NEVIS (3910’) ALONE
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 On Sunday, Dec. 4th. 1934, I left Launceston, carrying a fifteen pound pack, en route for Ben Nevis at 5.26 a.m.. The morning was quite bright and clear and I expected to have quite a tough day’s work in front of me in accomplishing my set task in the one day. I set off at a steady pace, trying to keep as much strength in reserve as possible for the more arduous work on the mountain.
At 6.7 a.m. I reached White Hills, 8½ miles from Launceston at an altitude of 300’. Soon after I passed a road turning off on the right and then gained the Watery Plains turnoff at 7 a.m.. A little farther on another road leads off on the right and next comes the Aplico side-road. This was reached at 7.24 a.m. and the corrected aneroid reading gave an elevation of 1100’.
Upon continuing, I had not cycled far before another side-road veered off on the left while farther on the Lower Blessington road runs off on the right. The next side-road to be met with was the Burn’s Creek road which departed to the left opposite the North Esk Memorial Hall. This was reached at 8.12 a.m. being twenty-three miles from Launceston at an altitude of 1200’.
Three and a half miles farther along, the Ben Nevis road is reached and then only seven more miles remains to complete the thirty-four miles of road travel between Launceston and Ben Nevis House. I was fortunate, indeed, to find the road at its best, although even so it was not a road one would choose for a cycling outing. It was extremely bumpy, with many rutty and sandy patches and some corduroy but, in winter, it must be a perfect quagmire as metal is practically non-existent. It has one redeeming feature, however, in that it possesses no big hills, although some of the steeper pinches are hard to surmount owing to the condition of the road.
At 8.25 a.m., I entered the Ben Nevis Road and had to exercise considerable care in negotiating the road. Some four miles or so along the road, I found what was literally the home of the davisia. Beneath the gums they formed the entire undergrowth over a large area.
After traversing nearly six miles of the Ben Nevis road, two small streams passed under the road – the North Esk and a subsidiary stream. The first was gained at 9.8 a.m. and I was so impressed with the diversity of the vegetation on the banks that I could not resist taking a photograph thererof. For there, in that small compact area, a myrtle (Fagus cunninghami), a pepper tree (Drimya aromatica), a buck musk (Olearia), a teatree (Melaleuca), a gum (Eucalyptus), a wattle (Acacia dealbata) and two other small trees which I intended to investigate upon my return but lack of time prevented me. Reeds and a few varieties of fern were also in evidence.
Then on again until Ben Nevis House is reached at last at 9.35 a.m.. Here Mr. Phillips pressed me to a cup of tea for which I was truly grateful while I, in turn pressed him for information concerning the approach to the mountain which was immediately forthcoming and proved most helpful.
At 10 a.m., I left the homestead which lies at an altitude of 1400’ and began the walking and climbing portion of the journey. Ben Nevis could be seen away to the east over the shoulder of a nearby hill and, following my instructions, I hastened towards the hill. It proved rather steeper than expected and I perspired freely as I ascended the slope.
At 10.55 a.m., I gained the summit (2350’) after a 2¼ miles tramp and easily discovered the little-used track that was  to assist in making my passage to the mountain as quick and easy as possible. From the top of the hill, Mt. Barrow lies a little to the north of west, whilst Mt. Ben Nevis appears just north of east.
Resuming at 11.3 a.m., I followed the track to the south-east, at times finding it very hard to follow. It kept to the highest part of the ridge upon which I was travelling whilst on my left the deep gorge, which divided the ridge from Ben Nevis, was in close attendance. The track proved invaluable further on when thicker undergrowth was approached and, after the pedometer had gone on to 4¾ miles, the undergrowth was left and I gained the fence (alt. 2600’) at 11.50 a.m..
As I had now crossed the shoulder which joins the mountain to the hill, I forsook the track, crossed the fence and struck out straight for the top of the peak. Unfortunately, I ascended at the south end of the peak and, at the topmost pinnacle lies to the northern end, I had to face an unnecessary hard amount of rock-climbing to gain my goal where I arrived feeling very, very tired at 1.7 p.m. after covering nearly six miles.
Here, once again, the weather, despite its early promise, was in capricious mood and I had scarcely made the pinnacle when the clouds descended on the peak, cutting down my sight-seeing to just a minute or two. To the W.N.W., Mt. Barrow, Ben Nevis House and the lower slopes of the hill by which I had ascended, appeared in line. Ragged Mt. was in the S.S.W. with the Ben Lomond plateau in the south. A fairly high eminence, probably Mt. Saddleback, reposed on the eastern side but I had little chance of viewing it for more than a moment as the whole view was instantly obliterated by the clouds.
After a hasty lunch on the mountain top, I began my retreat at 1.25 p.m., descending the peak on the western side. At the foot of the rocks I turned south-westwards, passing some beautiful waratah (Teleopea truncate) in full bloom. Soon I reached the fence but just prior to this I had an alarming adventure.
I was hurrying along when suddenly a four-foot black snake (Hoplocephalus surtus) rose up right between my legs. I must confess I was somewhat startled by the dramatic suddenness of it all as I danced open-legged away from it. He was in a very angry mood, indeed, yet very majestic as he reared his body on his tail, arching his back with his head delicately poised for striking. Had the surprise of the occasion not unnerved me a little, I may have found him a subject of rare interest for the camera as he gamely stood his ground. However I was only interested in dispatching him, an act which I soon performed with the aid of some nearby rocks. It is uncommon to find snakes at this altitude (2600’), excepting whip snakes (Denisonia coronoides), and he must have been a good mile from the nearest water.
I followed the fence along until I reached the track but later lost it
where it became faint. I continued too far to the south-westward and had
to make my way through some thick undergrowth which later thinned out
and became less troublesome. However, in missing the track I must have
lost quite an hour on the return journey. I regained Ben Nevis House at
4.10 p.m., after a 7½ miles walk from the peak. Ten minutes later,
I was astride the cycle, homeward bound. At 5.10 p.m. I left the Ben Nevis
Road behind, passing the Blessington turn-off at 5.27 p.m., and reaching
the Aplico Road junction at 5.42 p.m.. Here I stayed for 25 minutes, having
a snack and rest – then on again once more, passing White Hills
soon after 7 p.m. and reaching Newstead at 7.45 p.m..
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