June 8, 2006

Mt Olympus

Marian Harradine
Tuesday 25th January
We got on our way from our camp site at Narcissus Bay at 9.15, following the overland track towards Echo Point. We filled up with water at a little creek and I found a little leech on my finger soon after and got rid of that quick smart.
We passed the Byron Gap turn off 25 minutes later and intended to head up Mt Olympus about 2 k past there. If starting from Echo Point it is 2k from there also. Mt Olympus is untracked so there was not going to be a starting cairn. We estimated we had done 2ks by about 10.38 having passed a couple of little beaches close to the track, the first one twenty minutes earlier. I set the compass bearing from the enlarged map at 210 degrees, aiming for the east side of Lake Oenone (pronounced ohnonee) and set off up into the tall rainforest. The area we started on was not too bad and we had little trouble finding a fairly clear way up for the first 10 minutes. Then we came to a very high, steep, mossy rock face, which seemed to go as far as we could see to the left and to the right. After some reconoitering towards the south eastern (left) side we found a place where with the help of a few foot and hand holds from roots and trees we could scramble up. We were up and on our way again by 11am.
Then 15 minutes later we came to another similar rock face, not quite as high but seemingly imprenatable. Luckily we found a quicker way up that and continued on. After an hour of climbing, at 11.38, we stopped for a drink and a snack. It surprised us again how quickly time goes when not following a track, it did not seem like an hour of climbing. No time to get bored looking for the clearest route and checking the compass bearing.
At 12.25 we noticed that the bush changed to being more open and scrubby, with pandani and tea tree and snow gums. The route also became more scrubby, still climbing, but we managed to keep moving quite well. There were pads here and there which became more definite as we climbed.
At 12.50 we came into what looked like a large basin, with the cliffs of both north and south Mt Olympus plateaus on either side, and the ridge joining them up ahead. There was a lot of bright green low fagus and pandani and ground cover tea tree type of vegetation and fragrant heath in full flower. But we could not see Lake Oenone ahead. We kept to our bearing and a few minutes later saw a small waterfall about a hundred meters ahead. We reached that at 12.55, passing a few small tarns and green grassy areas. We stopped for a welcome cool drink and a face wash and replenished our bottles.
At 1.10 we reached the eastern side of Lake Oenone, not far upstream from the little waterfall. It is a lovely little lake, not so little really. Our compass bearing had been spot on, much to my delight. We were starting to realise that we may be short of time so we did not stay as long as we would have liked at the lake.
We left the lake and headed for the saddle between the two plateaus, using our eyes for navigation. We actually came across a rough track as we climbed up which led us to some boulder hopping again at 1.35. After 20 minutes of boulders we gained the top of the ridge.
The views from there were extensive to the west the Cuvier Valley, Pyramid Mt and Gould's Sugarloaf, Little Hugel and Cheyne Range and the Eldon Range, with Frenchman's Cap and the West Coast Range in the distance. To the east was Mt Ida and Mt Gould further north with the Acropolis and Geryon and the Walls of Jerusalem further northeast.
Brian was quite happy to stay there and enjoy the views and I was a bit concerned that having got this far we might not get to the top of Olympus because of time. We had a bit of lunch and then decided that I should head off on my own as I am quicker that Brian, or maybe more motivated, and try and meet Brian back at Lake Oenone at 4pm. That would give me nearly two hours. I had to be quick but also careful  using the adage It is quite safe if you are careful. when I walk on my own .
I headed off along the top of the ridge to the northern plateau which had the highest point at 2.05. For the first 10 minutes I made good time following a rough track through scrub with occasional rock hopping.
Then the boulder hopping started, around one high point that did not lead to the plateau, and continuing on for another 25 minutes after that to reach the plateau. The boulders were very large and it was not always easy to find a way round or over them. Once I reached the plateau, I headed for the northern end, and eventually reached the highest point, marked by a large cairn, at 3pm. The only cairn on the trip. It had taken me 55 minutes after leaving Brian. The views were very good, but as the high point is on the plateau only the northern views gave a feeling of height. The GPS said the height was 1481m.
I stayed there for only a few minutes to catch my breath and left again at 3.05, getting into a bit of trouble on the boulders when I was not as efficient in direction, as I did not have the plateau in my sight, as on the way up. Once I thought I was completely stuck, but found a way round with the help of some fervent prayer. Then I headed off down to Lake Oenone too early and got caught in the fagus. Not a good idea! I made a hasty return to the top of the ridge and tried again further on. I rock hopped down towards Lake Oenone and eventually came across the rough track through the scrub as I neared the lake. I got there at 4.20, hot and bothered but happy that I had made it to the top and back to Brian in reasonable time to get back in daylight.
Brian was very happy to see my safe return and I had a short rest and cool off near the waterfall before making our way back down. I felt much better for the rest and taking the opposite bearing to the one up, we started our return back down at 4.45. We followed the pads where we could but soon lost them and continued on with the compass. Soon after leaving when looking north we saw Lake Helen in the distance, at a lower level than Lake Oenone.
At around 5.40 pm we came to the first sandstone wall and lost a bit of time finding a way down. We managed it without too much difficulty and at 6pm we came to the big sandtone wall drop, at least 15 meters, straight down. We lost 20 minutes looking for a safe way down. I found a couple of risky ones which Brian vetoed. We moved along the wall in a south easterly direction, to the right of us, and eventually, a hundred meters or so from where we started we found a safe descent when the rock suddenly stopped and a very steep, soft leaf litter descent alongside a log was able to be made.
We continued down and within 10 minutes, at 6.30 reached the Overland Track with plenty of time to get back in daylight. We stopped at a little nearby beach on Lake St Clair and enjoyed ten minutes in that peaceful place. Then we were on our way, passing the Byron Gap turn off at 7.30 and back at Narcissus Bay at 7.55. It was a beautiful evening, a good end to a very satisfying day.

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