Lots Wife 2016 Apr

Lots Wife  Apr 2016

Sunrise day 2. Mt Sarah Jane in the background
Weee; an expedition to climb Lots Wife. Happy to have my pack on my back and to be off bushwalking again, I played dodgem in the mud-swamp bogs that surround the Lake Judd area, weaving to avoid the more treacherous, neck-deep holes and swinging like an orangutang at times from one melaleuca sapling to the next in an attempt to avoid death by mud suffocation. Not only do I find this to be an unpreferred way to die, but also I have my precious camera strapped to my chest, so also fear a mere face plant.

Andrew, huddled, admiring the gold

It did not rain, but all three of us were pretty wet by the time we breasted the ridge that forms the springboard for Mt Sarah Jane, so that the 80 km/hr winds that greeted us chilled us to the bone. We had rather been hoping to burst into balmy, warming, drying sunshine. The wind was a rude and unexpected shock.

Down they drop

We had all planned to camp here: the other two to avoid carrying the packs back up the slope the next day, and me because I wanted to sleep close to the magic panorama on all sides that this spot offers. It was a deal, despite the wind, so we searched around for a moderately protected niche. So much for my desire to have an expansive and photogenic vista out the tent window: there was no sunset that night. No views regaled us. Mist encinctured us. Two of us were so cold we elected to go straight to bed without even having any dinner. I was far too cold to cook, and just wanted to be snug in my bag. I was in my bag, but not snug. The wind blasted a fury all night, but died down somewhat by dawn, when the world filled with golden, misty light, and the full moon still pierced a hole in it to the west.

We set out at around 8: late enough for the sun to have cleared the mist, but early enough for us to enjoy the crisp, early light in the mountains. Along we went with vast views to left and right, then down to Spanner Lake, and then up, up, up through glorious rainforest until we reached the ridgeline that leads to Lots Wife. Getting close now.

Approaching Lots Wife – stone, not salt. Might be easier to climb.
I am told that a friend, not at all given to swearing of any kind, when greeted with the sight of Lots Wife that confronts you when you pop out of the forest and onto the ridge, said: “Oh shit”. These words pretty adequately describe my own feelings. I walked along, gazing at this monstrosity, wondering how we were going to find a way up. The face does not have a notice out saying “Welcome stranger”. The fact that that very morning we had met a young guy returning from a failed attempt did not fill my heart with hope. Lucky I was not just here for the summit. I was having a ball and the views were fantastic, and maybe that was all I was going to get out of this trip (plus some sunrise photos already in the bag).

Summit view from Lots Wife
We followed the pad along, further admiring the surrounding cliffs and peaks, but concentrating on our tower, wondering if we’d get to look back at it on the rebound with a successful feeling, or whether we, too, would be defeated by this giant. The pad led to a chute that did not look promising, but we gave it a bit of a go, Andrew leading, before deciding it was too dangerous. Pete remembered a conversation with a club member in which he’d been told to go past the obvious-looking chute and drop down a bit, proceed further and then choose the next chute, a scrubby one. This we did. This chute, too, had its challenges, especially the way I took it, going around a buttress, hanging for dear life by fingertips and toes to the narrowest of ledges (4 cms) with a shocking feeling of space (not looked at, but all too easily felt) below me. Pete, following behind, cleverly spotted a route over the top that was much safer (and used by me, too, on the return).


Another summit view from Lots Wife

It was a superb feeling to burst out of the cavernous chimney onto the giddy heights and see the summit cairn, problem free, just ahead. We sat there for an hour, eating and enjoying the scene before beginning our rather reluctant way down. It was such a privilege to be in the presence of a view like that, and as if victory and the view were not enough, nature gave us a pair of wedgetailed eagles circling quite close to us overhead, riding the thermals, as a bonus.

The close of day from our camp spot
Looking towards Lake Pedder

I felt deeply satisfied as we descended through the lush rainforest, each musing over the joy of a climb like this. I was hungry back at camp, and wanted to enjoy dinner in the light and the open, and to concentrate on photography at sunset, so cooked tea at 4.30 (I have never eaten that early before), enjoying the last of the day’s warmth before I froze my hands off shooting the golden rays of the western sun as it sank behind the mountains surrounding Lake Pedder.

On the way home, we made up for lost calories with burgers and cake (and more) at the fabulous Possum Shed, toasting our success with coffee.

And Alpenglow to the east

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