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.

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