With a dream forecast (4 days of clear weather after 3 days of rain), I was finally able to lock in this mission. The hardest Abel I had left. Due to me deciding at the last moment the trip would go ahead, I did it solo, which I never intended on doing. I was always under the impression I'd have a scrub buddy on this trip, though in hindsight, I'm glad I did it alone.
I drove to Lake St Clair for the 12:30pm ferry up the lake, having a good yarn on the journey with Brett, the usual ferry captain. When the ferry arrived at the top of the lake I had a brief hello to Kat and Sean, some mates who were leading the TWC trip on the overland that day. I started walking from Narcissus at 1:00pm, destination, Lake Elysia in The Labyrinth. I passed several people on my walk up, including some rangers I know, some people coming down the overland, as well as several people walking to Pine Valley. One lady in particular, Margot, knew Nick from one of his first guiding seasons! She was a guest on a Port Davey trip he was running... Small world. The walk up through Pine Valley and into The Labyrinth was beautiful as can be expected. Rainforest and fungi abound, and the Fagus was ablaze with it's autumnal colour change. I arrived at Lake Elysia around 5:00pm, found a not too soggy area to camp and set about enjoying the sunset on the backside of Mt Geryon.
|A nice day for a ferry trip.|
|I'm on the right track!|
|Mt Gould with a peppering of snow.|
|Mt Geryon, timeless.|
I woke up around 7:00am after a good sleep, packed slowly, and was heading off at 8:30am. There was a thick fog that was condensing over the lakes, but there was blue sky visible through it. I found the cairned route to Walled Mountain that begins at the western end of Lake Ophion. It lead through some fine open snowgum forest, through two beautiful small tarns, and up onto the wide ridge that extends east from the summit of Walled. The going was good, and I was quickly out of the fog with very atmospheric views all around. Only 1 hour and 15 minutes of walking later and I was on the summit of Walled Mountain. The vistas were amazing, most significantly to the West (and my far, hidden destination), and back down to The Labyrinth, where creeping fingers of fog fell into valleys between pastel coloured peaks. I spent 30 minutes on the summit before meandering on. I walked west along the plateau, passed some jeweled tarns, down a subtle saddle and up onto a scree covered ridgeline that spat me out onto a small plateau at the western end of Walled Mountain. From there I made my way down to the scrubby saddle between Macs and Walled, and my first taste of the scrub for the walk. It was reasonably thick, but I made it down in good time, and spending no time wasting, I jumped into the scrub leading out of the saddle and onto the scree beneath the summit of Macs. I found a reliable flowing creek (fed after the recent rain) between Scoparia and Pineapple Grass, and made note of it for the return journey knowing water would be hard to find. I left my pack at the bottom of the scree-line, and took my bare essentials to the summit.
It had been a solid walk, and I arrived at the summit of Macs Mountain at 12:45pm, smashing the estimated walk time from Walled by about and hour! The view was great, and my favourite of the trip. Nereus was visible, the Eldons were stunning, and there wasn't a breath of wind. A fine place for lunch. After spending 45 minutes on top, I headed back to my gear, then contoured around the side of Macs, sticking to the scree, before descending the final patch of scrub for the day into the saddle between Macs and Urquharts Mesa (the next rise on the continuation of the ridge out to Nereus). I decided to camp there, with many options available. Water would be the issue, but it was only just passed 2:00pm, so I went hunting, and found a very reliable crayfish burrow only 15 metres away from my tent. I siphoned water out using my water bladder hose, a classic and useful way to gather water in the highlands. I spent a relaxing few hour in the sun, reading my book and enjoying a well earned rest. The next day would be big. I set an alarm for 5:30am.
|Mt Hyperion rising from the fog.|
|Summit of Walled Mountain!|
|A frozen tarn.|
|Macs Mountain, my next goal.|
|Mt Nereus - the goal.|
|Beautiful clouds from the summit of Macs Mountain.|
|My rental tent (thanks, Aspire!) while mine is undergoing warranty...|
|Sunset over the Eldons.|
I awoke to my lovely alarm, meaning I could be prepped to go for first light around 6:30am. I packed up everything in my tent, as I planned on retreating back towards Walled Mountain that night. Armed up with scrub gear on and my essentials in a daypack, I headed off into the thick scrub up the side of Urquharts Mesa. Surprisingly it didn't take too long to get to the top, only around 20 minutes. The view gave me a great idea of what to expect on the journey to Nereus. I headed to a shoulder on the ridge, passing through some fierce scrub on the way, and then dropped to the buttongrass field in the low part of the ridge beneath Nereus. The walk to the buttongrass was good, just mild scrub in snowgum forest, not fast, but easier than it could have been. I made it to the open field only 1.5 hours after leaving the tent. From there it didn't take long to get into the rainforest that sits on the slopes of Mt Nereus, and the going became much easier. I followed the crest of the ridge that approaches the summit, and then skirted beneath the cliffs through the forest, to a steep and scrubby gully that made for quick and easy access to the top. Once I topped out, it was only a short stroll to the summit, marked by a cairn. I was elated to be on this mountain, and in such great time (only 2.5 hours from camp! - The Abels book suggests 4-5 hours). I made sure to spend enough time soaking in the view from one of the most remote peaks in the reserve. Wow.
I headed back more or less on the same route, only deviating on some areas where I knew I could pick a better route (notably the scrub on the western approach to Urquharts Mesa). I got back to camp at 12:15pm. Absolutely stoked! This gave me the opportunity to slowly pack up camp, eat some more food, and head out all in good time. I decided maybe camping on Walled Mountain would be an option, although I was willing to push farther onward. With determination and overpants, I pushed through the scrub back to the scree beneath Macs Mountain, traversed around, and filled my water at the still flowing creek. I quickly dove back into the scrub and made my way down, and up again, onto the open country at the base of Walled Mountain. Scrub pants were taken off, legs were cooled. When I got back to the summit of Walled, I called the Lake St Clair lodge to check on the ferry times that were running the next day, there was one leaving Narcissus at 9:30am, so I booked on that and decided to push down to Pine Valley. I casually walked to the hut, enjoying the sun setting around me, adding a gorgeous hue to the mountains that I love so much. I arrived at Pine Valley at 6:00pm, after a big, but amazing day. I pitched my tent, and had a pleasant evening in the forest.
|Morning hits Nereus.|
|Tendrils of fog falling off the upper Forth Valley.|
|A nice section of walking to the infamous Abel.|
|Rainforest is a delight!!|
|YES! Nereus summit time, baby!|
|Looking back from Urquharts Mesa, can you spy my tent?|
|This is my future...|
|The Acropolis looking divine.|
I awoke really early, and when I couldn't get back to sleep, decided to slowly get ready for my 6:30am departure. I walked out with head torch on, enjoying the crisp air and silence of the ancient forest I walked through. I arrived at Narcissus Hut at 8:30am, confirmed my ferry, and waited on the jetty in the morning sun. Mt Olympus looked down at me and I was in a very happy place.
|A beautiful end to an amazing walk.|