The Eldons: High Dome, Eldon Bluff, Eldon Crag, Dome Hill, Castle Mountain, Rocky Hill Jan 2016.
This was my first really big epic; we had packed for ten days, and I was pretty nervous. Could I carry all that weight? Ten days seemed a very long time to be bushwalking in the wilderness.
Day 1. Here we are, heading across the clear Rocky Hill South towards our destination for the day: Rocky Hill campsite. All is going well and everyone is coping perfectly with the heavy load that a trip like this entails. I was carrying 17.5 kgs, which is between a third and a half my bodyweight. I was intending to do some very serious eating to improve that ratio by the way out.
Day 1. Many of us camped near or under beautiful pencil pines like this. Pineapple grass was in abundance, as were delightful pools of clear water. These were especially welcome after a completely water-free day once we left the Collingwood River right at the start.
Day 2 dawned misty. Here is the group as it heads along the ridgeline connecting Rocky Hill to a hill at 1173 ms asl.
Day 2. And here is our final resting place for this day: the beautiful Five Duck (yet duckless) Tarn. It was very exciting to be so near a mountain that has always looked so distant and impossible, a mountain for tough bushmen, so not for me, yet here I am: High Dome.
Day 3 dawned clear and bright. We set off early so as not to be cooked later.
Day 3. And here is what it’s like to be underway in the Eldons. These are button grass plains which formed patches to give us a break from the thicker scrub of other sections.
Day 3. A very happy summit group on top of High Dome. On the far right is Malcolm Waterston, the sixth person ever to complete a full set of Abels (which he finished this trip).
Day 3. With High Dome under our belt, on we press to our next destination, Lake Ewart. On the left is Castle Mountain, and on the right is Eldon Bluff, the crème de la crème for many of us on the trip.
Day 3. Dan and Steve were two of many who used our early arrival at the lake to have a swim and a wash. Unfortunately, wuss here was too cold, but she admired the waters and went exploring around the lake’s edge instead, discovering a grove of scoparia whose leaves were well above her head. That’s scoparia at its best!!
Day 3. With the sun setting behind Eldon Bluff, many beautiful silhouetted moments were on offer.
Day 4. At last, the day to summit the Crown Jewel of the trip has arrived. Here she is smiling pinkly down on us while we wipe the white frosted icing sugar off our tents and fill our packs with enough water to fund a mid-thirties temperature day. I took this photo whilst eating breakfast inside my tent (ie, I pitched so close to the water’s edge the others teased me that I’d get flooded out if things went badly).
Day 4. The beauty of the lake in the early light as we circled it thrilled me.
Day 4. Round the northern end of the lake, over the buttongrass plain and up to this rock that we spotted from below. We had to climb a tree to get up it, which was fun. It made a good perch for a rest, and also to survey the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Day 4. Happy climbers taking a rest on a different rock. Time for breakfast number two (about 8.30).
Day 4. Looking across to Eldon Crag (the next one to be climbed after this) whilst having a break during the climb of Eldon Bluff (up to our left).
Day 4. The group arrives at the saddle before the final climb. You can see we’ve already climbed up a very long way.
Day 4. I saw this view just before we reached the summit, and was terribly excited. There is Lake Ewart, way, way below, and I could even see my trusty tent waiting for me by the water’s edge, a minuscule red speck. The day was very hot, and people drank even more than the generous amounts they had catered for (one guy went through 8 litres in total). After we climbed this mountain and the next one (Eldon Crag), we dropped slightly out of our way to a tarn about half way down to Lake Dorothy to cool down and gather more liquid.
Day 4 draws to a close. It had been long and hot, but we were all deeply satisfied. This almost dry creek made a fabulous “highway” for part of our descent. There were even protected native fish in one of the rock pools. The water was cool and delicious. Money cannot buy drinks like that.
Day 5. Another day, another mountain, more perfection in the wilderness. Today we will climb Dome Hill. Ahead, you can see the first part of our climb. Because of the heat (and our ultimate goals for the day), another early start is chosen.
Day 5. About 1 hr 30’s walking later, we get to see epacris serpyllifolia adorning the summit of Dome Hill, with yesterday’s booty, Eldon Bluff and Crag, in the background.
Day 5. Dome Hill summit group. After this, it was back to camp, depitch and climb up through the scrub onto the plateau that contains tarns that will give us a good springboard the following day for the next mountain on our agenda.
Day 6. Sunrise from our tarns
Day 6. Two of our group approaching the summit of Castle Mountain. The weather did not cooperate with a view from this summit, but I found the mist atmospheric.
Day 7. Dawn from High Dome ridge (a dry camp – i.e., no available water nearby).
Day 7. Morning light on a day that was pretty light on for those of us who had already climbed High Dome on the way in. Lucky we were just loafing around camp, actually, as the wind came up mid-morning. One tent snapped its pole in two places, and the three of us there had to lie on tents and depitch them to prevent further breakages. That day we moved to Five Duck Tarn, where, in the evening, those who didn’t mind being out in the weather got to watch lightning strike the ridge running off Little Sugarloaf, setting off a blaze the height of two gumtrees, clearly visible from our spot.
Day 8. No photos, as it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale most of the day. We decided to put in a huge effort and get out. You could smell many of the 50 fires that were now burning across the state’s lower half, and today was an ideal day for a big effort, being both cold and wet. Warm, dry weather would resume the next day. Who knows what the fires would do then? Pyramid Mt was cancelled; the guys had never been keen on Camp Hill. We had reached the next destination by lunchtime (Rocky Hill campsite), having climbed Rocky Hill in conditions so freezing that not a photo got taken, and all voted to walk two days in one, and clear out rather than sitting in sodden tents for no good reason, waiting for the next day. Dinner that night in the Derwent Bridge Pub was a very happy affair. Celebration was in order, and the huge open fire was maybe even better than the hot, non-dehydrated food.