Camp Hill 2022

“Camp Hill! Why on earth have you saved THAT until last? “, N asked.
“Well, why on earth would you do something like Camp Hill unless you absolutely had to,” was my response.
But when you are only one Abel short of a complete set, and that one is, you guessed, Camp Hill, then you have to do it if you want to complete, and I did, so that was that. Funnily, nobody much seemed to want to come too. Excuses were many and varied. In desperation, I resolved to go it alone. My bashbuddy, Andrew, perhaps fearing for my life as well as my sanity, agreed to come too, trying very hard to rationalise his stupidity to himself: “It will come in handy for later.” Good one Andrew.

Collingwood River, where it all begins

Even more mysterious was the message from a friend, Rita, whom I had met in the wilderness, who said at the last minute that she was free to come as well. Did she know exactly what she was letting herself in for? Oh well; she does now. She loves adventures, and this was to be a double one. I did say – was it to one or both? – that if they had any ancestors who had been knights in yesteryear, then they should raid the relevant museum for the armour, just for the trip. It was not going to be a place to wear clothes they valued.

Rita crosses the Collingwood River

So, there we were at the startline: the magnificent Collingwood River, which is crossed before the big climb begins. The light was magic; the water, a honeyed colour, quietly wending its way over a wonderful collection of coloured boulders beneath.

Rocky Hill evening

That was to be our very last water for a very long time, so we carried plenty – enough to last for a long, hot, uphill haul with nothing available before we would scout around for something to enable dinner to take place. The skies were cloudless and already you could feel the heat. Much of our day would be out in the open, which makes for thirsty work. Well, here we were. What would be, would be. I was going to get to this summit even if I had to crawl there. Famous last words: I did (have to crawl, and snake, and waddle like a sick duck).

Rocky Hill sunset

The early forest was really beautiful , and we didn’t take it for granted. Before it was time for our second break, we had already left its shady greenness, exchanging it for scrubby melaleucas and then for buttongrass expanses.
We were gaily walking along, chatting away in the middle of very remote wilderness, and I hear a voice saying: “That must be Louise Fairfax.” It was Nick “weetbix” from the bushwalking forum, who knew from other friends that I wanted Camp Hill. There is no actual pad where we all were, and he was following a line below ours, but, hearing us, he came up to say “Hello”. It was a fun chance encounter. On our return, we labelled this bump “Weetbix Hill”. He was on his way out, and confirmed what we already knew: viz., that there was hardly any water out there.

Rocky Hill summit; sunset.

On we pressed. Soon enough, we were on a different high point, which I have always called Rocky South, from which both our goals were now visible – “both” being Rocky Hill, and our ultimate goal, Camp Hill. (Why is an Abel over 1100 metres high, with a drop of 150 ms all around given the insulting sobriquet “hill”??) We would spend the night on Rocky, and attack Camp next day.

Rocky Hill summit; sunset.

We enjoyed the summit of Rocky, pitched our tents just beneath it, and then needed to solve the water problem. Off we set with carrying equipment and all our water storage capabilities. I had a 6 litre bladder which would do me. We dropped off the mountain on a pretty direct route, being guided by a friend’s one from the past. Hm. It was @#$%* awful. We voted to not return by that line, and dismissed him as a creditable source of information. But first, we needed to locate water from the low area we were now in. The initial few creeks were now ex-creeks, so the search continued. We wanted water, not mud. Lots of water. All we found were puddles, but I tasted the drop in the deepest (still far too shallow), and it was sweet, so we filled up. Weetbix later told me that he was entertained with visions of us searching hundreds of yabby holes in endless succession up the top for kilometres, in a vain search for water.

Ozothamnus rodwayi Rocky Hill

Anyway, we now had some, and began to climb the mountain again, much heavier. The first part was easy and lovely, but then the pad ended abruptly. Hating the descent further east, we opted to try a somewhat more direct route up. Rita reckons this was the hardest part of the whole trip. Ultimately, we had to climb a cliff via the interwoven branches of a nothofagus gunnii (common name – Tanglefoot – for a reason) , and using that height, haul ourselves up by tree roots to breast the rise over the cliff that blocked us. We laughed about our adventure as we walked the final bit back to our tents. Now we had enough water to last at least 20 hours.

Rocky Hill campsite. Frenchman also visible

Sunset that night was wonderful. Rita and I sat together on the summit, taking in the loveliness of the first orange and then more pastel fading light. Only when there was basically no light left did we reluctantly lose a tiny bit of height to go to bed.
Day 2. We knew this would be another hot day, and we also knew it would probably be a waterless one, so we left armed with what we would need to fund the day. For every step that was easy, I gave thanks, for I knew it would not, could not, last. The ease left kind of gradually, with the scrub getting thicker in small degrees as we progressed.

Rocky Hill. Morning light

Down we dropped off Rocky (very easy) and up the next nameless lump (not too bad), then, hm, down to a saddle of ill repute, with the scrub getting more vigorous in its lack of welcome with every step. The saddle was described by the book as “bushy”. Nothing else had been, so I feared the worst. Also, a friend had recounted horror stories, so when we veered every so lightly off the line of ridges and into a pandani forest, we were all very happy, and voted to stay there and go below the saddle. We loved it. This pandani forest was our favourite part of the route, and we all considered it well worth the extra distance and climb. Even in those desiccated conditions, you could still imagine the moss to be fresh and lush; the cliffs to drip soothing water. The pandani had marvellous shapes and we were cool and happy there.
More bush fighting took place, and at last we were staring at our summit, which was so very close, just “up there”, and I thought we were maybe twenty minutes away, max. Ha ha. I also thought we’d done the worst. Another ha ha. After a quick drink, we set out for the final push.

The tents below as we set out for Camp Hill

Forget the word “easy”. We were met with a total blockade of bush too high to go over, too dense to go around. Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, eat your hearts out. This bush knows how to repel invaders. Now, here we encountered a little problem: Rita and Louise are small. We found we could crawl like wombats, slither like snakes and waddle like demented ducks and with enough weaving, pushing and grunting, a way through could be achieved, as long as you didn’t mind forest getting in all your underclothes, filling your socks and tangling your hair. Andrew, being taller, did not quite have these options, so he chose a different route, and we met at the end of assorted tunnels. Andrew and Rita tore their pants. I ripped my famous pink jacket. My shoes lost some stitching. Our arms were scratched and pin-cushioned and mine now have purple bruises all over them. BUT, we got there.

Pandani forest under the saddle between a lump and Camp. We loved it there

That was it. I have now climbed all the Abels. I still don’t quite believe it. That was something other people did, not people the likes of little old me. We touched together, and then sat for absolute ages beside what would normally be a tarn, but was now a sort of lizard-skin pattern of dried, cracked ex-mud. We turned our backs to it and to the sun, and gazed out at the view to the west, snacking and drinking. Our day had no other big plans; there was no rush to be anywhere. We just sat and enjoyed.

Rita enjoying a late dinner in her tent. Rocky South

Back at camp later, we had a second lunch – for me, a feast of soup and some dip with biscuits, and a rest in stinking hot, march-fly attacking environs. My tent was unbearable but the flies were too bad if I remained outside. Luckily,  Rita invited me to rest in her amazing tent that opens right up whilst having the netting remain closed to fly visitors. A breeze caressed my skin. It was beautiful.
The other two, being more normal drinkers than I am, did not have enough water left for us to stay here the night, so after resting, we packed up our tents, descended the mountain, collected water from a different puddle down below – enough water to last until the end of the trip (which is rather a lot), and then climbed Rocky South (1111 ms asl) to camp up there.

Torn clothes. Repair Knob

And from there, the rest was, as they say, downhill. Well, not quite. We had to undulate over Vague Hill, Weetbix Hill, Repair Knob and Pigeon House Hill before dropping back to the Collingwood River, mission complete. All of us will have to throw out most of the clothes we wore for this trip. My Kämpéla orienteering pants, however, stood firm. I have been wearing these same pants in orienteering competitions and bushwalks since the 1990s. Hoorah for Scandinavian fabric. I will keep wearing my torn pink jacket, however, as nobody might recognise me if I throw it away, and that would be sad. Old friends are good friends.

Pyramid Mountain 2017 May

Pyramid Mountain 14-16 May 2017.
(For Day one of this three-day hike, see

Summit day for climbing Pyramid Mountain dawned. A light fog surrounded us; the grass, of course, was icy, as were our tents. The sun was a kind of dispersed yellow glow to the east. Mountains like High Dome, Pyramid and Goulds Sugarloaf were beautiful silhouettes as we ate breakfast and prepared ourselves for our adventure. How would things play out? Could we do this in a day at this time of year?

We set a turnaround time of 12.30, given the now early time of sunset, which didn’t give us much room for hold-ups or errors should we land in highly-resistant scrub. Off we set, both curious and hopeful.

We were at “hill 1173” within 45 minutes; passing Mediation Hill in another 45; and topping the next hill after leaving the main Eldon Range route (Hill 1129) in a further 25 minutes. Things were going well so far. Pyramid looked pretty close by now, and we’d not quite been going two hours. And then the rot set in. After this hill that was a bit of a bulldog in lamb’s clothing, came a route that went first SE and then swung along a ridge that looked fine from a distance, but was like a duplicitous politician at close quarters: deceitful, barbing, and best avoided. Trouble is, we needed to traverse it all the way along its mean and nasty length until it started climbing to the next hill that was so uninspiring it didn’t even have a name or a height number. At least we didn’t need to go all the way to the top of this one, as there was a saving patch of rainforest if you contoured around to the next saddle, the (whew) last saddle before the bitch of a climb up Pyramid.

“I thought you liked climbing, Louise!” you say. Yes, you’re right. I love it, but not when the climb is in thick, dense, impenetrable, energy-sapping, defeating scrub, where you work and work and then look at a your map and realise you haven’t even covered a hundred horizontal metres and you can’t see the mountain, and you can’t even see a way of going forwards. You try left and right and retreat a bit, telling yourself retreat is often the best way to advance … but when you retreat all the way back to the start triangle it isn’t (well, bit of hyperbole there). After what seemed ages, we came to a spot where we could glimpse something. Ahead lay a gulch. Beyond that, cliffs and more bushy climb. We decided we needed to drop down and get on the spur above the cliffs. Somehow that went quite well (face-in-the-dirt steep), which is good as I was becoming increasingly despondent, fearing we’d come all this way to be locked out of the summit at the last minute. Once we were above those cliffs, we could see paths of erosion ahead that would lead us the rest of the small distance to the top without any hindrance other than good old gravity, and who cares about it? Not I. Well, not normally. I was feeling tired and hungry by this stage. One hour after leaving the saddle (a distressingly small distance below us), we were standing on the summit. I didn’t stand for long. It was 11.30 and I wanted lunch. NOW.

The return was faster, much faster. From above, a better line was easier to find, and what took us an hour up, only took thirty-three minutes down (and not just because down is faster than up). The ridge didn’t seem quite so inhospitable now we were in a buoyant mood, and we had a much better route from it to the summit of hill 1129. It was so great to curve around the summit of Mediation Hill and know that our bushbashing for the day was over. We just had to follow the ridge back to our waiting tents. There was no way we would not be there before dark. We even had time to have a drink or two and photograph the dramatic cliffs below our camp. Drinking was unpleasant, as the water was so cold it hurt.

It was a freezing night. Temperature-wise, it was by no means the coldest night I’ve had in a tent (it was probably about minus four; I’ve experienced minus ten and worse), and yet I swear this night holds my personal record for condensation. My sleeping bag became saturated, and ineffectual along with it. Everything got wet. I suspect it might have been because my utterly drenched socks (wrung out, but there was still a large amount of water left in) were inside the tent, along with my somewhat damp coat and long pants. These things were inside, as they might have turned to ice if left in the vestibule. I feared my boots would freeze, but only the laces did.

In the morning, the ice layer on the tent was a thick and heavy sheet that I had to prise off using my tent peg, it being the only implement I could think of that could do the job. Normally my ice is in cute white crystals. I took ages to pack up in the morning, probably because I was dreading the moment when I would have to put those frozen socks back on, and the pants and coat that were still damp from the moist bushes the previous day. There was no point in putting dry socks in sodden boots, and carrying wet, heavy ones in the pack. It had to be done, but was not a pleasure.

We stopped at “Stu-slept-here” Hill (1111) for a drink, but, as with other days, drinking hurt. By the time we reached the glorious rainforest section of Pigeon House Hill, we knew we would easily make it to the car in the light – it was not yet mid-afternoon, so we relaxed and started to examine and photograph darling fungi on the way along that section. They were there in their hundreds, so many delicate beauties.

I made sure the camera and phone were well sealed before the final river crossing. At least if I landed in the drink so close to the car I’d be freezing, but would not hurt my electronic gear or get hypothermia. The world was good. We’d done it.

crepidotus sp

Mycena clarkeana I think

Please don’t be fooled by the dark lines there into thinking they denote a track: they’re depicting National Park boundaries. The boundaries, and our route, follow the ridgeline. Please also note that I refer to Hill 1173″. It is that height on the 1:25,000 map that we used for the greater detail. Oddly, the 1:100,000 map, used here for greater clarity, it is marked as 1120. I guess more modern methods have resulted in a height revision. Not sure.