Bender & Xing

Abel Adventures

Sharlands Peak

We should preface this blog with a word of warning – this is how NOT to do Sharlands Peak! We are always learning lessons from our mistakes. A few factors contributed to our misery on this mountain. One – our eagerness to summit this Abel. Two – our exhaustion after a few big days of hiking. And three – time constraints. So enjoy the blog peeps, but in this instance don’t follow in our footsteps! Never fear though, we do also give you clear and concise instructions for how to safely and enjoyably summit this lovely mountain.

Date: 2nd November 2020  Summit: 1140m

Looking along Sharland Peaks razor back ridge.

Distance: Approximately 3km from Barron Pass return.
Time taken: Too long for us! We would envisage normally 1-2 hours from Baron Pass return.
Difficulty: From Baron Pass we would classify this as an easy climb if you take the right route. Note that the hike to Baron Pass from the carpark on the Lyall Highway is strenuous with a large pack.
Type of track: Not tracked but some pads and cairns.
Access from: 700m from Barron Pass. Barron Pass is located on the Frenchmans Cap Track.

From Barron Pass…

The ascent of Sharlands Peak begins about 700m from Baron Pass on the Frenchmans Cap Track. Our trip report will start there so as to save repeating previous essays. First, some background. We were on the last day of our multi-day trip into the area to climb Clytemnestra, Sharlands Peak and Frenchmans Cap. It had been a HUGE three days culminating in nearly 4700m of elevation gain in the heat and we were worn out by the time it came to climbing Sharlands Peak. Our climb of Sharlands Peak was planned for the last day, as part of the 23km hike back to the car.

We had rough track notes from The Abels – which are much less clear than they could be when it comes to Sharlands Peak – plus a few notes from a fellow Abel bagger. In hindsight, after climbing this peak there is literally six things you can do to make sure you enjoy an easy and safe ascent but we will get to that later. For now, you can enjoy our misery knowing because of us you wont suffer the same fate!

Leaving our big packs at the obvious pad about 700m from Baron Pass leading off the Frenchmans Cap Track was a relief. Changing to a light day pack felt so good. The pad is located just past the landslip area on Sharlands Peak. This landslip looks easy enough to climb but it is not recommended as the ground is unstable, deceptively steep and the rim unattainable. We can FIRST HAND VOUCH FOR THIS! (more on that mess later).

Looking from the Frenchmans Cap side back towards the small saddle used to drop onto the other side of the Sharlands Peak ridgeline.
The pad leading up from the Frenchmans Cap Track to the saddle.

The pad heading north off the Frenchmans Cap Track lead us quickly up and over the low saddle which is easily crossed to reach the north-eastern side of the ridge. Dropping off this low part of the ridge there was an obvious pad leading down to the valley below. We knew that we needed to continue downwards towards the marsh below and cross the creek before turning east. Even with the few animal pads scattered around the pad was well trodden and obvious to the marsh. Sharland Peaks razor back ridgeline rose steeply on our right.

Dropping down to the marsh area.
Passing some of Sharland Peaks many ridgeline high points.
Pick a ridge, any ridge.

Our lovely distinct pad ran out as soon as we hit the marsh and the creek was no more than a trickle. From here The Abels mentions to head east until a “slightly vegetated ridge” is reached to climb to the summit ridgeline. Here’s the thing folks – we counted no less than four “slightly vegetated ridges” of various sizes. In fact, every single ridge leading south towards the high points was “slightly vegetated”. The correct ridge was actually the only fully vegetated ridge there. So Bender and I, after pulling out our maps and InReachs settled on climbing the last “slightly” vegetated ridge in sight as it appeared it might lead us to the high point with the least amount of exposure.

Looking up towards the high points.
Reaching a type of hanging valley at the top of the ridge we had climbed towards Sharlands Peak.

Leaving the marsh behind us and heading eastwards, we pushed though the lower alpine scrub to reach what we initially believed to be the correct “slightly vegetated” ridge. Once on the ridge the scrub was thick. Really thick, but it was less dense then the other ridges and had small patches of rock which allowed us brief reprieves from the scrub. The day was hot, and we were working hard pushing through scrub, while mentally questioning how such an “easy” Abel could be throwing us so many curve balls.

Reaching a section that was almost like a hanging valley, we were faced with a dilemma made of rock. We had already back tracked multiple times and were not eager to lose yet more time but we were stuck between head high scoparia and other nasty vegetation and a 10m cliff climb. The rock had very few if any hand holds, was smooth rather than grippy and if we fell, we would have nothing to break our fall. Ben was mid-sentence saying we should turn back, but by then I had somehow scaled myself up the climb like a sticky gecko. Desperation probably. Ben had no choice but to join me, as there was no way I could get back down.

The only way is up.
Constant cliffs and rock walls blocking access to the razor back ridge.

Once we were both on top of the climb we sighed with relief, as the scrub was low and level. It appeared we were on the right track as we were now crossing the lower spine of the ridge heading in the direction of the summit and enjoying walking over more rock. A few steps later, we realised s**t was about to get real.

We had in fact reached the top level of the rock fall/shale area that The Abels specifically recommends avoiding. It wasn’t an option to turn around, as descending the 10m cliff climb (without ropes) would be ill advised. There was nothing else to do but take our chances walking across the rock fall. At this stage I was trying to remember if I had told the kids I loved them before leaving on the Thursday… and thinking my parents would kill me if they could see what I was about to do. Sorry Mum!

The thin shale ledge to traverse.

After a sugary snack to get my brain working, we crossed the thin ledge leading towards the “unreacheable” rim as described by The Abels. The few larger rocks now available to us were covered with shale that was slipping from under our feet as we trod on it. The steep gradient meant that a fall would likely end in a long, painful slide down off the mountain. With Ben leading we slowly inched forward, literally foot by foot. Every step and hand hold had to be tested as the rocks would just come loose in our hands or disappear under out feet. There was only one small access chute where we could even consider trying to breach the rim, but it involved a climb with nothing but dust and loose shale to grip onto.

Very unlady-like language was coming out of my mouth, as I watched Ben stretch and reach up to a small root towards the rim and test to see if it would hold him. Using the root and his upper body strength he hauled himself up to the relative safety of the exposed ridge. It was my turn. The problem was that we both knew that with my height, I wouldn’t be able to reach the root. He couldn’t reach down to help me as there was no where for him to secure himself. I wanted to cry, but that wasn’t going to get us out of the pickle we were in.

My only option was to try to get closer to the root, by using my boots to kick down some of the shale so I could dig my toes into the crushed rock and sand, then dig my hands and fingers into the rock shale and use speed to try to propel myself up until I could catch the root. Honestly, one lousy root on the entire rocky slope. A few more choice words, and it was now or never. I left the sketchy safety of the ledge and went for gold. Feeling my fingers wrap around the root was the best feeling because at least I had hold of something that wasn’t slipping away. It seemed like an eternity before I belly flopped my way over the rim of the ridge and joined Ben. Saying I felt elated and relived would be a massive understatement.

A long distance view showing the top third of the shale drop that we ended up climbing to breach the ridge!
Me about to let go of the safety of the ledge and make a jump for the plant/root above to haul myself up.
The only chute option we had to try to get on top of the ridge from where we were.

Thankful to be now wandering along the Sharlands razor back ridgeline on the “safe” side we were looking out for the cairns. High on the fact that we were alive, even Ben admitted that the sketchiness of that climb had knocked some scared into him. When it comes to heights and exposure, and in all the years I have watched him scale stupid things, he has never said that before!

Finally the easy bit! Climbing to the summit from here was way less exposure than we had already done!
Looking out towards Frenchmans Cap. The faint pad leading towards the summit in the bottom left corner.
One last climb to the high point.

The remaining walk to the summit is described as “mildly exposed” by The Abels. Normally that level of exposure would bother me, but thanks to the adventures of the previous hour, I was pretty well cured of heights for this trip. From here, cairns led us over the ridge, a more exposed saddle and finished with a short climb, following a faint but visible pad, to the summit. Touching the precious summit cairn was a lovely feeling for sure – we had made it! Of course, we had made it a whole lot harder and more risky, but the views were totally worth it.

Back off the summit and having a quick snack in the lea of the wind.
Frenchmans Cap and Clytemnestra our climbs the previous day.
Sitting on the summit of Sharlands Peak looking back along the ridge and to the dodgy shale chute we had used.
A different view of Frenchmans Cap.
Lakes Millicent, Gertrude and Magdalen.
Philps Peak and Lake Vera.

Below we could see as far as Frenchmans Cap and Clytemnestra. Lakes Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen and Milicent glistening in the sun. Off in the distance our goals for the next trip in – Agamemnon and Philps Peak were prominent. The sun was shining and we were in no hurry to get down. At least from the summit, the route back was going to be easy and quick as we could follow the cairns to the base of the ridge leading off Sharlands Peak. Now for the bit you have all been waiting for…. the Bender & Xing easy instructions for climbing Sharlands Peak.

The Bender & Xing instructions to climbing Sharlands Peak…

  • After dropping off the saddle at Baron Pass follow the pad to the marsh and cross the creek.
  • Turn east and walk east IGNORING all the minor ridges (vegetated or not) that lead up to the razor back ridgeline of Sharlands Peak.
  • Go past all the highpoints on your right until you reach the last possible ridge you can before falling off the other side of the world :-p – Ok, well into a deep, deep gully.
  • Turn and head south up this last ridge and you will find an obvious pad and cairns when you reach rock near the top.
  • Follow the cairns to the summit.
  • Thank us later 😉
Route taken to Sharlands Peak from main Frenchmans Cap track. Note the misadventure on the left side of the route to Sharlands Peak – the correct way is the right side!!!

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