Skyline traverse of the Hazards
Ever since I first set eyes on the imposing granite peaks of the Hazards I knew that an epic traverse was in order. I first spotted them when I sat at the summit of Mount Freycinet eating breakfast and watching the sun rise over the majestic range about two years prior.
I spent a lot of time reading trip reports, all of which seemed to contradict one another. Most of the attempts also seemed to end in failure which is always motivating… The maps and satellite images definitely indicated an intimidating looking route with piles of house sized boulders, sheer cliffs and scrub. I could only imagine how much of a challenge it would be. As it turns out I certainly wouldn't be disappointed…
With a small crew of keen participants, abseiling gear and a huge amount of water (which was barely enough as it turned out) we set off for Sleepy Bay. From here we geared up and started the trek up Mount Parsons. Helpfully the route was marked intermittently with cairns.
The conditions were very hot and some of the party struggled a bit. Most of the ascent was pretty straightforward but there was a steep section that I rigged a rope up for.
Soon enough we had made it to the summit where we found some overhanging rocks to camp under. There was some rock pools of fresh water which was lucky, definitely wouldn't want to rely on this as a water source as there was very little left. Before long we were all asleep ready for an early start.
We were all up for the sunrise. It felt pretty surreal, everything was so calm and the conditions were stunning with panoramic views of the vibrant sky. Before long we had grabbed breakfast and began pushing down the western face of Mount Parsons. This was relatively straightforward, with some slightly tricky down climbs. We walked through winding, narrow pathways between the immense boulders littering the saddle between Mt Parsons and Mount Baudin before beginning our first ascent of the day. With no markings we just looked for the path of least resistance. This approach worked ok and we made decent progress although I had to rig ropes in several sections to assist in getting everyone up. I wouldn't want to have attempted the climb in wet conditions as when wet the smooth rock would be treacherous… After an hour or two we’d made it to the summit. Still wanting to push on hard to make the most of the slightly cooler weather we kept going until we hit the steep cliffs on the other side.
We dropped our packs and relaxed in the shade for a bit while I examined the intimidating looking descent. After a bit of thinking I decided to take a brute force approach with our rope and gear to abseil down as efficiently as possible rather than climb. I rigged up a series of two abseils, the first being around 15 metres and the second around 25. I had brought a fiddle stick which I used to retrieve the rope and allowed me to use the natural anchors I had available, a stone bollard and a tree that was a bit small for comfort…
Once again we were at the base of a mountain looking up, this time the scrub was a lot worse and the route up our next challenge (Mount Dove) was much less clear. I made a pretty mediocre decision in deciding to stick further south. The line of scrub up the cliff face looked climbable from further away but it turned out to be far to steep. We worked our way north, pushing through some very challenging terrain in brutally hot conditions.
Finally we found a line of weakness in the cliffs and with relief we started gaining some elevation. With a few more stops to rig up a rope (one of which involved tying literally every piece of rope/cordage I had brought together so it would be long enough) we had hit the summit of Mount Dove. Once again we took a quick break before psyching up for another decent. It was getting late and we were now about 9 hours in to a traverse that had meant to take 6 in total and I was getting a little nervous about the limited water and daylight we had left…
I was keen to descend quickly and minimise the amount of rope work required. This turned out to be futile as we had soon navigated ourselves in to a gully requiring us to either turn back and find another route or abseil down. Rather than facing the demoralising prospect of backtracking I grabbed my rope and we started our next series of short abseils. With a bit more scrambling and some scrub bashing at the bottom soon we were looking up at our final obstacle: Mount Amos.
Unlike almost every component of this trip the ascent up Mount Amos turned out to be much easier than expected. With a vague track leading up most of the mountain and we fought through the fatigue and pushed up to the summit. It was a relief to reach the top not only because it marked the last ascent of the trip but it also was our first section of very well marked track of the trip making the last of our descent a breeze.
Catching our breath it was ridiculous to think that we'd just spend 13 hours of hell getting to a mountain that would normally be an easy 2 hour walk on the marked track from the other direction. It was dark before we got to the car park but finally we were in an air conditioned car racing back for home. I got a couple of hours sleep under a desk before I began my shift. Oh the joys!