Monday, September 28, 2015

Messing About On The Ocean In A Tiny Boat: Cape Hauy

Fortescue Bay is beautiful; a crescent moon of white sand backed by a stately eucalpytus forest, a tiny haven on the east side of the Tasman Peninsula where a kayak can land or a fishing boat seek shelter from the wild Tasman Sea which pounds against the dolerite cliffs and towers off the outer coast. We had come to paddle east to Cape Hauy to see the Totem Pole, Mitre Rock and The Lanterns. This coastline is some of the most spectacular in Australia, paddling out into the rolling swell and swirling currents always feels like an adventure. 

 Sheltered and beautiful, Fortescue Bay

Now that spring is creeping over Tasmania, the sun rises early and Doug and I were paddling east from the beach at Fortescue Bay soon after 8 am. It is only four kilometres to Cape Hauy and I was surprised at how soon the really scenic paddling starts. The first kilometre follows a low rocky shoreline, but, at the first headland to the east, the cliffs begin growing taller, our boats began to roll up and down on the swell, the great kelp forests began to spread across the ocean surface, and, on a small sloping rock ledge under dolerite cliffs we came upon our first cluster of resting fur seals. One seal put his (?her) head up and barked a few times, but, overall, they were undisturbed by our presence and lay back down to rest. 

 Doug paddling east towards Cape Hauy

A series of spectacular small islands and isolated rock towers lie off the east end of Cape Hauy, separated by very narrow channels of water where currents and swells collide. Perhaps the most spectacular, at least the most photographed, is the 112 metre high Totem Pole that rises out of a narrow chasm like a giant phallus. This is an amazing place to be in a kayak and we paddled as close in as the swell allowed while another group of fur seals watched from a nearby rock platform. The water is dark, deep, clear, and under the cliffs, appears jet black and forbidding. Right off the tip of Cape Hauy is another rock tower, strangely unnamed, but also stunningly beautiful. The waters around Cape Hauy were rough with two different swells running and a moderate current running down the coast. 

Inky dark sea, striking Totem Pole

From Cape Hauy we paddled northwest for three kilometres in a gently rolling swell to Dolomieu Point and followed the 100 metre cliffs north past the small rocky islet off Thumbs Point towards O'Hara Bluff. A strong ebb current was running along the coast line and the water was bumpy with rebound from the swell and clapotis from the current, so this section was slower paddling. O'Hara Point marks the most southerly point we had reached paddling south from Pirates Bay and we were happy to have now paddled the eastern shore of the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulars from Cape Surville to Cape Hauy. 

 Doug rising on a gentle swell at Cape Hauy

Turning back, we caught the current south and paddled around Dolomieu Point into rocky Bivouac Bay. There is a small campsite tucked into the trees, good for hikers, but not so good for sea kayakers as there is no sandy beach to land on, just a rocky shoreline. We had lunch, and then continued following the northern shoreline of Fortescue Bay all the way to Canoe Bay doing what kayakers do, which is, of course, paddling as close to the cliffs as you dare, but with one eye watchful for a bigger wave which might lead to a capsize. 

Doug edging the rocky shore line

In Canoe Bay, an old steamer was sunk in 1953 to provide a breakwater for fishing boats and it has now become a haven for birds and marine life. We paddled around the wreck before continuing towards the beach. As we neared the beach, we saw a huge splash off the rocks just north of the boat ramp which turned out to be a humpback whale breaching. Of course, we rapidly changed course and paddled out into the bay and were treated to a half dozen spectacular breachings, a lot of fin waving - humpbacks have massive fins - and then some gentle swimming. Doug and I are always amazed at the diversity of life you see while sea kayaking - whales, turtles, sunfish, albatross, tiger sharks, dolphins, seals, penguins, massive schools of fish, rays, and more. There really is no better way to experience the diversity of the ocean than in a sea kayak. 

Wreck in Canoe Bay

Finally, as the humpback whale swam lazily off towards Cape Hauy, we turned our kayaks to shore and landed gently on the sand of Fortescue Bay. Just another day you never want to end messing about on the ocean in a tiny boat. 

 Another day wasted messing about on the ocean in a tiny boat

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kedumba Circuit Social Media Style

We've all been there, looking for a house or apartment and getting trundled around by an ill-educated realtor listening to realtor speak and automatically translating "easily maintained garden" to concreted yard front and back, or "close to transportation" as has a multi-lane freeway five metres from the front of the house and a six lane railway the same distance from the back, or, my favorite "deferred maintenance" also known as the house is falling down around your ears. 

But, do you know how to decode social media speech? In other words, do you understand that "totally epic partner, knows how to tough it out" means cries like a baby every time her hair gets messed up, or "incredibly remote area which few have visited" means ten minutes from the parking lot at a big tourist lookout, or even "this dude is legit., never gives up" means sprays about what a badass climber he/she is but snivels on a well bolted 5.4 (grade 10 for you Aussies). If you are confused about social media speak and are wondering if that badass in the hammock overlooking Peyto Lake (ten minutes from the parking lot, big tourist lookout) would really make a good partner for a winter ascent of the east ridge of Mount Temple read on and I will translate social media speak for you in this trip report of a walk around Kedumba Circuit in the Blue Mountains. 

 So Stoked to have THIS. guy as my partner for the expedition

SM Speak: I spent weeks planning this epic expedition which would involve a steep descent into a remote valley, followed by an heinously steep climb back up a narrow ridge, over two rocky mountains requiring advanced scrambling skills to summit, a harrowing descent into a fast running and wild river valley where we hoped to camp for the night. On our second day we would cross multiple creeks and rivers, navigate through dense bush, hike up and over steep ridges, and, hopefully, finding a faint track which would enable us to climb back out of this deep wilderness landscape back to civilization. We would be off the grid for two days, would have to carry all our food and gear for two days out in the wilderness, and, could only hope that we would find sufficient fresh water along the way to survive the searing heat of an Australian summer. 

Translation: I glanced at the map and did a quick calculation of the distance, ignored the elevation gain, about 34 to 36 km, I'm old, but not dead yet, I should be able to walk that easily in two days. This would be a doddle, my grandmother (dead going on fourty years) could rise out of her grave, do this walk and still be back at the local cafe in time for a custard tart for afternoon tea. 

 Remote, wild, untamed, authentic

SM Speak: My partner for this expedition was legit. A total badass who knows how to suffer, how to push through pain and rise to next level, how to move out of his comfort zone and embrace the edge of human potential. I felt blessed to travel through such an awe inspiring landscape with this authentic dude. 

Translation: I'd beat Doug over the head if he refused to come with me, and, he knows that if he starts to whine about anything, I'll beat him a bit harder. Truth is, I'm pretty desperate and will go with anyone who has a pulse - I've even thought about using a corpse as a belay slave but they get a bit smelly after a while and their hands seem to slip off the rope. Doug has survived 30 years of outdoor adventuring so I'm pretty sure he'll make it through one more trip. However, you never know. If this is the trip that does him in, I'm pretty sure I can find somewhere out in the woods to stash the body until some feral dogs strip the flesh off his bones and scatter the remains. 

Psyched to Push. The. Limits.

SM Speak:  Early the first morning we started our epic descent down into the deep valley below. Conditions were tough but we managed to push beyond our comfort zones and we finally made it down deep into the remote valley where few people had ventured before.

Translation: We wandered off about 10 am. The track was easy and well marked. At the bottom of the descent, we had to push past hordes of tourists who had got off the cable car and were clogging the track. 

 Like water, run free and clean

SM Speak:  Our route took us through deep rainforest full of poisonous snakes and spiders. We were alert to every danger but managed to walk all the way to the base of our first steep ascent up and over Ruined Castle before we stopped to hydrate and fuel ourselves for the heinous and nerve wracking climb of this rugged mountain. Far overhead we could hear a helicopter searching for some lost walkers who had disappeared into this unforgiving wilderness. 

Translation: Nice walk through pleasant rainforest. A couple of snakes slithered out of the way as we approached. Apparently, another couple of bogans had managed to get lost, a common occurrence close to a major city. We had some water and a couple of cold snags (sausages) before we walked up Ruined Castle. 

Be strong, like the mountain

SM Speak:  We opted to take the challenging route up and over Ruined Castle and down the other side to Cedar Gap. We love to push ourselves outside our comfort zones and challenge ourselves to live more fully. Desperate climbing up a steep ridge led us to the base of Ruined Castle where a jumble of cliffs and boulders required intense route finding skills to find the way to the summit. Had we slipped, we would likely have died as the exposure was intense. On top, Doug told me that the "secret to life is not waiting for the day we will learn to fly, it's jumping off cliffs and making our wings on the way down." "Truth" I said and, was so inspired and motivated, I leapt off, and, because I believed anything was possible, I landed gently as a feather at the base of the Ruined Castle. 

Translation: Only a couple of lazy lard-arses would not hike the extra 100 metres up and over Ruined Castle. It took about 20 seconds to find an easy scramble route to the top where we had another couple of cold snags and some water.  I tripped on the way down and landed flat on my face.

Push your limits, you'll never regret it.

SM Speak:  The next stage of the route required an epic climb up Korrowall Knife Edge where we would finally be getting close to Mount Solitary. On either side of us, the ridge fell away over 700 metres down into deep and remote valleys. Footing was treacherous and we had to proceed carefully pulling on deep reserves of inner strength cultivated during long and intense expeditions that we had mounted in the past. I was inspired by the courage and tenacity which Doug displayed as he continued upwards, not letting the heady exposure phase him but continuing to push out and showing me the true edges of human endurance. 

Translation: The track gains 400 or 500 metres over the next couple of kilometres and is just a beaten in foot pad that is a bit steep and loose in parts requiring occasional use of the hands. If you fell off, you'd stop pretty soon but, you might get a big banged up, but what kind of dolt would fall of such easy terrain? Doug whined on the way up but I just ignored him and, within an hour or so it was all over and we were up on the long ridge of Mount Solitary. 

Experience the wind, the rain, the storm, it will make you stronger

SM Speak:  Mount Solitary is a long and remote mountain lined by steep, rugged and dangerous cliffs on all sides. The track is completely overgrown and we had to use all our considerable navigation and route-finding skills to find our way through this desperate and unforgiving landscape. There is only one way off Mount Solitary and we knew we had to find it or face a long night with no water to drink in this far flung area of the mountains where few people travel. We pushed on, long beyond the point of fatigue, reaching the edge of human endurance, but, we knew, deep inside, we would be stronger in the end by facing our fears and pushing forward beyond our comfort zones. 

Translation: The track along Mount Solitary is a typical Australian track, never built in any formal way, just walked in by the few walkers that venture more than ten minutes from the parking lot. Travel was tediously slow, but, only an idiot could get lost as the northern side of Mount Solitary makes an unmistakable hand rail. If you really needed to, you could bushwack off the south end of Mount Solitary, but, finding the track through the cliffs at the eastern end of Mount Solitary is truthfully as easy as tying your shoe laces if you have even a modicum of navigational skill.

 Know silence, know yourself

SM Speak:  Finally, we reached the eastern side of Mount Solitary and found the steep and dangerous route down to Solitary Pass. We had to descend over 700 metres down into the wild and remote Kedumba River valley over a distance of only two or three kilometres. The day had been long, tiring and involved incredible hardship. Only by pulling together and supporting one another had we been able to continue on. Would we make it down to the Kedumba River and find a campsite and fresh water before night fell? We did not know, but, we would die trying. 

Translation: We stumbled blindly onto the track leading off the eastern escarpment and staggered down the steep and slippery track cursing the entire way. Our old knees were complaining loudly by the time we got to a semi-flat spot where we finally felt we weren't going to slide all the way down. We were both tired, hungry, hot and thirsty and, if either of us had voiced a single word of complaint, the other would have ripped their heart out like a hungry wolf. F**k these crappy Australian tracks. 

 The rocks, the caves, the cliffs, my spiritual home

SM Speak:  Deep in the Kedumba River valley we came upon the clear waters of this remote and wild river running over rocks and through ancient gum trees that have been standing in this spiritual location for aeons long before white man came to this land. This far flung area is seldom visited by people and we felt a deep and spiritual peace as we contemplated the beauty of nature from our gorgeous campsite by the river. 

Translation: We finally staggered into camp just before dark feeling thoroughly buggared. There were no flat tent sites and we had to scrape out a tussocky camp in the near dark. An effluent treatment plant empties into Jamison Creek, a tributary of the Kedumba River, upstream of where we were camped so we had to treat all the water before we drank it. Our camp felt like a dark, God-forsaken hole where the sun rarely shines but we were happy to have our packs off and rest for the night. 

 Climb as high as you can

SM Speak:  Next morning our epic journey continued, we had to walk uphill on a faint track hoping to intersect a fire trail which would follow the course of the Kedumba River northwards, crossing multiple tributary streams and traversing the length of Sublime Point Ridge. The steady uphill climbs were challenging and the deep swift streams difficult to ford, but, we persevered, relishing the experience of being out in the wild, off the grid, with no contact with the outside world. Our spirits were soaring and we felt at one with the grand beauty of the entire universe. 

Translation: I think we had some bad water the night before as we were both hallucinating a bit as we strolled along the track, quickly meeting the fire track. We had some crazy vision that we were explorers, pushing the limits of human endurance and discovering great inner depths of grit and determination in each other, but, I'm pretty sure we were actually just having a pleasant walk along an easy track with nice views. Every so often, we took our shoes off and waded across a slowly flowing stream which really felt nice on our hot feet. 

Grow straight, grow strong, be a tree

SM Speak:  At Dardenelles Pass we had to use all our considerable navigational skills to find a rough track which led to the steep and unremitting climb out of this wild, wonderful and remote valley. In the past, people have missed the faint junction and have been lost for days in this harsh and unforgiving environment. As we climbed the final steep and challenging series of almost 1,000 steps that would lead us back to the "real" world, we reflected on our life-changing experience. We had entered this vast wilderness as children and were leaving as adults. Our lives would be forever altered by the profound and moving experiences we had while off the grid. 

Translation: A new sign saying "This Way Out" has been mounted at the trail junction that leads up to the Golden Staircase. Apparently, the bogans were missing the junction and wandering about in the bush for hours necessitating more expensive search and rescue operations. The Golden Staircase was clogged with heavy tourists brandishing iphones mounted on selfie sticks who walk down and take the cable car back up.  It was all thoroughly disheartening.  The only thing that made coming back to civilization tolerable was thinking about how we could spray and gramme about our "expedition" and convince a bunch of simpering sycophants to "like" our images and tell us how badass we were.

 Breathe, believe, then jump

So there you have it, a thorough and honest translation of social media speak. Now, the next time you read some trite platitude about how you can grow wings and fly, be anything you want, take the world by storm, or, only know how far you can go by going too far, posted by some beautiful blonde lying in a hammock in the middle of the day, you'll know they aren't really a legit badass, just another ordinary human being who thinks they are a special little snowflake who wastes 5.5 hours per week taking a series of selfies and seeking approval from a bunch of people they don't personally know and probably wouldn't like if they did.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Betsey By Boat: South Arm, Iron Pot and Betsey Island By Kayak

Somehow a month has slipped by since we have been kayaking. Or perhaps I should say blew by as one of the reasons we have not been out in the boats has been the strong and steady winds. Not that anything really changed yesterday, the swell was still forecast to be high, the winds strong, and the seas building, but, it would be sunny and we had a sheltered paddle planned from South Arm, at the mouth of the River Derwent, out into Storm Bay and around Betsey Island. Storm Bay is exposed to true southerly swells, but, if there is any westerly component to the swell, the waters remain relatively sheltered. 

Calm water at Cape Direction,

Apart from launching at Hope Beach, which has a dumping swell, the closest easy launch is at South Arm where there is a small jetty, boat ramp and sandy beach nestled in suburbia. We had some side-ways chop from a west wind as we paddled south down the River Derwent (more like the ocean here) to Johns Point and around to Fort Beach. Fort Direction, on the hillside above, is some kind of military restricted area and is all wired off with big fences. 

Iron Pot

Passing Cape Deliverance and Pot Bay, we entered into Storm Bay and could see Iron Pot, a small islet with a prominent light station ahead. Islands are a magnet to kayakers, so we paddled out and sat for a while as raucous sea birds cried over head. We paddled around Iron Pot looking for seals, but today there were none, only large streams of kelp stretching across the ocean. Doug suggested we paddle straight across to Betsey Island, a distance of about five kilometres rather than hugging the shore and this took about 50 minutes with a slight headwind and getting blown downwind a bit. 

 Sheltered cove at the south end of Betsey Island,

Betsey Island is a nature reserve and an important for breeding site for Little Penguins, Shearwaters, and Cormorants. Today, the island seemed to be the domain of the Pacific Gull, and, I assume it is now breeding season for these large noisy gulls as they were in pairs all around the coast of the island. It's a distance of about 7.5 kilometres around Betsey Island. The north end has a pebbly beach which you could land on in a pinch, but otherwise the island is steep sided and comprised of short cliffs and steep bluffs, small bays, and little passages. At the far south end, we paddled into a very sheltered little bay over clear green water. Three hundred metres to the south is Little Betsey Island, again, no seals but hordes of gulls and cormorants and worth paddling around. There are some small sea caves on the west side of the island, but most are low roofed, and the one higher roofed cave had too much surge for us to poke our kayaks into. 

Wondering if I am game to venture in
PC, D.B.

By the time we were back at the north end of the island, we had been paddling four hours and were keen to get out of the boat for a bit. I thought we might be able to find a sheltered landing site on Calvers Beach perhaps getting some protection from Black Jack Rocks, but, when we had paddled over, we found the swell as big on Calvers Beach as it was on Hope Beach. We could have landed, but, it would have been a bit wet, particularly relaunching so we opted to paddle back west along Hope Beach to weave our way through the reefs off Cape Direction into a small sheltered beach, where, after five hours, we fell out of the boats. The final four kilometres back to South Arm was on glassy water overlooked by Mount Wellington. 

 Mount Wellington from the mouth of the River Derwent,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Power Of Consistency

But change must always be balanced with some degree of consistency. Ron D. Burton.

This morning I popped up into crow pose and hung out there for almost a minute and realized all over again that progress requires consistency. I started learning crow pose a couple of months ago and, at that time, I could barely raise one foot off the ground without falling flat on my face. Two feet off the ground, for multiple seconds seemed a life time away. But, every single day, with the exception of a couple of days when I was sick from eating raw Candlenuts (note to my readers, read the fine print, if it says "cook before eating" then cook before eating) I practiced crow pose. And, one day, I was up, both feet off the ground, in a fleeting moment of balance. Gradually, those moments stretched out, and now I feel like I can actually "do" crow pose. 

 Top of Steinfells Dome, City of Rocks, ID

It's a small achievement, but, in some ways, it feels quite landmark, because, I can remember starting out so clearly and thinking "I'll never get this. What's the point?" Practicing, while not physically painful, was mentally painful as each session seemed only to reinforce a feeling of failure, and failure, even in a matter so small and insignificant as a random yoga pose, is so hard on the psyche. 

 Rain Dance, City of Rocks, ID

So I've been trying to take the lesson of consistency on to other things. Like my increasingly tight hamstrings which mean I can't squat "arse to grass" without a butt wink. In addition to all the usual stretching and strengthening exercises that should be part of everyone's life, I've done away with sitting on anything other than the floor (except for meals). I sit with my legs straight out front and it is frighteningly hard. In addition to the fearsome stretch I get along my lower trunk and back of my legs, quite a degree of core strength is required to keep a neutral spine. Progress is slow, but, I'm pretty sure my hamstrings have started to loosen up - at least they aren't getting any tighter. 

Cruel Shoes, City of Rocks, ID

There are any number of other things I am doing consistently - weight training every second day (did you reseal that deadlifts are great for improving body tension for climbing?), and bouldering every other day. Lots of low level activity every day - walking, gardening, paddling, climbing. Avoiding crappy food like substances and eating real nutrient dense food. Foam rolling and mobilizing. Somewhat tedious, repetitious, life maintaining stuff, but, if pursued consistently change - good change - does result. 

 Hesitation Blues, City of Rocks, ID

The final arbiter, of course, is: am I better at life and my chosen sport? If not, something needs to change. Which brings me round circle to something I stopped doing as it was having no real effect, and that is standing at my computer instead of sitting. I tried this for a long time as an antidote to poor squat mobility and it made not one whit of difference. Within a week of sitting on the floor instead of standing, I saw a big improvement in my flexibility, climbing, and general not sucking at life. Consistency is good, but, change might even be better.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Mystery Of Single Hill

Single Hill might only be 200 metres high, but, it does achieve a certain prominence over Seven Mile Beach and certainly looks as if it would offer a fine view from the top. Last time I had walked along Seven Mile Beach I had found a new track that wraps around the headland below Single Hill, and, some research on-line turned up a map which showed a track going right over Single Hill from west to east, and, thus, the idea of a leisurely stroll along the beach followed by a trip up and over Single Hill was formulated. 

Doug and I headed out one warm Monday morning planning a walk of perhaps two or, at the most, three hours. We would park at Day Use Area #2, stroll along the beach, walk around to the west side of Single Hill and saunter over the top and back along the beach. 

The map that started it all

Except, I had dressed in my usual Tasmanian winter kit, despite it being a very spring like - nay summer - 25 Celsius, and, by the time we reached the track at the south end of the beach, after slogging through soft sand due to the high tide, I was feeling wretchedly sweaty and hot. Truthfully, I was also feeling fatigued and plain worn out from a cumulative 4.5 months of heavy gym workouts interspersed with hiking, bouldering, climbing, paddling, and, nary a day off. 

It is, however, a very pleasant track, and, all up, it is only about five kilometres from Day Use Area #2 right around to Axiom Track which heads uphill and northwest through a strip of reserve between houses and eventually joins into all the other Tangara Tracks. Where Axiom Track crosses Kirra Road we were heartened to find a track sign for Single Hill and continued along through the reserve. At the back of the residential lots, a faded arrow marker points the way north but we knew this would only take us a short distance up Single Hill via the south ridge before we would run into private property. At this point, we assumed that Clarence Council had negotiated some kind of right of way with the land-owner allowing pedestrian access to Single Hill via a developed track. 

Seven Mile Beach through trees

So, we carried on along Axiom Track with a small public reserve on our right hand side and private lots on our left. At the apex of the hill, the track descends down the other side to reach Axiom Way (road). I was hot, sweaty, weary, and, losing even the 70 metres of elevation we had gained just seemed too much so, after some deliberation over the map, we decided to walk uphill through the public reserve and across the top of the private lots to intersect the Single Hill track. All I can say is it all looked fine on the map. 

There is a labyrinth of single track mountain bike trails through the public reserve and we followed these until we reached the private land and a series of large and officious looking NO TRESPASSING signs. It all seemed very public for trying to surreptitiously sneak through fences and across to the public track, so we decided to do the right thing and follow the map. So, back down hill along the fence line to Axiom Way. Along the black top to Cahill Place, and a kilometre of walking along Cahill Place between McMansions with slathering and barking dogs trying to bust through fences to rip our throats out to where the track should be, and most definitely was not. Just more NO TRESPASSING signs, and, with all the big windows facing us across bald lots, no chance of slipping by unobserved. 


There was, however, an old and faded sign indicating a development proposal was in the works for the land up on Single Hill and it slowly dawned on us that the track and right of way did not actually exist, at least in the real world. Perhaps in the virtual world people are daily strolling over Single Hill. We, however, were not. 

We trudged back down the road past the slathering beasts, back along Axiom Way to Axiom Track, where, coming from the west, a sign indicated "Single Hill" obliquely to the left. Instead of following Axiom Track back down to the coastline we walked up the hill and topped out on a flat spot of ridge right by another NO TRESPASSING sign, this one also warning that ALL DOGS SHOT, which seemed a little harsh and cruel. Doug peed over the fence for good measure, that being difficult for me, I just peed on a fence post, and we sat down for a well earned thermos of tea. 

 Good fences make good neighbours, or do they

The view was pretty, but I am sure the view from the real top is better, or maybe that's just a "grass is greener" effect. Walking back was much quicker, down the track we had passed over an hour ago, back along the coastline, and finally along Seven Mile Beach where the low tide had left firm sand behind. Along the way, we looked for the eastern end of the Single Hill track and found nothing but a narrow cattle pad, and more NO TRESPASSING signs. 

Back at the house, some diligent research (actually reading the long planning document that accompanied the map) seemed to indicate that the Single Hill track is "low priority" for development and contingent on property development on Single Hill. Finally, Facebook came through as I heard from Tangara Recreational Trails that Single Hill is a "proposed" track slated for development when the subdivision proceeds. The mystery of Single Hill is solved. The hill itself, however, is likely in a much nicer state now than it will be when lined by McMansions with blood thirsty hounds baying for a fresh kill. 

 Not quite Single Hill but not too shabby

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Great Day For It: Collins Bonnet From The Big Bend

I've written before about how great Mount Wellington Park is, lying close to Tasmania's capital city, and with a wonderful, if somewhat overgrown in sections, labyrinth of tracks. It would take quite a few days to walk all the tracks and hike up all the little mountains. For this trip, Doug and I drove up the narrow, winding summit road to the Big Bend and parked a half kilometre on in a large parking area. The track along Thark Ridge leaves from this location and you can make a short loop with another old road to Devils Throne and back, but we were off for Collins Bonnet, a half dozen kilometres to the west and in a cluster of little peaks above Myrtle Forest Creek. 

 Collins Bonnet from Mount Connection

There is actually a great view from the parking lot over the River Derwent, so remember to take a gander before you walk back down the road to the start of the track. Actually, it's a shame there isn't a little bit of bush track to get from the parking lot to the start of the track as it is a narrow, busy road to walk on. Big Bend Track is an old fire-road, wide, a bit loose, but easy walking for a couple of kilometres downhill to a junction with a much older barely recognisable road that is helpfully signed "Collins Bonnet." 

Doug on the heath lands

A half a kilometre along this track another old sign marks a slightly overgrown track off to the right, again signed "Collins Bonnet." This is another nice section of track across some open heathland with distant views to the Hartz Mountains and brightly coloured foliage in the foreground. The track climbs up and goes almost over the top of Mount Connection, and then heads down the west side and at a pond, joins the East West Trail. Another stony section of fire trail follows as you climb up to Collins Bonnet. The final section of track ends with a rising traverse of dolerite talus boulders and then heads due west to the trig station on Collins Bonnet. 

 Collins Cap from Collins Bonnet

Mount Wellington seems to be a windy place, and this day was no exception. Standing by the trig. station was like sticking your head into the jet stream with the wind blowing well over 30 knots. I tried to take some photos of Mount Field and Mount Anne, to the northwest and west respectively, but I could barely steady the camera. We managed to find a little spot by dolerite boulders just below the summit for lunch looking back over towards Mount Wellington, but it would have been nice to sit on the summit. Three young and enthusiastic lads came along and, in true Tasmanian fashion, were wearing shorts and declared it "a great day for it." At the advanced age of 52, I really enjoy seeing younger folks out enjoying the outdoors. 

Cathedral Rock and Mount Montagu from Collins Bonnet

We didn't realise at the time, but you could walk back a slightly different way by staying on the East West Track until it meets the Big Bend Track but it would involve more elevation gain and loss, and more fire trail walking and the track is probably nicer. In any case, we went back the way we had come. 

 Mount Wellington from Collins Cap

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


We are what we repeatedly do.   Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle.

Can it be three months since I promised a grand rant on tangents? I guess I drifted off on a series of tangents, as, looking back at my posts since then, I've posted a series of short trip reports, and random rants about such topics as Instagram and the commercialization of the paleo diet among other things. But then, what should resurrect my interest in tangents but another blog post crossing one my social media feeds which promised "tips to get you confident in climbing and back on trad."

 Scared spitless

Now, I'm one of those terminally nervous lead climbers that seems to constantly battle the fear of falling with resultant death or dismemberment so I clicked on the link and was instantly disappointed. Here is another one of those posts that are big on pictures (large pictures too) and short on information. What information there is, is, once again, largely tangential to the issue at hand. The first and only useful "tip" is to start out leading below your grade - although recommending rope soloing is dubious considering the target audience. Otherwise we are exhorted to hike, trail run, strength train and do yoga - phew, that busy schedule will probably leave most folks not only out of time but out of energy to actually go climbing - and follow a sound nutritional plan (whatever that is). 

 Whew, belay stance

Perhaps, if this is an example of the dominant advice, it is no wonder people spend most of their time tinkering around the margins instead of tackling their goals head on. But, for every useless social media article extolling trail running as a way to train for climbing (for example), there are at least as many articles that offer much more useful advice, like this one, which, basically is just another take on "you are what you do."

Easy ground, feels good

I, however, am both a skeptic and a cynic (also a conspiracy theorist, but that is not relevant here) and think that the real reason people faff about the edges has more to do with their stated goals not actually being congruent with their real goals, than it does about confusion with how to achieve them. In other words, we are prone to fooling ourselves. We think we want to achieve something - losing 25 kg, climbing a big wall, sea kayaking around Australia - it all sounds incredibly badass, legit., or whatever the latest hipster term is, but really, we don't want that at all, or at least not enough to work really hard and suffer deprivation. Fussing about the borders, however, allows us to hold two disparate beliefs (cognitive dissonance) in our minds at the one time. We are working towards our goals, all the while not really wanting to arrive.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cape Pillar: Long Drive, Longer Walk, Totally Worth It

Although it is only the day after we did this walk, I can't say I remember a whole lot about it as, with 30 km of walking and three hours of driving, all to be accomplished in daylight hours, the day passed in a bit of a blur of rapid travel. The Cape Pillar track starts just before the first camping area at Fortescue Bay and sidles around a hill side to cross Agnes Creek on a sturdy bridge. Once across Agnes Creek, the track climbs gradually - I did not notice until our return journey that we had even climbed at all - until it reaches about 200 metres elevation where it passes to the east of Snake Hill and takes a steady southward track across open moorland. 

Fancy new track work leading out to The Blade

As is usual for Tasmanian tracks, it's a wee bit overgrown with scratchy bush, somewhat muddy underfoot, and punctuated by random stretches of duck-board. Conscious that we had 30 km to walk, we motored along as quickly as possible, and, truthfully, for the first couple of hours there is not much to see. 

Looking west from The Blade

Somewhere near Bear Knoll, an industrious slasher had been along and the track was much easier to travel when not getting whacked in the face by bush. After about two hours, we came across a scattering of small campsites situated in tea-tree scrub, and, not long after, a four way junction where the new/upgraded Three Capes track joins in. The westward track to Arthurs Peak is closed for construction as is the old track, undergoing upgrades, over Mount Fortescue, so, there really is only one way to go and that is out to Cape Pillar on the new track. 

 Looking out over Tasman Island

The new track allows fast travel even if it does not feel quite like bushwalking. Large sections are boardwalk and the remainder is wide, well-graded gravel. Although it allows for quick walking, some feeling of being in the bush is lost on such a well constructed path. Just before Lunchtime Creek, we were turfed off the new track back on to the old as the way ahead was barred and access to "unauthorised persons" forbidden. So, on the old rocky, rooty, twisty, overgrown path we descended steeply into Lunchtime Creek and back out again to wander a twisted path through stunted tea-trees until we rejoined the boardwalk again. As you have probably guessed, the section of track that is blocked off is where the huts for walkers are being built. 

 Cape Huay

Back on the new track we could resume our rapid sprint across the heathland of Hurricane Heath where views of the coast arose. After about three hours of walking, we reached the section of track that runs southeast along the impressive dolerite cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula. There are stunning view points all along this section of track and, it would have been nice, to have more time, and less wind, to enjoy them. 

 Spectacular dolerite cliffs

At the base of The Blade, a big fin of dolerite columns, the track splits and new, well built steps lead up to the top of The Blade and a dizzying view across to Tasman Island. We had lunch in a slot among the dolerite columns, a cold and windy, but nonetheless scenic lunch. It was a surprise when four women day walkers/runners arrived, two of whom, we had last met on Mount Anne Circuit. The women, perhaps wisely, headed back from The Blade, while Doug and I tunnelled on a steep wombat track out to the Chasm Lookout where we got much the same view but with considerably more effort. 

 The view from The Blade is certainly eye popping

The return trip was only slightly more leisurely than the walk out, which essentially means that we interrupted the forced march pace of the trip for a thermos of tea at the four-way junction. Really, quite a grand walk, although I am glad to have done it before the opening of the Three Capes Track when 60 people per day will be shuffling along. 

More stunning scenery