Friday, 24 April 2015

Rees / Dart Track April 10th - 12th

After breakfast we met our 9am transport to the Rees trailhead. We had hoped to do the full Rees – Dart loop but the Dart track had been closed due to a massive landslide that completely covered the river forming a new lake. The river then found a new way down which washed away the trail. Because of this we decided to do a day up to Shelter Rock hut, then a day up to the saddle and back to the hut, and then a day back to Glenorchy totaling 76 kilometers. There was also a large snowstorm predicted to hit on our exit day and the following day that would make the upper part of the track dangerous.
We set out on a misty, rainy day with very low clouds blocking the surrounding mountains from view. It also felt magical, as the clouds seemed to gently hold us on our journey (Photo 1). The first part of the track was through a very wet bog. Within a few minutes we were soaked to the core with our boots full of muddy water. We trudged through the mid calf deep bog for many kilometers before heading up into the woods. The woods were a deep mossy green (Photo 2) with enormous ferns that seemed fully alive in the misty air. We eventually came out of the forest into a golden field where we passed an incredible waterfall that disappeared into the low clouds. We then continued up to Shelter Rock Hut (Photo 3) where we stayed the night. We made it in only 5 hours (was supposed to take 7-8) so we had the afternoon to relax and dry out. We were the only people at the hut except for the hut warden, Manu. We made a fire in the woodstove, dried out our boots and clothes, drank tea made dinner and relaxed in the warmth before heading to bed.

The next morning we packed only food, water and warm layers for our journey up t the Rees Saddle. We walked through the morning mist gaining altitude until we were above the clouds with only incredible peaks above us (Photo 4). Once we reached the saddle the sky was a crisp clear blue and the sun warmed us through the cool alpine air. After a snack Justin and I decided to try and summit a peak Manu had recommended. David decided to take it easy and sit back and enjoy the view. Justin and I started up a ridgeline and after gaining 400-500 meters and passing a few false summits the mossy mountainside turned into very crumbly loose shale that seemed to continue up to the summit. I made the decision to turn back as it felt too dangerous to continue along this route. We headed down into a steep drainage, had some food, dropped our packs and picked a new route up a different ridgeline that seemed to have moss growing all the way to the summit. We started scrambling up and reached false summit after false summit as the pitch continued to get steeper and steeper. We continued up stopping every now and then only to let the fire in our legs burn down to the low smolder of the embers of adventure. After some time we were sure the summit was only another 100 meters up. We pushed through the pain and wobbly legs and pushed our weary bodies towards the summit line. As we neared it the mountain seemed to unfold in front of my eyes showing another 100 meters or so to the next ridgeline. It was another false summit. Here the pitch grew from roughly 45 degrees to more like 55 to 60 degrees. And the moss we had been clinging to for support gave way to a huge shale scree field. We both wanted badly to summit but I felt it was unsafe to continue. So instead of risking our lives to peak over the ridgeline we decided to simply turn around, sit and soak up the view we had behind us. This was a challenging decision as the urge to continue grows greater while the danger and fatigue also grows greater. We later found out that we had Smeagoled nearly 1000 meters up a 45-degree mountainside. Needless to say the view was breathtaking. We sat giving our bodies a needed rest. We were already higher than all the surrounding mountains and could see alpine glaciers and clouds forming along rocky ridgelines. This was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen and it felt appropriate that I had no camera to capture it. I had left it behind, as it was too difficult to climb with even the smallest thing in my pocket. We basked in the beauty and wildness that surrounded us. I felt grateful for the safety the mountain had given us and it felt right to sit and full of gratitude for how far the mountain had allowed us to ascend and feeling confident the any further steps would not be respecting the land and therefore putting ourselves in danger. I sat in awe feeling the vastness in front of us, my heart skipping beats as the wind would pick up reminding me of its power, feeling alive and without any regret. After absorbing all we could we started the very long treck back down. It looked as though we were on an oval of land surrounded by cliffs as each false ridgeline we passed on the way up was now a false cliff line on the way back. We had to carefully climb down checking over each large boulder to ensure that there was in fact earth below and that we weren't about to plummet off a rocky cliff. After some time we found our way back to the deep drainage where we had left our packs. We grabbed them and continued to final few hundred meters back to David, feeling exhausted yet deeply alive (Photo 5).

We grabbed David and flew back down the mountain back towards Shelter Rock Hut (Photo 6). Just before the hut I spotted an endangered wild green parakeet, which was quite a treat. We continued back to the hut where we made a huge fire and were joined by 10 others who were heading down to avoid the storm scheduled to hit the next morning. It was an incredible feeling. We were surrounded by groups of people full of life nourishing their bodies after a hard days work. Their faces were only illuminated by candlelight. It is one of those moments that is vivid in my memory. I can pan through the amber light across smiling faces fully present sharing stories of the day. Passed the boots laid out by the wood stove with their shadows dancing on the walls. Passed the steaming bowls of food gifting hungry bodies with much needed nourishment. Passed the 13 pairs of socks hanging on the line above the woodstove drying in preparation for another day of adventure. What a gift this life is!

We took it easy the next morning making a large breakfast before heading out back towards the car park. The storm had come as predicted and the mountains were dusted with snow down to 600 meters. The tramp back down was drastically different with peaks highlighted in white and a gentle drizzle of rain added depth to the otherwise clear air. As we hiked down the sun would frequently break through the thick gray clouds creating stunning views with its rays highlighted in the misty air (Photo 7). As we got back towards the bog the sky cleared revealing intensely tall mountains that had been blocked from view on our ascent. Waterfalls stretched tier by tier up until vanishing into the sky (Photo 8). We went through vivid golden fields that would shift perfectly in unison giving wind a physical form (Photo 9). We then sloshed back through the bog until we hit the small dirt road through pastureland (Photo 10) which brought us to the car park. After a short wait our scheduled ride arrived and whisked us back to Glenorchy just before the heavier rain hit.

That night we made pasta and a fire in the backpacker’s woodstove. It was an amazing night. The fire glowed a deep orange in front of us drying out our soaking gear. And rain poured just outside the open window gifting us with a cozy safe feeling. We toasted bread on the wood stove and sipped on tea until tiredness brought us to our bunks for the night.

Photo 1 - Just Before The Bog Rees Track

Photo 2 - Mossy Creek Rees Track

Photo 3 - Shelter Rock Hut

Photo 4 - Above The Clouds On Rees Saddle

Photo 5 - The Crew Together On Rees Saddle

Photo 6 - The Valley Back To The Hut

Photo 7 - Sun Breaking Through The Clouds With Snowy Peaks

Photo 8 - Endless Waterfall

Photo 9 - Golden Grass With Snow Capped Peaks

Photo 10 - Four Wheel Road Just Before The Car Park

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