With twelve Eastern Shore Ramblers Club members, I departed from the cold Hartz Visitor Shelter for the colder outdoors and started on the track towards Hartz Peak. Only a few metres along the track a boot scrubbing and disinfectant station waited for all walkers. We dutifully used this to prevent taking diseases into the National Park on the soles of our boots.
From there, various forms of duckboards, built to keep feet above the water level, covered much of the flattish part of the track, interspersed with occasional short rock and mud sections. The remnants of rotting old boards sunk into the ground were often partially covered with water that spread from around the low level plants across the plateau. Mostly this was easy walking and not much concentration was required, except to stay on the path.
The first stop was on the Hartz Pass after climbing a very steep irregular track. I think most if not all the other walkers in the group found this climb comparatively easy going but it slowed me down considerably. Many were familiar with the walk having trekked this track many times previously.
We set off to walk across a saddle then up and over a small hill and onwards always upwards. Forever, when I wasn’t watching where to place my feet, I watched the misty atmosphere ebb and flow as it shaped and reshaped the land. Magical. Beautiful.
While clambering up the exposed rocks of the next hill I looked back and down. At that moment the sun glinted piercingly on the surface water below.Various tarns and lakes and smaller expanses of water could be seen below from time to time.Other waters were off to the side of our track and some faster walkers in our group deviated to see the Ladies Tarn and Lake Esperance. Apparently the latter was a short walk through low level woodland and snow gums, up in the high country where cushion plants and ancient King Billy pines encircled the lake. Cushion plants were visible either side of our track from time to time throughout the walk.
One of the advantages of walking slowly, purposefully and being vigilant is that you get to appreciate the small details of the landscape. Us tail-end walkers remarked on lichens and fungi. Then I spotted the insect pictured below. None of us knew what it was. It seemed to have some features of an ant. Then we considered it might be some type of scorpion because it wore a hooked spiky upward circling tail like a scorpion but then none of the other features were scorpion-like. I wondered if it was some type of cricket. Since returning from the walk I have worked through the Insects of Tasmania website without feeling confident I can name what we saw. Can you identify this six legged insect?Heading towards the last rise before the final cone to the summit, a ‘mountain’ of fallen broken rock complete with endless complex lichen patterning, needed to be climbed.
Eventually I joined the others at the pinnacle and stopped with them for lunch, next to the Trig point that marked the summit.It was very crowded up there; our group and other walkers enjoyed the achievement and waited for the mist to dissipate and present us with views of the southwest of Tasmania and of the landscape in other directions. One man walked up with his baby strapped to his chest. Yes – there is no age limit for accessing this exhilarating environment.
I loved looking down and across at the partially misted landscape.
From time to time the wind blows strongly on these mountains and hills and, thoughtfully, a rocky wall had been purposefully built at the summit to provide a modicum of protection.One member told me that she turned back on a previous trip when the wind reached 100 km an hour and she was blown off her feet on the way to the pinnacle. ‘Frighteningly dangerous’, she said.
I started down the mountain while most were still packing up. I wanted my own space and after a couple of fast movers had departed, I headed down hoping for some personal time before the others caught up with me. Cautiously I stepped down the huge rocks. Falling uphill isn’t pleasant, however the idea of falling down didn’t bear thought so I moved with great care.Then the clouds lifted in the distance presenting a spectacular view.I continued downwards and enjoyed seeing the land spread before me, and the drama of cloud shapes in the sky.
Before long I reached the Hartz Pass saddle where we had taken the first stop earlier in the day. I looked back towards the hill and mountain in the distance where I had been perhaps less than half an hour before. In the next photo you can see the well-made rock track crossing this area. I assume that Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service have collected and manhandled these rocks into place to make for easy walking. I am very impressed because such obvious tracks protect the environment: there is no need to step off the track and damage the delicate vegetation and ecosystem.At this point, I remembered directly below were massive step downs; of course I expected these would be easy in comparison to climbing up. Correct. Quite quickly, and almost effortlessly, I was down and began the long meander across slightly undulating land and eventually back to the duckboards which wound through the landscape.
Here came the best part of the walk for me: when the person in front disappeared from view and I could not hear, feel or see the people behind, I was on my own. Seemingly alone in the environment and finally able to soak up the sounds and the sights and begin to feel immersed in those spaces, and begin to absorb its language without the distraction of others. Again I will say that the Ramblers were a wonderfully receptive, intelligent and supportive group of individuals and its members always made me feel welcome. But they are a social club. They like and want the social aspects. By contrast when I walk in the bush/wilderness, I want the companionship of silence and solitude. Of course I realise this group offers me excellent benefits -access to places I cannot reach without transport and familiarity with locations of which I am unaware. I simply have to decide whether giving up walking quietly alone and relinquishing the opportunity to appreciate the landscape silently, makes walking in the wilderness no longer valuable to me. I have to consider whether any residual benefit and pleasure exists when I join these walks, even if all aspects on my check-list cannot be accommodated.
At one point, in the distance I could see someone had made what seemed to me to be a type of bush sculpture that suggested the wing span of a bird. Arms reaching into the sky. This was delightfully unexpected and fitted sympathetically into the landscape.For the last 45 minutes of the walk, it seemed that the softly persistent sounds of water trickled through the air and connected the ground with the sky. These were invisible ethereal threads binding all the elements. They entered the tissues of my body and relaxed me. Finally, for the first time that day I felt pleasure in the walk. Thrilled to be walking in that clean clear colourful environment. Happy. Profoundly happy. Yes – quite possibly it will be worth continuing to ‘ramble’ with the Ramblers. I am immensely grateful for the experience of this walk.I understand that several frog species can be heard calling during the day in this area but I did not hear any. Perhaps the clumping of boots along the walkways by too many people had caused them to scatter to a distance from the tracks. Apparently a Moss Froglet exists that was previously unknown until discovered in the Hartz Mountains in 1992. Maybe on another occasion I will be privileged to hear or see frogs in this high country.
Gradually the cooling air of the day reinvigorated me. As with the Mt Wellington walk, I realised the miracle of not having painful soles continued.
When I came around the final bend towards the Hartz Visitor Shelter, someone pointed down to a motionless, sick seeming wombat. Was it mange on its back or was the back disorder the result of an injury? We couldn’t tell but all felt saddened.
The walk concluded with a group afternoon tea in the Shelter, before separating for our journeys back home. It is the changeable vagaries of the weather and the power of the landscape which I will remember. I am so very pleased to have taken this walk and, when not climbing, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is such a shame one cannot climb a mountain without going up!
A number of online sites provide stories and information about Hartz Mountain tracks. Have a look at this blog which contains a useful description of the Hartz Peak walk plus wonderfully descriptive photos.