Monday, 3 September 2012

Flinders Ranges - Day 3

Day 3: Tuesday 28 August

My alarm went off at 6:15am. Another early start. The bed wasn't overly comfortable but that didn't seem to matter as I slept pretty well.

Wes and Andrea had breakfast set out for us: cereal, fruit, yoghurt, toast, tea and real coffee. After breakfast it was time to make our lunch wraps and gather other supplies for the day.

We were off by 8 o'clock heading for the Wilpena Visitors Centre where we started the days walk to St Mary Peak using the outside (the Pound) trail. The weather was fine and warm.

The first part of the walk was gentle, undulating and, in reality, fairly easy. Once we started to climb things were very different. The trail was rarely flat. Parts required scrambling and there was quite a bit of loose surface to contend with. I walked with a pole today – handy on some of the sections. The trail varied from very narrow to broad. At times it skirted the edge of the escarpment making walking that bit more challenging. Scrambling up rock faces and narrow gaps was the norm. Just as well the trail was well marked with frequent blue markers.

Wes and the back group arriving at the saddle
The group broke into two. The front, lead by Andrea, arrived at the saddle some time ahead of the rest, with Wes at the back.

Trevor arrived a little ahead of the back group. He had done very well.

By this time heavy gray cloud had rolled in but fortunately it didn't rain. The cup of tea we had at the saddle was very welcome.

Looking up towards the summit from the summit track

After stopping for a break, three of us (Paul, Terrie and me) headed for the summit guided by Andrea. The initial part of the trail headed down … and that meant that later we would need to gain the metres that we had lost. Bother! Once we started to traverse the peak we were challenged by some very difficult climbs. Fortunately the way was well signed with blue markers appearing along the track even if it would have been easier to see some of the markers if you were 6 feet tall rather than the shortness of most of us.

Andrea maintained a good pace for the three of us: not too fast and not too slow. Our rest breaks were most welcome. The view to the target (the summit), across the ranges and plains were wonderful.

Not far from the summit we came across two echidnas on the track. They went up the track and then off to the side. We were fortunate to be able to watch them for some time before they finally disappeared into the surrounding rocks and vegetation.

We had made it to the top!
On reaching the summit we abandoned our packs and clambered up on the rock face which sloped at 45ยบ. The views were worth the climb … but the return??!

Lorraine standing on the summit of St Mary Peak with the ranges in the background

View from St Mary Peak summit
After eating our lunch we headed off down.

The climb had been peppered by individuals and groups and they kept coming as we made the difficult descent from the summit of St Mary Peak. The track was busy which made the descent even more challenging. I'm glad that I have built up my shoulder and arm strength as it helped to have the option of using arms to lower the bod on some of the difficult sections.

When we got to the saddle it was occupied by a large group of young ones who had strewn backpacks and bodies across the path making even more difficult than it should have been to navigate that bit of the track. Still, down we went. In some ways the down was more challenging/difficult than the up as we were very aware of what was (or wasn't) below us.

We made pretty good time and were pleased to be down on the reasonably level track for the final bit back to the Wilpena Visitors Centre. The early returners were waiting on the decking when I arrived back. First stop – toilet! Trevor got me a cappuccino while I was relieving myself. Most welcome.

All in all, the climb to St Mary Peak, at 1170m, was challenging and rewarding. It was an achievement that I would not have contemplated 18 months ago. I came through the climb and the return feeling pretty good. Hopefully I will feel OK in the morning.

Who summited with me? Andrea, Paul and Kerrie.

On the way back to Willow Springs Wes took us to the Stokes Hill lookout. There is a 3-D map of the area showing the many ranges and the Pound. No wonder we can see so many peaks every time we get any elevation. There are bands of ranges for as far as the eye can see.

Trevor and I were the last people up … and even we were in bed by 9:30. Everyone appeared to have been tired after today’s walk.

I pulled up feeling pretty good. There is the odd twinge in the left ankle but nothing of great concern and I have a sore spot below the left knee caused when I was scrambling up over rocks. I must remember to be careful kneeling for the next day or so.

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