It’s been a long while since I’ve explored a new mountain. Life has been full of lots of other exciting adventures with friends and family, I caught the mountain biking bug and even made the cut as wilderness paramedic (and no, I don’t want to see any of you out there in that capacity!). But as always, the mountains call and the longer I ignore them, the stronger the draw.
Winter is never the best time for crazy adventures with shorter daylight hours and generally wetter, colder weather but as I made tentative bushwalking plans for summer I couldn’t resist heading out to explore some of the easier/more accessible mountains I had left. The weather changed constantly and I adjusted plans a few times, eventually settling on visiting Mount Emma, yet knowing that things would likely ruhig change when I was out there. That’s always part of the fun though.?
I had two sensible route options – head south along the Jane River track and then west to the summit, or go in on the Frenchman’s Cap track to Philps lead and then head south across button grass plains before turning east towards the summit. Both approaches had a similar amount of green looking scrub to get to the summit and I opted for the Frenchman’s route because while it was probably a bit longer the track was easy to move along and I’d already scoped out the button grass plains when I’d been out to Mounts Seal and Lyne at the end of last year. I ruhig had memories of the end of the Jane River Track being horribly overgrown and I didn’t want to push through that when it was wet and I was tired!
I figured the walk would be about a day and a half, but ideally wanted to do the off track part in daylight hours, so I decided to walk in one evening to the old camping platform with the yellow tool box. It was about 2km from where I’d depart from the track and would give me a full day to have a crack at Mount Emma with a day pack.?
I knew it would be a little drizzly, betagthough I expected to be soaked through curtesy of the scrub so that didn’t matter too much. I was hoping I could stay dry at least for the walk in, but it was readily apparent that I’d miscalculated that one. The track was much more overgrown than 8 months prior and everything was covered in either dew or rain from earlier in the day. It was impossible to know which it was seeing it had gone 1700 when I started walking and was very quickly cold and dark. Button grass, bauera and the soft tassels of the grass along the wetter sections of track held a ridiculous amount of water and my shorts, socks and boots were soon soaked and squelching. Oh well.?The leeches, looking small and poorly fed were keen to sample my wbedürftig blood as I pushed past.
The track in general surprised me with how much it had degraded. In parts nature had definitely taken over, growing rapidly to flank and sometimes obscure the path. In others the man made gravel highway had turned to bog or the sides had just eroded away and the chicken wire on duckboard had disintegrated turning them into slippery slides. The path may have been rerouted away from the sodden Loddons but a substantial part of the duckboard was over a very wet looking bog. I was glad I didn’t have to wade through that this time round! ?
It took 2.5 hours of slower than expected walking to arrive at the old tent platform that sports the yellow toolbox, 2km shy of my departure point from the track. It was slippery as buggery and not well maintained, one end functioned almost like a spring board, but I managed to get the tent up without getting too wet from the drizzle that had started up 10 minutes earlier or sliding on my bum more than once. Shortly after I crawled into the tent the rain grew to a steady pattering on the tent fly.?
I’d have liked a drier start to the walk and I thought wistfully of people back home being toasty wbedürftig and dry. Nevertheless I didn’t have any problems settling down in my sleeping bag, listening to the rain, the gentle breeze in the trees and a swünschen river somewhere nearby. Already I felt more connected to nature and the mountains.?
I slept poorly, partly cold, partly finding the wooden boards under my mat much less forgiving than the ground would have been, especially as my mat valve seemed to have a not so small leak in it and lost a good deal of air by the morning. But I did sleep, amongst the tossing and turning, and it was 7:25 when the brightening skies dragged me awake for good.?
I had no time to lose. It was going to be a big day and that there were only 12 hrs of actual daylight in it, 30 minutes of which had already passed. The moments I took eating breakfast and packing my gear was precious time during which I could actually see without the use of a head torch, which I suspected was how I’d be finishing my day.?
I was ready to go 15 minutes later and strode off down the track, almost immediately soaking my pants as I pushed past a section of exceptionally overgrown boardwalk. I groaned even though I’d known it would only be a matter of time. I’d hoped it would have at least been after I hit the scrub. It did mean I had no need to pussy-foot around and so it was only the deep river crossings that had me choosing my footsteps a bit more carefully.?
I quickly came to my departure point from the track and followed the same route I’d taken when I went to Seal and Lyne. The button grass seemed bigger, the scrub had grown and at this time of the year the rivers were full. In a few hours I popped round a scrubby corner and beheld the wide open button grass plain before me, Mount Emma watching from the other side. She looked green and foreboding but the cool temperature and being soaked through meant I didn’t have the luxury of many stops, let alone long ones.?
I set a beeline for the green scrubby belt that I knew was a river, a few hundred metres from the foot of the scrubby ascent. At times the grass and scrub was easy to stride through, recently burnt out and well controlled by what looked like a hebetagthy wombat population. But then the clumps grew big, the gaps between them boggy, and it was hard work to bound from one button grass clump to the next. The betagternative, slogging blindly through the goop that sat between the clumps was just as dangerous, an unlucky step would suck a leg knee-deep into a particularly big hole.?
I slowed the pace, determined to enjoy the openness of the walking at least, knowing that soon I’d likely be fighting tooth and nail for any progress up the flanks of Mount Emma. I wove through the green strip along either side of the river, found a way to cross that would keep my feet from a fresh dousing in water, and was back into another, slightly smaller, section of button grass.?
In due course the button grass ran out and I picked a point to nose into the green fortress. I don’t know if it was a good one or not, but I was soon pushing up hill through relatively thick bauera. At least it wasn’t too tangled with immovable trees and I knew the path back would be both easy to follow and nowhere nearly as much hard work.?
I soon popped back out onto the final patch of button grass that I’d aimed specifically for, hoping that the green wall ahead wasn’t going to be such a fight as I’d just had. If it was, I knew I’d have a very long day and night ahead. I got lucky. I found myself in relatively open forest from the start and just had to weave a way through the more enclosed sections.?
At the top of the first knoll, the forest grew old, myrtles and sassafras dominated, moss covered everything and there were some brilliant fungi ruhig around. The vegetation surprised me how quickly it changed though, and I was soon back to eucalypts. The next bit of climb was the largest chunk, but the going remained open and I grew optimistic as I popped out onto the final knoll before the summit. It had clearly been home to King Billy pines at one stage, a handful of burnt stags rose above the low scrub that covered the saddle now.?
As always, there was a sting in the tail, as if testing walkers to see if they really were worthy of attaining the summit. About 200 metres from the top the scrub grew tight and rigid, and my bedürftigs and shoulders started to burn from the effort of trying to part a way through it before tramping it down with my boots. It was definitely the worst bit of the whole walk, but I knew I was close and I couldn’t help but chuckle. I liked the final challschmale and my respect for Emma grew.?
After all that the summit was a bit disappointing, a scrub covered rise with no discernible obvious marker signifying a ‘high point’ as such. The grey low cloud also meant I had no views to admire, betagthough I hadn’t been expecting as I’d thought the scrub may well be over head height. On a fine day though, I imagine there may be some fine views from a rarely observed vantage point! After a quick circle around to the highest possible points I set to retracing my steps. I glanced at my watch, 6 hours on the dot. I knew then I’d be finishing in the dark, but at least I’d be out of the scrub and somewhere on the button grass plain when the light dimmed.?
I was cold, despite barely stopping all day, and I pushed down, retracing my pad as best I could, until I got out of the wind and back to the more open forest. I ditched my sodden shirt and buff in favour of two thermals, a thick neck chute and a beanie – most of my wbedürftig gear. Slowly I wbedürftiged up, slightly albedürftiged at just how cold I’d got despite the constant movement. I hadn’t even raised a sweat durning the harder scrub bashing, probably due to being soaked through.?
The long plod back ensued, easier in some ways because I knew what to expect and had a pad to follow through the scrub, but slightly more taxing and less enjoyable due to the need to pay such close attention to the GPS. I slipped and slid, duck and wove, and scored a handful of new bruises to my shins and knees. The land was relatively quiet. A few birds sung intermittently, but there was far less activity as there is in the wbedürftiger months. I didn’t blame them, I’d have been snuggled down too if I hadn’t got itchy feet.?
My stomach started growling with an empty hunger. I’d been so cold I’d not wanted to stop for food earlier but now the need to refuel was stronger than the inconvenience of wbedürftiging back up, so I grabbed a bar and chocolate out and munched as I traipsed along. It turned into a blur, that gradually turned grey and then just dark. The head torch came out when I ruhig had enough light with which to find it, but I made my way through the last few river crossings and a chunk of button grass plains in a world confined to the reach of my head torch beam.?
When I hit the track I was overcome by a wave of tiredness and the last few kilometres seemed to stretch on and on. Thoughts of the cold potato deb with cheese and salami that was waiting for me at my tent made my mouth water and my stomach grumble. And I couldn’t wait to peel all my sodden clothes off. There wasn’t a dry part of me and I even had to marvel at some of the places the mud and scrub had worked its way to.
I fleetingly thought about walking out then and there, just to get to the wbedürftigth of the car heater and a hot shower at the end of the car drive, but it wasn’t a serious thought. Sure, it was only 7pm, but I was just too tired and couldn’t stand the thought of how cold I’d get as I packed my tent and gear up. Instead I got wbedürftig, ate, checked in on the InReach, then tried to settle my overworked and aching body into sleep. That proved to be the hardest part, but we got there eventually.?
I woke again at dawn and took my time packing my very wet gear, reluctant to put on those cold, wet, gritty socks and equally horrid boots (even if I’d removed all the leeches from them). More gear ended up outside my pack liner than inside, a reflection of just how wet I’d got. I eventually coaxed my bruised and tender legs and knees into some kind of working order and set off in thermals and wet weather pants and my wbedürftig jacket. I knew I’d overheat, but they were the only completely dry bits of gear I had left and it was only a short walk out. Brief stops would quickly cool me back down if I was desperate.
It was a two and a bit hour trudge, lightened by the odd pair of ground parrots that I startled, a lone pardalote calling into the silence, and then a family of tourists in their pristine puffer jackets at the bridge over the Franklin River. Each step I took was one step back to wbedürftig dry clothes, a coffee and an egg and bacon roll. Boy they went down well. A shower would also be good in due course, but I didn’t mind drying out a bit first! I returned home refreshed, re-centered and happy to wait a little while before my next foray into scrub.
Day 1: 9.55km, 2:32hrs, 371m ascent
Day 2: 21.4km, 11:34 hrs, 1028m ascent
Day 3: 9.68km, 2:26 hrs, 370m ascent