Mayson 2016 Jul

Mt Mayson. Freycinet National Park. July 2016.

Angela stops for lunch after we have been to the summit of Mt Mayson.
What a messy, untidy mountain is Mt Mayson! Such a huge and daunting amount of giant-sized rubble with scrubby bush in between. I felt like a mouse in an elephant’s maze – assuming that such mice feel not only small and overwhelmed by the size of the blockades, but also frustrated. The scrub was only a little bit of a nuisance as the far bigger problems – posed by our inability to see what lay on the other side of the humungous boulders – kept us quite fully occupied.

After the summit we rewarded ourselves with lunch at this view of Wineglass
Progress was stunningly slow and my plait a total mess. Why do I mention my hair? Have I become very girly all of a sudden? No. It’s just that I’ve discovered that the state of disintegration of my plait after a walk is a very good indication of how horrid the scrub was. I emerged looking like a Very Wild Woman. As I was also wearing hideous orienteering pants that the Swiss team thought funny about twenty years ago (they are white with cow patterns on them. I keep wearing them in awful scrub to try to rip them so I can throw them out, but they will NOT be destroyed), I looked decidedly odd. It’s surprising that Angela was not too embarrassed to be seen with me in public. She is very tolerant. A man asked me about my outfit in Zeps in Campbeltown, and I told him I had been terrorising all the cows between there and Freycinet. He believed me and only wanted to know why. Fortunately my panini was ready at this stage, so I didn’t have to be creative and furnish him with a daft reason.
Looking towards Mt Amos – nice mountain with a track. What a difference a track makes!
As the crow flies, it is only about 500 ms between an internal saddle on Mayson and the summit. We had gone really well to this saddle, but it was this final 500 that was so slow it made the waddle of a fully pregnant pig look speedy. We took over an hour to cover that horizontal distance. At that stage you only have 160 ms left of vertical progress, so the steepness of the terrain is not to be blamed. The pattern of movement went something like: sigh, here’s another wall of rock in our nose. We suss out left and right and take a vote. Sometimes there’s a chute, so we also vote on whether to go up it or around. The danger, of course, is that you can haul yourself up, grabbing tiny bushes to save you from bone-breaking falls, yank yourself further up with a mighty heave, only to discover it’s a dead end. You can also go left or right and find yourself faced with a twenty metre drop to a rocky death below as a different kind of dead end.
In addition, there was the problem of runaway summits.
“Angela, this is it”, I call excitedly, eying up the shape of the land and the extreme height of the rock pile in front of me.
I crest the rise. Dashed. “Na. Forget it. There’s a higher bit over there.”

On we .. well, I was going to write “trudge”, but you can’t even trudge in territory like that. This made scampering up 2,000 ms of height gain in Europe seem such a wonderfully easy thing to do. You just put one foot in front of the other, dream and sing a bit and you’re there. Not so in this stuff!

 Behind where Angela is standing, near that precariously balanced rounded boulder on a boulder, we really could see the summit, so dumped our packs to make things easier. We decided, without yet seeing the summit view, that this spot was where we would return to to have our well-earned lunch. It was overlooking Wineglass Bay at just the aspect we fancied for a luncheon view. Sitting there munching, we decided that we were really quite over this mountain.

The way back down was way quicker, not just because it was down, but you can actually see far more going down, and also, of course, you can remember this and that chute, so you feel far more heartened, as you know it will work. I found all the trial and error to be psychologically exhausting. I would need a very huge bribe to tempt me to go back.

I can’t resist adding this to the blog, as Angela and I both got such a huge laugh out of it. Here is Stu Bowling sitting on top of the summit rock that no one else climbs. Stu and Martin Doran carted that ladder through all that jumble of boulders and heavy scrub for hours, so that they could touch the actual tippy top while the rest of us are content to touch some part of the stone that connects to the top. Thanks for sharing Stu :-), and for giving us a good laugh.

Freycinet NP 2016

Freycinet National Park – a winter visit. June 2016

What a terrible dilemma – created, I guess, by the fact that Tassie (Tasmania) is a mountainous island, with more beauty to offer than most places can dream about (which is why we choose to live here). It was a long weekend, and I had to choose between going to the mountains, where some early snow was scheduled to fall, making the already mesmeric landscape a stunning white, or going to the sea, where the weather would be milder, and the rolling tides and swells would make interesting patterns as the water surged. I consulted my dog, who said to stay at home, but that was not a popular vote.

I love mountains more than sea, but perhaps the snow would be set within dark grey conditions, with no views to the distance. My husband said he’d come too (a great sacrifice on his part, as he’d earmarked this time for getting his reports written), and the idea of camping near to the sound of the ocean won the day.
To please the ‘no-voting’ dog, we stayed at home until lunchtime, taking her for a good long run before setting out, aiming to eat at Campbelltown to break the journey – well, that was the excuse. The food there greatly pleases us, which was the real reason. Here we ran into the first of many friends: Jess (from Pandani Bushwalking Club) was going to paddle to Shouten island with another mutual friend. Nice idea until you took note of the fact that it began to snow shortly after we finished lunch – just wet, sleety sort of snow, but you could see it falling and see the icy blotches it made on the windscreen. Our hands had been frozen just crossing the street.
Now, some people call me an adventurer, so this blog is no doubt going to greatly destroy my image. What great adventurous thing did I do this afternoon? I photographed sunset from a nice perch on a headland, and selected our camping spot for the night. I also nearly lost a few fingers taking long exposure shots in sub-zero air. Then we went to the pub, intending to set up camp in the dark, later.

We sat at our little table for two, innocently eating our meals, and in came two friends from Hobart Walking Club, who chatted to us while we ate. Then two from the Northwest Walking Club came in; more chatting. Then my friend and fellow expeditioner, Pete, from Hobart Club spotted us, so came to say “Hi’, followed by two more friends that I knew from the Eldons expedition. Next there was Sally, an old workmate of Bruce’s, and a lady from my Pilates class. The list goes on, and includes my climbing partner and “sister-in-crime”, Angela. We had a merry night, and didn’t leave until quite late. That’s fine. That’s what head torches were made for, isn’t it?

We had a glorious night, cosy within tent fabric with puffy down to keep us snug, sleeping away to the sound of waves crashing on the rocks slightly below. I sat on my perch watching stars for a while before turning in. Photographing sunrise next morning was a thrill that was so riveting it took my attention right away from the cold that theoretically must have been there. It certainly was when the excitement died down.
Hauling himself up
I was delighted when my husband announced that he’d like to climb my mountain with me rather than sitting in a warm spot getting some work done. (You see, you can cheat in Tasmania, and vote for the sea, but take in a mountain anyway). When someone who has Parkinson’s disease announces that he/she wants to give something a go, you encourage, not deter (well, when that person is your husband, anyway). I knew it would probably mean that we wouldn’t make the summit, but the summit will be there for me some other day. This was a day for climbing with Bruce. We rolled around the rocks for a while, with me getting quite anxious about the difficulty of what he was undertaking, especially when I led him across a ledge with an overhang and nothing to hold on to. Shortly after that he said he’d had as much as he could take of this level of difficulty (and there was no easier way coming from this starting spot), so we turned around.
Bruce, trying the recommended rocky approach, having a breather from mental as well as physical exhaustion.
I sussed out a different attack further down, one that I’d been eyeing up for a while, and it was an excellent lead (we followed it up until just short of the Mayson-Mayson saddle), but Bruce was exhausted by this stage, so we turned around once more, and continued down to the beach at Wineglass and turned the day into a pleasant normal-person walk. On the way back, we bumped into two instructors from the gym where we work out, so I had a chat, sending Bruce on ahead. Whilst giving chase, just before the track down forks in two, I saw a girl I thought I recognised, but, hey, she lives in Sweden, and visited us just two years ago, so it couldn’t be her. She stared at me with the same look – I mean, what are the odds of bumping into a foreign friend there in the middle of a national park? We rushed to hug each other when we realised that, despite the laws of probability, the other really was the person we thought it was. Ironically, the last time I had tried to climb Mayson had been with her, and meanwhile, she was on her way to repeat the experience we had introduced her to, namely, sleeping on Mt Graham. They always say that Tassie is small, but it felt very small, and very, very homely this weekend.


Freycinet, Mt, and Mt Graham 2014 Nov

Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham Nov 2014

Sunrise, Friendly Beaches
The day for climbing My Freycinet and Mt Graham had a remarkably lazy feel to it right from the start. Sunrise was magnificent, and we were in no hurry to leave the beautiful beach that we’d camped beside. It’s pretty hard not to want to linger longer by pure white sand, aquamarine water and pink sky.

Having climbed Mt Dove (and Mt Amos) the previous day, the four of us were still in a jubilant mood, and looking forward to today’s mountains, even though they offered no particular climbing challenges. Having changed our plans of where to sleep (see yesterday’s posting), we were running about 28 hours late, but that didn’t matter on a day with only two easy mountains on the programme and all day in which to complete them.

Wineglass Beach

Off we set at last for the Wineglass Bay saddle. Wineglass never palls. A google search tells me that it is consistently rated as one of the top ten beaches of the world – which means that the judges have unexpectedly good taste. It is magic. For the second time in two days, the girls had to pinch themselves to make sure they hadn’t gone to heaven early. You have to spend time at a beach that wonderful, so we stopped at its entrance to have a swim. (No, not me. Anyone who knows me knows I’m too much of a wuss for that. I always photograph the swimmers and mentally join in that way.) We then lengthened contact with the beach by having a slightly early lunch at the other end. The day was long; our goals still easily achievable.

View from Mt Freycinet.

At last we had reached the business end of the day: stomachs satisfied, swimming urge dissipated, off we climbed through the forest and along the track that was almost white with the eroded quartz grains. Everywhere we looked, coloured flowers drooped over the track, picking up the light as they did so – shining yellow, white, pink and purple and greeting us as we passed, brushing our legs with their perfume.

Molly on Mt Freycinet

Up on the tops we met a group from LWC who had also chosen the single dry location of Tasmania this weekend, and warm hugs and greetings (and introductions to the Swedish girls) were exchanged. They were on their way to the beach below to camp, while our goal was to sleep on the summit of Mt Graham. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll by now know that that is my style. We only took about five more minutes after meeting the others to arrive at our destination, so were setting up our tents quickly and looking out at louring clouds. Hey. BoM said there would be no rain here today. How dare they look so businesslike! For the first time that day, there was a little haste. We did want to summit Freycinet today and not postpone it. There was still enough light.

Me, flying over Mt Freycinet.

It took only eighteen minutes down to the saddle without packs, and then twenty three up Freycinet along a track that filled us with delight as it weaved through the open forest replete with flowers. Once we were on top, we could relax about encroaching darkness – and the weather. We still had heaps of light left, and the rain was holding off. It was time for general exploration, handstands and jumping poses on the rocks that had enough space for such things.

Sunrise from Mt Graham.

Back at the tents, we were in the process of boiling water for dinner when the hail began. I poured water on the packets of powder to rehydrate them and we all huddled into our two-man tent. It was cosy with four. Hail changed to rain, accompanied by gruff, angry wind, but none of that mattered: we had our safe haven, and ate our rehy-dehy food with relish. The day before we had discovered that we all love singing. There we sat in a tent in the storm and sang for the next three hours: some beautiful, gentle songs with soothing melodies and haunting harmonies; some silly, make-us-all-giggle ones. Some sophisticated, some childish. Some negro spirituals and rounds. On we went, laughing and singing and enjoying ourselves, finishing up with Christmas carols before the girls went out into the night to find their tent and “sleep” (the wind raged so strongly that no one actually got much slumber, but at least we lay down and pretended. It was worth losing sleep just to be there and experience this beautiful mountain and the fury of the elements).

Halfway down

In the morning, we enjoyed sunrise from the summit which was only about two minutes from the tent. The wind had not yet abated, but we weren’t being blown off our feet. A bank of clouds prevented the sun from coming straight out of the ocean, but we loved it anyway, and gazed in wonder that one could camp in a spot such as this. The girls bubbled with enthusiasm.

Salome on Wineglass Beach

We sang nearly the whole way down the mountain, full of joy at the beauty around us, and stopped at the beach for yet more swimming, eating and gymnastics. The last time I did handstands was in the 1980s, when I did them in the surf with my niece, Sarah, gleefully doing stands in shallow water and then being tipped over by the approaching wave. It was time to see if I could still do them. I thought it would be rather embarrassing to end up needing to be helicoptered out because I’d hurt my back doing cartwheels along the beach, but fortunately it didn’t come to that. Both handstands and cartwheels  “worked” (generous assessment), but certainly not with anything like the style of my teenage years!! I used to adore gymnastics. Legs were not straight; body was not directly over my hands – but I had huge fun trying. Salome and Molly were fantastic. It’s actually very hard in the sand, as it sucks your energy instead of giving you spring back. When you admire the photo of Molly below doing a handless cartwheel, just remember that. Normally such things are done on a sprung floor. Her “bounce factor” is brilliant.

Molly doing a handless cartwheel.
We had also scheduled a climbing of Mt Mayson for this day. The instructions were rather obscure, and we tried about four false leads climbing upwards into thick scrub before we found the one that worked. I was dangling my huge full-frame DSLR (I didn’t have a daypack with me) as well as my Galaxy Note which doubles as my gps system. Both were crashing against the rocks a bit and had me worried about their safety, as most steps involved climbing boulders and sliding along ledges. I felt clumsy; I was also very hungry. It was time for me to have real food. I suggested we go back down to the carpark and deposit our big packs, pick up daypacks and climb back up to where we were, now that we knew we were on the right lead. Molly and Salome agreed. (Bruce had already opted out of this climb and gone to the car by himself.) Down we went, up we climbed, yet again. I was inching around an obstacle on a narrow ledge and noted that I felt decidedly woozy. I was very, very low in blood sugar. I think I was also low in salt. I can tell you that after a scallop pie, a lemon-meringue tart, an OJ and a cappuccino I felt fantastic again, but by then it was too late. I have promised to drive the two girls back to finish what we began, but on that day, I needed food more than a summit point. Alas. We’ll be back to Mt Mayson for round two some time very soon.

Hazards Traverse 2014 Mar

Hazards Traverse March 2014
In a former life, when I was an athlete and orienteer, I used to run reps up Mt Amos. I would sit on the summit at the end and gaze at the other Hazard mountains and want to go up them too – obviously not running as I did up Amos, as there was no track, but I wanted to get to know those mountains as well as the one I was on.

Then, one day I heard the magical words “Hazards’ Traverse” and they captured my imagination immediately. Friends talked about doing it, and I was insanely jealous: what a fantastic thing to undertake. At last an opportunity for me to do it too came up, as the name that held so much allure appeared on the HWC programme. I phoned the leader, David, and all was right to go. He talked about ropes and slippery slopes – I know all too well what granite is like in the wet – but that just served to excite me more. Ropes? Fantastic! A real climb. I just couldn’t wait for the appointed day.

Under way at last, climbing Mt Parsons. I was very excited!
It came, along with inclement weather. Knowing how treacherous granite can be in the rain, I was thrilled that we were at least going to give it a go, but was well aware that we may not complete it if things got too hairy. Granite operates like well-polished marble when wet, and not even good boots can prevent you sliding.


Trees are easier to climb than granite

The first mountain (Mt Parson) had a cairned route, which we dispensed with successfully and then began on the challenging part of the untracked slabs between Mts Parson and Baudin (and more). Sometimes we had to use rope; sometimes we had to climb trees in order to bypass the granite. Sometimes we walked through narrow chasms – at other times we needed to climb like a spider, high above the ground with one side of our body pushing against one rocky wall and the other side on the other, using the outward pressure to prevent us dropping down several metres to the bottom.

The rain continued falling and the granite increased its slip factor. Slopes that could be danced up at the beginning suddenly became “rope affairs” which slowed progress down. Then the clouds came in so thickly that we were robbed of all visibility so that our expert leader lost confidence about his necessary sightings to line up the best route.

As we sheltered from the rain under a cave to eat our lunch, David voiced his doubts, and everyone did their maths on time taken, time still needed to complete the task, and it was decided by mutual consent that we should bail out before we began climbing Mt Dove.

As I was an orienteer, I was asked to lead us down through the thick gully full of giant boulders the size of large buildings. I enjoyed the challenge, and found us a pretty doable path that I was pleased with. Everyone seemed happy to be doing a path that was not the “fight” they were expecting, and we reached the road down the bottom in good spirits. It felt very good to sit in the Coles Bay café in dry clothes and enjoy a hot cappuccino before embarking on the drive home. Thanks to David for a fabulous day, and for his expertise on this traverse that made even beginning it possible.

Gussy learns bushwalking 2011

Wineglass Bay: Baby Gus learns bushwalking. His first overnighter.

A photo story …..

Three generations of Fairfaxes on Wineglass Bay Beach at the completion of Gussy’s first overnighter. This was a perfect destination for such an adventure.


Gussy, surrounded by love. He approves of Wineglass Bay