Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mt Donald

Yesterday gave the missus and a couple of friends a lift to Hill Cove for a yoga class, didn't fancy it myself so took the opportunity to have a walk up Mt Donald, the westernmost hill of the Mt Adam massif.
Don't usually do much in the winter but it's been a good spell of weather and on the day it was stonking! no wind to speak of and bright sunshine apart from a period of mist while I was on the ridge.

Mt Donald from the north, doesn't look like much from here but a tough walk up the spur on the left through some big ferns and higher up some stone runs. As with most hills here there's no path as such, just choose a place to aim for and go.

Those ferns are big! the climate in this part of West Falkland is a lot more beneficial to plants than the harsh conditions where I live at Fox Bay, the vegetation is much more of an obstacle on these hills.

Higher up the spur (1200 ft ish), terrain is steeper and many small stone runs to cross, hard going. Overturning a rock up here I spotted a small wolf spider about 3/4 inch long and appeared to be translucent, scuttled off pretty quick so was unable to get a photo of it unfortunately.

Got there, looking north from the top of the spur, one of the best veiws on the West on a clear day and they don't get much clearer than this. Hill Cove settlement is on the promontary on the left, beyond to the right is the Sound Ridge and then L to R Saunders Island, Keppel Island and Peddle Island.
The top of Mt Donald is a plateau with 3 high points at 1900 to 2000 ft and several ponds between in very wet, boggy ground, It's an uninteresting summit but the veiws are spectacular. To the West is a rocky ridge that runs for several kilometres then drops away steeply to the pass at Hells Kitchen where the road crosses, this is where I'm heading.

The West Ridge in the mist, quite thick below and the sun shining through, only lasted for 20 minutes or so, I was hoping I might have seen my first ever brocken spectre but sadly not to be.

Looking West from the end of the ridge, The French Peaks and the Boundary Hills, in the distance is Byron Heights. To the right is the pass at Hells Kitchen, from the ridge is a steep descent then scrambling through a few crags lower down (easily circumvented but fun to scramble). From there I rejoined the road and walked back to Hill Cove settlement.

A great day out, If only we got weather like this in the summer. ;-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mt William & Mt Tumbledown

Just back from Christmas in the UK and stuck in Stanley for a few days so I thought I'd head out onto a couple of the nearby hills.
These East Falkland peaks are of a different character to the big hills of the West, low craggy tors with gentle slopes and tops of great slabs of shattered quartzite. The valleys are riven by stone runs, those strange peri-glacial rivers of stone that the Falklands are renowned for, in these East Falkland Hills the stone runs are far more prevelant than on the West.
First up is Mt William, an hours brisk walk from Stanley to the summit at 900 feet, this hill is impressive from a distance, a great double ridge of vertical strata (to me it brings to mind the backbone of a stegosaur). On top there are large, steep slabs forming at least 3 high points and I would hesitate to say which is the true summit, not unusually for these hills there are landrover tracks right to where the crags begin.
From Mt William the neighbouring Mt Tumbledown looks well named, a hulking mass of broken stone with none of Mt Williams elegant structure, however having crossed the valley and walked up the gentle southern slope Tumbledown begins to show its true character. Great broken steps and slabs lead up to the highest Western part of the massif , the higher you get the more interesting it becomes.

On top is the real treat, the view that opens up to the East overlooking the fantastically twisted strata of the north face towards Stanley Harbour and Port William is breathtaking, the ground drops away in a cliff to the North, several hundred feet, down to scree and the attractive patches of giant ferns that grow on the high ground. A red backed hawk appears riding the updraught and hovering not 20 feet away, way beyond my skill to photograph, just a treat I'll remember.
As I head east amongst the huge boulders and slabs that form Tumbledowns summit then more and more evidence of the mountains history appear, a corroding rocket launcher, the remains of tent poles from the Argentine bivouacs, a small cairn in the lee of a great boulder (could only be a marker for one of the men who died fighting on this peak), finally on the Easternmost end of the ridge is the memorial for the Battle of Mt Tumbledown, a simple cross on the very end of the crag. I stopped below here for my lunch, rather subdued by the thought of what took place here nearly 29 years ago. Here I was visited by one of my favourite local birds, a dark-faced ground tyrant, who as they usually do posed for a photo. From here an easy descent down over the lower, secondary peak of Tumbledown to Moody Brook and so back to Stanley.