Walford Peak and Marble Bluff 2024 Feb

I have often stared at Walford Peak and wanted to climb it. Last year I organised to do so, but problems cropped up at the last minute.  And for some reason, Marble Bluff seems to have bad street cred (it is rather a scrubby beast), so it has also been on the to do list, but to no avail. I looked down on it from the summit of Eldon Peak in 2018 and very much wanted to see its view, but was told it was very hard to reach. Well, it wasn’t a piece of cake, but neither was it overly taxing. Let the actual adventure begin ….

Spicer Track crossing Anthony R, a bit over an hour into the trip.

Here we were, all keen for time in the wilderness and these two mountains in particular. It was to be a five-day trip, as we were also going to explore the Sticht Range. I knew I was running-fit, but last week in the Jubilee Ranges made me question whether I was also pack-carrying fit. That ingredient was gong to be rather essential on this expedition. I set out with uncertainty.

Lake Spicer Track over Anthony R

The plan for day 1 (begun after lunch because of driving time) was to walk along Lake Spicer Track until we arrived at just the right place to camp for the first night. The aim was not to go all the way to the lake itself, as we were expecting rather a hefty storm the next night, and the level of the lake might rise enough to turn tents into cute islands in the lake, if the strong winds didn’t blow them down first. We needed a sheltered spot that neither wind nor rain could mar.

Walford Peak view to Mt Murchison, Lake Plimsoll and Lake Rolleston

There was no sign right now of the storm to come. The sky was blue; the day was glorious. Crossing the many creeks and puddles was picturesque and enjoyable, and gave plenty of drinking opportunities. Thus, when we reached the high point on the track just below Walford Peak in just a tad over two hours’ walking time (on the agenda for a later day on the rebound), it was decided not to waste such beautiful weather, and climb it right now. I was thrilled. We dumped our packs and up we went. The bush was pretty thick, but it yielded to energetic shoves, and in a shade under forty minutes, we were at the top. Everything looked glorious from up there. The many lakes in our purview shone with sparkling blue iridescence; countless well-loved peaks towered above with clarity.

Walford Peak view to the Sticht Range (Right) and Lake Plimsoll and Mr Murchison (Left).

Back down on the track once more, descending to our eventual campsite was fun, as said track turned into a creek with cascades that were rather pretty. Soon enough we were beside Lake Dora, and agreed that a point on the road that was a bit of a knoll would be a great place to stop. We had been on the track for about three hours, and had also done eighty minutes without packs to climb Walford Peak, but for some reason that wasn’t quite enough for me, so I went and explored the track further after dinner, and climbed a small bluff for kicks. The view was excellent. Maybe my problem was that I had just eaten the worst dehydrated meal I can remember. The packet said it was vegetarian shepherd’s pie, but it was sickly sweet and made me feel very dissatisfied.

Descending back to the track. Lakes Rolleston and Plimsoll, and Mt Murchison behind.
Ultricularia dichotoma near our tents.

By the dawn of day two, you could tell that the weather was changing. The air had mood and attitude, and clouds were assembling. We finished off the Lake Spicer track quickly enough, and then began the somewhat long climb up onto Unconformity Ridge. That ascent contained probably the thickest scrub of the day. Once we reached the ridge itself, the terrain varied from patches of thick scrub to long areas of smaller bushes with button grass, both knee to waist high.  Only the very last bit was easy going. The actual moving time (ie, breaks not included) was around 3 hours 40 minutes total in each direction, from tent to summit and back (3 hrs 10 off-track). On top of that time, we had a few breaks so everyone could be comfortable, often eating, or just chatting and looking at the view.

Lake Spicer Track. Yes, this water is the track.
Another watery view of Lake Spicer Track

Luckily, we got to inhabit the summit area without rain, but the wind was so strong that hats went flying, and we all huddled for shelter on the leeward side of rocks to have our lunch. The view was disappointingly hazy, not just from approaching bad weather, but also from fires in the Central Highlands. I didn’t take many photos.

We reach Lake Spicer. From here on, it’s all bushbashing

Half an hour after summitting, we were off on the descent, trying, but failing, to beat the oncoming rain. By the time we hit the track, it was raining properly. I was pretty wet on arrival back at the tent. We tried to dry wet garments in the breeze while we had dinner, but things remained quite damp, although no longer dripping.

Marble Bluff view to the north. Eldon Peak towers behind

That night, as I lay in bed, I enjoyed the sound of very angry wind howling above me, often lifting me off the ground as if I were on a magic carpet. It was rather fun. However, a toothache that had been brewing over the preceding days was particularly painful, so I didn’t get much sleep.

Marble Bluff view to the to south: Lake Burbury, Mts Lyell, Owen, Huxley and Jukes

On day three, the rain had settled in. I decided I needed to attend to my tooth as soon as possible, so bailed out of the rest of the agenda, and dashed back to the car. I made it in under three hours, not bothering with any breaks seeing’s I was alone, and find no particular pleasure in sitting in the rain to rest. I drove to where I had reception, made an appointment to see my dentist and bought the strongest pain killers I was allowed (I don’t usually use such things).  Right now, it is the middle of the night, but my pain is so great I can’t sleep. I sure made the right decision to come home. The Sticht Range, object of today’s agenda, will just have to wait for another day. My gear was saturated when I reached the car, but I arrived home to a desperately dry Launceston.
Next day (today as I write) I had to have my wisdom tooth extracted. Leaving early was more than a good idea!

Orienteering Women’s training weekend

I had read that there was an orienteering women’s training weekend happening at St Helens, but entries had closed when I went to join in. On the Friday, however, I got the bright idea of seeing if there’d been any cancellations. Weee. I was in.

Bush scenery from my weekend

First session was in 3 hours, but I had made dough and needed to bake the bread or my efforts would be wasted; I had to pack, of course, and drive 90 minutes to the venue in the Fingal valley. Hm. Rush rush. I threw gear into a bag (without a great deal of thought) while the bread was cooking, threw food with equal haste down my gullet, and set out for the location, Rajah Rocks.

Dawn Bay of Fires. I decided I didn’t want inside accomodation.

Here we practised a Middle distance course in a fabulously rocky area. I had already been training that morning, not realising I would be accepted into the camp, so was pretty tired as I drew near to the finish. As I headed further east to the coast, I witnessed the most wonderful sunset, but needed to keep driving, so hoped there would be more over the next two days. After a fun activity after dinner where we had to build a tower made out of spaghetti and string (and perch a marshmallow on top), I left the 32 or so others to their warm, comfortable accomodation and went to the coast to pitch my tent in the dark.

My tent, my happy place

I wanted to camp, and near the coast, as I love the sound of waves lapping against the shore while I lie in my sleeping bag. It’s a pity I packed my old 1980s bag in my haste: it wasn’t very warm, but I survived, and the beauty  of dawn next morning drove away any thoughts about relocating to standard-type accomodation.

Orienteering day 2. Waiting for things to get underway.

The Saturday contained lots of training sessions and even more camaraderie than that. Our fabulous coach, Francesca, had to design courses for total beginners through to former international representatives, from people who struggled to run to people who were very fit, and with ages from 14 to over 80, and she pleased the lot of us.  Perhaps her biggest problem was to get us to stop chatting and laughing, and get the next session started.  We did relocation in pairs,  compass only (HELP – I decided I was actually a shocking orienteer in this session), and contour only courses, where I was allowed to slightly revise my opinion of myself.

Bay of Fires. Dawn day 2.

On the final day we did a longish course practising long legs. I was stunned that I still had legs left to do this, but once I’d got going, somehow all was fine. It was very lonely out the far end of the long course; I think most took the shorter option for this session.

Tiny Orienteer

I was too busy orienteering (or chatting or eating) to photograph orienteering in action, but I did want to share the beauty side of our weekend, so here it is. As it is a post about orienteering,  I will finish with a shot of one of my very favourite orienteers taken recently rather than this weekend. She’s not quite a woman yet, but I’m sure she’ll join in such a camp one day.

Markham Heights Ben Lomond

We didn’t choose Markham Heights on Ben Lomond for our Wednesday walk specifically because it was the shortest day of the year, and we also didn’t quite choose it because it was possibly the coldest day of the year so far (it was minus 8 as we passed through Blessington), but because the minus 5 we were expecting on top would be a lot nicer and safer with 30 cms snow on the rocks than where we had been going, which would probably just be a dangerous expanse of ice rime.

Blessington Valley
Blessington Valley

Meanwhile, I was, at the time of the decision, disappointed, as I had been looking forward to the original destination. Through the dark I drove, heading for the Ben Lomond National Park. My spirits picked up considerably as the sun began to rise and I saw the scenes of some of the photos here. I also nearly skittled a deer which ran across directly in front of me, and also nearly had a collision with a black shadow on the road which turned out to be a cow. Needless to say, with temperatures so low, the road was very icy and I was not familiar with its dangerous points, so drove pretty slowly after those two scares.

Off we set. Markham Heights leering down at us
Climbing higher
And higher
Ben Lomond patterns in the snow

I have always wanted to camp under Ben Lomond to photograph the rocks at sunrise. Even though the sun had already risen, the rocks were still delightfully red on my arrival, so while the others did practical things like putting on boots and more coats and beanies, I dashed out and photographed rock. Hey; who needs to go to Central Australia for red rock? We have it a-plenty right here in Tasmania if we get up early enough (or hang around in rocks until sunset). Dolerite, the predominant rock in most of the state, colours up beautifully at the extreme ends of the day.

Snowy scene
Unnamed knob. Dave arrives.
Sue climbs

The rest of the day was a visual treat, seeing magnificent scenes of snow on bushes or rocks or windswept mini ridges.  We had morning tea on an unnamed knob, and lunch on Markham Heights, and assorted snacks here and there to spin out the day. My coils came off and another friend lost one of his mini spikes, so three of us got extra exercise retracing our steps, which also added nicely to the exercise value of the day, and the time spent moving in the white wonderland. I didn’t enjoy the stationary snack times as much as, well, minus 5 is minus 5, and even with 5 layers of warm clothing on, that is still cold.  When I’m moving, I’m fine. Here is a small collection of scenes from the day. I hope you enjoy them.

Dolerite from Markham Heights

Tullah region wanderings

Two friends and I spent three days in the Tullah region, climbing this and that, sleeping high and sleeping low. It’s a great area for exploring.

Camping high

Unfortunately, it has too often been my observation that pretty photos with names and locations attached have inspired the wrong sort of people to flood our beautiful wilderness and thereby ruin it. The Western Arthurs and the Walls of Jerusalem are two extreme cases in point.

Summit of Red Hills. I don’t mind naming this one, as it is not dramatic in an insta sense of the word; it is worth NO points; it is thus a thoroughly pointless exercise, ha ha. Not for us.
Mycena interrupta never fails to entrance

And who are the wrong sort of people? People who have not been taught any bushcraft and have made no effort to learn any; people for whom the words “Leave no trace” are a foreign language; people who seem to think that it’s just fine to spoil fragile areas now that they have seen them themselves; people whose sole aim in being there is to take some insta-photo and exit, without ever stopping to understand the place where they are; people whose sole concern is the self, who don’t care about the people who live near the area, or the children and ones yet to be born who might want to see the place. In short, shallow, selfish people.

Lake Herbert seen from above

For some of us, these regions are our quasi “holy places”. They are places where we revive our spirits and refresh our souls; where we take time out to connect with the wider natural environment. They are not just precious to us: they are essential to our mental and spiritual wellbeing. They are not just huge playgrounds (which they are also. Give me a mountain rather than a gym and treadmill any day, thanks!!).

Core rise
Up high

My lack of blogs over the summer has had nothing to do with any inactivity on my part – I seem to have lived in the wilderness this summer – but rather due to my not wanting to over-popularise the beautiful areas I have been in. These spots are, or rather, were, our playgrounds, but we are now being locked out of them so that the tourists can come in and spoil them. They have been turned into a money-making commodity.

Entoloma discrepans I believe
Dead tree – great caption huh.

Thus I don’t want to aid and abet that process by being too specific about anything much other than indicating “Tullah region”. If you can enjoy photos of beauty that don’t specify location, then please enjoy these examples of what our amazing planet has to offer to those who have worked on their fitness, and acquired bush skills to survive in lonely and challenging locations. We left no trace. Keep tassie Wild.

Mycena epipterygia
Sleeping high

Blackboy-Mathinna circuit.

Having once climbed Mt Blackboy by the easy route, I was not all that interested in a repeat, but today we took it head on and did a traverse along the high rocks, and that made it a totally different and really fun experience.

Fingal Valley

Not only did we attack the boulders from their most challenging angle, we also began way, way down at Mathinna Falls, giving us a climb of over 500 ms in the process, and not from the nearest road access as is normally done if you only have bagging in mind.

Hypholoma australe – these were near the carpark, before the real fun began.

The actual climby bit was probably only about 2kms horizontally. Do your maths: that’s STEEP. People from our small group were falling and slipping the whole time. It only counted as a fall if you landed on your bum or worse. I was relatively unscathed with only three falls. Several of my friends got into double figures. One specialised in quite spectacular landings.

Delvin Ck track to falls

Even just standing talking waiting for the rear to catch up, you kind of slid down the slope unless you grabbed a sapling to prevent the descent. I was sure I spotted a flat bit of ground somewhere down below (and John backed me up); this became a source of many jokes as we tumbled our way downwards.

Russula viridis – very pleased to find this one! You don’t see them often.

Sorry for the lack of photos of rocks and forest: when you are above your head in ferns, it’s hard to get a shot, and the rocks were reached in midday glare, which I don’t find conducive to pleasing photography. I leave the massive and alluring boulders to your imagination. Meanwhile, if you know me, you know I love fungi.

Dermocybe canaria. I have also not seen very many of these in my hunting.

I was quite proud of how clean my pants still were at the finish – ripped and muddy pants were the norm by the end of the day – until I got home and discovered a huge red patch base right, courtesy of a hitchhiking leech.

Blackboy Falls from above. We could see them, even if you can’t. This was as good as it got today. Work in progress!

We also visited the top of a waterfall en route, which, given its location and in order to be able to talk about it, I have dubbed Blackboy Falls. (It is an unnamed blue line on the map). We lacked time to visit the base, but at least we have now seen it, and have also (of course?) plotted our route for a more extensive, close-and-personal visit some other time. As it was, we didn’t get back to the cars before 5 pm, and it was more than dinner hour by the time we returned to Launceston. It’s worth being hungry to have had such a fun day. Very little beats real bushbashing, with its engagement with nature, and its total workout value. Keep Tassie Wild.

Traversing the ferns back near the bottom. Thanks for the photo Phil Andrew, who, being taller than I am, had a little less trouble taking a shot in the jumble.