My first attempt at Mt Anne back in undergraduate days left much business unfinished. Not only did I manage to crash a friend’s borrowed car into the embankment, but I didn’t even manage to successfully write it off (indeed, he had to finish it off himself several weeks later, an icy road delivering what a dirt one did not). As well as terrifying my car occupants, I also apparently led our expedition of University Bushwalking Club members into waist-deep snow before we’d even reached the saddle to Shelf Camp, and with one of our members in shorts we decided to retreat and climb the underrated Mt Cullin instead.
Since that time I’ve moved state three times and crashed no further cars, so what with living in Tasmania again it was time to conquer Mt Anne. Having been beaten back by snow once, I was almost beaten back again before I’d even started, this time by fire. The west coast bushfires had closed the road up until two days before the planned trip. Still, the reopened roads were clearly a promising sign, and so this time with my parents and partner (and not behind the wheel of the car) we set off.
We started late in the day, and first locked my mountain bike 9kms down the road at the end of the circuit. As such, we arrived at High Camp Memorial Hut in the late afternoon. The rest of us were ready to keep going, but my father convincingly argued for spending the night at the hut, and we were glad that he did for the rest of the trip. The weather came in, and warm and dry we went to bed early for an early start.
Sunrise was our reward, with colour all the way to Mt Eliza. Nick and I had set off ahead of my parents with the intention of submitting Mt Anne itself and meeting them for lunch at Shelf Camp. We gained the Eliza plateau at 7am and briskly made it the base of Anne herself, where we met some fellow walkers retreating down the climb – young and fit though they were, they’d found it too physically and mentally challenging to surmount the first section of climbing.
Anne is notorious for being both a difficult bushwalk, and also for being a difficult one to rate. Sons of the Desert describe it well: “Some people on the web said it was easy, especially given the descriptions. Others said it was impossible, and were not able to complete it, even in good weather. Certainly some have died. So where were we located on this spectrum?”
Having conquered Federation Peak in the Eastern Arthurs I was reasonably confident, and having been unable to conquer “Fedders” Nick wanted to test himself against Anne. In some ways our timing was poor, since the most difficult part of the climb was still in shade and quite wet from the previous days rain. Still, we cautiously climbed onto the next ledge, and thankfully sidled around following cairns into the sunlit far side.
It turned out that the descent proved the most difficult for me. Nick casually climbed down the trickiest part of the wet dolerite, but my reach was too short, and after some minutes holding on as I tried to determine my next move I was forced to give my arms a break (further research after the trip has suggested that this is indeed the trickiest section of down climb, and many groups use a rope to bypass it altogether). The second attempt was successful, although I was glad that I hadn’t found anything quite so physically challenging on Federation: there the exposure is more severe and more prolonged, which had been acceptable because the climbing itself was easier and I had never been forced to attempt a move twice. We met another group coming up, who were faced with mixed reports: impossible, from the other two, and quite doable, from us. We left them to reach their own conclusions and arrived at Shelf Camp only a half hour after my parents.
We then began the scenic boulder-scrambling and sidling section prior to the Notch. My parents were a bit fazed by the track appearing to drop vertically down a sheer rock face, but once I’d demonstrated how to climb it using the crack as a handhold they actually managed it quite readily.
Then it was onto the Notch itself. Again, this appeared quite daunting, but Nick’s reach allowed him to climb it himself and offer us a hand for the most difficult part. My father’s handline was again proving invaluable as we slung our packs up the rock face.
More rock scrambling finally had us at the top of Mt Lot at 5:30pm. We were thanking long Tasmanian summer days as we began the slow rocky descent down Lightning Ridge towards Lonely Tarns. After we’d clambered through the myrtle forest at the end of the ridge Nick and I went ahead to scout Lake Picone, but the camp there was far too damp and we settled on Judd’s Charm instead. Sunset had finished by the time we dropped our packs, making it a 14 hour day (6:30-8:30). Nick and I gorged on absurd quantities of curried noddles, though my parents were more restrained, and then it was time for bed.
Boots on and tents packed in misty weather we set off once again the next morning. We moved quickly across the windswept landscape, with Nick and I breaking off to detour via Sarah Jane.
We slowed down on the very wet and quite steep descent, as the rock changed from Mt Anne’s distinctive dolerite to the quartzite more familiar from the Arthurs (the geology of Mt Anne is actually really interesting, being dolerite sitting on top of unusually visible quartzite), and then hit bog country. It was turning into another long day as we scrambled through the forest before Lake Judd, and it was with great relief that we dropped our packs at the campsite. We all went for a dip of sorts in the beautiful lake, and – feeling a bit more refreshed – sat back to appreciate how lovely the camp really was. We did some stretches, and were soon introduced to the native and very very brave Swamp Rat as we made dinner.
Sunrise lasted for a mere few minutes as cloud movements forbade or permitted shafts of light. Concerned about how long the mountain bike shuffle might take, Nick and I set off ahead of my parents, and for only the second time ever managed to make a minimum Chapman time frame (the other being my attempt to catch a group on the Western Arthurs, where I raced up from Junction Creek to Lake Oberon in time for a late lunch).
It turned out that this brisk pace was unnecessary, as some friendly Germans drove past just as I was about to mount the bike and drove me the 9kms to the car. Still, it allowed me some sitting-in-the-car-escaping-mosquitoes-whilst-I-wrote-some-thesis time, and we all celebrated with an ice cream at Maydena.
It was rewarding to have finally conquered Anne, and I was in no doubt that turning back for snow previously had been a very wise decision. Moreover, we had unusually perfect weather, by Tasmanian standards! So how difficult is Mt Anne? Well for another perspective this is what my mother wrote about the trip.