Macs Mountain, Walled Mountain and more
Mt Eros from Lake Elysia, dawn.
It might surprise many readers to hear that I gave up bushwalking on Saturday evening. The problem wasn’t that I’d been wet for two days – I’m used enough to that. And it wasn’t that I hate my little tent that gives me the freedom to sleep wherever I want in the wilderness, or that I was bored in its confines with my husband, cooped in there from 3pm after we’d given up ploughing through wet scrub in the rain. I’d brought a great book that he read aloud so we could share it (Max Frisch’s Blaubart / Bluebeard). No; I was frustrated by my own ineptitude that had landed us so often that day in cul de sacs of impenetrable scrub. I decided I was a lousy bushwoman, and incompetent leader – a race horse that should now be sent to the knackers. Time to drop out.
Mt Geryon and the Acropolis, dawn. (Labyrinth)
I took up bushwalking again at 5.30 next morning. My husband woke me and told me to hurry outside. I grumpily looked out of the flap, still too sleepy to be easily impressed. That quickly changed. The air was crisply, wonderfully clear. The tarn that poses as a lake (Elysia) beside our tent was a perfect mirror reflecting Geryon and the Acropolis to our north, each of which was a dark silhouette in a sky that was only just beginning to lighten. A soft layer of mist wove around the surface of the water. Who cares about one’s own ineptitude when greeted with a sight like that? We watched in wonder as the sky lightened to roseate hues, changing position every now and then to climb little hillocks or go out on a rocky lead that took us into the lake a bit so we could see around the corner to Walled Mountain which began to turn red as the sun gained in intensity.
We were hoping to meet friends and climb Macs Mountain with them this day, but it was so lovely where we were we were disinclined to move; we had no idea where our friends might be, given that their plans had also probably changed due to the previous day’s rain; and our tent was so sopping that packing it up before the sun had had time to dry it out a bit had no appeal. We lingered longer. I was also not looking forward to the scrub I had had to negotiate to get us where we were. Eventually we set out, and I made speedy, almost scrubless progress straight to our destination, covering in 11 minutes what it had taken us 26 minutes to do the day before. At last I could navigate again.
My husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, was in fine form. We made it with fully loaded packs from Lake Ophion to the summit of Walled Mountain in under an hour, and there on the top were our friends, who had spent the night at Lake Eurynome. At a tarn just a bit below the summit, we looked up and saw them arriving at the top and taking the obligatory summit group photo. We had not even held them up. Hoorah. We pitched our tents by a tarn near the summit (their tents were still sopping as they had set out before the sun had had a chance to dry them, so we all pitched before we left) and we were all ready soon enough to tackle Macs Mountain to the west, in blissful ignorance of what lay ahead.
Mt Eros and the Du Cane Range
On the map, Macs looks a lovely little scamper – dash over the smooth, contourless plateau behind the cliffs of Walled, over a tiny hump, through a bit of a saddle, and up the side of Macs. Fun. Ha, ha. The plateau section was as expected. The “bit of a hump” was a ridge line of dolerite lego pieces turned on their sides with spaces between that would kill if you missed when jumping from one to another. I was happy on such rocks, but knew my husband would be hesitant. I didn’t dare to even look, but he was fine, so I was greatly relieved.
Then we came to a drop that was so sheer you couldn’t see beyond the plunge. I thought my husband had reached his turn-around point, but no, down he went, very early in the queue so that if he sent rocks flying, there would be minimal damage done below him. I chose the bushes to the side of the chute, and had fun on a steep slippery slide to the base.
Gentianella diemensis plantaginea
And at that point, the hard stuff began. I gave up trying to time what we were doing (I normally time everything), as we spent so long staring at painful walls of nasty stabbing scoparia or blockages of melaleuca that demanded a password we were not in possession of that I decided we weren’t going to make our destination. Time was running out. We needed light to safely negotiate the rocky ramparts on the Walled ridge line, and time was hurrying on – but we weren’t. We had set out at around midday, and had enjoyed lunch on the way, but everyone was now getting low on water – the day had been so hot we had been drinking regularly and plentifully from our finite sources – and the general pace was slowing in response to fatigue and thirst. The scoparia was not abating. The wall of scree that actually represented Macs Mountain looked at the same time both daunting and still tantalisingly far away. Would we ever make it in time?
Minotaur, Gould, Olympus, Byron and more en route to Macs.
Things improved. We found a lead of pineapple grass that helped the pace, and eventually arrived at the wall of medium-sized boulders that formed the face of our mountain. They looked as if they’d all tumble down at the first response to a footfall. You couldn’t see the top, so I wondered if the pile of rubble in fact lead to an impassable cliff just out of eyesight. Pessimist. Others started up. No rocks fell. They disappeared into the blue yonder. Time to give chase. What a super fun climb! On all fours I scaled up the height in no time. This was the easiest part of the whole day, and highly enjoyable. I revel in climbs like that. And there was the summit cairn at last. Unbelievably we had made it. And perhaps more unbelievably, so had my husband, whose doctors had told him many years ago to stick to even surfaces, flat and with handrails. HA.
Hyperion from Walled ridge
The return route was much better, as we followed pineapple grass and a gully (that even had some drinking water in it) down to the left of the saddle between Macs and Walled. We chose the largest boulder chute to climb back up and that climb (rejected on the way down) was quick and painless. The bulwark ridge line protecting Walled from invaders provided no protection from our bunch, and as the mountains turned to soft blue silhouettes in the fading light we reached our tents in sufficient time to quickly cook dinner and eat it whilst watching the effects of sunset on the vista around.
Dawn from the summit of Walled (to Geryon)
Dawn over Lake St Clair (Gould)
Dawn looking towards Hyperion
Dawn looking towards Macs
The next day we had a busy agenda. After witnessing (and photographing the dawn, we had to pack, get down our mountain, and cover the distance to the afternoon ferry before it left without us. Some of us wanted to climb the Parthenon as well (which we did), and others wanted to play chasings with their runaway tent across the mountainside, which was a fun sport and source of much mirth.
The pace was hot to reach our destination, and the waters of Lake St Clair deliciously cool in contrast. Unfortunately, the afternoon ferry arrives after the Hungry Wombat kitchen has closed, and before the Derwent Pub is prepared to give you food. Starving for a burger with the lot, I drove home trying not to fall asleep.