Updated: May 16, 2019
We had planned this little sojourn a couple of months prior. Crawf had spotted a free Saturday in his calendar and had asked whether or not a couple of us were keen to join him for a trip to the third shortest and the shortest Abel - Abbotts Lookout and Marriotts Lookout. After a little planning, Woolza and myself were able to make the dates work for us too. The proposal was to go for a walk then do some mountain biking at Maydena bike park. Sounded like the perfect day trip.
After a bit of tooing and throwing we decided that we'd be best to get as close as possible to Maydena the night prior to the walk. It's a long way from Launceston. Initially planning to camp nearby, as the day approached the weather turned us off this option. Instead we headed to some farm stay accommodation at Rathmore in Hollow Tree on the Friday evening. We arrived and had a pleasant evening around the provided campfire and were even able to watch the footy! Later on in the evening I found some time to work on my astrophotography which I am still in the process of learning. A pleasant place to stay and it was great to have a night stargazing.
We awoke early on Saturday Morning ready to go. After a quick brekky wrap we were away by 8am for the drive to Maydena. We headed off and dodged intermittent showers of rain and arrived at Maydena Bike Park a bit before 9am. We had already purchased bike passes for the day. This would enable us to get the shuttle bus to the top of Abbotts lookout and then ride down the mountain on the trails after completing Marriotts. After getting gear ready and bikes loaded on to the shuttle bus we ordered a quick coffee before heading up the road in our transport. It was an unpleasant morning - cold wind and the drizzle continued.
After about 20 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the misty carpark near the summit. Bikes off and packs on we strolled up to the start of the bike trails. We dumped our bikes here and quickly stepped up on to the summit of Abbotts lookout. Third shortest of the Abels but so far the easiest! We then went and checked out the massive structure on the summit - the Eagles Eyrie lookout restaurant. It was all shut up. Crazy that they built this here. I'm sure that on a clear day the views are magnificent but not today. We didn't hang around long and moved back to our bikes, saddled up and shot down the first 'green' section of the trail. After 5 minutes we arrived at the prominent communication towers of the peak. This is where we'd leave our bikes.
We found a suitable place to hide our bikes near the southern tower and instantly saw some pink tape near the edge of the steep drop down to the saddle between Abbotts and Marriotts. 'Looks good to me' I thought and called the others. We headed down tracking to the saddle. Almost straight away the scrub became thick and we didn't see any more tape. We had a good idea of the route we wanted to take so pushed on. A combination of bauera, cutting grass and tea tree, we passed through some easier sections but the scrub wasn't letting up. After reaching the bottom of the drop, we decided we had come a little to far south, so tracked back up to the top of the saddle thinking the scrub would ease off. It did - a little. On the saddle it was still knee to waist high and thick. We kept going and started making a line to the northern knoll we could see on the far side of the saddle. As we approached the base of this climb, the scrub again became thick and well over our heads. At least the weather had now cleared. The wind remained but the skies were blue. We had already decided that this would be our one and only trip to Marriotts lookout. This section was a tough scrub bash and in my head I thought that the line to this peak was very much about 'the luck of the line you took'.
After passing through this thicker section things became a little easier as we arrived at some large rocks at the base of the knoll. We decided to head straight up the large rocks to the top of the knoll. From here we made a beeline in the direction of the peak. We crested the knoll and then followed a more open, shallow valley towards the lookout. After a short final climb through patchy scrub we found ourselves on the vast summit plateau and strolled over to the main summit with its recognisable rusted wire surrounding the summit cairn. It had taken us 2hrs 15mins to reach this point from the bikes.
I liked this summit. While a bitter wind blew in from the west, we had fantastic views, albeit a bit cloudy, of all the south western peaks. Abbotts lookout had revealed itself again and beyond we could see the Snowy Range as well as Mt Anne, Mueller, Wedge, Clear Hill, The Thumbs, Mt Wright and the Denison Range. Mt Field was straight across the valley from us. I took a few photos and could have stayed longer but the others were keen to get going. We did have to drive back to Launceston today after all! We headed back the way we came but planned on a more direct line for our return trip.
We tracked straight towards the saddle between two knolls (the left (south) side of the main knoll we had followed on the way in. A natural pad fed into the gap between these that then fed down the hill to the saddle below. We made really good time down this route and while scrubby and rocky at times, we were back down close to the saddle about 45 minutes after departing the summit. We then hit the wall of scrub again. Urgh. It was thick, like, really thick. So in I bowled, forcing myself through for about 5 or 10 minutes before arriving on the other side ... in the saddle. Yay. Here, we decided to head along this open area for as long as we could to get as close as we could to the climb back up Abbotts. We made good time across but did still find it thick in sections, however never worse than waist high.
The saddle ended and we then commenced the climb back towards the towers on top of Abbotts. This time we would try to head to the northern tower, not the southern one we had descended from. After some initial thick and high tea tree, we soon found ourself in forest trudging through more Bauera. But not long after entering this we picked up some yellow tapes. These became semi-regular and we followed them to the rocky cliffs that comprised the final pitch to the top. At this point the tapes had disappeared but we found a gap in the rocks and headed up through a little more scrubby forest before arriving at the gravel road surrounding the northern tower. That was much nicer! Note to others; Track down to the saddle from the northern communications tower. Much easier going! All up the walk had taken us a little over 4 hours return (with 15 mins on the summit).
We wandered over to our bikes, had a snack and got organised for the final leg of our journey. The scrub had taken it out of us and we were all feeling a little bit timid about the descent ahead. We hopped on our bikes and slowly rolled down the trail.
After five minutes on the bikes I had my confidence back and really enjoyed the descent. We stuck to the green trails and the rain had made things very muddy. After an hour on the bikes, we arrived back in Maydena. We were spent. After a wash down of the bikes, a burger and a beer, we made the long drive back to Launceston, arriving at 7.30pm. What a day!
STATS (Using Suunto Spartan Ultra)
Time (including breaks): 4hrs 17 mins