From Stockyard Spur, looking over the Cotter River Valley
A SUMMER’S DAY IN THE HIGH COUNTRY
“AND THE TRACK WE TREAD UPON IS THE TRACK TO FAIRYLAND”
Not far from my home in Canberra I left summer’s ochre-coloured farmlands on the edge of the city and took the winding road up into the hills, into Namadgi National Park. Quickly the grassy paddocks were left behind and I was soon in a greener, forested, rugged, mountain landscape. This is the road to Corin Dam on the Cotter River. It climbs to the pass of
Smokers Gap before descending to Corin Dam. Ahead lay the Valley of the Cotter and beyond it the rugged Brindabella Range of mountains.
I had been up here only a week earlier when we had taken the track up Stockyard Spur to the summit of Mt Gingera, the second highest peak in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) , 1,857 metres (6,093 ft) , which lies right on the ACT/NSW border. On that trip our small party had been a fast moving one, taking only 5 ½ hours to make the return journey, including stops for morning tea and lunch. Now, however, I was making a more leisurely trip in order to take photos of the many lovely wildflowers along the way. These flowers , as with nearly all the photos, were taken on this one hike.
The track to the summit of Mt Gingera is about 10 km and climbs about 1000 m . However, from the moment one starts walking, one is climbing steeply and unrelentingly, 540 m in just 2 km, before the track finally eases along the undulating ridge and then the final climb of about 180 m up Mt Gingera to its summit.
I stepped out of the car into silence, stillness and the coolness of an early summer’s day. Bird calls and the shrieking of cicadas only emphasised the silence and stillness. There was a lovely softness to the day, to the vistas of sky and mountains and forests. The forest at Corin Dam is beautiful, with straight, tall trees and an understory of shrubs and bracken. Down below I could hear the Cotter River, while upstream I could see the blue waters of the lake, and across the valley, rising high into the mountain air, was the sharp peak of Tidbinbilla Mountain. I completed the register and set off. Rain had recently fallen and the track and undergrowth were still damp, bringing to life the aromatic scents of the Australian bush, scent of eucalyptus from the trees and the litter of leaves, bark and twigs and branches on the ground as well as the scent of various shrubs and scent of damp earth. this is a fragile and precious land of great antiquity, beauty and peace, a part of the biosphere essential for our own survival. We dare not lose it. Our fragile earth.
As I climbed, the forest gradually changed in character, to different eucalypt trees, as did the understory, while the number of wildflowers increased. I stopped often to take photos. Eventually the steepness of the track eased, although it continued to climb while switch backing along the ridge. At last I was in the lovely, fairly open, sub-alpine country of snow gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) and ancient, grey, weathered, granite outcrops. Up here one can feel that one can breathe. It is a lovely part of the world. Whilst the forest lower down is beautiful, up here one has the feeling of being in real mountains. It begins to feel alpine. From here to the summits of the Brindabellas one is in a different world, a mountain world, with mountain weather, milder temperatures in summer, (but often very cold in winter when snow often lies on the ground) , more changeable weather, a land of mists as well as sunny skies. And alpine flowers.
O to dream, O to wake and wander
There, and with delight to take and render,
Through the trance of silence quiet breath;
Lo! for there, among the flowers and grasses,
Only the mightier movement sounds and passes;
Only winds and rivers, life and death.
At the highest point of the track along Stockyard Spur there are two great view spots from slabs of granite. I went to the left hand one, on the southern side of the track, for morning tea, where I lit my stove and boiled the pot. From these ancient grey granites the ground fell away steeply , overlooking Snowy Flat Creek and the Cotter Valley, and giving a wonderful view of much of Namadgi National Park; blue mountains stretching away to the horizon, with the Tinderries in the far distance. Stopping to boil the pot or the billy and make tea seems to do more for one than either taking pre made tea from a thermos flask or drinking cold water from a bottle. Perhaps it is the ritual involved, or perhaps it is just that it takes time , but I always find that it makes me relax into another world. I am not stopping merely to have a drink, but to take time to sit and absorb the spirit of the place. Ideally , one should stop and light a fire, but that is frowned on these days.
From here the track descends a little, crosses a beautiful area of grassland and scattered snow gums, a low saddle which slopes down to Snowy Flat and Snowy Flat Creek with its lovely cascades where it leaves the Flat. My track then meets the Mt Franklin Fire Trail. Here I turn left, along the fire trail, passing Pryors Hut and then coming to the little creek that tumbles down the flanks of Mt Gingera. Here I fill my water bottle with the clearest mountain water imaginable and take the foot track up the final slopes of Mt Gingera. Here the trees thin out as I approach the tree line. Finally I am on the granite slabs on the summit of Mt Gingera with its incredible views. On one side the Cotter Valley way below me, on the other, also far down steep slopes, the Goodradigby River. I can see most of the rugged Namadgi National Park. On the skyline to the east is the far away blue line of the Tinderry Range.
I am on my own in this mountain world, with not another soul anywhere near me. I don’t see anyone else all day. A mountain world all my own. This is a spacious mountain world and I can see all the way to Mt Jagungal and even to the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains, still with splashes of snow. Here there is stillness, and silence except for the breeze rustling the grasses and the calls of the birds. Here one senses a land that has existed since the world began. The Sleeping Land : an age-old land waiting and watching, dreaming in the sun, hoping that mankind will not destroy life on this planet.
There is something wonderful about being on a mountain top. Summits are places that lift one above the world, above the deadness of the plains. Here cloud shadows pass across the landscape, the sun shines, mists come and go. This is an enchanting and uplifting place. Silence, stillness, beauty, and profound peace.
There is much comfort in high hills, and a great easing of the heart.
We look upon them, and our nature fills with loftier images from life apart.
They set our feet on curves of freedom, bent to snap the circles of our discontent.
Mountains are moods; of larger rhythm and line, moving between the eternal mode and mine
Moments in thought, of which I too am part, I lose in them my instant of brief ills, –
There is great easing of the heart, and cumulance of comfort on high hills. –
Geoffrey Winthrop Young
THESE ARE MY RICHES
These are my riches, that none can take away from me,
Stored as mountain grass is stored in the byre;
These shall shine of an evening when winter befalls me,
Sitting by the fire.
Mine are the torrents and the timeless hills,
The rock face, the heather and the rain,
The summits where the life-wind thrums and thrills,
And, answering, the glad heart sings again:
The good grey rock that loves a grasping hand,
The stress of body and the soul’s rebirth
On the tall peak where gods and men may stand
Breathless above the kingdoms of the earth:
The drowse of summer on the sunlit crags
Lulled in the blue and shimmering air of June,
When Time, the lazy mountain- traveller, lags
To dream with us an endless afternoon:
The ice-wind stealing downwards from the crest
To hush with frost the reedy river’s flow,
When all the mountain land on winter’s breast
Sleeps, in the deathly silence of the snow.
These are my riches, these and the bright remembering
Of ridge and buttress and sky-shouldering spire;
These I shall count, when I am old, of an evening,
Sitting by the fire.
Once again I make tea and eat my lunch.
All too soon it is time to return.
This is the rocky solitude I love;
The rock below me and the sky above;
A cool air moving; save its sigh no sound:
Glory of golden light and peace profound.
Too soon this hushed uplifted hour must end
And I to meet the world once more descend;
Yet something surely will remain my own
Of this benediction I have known.
Route up Stockyard Spur, with Mt Gingera
on the left horizon snow covered and
only just visible against the clouds. commencement of the walk at Corin Dam is way down in the valley, out of sight.
climbing the Track:-
“SPIRIT OF MIST & FATHOMLESS DEEP” – GW Young
OF HIGH SOLITUDE
WILFRED W GIBSON
Eagles and isles and uncompanioned peaks,
The self-reliant isolated things
Release my soul, embrangled in the stress
Of all day’s crass and cluttered business:
Release my soul in song, and give it wings;
And even when the traffic roars and rings,
With senses stunned and beaten deaf and blind,
My soul withdraws into itself, and seeks
The peaks and isles and eagles of the mind.