Mount Anne is one of those places that sits outside of the general consciousness. Yet, for those who have been lucky enough to have visited, it remains high on the list for repeat visits.
It is majestic, cruel, awe-inspiring and inhospitable. The 700 metres of rough stairs cut into the ridgeline, followed by a further 300 metre rock scramble is pure in its intensity as it is soul destroying. And yet, the moment you step up to Mount Eliza’s peak, all fatigue is washed away by the surrounding views: Lake Pedder to the west, Lake Judd to the south, Mount Field to the east, and the imposing Mount Anne to the north.
The weather can turn in an instant. A trip to Mount Anne should be planned with a constant watch on the weather forecast. Even then, be prepared for anything. Don’t ever expect to make the summit either – it is not a task taken lightly, with even a bit of cloud rendering the dolerite columns treacherous.
My trips rely heavily on my scheduled days off, and if it’s my week to be a parent. I had decided I was going regardless, but was hoping for some favourable conditions. Thankfully, as the time approached, the weather forecasts grew better with each day, culminating in a sunny, no rain forecast.
Whenever I visit Mount Anne, I camp at the Condiminium Creek campsite for an early start the following day. This time around, I left early enough to get in a short walk up The Needles and a visit to Scott’s Peak Dam to the south of Lake Peddar.
With an early night, I woke before 6am and was all packed and away by 6:15am. The first hour and a half was under lights. It didn’t really matter, largely due to the full attention required for the steps. By the time I reached High Point Hut (1000m), the sun was up and no lights required for the next, more difficult phase. It’s an easy, yet daunting climb to the summit, scrabbling across large boulders and playing find the cairn. There are plenty of safe places to rest, however.
Once at the summit, with the clouds hanging down to just below the plateau, it was an eerie experience. It was cold, and deathly quiet. As I hiked to the next, lower peak, the cloud started to shift away, leaving gaps of sun-drenched rock and cushion plants. It was at the top of the second peak that I was greeted with a gorgeous view of Lake Judd at the base of dolerite cliffs.
And on the other side, looking into the cloud, I was greeted with my first brockenspectre! For the uninitiated, a brockenspectre is a circular rainbow with your own shadow in the centre. The brockenspectre is an elusive phenomenon, as it varies in intensity based on the cloud density and the strength of the sun. Needless to say, the camera came out and a good 20 or so pictures were taken.
Because of my early start, there was no hurry to the day. The main purpose of my visit was to get a shot of Smith Tarn, which is basically a lake in an old caldera. It’s situated just south of Lake Judd, which was a few kilometres away from my position. At this time of the day, there was no chance of seeing it, thanks to the cloud cover. Reaching Mount Anne wasn’t in my plans at all, which meant more time for exploring, taking photos and brewing a fresh cup of coffee somewhere with a view.
With that in mind, I headed down to the Mount Anne Plateau, where a clearly defined, well-built stone track takes you towards the mountain itself. Along the way is another small peak, where a scramble across dolerite boulders is necessary.
The plateau is where the trip really lives up to the hype. The magnificent views on either side are enough to stop you in your tracks. Mt Lot and Lot’s Wife, Lightning Ridge, Lake Pedder, and what looks like (but isn’t) the entire Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
It was at the base of Mount Anne, before the next boulder scramble, I decided to turn back. I’d seen pretty much all there was to see (so I thought). Up until this point, I was all alone, with no sign of another human. It was on my return that I began running into people. It was becoming obvious with each meeting that everyone had seen the weather forecast, and planned a night on “The Shelf”, a flat section on top of dolerite columns, with insane views. This is planned for my next trip out.
Again, I wasn’t rushing back. I had plenty of time to get back before the sun set. Besides, there was a currawong that kept sitting in the most photogenic places.
Before I began the descent to the camp site, I made a last attempt at photographing Smith Tarn. My memories of it far exceeded the realities presented to me. I somehow expected to be much higher that I was. Next time, for sure.
The descent to High Point Hut wasn’t nearly as disastrous as I’d expected. And the climb down was dotted with rests while I chatted to various people on their way up. My memories of my last descent, complete with an overloaded, heavy pack, were distilled quickly with some smarter packing (coffee pot and burner notwithstanding!).
Just below the hut, on the open hills, I met Pete, a paraglider, preparing for a take-off into the afternoon thermals. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to rest my legs before the brutal stair descent. It took Pete around 20 minutes to get organised before take-off. Seeing a paraglider glide in front of Mount Anne was an opportunity not to be missed. I found a nice little rocky outcrop, where I perched, managing to rip my pants in the process, and waited patiently.
Once Pete disappeared behind the hills, there was little to do but finish my day trip with nothing but photographs and memories.
An excellent day out indeed.