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SATURDAY 31/8/2013


                                                   Approaching Mt Solitary

The Preparations

Ever since we first visited the Mt Anne area, both Matthew and I had been fascinated by the prospect of getting to and climbing both Scotts Peak (669m) and Mt Solitary (852m). When we discussed this particular trip, we thought it might be a good idea to climb Scotts Peak on the way back from Mt Solitary, if there was enough daylight remaining. As they are both now situated (marooned) in the enlarged Lake Pedder access needed a greater degree of preparation than our walks usually involve. We also realised that, because it is isolated, relatively few walkers visit Mt Solitary, so we should expect a lot of scrub and any tracks might be well and truly overgrown or non-existent.

Being an accomplished sea-kayaker (see his exploits at, Matthew would have had no difficulty in reaching Mt Solitary but for me it was a different matter. So when Matthew suggested taking our Savage Gull (3.4m) aluminium dinghy with his Evinrude 8HP outboard I thought this was too good an opportunity to miss.

We both realised it was going to be a fairly long day so we arranged to meet at 6.45am for the drive from Mornington, on Hobart's Eastern Shore, to the boat ramp at Scotts Peak Dam.

The drive to Scotts Peak Dam was uneventful and, at the boat ramp, it became clear that Matthew had done an excellent job of preparing the boat, with all the mandatory items plus an extra pair of paddles and a toolkit with spare plugs and wrench, etc.

After changing into our walking gear and stowing our boots, gaiters, poles and packs we set off on the 30-minute trip to Mt Solitary. There was a stiff breeze that we were heading into so we tried to make use of any available shelter (Scotts Peak, for instance). On reaching Mt Solitary we pulled the boat up onto the heath, away from the water's edge and roughly tied a rope to some small, handy shrubs.

From Scotts Peak Dam to Mt SolitaryStowing the boat on Mt Solitary


The Walk

By the time we were ready to start the ascent it was already 11.00am. Notes from the Bushwalk Australia website we had read indicated that previous walkers had taken roughly 2½ to 3 hours to reach the summit and about 2 hours to return to the shoreline. However, these accounts were dated from the 2008/2010 period and we all know how scrub grows in a virtually continually damp environment!! But, they were probably younger, fitter walkers as well.

The Route up Mt Solitary and ReturnThe way to the SummitThe ridge to the SummitTony with Barrier Islands

We chose to go up a prominent ridge directly in front of us, that would take us straight to the summit. The initial part of the walk was easy, through knee-high to thigh-high heath and buttongrass but, as the actual climb began we encountered rock outcrops and faces that needed to be either clambered over or around on small ledges. We were also frequently struggling through head-high wiry bauera and unforgiving banksia marginata shrubs. Matthew once said he detected the smell of burning. As he had just dislodged a large lump of rock that bounced off other rocks, we concluded the smell was from rocks striking each other, as in a flint igniter. We thought it would be unlikely we could start a bushfire, given the amount of wet vegetation, but it could just be possible in very hot, dry conditions.

We quickly discovered that it could be potentially dangerous to trust to handholds or footholds, even though they might appear to be "rock solid". On one occasion in particular, Matthew was climbing an almost vertical 3m face when the large chunk of rock he reached for suddenly broke away and he fell - fortunately into reasonably forgiving shrubs but with a large bruise on his inside right upper arm. From then on, whenever we used a handhold or a foothold we tested it before committing to using it. Just plain, basic common sense, but we had to learn it.

Near the SummitTony strugglingTony still strugglingTony near SummitScotts Peak

This was definitely a serious wake-up call we couldn't afford to ignore. On the ascent I carelessly bent one of my Leki poles when I slipped and fell onto the pole. It may be fixable. When we were doing more rock scrambling than bush work Matthew offered to stow my poles with his on the outside of his pack so that we had better use of our hands, without the poles getting in the way.

For me, as a committed non-rock-climber I had a few hairy moments. For example, when negotiating around a rock wall I needed to place my right boot onto a narrow, small ledge, just using the inside edge of my boot. Fortunately, there were good handholds. I then had to swing my left leg through between the rock and my right leg to find a good step for my left boot, then push across the wall and take another grab at a good hold. Way out of my comfort zone. Even though the "drop" would have been no more than 3m or 4m it would not have been a pleasant experience.

The Summit in sight

After a few rest stops for a drink and cheese stick we finally reached the large summit cairn structure at 3.00pm. A 4-hour climb with no track to follow was starting to take its toll on my ageing legs. We stayed on the summit only long enough to take a few photos and have a sandwich and a quick drink.

Mt AnneLocation of Old Lake PedderEastern Arthurs with Federation Peak

The views all around us were truly spectacular. Mt Anne still had some snow and it was the first time I had seen it from this angle. Very impressive, as also were the Western and Eastern Arthurs, including iconic Federation Peak. Dozens of peaks. We also saw as far as Mt Picton and Pindars Peak. Away to the north-west was the Frankland Range.

We started back down at 3.15pm and were able to follow a faint pad for some time, that had not been entirely obliterated . Not far from the top I slipped while clambering down a rock face, causing me to incur a nasty whack on my right thigh, just above the knee and a cut to my face at the right corner of my mouth, which did not want to stop bleeding.

Virtually from that point on I was feeling quite uncoordinated and found myself slipping and falling over more frequently as we descended. Matthew, being the patient and caring son that he is, waited for me to catch up. It must have been frustrating for him but he never once showed it, but rather encouraged me to keep plugging on.

As we used up more and more time it became apparent that it would be close to dark by the time we reached the boat and the return boat trip would be in darkness.

We eventually made it back to the boat by 6.15pm, in the final moments of dusk and wasted no time heading back to the boat ramp.


After the Walk

Fortunately, the water was dead calm and we were able to plane along in perfect conditions (apart from the darkness). Venus was easily visible as the only light in the sky, away to the north-west. It appeared huge through a thin veil of cloud that probably distorted its shape.

Approaching the boat ramp I changed my walking boots for my gum boots and put on my headtorch, ready to jump out at the end of our trip. Matthew checked his GPS and found we were spot on target for the boat ramp. As we drew near, Matthew cut the motor and raised it out of the water, allowing the boat to drift gently up to the stony edge of the lake.

Being the master-mariner that I thought I was, I jumped over the side with a rope. However, my legs, in their weakened condition, failed to support me in the normal manner legs are designed to function and I plunged forward, face first, into 30cms of very cold Lake Pedder water. Fortunately, no serious physical harm done.

By this time it was about 6.45pm. I quickly changed into my dry clothes, on Matthew's orders, and then helped get the boat onto the trailer for the return trip.

Matthew called home on his satellite phone just after 7.00pm to let Suzanne, my wife, know we were OK and were going to take our time driving back to civilisation.

While driving along Scotts Peak Road we saw many pademelons and Bennetts wallabies and I was prompted to say that there were so many animals there could be a plethora. To which Matthew replied that there might even be two plethoras. As a result of avoiding animal carnage, our road speed was closer to 40kms/hr than it was to 70 or 80.

Earlier in the day, on the way to Lake Pedder as we passed through Maydena, we stopped briefly at the ex-Forestry office (now an attractive restaurant) to ask about their closing time, knowing we would be very keen to get a hot drink and something to eat on the way home. The owner told us he would normally close at about 3.00pm but this day might be open later, until about 7.30pm or 8.00pm.

When we eventually arrived back at Maydena at 8.50pm we had given up any hope of a hot drink so we were a bit surprised to see lights on and a person inside. However, as we approached to pull up in the forecourt area we saw a "Closed" sign on the door. We thought he might just have closed so we walked up to the door. To our surprise he unlocked the door and invited us in, then proceeded to make coffee, hot chocolate and toasted sandwiches for us. Such good service, with a smile, and we will certainly return when on future visits to the area.

By the time we eventually reached my car, parked in Mornington, it was about 10.30pm. So ended a very enjoyable walk in South-West Tasmania, although it wasn't without its share of dramas and challenges.

Thank you, Matthew, for your patience with my slow pace and for being a considerate son and friend.


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