent in time to have good vision on the slightly tricky parts (I had been contemplating staying on top for sunset, but wasn’t comfortable doing some of the manoeuvres solo and in the dark, so had sunset itself lower down, where, in fact, the views were more photogenic anyway). I returned to see the club members had lit a dancing fire, and were convivially enjoying its warmth, having wine, cheese and bickies in the large shelter there. Bruce was safely with the group, enjoying other people’s goodies that they had generously offered him.

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