Climbing in the Framnes Mountains
It is definitely getting colder up on the plateau now but this hasn’t stopped Mawson expeditioners getting out amongst the hills at every opportunity.
The following extracts are from John’s journal:
“Craig, Keldyn, Peter C and I had a drink at Henderson hut, gathered up a bit of climbing gear and set off to climb Mt Henderson. There was very little wind but the top of the mountain was covered in mist. We made steady progress, even with Keldyn (our plumber) carrying a giant set of Stilsons – needed, he said, to change a washer in the tap on the summit!
Up towards the top the route crosses from the west side over to the east: we were in the mist on and off, but it was definitely colder on the shaded side. It had been minus 22 when we left the hut so I guess when we were approaching the summit it must have been around minus 25 or below. The top forty metres is steeper and more exposed and we used a rope to safeguard our ascent: the climbing is straightforward, up wide, easy-angled cracks, but you certainly wouldn’t want to slip. We put in a couple of belays and climbed two short pitches to arrive on the summit. At one point, Craig unfortunately managed to jam one of his boots in a crack and the only way he could free himself was to take his foot out and then reach down and remove his boot!
On top Keldyn attended to the tap (!), we took a few photos and enjoyed the moment of being up there – the atmospheric conditions adding to our feeling of accomplishment. Being late afternoon, though, we soon needed to head back down. By the time we were descending the scree above the hut it was starting to get dark, but the views across the mountains to the west, with the sun setting beneath the heavy layer of cloud all around, were quite spectacular. It was great to be there! We reached the hut at 1900 and did the evening radio sked on the verandah by handheld radio.”
(Mt Henderson was first sighted by Sir Douglas Mawson in January 1930 and named after Dr W. Henderson, director of the Australian Department of External Affairs)
“Saturday, amazingly, was a repeat of the previous day’s weather – fine, no wind, sunny, clear - how lucky were we?! Justin, Peter L and I left Rumdoodle hut mid-morning and drove around to the Central Masson Range. Keeping on the west side of the ice wave we headed towards Blair Peak. Standing at the northern end of the range, this mountain is 912 metres high and was named after J. Blair, the senior diesel mechanic at Mawson in 1958.
Leaving the Hagg and taking a rope and some basic climbing gear, along with our survival packs, we made our way up the snow slopes on the south western side, before crossing over to the eastern face of the mountain. Ascending a steepening snow slope we all became aware of the increasing exposure created by a large wind scour below us, so we angled left somewhat to take away the perceived risk of sliding into the wind scour if we were to fall. We used the rope to belay each other up the last few metres of snow, before reaching the rock of the south ridge. From this point to the summit was interesting climbing as we overcame a series of rock steps: each step presented a challenge, but a relatively easy way upwards was always found.
From the summit the outlook was superb! Blair Peak stands apart from other peaks in the Central Masson Range and as such provides a grandstand view of many of the mountains in the Framnes, from Mt Henderson to the Northern Massons, through the Central and Southern Massons and across to the David Range. We sat on top taking photos and thanking our lucky stars for being where we were on such a perfect afternoon.”