Saturday, 27 April 2013

King Davids Peak, Walls of Jerusalem Hike - Day Two

Clumner Bluff on a crisp April morning

Cairns. Stacks of rocks placed within sight of people, to help guide people in the right direction. Only particularly useful if there is one set of cairns heading in the same direction.

Why is it that the National Parks wish people to not put cairns out on their travels? Simple. Because it leads to confusion, causes multiple pads to develop, causes more foot traffic than is otherwise desired in areas that are not maintained, yadda yadda yadda, the list goes on.

Having said that, it is not very often that I have a hard time navigating. Today was one of those days.

But let's start at the start shall we...

I awoke to a bitterly cold morning, a sleeping bag covered in a thin layer of ice that had developed as my warm breath froze in the sub 2 or 3 degree weather.

I was warm in my Merino thermals, fleece, two beanies, and after giving myself a full belly of food, I headed for Herods Gate, with the full intention of climbing Solomons Throne, King David's Peak, The Temple, and Mt Jerusalem.

It was going to be a bloody cold day.

Speaking of Merino, admittedly, I've never used it. Knowing that I was going to the Walls in border cold season (when is it not cold in Tassie?), considering that Hypothermia really is not that much fun, I thought there was no better time to give it a shot, wearing a Merino baselayer top with non Merino bottoms.

Truth be told, I haven't taken off my Merino top once this trip. I'm even wearing it right now at Wild Dog Creek, writing a draft for this post on my iPhone, as I do.

So... To cut a long story short, I will be investing in more Merino. It kept me very warm. And as an added bonus, it smells pretty good for a long time too. :)

Anyway, back to that story about what happened today.

It was bat shit cold. Headed up to Herods Gate, King David's Peak was under a little cloud, however the sun starting to wake up and make its presence known helped banish that cloud.

King Davids Peak is an impressive peak. I remember first seeing a picture of it in an old John Chapman book (a much older edition that detailed a route to the summit via the old climbing gully), and I never stopped wanting to climb it.

That was back in the mid 90's though, and as much as I have been to the Walls twice prior (both day trips), I had never climbed any peaks, or seen any major landmarks.

The further through the main valley you get, the views just get more and more impressive. The last time I was here, I got as far as a few hundred meters before the Pool of Bethesda, and turned around so I could get back to the car before dark.

The time before that, I got snowed in, and had to turn around.

This time, I had my eye set on climbing Solomons Throne, King Davids Peak, the Temple, and Mt Jerusalem.

The weather looked like it was going to permit it too.

But I had to climb Solomons Throne first.

And with the snow that fell on the Walls two days before, and the ridiculously cold night that I'd just woken up from, the climbing gully up Solomons Throne was just a wee bit icy.

Being the slow walker that I am, I let a few people catch up to me near the top, and made a joke about bringing crampons. Would have made the going just a wee bit easier for sure.

The view from the top was impressive, with most major Tasmanian peaks in full view. Cradle Mountain was hiding under cloud, as it did for most of the trip, and the full Du Cane Range was visible for a short while as well, before disappearing under cloud again.

Frenchmans Cap was visible to the south west, and on the far southerly horizon, Mt Anne and the jagged ridgeline of the Western Arthurs appeared to be having a perfectly clear day.

And of course, there was King Davids Peak, which I was about to head off to.

John Chapmans track notes speak of a 1.5 hour return trip, which was perfect considering that I wanted to summit another two peaks before the day was done. The way looked pretty clear too.

The thing to know about climbing King Davids Peak is that there is a fairly good pad that follows the main crest of the West Wall for around 750 meters or so, into a semi open saddle. From this point, there is a fair deal of boulder hopping, and battling with thick low scrub.

Whilst there are the odd few cairns through the climb to the top of King Davids Peak, there are multiple sets of cairns that head in multiple directions, creating multiple pads, some that lead to nowhere, and others that lead somewhere.

Some cairns lead to difficult scrambles up large boulders, and others lead to thick scrub, heading off the main crest.

In fact, the most difficult aspect of getting to the summit of King Davids Peak is finding a route through the boulders. At times, this is challenging, and scrubby.

But eventually, I did get there, and after one last scramble over the summit boulders, I was there.

Walking close to the edge, I got this epic view as well.

...and as much as I would have loved to have stayed for longer, the wind chill was not good at all.

Plus, the clouds that were moving in from the Western Tiers didn't look that much fun.

Finding my way back to the climbing gully of Solomons Throne was a little challenging, with some awkward scrambling from the summit to the open saddle, then an easy climb up to Solomons Throne, and an icy descent down to Damascus Gate.

Total return time was closer to 4 hours.

Then again, I am a slow walker.

The walk down to Dixons Kingdom was out of this world, being one of the most densely populated areas of King Billy Pines in the Walls of Jerusalem, crossing to the other side of Damascus Gate was like crossing into a completely different National Park.

I did become aware of a smell of smoke however... having passed a few young guys yesterday on their way up to Dixons Kingdom Hut, I was wondering if they had lit a campfire near the hut, however, the smell just got stronger and stronger.

Arriving at Dixons Kingdom Hut, visibility had dropped, with no peaks visible, and the tempreture dropped significantly too.

This made for a very quick lunch, and reluctantly, I decided to head back to Wild Dog Creek, so that I could:
  • A) Keep as warm as possible
  • B) Keep an eye on where the smoke was coming from

...however, as I climbed higher out of Dixons Kingdom, the smoke started to clear.

...and in its place, clouds obscured the tops of the peaks, and what appeared to be very fast moving winds that if the cold winds experienced on the peaks earlier in the day were anything to go by, meant that it would have been excruciatingly cold up on the top of The Temple. 

So, I headed to the Pool of Bethesda instead. 

I cant help but think of how much of an amazing place to camp this was, back before it became so overused that camping was banned here.

Such is life though.

And as much as I could have easily followed the old pad from here to the Pool of Siloam, it was getting pretty cold and windy, and it was time to head back to camp.

And that's about where this day ends.


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  2. Good to know (for next time!) you can get to King Davids Peak from Solomons Throne. I couldn't even get to the top of Solomons Throne due to the accumulation of snow in the gulley leading up to the top. Looking at the views from your photos, I will have to plan a return trip!