Where we went: Mt Amos (Freycinet National Park)
When we went: Early Spring 2018
Proposed length of hike 3 hours: time spent of hike 3ish hours (+2 on the summit for the photoshoot).
“I need you to file your nails.” I said to Sommelier, handing him a nail file.
“Why?” he grumbled, petulant from lack of sleep.
“We’ll be paying a lot of attention to your hands.” I offered by way of explanation and, being new to professional photoshoots, Sommelier didn’t question it.
Sommelier had planned to propose to me from the summit of Mt Amos, on the Freycinet Peninsula, about 2.5 hrs drive from Hobart. Mt Amos is a 3-hour return walk up one of the 3 granite mountains known as ‘The Hazards’, which should be just about all the indication that you need that this is one of the more challenging walks in Tasmania. It predominantly features large pink-granite rocks and a steep, 2km uphill hike, directly over the aforementioned rocks. Having grown up in Africa I love granite rock formations, they hold a lot of nostalgia and sense of place for me. As a child I spent so much of my time climbing rocks that my parents nicknamed me ‘Klipspringer’ which translates to ‘rock jumper’ and is a type of mountain dwelling antelope. While I love the hikes in Tasmania, I miss the precariously balanced granite faced kopjes of my youth. The best thing about Tasmania, though, is that there is something for everyone, you just have to know where to look.
Mt Amos is unsafe to traverse in the rain, or even too close to just after the rain (this poses a major planning issue in a place like Tasmania, where the rain is frequent, and does not obey any semblance of a strict seasonal pattern). Through no fault of his own Sommelier’s perfect destination proposal was thwarted – rather spectacularly. The weekend that he had everything planned and booked (the honeymoon suite at the fancy hotel with the spa) saw some of the heaviest rains on Tasmanian record. Sommelier had a plan B; to propose from the Wineglass Bay lookout, which is still accessible in the rain. He had a plan C as well; from the spa at the hotel. Unfortunately the road to the hotel was washed out, the electricity was knocked-out by the storm and it was generally advised that attempting any hikes that weekend would be reckless and dangerous (we did get a refund on the hotel though). Sommelier came up with a plan D at the last minute and proposed from the Knocklofty reserve, just behind our house (which is very nice; we can see the spot from our kitchen window).
Sommelier’s failed rendezvous with Tasmania’s weather gave me an idea, and I went to see Chris Hood; the master jeweller at Metalurges, the gemmologist who taught us to prospect, and our ring maker to discuss ring designs. I convinced Sommelier that he needed to have a ring fitting (even though it is still going to be several years before we get married and he definitely thought it was an odd request). Nevertheless he slunk over to Metalurges for a meeting and a cup of tea with Chris to discuss prospecting excursions and ask for a ring fitting so as not to provoke the wrath of his fiancé who insisted that not knowing his ring size was giving her terrible stress (it’s me, Sapphire, I told him – very melodramatically – that I could no longer handle the mystery of the circumference of his ring finger and would go full bridezilla, 3 years before the wedding, if he didn’t go and find out the circumference of his ring finger immediately). Chris was much more subtle in gleaning a proper understanding of Sommelier’s finger proportions.
I had always been adamant that I wanted to do an engagement shoot and Sommelier was quietly resigned to this, even though he considered it an unnecessary wedding expense. His enthusiasm for it was piqued when I brought up the idea of hosting our engagement shoot from the summit of Mt Amos, in lieu of his proposal. As I was already in charge of organising photography the rest was easy. I knew Nina, from Nina Hamilton Photography, having modelled for her before, and I know how much she loves to do destination shoots. My second photographer, Ros, from Puddlehub photography, came highly recommended by Nina. Second photographers are there on behalf of the first photographer. They work together as a team to pick up on behind the scenes shots, as well as capturing all the images that might be over-looked when only one photographer is working.
Two photographers means it is possible to capture wide-perspective shots while close-ups are being taken, which is a huge bonus when the location of your shoot is one as stunning as Mt Amos. So it was that, with the help of Chris, Nina, Ros and my father (who made our ring boxes) all of my plans were perfectly laid to romance my man. The only other hiccup that we faced along the way was an overnight stay in the emergency room 2 nights before the shoot when certain members of the couple experienced debilitating abdominal pain and uncontrollable vomiting (it was me, Sapphire. Sommelier insisted that we cancel the shoot and I insisted that we simply could not cancel our engagement shoot, and it was rude of him to even suggest something so outrageous. He just sighed and accepted that he had put a ring on a crazy person and now he was stuck with them). The doctor pumped me full of codeine and very reluctantly cleared me for mountain climbing – acting on Nina’s advice we hired an emergency beacon from the Service Tasmania building, for our own safety (an activated personal distress beacon will see a rescue team sent to your specific location, and the mildly infirm attempting difficult activities should consider carrying one often, failure to do so is considered failure to take proper precautions and can result in a fine). Emergency beacon, rings, formal wear, codeine and emergency make-up supplies packed we were ready to set out.
It takes a little over an hour to climb Amos, and, wanting to be there at golden hour the entire party stayed the night near Freycinet Park. Sommelier and I stayed at the Freycinet Resort which is an incredible little eco retreat that we very highly recommend to anyone looking for some very high-quality hotel time. Ros is an East Coast local and she and Nina stayed at her house. I dragged everyone out of bed at around 5am (little earlier for me because I had to put on makeup – if you are wondering what the secret to keeping your makeup looking fresh after a strenuous hike is, it’s using sunscreen as primer, and a waterproof mascara). We were ready and climbing at around 5:45 in just the little green-grey light of dawn. Parks passes are essential, and you can buy a day pass from the carpark of Freycinet if you are there before the visitor centre is open, or you can buy one from the centre during business hours. This a park where people check that you have a pass, and you will be fined if you fail to display it. There is a toilet at the carpark, and you can refill water bottles from filtered water stations.
In good, highly caffeinated, mildly sleep deprived spirts our party of 4 made very good time through the beginning part of the walk which is relatively flat, manicured and clear, beginning in the same place as the Wineglass Bay walk, but veering left and steeply upwards at the first intersection. The lightly wooded, duck-boarded trail ends abruptly at the face of a large granite rock which marks the beginning of the strenuous part of the hike.
The way up is directly up the white streaked faces of the rocks, in places the path is worn very smooth and is so slippery that it feels a bit like trying to climb up a slide in the playground. Good footwear is essential. There are a few major rock-scrambles where naturally formed foot and hand holds are relatively easy to come by. There are trail markers, but they are widely spaced, which enhances the sense of self-discovery and adventure. We saw one person climbing down as we were heading up, we can only assume he was star gazing from the summit, because I can think of no other good reason to do a treacherous climb in the dark. He did have proper gear and a head torch though, so he was taking safety precautions.
Sommelier insisted that we stop for a break at every flat surface along the way (pointing out that I was only not in any pain because of the very strong medication that I was on), the benefit of heading up so early in the morning was that we had every rest-space completely to ourselves. The whole way up offers coastal views and we were blessed with a very still morning with just enough cloud cover to bathe our ascent in a soft, golden-pink light. The rocks that make up the mountain are also, themselves, beautiful; rain, minerals, and lichen have combined to cause long white streaks that make them look like they’ve been painted by ancient giants. There are broad, naturally formed, pink patches amongst the grey creating the illusion of a herd of Asian elephants standing in silent sentry among the trees.
Being very careful not to ruin our newly filed nails Sommelier and I mostly relied on our legs and butts to see us safely hoisted up the rocks, you come to terms with the respective roles of your derriere and your manicure in shimmying you up a pink-granite rock-face. I won’t judge. The way up is surprisingly wooded, with gum trees and banksia growing in all available cracks, indicating that there is, at least, not much threat of wind along the trail. The Manuka and wax flower plants were of particular impetus to me; their pale-coloured petals picking up all early morning light and reflecting it back like tiny little stars at our feet.
My hands were stinging a little from the abrasive rocks by the time we emerged after a particularly difficult shimmy-scramble (the last of 3) at the summit, just as golden hour hit and the glittering wilderness sprang to raucous life. My legs were shaking from the strain of the climb and, even though, given we were already engaged, I was fairly certain of what Sommelier’s answer would be, I was still nervous – mostly that he wouldn’t love the ring. Every single iota of stress and strain floated away like specs of dust in a sunbeam the second I laid eyes on the view. The top of Mt Amos provides wordlessly beautiful panoramic views of the Freycinet Peninsular, Wine Glass Bay and the open ocean. We changed into formal wear (it would have been hazardous to the health of my antique silk dress to actually climb the mountain in it) behind some bushes and I hid the ring box (that Sommelier carried up the mountain without even noticing) in my cleavage with a scarf strategically draped with the help of my photography crew (for some reason Sommelier just did not question why 2 women were staring very intently at my bosom). The light hit the peak perfectly, the air was just warm enough to wear a sleeveless dress, the wind was a lover’s-sigh, and we had the entire summit to ourselves to bask in the perfect natural beauty of Tasmania and lose ourselves in the sense of wonder that, after 6 years of hoping, we had finally climbed a Hazards’ peak and had the opportunity to declare our love for each other with the Tasmanian wilderness as witness.
All Photos in this article taken by Nina and Ros, of Nina Hamilton Photography, and Puddlehub Photography respectively.
Nina specialises in Tasmanian weddings and elopements. I cannot recommend her highly enough, nor thank her for her contribution to our story. Please visit her at Nine Hamilton Photography to see some of her work, or reach out for your own visual story.