Snow Camping at Long Lake, Central Plateau. Sept 2018.
As I walked up the road leading to the old carpark – a walk we are not supposed to like, but one idles up a tunnel of pure myrtle with its delicate little leaves and mossy trunks; walking, in fact, on moss and looking out at rich, open rainforest – I became suddenly aware of how fundamentally content I was doing this act of walking in the wilderness with my pack on my back in the implicit company of a few friends, who were not actually with me at that current point in time, but were somewhere up ahead, or behind; we were together, even if not crowding each other out.
One stops, sheds something, catches up … there are moments of solitude and times of company, as one chooses. I possibly should not have been surprised at my contentment – I am, after all, “naturelover” – and yet it arrived unexpectedly, as I wasn’t seeking or explicitly anticipating it. It was just a feeling that overtook me as I wandered, and I realised that there was nothing else I needed at that particular moment, and that, although my darling Bruce has gone, there is a wonderful life to be lead, nonetheless. Perhaps this awareness was nudged into existence by a text I had had from my little grandson during the week, saying: “Don’t go, nanny”. Go where? I had already gone from his house. I read it as a deeper statement of love and the expression of a desire to have me around.
The Little Fisher River is one of my favourite rivers in the whole world. It gurgles with just the right amount of pure, clear water, cascading picturesquely through open myrtle forest of green and brown, both colours rich in intensity. Every now and then monster tree trunks enter my purview, stately curving their way up to the light, covered in soft moss. It took us 1 hr 13 to the carpark, and another 8 minutes to the first river crossing, which I was not anticipating with glee, having heard it was slippery and dangerous these days. I was keen to get it over and done with, as I don’t like carrying all my expensive camera gear over slippery terrain where it might get damaged, and I certainly did not want to land in the river. The temperature was not much above zero. In fact, light snow fell for most of the day.
From the bridge to the glorious Rinadena Falls was another hour’s walk. I love these falls, but we got there a bit too late for the best photographic conditions, and the fact that it was snowing and truly freezing did not have me leaping around with ecstasy. We crouched under branches to eat our lunch, with me hoping the frozen precipitation might slow down enough to warrant setting up my tripod. I did set up, but did a pretty rushed job, as the others were keen to move on, having already taken a few snaps.
On we went. I was looking forward to the climby bit, as I had chilled off somewhat over the inevitable stasis of lunch-munching. The section between Rinadeena and the valley above – Little Fisher Valley? – is rather steep, with two sections having fixed rope to aid climbing the slippery face.
Once we entered that high valley, with its flattish area in between Turrana Bluff and Mersey Crag, the patches of snow multiplied rapidly. We also struck our first icy tarns. We still had one final climb – only a hundred metres’ height gain – to reach Long Tarn now. And once up that, everything was pure white and a fairyland of beauty. One of our party wasn’t handling the snow well, which gave us plenty of time to appreciate the various vignettes of magical scenery as we quietly wended our unhurried way towards the pencil-pine goal. The slower person apologised; as a joke, one pointed out she had a train to catch; I said I had a doctor’s appointment at 3.16. Rolfe made a bet that the doctor would give up on me and go home. It seems he was right. I was late for the appointment, and there was no doctor waiting. Luckily I wasn’t sick anyway. Pure nature healed anything that might have been wrong.
Long Lake with Turrana Bluff behind.
Pitching the tent was a pretty cold business, as it is a very static job, so I had chilled right down by the time my accommodation for the night was established. Rolfe suggested we walk up to the ridge to see Mt Jerusalem and Daisy Lake, and I was all for it. A bit of a climb might warm me up again, and if there was going to be any colour at sunset, we would be well positioned to photograph it. There wasn’t … but I did warm up. The cup of water I had left just outside the vestibule, however, was frozen solid. I banged out the ice so I could drink later, wondering how the other water I had gathered would hold out.
I always worry in snow camping about my ability to warm up the tent space. I am a lot more confident if with my daughters, sharing a tent (or with Bruce, but that is no longer a possibility). Two people definitely warm up a tent with no problems. The fact that I can do it alone comes as a relief and a confidence booster. My boots froze overnight (as did the laces, of course); my water bladder did likewise, but I was pretty warm with what I had brought, so was happy with the outcome. This was my first snowcamp for 2018, and it’s surprising how out of practice one can feel doing it for the first time in any given winter. I warmed the tent alone and coped alone, but I sure did appreciate the knowledge that in that pine grove over there were three others, and just down the slope a ways, two more, so that if I felt dangerously hypothermic, or if my tent collapsed overnight or if some other unplanned catastrophe overtook me, I could yell for help and someone would come to aid me, is a huge relief. This is one of the many massive benefits of being in a club.
Breakfast was served in bed – in my sleeping bag, in fact – to a view of a slightly pink-tinged dawn, with light snow falling. Having my tent fly pulled right back was not calculated to keep me warm, but with beauty like that I didn’t care. I popped on an extra coat and slowly imbibed my porridge while watching the light flakes make their way to the ground. This is what one comes for. I loved it. We were all elated by the beauty as we set out for home an hour or so later. The forest was covered in a new coat of white powder, as the snow had been falling on and off all night, just a light hint of a thud against the tent. Peace.