Mt Dove Nov 2014
My hands sting with abrasions; there are several small slits that smart even more; my thighs have little pock marks and I feel pretty shattered – and yet I can say without the slightest touch of irony that I had one of the best weekends ever – climbing Mt Dove (and later, Mts Graham and Freycinet) on Tasmania’s East Coast.
Salome climbs Mt Dove. You can see we have come across a cairn. We kept finding them – a wonderful reassurance that we were choosing the right route. However, DO NOT think that you can follow these. We very rarely saw one cairn from the one behind. They were a happy confirmation of success, not a guidance to it.
I have noted before that it is often the case that when you give, you end up receiving far more than you ever gave. The two Swedish girls I took mountain climbing this weekend think I have done them an enormous favour, and yet I feel as if I am the one who has received.
Last week I accepted into our house two girls who were the friends of the daughter of a friend (Elin is now, of course, friend in her own right – I am just explaining the connection) that I made orienteering in Sweden in 1986. A friendship that began with a random act of hospitality on Marie’s part has continued to this day as a wonderful extended family attachment. On the weekend, I agreed to take the girls into the mountains. Plans A and B both had to be abandoned due to the weather, leaving only one dry place in the whole of Tasmania: the Freycinet Peninsula. Off we headed. I had that “here we go again” feeling; the girls were excited.
One of the things we learn when we become parents is to see the world afresh through eyes encountering its wonder for the first time, and that is what we experienced on the weekend through the eyes of Molly and Salome. Whereas we, utterly spoiled by beauty, were far too blasé about the marvels of Freycinet, Molly and Salome believed they had landed in heaven, and shared their joy and excitement in noise and action. We loved it.
The first item on our agenda was Mt Dove, the rather inhospitable next-door neighbour to the more-climbed Mt Amos. However, as we parked, the sky looked ominous. We wanted to climb something, so opted for the much easier Amos, knowing we would get wet. Dove is not a mountain you climb in the rain. Its granite, nicely abrasive when dry, is as slippery as polished marble when wet. We just took the barest essentials, as Amos is a very quick climb, and off we set. My husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, said that seeing’s we were only climbing Amos, he would come too. He had no intention of attempting Dove, which is a much more difficult mountain, with huge slabs of exposed, dangerously sloping granite cliffs, and no path up it. You have to find your own way in the maze of bush and rocks, losing sight of the wider context of your climb as you get buried in the minutiae of the needs of the next few metres.
Amos was, as usual, wonderful, but just as we were appreciating it, and deciding that Dove would definitely have to wait until Monday, a hail squall came, and we needed to shelter under some boulders. Ice bombardment finished, it was time to descend, but the girls and I were curious about the route we would take when the weather cleared.
“Let’s just suss out the early part,” we agreed. Off the summit we slid in the direction of the Dove-Amos saddle. It was fun, and my husband was coping. We stood there and looked longingly in the direction of the next summit.
“Let’s do it,” said Salome.
“Yeah, let’s” we all agreed – Bruce too (the trust of this man that I will manage to keep him alive in the direst of circumstances is remarkable). Off we set.
A look at our route reveals the sad fact that we hit a dead end early on, but only one, and after that it was pretty smooth sailing – challenges were there in plenty, of course, but all overcome with little difficulty. About half way up, we had a manoeuvre that we all agreed was beyond Bruce’s hampered capabilities, so we “parked” him at a spot with a nice view, marked his whereabouts on my gps, and continued as a trio. Up the granite, through a corridor of scrub, up the granite …. we repeated this pattern, gaining height admirably. Oh the excitement when we saw the trig just a few metres away around the corner of a boulder. All three of us were overjoyed. I had given up on this mountain for this day, and here we were. We jumped around and photographed and uttered all the superlatives that one mutters when faced with supreme beauty. Molly, amongst other things, said: “Amazing”, and Salome and I did the first thing that came into our heads at the mention of that word, and began, to our mutual amazement, to sing “Amazing Grace”. Next thing, all three of us were singing all four verses of this beautiful song in harmony as we descended, retracing our steps. We sang the rest of the way down. At last, I have found other people who love to sing while they walk.
Back at the saddle, we tossed up whether to climb back up to the summit of Amos and descend on the track, or to find our own way down near, but not in, the gully. We voted for the descent option, and set out, sidling around cliffs and tugging at roots and branches as we made our way both along and down. Time marched by. The sun started to get an ominous golden tint and the shadows got long. We appeared to be in a cul-de-sac, in which any direction that was vaguely forward was too hazardous for my husband to attempt, especially as he was now getting tired. No. We’d have to go back and do what we should have done all along, and head back for the summit of Amos, hoping to intercept the track near the top. These rocky bluffs offered too impenetrable a fortress.
Backwards, upwards we pushed with the day drawing to a close. I began to suss out overhangs for overnight possibilities should it become necessary. However, at last with a whoop I called the others: I could see a bit of blue tag. We had mounted the spur we needed and the track now lay slightly below us. Hoorah. What a fabulous team effort it had been. We would be sleeping in our tents tonight after all. I have not yet mentioned that the wind was ferocious – so much so that I had no idea whether any of my photos would turn out, as I had trouble stabilising the camera. As we descended, we were grateful to at last have dropped out of its reach, although we could see it whipping up waves on the normally tranquil water below.
We had been planning on sleeping at the end of Wineglass Bay, but had now run out of time. The gale was a westerly, so I drove us to the Friendly Beaches where we set up our tents on the sheltered eastern shores, happy and complete after our successful ascent(s).