Monday, January 31, 2011

Mt Ossa from The Paddocks

Despite BBPAC17 being an extremely active camp, I spent most of it in an office directing traffic which was roaming by the bus load far and wide over this wonderful island.  Consequently, I got to the end of camp feeling emotionally and spiritually drained but physically I felt ready to tackle a mountain marathon.
Pine Hut Plain

Mt Ossa was my chosen goal.  I would do it as a two day walk and camp somewhere high.  For added challeng I decided to tackle it from the Lees Paddocks track making the round trip 42kms with about 1200m of climbing.
Lewis Falls

I started walking at lunch time on Monday, crossing the Mersey River suspension bridge, passing through Pine Hut Plain then taking the obligatory detours to Lewis and Oxley Falls.  On the drive in, the damage from the floods only a few days earlier was amazing.  Surprisingly, the upper Mersey catchment appeared to have escaped the worst of the rain.  The river was in strong flow but not that far above it's normal summer levels.
Oxley Falls

As I arrived at The Paddocks and passed Lees Hut, rain set in making the lush fern growth annoyingly damp as I climbed the poorly defined track to Reedy Lake.  Once I climbed above the rain forest the ferns were replaced by equally annoying wet scratchy scrub.  The silver lining to this cloud was the stunningly beautiful fields of scoparia in full flower.
Dean Bluff and Mersey River from The Paddocks

At Lake Ayr, the Arm River Track felt like a super highway.  By 4pm I quietly scooted past Pelion Hut without pausing.  Overland Track walkers would mostly be inside socialising and discussing just how painful the climb in and out of Frog Flats had been.

 Richea Scoparia at Pelion Gap

A bit later, I arrived at Pelion Gap.  The rain had gone but it was replaced by a howling wind with gusts strong enough to make it almost impossible to stand.  At one point I was caught off guard and had no choice but to accept an ignominious dumping onto the boardwalk.
Pelion East from my camp site

I looked at my phone and remembered the promise I made to my family that I would ensure that I stayed high enough to get phone signal.  Unfortunately, Mt Pelion East was just robbing me of a line-of-sight connection with Mt Claude so I shouldered the pack and headed up Mt Doris.  A buzz in my pocket confirmed I could meet my committment as I climbed onto a shelf on the north-eastern side of this diminutive peak.

Packing and gearing up under the tent fly before braving the pre-dawn elements

Earlier in the day I had visions of camping on the summit.  It was only 6pm with plenty of daylight at my disposal but (a) my legs were saying call it a day and (b) I suspect the wind would make a summit camp darn near impossible.  A pretty tarn on the shelf kept me company as I battled to pitch the tent.  Just when I thought I had the fly in place, a huge gust caught it causing the elastic to fling my pegs away in all directions.  after 20 minutes of peg hunting I changed tack and managed to get the tent erect and extremely well anchored.
The highest rock in Tassie 

It was an uneasy night's sleep with all the emotion of camp still running around in my head.  At 3:30am it was clear I couldn't sleep any more so I fixed breakky, packed up the tent and returned to the track by torchlight.  Sunrise on top of Tassie was my new goal!

Sunrise self portrait on top of Tasmania at the summit of Mt Ossa

As my tiny pool of light made its way around Doris' southern flank I was delighted by how much the sunrise was starting to have an impact even at 4:30am.  By 5:00am I was on the main boulder field below the climbing gulley and it was light enough to proceed without the headlamp.

Summit pool on Ossa plateau

At 6:00am I stood atop the summit obelisk looking at the subtle glow from a sunrise which was happening somewhere beyond the cloud which was settled all around me.  Thankfully the howling gales of the evening had given way to a more forgiving breeze.  Without anyone to share the experience with I did not linger long, returning to my pack at 7:30am.
The sun bursting through with Doris, Pelion East and Dean Bluff lining up to mark my route home

From 8:30am I passed a steady stream of Overland Track walkers as they departed Pelion Hut.  By the time I arrived at 9:00am there was only one solitary camper who was yet to get underway.  After crossing Douglas Creek I looked back over my shoulder with a certain degree of satisfaction that Ossa's head was still enveloped in cloud.  However it was lifting so I also smiled to myself that other walkers climbing at a more sensible hour were almost certain to have a good view for their summit moments.
Richea scoparia in flower on Mt Doris shelf

Growing eagerness to return home to family made me ignore the early warning signs of blisters as I powered past Lake Ayr and Reedy Lake.  The damage was done by the time I pounded down the steep slopes toward the Mersey River below.  Soon after 12:30 I bundled myself into the car and back out to my waiting family.

1 comment:

Marty Felber said...

do you have the phone number to contact going through Lees Paddocks?