|Cradle Mountain and Benson Peak|
Okay, here we go with another retro post from my hike on the Overland Track in 2009. This entry might be the last regarding this trip for a couple of weeks at least, as believe it or not, three years later I've been busy with a few things which next up might be worthy of an entry. Also, this is a 'word heavy' post, which may seem surprising for a day of such little walking, but it really needs a solid write-up just so you can really get the full effect (on my brain) of this interesting day.
I spent the evening sleeping on the loft in Kitchen Hut and the only problem during the night was the frequent noise of a possum/Yeti that rummaged around on ground level. He was certainly fossicking, but I had my pack safe and sound next to me. It was all very casual until morning when I heard footsteps approaching the hut which managed to fire me up to get out of bed. As I stumbled downstairs I was greeted by a bloke walking in who was slightly taken aback to see some bloke in Kitchen Hut standing there in his jocks. His opening line could have been, "Why don't you have any pants on?" but instead he said, "In all the times I've come up here, I've never seen a day so clear."
Pants or not, I had to take his word for it as this was my first time to the area. Peeking outside, it certainly was a dramatic change from the previous day's weather, as the sun was shining and Cradle Mountain was well and truly in sight. In my previous post there's a photo taken late in the day with the mountain shrouded in cloud and as a comparison, here it is again from the same spot taken on this sunny morning.
|Cradle Mountain from Kitchen Hut|
In these fine conditions I no longer had an excuse not to attempt a climb of Cradle Mountain and also have a vague fantasy of getting up Barn Bluff on the same day. I sat down to eat breakfast and contemplate the mass of delorite in front of me. The snow on the mountain itself didn't look too bad, so at a distance I was quite confident of getting up there.
Leaving the pack at Kitchen Hut I set off with a few essentials and began the climb up. It was pretty simple fare up close, as there's a line of metal poles leading the way. Snow was in patches, but nothing to really worry about, except on some sections of slope where there wasn't much to hang onto. I had some moments of slipping and sliding as I tried to dig my feet in and as the next photo shows, the odd pole was handy to hang onto when I thought I'd go for a fall.
|Climbing the snowy slopes of Cradle Mountain|
Things were going well once I reached a series of rocks which I could climb...
...and I really thought the summit was well and truly in sight. I'd taken the slippery sections very carefully, but now I was feeling a lot more confident on these rocks. I began to think I'd be casually taking in the view next to the Cradle Mountain summit cairn within half an hour at the rate I was going.
Well, that was until I reached a point where the ground suddenly levelled out and in front of me was a spot which my John Chapman notes describe as;
"...descends briefly into a high saddle. A final steep climb up a rocky gully leads to the top."
I looked back at the level section that took me a little by surprise...
...and the view straight ahead.
I could see the poles lead across the saddle with the final climb to the right, but all that built up confidence on the climb was suddenly gone in an instant. That inner warmth was replaced with the the feeling that's technically known as the, 'died in the arse feeling' or DITAF for short. Did you know the French have a similar term, but 'feeling' is replaced by 'experience'? That of course would be pronounced as DITAÉ.
The reason for this apprehension? The snow in the shadows was hard and icy, but the real problem was to the left of the picture above...
The snowy slope descended to well, nothing. Just a big lot of fresh air and I contemplated what that was. All of my technical thinking concluded it was a bloody big, vertical drop. I didn't have any fancy footwear such as crampons to negotiate this section, so if I fell and started sliding, there wouldn't be anything to grab hold of to arrest my fall other than the ground so many hundred metres below.
I did have a cursory attempt by trying to hug the rocks to the right of the metal pole in the previous photo, but it was tricky and even if I got across the slope in one piece the heavily covered final climb looked even worse. Crank up your coke-bottle glasses and you'll see a pole that was lying horizontal. WTF? Had it falling over? What was under that snow? How could I climb that in measly old hiking boots? Oh, you can't see that pole on the far side of the saddle? Okay, get to the optometrist, but in the meantime here's a zoomed in photo...
|The camera was level when this photo was taken...|
I forlornly looked to the right and the summit was no more than ten to twenty metres of vertical climb to go and in distance no more than fifty metres of walking, but I only had one thing on my mind.
Oh yeah, that's the mountain I'm cursing, not myself. I'm not much of a risk taker, so I was done. Too many things ran through my mind of what might happen if I slipped and started sliding down that saddle. What do they say? 'There's no need for risks, as the mountain will always be there another day'. Actually, who said that? Did anyone?
I was so bloody close, but after sitting down for about 15 minutes to contain my depression and curse not bringing a noose, I decided to turn around and head back down. The whole 'climb two mountains in one day' idea was now gone, as I looked across at Barn Bluff and decided all I'd probably find, is the same problems I had on Cradle Mountain.
There were some nice views as I slowly made my way down though...
|Climbing down Cradle Mountain|
...until I had my only real 'fall' drama of the day. On one of those angled snow covered slopes I stepped with my right foot which sunk down past my ankle. I continued forward with my left foot expecting my right to pop out as I continued, but of course, it didn't. It remained firmly in place as I lost balance and fell over until I was in the position of right foot snagged and flat on my back facing downhill. It really was a disappointing position to be in. If my foot released and I remained sliding on my back I considered the terrain around me. It wasn't a certain death situation, but more likely a few head injuries on the rocks around. Maybe the odd traumatic subdural hematoma? Even a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage?
I spent a few seconds admiring the blue sky, before managing to lever myself out and gingerly walk back down to the bottom with a constant thought regarding the Cradle Mountain summit tilt of, "Well, that was a waste of time".
Back at Kitchen Hut it was time for a quick snack before continuing on to Waterfall Valley. I was basking in the sun when a young group of people turned up being led by some bearded bloke. They stopped and settled down for lunch, but I noted no one really acknowledged I was there, so I thought I'd act the 'annoyingly friendly hiker' and engage with them.
I asked the leader, "Where are you going?"
He said, "Day trip. After this we're going back down by the Face Track".
Knowing what I was told by the woman and boy the previous day about being unable to find the Face Track due to the snow, I said, "Oh okay. There were some people here yesterday who said they couldn't see it and gave up looking".
He said, "Well, there's a difference when you know what you're doing like I do".
With that comment the 'tool meter' lit up as can't help it, but I'm always suspicious of people who are supremely confident. In the past I've been led astray by confident people who I found out later didn't have a clue! I live by the Bertrand Russell quote;
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
Anyway, I kept my mouth shut and thought, "Okay, okay, let the legend go".
That was until he went to the corner of Kitchen Hut, unfurled a large string with a number of prayer flags on it, strung them up on the corner of the hut and then lay down on the ground and commenced taking photos of them angled up against the building. I was munching away whilst thinking, "I gave you the benefit of the doubt and now you're confirming that you're a tool" whilst also wondering, "Are prayer flags portable? Can you just carry them around and pop them out when required? You know, first dates? Job interviews? I need to bone up on my Buddhist knowledge, but frankly the overwhelming thought was this wasn't a spiritual moment, but rather a lame photo opportunity.
I'm not sure if he was trying to impress his group, but one woman said, "What are you doing?" He mumbled something about carrying them to mountains and for a moment there I was thinking I was actually standing next to K2 instead of the 1545 mt Cradle Mountain. She then replied, "Why don't you go to a bigger mountain?" Sensing that someone was going to take the piss out of him at any moment, he promptly removed the flags and they weren't seen again . I guess he had enough photos anyway. Why would he do that? Impress people? The group he was with didn't have looks of awe on their faces and me? Well, I'm just a burnt-out cynic, so it was never going to excite me.
Surely that's it regarding this bloke? Oh no, there's more to come and I'm certainly glad for the glory of the blog that it didn't stop. There's a comfort station next to Kitchen Hut which one of the blokes in the group started to walk towards. The intrepid leader yelled out, "Where are you going?" to which the stroller pointed to the relief station. Surely that should have been it for that conversation shouldn't it? No, of course not, as the boss screamed out. "What are you going to do? Number ones or twos?"
I began to wonder if this bloke was not just the 'Portable Prayer Flag Puteruperer', but also a member of the 'Cradle Mountain Bowel Police' which patrol the area. With internals bursting the embarrassed man indicated he needed to pee. Oh yeah, if you're wondering how he indicated. No, he didn't get his dick out and spray us with urine. He intimated the 'holding my schlong in my hand' method.
I kid you not, but the leader then yelled out, "What? Just piss in the snow! Just remember not to eat the yellow snow! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!"
Now, for the life of me I can't understand why anyone would just piss on the ground when there's a toilet about ten feet away. When I get out my car at home and am busting to go, I don't just piss on the tree in the driveway or have a dump and hurl it over the neighbours fence, as I know the comfort station is about 7 seconds away. Hell yeah, even us chumps from the western suburbs of Melbourne have some decorum. I assume most people are similar? If I don't do it at home, why would anyone do it in this pristine area?
Oh yeah, the yellow snow joke was never really funny. I might have had a lip quiver momentarily due to a slight internal chuckle when I first heard the joke in 1972, but even on that first time I never thought it of it as a thigh-slapper.
Actually, talking of thigh slapping. Do you remember that movie in the 1980's called 'The Secret Policeman's Ball'? I saw it in the cinema and there was a bloke in the audience who would repeatedly slap his thigh at the jokes. Even then I remember thinking, "I wish I could find something that's that funny".
Anyway, back to the snow and the leader laughed so hard at his 'yellow snow' joke as if he really invented it right then and there. Surely not? So, with a bloke now pissing in the snow about ten feet from me I knew it was time to get out of there. You may wonder, "How does the fiasco man remember this stuff?" Well, that's easy, as on long hikes I take a note pad to record crap for future use in a post!
I headed off and the walking was pretty easy with the odd snowy section easy to negotiate unlike the previous day.
|Snow on the Overland Track - Barn Bluff in the distance.|
There were frozen pools of water which were starting to melt under the midday sun...
...and the turn off to Barn Bluff was getting closer.
One thing I liked on the track was a number of old timber marker poles which had been weathered and covered in moss. They always make a good photo opportunity, but on the following year I noticed there weren't many left having been replaced by steel star-pickets. Not really the same thing, but I guess a lot more sturdy for the weather.
The snow was pretty patchy which meant there were plenty of rocks for lizards to prop up on and bask in the sun.
|Sun loving skink|
Continuing on, I passed the Barn Bluff turn off and with a bit more walking began the descent to the Waterfall Valley Huts. I'd plenty of daylight to spare, which gave me an opportunity to potter around the camp. I walked into the main hut which has a heater and observed hiking gear and a sleeping bag on one of the beds. I couldn't see anyone, so I thought I'd be thoroughly unsociable, not wait for whoever owned the gear to return, and set myself up in the old hut.
|Old Waterfall Valley Hut|
There is a waterfall nearby, but the photos I took are so average I think I'd rather show you a friendly wallaby that was hanging around instead.
That's it for a thoroughly entertaining day. It might not have gone to plan, but at least I managed to get some material for this blog entry. I sat outside watching a fantastic sky during dusk...
|Barn Bluff at sunset - Waterfall Valley|
...and clouds passing Barn Bluff which looms above Waterfall Valley.
If I only I had the camera I have now on this trip. Oh well, it was time to relax and consider the next days walking which was going to be my 'short' day. Considering I'd barely got going in two days, having a short day of walking to come sounds a bit daft, but that's the way it goes. I'd planned for eight days of walking and I was going to use the lot!