We’d had a great walk into Macalister Springs and treated to a brilliant sunset over Mt Howitt Day 1 Crosscut Saw, is that a toilet?. But this day was to be even more spectacular.
I wake from a restless sleep with those same feelings of when you are strapped in a roller coaster ratcheting your way to the top knowing there is no turning back from what lies ahead. Relieved the tent is dry there are many more of them with a great number of campers having arrived overnight. There is a line up for the toilet and it not just for the view. We get on with the packing up and woofing down breakfast, we’re ready to head off. What we didn’t know is the rest of the party’s breakfasts are little more substantial and that equates to time. Never mind there is plenty of it, or at least that is what we think.
Finally on our way we cross the saddle and with one of our younger walkers, Lachie, who is training for the army setting the pace, we’re quickly up past the Howitt Plain and into the walk proper. The view is amazing a panorama stretching from Mt Buller to the far reaches of the Alpine National Park. I’m distracted by the majesty of this place and enjoy the early part of the journey, the walk so far is similar to the Mt Feathertop razorback.
It’s a beautiful cloudless day, all the mist from the night before has burnt off and I’m confronted with just how steep, narrow and sheer some of the trail will be. If I’m not convinced this is dangerous enough there is a helpful sign warning us that we are entering the remote Razor – Viking wilderness, sounds like something out of Gladiatorial movie. I look ahead and the gnarly peak I saw yesterday, which looks like it involves some climbing over its jagged and sharp surface is up. I’m relieved when the trail deteriorates into a goat track detouring us on to its flank, still steep but not sheer. I’m pacing, which means I’m behind and ahead at different times. I’ve slowed approaching the first decent peak and arrive a little after the others.
The peak is the highest that we’ll stand atop today, it’s devoid of vegetation and completely exposed to the elements. The trail is busy and we all dance around each other in the limited space to take in the spectacular vistas and snap photos. I’ve noticed walking with my sunglasses and their wide arms has blocked my peripheral vision allowing me to get closer to the edge without clearly seeing the drop. I can use this to my advantage.
The Crosscut Saw just keeps ratcheting up the ante, with the next challenge a razor back not much wider than tram tracks, it’s also completely exposed and while the walking is flat it’s easy to see the edge, I employ the sunglasses blocking which helps. No sooner are we across this and over a smaller peak and there is another razor back, this one narrower again and the trail cut into the left hand side. Down and along I watch every foot placement, the pounding of my boot sending a shower of dust and gravel tumbling in free fall into the abyss below.
The views continue to astound and it’s hard not to get left behind for all the stops for photos, panorama’s now my favourite. The trail runs along the peaks a little way before taking a steep descent down the flank joining another saddle before I see a small rock climb in the distance to the last of the high exposed peaks. My palms start to sweat, I’m not much for rock ledge walking. There is a quick battle in my mind before I succumb to the fact that there is no turning back and no going around. I summon the confidence from other trips and while it is exposed and narrow I hug the wall and get on with it, scrambling the last part, pleased to be on the flatter peak top. This is one I am not looking forward to on the return.
Whatever goes up must come down and the other side of this peak treats us to a steep descent over rocky ground, the younger ones in the party treat it like a walk in the park, me, I look more like a stick insect with poles out front for support. I’ll take any precaution not to blow out my knee. With the exposed ramparts of the Saw behind us, I can relax a little, it’s still strenuous and steep but there are trees, which for some reason I believe will protect me from falling. What is one persons like is another’s dislike. Claire’s glee at walking the peaks and razors, getting as close as possible to the edges turns to loathing as we move into the vegetated environment. Claire is just the right height for the bushes to slap her in the face, this isn’t the first trip this has happened and I dare say won’t be the last.
The party is pretty much exhausted by the time we make the final ascent to Mt Buggery, tramping through the warmer dense scrub having taken it’s toll on us. Mt Buggery is widely accepted as the end of the Crosscut Saw and beyond it is horrible gap and Mt Speculation. A few of us are having second thoughts as we pour everything we have into the never ending tramp to the top, the bush so dense it’s obscured our view and more importantly how far we have to go.
Water supply is on our mind, the day has been beautiful and clear but with that has come greater consumption then expected. I pass through a damp, lush and shaded patch of trail, there could be water here if we get desperate. I take a mental note of the location. Breaking through the last of the scrub we are met with a few other parties lunching in transit to Macalister Springs.
Buggered as the mountain describes we would be, it’s time for a rest and something to eat, before determining what we do from here. Jonathan and I are seriously reconsidering whether we camp here for the night and leave Mt Speculation for another trip.
Decision made we decide to stay. Jess and Lachie choose to make a day trip to Mt Speculation. We hear from walkers there is water not far from the top giving renewed purpose to their trip.
Jonathan, Claire and I scout out tent sites. Mt Buggery is larger than I expected although flat land is at a premium. We find a suitable space and make camp, noting the western part of the peak has an existing fire place which will be great for keeping warm tonight.
Walkers come and go throughout the day, Jess and Lachie will be well advanced on the quest for water and my energy is returning after a nap under a tree. I decide to see how horrible, Horrible Gap is. It’s about a 500m descent over 2km and seeing how it drops off and thinking about the return I’m content just to look at it.
Hearing voices in the bush, I follow the sound, it’s a couple camping in a secluded spot on the ridge before it rides downward to the valley below. What a great site, with views back along the Crosscut Saw, Mt Buller and everything in between. They tell me there is a great lookout at the end of this finger of land and they’re not wrong. It make for a peaceful place to contemplate God’s greatness and his majesty in nature.
Jess and Lachie make a safe return sharing photos and video of the rock walls they’ve negotiated and looking more than just buggered for their effort, the reward, no need to ration water.
Falling between Mt Buller and Mt Stirling the sunset is spectacular, lighting up the western side of Buggery like it’s on fire. The snow gums transform, into warmer oranges and reds, belieing the bitter cold they experience here in winter. The clouds put on an incredible post sunset display, like a master painter who hasn’t quiet found the perfect hue, they change as the dark finally triumphs over the day.
The temperature drops a little but holds around 15C. The fire now well alight supplies its warmth to all who seek it. We are now only hours away from the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and as other hikers join us we wish each other a Happy Easter and share chocolate eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb, a demonstration of his resurrection. I’m so pleased we worship a risen Jesus, a living God who has made a way for us to be free of our sin and reconciled with him.
As is my custom I take some time alone studying the heavens, wowed by the constellations and reflecting on the day and it triumphs. The valley is filling with cloud again just like it did the night before. The sky remains cloudless and with no artificial light the Milky Way is self evident. I romance the idea in my head of sleeping under the stars, just a sleeping bag on the ground. It’s possible there was no dew last night.
I head to bed, ear plugs in. I fall off quickly. Satisfied with the days achievements and looking forward to an interrupted sleep…
Claire starts nudging me, Dad, Dad, it’s raining! Dazed, deaf and half conscious I can see her blurry lips moving but I hear only muffled tones, ah the ear plugs. It surely sounds like it, I poke my head out and it is cloud city, visibility of just a few meters and raining heavily on the tent but I catch no large drops in the torch light. Confused as to how this is possible, I look to make sure there is no water in the tent and choose to deal with whatever nature throws at us in the morning…