Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stephens Peak

The Peak, from the north.

A littlie but a goodie. At the southern end of West Falkland lies Port Stephens, the attractive harbour is sheltered from the Southern Ocean by a hilly peninsula and the most distinctive of these is the 700 foot Stephens Peak, 'the Peak' as its referred to has 2 distinct rocky summits connected by a saddle. Further along the peninsula to the east is the unusual rock formations of Indian Village, to the west is the sand beach of Wood Cove and beyond impressive sea cliffs culminating in Calm Head.

Approached from the north its an easy walk up to a large gorse bush about half way up, it then gets pretty steep to the first peak with a little bit of a scramble if thats your thing. The exposed quartzite of the peak is fantastically eroded by the prevailing wind, very different from the outcrops further inland. Between the 2 peaks is a grassy saddle that almost appears to be mown (I guess partly due to the rabbits that inhabit the area, much to Booms excitement).

Wood Cove, can't see from the photo but theres a big Gentoo penguin colony down there.

Eroded quartzite on the second peak.

Second peak, from just below the saddle.

Looking across Port Stephens to the NE from the sandbeach below the peak.

Calm Head, over 700 feet high, been there but didn't have the nerve to go out onto the head itself (very narrow indeed)

Looking over Port Stephens toward Mt Alice in the distance.

Me & Boom on the top, very windy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mt Adam

Mount Adam is by a small margin the loftiest of the hills on West Falkland, at 2,297 feet its no giant on the scale of things but a harder walk than it looks. It is one of the five peaks that make up the most distinct part of the Hill Cove Mountains, running from the saddle in the east to the pass at Hells Kitchen in the west these hills bear the scars of glaciation, sharp ridges, corries, tarns and deep valleys running to the north. Most of the character is hidden, from the south they have a rounded look similar to Philomel or Sulivan and from the north they are mostly concealed by long ridges running to the sea. Running from east to west are Mt Robinson, Miss Robinson, Shingly Mountain, Mt Adam and Mt Donald. Adam, Mt Robinson and Shingly Mt are respectively the 3 highest hills on the West.

Adam is connected to its neighbours by a saddle each side at about 1,200 feet, There are 2 summits, One to the east (2,250+ feet) marked with a standing man and 3/4 of a kilometre to the west one with a spot height of 2,297 feet, Here there is a derelict MOD installation that is still mostly intact though deteriorating badly, this consists of a helicopter pad, fuel tanks, and generator and accomodation units (on my first visit to this peak in foul conditions the shelter this provided was most welcome). To the north of the summit ridge is a rocky edge and a steep slope into a pair of corries and tarns, the ridge sweeps round from the west to the north dropping then rising again to a third high point at about 2,000 feet, the corrie below this prominence is impressive, the back wall falls 500 feet to the larger, northern tarn.

Theres no easy way to approach Mt Adam, there is a well defined but rough track from the north which looks reasonable but is a fair distance from the Hill Cove/Shallow Bay road (I've not tried that route yet) or there is the option to approach from the south which is a reasonable distance from the road but involves crossing some difficult ground, knee high, sometimes waist high diddle-dee, overgrown streams and holes and as you get higher up the southern slopes, steep yet saturated, mossy ground which is a pain to climb. On this occasion Andy and I drove halfway up the neighbouring Mt Donald and walked from there. Once one is past the obstacle of the southern slopes the walking is great with lovely views as you follow the ridge round. The weather was overcast and thundery but blessedly calm.

Looking east from the summit toward the second peak along the east ridge, the hill to the left is Shingly Mt and just visible are the tops of Miss Robinson and Mt Robinson, beyond in the distance are the Hornby Mountains.

North Corrie & tarn from the summit.
Me & Boom at the twin standing men on the summit.
View to the south, Mt Philomel on the left.
Mt Adam from the ridge above the north corrie.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mt Philomel, September 2008

Mt Philomel is a hill to the south of the Chartres estuary, its distinctive, rounded twin peaks dominate the lower hills of the surrounding area. The quartzite rock that makes up these hills is in 2 distinct layers and this shows as a clear terrace on larger hills such as Philomel. There is no trig point or obvious marker except for the foundations of an MOD installation on the western summit, On the OS map of the area Philomel has no spot heights marked so elevation is indicated only by the 1950 foot contours on each summit, my GPS read gave a reading of 2,150 feet (a nonsensical figure, I am dubious of the accuracy of the altimeter). To the east is a saddle joining to a pair of lower hills (approximately 800 feet) and to the northwest is steep ended ridge of 5 kilometres descending from 1500 to 1000 feet before falling sharply away to a stream flowing into the estuary.

The walk covers a distance of 13.5 km with no paths apart from an indistinct vehicle track on the saddle to the east, there is about 2,100 feet of ascent altogether. A rough approach across white grass flats from Dunnose Head junction to to reach the hill in the centre of the photo, cross a saddle at approx 700 feet to climb the eastern end of Philomel, The final 800 feet is steep enough to make zig-zagging necessary. Cross the 2 summits and then descend via the northwest ridge, at the end of this ridge is a small standing man covered with impressive growths of feathery lichen. The summits and ridge lack any substantial outcrops but are quite stony with patchy scree on the slopes, an interesting feature particularly to the western end of the massif is the presence of quite a bit of iron lying around in rusty nodules. After descending the scree slope at the end of the ridge follow a stream to rejoin the road opposite Chartres settlement, this valley is pleasant change after the wind blasted terrain of the ridge.

Grand weather but windy, This is looking East from Philomel, across the watershed of the Chartres river to Mount Moody and the Shag Cove Mountains in the distance.

Above is the view looking north to the Hill Cove Mountains from the end of the NW ridge, from left to right are Mt Adam, Shingly Mt, Miss Robinson and Mt Robinson. The body of water in the foreground is the Chartres estuary and Chartres settlement is visible on the left.
Below is the Northwest ridge from the top of Philomel, looking out over Christmas Harbour, in this photo the nature of the rock layer shows clearly as the slope levels into a terrace at approximately 900 feet. The wind was brutal on the ridge, blowing straight across at approx 40 - 50 knots, further down the slope was reasonably sheltered but the steepness made walking more difficult than the wind did on top of the ridge, at one point I had to
hit the deck to hold on in a particularly violent gust.

This is typical of the terrain on the ridge, quartzite rocks, sand, small diddle-dee plants and balsam bogs.