SATURDAY 26 JUNE MOUNT AUGUSTUS
Today’s goal was to do the walk to the summit of the mountain. It was a 12km return walk, of varying degrees of vertical.
The walk was divided into four sections: starting with a 1.5kms gentle climb; then 1.5kms of steep uphill walking; then 2.7kms on a gentle slope; finally 300 metres of really hard going. The blurb said it takes 6 hours to do.
We did the walk, successfully, in 1993, but I still remembered it as tough! I was younger, and fitter, then.
We drove round to the walk start, and were on the track by 9.30am. This was probably at least ninety minutes later than we should have been.
There were two possible routes for the first part of the walk. The Rangers Track was the most straightforward, having been formed and smoothed out a bit. It followed the gully side, fairly high up above the gully floor.
The alternate route was the Gully Track, that followed the creek bed up and involved much boulder hopping and uneven ground. It was described as only for the really fit! John was determined that we should go up the Gully Track – he reckoned that was the way we’d gone last time. Well, there was not any of that part of the walk that was familiar to me – and I think I would have remembered it! But it was undoubtedly picturesque and photogenic.
There was a point, part way up the Gully Track, where we could cut across onto the Rangers Track, but John wanted to stay on what he thought was the more interesting route!
White dots daubed on the rocks showed the way. Sometimes, in the jumble of boulders, one had to hunt around for the next one.
There had been four other people level with us on the Rangers Track, at the point where the two diverged. Later, we found they were well over an hour ahead of us – that was the way we should have gone.
As we battled our way up the gully, some wonderful outlooks opened up, over the surrounding country.
Beyond the Gully Track
By the time we’d finished the Gully Track and emerged onto the gentler slope section, John’s legs were a bit unsteady. We discussed whether to turn back then. I really wanted to keep going, although I was rather leg weary too, and that was what we decided to do.
Just before the start of the last, really steep, 300 metre ledge to the top, we met the other four people, coming down. They had been on the summit for well over an hour and had left it 20 minutes previous.
That was a measure for us, because they were going down. It would take us at least 30-40 minutes to gain the top. John’s thighs were cramping really badly. It was 2.30pm. Going the way that John had chosen had really consumed so much time. The issue had become whether we had enough time to go on to the top – assuming John could even make it – and still get back down before dark. Even the Rangers Track was not a route to be trying to do in the dark. We knew we had seen the views from the summit before.
So, we turned around, 300 metres short of the summit, and went back down as quickly as we safely could. The descent was not all that easy, either! There was no debate that we would use the Rangers Track. That section was unrelentingly steep, and quite loose and risky underfoot. Much concentration was needed and one needed to watch their footing the whole time. John had some cramp episodes on the way down. I do better at downhill than he does.
We got back to Truck at 5.15pm. Dusk was falling, so we had been right to turn back when we did. We had been on the track for over eight hours. Although we’d both carried water – I had four litres in my day pack when we started, I think we were both a bit deyhdrated, John especially.
What we should have done was follow the guidelines in the Park literature: if wanting to do both alternate tracks, use the Rangers Track to go up, and the Gully Track to come down. John had not wanted to do it that way round, of course.
I was footsore. Right then, I decided to retire from walks that involved “up” – forever.
Back at camp, I made a very quick and easy tea. As usual, after strenuous exercise, I was not hungry and just had some soup. John followed that with baked beans on toast.
After tea, it was hard to walk, as we stiffened up.
We were in bed by 8pm!
I had a strange night. It was almost like being delirious. I woke up every couple of hours and needed to keep flexing the very sore legs and feet.