Saturday 16 October 2010

Meall an Fhudair.

I had a day on the hills with Gavin, Scott and Millie today just for a change as Bob was recovering from his Australian epic and was still a bit off colour from jetlag. Drove over to Bearsden to Gavin`s house and decanted my gear into his Bongo and then we took a short hop up the road to pick up Scott. Scott had a babysitter due to arrive later that day and was looking forward to a child free evening out with his wife so distance wise we were a tad restricted and just headed up Loch Lomond side. Gavin and I really don`t understand why folk bother with sproggage....they just eat into your  spare time and money. We were in agreement that gadget buying, nice wine and other suchlike necessities of life would be out the window if we were to be cursed with children. Dogs are better and do what they are told .Well, for the most part anyway 

As predicted it was a lovely morning and the surface of Loch Lomond was mirror like. The warm summer mornings had gone southwards though and it was definitely autumn when we pulled off the road at the start of the track up towards Troisgeach.I didn`t want to get down to the last ten or so Corbetts and have them all in far flung corners of Scotland so I have saved a lot of my remaining ones to the area south of the Great Glen.Todays hill,Meall an Fhudair,was one of them....only my fourth of the year so far .

I finished the Munros 20 odd years ago and ever since then having been ticking off Corbetts in a somewhat dilatory manner. My first one was the Cobbler in the mid 1970`s. It was the 5th January and I hadn`t a clue about hills. The snow was knee deep and I had a pair of suit trousers, a padded lumberjack jacket and a pair of cheap desert boots on my feet. No rucksack or ice axe, just a duffle
bag with a nylon cagoule and a couple of sandwiches. I stopped at the Narnain boulders to put on the cagoule only to find out that it wouldn`t fit over the padded jacket

My feet were soaking and it was bloody freezing. Never mind...stupidity got me to the summit, well, what I thought was the summit anyway. To cap it all I almost froze to death hitching a lift back to Glasgow from Arrochar into the bargain Still,.I enjoyed it so much  that I went back again and done it the following week again, albeit with a new pair of boots and along with somebody who actually knew what they were doing.

Back to the present. All morning I had  annoying snatches of song going through my head for some reason which apparently is called an Earworm. Step we gaily on we go with our cromachs under our arm etc repeated itself in an annoying loop...who is responsible for all this shortbread tin rubbish,eh ?
 My relations are from Sutherland,Ross and Cromarty,Islay and Donegal.The vast majority of them were forced to emigrate to the USA and Canada to find work or face starvation and poverty....and I`m talking the 20th century here.! They didn`t have cromachs or step gaily onwards and neither did we today. We walked normally up the land rover track for a mile to the junction where we took to the east ridge.

Scott And Millie on the east ridge with Loch Lomond behind.The more observant among you will notice that Scott has a cromach type thingy

Having a break  halfway up the ridge.Scott contemplates the rare prospect of a child free evening while Gavin,unconcerned with such matters and oblivious to Scotlands fine scenery,plays with his latest gadget. .

The small lochan under the summit of Troisgeach proved too tempting for Millie.Gavin is now playing with yet another item from his gadget collection on the bank.  See video at the end.

We had seen a lone walker following us up the ridge about 15 minutes behind us so,as it was a niceday, a lovely spot and we`re sociable fellows,we waited until he or she caught up with us..

A nice spot indeed.....

It turned out to be a woman called Dottie from Dunblane and we nattered our way along the undulating ridge to the summit of Meall an Fhudair talking about this and that.

Gavin, Millie, Scott and Dottie approaching the summit cairn.

Dottie took her leave of us here and headed down to the Lairig  Arnan while the boys found a wee bouldering crag for a spot of juvenile fun. Scott having first go......

Scott falls and lands on his cocyx while Gavin tries unsuccesfully to stifle a laugh...

An unusual view of the Cobbler from the summit.A bit grainy due to much zoomness....

Once Scott was able to walk again we headed back down the south flank and picked up the land rover track but not before I got them to pose a final time....

Autumn colours as we cross over the West Highland Line..

Well,that was the boys day`s a dogs view of the days proceedings....better with speakers turned on...

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Mount Remarkable.Flinders Ranges.

A different part of the Flinders this time.The Central Region.
With a name like Mount Remarkable this was a mountain I had to climb and it was only a couple of hours drive from Whyalla.
South Australia is full of great names for natural features.On the local map there is a Mount Dangerous,Mount Lofty,Coward Springs,Iron Knob,Mount Eccles and even a Mount Buggery,this last not far from Wilpena Pound.
Some were named from the sea others from memorable land incidents presumably :o)
The first attempt to climb Mount Remarkable was in my sisters car.As usual it was clear and sunny in Whyalla but by the time we approached the Flinders rain and mist hung heavy over the peaks and we climbed steeply into a massive rain band that I knew from Scottish experience was on for the entire day.
Instead of the summit itself we therefore decided to head for Alligator gorge,a dramatic but more sheltered part of this sprawling mountain park.
Even in the heavy drizzle I could tell this was a special place.While my sister sat in the dry car reading magazines I belted down into the gorge and along to  the terraces....
where the walk continues up the stream bed though usually its not as wet as this.I climbed up the slopes confident no snakes would be out in this rain to the lookout platform high above the gorge.I even managed a section of the Heysen Trail as it goes over the summit down to here.
Despite the rain or because of it the place was heaving with wildlife and I spotted my first bee eaters,too fast moving for the camera,speedy little buggers,and just caught this roo family bouncing off....
When I returned it was with a slight regret as I knew this would be a  fabulous area in better weather.To her credit, although well bored with the empty car park by now my sister agreed to come back on a better day if she could borrow her daughter,s car (thanks Joanne) as her brakes had been heating up on the steep climbs and sudden drops into the mountains.
We were also concerned on this day about getting stranded as the one road in was slightly under water in a few places and it kept raining throughout  the day.
For the second trip she took a book and we headed for Melrose instead,a small pleasant country town nestling under the summit.This was more like it...Sunny with blue skies,no wind.A perfect day.
The path up, just outside the village at a monument,was well made on an easy gradient which was just as well as the slopes further up were pretty steep in places.
I made good time,the guide map said 5 hours up and back,through thick native trees and  sweet smelling scrub.
Ants were everywhere on this trail so I never entertained sitting down anywhere on the way up.Even standing in the one position was not an option for too long once they found you.The views were stunning with massive bright yellow fields of oil seed rape down below,called Canola here and in the USA.It felt very wizard of Oz.
Flying insects were everywhere too.The pretty  to look at and the quite frankly rather frightening but thankfully these kept their distance.Quite happy to get close to this one though.
There was a lot of rustling  of dry leaves on the path nearby as I approached but although I jumped on a couple of occasions it turned out mainly to be skinks.Large and small,The bigger ones showed no fear at all and stood their ground.
The whole mountain was alive with things bouncing, flying  hopping and crawling over it.Amazing and a wee bit scary at times.It was a hot day so snakes were on my mind probably me being  a  casual visitor here.
I heard and saw my first laughing Kookaburra and snapped it sitting on a branch above me.Like most Australian birds this is one tough cookie however as Ive read its diet consists mainly of  forest  grubs and centipedes,swooping down on them from its perch.
Given the size of the Australian bush centipede a battle between this,the largest of the kingfisher family, and one of these monsters must rank as one of the most gruesome sights in nature.There is probably good eating in a centipede but if the kookaburra  eats these it certainly earns its food the hard way!
This is a small one by the way, over six inches, they can grow larger than this.They  also have a poisonous bite which is supposed to be extraordinarily painful.I must admit seeing this put me off camping in the bush but I suppose you'd get used to things like this once you were here a while :o) !!!!!
Wouldn't fancy sharing a sleeping bag with one though.Now that would be scary!
Great views opened up as I entered a higher zone of boulder Fields not far from the summit ridge
From here it was a long slow push to the top.Although I wasn't tired here would be the place to sit down as no ants seemed to exist in the boulder landscape.
The summit was the only let down.I don't know what I expected from such a great walk up but it wasn't this.....
There was no view at all from the summit,only thick trees and bush all along the ridge line to the top.It had after all been named from sea level.A slight disappointment but the views going back down more than made up for it.
A cracking hill except for the last 300 feet.
My sister wasn't too bored when I returned and had been for a good stroll round the shops and  had a coffee.
To celebrate a great day out we went back to watch a DVD film ,the girl with the dragon tattoo(excellent)a carry out chicken and chips(very filling) and a cheeky wee bottle of Jacobs creek(,the local plonk.)
What an adventure!
And yet another dazzling Whyalla sunset.

Monday 11 October 2010

Wilpena Pound.Flinders Ranges.

The first trip undertaken in Oz was a three day jaunt into the largest range of mountains in South Australia.The Wilpena pound area north of Hawker which was to be our town base.
Many thanks to Sid and Ann,my sister Vi,s friends,for finding our multi roomed self catering cabin and being our tour guides and organizer's throughout our mountain journey.A great adventure and we were so lucky with the weather.
The Flinders Ranges run for approximately 430 kilometers from north of Adelaide rising to over 3000 feet in  many places and ending in semi desert at Parachilna.Some peaks are bare of vegetation,others like the Devil,s Peak, seen here, are thickly covered with native forest and bush.

Two long distance trails explore this range.
One,the Heysen trail at 1200 kilometers is Australia,s longest walking trail starting in lush green country at dramatic Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula then crossing the famous Adelaide hills wine region before tackling many of the best Flinders summits ending at faraway Parachilna.
Two,the Mawson mountain bike trail shorter at a mere 880 kilometers which starts in Adelaide and goes through much the same rugged terrain using fire roads  steep dirt trails and minor roads.This too is a classic of its kind and a big tick among long distance bikers.
Here,s where we stayed.Although later on in the trip we used a hotel or two to suit my sister(shes more posh and would not sleep out under the stars in a bivi bag,mind you neither would I having seen some the bugs at night in the bush)This log cabin was my favorite.Basic but clean and tidy with everything you might need touring.
Starting off from hometown Whyalla we visited Quorn and Hawker.Quorn in particular was a gem.A real old fashioned small town with covered boardwalks,country hotels and shops and a steam railway.

Because of its 1880,s feel many films have been made around Quorn Hawker and Parachilna.My own favorites are Walk About and the Shiralee.

This is a view of the Flinders after heavy rain from Port Augusta.
Wilpena pound is one of the real jewels of the Range.A high, flat crater like basin,13 kilometers across,80 square,completely surrounded by a ring of 3000 foot peaks.You would never know it existed except from the air.
Unlike  bleak storm lashed  Roraima however this is a real lost world,meadows,forests and abundant wildlife.Lizards,little roos and Emus jumping around on the ground,multi coloured parrots and incests zooming between the trees.
Due to all the rains the whole range was alive with animals and their young.

While my sister and Ann stayed  walking down in the valley Sid and I climbed up the trail into the pound then
up the  edge of the cliffs to the lookout point over this vast basin.Very impressive.The Heysen trail passes through here to on its long, long way.
If you fancy a complete panorama without the effort local Hawker Artist Jeff Morgan has a custom built rotunda studio in town which has to be seen to be believed.A real labour of love done in a complete circle painted from St Marys peak the highest in the range at 1,170 metres or 3,839 feet for us old Brits.Several other canvas works cover big walls.Its well worth a visit.Some Paintings are probably on line.
The next day we toured the surrounding network of dirt roads,sometimes high up on the steep ridges with stunning views
at others down in rocky gorges with big river red gums.We also saw some cute wee critters.....Aw!
Well done to Sid for spotting this big Beauty.A Bearded Dragon Lizard.Some folk keep these as pets!!!
Not very easy to cuddle and feeding it bugs for its tea would probably put me off mine.
Beard inflated in threat posture gained by sticking the camera in its face.Smile please...
Seen one of these as well..
Threat posture obtained by the same method.It was only after taking this kneeling down beside it that I was informed  this harmless lizard has a grip like a vice and can hang on like a bugger!Luckily it lived up to its name.
Also seen travelling the area.
Emus and a Roo with a Joey.
We also visited several other towns including Blinman the highest in South Australia at the very end of the range.
All in a fantastic trip I,ll long remember.Thanks again.Vi, Ann and Sid.Hope Ive captured something of the area.
 This tale sums up the wet and dry natural cycles of the area.
Proby,s Grave also gives an indication of the extremes of nature  that can happen here.He was a bushman rancher who was swept from his horse during a flash flood in the vicinity.He was still a young guy  washed away in his prime.Later that same year all that would be there would be a bone dry creek bed. Big countries have big weather.