A monthly Bulletin of matters of interest to the Sydney Bush Walkers, C/- Ingersoll Hall, 256 Crown St., Sydney. Box No.4476, G.P.O. Sydney.
|Editor||Dot Butler, Boundary Road, Wahroonga (JW2208).|
|Business Manager||Jack Gentle.|
|Sales and Subs||Jess Martin.|
|Typed by||Dot Butler.|
|At our January Meeting||A.G.C.||2|
|An Island Sojourn||Jack Gentle||4|
|Notice re No Federation Report||8|
|what to do at Meetings||Alex Colley||10|
|The Stars Look Down||Dot Butler||13|
|Who'd be a Baulker (Part 2)||Mulga||17|
|Leica Photo Service||3|
|Siedlecky's Taxi and Tourist Service||5|
|Sanitarium Health Food Shop||7|
|Hattswell's Taxi & Tourist Service||9|
In this short span
Between my finger tips and the smooth edge,
And these tense feet cramped to a crystal ledge,
I hold the life of man.
Consciously I embrace,
Arched from the mountain rock on which I stand
To the firm limit of my lifted hand,
The front of time and space;
For what is there in all the world for me
But what I know and see?
And what remains of all I see and know
If I let go?
From “The Mountains of Youth”. Arnold Lunn.
- Alex Colley
The President was in the chair and there were about 30 members present.
The meeting commenced with the welcome of a new member - Audrey Kenway.
An offer from Paddy Pallin of maps of the Southern area of Tasmania, including Federation Peak and Port Davey, was accepted with thanks.
It was decided to hold the re-union at Woods Creek which, though one of three places proposed, was the only one to be supported by a seconded. A re-union committee was appointed consisting of Jack Wren, Garth Coulter, Colin Putt, Malcolm McGregor (convenor), Jack Gentle and Dot Butler.
The president informed us that three new books had been obtained for the library: “K2 - The Savage Mountain,” “Annapurna,” and “The Silent World” - a book on underworld exploration. We were disappointed to learn that this exciting description was merely a slip of the tongue - “undersea exploration” is the sub-title.
In general business Frank Ashdown brought up the subject of the crossing of unfinancial old members off the books. The particular case he had in mind was that of Frank Cramp, but he knew of four other cases where feelings had been hurt. The Committee, he said, should look into the reasons for members going out, as well as considering those coming in. The Committee's job did not end with sending out three letters; a personal approach should be made.
The President explained that the Committee was bound by the Constitution and by-laws. The Constitution stated that subscriptions were due and payable at the Annual General Meeting and any member whose subscription was due and unpaid for two months should, at the discretion of the Committee, cease to be a member. Actually the unfinancial members received three notices, the last of which stated that they had been crossed off the list but would be re-instated should their subscription be received. The notices were carefully framed to avoid hurting feelings. It was unfortunate that the special circumstances of Frank Cramp's case had been overlooked when sending out the third notice, but when the Committee realised this, action had been taken.
Dot Butler said that two or three old members she knew had been most surprised and really hurt at being crossed off. They all believed that they had had no previous notification.
Allan Hardy said that he knew of a married couple who had just let their subscription lapse because they were offended by the third notice. He thought that if members could be informed personally instead of by letter it would be more effective. In his work he had found that if a list of the unfinancial was made available, their friends would usually remind them. He moved that no third notice be sent, but in its place a list of the unfinancial be prepared and published in the magazine. Opposing this motion, Colin Putt said that those who took offence were really angry with themselves for being foolish enough to forget, and the Committee could do nothing to overcome this failing. The motion was lost.
Alex Colley then moved that there be no variation in the present procedure. He said that in this matter his sympathies were entirely with the Committee. It was unfortunate that they did not hear of the continuance of Frank Cramp's illness, but since he was hardly known to most of them personally they could not be expected to know. The Club's officers put a lot of voluntary time and effort into running the Club, and it was up to the old members, as well as everybody else, to make their task easier rather than give them needless additional work. There was more than enough work in sending out three notices, and those who wouldn't take the trouble to answer them deserved to be crossed off. The motion was carried.
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- Jack Gentle.
It was pleasantly bright, and the sun at its zenith was trying to pierce the scurrying clouds as I arrived at the rendezvous to meet Monsieur and his two charming companions. Arrangements had been made on the mainland for me to join this trio on a leisurely eight-day ramble through the Lake St.Clair National Park of Tasmania.
The trio, Dave (Monsieur) Ingram, also known as the “Gent in the Tent”, Jesse Martin and Betty (Horse) Holdsworthy, had reached the rendezvous at Derwent Bridge by motor coach from Hobart three minutes ahead of me. I arrived by coach from Launceston.
Derwent Bridge is not a town, but merely a collection of buildings quietly situated at the side of the Queenstown road. There is a hotel - alas, non-licensed - and a Post Office and Store. The Derwent River flows swiftly southward about 50 yards east of these establishments. Having exchanged the Season's greetings and agreed that we were all looking forward to our walk, we dined on the banks of the Derwent, then feeling that the world owed us a living we packed, shouldered our swags, and set off for Cynthia Bay, four miles away and at the southern extremity of Lake St. Clair. Apart from a tiger snake on the road, the “bash” to Cynthia Bay was routine. We arrived at the campsite on the Bay at the same time as the rain, and availed ourselves of one of the three 8-man huts which were marked “For Hikers Only.” While David prepared the hut the girls and I walked across to the quarters of Mr. McConnel, the Ranger, and collected food supplies which had been ordered from him. We also finalised arrangements for our launch which we had arranged to take us to the north end of the lake next morning. It was pleasant to reach the hut again and prepare our evening meals and after we had eaten it make sure that the numerous tame wallabies had their fill. And so to bed.
Thursday, Dec. 27th dawned, and anxious faces looked out to see the sun. We had breakfast and set out by launch northward along Lake St. Clair. Mt. Ida stood dominating the east side of the lake, her lofty peak resplendent in the morning sun, and then mist would hide her face and we would gaze to the west to see Rufus receding south, and Olympus and the Seven Apostles showing up in all their majesty. Snow still lay on Mt. Olympus and somewhat chilled the wind which blew over it.
The launch had berthed at a landing in front of Narcissus Hut. Here we disembarked, quickly inspected the hut, then set out for Nicholls Hut at the junction of Lake Marion and Pine Valley tracks. Nicholls was reached after a mild introduction to button grass and mud, the journey occupying three-quarters of an hour. After a good lunch the girls and I set off to Lake Marion, some three miles W.N.W of the hut. This is truly a delightful walk, and there are excellent views of Olympus, Mt. Byron, Mt. Cuvier and Mt. Manfred. On rising further and walking nearer to the lake, Mt. Gould looms into view - 5,000 ft. of grandeur. The Guardians stand jealously to one side of Gould, and at their feet lies Lake Marion, a fantasy in blue, with Horizontal Hill to the west to complete the scene. The return trip to the hut rewarded us with glimpses of Lake St. Clair, and we arrived back for tea fully satisfied with our day. We even saw a wombat!
Up till now we had been the sole occupants of the hut, but at 5 o'clock in came several Y.H.A. Walkers who were southbound. Our meal being over by then we left them to their own devices. Their evening meal was finished at 11 p.m. At 11.30 p.m. came a male Y.H.A. voice, “Who is sleeping here?” From Betty, “No one at all!” Muffled Y.H.A. apologies, and from then on silence.
Friday brought a cloudy sky but no rain. All of us set out for a day's excursion to Pine Valley which was reached after wandering through forest and traversing a soggy button grass plain. We had lunch on a grassy patch in the shadow of the Parthenon and admired the view as we ate. This valley is truly a Shangri-La, aid is set off by petite Cephissus Creek babbling through its centre. We visited Pine Valley hut, and here rain started and was destined not to stop for five days. We squelched our way back to Nicholls Hut, had tea, and so to bed.
Sat., Dec. 31st, was uneventful. We left Nicholls Hut at 9 a.m. and walked through the rain, climbing to a new hut at Windy Ridge at 3,000 ft, and three-quarters of a mile south-west of Du Cane Gap. Occasionally a view of Mt. Massif was seen through breaks in the clouds, and we were able to appreciate the nature of the country, in spite of the rain. The hut was reached at 1 p.m., and here we lunched, dried out, and spent the night. Three Queensland University Walkers joined us here, and a pleasant evening was had by all. New Year's Eve was celebrated by having plum pudding for tea, but all retired at 9 p.m., and at Windy Ridge only the rain ushered in the New Year.
We started New Year's day, 1956, by climbing to Du Cane Gap up a track which was now a watercourse. Miraculously, at this Gap the rain stopped and the cloud lifted to give us a peep of the Mersey Gorge and Cathedral Mt. This clear spell held until we had reached the forest area, and enabled us to assess the magnificence of this area.
Du Cane having been reached, we found its occupiers to be a company of Sea Rangers from Hobart and Kingston Beach. We bunked in the adjacent section with Kameruka Walkers from Sydney who had come to fix a plaque to a rock near Boulder Falls in memory of a club member who was killed in a fall there. These Falls and D'Alton Falls are well worth a visit. During the afternoon the sun shone for a few minutes on Cathedral Rock, and when the light touched on the wet pylons of rock which glittered like diamonds, I thanked Apollo for dispelling the nimbus and allowing us a peep at this magnificent rock. However, once again Jupiter Pluvius prevailed as we had tea and made ourselves comfortable for the night.
Next morning the weather was kind to us as we departed from Du Cane hut and headed towards Pelion hut. Kia-Ora creek was crossed soon after leaving. The track crosses the creek just above a delightful cascade whose crystal clear water tumbles down to the Mersey River. Then came the climb to Pelion Gap. The mist lifted as we passed through and the stage was set to see Mt. Ossa on our left and Pelion East on our right. These two mountains temporarily took their place in our memories as we descended from the gap and passed through the timber to Pelion Hut, situated on Douglas Creek. The hut was reached in due course, and here once again we had lunch. Then David and I visited Old Pelion hut some three-quarters of a mile away. Mt. Oakleigh is the dominating landmark in this area, and compared very favourably with other peaks and mountains we had passed.
As night came, two Launceston Club members arrived and settled. One was hard of hearing and the other had a loud voice, but as this hut had two separate rooms our privacy was preserved. It was here I made a damper! We found a camp oven, and, the girls having retired, David and I watched over our oven and at a given signal out came our damper - and it served us well. Our Launceston friends called in and showed us their portable aluminium camp oven of l 1/2 lbs. weight, and in the morning they exhibited its product.
Once again we set off, needless to say in a drizzle, our goal being Windemere Hut at Lake Windemere. Here we were to meet Geof Wagg and his confederates who were southbound and like us nearly snowbound. By 11 o'clock we had arrived at Frog Flat, and here were able to catch glimpses of Ossa and Pelion West. Frog Flat is the source of the Forth River which we were to recross four days later at the sea coast. The ascent from Frog Flat was through delightful forest up to a crossing at Pelion Creek. At odd places good views of the Forth Valley came into being. After lunch, still climbing, Pine Forest Moor was reached, and here we were pelted with ice for nearly an hour. The area is exposed and open to all weather, and I guess we were fair targets for the sleet. Undaunted, and feeling very intrepid, we pushed on, and were rewarded by a fine view of the Forth Valley as the icing-up operations temporarily stopped. Again came the sleet, so on we pushed over treeless plateaux to Windemere hut which is situated among trees. We had barely settled down when Geof Wagg and party arrived and there was much to talk about. The climax arrived then Geof produced a Christmas cake which he had been keeping till he met us - a wonderful gesture, Geof, and we really appreciated it.
Except for having to rise during the night to chase a possum from David's pack, all was well. Comes the dawn, and it is clear! Off we shoot to Cradle Mt! We bade farewell to Geof and party and wished them well, then away, past the beautiful Lake Windemere which is a bit of Scotland in all its mist and rain and damp muddy ground. We climbed to 3,500 ft. and then came a snowstorm. We tramped for an hour in this until a brief sunny spell warmed our now numb feet. Again snow and sleet until the Cradle Cirque was reached. Momentarily it cleared, and below the cirque a green valley was to be seen, after the white snow a sight for sore eyes. Barn Bluff was hidden in murk, as was Cradle Mt., but now the wind had dropped and snow fell in fairy-tale fashion for one hour as we walked to Kitchen Hut. Lunch was over in ten minutes, and as a last farewell to high places we ran into a blizzard. Against this we really battled for half an hour. I am sure this was Mawson's training ground!
The blizzard stopped as we came to the edge of the valley overlooking Waldheim, and here was a panorama worthy of the best of cameras. Now down to Waldheim Chalet, 1,000 ft. below! A good meal and a hot bath, and so to bed.
Thursday dawned a beautiful day - by Tasmanian standards - and Betty and I set off to see Dove Lake. We passed round the Lake and climbed over Hansen's Peak which afforded extensive views of Lake Hansen and Twisted Lakes. On we pressed until we sidled Cradle Mt. and reached Kitchen Hut. Here, in sunshine, with a snow-studded mountain at hand, the temptation to climb was overwhelming. Betty was horrified when I said like a villain, “Let's climb Cradle,” But nevertheless up we went, through slush and snow drifts. Our reward was a view of Barn Bluff and a glorious panorama of the area.
The return trip took us past Marion's Look-out, and 1,000 ft. below lay Dove Lake, a deep resplendent blue. We then went down to Crater Lake, and thence to the Chalet to tell of the wonders of Cradle Mt., - 5,000 ft.
Friday saw us off to Devonport by car, with glimpses of Cradle Mt. receding southward and beckoning “Come again.” This park, this scenic wonderland, has cast a spell; I will come again!
Bushwalkers requiring transport from Blackheath, any hour, ring, write or call…
Siedlecky's Taxi and Tourist Service.
116 Station Street, Blackheath.
24 hour service.
Bushwalkers arriving at Blackheath late at night without transport booking can ring for car from Railway Station or call at above address - it's never too late!
'Phone Blackheath 81 or 146. Look for cars 3210 or TV270 or book at Mark Salon Radio Shop - opposite Station.
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Base your holiday food lists on wholesome foods.
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There is no report for January as we had meeting.
The Meeting room was being painted and decorated - we were tipped out into Penfold Place. President Paul Barnes ruled “No Meeting.”
Allen A. Strom. Delegate.
This is not quite the place for an Editorial - it should have gone on the first page, but as Federation Report has failed to materialise and the space must be filled it might be opportune for me to say a few words here.
I take it you have all read Federation Report published in the December issue of the Bushwalker. The first item concerns a letter received from the Federation of Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, relative to visitors from Australia using huts in Alpine areas without prior permission or payment of hut fees. Of course, to any member of our Club such action would be unthinkable, but as this magazine may find its way into the hands of walkers who have so offended, I shall go ahead and say my say.
Most of the Alpine Club huts are situated in fairly inaccessibly places, and an enormous amount of back-breaking labour is involved in carrying in the materials and erecting the huts. In practically every case the building is done by the labour of Alpine Club members, many of them devoting their annual holidays, often for several consecutive years, to completing a hut when they could be out climbing peaks. Most of the huts are equipped with mattresses, blankets, pillows, kerosene cookers and cooking and eating utensils. During the severe weather which can descend at very short notice at any season of the year the huts are a godsend, and in many instances have afforded the shelter that has saved exhausted climbers lives. It is humiliating to think than anyone could be so paltry as to begrudge the few shillings per night which is payable, and which is used for the equipment and maintenance of these huts. It is a poor show when a few unthinking types go over to New Zealand and give Australians a bad name because of their thoughtless or careless behaviour. Let any future visitors to New Zealand be careful not to offend in this regard.
There are notices in most huts telling how much is due and where to pay it, but in case anyone has used the huts and not made a note of it, they can contact the Secretary of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of New Zealand at P.O. Box 1604, Wellington, N.Z.
For all your transport problems contact Hattswell's Taxi and Tourist Service. Ring, write, wire or call any hour, day or night.
Telephone: Blackheath 129 or 249. Booking Office - 4 doors from Gardner's Inn Hote1 (look for the neon sign.)
Speedy 5 OR 8 passenger cars available. Large or small parties catered for.
We will be pleased to quote other trips or special parties on application.
- Alex Colley.
The Editor tells me that some of the newer members feel at a disadvantage amongst the old foxes and bush lawyers at our meetings, and has asked me to pen this article. There are many who know more about it and could do it better, but perhaps they are less eager to rush into print.
Although those attending their first meetings may not realise it, every step in the procedure has a definite part in producing the desired result - a recorded decision of the majority - with a minimum of wasted time. The S.B.W. meetings are good examples. They are well conducted, there is little speaking for the sake of being heard, and we get through our business in good time. A knowledge of what to do at meetings is one of the most useful things to be learnt in the Club. When members attend other meetings, as everybody does sooner or later, they will feel at home, and be able to get up and speak effectively, instead of being overawed by the loquacious or afraid of speaking out of turn.
Probably the main reason for the efficiency of our meetings is that many of the early members were good speakers, well versed in procedure. But the rules are not laid down in any statute, nor is there any ultimate authority on what should be done. It was therefore decided to adopt Parliamentary procedure. Actually our meetings are no different from any other properly conducted ones, but, should there be a difference of opinion on procedure, and should there be a parliamentary rule that applied, then it would determine the issue. Sometimes I think that when we have a detailed and far-reaching motion, such as the recent one on National Parks and their management, it would be a good thing if we really did adopt parliamentary procedure. This would entail, firstly, an introduction (or first reading) of the motion. The proposer would explain its general purpose and the “opposition” would criticise it shortly. Some time after we would have a “second reading” when the measure would be thoroughly discussed. Then we would go into “committee” and discuss it clause by clause. I know, however, that long before this our quorum of 15 (the minimum number required to constitute our meeting) would have vanished into the neighbouring hostelries, leaving only the President, the Secretary, and myself in the Ingersoll Hall. What I shall attempt to describe, therefore, is not “parliamentary procedure,” but the usual procedure at our meetings.
The order of business is always (1) Minutes, (2) Correspondence, (3) Reports, and (4) General Business. After the reading of minutes, matters referred to in them may be discussed, and similarly with correspondence and reports. Sometimes the same matter may come up under two, or even three of these headings, in which case the chairman usually defers discussion until all the information in the hands of the Secretary is put before the meeting. There is good and logical reason for this order of business. Minutes are necessary as a record of proceedings so that everyone will know (and by authorising the chairman to “confirm” them “as a true and correct record” agree upon) what was decided at the previous meeting. This prevents the repetition or rehashing of the same matters at subsequent meetings. Once a motion is adopted it is the Club law until it is rescinded.
Correspondence brings up matters which may need discussion, and hence comes second. Reports are necessary so that members will be acquainted with the work of their officers in the previous month, and if members really appreciate what is being done for them, they will show considerable interest. General business is anything that hasn't been discussed before during the evening.
Supposing that a member wants something done by the meeting; how does he go about it? He must first frame it as a motion - “I move that… etc.” He should frame his motion as clearly and concisely as possible, or, if it is a long one, write it out and give it to the Secretary. He should then proceed to back it up with whatever facts and arguments he thinks support it. Having lost more motions than anyone else in the Club, I cannot advise on this aspect, but there are other authorities such as Dale Carnegie. A motion must be framed positively - I.e., it cannot be a proposal not to do something. If it conflicts with the constitution, or with a motion adopted previously, or if it is ambiguous, the chairman will not accept it. Only one motion can be before the meeting at any one time. The motion cannot be discussed unless there is a seconder - an obviously useful provision, because there is no object in discussing something that only one person wants. The seconder may speak after the mover, or later if he prefers. All speakers except the mover, who has a right of reply before the vote is taken, may speak only once.
Anybody who thinks the motion is wrong in some respect, or could be improved, may move an amendment. If he thinks the whole motion is wrong he cannot move an amendment that negatives it - he must simply vote against the motion. An amendment may take several forms, the most usual being that certain words should be added or deleted in a specified place in the motion. If the mover, the seconder, and the meeting, are agreeable, a motion can be re-worded.
If there is an amendment before the meeting, speakers should speak on the motion or the amendment, but not on both together. Previous speakers on the motion are allowed to speak on the amendment (These rules are not strictly enforced in Club meetings.) The mover of an amendment has no right of reply. Amendments are put to the meeting before the motion, and, if carried, become part of the motion.
It is the chairman's job to see that the debate is conducted according to the rules, and there his job ends. He should take no part in the debate, and do his best to let everyone express their views. It is not an easy job if the members have strong views and won't stick to the rules, or if the knowing try to work “points”. But these things seldom happen in S.B.W. meetings.
If the meetings are dull or ineffectual, this is the fault of the members. Many do not realise that the conduct of the meeting is within the framework of the agreed rules of debate, in their own hands. Not only do members decide the subject matter to be discussed but they have at their command the means of preventing unfairness, pointless discussion and repetition.
If at any time a member thinks that the rules of debate are being transgressed, he may raise a point of order, which the chairman must decide immediately. Often points or order are helpful to the chairman, who may have missed or forgotten something of importance. Sometimes the chairman may deliberately refrain from enforcing a rule if he thinks the meeting prefers some informal discussion to strictly correct procedure. There is a rule, for instance, that people may speak only when there is a motion before the meeting - i.e. they cannot just stand up and air their views, but must place something positive before the meeting in the form of a motion, or speak about a motion already moved. This rule is often broken in our meetings, particularly in “general business”. If anybody feels we are just “beating about the bush” he can say “point of order, Mr. Chairman, there is no motion on the books,” Whereupon the offender will be told to formulate a motion or desist. The Chairman can recall a wandering speaker to the subject; so can a member by saying “Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Is this relevant to the motion?” At any time in a debate the “gag” can be moved in the form “I move the motion be now put.” The chairman must put this to the meeting immediately. If the meeting agrees that “the motion be now put”, that is the end of the discussion, except for the mover's right of reply. More drastic still, windbags can be silenced by moving, and having carried, a motion “that so-and-so be no longer heard.” A member can protect himself from misrepresentation by making a personal explanation, but he must stick to this one point. If a speaker makes an offensive remark the target of the remark can object, whereupon the chairman will order the speaker to withdraw and apologise.
Interjections are permissible, provided the speaker is given a fair hearing. They are usually appreciated by the meeting, particularly if they are to the point, or humorous. A good speaker likes them, as they show that people are interested, and enliven the meeting.
Books have been written on meetings, but I believe that anyone who understands the few simple rules I have given will more than hold his own at most meetings. Some chairmen don't understand them, and experienced attenders of meetings often break the simplest rules, such as the necessity to formulate a motion, or to have one say and be done with it. More complicated matters may be left to the chairman to sort out. He may not always do strictly the right thing, but provided he tries to be fair, it is unlikely that anyone will object.
One last word of advice to intending speakers at Club meetings: Don't take them too seriously. The good spirits, freedom and humour of campfire discussions need not be left behind in the bash. Some of our best meetings have been those where the young members, sometimes with little or no experience in speaking, have just got up and talked.
“To eat is human; to digest, divine.”
- Dot Butler.
People come back from mountaineering in the Rees Valley in New Zealand and talk about the little Esquilant Bivvy on the slopes of Mt. Earnslaw. It wasn't there when I climbed in that region some years ago; it was only an idea in Bert Esquilant's mind; the wild winds blew through Wright Col, as barren of human habitation as any mountain of the moon, and the timid deer and the storm-wild keas saw nothing there but ice and rock and snow.
The soft moth-wings of memory brush my brow and I am back with friend Birtle contemplating one of the greatest climbs we did in the Southern Alps. West Peak of Earnslaw is not so high as the Minarets or Malte Brun (both 10,000 ft.), or Mount Cook (12,000 ft.), all of which we had climbed together the previous Christmas. West Peak is lower by 1,000 ft. but it had this incalculable charm about it, that it had seldom been climbed before. A dark cloud of mystery brooded over it - secrets, stony, silent, inhabited its gloomy fastnesses - a realm where even conjecture might not enter.
Brilliant summer had passed; the air was sharpened with the faint sting of coming autumn - a time of turbulent wind and sudden rain - of falling leaves and ripening snow berries.
Below the Birley Glacier just about sundown we established a high bivvy among the gleaming snow grass. Close by was a dark,rocky waterfall chasm which seemed possessed by strange shrill voices - cold with an icy breath that made a red fire race in our veins and keyed up all the millions of fine pulses in our bodies to the highest pitch of vibrant, singing life.
We heated up a ready-cooked stew on a high-altitude primus and ate, snuggled up in our sleeping bags, while we watched and listened to the high cold wind which rushed ceaselessly out of the translucent blue darkness, bowing down the long silvery tussock grass till one thought of a dryad's hair streaming down over the lovely curving slope in endless billowing ripples.
Tea over, we stowed away our things for the night, then lay on our backs, partly sheltered by the sturdy tussock clumps, enjoying the gusty tumult of wind as it poured down the slope bearing a smell of icecaps and illimitable snow-fields. We looked up into the incredible heights of blue, deeper than any ocean, where whisps of cloud swirled and streamed and poured themselves in fine cascades from one blue interstellar space to another. Stars lay scattered - myriad golden points of light - and the moon was full. Birtle slept, breathing gently into the tussock grass. In the half state between waking and sleeping I thought I was above that vast infinity of space looking down on it, and then it seemed as though “down, down forever I was falling through the solid framework of created things, and must forever sink into that vast abyss”…. and I, too, slept.
There is a quiver which runs through all nature a little while before dawn, when sleep vanishes. We awoke to see the whole hillside a-ripple under the fluid wind, and we listened to its thousand voices while we cooked our breakfast on a flaring grass fire.
And now we were away - up over the windy tussocks in the soft grey light before the dawn - more alive than all the living, light as the wind itself, powerful as a storm, tireless as a turbulent glacier stream! Oh, the joy of living! - to feel the ice axe clink on rock and ice! - to see the timeless miracle of dawn breaking on the mountain tops!
Up the Birley Glacier, which was considerably broken, threading our way through crevasses to the top from which we could look down into the Rees Valley - a great space inhabited by moving air and billows of swirling mist. We were now in Wright Col, at about 7,000 ft., where the snow slopes make a graceful curve and swell to the summit of East Peak. That was the first mountain I ever climbed in New Zealand, and though I have been up it several times since, it will always remain a sight that catches the heart; the thrill and wonder of that first snow climb will never be forgotten.
“If ever I die,” said Bert, “I'd like a hut built here as a memorial.”
“Uh-huh,” said I absently, my mind groping unconvincingly into some impossibly remote future, about 80 years hence, when Birtle might conceivably be dead.
Passing through Wright Col, suddenly we got our first glimpse of the great fluted wedge of rock which is West Peak. There it rose; vast gloom at its base and vaster gloom surrounding its summit. How wonderful the lonliness was up there!
We crossed the desolate scree terraces on the west side of Earnslaw, then a long stretch of misty morning slipped by while we proceeded up a steep, iced crack of rotten rock which led to the high col between the East and West peaks.
A short pitch up the hard, unsympathetic ice slopes of the steel S.E. face, moving one at a time, and then we went together along the summit ridge, wind-weathered into two terraces, in a world all grey and white - the rocks grey and grey and more grey, till they were rather black than grey; and the snow grey, and less grey, and not grey at all, but a gentle tone of white, robbed of its hardness. This is the place where time and eternity, earth and heaven meet. We absorbed it in a vivid silent interval. On a mountain top there is no need for speech - between the climbers there is a silent comprehensive friendship beyond the need of words. They are conscious together of the subduing spell of silence, the sudden joy of new discoveries in mountain loveliness the wonder and the beauty of it all - and that is enough.
And now all form and definition were quietly blotted out; a soft mist crept about us as we climbed down south-west of the summit to the col between West Peak and the first of the Seven Sisters. There they sat, seven timeless ladies in a timeless row, and looming out of a sea of mist was the grim black bulk of Pluto standing guard over them, his face stony and terrible, his fierce forbidding brows drawn together in a frown that boded ill for any paltry mortal who might think to show them disrespect. “Somewhat grisly,” murmured Birtle. “It will be pleasing to get back to our camp.” And so was I thinking of lower levels - of the friendly friendly valley where there were lots of little things - little ferns and berries and flowers - tiny gauzy specks that flew and flitted above the banks of the singing stream - sunstarts on gleaming leaves and grass, and a gaysome little valley breeze merrying over the swaying clover.
On our mountain height the mist lifted somewhat, and, gazing down, we saw a great unfamiliar valley, deep, dark and desolate, and wet from a fine driving rain.
“Oh Birtle, where are we?”
Concluding that this must be Pluto Col and not Wright Col as we had expected - the two places lay a whole valley's width apart - we made all haste through it, relieved at being able to turn our backs on the rather frightening giant, Pluto. Shirting round the high rock terraces and snowfields at the valley's head we reached the next col, which must be Wright Col, unless the mountain as bewitched as indeed it seemed. We searched for our footmarks made in the morning and found traces so faint and dim that they seemed to vanish as we looked at them, and we could not be sure that they were not rather tracks made by a wandering deer stepping lightly on the hard surface of the snow.
We zig-zagged up a snowslope, following the faint trail till it vanished on the hard ice, and there was nothing visible through the mist to tell us whether this was the col we sought or not. But it was so, and gladly we strode down the Birley Glacier, and so to our bivvy site by the waterfall; thence down the springing tussocks and across the long shoulders of the hills to our little hut perched like an eagle's eyrie on the tree-line, where the golden autumn forest and the silver snow grass met.
NIght had stolen all detail from the hills by the time we had finished our evening meal. The valley slept below, and the snowy peaks above had silently withdrawn into the upper darkness. We stretched ourselves comfortably in our hessian bunks - a few desultory scraps of conversation - hazy fleeting visions of snow and rock and ice slopes - of a dark giant and seven princesses who sat together like god and godesses in the kingly region above - clothed in a blanket of mist - all asleep… asleep… sleep…. then all consciousness melted away, and a great silence wrapped us.
Two years have passed by, and now the endless sleep lies heavy on Birtle, wiped out of existence by an avalanche in the Swiss Alps. The brave eyes are forever closed and the laughing lips are still. But the little Esquilant Bivvy nestles as a memorial in the pass where we had stood bewildered in the mist. It opens its arms and gathers climbers to itself as the darkness falls…. and in the silence the stars look down.
Our raft's a remarkable sort of boat
Made from inner tubes to help it float
With a top of sticks - quite dead I vow -
And a bent old branch to form the prow.
It's not much good for the open sea,
And for trips where you want to be home for tea
You'd better leave early - it's rather slow.
But where's my proof? My friend, I know
From bitter experience - bruised by rocks
On the rapids, you see, of the upper Cox.
Do you remember when I bought that 60 foot length of rope and a book on mountaineering, spurred to daring by a Certain Party's charm. And do you remember that I was going to tie her up with it as a last resort? Well, I'm pleased to relate that its only use so far has been to safeguard our small brother whilst repairing the roof of his parent's house, and that the book stands on our shelf as a living example of what lengths a man will go to to preserve a fair maid's favour at the risk of his precious neck. That threat to life and limb is now a thing of the past, with our rock climbing exploits limited to the Galong Creek - Carlon's Head type, but to one who likes water only when it's in a hot bath, or when he's exceeding thirsty, the latest craze is just as bad.
In all fairness I must admit that the idea first came to me years ago when I first saw the Blockup - couldn't walk through it, didn't have the energy to walk around it (i.e. up and over), and certainly didn't consider swimming through. I wondered what was on the other side, and now and again I would toy with the idea of building a raft, in situ, to explore the unknown. Inner tubes were to supply the buoyancy.
Year after year the idea flourished and waned, as I sat in my armchair and planned. Then, of course, I confided by longing to a C.P.
“Why, what a wonderful idea,” she burbled, all enthusiasm. “There's a rubber dinghy in that Disposals store….”
“Not wait a minute dear, not now; what about the bedroom curtains. Can't afford both you know.” (Phew, that was close. Water? Brrrr. Do you remember the Lovaduck Argosy?)
Time passed, and Putt, talking with me quite academically about such matter, spoke loudly enough for the C.P. to hear, and the campaign was on.
So, next thing I knew it was New Year weekend and there we were at the launching place at the Gibralta Creek junction, chosen because of its easy access via the six-foot track, and offering a raftable stretch of water - or so we thought. But memory plays queer tricks, especially when you've always walked along the banks of a river rather than in it, and mostly when the water was high.
The young brother had first try, floating lazily at something less than a slow walk until close to the first rapids - short sharp ones hurrying into a flurry of foam. Then suddenly there came frantic distress signals, a quick rescue, and he scrambled ashore to safety.
“Ah this is the life” I mused (me being built of sterner stuff), as I gradually moved faster into the rapid, but there was one snag, in the form of an unavoidable overhanging branch, just a foot above the water. Oh well, grab it and hope! And next thing there I was bereft of raft and plucked from my branch to follow cit bump… bumpp… bumppp… The C.P. was doubled up with mirth at this.
“All right Beautiful, see if you can do any better.” She did, inasmuch as she stayed aboard, but who ever heard of going down rapids backwards? “Well,” indignantly, “What do you expect. There's no rudder and you wouldn't make any paddles. Anyhow, this is fun.”
So on we went for an hour or so - a thrill a minute - and then with muggins aboard, down a drop - woomp! Off fell the groundsheet-wrapped pack and careered downstream whilst the raft neatly lassoed a rock and stayed firmly still. Have you ever tried to chase a runaway pack down a narrow boulder-strewn fast-flowing stretch of river? No?
Things were looking black (including my most recent bruises) I decided, as we dried the sodden articles in the sun. Time for a strategic retreat, honourable or otherwise.
“The tubes are going down, dear; trouble with the valves. I can't very well fix them here; got the right gear at home though. How about going up Galong, round to Kennel Flat…..”
We did, and if you think I'm going to be dragged into continuing the equeous expedition on the next long week-end you're wrong. “What's that, dear - better fix those valves - not much time left?…..”
Oh Oh, here, quick, pass me that coil of rope!
“A Committee is a gathering of important people, who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.” (Fred Allen)
Although there's a walk on the Programme for the week-end of 4-5th Feb. there are many people I know who won't be on it, because that's the week-end Jean Aird and Alan Wilson are to be married. A happy future to you both, Jean and Alan.
Howard Ireland, leader of the Gold Prospecting trip on the Fish River in January, looks as though he struck it lucky. Ah no, it wasn't a find of precious metal that caused the beam of satisfaction, but the fact that the Leaving Certificate results are out and Howard has passed. Cheers. Now he can devote his whole attention to that gold mine.
Grisly reports of myriad hoards of leeches in the Tasmanian wilds prompts this bit of information, culled from Eleanor Bor's “2dventures of a Botanist's Wife.”
Nicotine is deadly to leeches. Make a strong nicotine solution by pouring boiling water on tobacco leaves (first find your tobacco leaves!), and leave the brew to steep overnight. Apply it copiously to the boots and socks, and less freely to other parts of the clothing or body. It can be used just as effectively on bare feet, and on the muzzles and paws of dogs. The result is that leeches immediately drop off dead. Even four hours' walking through torrential rain does not wash off the tobacco “tea”.
[ Cartoon of three skeletons sitting around a camp fire. ]
Sez Keith “This Search andRescue exercise seems to be taking a long time. Do you think they have forgotten us?”
While we were still covered with blushes after reading last month's advt. written for us by the Editor we received a further-blush-raising letter from New Guinea, as follows:-
“About 4 years ago I purchased your Paddy-made rucksack and sleeping-bag. I used the articles 24 hours a day under the most difficult weather and walking conditions in Central Australia and Cape York Peninsula.
Just yesterday I finished my historic tramp from Port Moresby to Angoram, 229 days of non-stop walking over a terrain which is considered one of the worst in the world. I finished off 7 pairs of heavy boots, one waterproof watch, cylinder of revolver refused to spin for rust, and many shirts and shorts practically rotted away with the moisture.
Thanks to rough handling by kanakas my gear received a few holes which I was able to repair early. Otherwise in all those years of hard usage I have never had cause to complain about your gear. The pack is comfortable, easy to carry, and made out of iron to last for ever.
My birthplace is in a country which is well known for the excellent quality of its camping gear, but my hat down before your rucksack and sleeping bag.”
For the next ten months we will try to be modest.
Paddy Pallin. Lightweight Camp Gear.
201 Castlereagh St., Sydney.