Mt Nicholas, March 2014
Bruce in action on the climb.
We have just had a marvellous day trying to climb Mt Nicholas – but failing.
One of the things I adore about the peak bagging list is that it entices us to try totally different mountains and explore new areas. My husband and I feel that the list serves as an inspiration or stimulus, rather than a compulsion to collect points (although I do love collecting them, but that is a side benefit and not the purpose). Our motto is: “Das Gehen ist das Ziel” (literally: the going is the purpose) and so, as long as we have had a grand adventure, which indeed was the case today, we have satisfied the purpose of the exercise. Summiting would have been nice, but is not necessary – or even sufficient, for that matter.
Off we set this morning after breakfast, assuring the dogs we’d be home for lunch (ridiculously, they nodded wisely, trusting us to keep our word). Hardly for the first time, we enjoyed the not-as-early-as-it-should-have-been light in the Fingal valley, and just before St Mary’s (about 10 kms before), turned off to the north on the Mt Nicholas Rd, stopping at the first intersection – which happened to have a nice-looking spur from the mountain coming down to meet it. As there was also a fire-trail kind of thing, we decided to follow it for a while, to see where it was leading, even though it was heading more east and on contour. We needed to correct at some time or other and head due north and climb to hit the ridge, but I didn’t see the timing as being crucial, and it was giving us a free lift east while it lasted. The minute it began a slight descent (10 mins), we thanked it for its help and departed northwards, over stony, progressively steepening ground that was fun to climb, sometimes involving all fours to get there. The steepness was something we weren’t quite expecting, even though we were greatly enjoying it. I was already ruing giving my boots a rest this weekend and choosing absurd, soft soled, slippery runners. I had underestimated the demands of this journey rather badly, but then, I had looked for, but failed to find, information, so didn’t feel guilty as such.
This lump is typical of the monsters that guard the ridgeline
The nearer we got to the ridge, the more it appeared crowded out with huge hulks of monsters standing guard over the actual summit. Giant, giant forms lurking, louring over those who dare trespass on the magic mountain. (I read Beowulf yesterday, a story set in 5th century Denmark. My mind is full of mead halls and giants, monsters, dragons and caves with dangers and loot, and something to be overcome or conquered. I am no strong viking giant called Beowulf, but I love that world of valour and honour, so let it baptise my imagination and play itself out a little today).
Fifteen minutes after leaving the track, we found ourselves on the ridge proper, and up ahead we saw the summit. Yes, this was going to be another quickie. Excitedly, I dashed ahead, enchanted once more by the thrill of the climb, and this was a good one. Tiny holds, but enough. Difficulty increased by having the sun directly in my eyes and a very strong, gusty wind blasting me, sometimes dangerously, considering my precarious hold and unsuitable shoes. How was my husband going? I couldn’t see in these conditions and would hunt for him at the top. Ta da. Summit. No, not summit. Not even nearly summit. Where was Bruce? Ah yes, excitedly climbing a different “summit”.
Along the ridge line ahead of us lay a marvellous maze of rock towers, each one humpy bumpy and monstrously high. (Perhaps this area could be touted as Tasmania’s version of the Czech paradise, Adršpašské skály). The summit was on one of them, and was well protected by its friends. It was not a matter of gaining height and then going to the summit. You had to guess from below which one was going to be the tallest before you began your climb. If you were wrong, you landed in a dead end – or, no, better than that, on top of yet another false summit. We tried a few false summits, and several gullies that were going well until they ended in a cul de sac. We really loved doing what we were doing, and did not regret the absence of the actual summit trig. I did regret my shoes, and I sure wouldn’t have minded a bit of rope for security on some of the things I did.
We had been at the top of false summit number 1 and in the rough area of the summit after 30 mins. My watch said we had now been going 1 hr 15, and my gps said we were at the black dot of the summit. The trouble is, we were at the base of a cliff and were 40 meters in height lower than the summit. We tried several gullies, but I was not comfortable with Bruce going up any of them, and I did not want us separated. I could not see any way of doing it today. The only way would be to come back with boots, a bit of rope just in case, and a friend who doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease. We gave it our best shot and failed, but we sure had a fantastic day. On the way back we reclimbed one of the false summits to have a snack and take in the view before plummeting down the gully (luckily all watercourses were dry, even though mossy, or the going would have been even more challenging).
Our view from underneath. One of these MUST be the summit.
We treated ourselves to a burger with the lot by detouring to Zep’s in Campbeltown (I really wanted one of those on Monday after the Western Arthurs, but we went through too late. This was my “make up” burger).
Then again, one of these could be it ….
A screen shot of the gps record of our attempts on the summit. According to this we were there, but, alas, I cannot lie. We were very near yet a little too far. But you can see from the squiggles, we had fun.
What has kept this wonderful mountain off the radar for so long? It’s absolutely brilliant, with or without your summit points. I will be back to conquer it later.
(I did touch the parts of a trig, but it was one some angry giant had hurled to the valley below in his wrath.)