Climbing Mount Roland

The uncertain weather put me in an uncertain mood. To go or not to go. Eventually some breaks in the floating clouds indicated that I should make the effort. At worst I would get a nice drive in the country.

Getting near Sheffield it came into view. I’ve been to Tasmania many times and seen the mountain many times but it always strikes me with awe; its grand manner, ever cloud capped, somehow gives it a type of majesty I find irresistible.

Mount Roland demands respect, it’s not a place to take lightly and I made sure I had some food and water but still travelled as lightly as I could. It was listed as 4-6 hours somewhere, so I figured I’d probably take the longer. That was, until I met Mark from Canberra. He had climbed the day before — 9 hours return!

Here I was and it was after 10:00am and I hadn’t reached the departure point. I’d inadvertently ducked into the camp site which is about 300m short of the road I was after.

So, by the time I signed the walkers’ book, it was 10:45am.

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It would be near 8pm by the time I got back if Mark had been correct; somehow I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The initial track is basically 4WD. Nice and wide, good surface but noticeably uphill. Shrill calls of jenny wrens and the scuttling of lizards were the only things breaking the silence as I trudged on.

Tiny roadside trickles had names like they were serious watercourses and they even had names for a bend in the road. It was arduous as I ascended and then the masses of rock came into view. My god, how far up is that I mused. It’s a daunting thing to look up at Mount Roland when you know you have to walk all the way up.

At times I felt like a rest but I eased up the pace and kept walking, stopping only to have a drink at Rod’s Corner. Then I reached the end of the road, where the steps commence and the way becomes a track. Here I had lunch and, just before I moved on again, two younger guys reached me and paused. I said hello and moved on. I’d already been walking for well over an hour and now it got steep and, when the steps ran out, the trail got rocky and rugged. It was tough but I eased on up, kept walking though I did pause twice.

The vegetation was changing, the tall ferns and straight trees dissipated and dry rainforest took over with occasional mossy outcrops and then, after nearly an hour of intense walking, you suddenly come upon a lookout with a seat where the sign suggested you had done the hard yards and it might be time for a rest. I declined, because apparently there was another lookout a little further on, and I was still 1½ hours away from the summit.

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I was thinking of a friend of mine who’s considering climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; I felt this would represent a good training ground. However, now I was suddenly on boardwalk; how good I immediately felt. I can make this I thought; then I reached the next lookout where I stopped and ate the rest of my food and met an English couple who’d decided they’d had enough because they just saw the path was rocky beyond this lookout.

Frankly, I couldn’t come this far and not have a crack at the summit and I pushed on. The couple were right though, the track was horrible, energy was being lost stepping over this and that and my legs weren’t happy yet, surprisingly, the thing that started to ache most was my upper back. It was about that time that the strap on my backpack broke. Sad, it had been a good companion for years, been with me around the world; now it would be put in the garbage but I still had to manage it for a few hours yet.

The young men passed me and then I re-passed them. I got really focused on the trail now and rarely got distracted; which was good, because there were many foot catchers to stumble upon up here on the plateau. There were white wildflowers on tea trees, like sheets across the plateau that amounted to about 80 per cent of the flowers up here with occasional pink ones thrown in.

I finally saw the summit; it was still a long way off, another half hour I estimated and that proved fairly accurate as I put one foot after the other in a determined effort to get to the trig station; my legs constantly reminding me they weren’t enjoying this at all. There’s an intersection with another trail just below the summit and then, just 70m on, the trail peters out and it’s a rock scramble from there. Gosh, just what I was looking forward to… Not.

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It was hard to see where others might have gone because here was solid rock like granite, unlike some places further down where conglomerate with large rocks cemented together tell of a torrid past, probably from glacial times, but I clambered up, hand over hand, and grasped the trig station with delight.

Of course, the hazy cloud obscured the view, as it does so often here, but glimpses were available from time to time and you couldn’t help but think again that up here was a long way from the road below.

The two young guys reached me after about 5 minutes and we exchanged photo shoots before I set off downhill; but there was no joy to be had twisting your feet this way and that to overcome the constant obstacles. I passed a man about 40 heading up in strident manner and then, a few minutes behind, came his girlfriend who was slightly obese and struggling.

Since the other young guys were descending another route that would leave them with a 10km walk on the road afterwards, I figured I would be the first up and down this day; that was until I reached the bottom of the stairs when the woman came running past me. I was shocked and warned her about what she might be doing to her knees but she said her boyfriend had already done his in; a fact borne out when he arrived 5 minutes later, trying to catch up.

Obviously they had different motives for the climb that day than I did!

I kept plodding all the way back to the motorhome, ever thinking that one of the pure joys of such a vehicle is collapsing in it when you return from a strenuous day on the trail. Today had been such a day.

Have you had a day like Ian’s? What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

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