By Road & Track
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By Road & Track

Coastal stories…

A short walk in the coastal mountains

On a day of cold wind and chilly rain, we set out for a short walk in the costal mountains.

A short walk. Should be back in an hour and a half at most. Will the rain hold off long enough?

We are at Wilsons Promotory, the place where the Australian landmass sinks below the waters of Bass Strait. Two-hundred kilometres south lies Tasmania, After that, 2000km to the Antarctic.

Stopping to watch a grazing wombat, we walk uphill at a moderate but determined pace. A glance at the sky is enough to keep us going. From that grey cloud mass this morning came a flurry of wind-blown cold showers. It was when they stopped that we decided to set off.

The bush here is the low, scraggly shrubs and stunted trees that find foothold on these pink granite slopes. Here on the eastern side of the mountain they break the strong wind that has been with us through yesterday and today. The casuarinas, Malaleuca and Leptospernum through which we walk present none of the dangers of eucalyptus forest in windy weather — the readiness of eucalyptus to shed branches.

The track climbs steadily. On reaching the western aspect of the mountain it leaves the forest and we enter a landscape of low, thick scrub. Below in the distance we look onto the windsea that is Bass Strait and to what might be a sheltered, sandy beach backed by high, vegetated sandhills.

The open conditions on the mountain exposed us to a strong, cold wind.

Stepping out of the forest we are blasted by a powerful wind. I stop to make a couple photos while my partner walks on. I catch up to find her holding onto a tree trunk. The wind is almost blowing me over, she says. Add the windchill to the around-12 degrees Celsius temperature to get a windchill factor that makes it much colder that the temperature alone.

We hurry across this windblasted, open landscape and follow the track into the scrubby forest. Here, we are sheltered. We swing back onto the eastern face and finish the walk in calmer conditions.

A few points

Our walk exemplified a few things the novice bushwalker would best keep in mind.

The first is that the weather on one side of a mountain can differ significantly to that on another side and at a different elevation.

Second thing. Especially when walking in the mountains, and I include the coastal mountains, the possibility of bad weather suggests the wisdom of carrying warm and waterproof clothing in case conditions get bad, like they did up on the mountain that day.

Fortunately, my partner packed her Patagonia Torrentshell rain parka which protected her from the cold wind. Mine was in my pack, however I made use of a lightweight Patagonia Houdini Air jacket, a windproof. It worked well there on the windy western side of the mountain.

A third thing. Although we were not going to be out long on this short walk, we carried a few nut and grain bars. In an emergency, say being injured and having to overnight in the bush, the bars would provide a little energy to generate body heat. Today, their value lay in giving us psychological heat. It is interesting how nibbling a bar can boost sagging spirits numbed by cold winds.

A fourth thing is to carry water. We did this, but due to the shortness of the walk and our drinking some before setting out, we drank little of it.

Windproof and waterproof clothing, water and a little food. All basic equipment whether trekking coastal mountains.

Beach and mountains. Wilsons Promontory os a fine place for a bushwalk. Just watch the weather.

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