Yesterday the weather was a little feral, with gusty winds and rain showers. After much gazing out the window wondering if I was game to go out walking, the cloud around the mountain finally lifted so I decided to head out.
I checked my book of walks and spied one I'd not done before that seemed to stick to the sheltered side of the mountain (a good idea with the wind) and was listed as moderate grade, taking 3 hours. Since I'd have just under 3 hours of daylight left by the time I drove up the Mountain I decided the walk was do-able, but that I'd leave my camera behind and take a light pack with just a jacket and water so I didn't have any weight to carry and slow me down.
So off I set for the Organ Pipes circuit, a little concerned about the weather, but not overly so - after all there's always other people on the Mountain, I have phone reception up there, and the track was in good condition.
Heading up from the Springs towards the Chalet was a steep climb of ~300m to 1000m ASL, but occasional breaks in vegetation provided spectacular views, keeping me motivated. I was quite pleased with myself when I finished the climb in good time and not too tired (given I'd been up til 4 am the night before and was rather sleep-deprived).
Once the track levelled out I found myself at the foot of the massive dolerite columns known as the Organ Pipes that crown the summit of Mt Wellington. The track became more of a boulder-scramble in places as I crossed over the remnants of collapsed columns and imagined the sound those falling rocks must have made. Given the rocky footing and steep drop-offs I was glad to be out of the wind and rain, able to enjoy the rather spectacular geology.
All was well until I rounded a corner and found myself on a boulder slope on the exposed side of the Mountain, being buffeted by a rather cold wind and realising how dangerous this terrain would be should it start raining. I scurried across as quickly as I could and was greatly relieved when I reached solid ground again! I continued on, into the chilly wind, until I reached the Chalet after an hour and ten (posted time: 1 hr 30); the half-way point of my journey (or so I thought).
From here the track crossed the road and dropped steeply into the scrub down to Junction Cabin at ~600m ASL. Great, I thought, this'll drop me back into forest and out of the wind, and with a posted time of 50 minutes I'll hit Junction Cabin with plenty of daylight to spare. Yeah, 50 very long minutes later I finally dropped out of the wind just as I reached the cabin, jelly-legged from a very steep, rough descent across more boulder-slopes and open forest with lots of standing dead trees, with a freezing gale blowing all the while.
It was now 5 pm, I was tiring and I had about 45 minutes of daylight left. That's when I saw the sign telling me it was still an hour and 20 to get back up to the Springs and my waiting car and I realised I'd made a mistake when I'd checked the walk time: it was 3 hours to the Chalet and back to the Springs via the road, and a wee bit longer for the full circuit walk. I was rapidly running out of daylight, had no food on me, only a light jacket and had left my torch in the car. Concerningly, I'd passed only one other person on the trail and that was almost an hour ago (I guess the weather had scared more sensible folk off). Thankfully I'd at least taken my phone with me, so, feeling rather sheepish, I called my friend K to let her know what trail I was on, what time I anticipated getting back to my car and what to do if I didn't call back by 6:30 pm.
Thankfully the trail from Junction Cabin to the Springs was the easiest leg of the whole circuit; a gentle uphill slope of well-made track, sheltered from the wind, and I found myself making good time, even stopping briefly at Sphinx Rock to take in the amazing views just before sunset. Now that would be a fantastic place to watch the sunrise from on a day with better weather!
By 5:50 the sun had set completely and the world sunk into dim monochrome, yet I still had half an hour to go according to the posted time (1 hr 20). I found myself wondering how useful a torch my phone would make as I pressed on into the gloaming. I never did find out though, as bang on 6 pm I rounded the last bend and found myself back at the Springs, my little red car all alone in the carpark except for the burnt-out wreck of someone's dumped joyride. Leg muscles trembling with fatigue I happily clambered inside, cranked up the heating and started my journey back down the Mountain into civilization, dreaming of a hot shower and a good feed.
In the end I had a fantastic hike, completing the 9 km walk (with ~400m changes in elevation) in exactly 3 hours (posted time: 3.5 to 4.5 hrs) in challenging conditions. I did, however, take more risks than I should have: this is Tasmania and bushwalks gone wrong are frequently fatal (I checked the weather record for the Wellington summit when I got home - it was 4o
C when I was up there, with apparent temps around -8o
C and wind gusts around 80 km/hr. It snowed that night). This is the last time I go without my usual stash of trail-mix and and extra jacket, plus I'm buying an LED torch to carry on my keyring. I'm pretty happy that all I have to show for my little adventure is some pretty phone-photos and some tired legs.