On the long weekend in February my brother and I planned our first big walk into Tasmania's remote south west, our goal was to climb Mt Anne after spending the night at the High Camp cabin which was built by the Hobart Walking Club. The cabin was dedicated to three well known club members Agnete Damgaard, Olegas Truchanas and John Plaister after their deaths. Olegas was known in particular for his spectacular photography and has always been a source of inspiration for me.
Day - 1 - Friday Afternoon.
My Brother and I arrive at Condominium Creek with anticipation and excitement, the weather forecast looks good and there is only a couple of cars in the car park which means we might get a spot to sleep in the cabin. After loading up with our packs and hydrating ourselves we started off with smiles and excitement, fifteen minutes later when we took in the uphill climb that was to be our challenge for the next 1.5hrs we lost some of that excitement as it was replaced by the knowledge of the pain to come.
The uphill battle began and I have to say it was quite a hike, the packs obviously made it harder because of the extra weight but the climb is steep and then there are those joyous moments when you reach a crest thinking that you are there and surprise, another hill !!
On the way up the views of Lake Peddar and the Franklin Ranges are spectacular and help detract from the task at hand, I would say that my brother and I are reasonably fit and we were pushing hard but this is a climb to be aware of and prepared for. 1.5Hrs, 4k and a 700m climb later we made it to the cabin albeit a tired and sweaty but happy mess and were thankful for the water tank onsite that holds amazingly cold and clean water for all to use, a blessing at the time as we had consumed more of our reserves than I had anticipated.
There were already people at the cabin who turned out to be quite friendly and made room for us after we bribed them with our chocolate M&M's. We settled in and made our dinner then sat back to enjoy the views, take a few photos and watch the sunset over Lake Peddar. During the night we were treated to a special visit by the local bush rat who likes to welcome the cabins visitors, it helps itself to any food it finds in or out of your bag and from some of the story's I have heard it isn't partial to eating through your bag to get at your supplies. I left an offering to appease him in the hope that he would not chew through my pack and it seems he deemed the offering worthy.
Day 2 - Saturday
4:30 am and its time to get up, I was too excited to sleep any longer and wanted to get going so we could watch the sunrise. After a quick breakfast we headed off into the mist, *note to self remember 2 x head torches next time. We followed the track up the mountain and made it to the bottom of a large scree pile where we were lucky to be directed by other walkers on how to follow the cairns up the mountain, it could have been easy to get lost at that stage but luck was on our side.
The climb up was strenuous and a sign of things to come, you have to be careful with all the rock hopping as breaking an ankle wouldn't be hard, not to mention falling and hitting your head so a bit of care goes a long way and sturdy pair of shoes with good grip is a must. While we climbed, the mist shrouded everything around us and it felt like a scene from Lord Of The Rings. We finally made the crest and arrived at the top of Mt Eliza but couldn't see more than 3 meters in front of us, so much for sunrise!
We made our way carefully along the Eliza Plateau by following the cairns to avoid wandering off the side of the mountain, there were some amazing tarns and the flora and fauna are beautiful. It would be easy to be taken in by all the "Big" experiences and miss all the little things that are as equally interesting, it is worth doing a little research before you go so that you have a few things to look out for because there are native plants that are only found in this region and it can give you a reason to stop and observe the sub alpine flaura around you.
Suddenly in the blink of an eye the clouds lifted and we became aware of the extremity of our location. The Eliza Plateau sits high above the South West region and the 360 degree views are what I would call breathtaking. My brother Sam and I both stopped and had quite a big "WOW" moment, we were able to look out and see Lotts Wife and Judds Charm in the distance and it was then that we realised how high we had climbed and how beautiful the area is from a higher viewpoint. Lake Peddar seems like a small pool below the ridges of the Franklin Ranges, Saw Back Ridge is spectacular and The Arthurs Ranges mock you with their challenge to come on down and try to cross them. The desire to accept that challenge seated itself firmly in my brain and thoughts of photographing places like Lake Oberon flashed through my brain, one day....one day.
Next we took in the boulder field ahead of which at first looks like it could take a long time to traverse, it is a mission for sure but one foot in front of the other and you will arrive at the base of Eve's Peak. We looked up at Mt Anne which was surrounded by a small cloud and decided the scenery was too good to not stop for a snack.
While I sat and ate, thoughts surrounded the fact that I am not the best when it comes to heights that aren't secure or have safe points. I get vertigo where my body eventually goes rigid and there is the possibility of getting stuck, needless to say climbing up a rock face isn't high on my list of priorities. When I looked up at the peak of Mt Anne I realised that she was not going to let me conquer her without a battle… I wont deny that at that point the apprehension started to set in and my stomach tightened a little.
Onward and upward we climbed and I must give a big thanks to whoever built the cairns because they are a godsend, the dolomite boulders that you clamber over are huge and the base of the pinnacle climb starts to get closer, everything seems to loom over you.The cairns finally stop and you find yourself at the base of the Mt Anne Pinnacle, looking up you can see the cairns follow a pathway up the rocks and the climb looks quite tricky in spots for those without experience, skill, wits or the nerve. I started the climb with my brother who went ahead because he knows of my problem with heights and that I was pushing my limits, my mind was starting to yell at me and my body was starting to tell me not to go on but I persisted until we reached a point where there is a small ledge walkway with sheer rock face on one side and a good 5 meter drop on the other, after the ledge walkway there is a lip where you have to reach up and pull yourself onto a ledge.
It was at this point that my vertigo became too much and I had to turn back because I knew that I was being an idiot if I risked my own safety. I couldn't look up or down without the world spinning, I knew the pinnacle was almost in sight and the ledge was the last of the hard climbing but I could not make my mind and body work together to get over this last hurdle. Disappointment struck as I slowly climbed back down with the knowledge I was not going to sit on the top, my brother showed his true colors and supported my decision by missing out on the glory for himself and sticking by my side saying that we would come back next year and try again. (Thanks Sam, you are a legend!)
Once we climbed off the rock the next group of walkers came along, they were skilled climbers and it didn't help me feel better watching them climb up in front of us with a simple hop, skip and jump (sigh). Their ecstatic cries from the top were nice to hear and I was happy for them but I also felt jealous. I'm sure my wife and family are happy I came home though and didn't get stuck on the side of a rock face or even worse fall off, so I feel that I did the right thing and will return again one day to conquer this great Lady.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the area and looking out over the surrounds where places like Judds Lake can be clearly viewed from a viewpoint only made available to those who make the climb and experience clear skies, something that only happens a few times a year in these areas. It was quite hot so our water and energy ran out and it was time to make the descent to High Camp hut and collect the rest of our belongings and head home. The descent proved to be quite strenuous on the knee's and I would highly recommend a walking stick for this part of the journey.
The water tank at High Camp Hut is a godsend and I thank those who put in the effort of getting it there, the toilet, or "Loo with a view" as it is known has a strong "presence" and luckily we bypassed this experience but it is a great thing for the preservation of the area and to those interested you can be assured the facilities are there if needed. All in all our day took us around 12hrs to complete and when we arrived back at the car my body was sore and my knee's were glad to be walking on flat ground again. It was a great day and I highly recommend this walk to anyone who is able bodied enough to make the trip, remember to keep your wits about you and be prepared for the challenges and the rewards that you will find if you decide to accept the challenge of Mt Anne.
Images from this trip can be found by visiting my facebook page, just follow link that can be found at the bottom of any page
Ben Wilkinson - WILKOGRAPHY