Castle Crag / Falling Mountain 2016 Jan

Falling Mountain and Castle Crag. Feb 2016

View from Castle Crag, with Pelion East, Pillinger and Cathedral in the background.
To climb Falling Mountain, the notes Angela and I had suggested we should head from the clearing below Du Cane Gap towards the rocks from the latest fall off the southern end of the mountain, so we did precisely that, departing that bearing when the bush got thicker than we liked. When we left the direct bearing, we headed a bit right (north), climbing or contouring as the best leads through the scrub dictated (no longer using compass). Eventually this method took us to a wonderful lead of pineapple grass that made easy passage in a green path upwards to the final little climb that popped us out on top, much faster than anticipated in 1 hr 17 from our tents, drying down in the open clearing below. I photographed here, at the highest rock on this part of the mountain, five minutes away, and again at Castle Crag, a nine-minute saunter further on across alpine grasses and a bit of rock.

The route being described in the narrative
Rather than just retrace our footsteps, we agreed to try something different and just drop off Castle Crag. The boulders were surprisingly huge and the going not as kind as our original route, so we decided to sidle across to meet our ascent track. I was leading at this stage and concentrating on the job, using a kind of animal instinct that kicks in when I’m climbing, just following what some non-verbal part of my being feels is the way to go, sensing passages through the maze of rocks when one of the smaller (football size) rocks I trod on became dislodged and catapulted down the mountain, whacking my foot en passant. I writhed in pain, hyperventilating badly, vision blurred, dizzy with shock. Uncharacteristically, I reached for my pack to grab a painkiller. Whoops. They were in the big pack way down there. Angela’s were in the same place. (At least my EPIRB was with me. At this stage, I didn’t know if anything was broken, but found it hard to image that a blow of that force would not break something.)

“OK, no painkillers. We need to get moving quickly. If I’m to get through this, I need to start moving, and now. If I rest, I’ll stiffen up and never budge from here.”

Castle Crag summit cairn, with Ossa and Pelion East behind
Cautiously, gingerly, I put weight on the now swelling blob at the end of my leg and tucked in behind Angela, who was left with the job of choosing a route that would be kind to a one-footed friend. I didn’t feel like exerting the brainpower needed for such matters, and concentrated on using the foot as a stable plank, tucked in behind Angela. Most surprisingly, we were down in 1 1/2 hours. It felt like much longer than that, but my foot was coping well with weight bearing.

Sunset at Narcissus Hut (Lake St Clair)
Next morning the sunrise was exactly what I ordered. I do love a good mist

I didn’t dare inspect the damage to my foot until Narcissus Hut. I thought if I looked and saw what I was bound to see, I’d feel sorry for myself, and maybe not be able to go any further. Now, I must say, I have always had the policy that if you are going to hurt a lot on the inside, it is the best thing to have an outer appearance that is commensurate with the inner torture. My foot did me proud. It was grossly distorted and swollen, and coloured a rather nasty combination of red, purple and dark grey. I felt a true martyr.

Leeawuleena, the mellifluous aboriginal name for Lake St Clair that matches its visual beauty with soothing sounds
Despite this magnificent display of swelling and colour on my ankle, I can report nothing is broken. For this, I can only thank my wonderful, solid, leather boots that shielded me from the full force of the bash, and the fact that the impact must have been pretty well back on the foot, so I am extremely lucky in the placement of the collision. My doctor advised rest.

“How many hours do I have to rest for?” I asked (neatly eschewing mention of days or weeks).
She knew the implication of my choice of words, shook her head and smiled wryly (which is why she’s my doctor).
“Twenty four / forty eight hours?” , she said with rising intonation and another smile. I got the feeling she was carrying out a kind of barter: What number can I say that will not be so great that this person rejects it altogether, yet not so small as to be nugatory? She chose a good number.

Deal. I’ll obey that. I did Pilates instead of running and only walked the dog.

Dawn light
I do not feel unlucky at all to have been hit by a falling rock coming off Falling Mountain: on the contrary, I feel very much the opposite, and elatedly relieved at all the things that could have been, but weren’t. I will enjoy the rest of my summer’s bushwalking with even greater gusto.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *