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 loop 2014

Freycinet Loop 2014 Jan

The others continue while I loiter to photograph them walking

It seems we must think that Freycinet is the very best place to introduce someone to bushwalking. When our children were 7 and 9, the Freycinet loop was their first overnighter, held as a warm-up to the Overland Track that they did about a week later. (They did other overnighters before this, but they got carried. This was their first self-propelled effort where they carted their own gear). Our grandson, little Gussy, had his first overnighter (in a papoose) here Dec 2011, and now this year, we took Jon (our daughter Yelena’s boyfriend, (Post script – now husband) on his first overnighter. We thought a cute little 33 km hike over a mountain and then a bit extra to get the tents we’d left at the first camping ground would be a nice introduction for him.

Yelena begins the descent from the saddle to Wineglass Bay

No one doubted Jon’s ability to do 33kms ++ in a day: he’s a sporty fella, but he hadn’t carried a big pack before or done the overnight bit, so we were keen that he should enjoy it. He went famously, and – despite deplorable weather – coped well with the distance, the pack, carrying a three-man tent (our only spare), the mist, rain and furious wind, and the fact that views from the tops were non-existent.

The cute duo arrives as evening light illuminates the water’s edge

We set out for Wineglass Bay after dinner on 28th, knowing that it wouldn’t take us long to get there, and we were right. One hour’s walking saw us up and down the saddle and along the beach to the base of the stairs that ascend a sand dune that announces the camping area at the far end of the beach. We had described to Jon sparkling, cerulean waters of “pure gin” as my IG friend Dietmar Kahles puts it. What confronted him on the beach were rough waters, angry waves, a wind that whipped up the sand to bite the legs – most unusual weather for this region. Nonplussed, we pitched the tents and assembled in their large one to play cards for the rest of the evening, hoping for an improvement in the weather next day.

Pre-dawn beauty

At 5 a.m. when I arose to photograph the dawn (rather reluctantly, it has to be admitted), the wind had mostly abated, but thick mist enshrouded the mountains and flirted with the waters. I took some long exposures and returned groggily to the tent to wait for breakfast time. During the night (3.30am to be precise) there had been a bit of noise from my daughter in the tent next door. I had warned Lena and Jon to put all their food inside their tent. They presumed that putting it in secured packs in the vestibule would be enough. At the hour stated above, they heard a wallaby or possum (it didn’t hang around for full identification) having a tardy midnight feast of muesli, chocolate and macadamia nut bar, all intended for later that day. We had laughed when Bruce arrived at the tent for cards clutching his little bag of food for protection, but perhaps he had the last laugh here. Luckily I’d brought enough extra treats to cover for the marsupial greed.

Lena and Jon being far too nice to a possible thief who thinks that looks can exonerate the crime.

By 8.30am we were off up the misty slopes with trees being intermittently revealed as fog chased its tail around them. There were no views. My husband accompanied us for an hour but then quit while he was ahead, leaving three to complete the rest of the walk.

Early stages of the loop

 As we walked along the tops, surrounded by a thick grey, moist envelopment, I described in glowing terms to Jon the mountains and beautiful blue waters he should be seeing. Yelena wanted to show him beautiful Tassie, so was disappointed, but did admit that the mist was atmospheric. The wind was wild enough for us to have that “Wuthering Heights out on the moors” feeling, but not strong enough to be unpleasant. At one stage I informed them they were now on the summit of Mt Graham; at another, that there was a saddle about a minute below us. Visibility was so poor that neither fact was self-evident.

It is tradition to stop at this exact spot each time we do this walk to gaze with wonder at the view, which is, under normal circumstances, fantastic.

However, as we neared Cooks Beach in time for a swim before lunch, the day was absolutely perfect, with the promised and much-spoken-about blue water, liquid jellyfish, was shining as if bad weather had never existed. Lena and Jon swam while I photographed, and yet even while I did so, you will see from the photos that clouds were amassing to the west again. By the time we arrived back at our tents having completed the circuit and then come back on Wineglass to pick up the heavy gear, the wind was whipping the waves up a fury, and sand was stinging our legs. Even so, everyone except yours truly had a swim, and then we depitched tents and did the beach yet again, with a little less enthusiasm and energy than the first time.

The whole way home we were treated to the most fantastic skies – a dirty golden background with steely grey clouds in layers, with silhouetted gum trees in the foreground. However, we were tired, so I didn’t hold everyone up taking more photos. Those are the day’s fish that got away and will just have to live in my memory and not on a screen. They were fabulous.


Moody skies returned at the end of lunch

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.

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