Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Side Trip: Mt Ossa - 1617m, 5.7k
Day 4 was described as Mountain Day in my guidebook. We decided to call it Peanut Butter Day instead, as Clare was sick of carrying an almost full jar of peanut butter in her bag. Her plan was to increase consumption and decrease pack weight by raising awareness.
Either way, we had to climb from 850m, up 300 metres to Pelion Gap where we would park our packs and head on up Mt Ossa. Whilst at Pelion we bumped into someone who was attempting their seventh climb of Mt Ossa, having not seen the view on the previous 6 attempts! After our failure in 1989, I returned to Mt Ossa from the south in about 1998 with friends Andy and Paul M. We got to the top but due to heavy fog we couldn't see a thing the entire way - in fact the only way we could discern that we had actually reached the top was by the abundance of food wrappers (no-doubt from celebrating summit-ers) which had fallen down between the rocks. But today was looking perfect, a once in 100 days type of day.
We set off at our usual time, having watched most of the population of Pelion traipse past our camping site as we packed up. The path up to Pelion Gap was quite rocky and rooty, but we made good time, despite stopping to check out a waterfall on the way.
I think it took us an hour or so to get to the gap. It's been upgraded since last time I visited - with a platform and log seats all around. A lovely place to just lie back and enjoy the sunshine.
But extended lazing around would have to wait - we had the highest mountain in Tasmania to climb. We ditched our packs, gathered together raincoats, snacks and water and headed on up Mt Ossa.
Mt Ossa is a much longer climb than Cradle Mountain, and certainly more demanding fitness wise - there were three or four really steep sections, two of them were interspersed with more gentle ambles. We also had a couple of slightly hairy technical sessions to overcome, but as we discovered on the way down, that was our own fault for missing a couple of trail markers and instead following our noses up a steep chute, rather than around the safer route. Oh well. Luckily we had Bjørn to anchor himself to the rocks and make sure no-one fell (well except Jon, as he came up last, and was quite put out by the fact we didn't stick around to witness his possible demise).
Quite a few of our travelling companions had been so put off by difficulty of the Cradle Mountain summit that they chose to climb Mt Pelion East, a shorter climb that also started from Pelion Gap. Others were so put off they decided to skip both, despite the perfect weather. And we also passed a few climbers who were turning back after the first steep section. But we made it all the way to the top, and it was awesome.
We were rewarded with amazing views and the twin joys of the special Kvikklunsj with sea-salt (this time fully authorised by Jon), and mobile photo reception (see photo above right). Bjørn tried to ring his parents, but luckily for them, given it was about 1am, he was unsuccessful while Jon was able to receive a message assuring us that Pinto was doing fine without us. Phew.
Like Cradle, Mt Ossa is surprisingly flat on top. So flat it even had some very small tarns, or very large puddles (depending on whether you are a tarn half full type of person or not I guess). That's one of them behind me in the below left photo. After fully admiring the views, scoffing our chocolate and congratulating ourselves it was time to head down - it was well past lunch and we were looking forward to our daily wrap rations.
Back at Pelion Gap (I think the entire side trip took about 3.5 hours), I retrieved the items the currawongs had removed from my pack and spread about the platform, and we feasted on our lunch rations before setting off down the hill towards our next stop, Kia Ora.
The guidebook described this last leg as 'the favourite part of the overland trek for many'. This description left all of us flabbergasted. I mean it was fine and pleasant and all, but favourite part of the track? no way.
On our way down we kept ourselves amused with a few rounds of "would you rather?" My question to the group was: "Would you rather turn around and walk all the way back up Ossa and down again, OR, walk the remainder of the day's hike naked? The answers were so overwhelmingly receptive towards walking naked, I was a bit worried that Bjørn and Jon were going to fling their clothes into the bushes right there and then (it had already been established they would be allowed to keep their shoes on). Luckily the hut came into view before they got the chance.
Our fellow travelling companions who had already arrived were kind enough to leave us with the larger camping platforms, as we were the largest group in our herd. Everone except 'Sporty Family' (of 4) was travelling in pairs, and Sporty Family were part of the Hut Dwellers sub tribe, so we didn't have to compete with them. Also in the huts were 'Retired Teachers, Sue and Pru (from Manchester), and the Brightly Coloured Belgians. As you can see, we were all getting to know each other bit by bit, and we were a good group, passing each other occasionally on the trail, saving sites for each other, and generally having the odd chat - it was a really nice nomadic community. By day 4 we realised that as a larger group, we weren't socialising with the others in our herd as much as we could, so we set ourselves a challenge - each of us had to discover a 'nosey fact' about one of the other travellers. For example we discovered that Sue and Pru met at teachers college, and Bright Belgians had never done an overnight hike before and that the Norwegian couple was in fact Swedish. It was fun. Zali asked if she could get her fact by eavesdropping, rather than asking, which we said was fine.
So after another very refreshing swim whereupon Clare and I managed to permanently misplace our sunglasses, Old Grandpa Jett settled in to read his book while the rest of us went off to get some facts..
Clare did a great writeup of our results, which I'll reprint at the end here for my own convenience, but I encourage you to go and read her version of our trip as well - it's being written over here .. clarevh.socialfx.net , it's very funny, with a lot more swearing.
Dinner that night was Satay Noodles, which were OK, more of a triumph for Clare's peanut butter awareness program than for our tastebuds, but after the 2 long days that we had had, almost anything was edible.
Nosey Facts, by Clare
In no particular order, here are the nosy facts we gleaned about our fellow hikers:Lily and Max: From Melbourne. Lily a lawyer, Max a plasterer. They have twin daughters, one of whom was about to get married. Lily went skinny dipping in Lake Windemere.The Austrian Brothers. From Austria. Cathy guessed correctly that they were brothers. We never found out their names but did discover that they were four years apart. Amateur photographers with very large cameras. Thought the OT was ‘all right’ (which seemed to be damning it with faint praise!) Recommended a hike in Austria to me called the Berlin High Trail, which I later discovered looks absolutely horrendous (although undoubtedly spectacular).Prue and Sue. Their real names. From the UK – Manchester and Wiltshire to be precise. Retired teachers who met in teacher’s college. Prue has a son who lived in Adelaide and another who is married to a Swede and lives in Sweden.The Family. A sporty family of mum, dad and two strapping teenage sons. They also had another daughter who didn’t come with them. The mum (possibly called Kathy – there seemed to be many Kathy/Cathys on the trip!) had decided that she was going to do 50 walks for 50 years to mark her half-century. She actually started when she was 49 and was up to about 35. She was counting each day of the OT as a separate walk, which nearly resulted in a punch up with Prue, who was outraged by this double counting. In her view, the OT should be one walk (with side walks separate). Zali and I agreed with her but Kathy was unmoved.There were a number of other groups that we met gradually as the walk went on, but those were our main nosy facts from Kia Ora. This caused us to reflect what the nosy facts about our group might be:ME: Did the walk in 1989 with Cathy. Met through orienteering, friends for years, can't get rid of her. CATHY: Did the walk with me in 1989. Used to be Bjorn’s Au Pair (which prompted many gratifying comments along the lines of: ‘You don’t look old enough to have been his Au Pair’. Especially gratifying given she was dirty and smelly after I inadvertently pushed her into a bog)BJORN: From Norway. Cathy used to be his Au Pair. Imported to Tasmania to help carry food for the trip (except when Bjorn told this story, it seemed to imply that he was carrying ALL the food for the trip. Which wasn’t true - I was carrying some cheese, and Cathy was carrying a packet of Ryvitas)*JON: Got up every day to run for 1-2 hours before the day’s hike, in preparation for the OT run which he is undertaking in February.
ZALI: Twelve, and therefore very impressive.JETT: Ten, and therefore very impressive.
*and Jon was carrying about 6kg of snacks - although if we'd had our way, he would have had a pretty light pack after about day 2.