Southern Ranges. (Second attempt at Pindars Peak) Nov 2013
I have had one of the best weekends that it is possible for me to imagine. Oh, you ask, did you climb a great mountain? No, we tried and failed – our goal had been Pindars Peak with La Perouse and The Hippo thrown in, but we did none of these. Did you have beautiful sunshine? No, we were caught in a blizzard with furious winds plus driving hail and snow. Did you do lots of exciting things? No, for much of the middle day we were hiding in our tents listening to the rage of the weather outside. Was it a nice, easy going, a relaxing walk? No, we climbed a great height and trudged a very long distance and fought strong headwinds and slopped through several kilometres of squelching mud bogs with packs that were heavy with multiple changes of clothing in case of cold, and three days’ worth of food and fuel inside. Our gear got a bit wet and our hands were sometimes aching and numb with the cold. Sleep was tricky with thunder booming overhead and the wind semi-lifting the tent off the ground in some of the major gusts. The ice missiles could sting quite a bit when they landed a bull’s eye, too. I skipped a meal or two as my stove wouldn’t work with such wind raging around. No, it wasn’t a weekend on which one felt pampered. (My hands were also cut, bleeding and a little infected as I had neglected to wear scrub gloves on the first day, and had also failed to bring Betadine with me). So what on earth made it so great?
The entire three days were worth it (if not for other factors like the friendship and camaraderie of others who enjoy experiencing the full fury of nature’s elements) for the single defining moment when we climbed up on to the ridge near Hill Four and looked out to the south. There was the silhouetted Hippo and the Coxcomb with a dusting of snow. Behind them brooding clouds swirled and a shaft of sunlight spotlighted a section of the ocean behind. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and I felt totally privileged to live in a place where such sights are possible, to have the fitness to be there in that position, and to be a member of a club that sleeps in places like this (LWC) and has leaders like Phil who coordinated our trip – for you don’t do something like that solo, and you don’t even do it zu zweit. With winds gusting at possibly ninety kms/hr and snow / hail driving us, we climbed Hills Four and Three etc. I had dropped behind for photography and looked up at the white slopes above with my friends with colourful packs moiling in the purling clouds higher up and felt terribly content to be part of this group engaging with nature in this way. My friends were tiny specks on the horizon above me, a symbol of humans’ place in the grander scheme of nature.
Skirting around Hill One, the track goes very near a cliff edge, which, on this occasion, was covered in slippery ice. Every time the wind gusted it blew me a few metres to the side. I bent my knees to lower my centre of gravity and leant away from the edge as I walked, hoping not to be catapulted into the abyss below. The wind was coming from the SW and the cliffs were to the north. I was pleased when that section was finished.
So, we climbed to the high point on hill two, the actual summit of the Moonlight Ridge (1 point) and we went out to the end of Tabletop (no points), so it was not a big point gathering weekend, but my mind will hold for ever the image of those snowy slopes, those agitating dark clouds, the shaft of sunlight over the grey and silver ocean, and the shapely silhouettes of the Hippo and Coxcomb for ever, and I will never forget the wonder of lying in my tent listening to the thunderstorm raging directly above, or of standing in the protected valley where the wind was only 65 kms / hr and little polystyrene balls of frozen water pelted us with small crashing sounds as we battened down the hatches to go off for a pleasure walk on day two. It was a grand weekend.
Love this moody Hippo
The walk in had taken nearly six hours with packs to get in, plus a one hour extension to Tabletop, and the walk out was also nearly six hours plus stops for food and photography (so the packs were on for quite a bit more than the times stated). It was tiring. I had adored it, but was glad when the job was complete and I could shed my overly heavy pack and throw off my sodden gaiters, overpants and boots. I did a dance and jumped around with glee and got accused of eating red Gummibären (but I always grab the orange).