GRAND HIGH TOPS

10 Dec 2020

They weren’t pretty, but they were delicious. Over misshapen pancakes, bacon and maple syrup along with a mug of piping hot coffee, we discussed the walk we planned for today. Breadknife and The Grand High Tops Circuit, one of Australia’s top walks. It was going to be a long, hard walk in 32 Degrees heat. We needed to be prepared. 

We weren’t prepared for how long it takes to do anything while camping, and we found ourselves at the trail head in time make the climb at the hottest part of the day.  A guy on a huge grey ‘Giant’ hardtail mountain bike, finishing up for the morning, slowed as he approached us. He looked to be in his 50’s and we recognised him as one of our campsite neighbours.

“That looks like fun!” I greeted him with an envious smile, missing my bike. We are still waiting for David’s bike to arrive. We ordered them in August, 18 weeks ago. 

“It’s getting hot, I wish I’d set out earlier! Have fun!” he replied. Exactly what we were thinking. 

The track started out following the bone-dry Spirey Creek through a surprisingly lush forest despite the dry conditions. We wondered how the earth could be so hard and dry, and yet the forest so green.  There were obvious signs of a bushfire here too, but definitely not from last year. The surviving trees have a canopy and the undergrowth was more established.  

Around every corner the track revealed glimpses of strange, jagged rocky spires and peaks.  

“I see Fred Williams paintings everywhere” I said pointing to a particular hill fringed with burnt and new growth. It’s a particular texture that is difficult to describe. 

The track steepened, and we settled into the rhythm of up-hill hiking, concentrating on breathing and enjoying the physical excursion. It felt good to use a different set of muscles from our recent trail run. The track was really well maintained even paved in sections, and we wondered how they got the bricks up here.  

It wasn’t long before the incline steepened further, hands on hips breathing hard we pushed on, through the blazing sun. Dave pulled over to a rest area with a view of one of the towers of stone through the trees. 

After 4km we reached the stairs. So many stairs. About 450m in elevation of stairs. It was a lung busting climb. We were monitoring our heart rate and rested after we reached our Vo2 max. We were hot and tired, but the view dragged us up. Every corner, a new and interesting view. 

“I mean, eventually the stairs will stop. They can’t go on forever” I called up to Dave and digging deep to press on. And I’m pleased to report, eventually they did stop, at an impressive gap between some of the blades of “The Breadknife” formation. A gloriously cold wind rushed through the gap, turning my back to the view I let the cold air rush around me feeling my temperature drop, and my spirits rise.

At 920m above sea level, we found a shady picnic spot under a tree, and over lunch debated which direction the path went from here. It just wasn’t clear. After a bit of exploring the options we decided the best option was to re-trace our steps. 

And so, down. 

We tracked along the base of the Breadknife briefly taking comfort in the shade of the cool rocks. It crossed my mind to hold up here until sunset and walk out in the twilight, perhaps if I’d packed our head torches. Working our way down the stairs we were able to focus more on the view than on breathing.  

“Aww mate! Is it hot enough for ya?!” Dave’s familiar irony. 

At the base of the stairs the wind died down and we could feel the combined heat of the sun and radiant heat from the stones. But soon enough we were crossing bridges over the dried creek, and heading into the lush forest of the valley. Walking down hill, we noticed the wildflowers we’d missed looking up at the peaks. 

Later that night a storm front blew through the campsite, with 25km/hr winds. The tent held up, but we found ourselves outside at 3am, torch in teeth, mallet in hand battening-down-the-hatches, in our underpants. 

“Welcome to camping!” he says, making me giggle.  Needless to say we hardly slept, listening to the tent blowing in the wind and covering everything in fine sand. Inside and out.

“Did I forget to mention that camping is exhausting? You need a holiday after camping!” My sister had me in stitches on the phone the following morning.      

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