Seeking the alpine Eyres
Spring is a beautiful time of year in the Eyre Mountains, where a layer of late snow gives a sense of splendour to normally desiccated-looking peaks. At 900m, Irthing Hut is perfectly-placed for enjoying some alpine vistas.
With the snowline fast retreating, we decided to tackle a trip to the hut via the ridge on the true left of Irthing Stream, returning by the Mount Bee ridgeline.
We began on track, with a pleasant womble beside the Irthing Stream to the affectionately named Mansion Hut. With only two bunks, the hut is unlikely to impress anyone seeking a palatial home, but it is clearly popular with plenty of visits recorded in the hut book.
The next morning, low cloud obscured the slopes above but with relentless optimism, we began the 300m climb up the spur opposite Mansion Hut towards the low sadlle north of Pt791. Approaching the bushline, glints of blue started to appear through the canopy, giving hope that the cloud would burn off in time for us to enjoy some alpine views.
After wrangling with a stubborn thicket of dracophyllum that guarded the ridgeline, we broke out on to the tops. On the opposite side of the valley, the sinuous contours of the Mt Bee ridgeline peeked out above the clouds. Several kilometres ahead loomed a 1552m highpoint, resplendent in a cloak of snow.
We climbed steadily through the tussock towards Pt1260, spooking three red deer that were grazing in a sheltered saddle. As we trudged across snowdrifts that were almost indistinguishable from the sky around us, we had to admit that the cloud was definitely not burning away any time soon. Higher up, the snow became increasingly pervasive, but the warm spring day had melted it to a crumbly slush. While this made for slow travel, I was relieved it wasn’t icy as we’d not brought crampons or ice axes. Luckily, the ridgeline at that point was a gently benched stroll along fat contours, so there were no nerve-wracking slopes to contend with.
Finally, we reached Pt1552 and descended to Shepherd Saddle, where the clouds lifted again to reveal the ochre hillsides of Eyre Creek, giving us a tantalising glimpse of the views we’d been missing. We turned away from the sunlight and followed shards of snow into a pretty alpine basin, wreathed with beech forest. A short descent through the forest brought us to the headwaters of Irthing Stream, brisk with snowmelt from the Helen Peaks.
Irthing Hut is perched in a glade of beech forest on the true left of the valley. We opened the door and were pleasantly surprised to find a well-designed, cosy abode: the perfect shelter after a long day on the tops.
The next day we followed the track on the true right of Irthing Stream, sidling through beech forest to a low saddle where a junction signalled the turn-off to the Cromel Valley. We continued uphill, climbing quickly towards the Mt Bee ridgeline.
Worn trails made travel along the ridge easy. After a couple of hours, Mt Bee Bunkrooms came into view – a welcome respite from the chilly wind that had begun buffeting the ridge. We brewed a quick cup of tea to sustain us for the final part of the journey, then descended to the car.
- Total Ascent
- Irthing picnic area to Mansion Hut, 1.5hr; To Irthing Hut to Shepherd Saddle, 8hr; To car park via Mt Bee Bunkrooms, 7hr
- Mansion Hut (free, two bunks); Irthing Hut (free, two bunks); Mount Bee Bunkrooms (free, eight bunks).
- 4WD access to Mount Bee, or drive to Irthing picnic area via Mulholland Road