Stepped Hills 2015 ii Nov

Stepped Hills 2015 Nov.

The first hurdle between us and our quest: Mt Wright from down below
I looked ahead at the mossy rock on another rock, and could, for the moment, see no other higher ground. Could this be? Dare I hope? I called to Mark directly behind me (It was my turn to lead):
“Mark, I don’t want to make assumptions, but …”
“I’m making the same assumptions, Louise, but I don’t want to name them, just in case.”
“We’re running out of higher ground possibilities.”

The mossy rock posing as a cairn seemed almost an anticlimax. But there was nothing else on the mountain higher than we were at that moment. This was it. We’d reached another summit.

A tranquil patch of the Gordon River

Excitedly, we gave each other a congratulations hug and together ceremoniously touched the rock. It had felt like hard work, involving a double climb as the most popular route to reach Stepped Hills is by summiting Mt Wright along the way and then losing most of your precious height before embarking on the mount of your quest, and also because we’d only just done a massive effort to summit West Portal a few days before. I had only two days at home in between the two – just enough time to get the mud out of my gear for the next venture. A general lack of water possibly also contributed to the perceived effort: there was no running water in between the Gordon River and the stream that flowed at the base of Stepped – these two separated by four hours fifteen minutes walking with packs, and about eight hundred metres’ climbing and dropping; the day was hot and we were sweating quite a bit.

That mossy rectangular rock there is the best this mountain can do for a summit cairn.

Crossing the Gordon River at the start of the day had been quite tricky: the fallen tree that provides a bridge thanks to one of nature’s more generous accidental acts was wet and covered in moss from the winter moisture (it had rained during the night). It was extremely slippery, and we could see marks where someone had tumbled into the fairly deep river below. Scared by this, I rode it like a horse rather than doing my usual careful walk across. It was a long, fat horse, but I managed. Mark crawled.

The view from the summit in the other direction, looking over Stepped part Two and beyond to Reeds Peak, Bonds Crag and more. The Spires lie over there: a goal for the near future.
The steep climb with mountain in your face over Wright had gone well, apart from surprise and disappointment that the creek normally flowing at this time of year was dry already. We had full waterbottles, but had hoped to have a good drink there so as not to dip into supplies. The “creek” was just an erosion scar now.

The trip down the other side was, as I remembered it from before, perilous due to the array of moving boulders. These rounded rocks do not stack neatly, and were a mobile kitchen-set under our feet: microwave-, refrigerator- and dishwasher-sized rocks (with a few toasters thrown in) all moved underfoot as we placed weight on them.

Mark with his foot on the summit

Down and along we went, stopping about half way between the two mountains near a tarn to pitch our tents and have some lunch before we continued. One can drink from the tarn, but Mark had his heart set on running water that lay about a half an hour away, and as I was not good friends with the resident tiger snake that prowls the long grass surrounding the tarn, that suited me well. We had enough water for lunch.

My wonderful room with a view: in this case, of Reeds Peak and Bonds Crag.
Stepped Hills seemed scrubbier than my memory had it, fondly harbouring as I did the idea of a short-grassed uphill stroll. In reality the “grass” was dense, thigh-high tufts of button grass, accompanied by visiting patches of squat melaleucas. Rocky runs gave faster movement. It was steep and kept on going, but was not as steep as Wright. I was just tired from all I have been doing lately. It was not really Stepped Hills’ fault.

We reached the top by early afternoon and, having nothing better to do with our day than sit outside our tents, we elected to sit on the summit instead, so had a very enjoyable hour up there surveying our momentary and hard-one kingdom, eating snacks and drinking the heavenly water that comes from the stream down the bottom. It was lovely to relax up there.

Mark on the summit of Wright, with ten fingers raised to symbolise the ten Abels left to climb for a full collection of 158.

Day Two’s special moment was scheduled to be (and, indeed, was) lunch at the Possum Shed to celebrate, but before we could do that, we needed to climb back up over Mt Wright, touch its summit cairn, go back through its fascinating arch and negotiate the Gordon River (walking this time; the log had dried). I was near Oatlands on the return drive when the predicted afternoon showers materialised. As usual when this happens, I felt smug for missing a dunking.

Wright’s summit rock and its view to the north.
Track data: We walked 23.33 kms and climbed 1700 ms (this is “only” the absolute climb from peak to peak and does not include all the incidental ups and downs along the way. My gps doesn’t measure them, unfortunately). This yields 40 kilometre equivalents – and it felt like it.

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