The plan was to do Gould etc and then proceed onto the DuCane Range, over Mount Massif and down to the overland track at Du Cane Gap, weather stopped us from proceeding all the way but it was a good trip.
Myself and my strongest walking mate Midge (AKA The Mountain Goat) got on the 9am ferry from Cynthia Bay and arrived shortly after at the drop off at Narcissus Bay. The usual internal thoughts about the weight of my pack and stuff I should have left at home were a little louder than usual as I lifted my pack off the ferry and started down the boardwalk. I started at 18kg, it felt heavy and didn't get feel any lighter as I looked up at Mount Gould where we were headed!
We started out towards Gould and by following good tracks we soon found ourselves emerging on the plateau about 11am. The weather was warm and sunny and we enjoyed an early lunch by one of the nice tarns that are on the first section of the plateau. Water was going to be scarce from this point on until we arrived at our campsite that night and in hindsight we should have drank more here and filled up the extra bladders we carried just for this purpose, for some reason we didn't and so proceeded onwards with only about 1 litre each. This was to prove to be a mistake.
The huge boulder field on the eastern side of Mount Gould
The scrub around the eastern side of Mount Gould was expected to be bad and it was. We tried to pick a good line before we left the plateau but the scrub and various pads we found we ended up quite high on the sidle under a clear line of cliffs. Thick bands of Scoparia at first then a tiring combination of waist high stuff with dolerite boulders underneath to ensure no step was easy. I struggled onwards with sweat and profanity whilst the Mountain Goat lead the way with ease, barely breaking a sweat. We were both very happy to arrive at the boulder fields that took use quickly to the northern saddle at the foot of Gould.
It was about now the issue of water started to become front of mind. I had nearly consumed the 1 litre I left the plateau with and there was no water available in the dry saddle. A short debate lead to the decision to stick to the plan and try and climb Gould from here without packs (or water!). The best approach is to start a little to the eastern side of the mountain, don't go strait up the northern face as we did. We both agreed that we should never talk about how dangerous it was to take the route we did to get up when we got home but needless to say after we found the much safer route on the eastern side to get down we felt a bit silly. The views from the top were tremendous. It's a seriously steep mountain.
The views from the top of Mount Gould looking north
The plan was to camp that night at the end of The Guardians, it was now 4pm and it looked along way out to the end of the ridge that forms the dramatic outline above Lake Marion. I was officially out of water and starting to feel terrible as we headed off on the trackless route. The Mountain Goat was looking fresh as a daisy and ready for anything even offering to give me the last of his water. It was a long and slow 1.5 hours to slog out to the campsite.
We stumbled into our camp at about 6pm and immediately took our boots off, stood in the lake and drank, and drank...bliss. This may have been because the ants on the lake shore and surrounds were in plague proportions. They were to be a constant and annoying feature of the area for the time we were here.
Night 1 camp
The morning dawned clear and still, we woke up and found the ants were still in bed so lingered a while then broke camp. We made the short return walk to the top of The Guardians to enjoy the view before grabbing our packs (which felt heavier than yesterday) and back tracked along to climb the Minotaur before heading down to the Labyrinth. The decent down off the northern side of the Minotaur is very steep and we both commented that it was better to go down this one than come up. Lunch by the shores of Lake Elyisia was nice, but the ants were out of bed by this stage.
Midge looking proud standing on the summit of Minotaur with Mount Gould in background
We followed the track past the beautiful Pool of Memories and climbed up to the Du Cane Range high point. It really is one of the most beautiful areas in the whole national park, the view across the Pine Valley as you climb easily on the stone slabs. By this stage the wind had got up and rain was threatening so we found a good spot to put the tents up on the terraces out of the wind and quickly cooked up an early dinner at about 5:30pm. By that stage we just retired for an early night to the tents and listened to a podcast and went to sleep
Compulsory Pool of Memories shot
Night 2 camp
Over night rain and low thick cloud greeted us in the morning, we knew this day would be a touch and go variety for weather so we got everything packed and started off up to the top of Big Gun Pass. We were standing in thick cloud and had used the GPS to guide us this far, we needed a weather forecast to help us decide is we should proceed further onto the difficult range beyond. We managed to get reception and found out the cold front was due to pass soon with snow falls down to 800 meters behind it. A council of trip planning was convened and we made the decision to turn back. Neither of us wanted a full day and a half of rock scrambling and boulder hoping if snow was on the cards.
So we set off back the way we came with Pine Valley hut as the goal. This was reached so quickly we decided to have a go at making the last ferry back up the lake. We easily made the last ferry and had plenty of time to chat with the finishing Overland Track walkers. It is amazing how fast you can walk when a cold beer and a burger is waiting for you. Even had time for a swim!
A bit disappointing to end the trip early but in the end we were sure we made the right decision. Better to pull out when your still having fun than be stuck on a range really bad weather.
Thing I learnt from this trip
- Drink lots of water when it's available and if you've made a plan to carry some over dry parts of the walk then make sure you do!
- Lighter pack = better walk. I carried a bit of extra weight in my pack on this walk and I felt it.
- The Mountain Goat is a climbing machine, if you're feeling shit don't look at him because he won't be suffering and you'll just feel worse.