Mt Clear

24 Nov

Have you ever been on a ride where you just want to get off, but can’t? It’s spinning around and you just want it to be over, but you have to just hold tight and wait? This is exactly how I’m feeling, bush bashing down the western side of Mt Clear early on a Saturday afternoon. It’s littered with fallen timber, spikey bushes poke through my clothes, and it’s all on a steep slope. Unlike a ride I can’t get off, the only way I can get off this mountain is to keep going.

When I respond to questions regarding what I’m up to this weekend, most people have no idea where or what Mt Clear is. Mt Clear is what Mt Clear camping ground is named after. It’s right on the southern border of the ACT, and it’s accessed by driving down Boboyan Road, past the Yerrabi Track and Shanahans Mountain turn offs.

My walking companion Wilbur (not his real name) and I are out of the car and on our way at 7.50am. There’s practically a guard of honour of kangaroos as we head down the fire trail. We take our directions to the top from John Evans’ recent walk, joining the Long Flat Fire Trail. It’s long and flat for a while, but soon enough turns steep and has my heart pumping as we zig zag up the fire trail. John’s pointed out that we should be easily able to spot Sam Aboud’s Dunny, just 20 metres off the fire trail, but we almost miss it – it’s lucky my companion is looking to the right at that very moment!

What is Sam Aboud’s Dunny? Or, why is there a toilet in the middle of the bush? The explanation is here.

Sam Aboud's Dunny

Sam Aboud’s Dunny

Room with a view

Room with a view

The slog along the fire trail continues, with some flat sections. Some of the soil is a bit average, and has washed away in parts. However, the trail as a whole is fairly stable and has few slippery parts.

We could keep on going along the fire trail, which travels along a way, and then turns and heads up the ridge of Mt Clear. Instead, we stop for morning tea at Long Flat (what the fire trail is named after – not because it is long and flat, like I had hoped).

Morning tea at Long Flat

Morning tea at Long Flat

And decide to cut across and the snow grass / creek bed and head up the side. It’s not exactly easy going, but we make decent time. There’s no track, but Wilbur is incredibly good at finding the occasional path as we head up and up and a bit north. There’s a fair bit of timber and a few rocks on the ground, but I find it quite fun (and a good workout) to twist and contort our way up. I also soon learn that pretty flowery plants usually have spikes on them. I’ve got no photos of this part because I’m too busy concentrating (a theme for most of the walk, unusually).

Bush at the top of the ridge - not dissimilar to what we've bashed through on our way to the top

Bush at the top of the ridge – not dissimilar to what we’ve bashed through on our way to the top

It’s a steep walk, but it saves us steepness on the fire trail. We eventually hit the ridge and then the fire trail, and then a gate along the fire trail. We’re near or on the border of NSW. It’s just before midday.

Gate along the fire trail

Gate along the fire trail

It’s an uneventful walk to the top, and echoes Mt Majura, Coree and Tennent for the bastard act of the last kilometre seeming never ending. We spot the tower just before the last steep climb, and it is bloody steep. With a bit lot of huff and puff, we make it to the top by 12.35pm. It’s been a 700m+ climb over 10 kilometres, so we take a well-earned rest underneath the trig.

Mt Clear trig

Mt Clear trig

We lunch with a huge family of skinks (some bigger than others!)

We lunch with a huge family of skinks (some bigger than others!)

Emergency station

Emergency station

There are no clear views from Mt Clear

There are no clear views from Mt Clear (despite it being >1600m)

Second best view from Mt Clear

Second best view from Mt Clear

Proof (could my outfit get any brighter?)

Proof (could my outfit get any brighter?)

After checking the cricket scores and gloating on Twitter and Facebook, we consult the map to determine our way down.

Good work Jarryd

Good work Jarryd…

It can only get easier from here.

WRONG.

My favourite part of the walk has been the bush bashing, so I’m feeling confident that I can handle a short but steep stroll down the western side, which in my head will take us straight to the northside fire trail.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

We’ve got a little trouble even getting into the western side, which should be our first warning. But, we’re both convinced it will get a little clearer and easier, like our bush bashing on the way up. It doesn’t. By the time we both realise it’s not getting any better, and that I’m really not suited to this, we’re too far down and it’s way too difficult to head back up.

The only way is down.

I am somewhat terrified for my life. John’s maps show the countours from the trig down the western side – it’s bad. This is probably the steepest side of a mountain I can remember being on, and the forest floor is rubbish. Literally timber rubbish – there’s bark from the scribbly and other gums all over the floor, as well as more branches and logs and rocks than I’ve ever seen. I’m never steady on my feet, but I never really fall. This time, I’m pretty scared and the floor is slippery. There are some mounds of bark and leaves which cover gaps in the soil, and other parts which send me sliding. The only good thing is that it’s so steep, the two times I fall (backwards, thankfully) throw me just a little way, and the landing is soft.

Barely even made a dint... heading down the western side of Mt Clear (hint: do not do this)

Barely even made a dint… heading down the western side of Mt Clear (hint: do not do this)

There are plenty of spikey and ouchy plants and branches which grab at us. I spend a lot of energy trying to avoid them, as well as navigate down the slope, but after some time just give in and walk into the bushes as they jump out at me. It’s clear that this mountain wants a blood sacrifice, if not a human one. It’s a case of crash or crash through, and Mt Clear leaves its mark on me.

Creepily, we stumble across a number of dead animals – mice, roos, and rabbits – and a few skeletons. I can’t identify the skeletons – two huge front teeth, smaller back teeth, big body – but the fact that they’re there is disconcerting enough.

After two draining hours, we’re at the bottom, and it’s a case of walking through more shagpile-carpet-like snow grass before hitting the fire trail.

Looking back up to Mt Clear from the snow grass

Looking back up to Mt Clear from the snow grass

You guessed it. Wrong again.

We’ve still got a way to go to keep heading down, but it’s a little more gentle and the timber is largely clear. We hit the creek and follow it along – ankles bending along the mountain side – until we hit the fire trail. I can sum this up in two sentences, but it takes close to two hours. I’ve got a trusty stick (‘Sticky’) by this stage and don’t fall over again.

I could almost kiss the fire trail once we get to it, but there’s still another 2.5km to go. After the last few hours, you’d think we’d finally be at a flat bit, but there’re a few running creeks to cross, and a few more steep bits. I’m usually one to gingerly tiptoe around the creek beds and find the driest route, but I crash through them like an elephant and plod along with squelchy boots.

It’s coming on dusk, so the kangaroos which bade us adieu eight hours ago return to welcome us back (or, you know, eat grass).

The humour of it all isn’t lost on me when it starts to steadily rain just as we reach the car.

But if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have seen this rainbow.

Is it a sign?

Is it a sign?

Mt Clear (at least, its western side) has taught me my limits. I’ve dominated Mt Tennent, but Mt Clear broke me.

WALK SNAPSHOT

Time required: It’s a bit less than 90 minutes from Belconnen to Mt Clear campground, and then it took us close to 10 hours of walking (including significant number of breaks)

Height: We start at about 880m and get to 1620m – a fair whack

Distance: A bit over 20 kilometres of pain

Views: You don’t do this walk for the views. There are no views. You do it to punish yourself.

Flora and fauna excitement level: We see a fox on the way, rabbits, heaps and heaps of kangaroos and wallabies… and that’s about it. It’s prime Yowie country though. The flora is spikey and ouchy and wants blood. Nothing to get excited about there.

Effort expended: High. This is a full day walk. Probably medium-high if we’d done the fire trail the whole way. I know we would have close to halved our time coming down if we’d done the fire trail. The energy put into concentrating and trying not to do something stupid (ie fall) is very high and draining.

Quality of track: For a mountain which is really quite remote, the tracks are great.

Value for effort: This is hard to accurately comment on. There’s a real sense of achievement with this walk. But for what? There are no great views and it’s a bloody hard slog. I’ll certainly never forget it, but I don’t think I can give it any higher than low.

Date: Saturday, 23 November

Cost: Free + some blood

Worthwhile factor: Not worthwhile, but I’m sure I’d revise this higher if we went along the fire trails alone

Want more? John Evans’ blog is the best place to start.

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16 Responses to “Mt Clear”

  1. Gary Lum November 25, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    Hope the wounds heal quickly. This is why I simply walk around a lake on a concrete path ;-)

  2. Andrew VK1NAM November 25, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    Huge effort T. Well done for getting out and taking on the challenge nature can dish up, quite remarkable, others would shy away from such adventures. For a little more experience at scrub bashing I recommend Sentry Box Mountain or Orroral Hill. Trust the wounds and bruises heal soon. :)

    • inthetaratory November 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      They are healing ridiculously quickly which is making me even more annoyed that I don’t have something to show off for my pain ;) Thanks for the encouragement… it was a make or break day but I reckon I can pull myself together again!

  3. John November 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    Love it! May I use “… spikey and ouchy plants …”!

  4. Kylie Harris November 25, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Congratulations! It didn’t break you – you did it! You beat it. I hope you didn’t get too badly injured.

    • inthetaratory November 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      All the scratches are healing so quickly! I wanted a few days to garner some sympathy! Thanks mate. Still a bit sore. Glad I did it. Now that it’s over it doesn’t seem too bad!

  5. homebrandcola November 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    Sounds like a walk I’m never going to attempt :-)

    Did you recorded the route on something like My Tracks or Runkeeper?

    • inthetaratory November 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

      No… I used to have a very good Garmin heart rate monitor which recorded walks very well, but about six months ago it started recording walks very poorly! John Evans’ maps are the closest reflection of the path we walked – particularly his 2005 walk.

      • homebrandcola November 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

        Ah, that sucks about the Garmin. Thanks!

  6. aslsw December 1, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    My mate and I once walked down the western side of Mt Clear. It was during the bushfires and a parks crew had out in a control line down the side of the mountain. Our job was to patrol the line to check for fires. Luckily, someone gave us a lift to the top where we could recover before… yes, we were instructed to do it again. And once more for good measure at the end of the day. My legs were like jelly but it really felt sorry for the guys who had to do it with chainsaws and equipment.

    Thanks for post, it’s a reminder that I have always meant to do it again one day.

    • inthetaratory December 1, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Wow – I’ve got nothing to complain about. What an incredible story and experience. Thanks for sharing. And I’m very glad to hear my post gave you a reminder (not least that someone knew what I was talking about!).

      • aslsw December 2, 2013 at 7:57 am #

        I love your blog and tweets. I’m feeling pretty homesick at the moment, loving life in Europe but glad to know its only temporary. It’s funny, but when you see so much green you start to long for the brown colours of the bush. We saw wallabies and koalas and the Vienna zoo so we’re feeling more homesick than normal.

      • inthetaratory December 2, 2013 at 8:14 am #

        Thanks so much – i love blogging but it’s comments like yours that make it extra worthwhile. I’m glad I’ve been able to help somewhat :)

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