Sometimes we think we need to travel huge distances to have an adventure, but if you’re lucky enough to live in Hobart, you can have an adventure within minutes of home.
Gussy and my adventure – of a snow and ice climb of Wellington / kunanyi – began literally minutes from home as we parked the car at Fern Tree to begin our assault on a very white kunanyi (Mt Wellington).
The news report said snow was down to 200 metres a.s.l., but Fern Tree is more like 450, and as we began, the ferns were green, but were nestled in pockets of white. No foliage carried the little white nests of higher up, but it didn’t take too much climbing before first snow nests and then just a white coating on every leaf and needle, every twig and branch came into play. Shrubs heavy with their burden leant wearily over the path, so we got rather snowy as we proceeded higher. We would bump a branch, and it would unleash its load. The ground was soft and delicate underfoot – real powder.
I would have become rather snowy with or without the bumps of branches, as, well, if you take a ten-year-old boy up a snowy mountain and don’t expect a few snowballs to land on you, you’re not very experienced in the matter of ten-year-old boys. Gussy delighted in building a mass of snowbombs, a veritable chain snowball maker and thrower, and would unleash them either on my back or just in front of me. We laughed together.
He tried to avoid my front, as he knows how much I love the camera perched there. Although its price probably has no real meaning to a primary school child, he knows it is valuable, and the aim of the game is to have fun, not to irritate. Snow fights are especially fun for the maker and thrower of the missiles. Some of his balls were huge, and he would walk carrying them for a while before unleashing them. I’m not sure how he managed. When they were particularly large, he kicked them like a soccer ball and delighted to watch how they scattered. He liked the ones that stayed whole for a while. (Needless to say, progress was not at race pace).
At The Springs we had stopped to put on our yaks (kind of alternative mini crampons) and had met two workmen as we did so. They seemed taken aback by our plans for the day, but once they saw we were well equiped, they relaxed entirely.
About two hours from the car, we were very near the top, where I knew it would be windy and cold, so I spread my survival sports blanket and we had a quick picnic in the snow before emerging into the blast. It seemed rather perverse to be sitting in the snow eating salad rolls, looking out through the swirling mist on a dark grey city 1200 ms far below, the other side of white pencils of ice, but, there it was. The water hurt my insides it was so cold. Gussy just drank snow the whole time, pulling off crystal swords and sucking them; he claimed it was warmer that way.
The break and food gave him strength, and within maybe fifteen minutes he was climbing the last of the icy rocks leading to the summit. Thanks to the yaks, it was not too treacherous.
We then did a bit of “snow bashing”. I thought it would be fun to show him a secret hut I know about up there, even if that would involve sinking in quite a bit of fresh snow. We had fun, but did arrive at our destination with very wet hands and slightly wet legs. That called for a quick bite in the protection from the wind before we retraced our steps back up to the summit.
Before we left the tops, I had my wish and we saw three wallabies (singly, not grouped) mooching around in the snow. The smallest one looked freezing. Perhaps it was a bit too young to be out of the pouch. It seemed very skinny.
Back at the car, I looked up our track data: we had covered 13.62 horizontal kilometres, with 920 ms vertical, which yields 22.82 kilometre equivalents. Gus says that climb is his favourite so far. He has a dozen Abels and a few other mountains in his “collection”, so that says emphatically that it was a great day.