Sunday, May 01, 2011

how not to climb stacks bluff

If you drive from Launceston to Hobart you track through a wide valley that runs between Ben Lomond to the east and the Great Western Tiers in the opposite direction. The drive leaves me contented, tucked in between the mountain ranges guarding pastoral scenes of grazing sheep.

Ben Lomond is an elevated plateau, with Legges Tor at the northern end and Stacks Bluff towering over the Fingal Valley in the south. Stacks Bluff has been calling out to us to climb it for quite some time. We asked around, and yes, a few people we know have successfully climbed to the top. About six hours return they said, a perfect day walk. Online bush walking chat sites concurred: six hours departing from the back of Story's Creek.

So, buoyed by two successful walks last weekend and the need to divide and conquer, we set out early yesterday morning with a couple of friends. The weather was perfect, the company good. Stacks Bluff was ours for the taking - if we could just find the track.

"Go back half a kilometre and turn right at the sign," the dressing gown clad local cheerfully informed us.

Hmmm, sign. You mean the one with nothing on it? Just two pieces of wood nailed on a couple of posts? Interesting.

Still, we turned back and followed a rough logging trail to its end, looking out for any evidence of a track. We couldn't see it, so when the trail petered out in a small clearing, we parked the car and set off, armed with water, food, compass and a topographical map we couldn't quite locate ourself on. Frank had the foresight to look for location markers in some distant peaks as we began our ascent.

Our goal: Stacks Bluff from the 'car park'

Can I just say, this was not really a bush walk? It was more of an ordeal. A stunning, dramatic walk, but a testing ordeal none the less. Apart from logging which had created a few open spaces we could walk through, we bush bashed for six hours. We saw a couple of blue ribbons tied to small bushes which may or may not have indicated a trail, and we ended up following gullies and animal tracks, heading ever upwards.

We knew from the topographical map and the view from the clearing there was a saddle that provided our best chance of reaching the plateau. From there we could walk around the back to the peak of Stacks. Knowledge, however, was not enough - despite our best efforts to angle across to the saddle, we found ourselves looking directly up at rugged, impassable cliffs.

Not being the best topographical map readers, and as I said, unsure of our starting point on the map anyway, we could see a narrow way between cliffs at one place and wondered if maybe that was the saddle right in front of us, so kept going. By this stage we were well above the tree line and scrabbling over enormous boulders on a seemingly endless scree field.

In the end time got the better of us. We couldn't risk heading back too late because we had no track to guide us back to the car. The possibility of overshooting the clearing we were parked in was sobering, and we were not at all prepared for an overnight excursion. So we stopped for lunch, studied the map again and decided the real saddle was just the other side of the rocky outcrop we were looking out on and agreed together that even if we hadn't made it to the top, the views were amazing and the achievement of almost reaching the top without a trail were noteworthy. Anything to prop up our egos I guess.

Near, but not near enough!

So, I have short legs compared to my fellow walkers, but that downward journey was way harder than climbing - scrabbling and scrambling on my bum, lowering myself from rock to rock, grazed palms, aching arms, a possum dropping from a tree almost on top of me. I tried not to be too much of a girl, but that has to be the hardest walk I've ever done!

Somehow we came out exactly at the clearing where the car was parked, although we had thought we were heading much further east in order to at least hit the logging trail if we missed the car.

And of course, as we drove out we saw it. The fallen tree with 'Stacks' scrawled across it in blue spray paint, facing away from the road as we drove in. No wonder we missed it.

So, Stacks Bluff is still on the list of 1000 things to do before we die - knowing where the track is should make it 1000 times easier!


At 12:23 am, May 02, 2011, Anonymous ana saro said...

Cec i read this special edition as if you were right in the room with me and I could just hear your voice and your animated expressions and by the way you write magnificently! I loved every line and read it to the last drop..It was medicine to my soul and your photos make me feel i was there all over again with sights, sounds and smells..hope u heal well. brilliantly written, made me squeal with joy all the way scrolling thru the story! Thank You!

At 10:20 pm, May 08, 2011, Blogger cecily said...

Ana, thankyou for your lovely comment :-)

I recovered fine in a couple of days and am back riding the bike like before.

Hope you are well,
Take care my friend!

At 2:11 am, February 21, 2016, Blogger Craig Doumouras said...

Out of curiosity, did you ever return, and make it to the summit?


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