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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Couple of Nights near Mt. Townsend

It's been a slow year for walking; our Summer plans were first postponed a little due to a trip to Africa by some of us, and then the plan shrank a little due to work commitments. But then it was fire which put paid to our plans. We were waiting up in Canberra to start the walk, postponed due to hot weather, postponed again due to fire bans, and then gave up when every part of the walk went up in flames. We'll try that route again at Easter when it's cooler.

SInce then we have had a few daywalks exploring terrain for a planned big walk perhaps next year. But no overnighters.

So it was good to get out when David Plunkett was in Oz (regular readers will remember him from the Sierra walk and the South Coast Track). The pity is that not all of the Patched Sons were avaialble for the weekend.

The plan was to go to Thredbo, walk into the main range and set up camp, and do walks from base camp amongst some of the great icons of Australian Bushwalking.

So the first day arrived, and we went up the chairlift from Thredbo to the main range, and headed into our campsite about 8 km away at Wilkinsons Creek, one of the loveliest spots in the Main Range. All around are the iconic peaks. Legend has it that the peaks are the crumbs that were cast away from lunch during the days that Jack Smart roamed the land, making lakes with his footsteps and mountains with his meals.

After setting up camp there wasn't much light so we climbed nearbyMuller's Peak before dinner:
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Here's the view from the peak down into Lake Albina

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And here's the lake a little closer:

We are pretty sure this location is the summit of the peak (there's no trig point on this one)

Then it was back to the campsite; here's how the Wilkinson Valley, our home for a couple of days, looks from the slopes of Muller:

The valley is an extraordinary place. The creek itself meanders beautifully, and then appears to simply drop off the end of the high plateau, thundering down to the Geehi Valley about 1500m below. I say appears: there's no such great waterfall, as you can find by walking the edge of the valley, but it really looks that way.

Here's Plunkett enjoying the intensifying light (and waiting for his freeze-dry to rehydrate)

And here are the great meanders of the creek just before sunset:

The rocks around the campsite now begin to glow, as the sky behind them darkens a little ominously:

This rock, just behind our cooking place, has a wonderful sculptural quality:

And in the other direction the alpenglow shrouded the slopes of Mt Kosciusko in a ruddy robe.

It was incredibly windy the previous night, and cold as well. We were a bit worried that the carbon poles might not be up to it. But it dawned calmer.

We left camp, hoping that our tents wouldn't blow away (calmer does not mean calm!) and picked our way across the valley to the Abbot Range. Here's the kind of watery terrain we had to deal with:

We soon made out way on the Abbot Range, with Abbot Peak being the tallest. Here's one of us on a lovely meadow in a flat spot on the ridge.

And here's the view across from the ridge to the west

Finally, skirting the Peak itself to the west (because the easterly wind was so strong we wanted the protection of the peak) we came to the saddle between the Abbot Ridge and Mt Townsend. Here's the saddle and the mountain viewed from the edge of the Ridge.

Mt Townsend is interesting. It is probably the mountain Strzelecki named Kosciusko, and calculated was the tallest peak in Australia. Later it emerged that nearby Mt Townsend (as it was then called) was marginally taller, and the authorities swapped the names making the old Townsend Kosciusko, and the old Kosciusko Townsend. I like to think of Mt Townsend (ie the peak now called Townsend) as the real Kosciusko. It's certainly more impressive and Mt K: and gloriously free of tourists!

The descent was not utterly trivial. Here's one of us contemplating it:

We climbed down to the saddle:

We got to bottom, and then rather than attack Mt Townsed directly we made for the ridge line leading up to it, in part because I recalled that there's a track there which takes you to the easiest place to scramble to the summit. Here we are on the wide flat glorious ridge, just having found the track:

And finally the summit itself, with two of us in traditional trig point pose.

Here we are scrambling back off the summit:

We then took our way back along the ridge to its northern edge, to look for a way to get down to Lake Albina - we have seen it so often from the main range track, but never been there. For that matter we couldn't find any photos on the web that aren't taken from the high track! This wasn't easy, but we found our way and here we are close to our goal:

And here we are by the lake itself. Camping is not allowed in the lake valleys, by the way. should anyone think it looks appealing.

We then climbed right out of the lake valley to the main range track, through gloriously watery terrain:

Half way up we found a pile of stones which are apparently an abandoned ski lodge! Here it is, along with David Plunkett and  our last glimpse of the whole lake as we get close to the top:

Soon we were home at Wilkinson's Creek. The light was very different this time. Here it is just as the sun sets

And here's our tent with the slopes of Kosciusko behind it:

Then suddenly the hills at the end of the valley were the creek appears to drain into the abyss turned a glorious purple:

Next day were walking out, but we didn't go directly. Instead we began by exploring the end of valley. We were surprised to see an almost intact fence line so centrally in the heart of the park!

The valley really is a lovely place (when the weather is cooperative:

We climbed up a ridge line at the end of the valley and had good views back across the Abbot Range, where we had been yesterday

Then we climbed up to Kosciusko from the valley. It's legal to climb K properly from this side; from the east you are obliged to go up the old summit road. When we got to the top large parties of school girls appeared every few minutes! Remarkable that we had almost perfect isolation for most of the trip, just by being a kilometre or so from the tourist icons! We found a brief moment to snap a trig shot.

The trip back down was uneventful. We stayed in Jindabyne because it's a lot cheaper than Thredbo, and as we headed back to Sydney that morning the mist was rising off the lake as though it was boiling.

I guess coffee in Cooma was the last moment of holiday, before the emails needed to be answered in preparation for return. Here's a lovely church there:

At easter we have a walk in the range going north to Mt Bimberi planned. Stay tuned!

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