Mount Wellington: Smiths Monument

Things have gotten a little quieter on the hiking front in recent weeks now that I’m back at work and our weekends have been filled with various tasks and things. This is a post from a wonderful evening walk I made on the 2nd of January this year.

I had been wanting to go up on the mountain for ages as it is such an amazing place to have right on the edge of our city. There’s very few places in the world that can claim such a stunning playground within minutes of the CBD.

The sun was beginning to set as I drove up to the summit, stuck behind a slow moving tourist as always haha. There had been a little bit of mist on the drive up but it gave no clues as to how incredible it would be up on the summit.

As I left the car park and made my way down the South Wellington track, the mist was lopping its way up and over the top of Mount Wellington. Visibility was down to a few feet and the atmosphere was really quite special. I turned back to see if I could see our car and was greeted with something I never expected to see, a Brocken Spectre! It’s a really cool phenomenon whereby your shadow is cast onto clouds opposite the sun’s direction.

Within a few minutes, I was away from the “crowds” and had the whole place to myself, not another soul on the track. Bliss. I had gone up initially to try and get a nice sunset photo from the summit and then head back to the car. Something drew me forwards though, onwards into the mist and further down the track.

The colours of the alpine vegetation at this time of year are just exquisite! It’s always the punchy bright colours that people rave about but the muted palette of Tasmania’s mountain flora poops all over them if you ask me. I actually got a bit emotional at one point, looking around me at all the splendour and combined with the atmospheric conditions. I remember saying out loud “I don’t deserve this, this is too amazing”……several times, it was just….special. It just reinforced my appreciation for this place and its beauty.

I kept going……and going…..and going. I had no intention of going all the way to Smiths Monument but before I knew it, I was almost there. The South Wellington track is probably my favourite of all the trails on the mountain. It’s relatively flat, easy to follow and the scenery around it is equal to the best sights I’ve seen out in the bush. You can leave the city and be here in 30 minutes. That is a treat and a half.

I keep mentioning Smiths Monument, what on earth is it? It is a monument dedicated to the memory of Doctor John Smith, surgeon of the Derwentwater who perished on the mountain in January 1858. His body was found after 5 days of searching, during which the search party was robbed…..twice! Fast forward to 2020 and here I am, by myself, walking out to the same spot where he met an unfortunate end. Thankfully the mountain is a far safer place now, at least as far as bandits are concerned. It is still a mountain however and not a place to be taken lightly, a number of souls have perished on its slopes in inclement weather.

By the time I reached the monument, the sun was starting to dip below the horizon and darkness was setting in. No panic, I had taken Gemma’s headtorch with me. I began my journey back in the falling light levels. As it grew too dark to see, I reached into my backpack and took out the headtorch. Pushed the on button. Pushed it again. A red light flashed around the button, the main bulb did not illuminate……..Ah shit. Alrighty, not to worry, there’s still a bit of light. I pressed on but soon enough it was too dark to see with the naked eye.

Mobile phones have no doubt had a huge impact on society, whether its helping people take pictures of their lunch while ignoring the people they went out to have lunch with, or, in my case, helping light the way on a dark mountain. I’m certainly glad I had mine with me! So yeah, be prepared and ready for unexpected eventualities. Check your batteries, wear the right clothes and don’t get into situations you can’t comfortably get out of. Mountains for all their stunning beauty, can be unforgiving places, just ask John Smith.

Brocken Spectre! Look at my giant legs haha!
The rocks on the summit are mysterious at the best of times, the mountain mist only adds to this. Incredible scenes greeted me on this walk.
Just……..wow. What an absolute treat to experience conditions like this.
I sat down on a rock for a few minutes to just watch this scene, something I don’t do often enough when out walking. Just stop and take it all in. Put the camera down and just enjoy the moment.
An alien world? Nope, very much on Earth and a stones throw from a city.
The sun peaking through the mist made for some incredible light.
The muted colours of Tasmania’s alpine plants are simply amazing.
Loved the bark on these gums.
How many shades of green can you see? Or brown for that matter. Amazing undergrowth when you get high enough.
The sign for Smiths Monument shows the way to go. Head left to head back down via the Ice House track, head right to find the monument.
The photos really don’t do this justice, it’s so damn beautiful up here.
There’s some fun rock hopping patches before you reach the monument.
The last light of day fading away as I neared Smiths Monument.
Smiths Monument is protected by a cloth cover that is weighed down by rocks. Be sure to secure it back in place afterwards if you’re keen to see the monument for yourself.

The iconic Tasmanian Waratah can be seen in abundance near Smiths Monument.
The mist was thick and heavy when I got back to the car and made for a sloooooow drive back down to civilisation.

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