What do you do when you’ve finished climbing all the Abels? Why, you go straight back to revisit your favourites, of course! Don’t you? Well, I did, and do.
I had already begun on this delightful mission, as some favourites were a lot easier to reach than some of the ones I hadn’t yet climbed. This week I continued with favourites, and reclimbed Mt Gould and The Guardians. For at least ten years I have wanted to sleep by the tarn near the summit of The Guardians, and also on Gould Plateau. This would be my third summiting of Gould, and my second of The Guardians. All previous climbs had been far too fast. This time, I wanted to linger up high.
These two mountains are rather close to each other. My bash buddy and I had two full days and nights at our disposal, with a booking on the 9 a.m. ferry on day 3. The way to organise this dream then was to have a very long day 1, a super-cool and relaxed day 2 and a dash for the splash on day 3.
I got to enjoy a beautiful dawn at leeawuleena (Lake St Clair) before day 1 officially began with the ferry ride, so I was already floating with beauty (and had already taken far too many photos) by the 9 a.m. journey to the end of the lake with other excited walkers – all except us from interstate.
The first two splits were nice and quick, and we were at Pine Valley Hut after only 2 hrs 6 mins’ walking.
By the time we climbed to the Parthenon saddle, the day had started to warm up. I was still in my famous pink (now maliciously torn) coat, and overheated terribly, but we were setting a great pace and still had heaps of distance before us, so I didn’t feel like breaking the rhythm by stopping. I like doing climbs without interruption, so I sweated a fury and just put up with the heat. I was glad to breast the final bump to the saddle, throw off my nuisance pack and have a welcome drink. Were we half way yet? I fear not.
The day got hotter, so the going got tougher. We carried a lot of water for the next section over the Minotaur, knowing there would be none until we reached a basin beyond the summit, near the Minotaur-Gould saddle.
As we approached said basin, we saw rather a lot of tents down there in the middle of nowhere. It was a bunch of Victorians, most of whom were recovering from what they described as a horrendous bush bash the previous day around the belly of Gould – a patch I have done twice already, so know what they were talking about. Their voices and faces said more than their words about how they felt about that section of their trip. It can certainly be an unforgiving area, as we would re-experience next day.
Most of them were lying in the sun, relaxing and enjoying the calm while two of them were climbing The Guardians. They were nice people and there was water there, so we tossed off our packs and spent at least half an hour chatting to them. My watch said we now had oodles of time. All need for haste had long-since vanished. We reckoned it would only take another hour or so to reach the summit of The Guardians from there, so forgot the watches and enjoyed the company of fellow walkers with similar interests.
Eventually we bid farewell and set off for the final section. Unfortunately this lasted a bit longer than expected, as my stomach started cramping and I felt very sick. Twice I needed to lie in the grass to alleviate the pain. We have decided the puddle in the Parthenon saddle wasn’t as pure as its clarity suggested. Anyway, I was sure glad to see the tarn, dump my pack, pitch my tent and be horizontal for long enough to soften the cramps. It all eased surprisingly quickly, so we decided to summit while the going was good, play around the cliff tops for a little and then have dinner as the final act of the day.
Of course, it wasn’t my final act, and after eating, I set back out to photograph, but I was glad our order of events had been what it was, as the temperature was already dropping to be near its promised minus one over night, and my hands were freezing; the wind was cold. Later, my tent would flap noisily for most of the night. I was too lazy and warm to go out and tighten the guy ropes until about 2 a.m., when I decided enough was enough, and left my warm and cosy aegis to attend to the noise.
We had no busy agenda for day 2, and I am not sure that I’ve ever had such a slow first half of a day. I observed sunrise mostly from the comfort of my tent (it wasn’t magic) and then had breakfast cooked in the vestibule, looking out my peep holes to see how the day was progressing. It was time to depitch, but my tent was sopping, and so was Andrew’s, so we went for an explore along the cliffs not yet visited to give the tents time to rid themselves of heavy water.
Well. That coped with the problem of what to do with a long day and not too many kilometres to fill it. We didn’t reach the pack dump point on Gould until 11.30. I hate going uphill slowly, so we didn’t loiter on the “straight-up” climb, where I was in my element doing what I call a pussycat climb – all four limbs working like a feline. The trip down was more like a huge slide at the playground. Loved it. Nice and quick!
We still had a huge number of hours to fill in and even less distance to cover, so strung out lunch. It would have made much more sense to continue on to Narcissus, but I had my heart set on sleeping up high. I told Andrew to feel free to go down and I would join him on the morrow, but I really did want to sleep high.
Well; I managed to fill in at least one of those spare hours by landing us in a shocking patch of absolute, unadulterated YUK. All was going just fine. I’d led us around the belly in the bushes very nicely, and then we’d dropped down right on cue to a beautiful mossy gully area. Then along. And then we found two random pink tapes running perpendicular to our line of travel. I checked my map. No, we weren’t to go up or down here, as suggested by the tapes, but we explored both up and down on the off chance. Both led to blockades of scoparia. But, … so did straight ahead. There seemed to be no nice way to go anywhere. And why on earth were there two tapes here in the middle of nowhere, with no beginning and no end? Where was the taper going? It was very confusing.
We to’d and fro’d and up’d and down’d and were irretrievably stuck. I got out the gps where I had tracked the route the last time I had done this. We were on it. Oh. Yuk. We shoved and pushed, we climbed over the top of bushes, grunting and heaving our way to nowhere much. But, if you shove for long enough you kind of get somewhere, so eventually we got to the plateau below.
I was absolutely exhausted in a way I don’t often experience. My hip flexors and glutes were aching even without taking a step. I was absolutely done in, and very glad that my planned bed for the night was only a shortish distance away. Any snail on the planet would have beaten me as I inched my way to the tarn.
Hoorah. There. Andrew didn’t like my tarn, so chose a spot that he felt was more sheltered and more comfortable and a tiny bit nearer to the next goal of the ferry. My spot was chosen for its photographic opportunities. I wandered and shot and had a lovely evening, singing seeing’s I had the freedom to do so.
The next morning involved an early start, as we still had what might possibly take two hours to do (it only took 1 hr 38, but you need to allow for emergencies). I passed Andrew’s tent spot, but he had left earlier (we had agreed to meet at the ferry and not at his spot), so it was a crisp business-like stride-out down the steep slope and along to the ferry. I only stopped for photos once, when a beautiful patch of Aurantiporus pulcherrimus specimens caught my eye. My legs seemed to have completely recovered from the previous day’s scoparia battle. I still have bruises and scratches to remind me that it wasn’t all easy, however.