TaT t TaT
or The Ascent of the Mighty Mount Whitton
by Stephen Bray
All my pool balls were left on the table. Wielding his stick like a true pro Rob Hynes sunk the black and finished me off. We did the same with our drinks and left the warmth of the Alexandra pub to tackle the wilderness. Donning our packs we came to our first challenge, the Great Western Highway. Utilising the best in contemporary MIB techniques we found a zebra crossing and dashed across. Dave Noble insisted on showing off the skills he had learnt at the last Navigation Weekend. He pointed to various subtle landmarks that corresponded to markings on his map, took a back bearing on a flower shop, and muttered to himself in concentration. We plodded along, our eyes being seared by the burning high beams of trucks. As the alcohol wore off our morale began to wane. We were rapidly approaching our physical and psychological limits. Soon we would have to turn back and retreat to the pub. This was a situation even the Leyland Brothers would have been profoundly perturbed by.
“Hang in there lads,” encouraged Dave “I happen to know that just around the next bend there is an overhead pedestrian bridge, and just before that is our way.”
This was a pivotal moment in the trip. What was around the next bend? Oblivion, that fearful entity the unknown, or endless highway? Or was there alight, our Way?
The adrenalin started to pump as we neared the bend. We moved a little faster. And suddenly there it was. An indescribable euphoria swept over us as we gazed at that psychological holy grail – the overhead pedestrian bridge. Sure enough, a road turned off just before the bridge. The Mount Hay road. A sign bolted to a light pole seemed to confirm this hypothesis.
The bitumen path soon deteriorated to a rough mountain gravel track. The street lamps were few and far between, but fortunately the full moon aided our progress. We came across some of the local people, a hardy lot who chose to live in the mountains. What had brought them out from their shelters on such a desolate night? They believed that the moon was going to be occluded from the sky. How did they know? we inquired. Learned men on their television sets had informed them, although personally they knew little of the orbital calculations involved, which left a strange sense of emptiness and doubt in some of them. Still, it had been on their television sets, and it must be true. Dave mentioned that he was Science teacher of some renown, legendary almost, and gave his phone number to the young ladies of the tribe should they require any further elucidation of the great paradigms of our age should they ever be travelling in Dave’s part of the world.
We pressed on and reached the abode of Tom the Packmaker. As we were sporting a Tassie and two Yodellers, we stopped off for Tea at Tom’ s We viewed some pictures of Tom’ s latest escapades climbing rock, and Dave and Tom reminisced about previous trips down the Mt Hay Road where various drunken dancing events had taken place decades before. When the time came to leave Tom took us part of the way in the back of his ambulance until the road became too rough. When we hopped out we found it was rather dark, as some bastard had taken away the moon. We stumbled past a clearing and Dave mentioned that this was the very spot where VomitBeard had earned his name. Further along we dossed out by the roadside.
The next morning we went up Mount Hay and made our way along the Mount Hay Range, passing over Boorong Crags, looking down Shaw Gully into the Grose, and spying in the hazy horizon the flanks of Mount Whitton. The scrub had a Northern Bluies feel to it, with a tinge of Kanangra Tops heath. There were a number of rocky outbreaks that made for easy walking, and some nice scrambling. With the Grose to the north and Wentworth Creek and its various tributaries to the south the Mount Hay Range was reasonably committing as far as weekend trips go, the range forming a lovely route. The rocks gave way to a few scrubby sections, and we even came across some tangly cutting vines hidden in ferns. It was just great.
That night we sat around the fire, watched a spectacular moon rise, and listened to some garbage on Dave’s radio.
Sunday saw us approaching Mount Whitton and the gradient increasing. We bashed on through the heat and the scrub and the ever steeper inclines. It was really fantastic. Eventually me made it up, starved of oxygen at such dizzy heights, and began an interesting descent to the corner of Wentworth Creek and the Grose. We had to dump our packs and search out various routes down the cliff, some of which needed pack passing. With the exposure and tricky moves it was certainly nice to have some rockclimbing experience. At the junction we had a pleasant swim, climb, and jaffle lunch. The climbing at our lunch site was great as there was nice sandstone over a sandy landing, although Dave got a bit nervous when we climbed above him.
We went down the Engineers’ track, crossed Linden Creek, and went up a cliffy route to Faulconbridge Point Lookout, again with some fun climbs. We walked out under the stars. We grabbed some take away and went over to eat it with some tea at Ted’s.