Friday, 20 October 2017

The Southern Ranges

15th  - 19th October 2017

Pindars Peak
Mt Wylly
Mt Victoria Cross
Precipitous Bluff

Day 1
Once again I found myself driving the long distance from north of Launceston to the Mystery Creek Cave carpark near Lune River, as here begins the walk up Moonlight Ridge to the Southern Ranges. I had walked here in April when I climbed Mt La Perouse, but went no further on that particular trip. So I knew what I was in for on the first day, and the walk was more or less the same in both scenery and walking time. I started walking at 11:00am up the beautiful rainforest covered limestone ridge that then leads to the open ridge line around Hill's 1, 2, 3, and 4. I decided to push on a little extra distance than Pigsty Ponds (where I had camped previously), as I had ample time in the day and no need to climb Mt La Perouse again (yet - I will be back many times to this area, I believe). By 5:00pm I had made it to Lake Ooze for my first night, which sits at the feet of Pindars Peak, and is a beautiful hanging lake with two smaller mountains towering above it on the southern side.

Old logging equipment.

A fossil in some limestone.

Going over the 'Hills".

Amazing dolorite action!

Mt La Perouse.

Looking to Lake Ooze and Pindars Peak.

Day 2
I started my day at 7:30am with the sun promising to bring a hot day. I followed the well marked path up out of the basin where Ooze Lake sits, to then proceed on to Pindars Peak. The track diverts up the peak as a quick 15 minute return jaunt, so I nipped up and enjoyed the early morning views. After getting back to my pack, it was time to head towards the Wylly Plateau for the night. This involved passing over a few hills and saddles that are on a low ridge between the plateau and Pindars Peak. The decent to Leaning Tea Tree Saddle was scrubby, but with a reasonable path to follow. I did however, loose a walking pole somewhere in this area (it was strapped to the outside of my pack at the time). There was little water in the small pools, and the sun was fierce, but I pushed on and had lunch after climbing out of the last small saddle to reach a long broad ridge that meets with Mt Wylly. After lunch I continued on the cairned path around and over the shoulder of Mt Wylly to a point where I dropped the pack and bagged an Abel for the second time that day. An easy scramble up Wylly lead to some lovely views with Mt Victoria Cross and P.B as obvious stand out features. After getting back to my pack I strolled on to the plateau, which I reached by 2:00pm.

I set up camp on the Wylly Plateau. I had gotten sun-burnt and wanted to hang out in the shade, so I read and had a few cuppa's while the heat of the day burned off a bit. I headed off to Mt Victoria Cross a bit after 3:00pm, and the walk to the base of the mountain was quick, easy, and pleasant. A lot of alpine herb field and cushion plants, before the cliff line gave way to a small section of scrub. This had a rough cairned path through it, but was unreliable, so I just smashed through it as best I could. This lead to and open gully which I slogged up, taking me to the summit plateau. The true summit was not far away, and soon I was on the third Abel of the day! And my favourite of the day, too. The view north, over Mt Bisdee and the forest that contains the elusive Vanishing Falls is what made it the best, in my opinion. After a reasonable amount of summit time, I strolled back to camp and spent the evening reading. I am currently on a Robin Hobb book "The Golden Fool".

Heading out from Ooze Lake.

On Pindars Peak.

Pandani sentry.

Leaning Tea Trees at Leaning Tea Tree Saddle.

Looking back up the track.

Atop Mt Wylly.

Approaching Mt Victoria Cross.

The steep gully.

The fine views.

Sunset on Mt Victoria Cross.

Day 3
Originally I planned on backtracking over the range to my car, thus only necessitating a probable day trip to Precipitous Bluff. But after the scrub of the day previous, and the knowledge that I'd have to go back UP through it on the hottest predicted day of my trip, I decided instead to pack up camp and head over P.B to camp on the shore of New River Lagoon, and walk out the South Coast Track (a common way of doing the Southern Ranges).

I left camp earlier, at 7:00am, to give myself enough time as well as to avoid the heat of the day. The Chapman notes I was using (are 10 years old) suggested a 5-6 hour walk to the base of P.B. The track to get onto the long ridge, called Kameruka Moraine, that leads to said point  was simple to follow for a while. Leading over a small knoll, before dropping into a wide saddle. There were many false leads, but most were marked with sticks across them (I like to call them "Tassie No Though Roads") made navigating the braided path relatively simple. This was until a marshy section was encountered where I could find no path on the other side. I followed what I thought was a track, before getting stuck in some fierce scrub. I pushed through it, getting a compass bearing to follow, and with dogged determination I eventually popped out upon the path again after 30 minutes in the scrub! Navigating knowledge is an essential thing in Tasmania. My time in the scrub did cost me a croc, however. My left camp shoe must have been ripped out from under my pack lid as I was forcing my way through the shrubbery. Two hours after leaving camp, I had made it onto the moraine. I had a break and then followed the reasonable track to the cliff line of Precipitous Bluff, arriving at 10:30am.

A short, but steep climb awaited me. I had run out of water, and the knowledge of a waterfall coming up spurred me on as I slowly made my way up P.B in the sun. The waterfall was a delight for the eyes and ears, and I had a long break under some shade near the cascade. The track followed the falls up into a gully, and some (surprisingly) really good track work awaited my feet. I was soon at the High Camp area, where I ditched up pack and made for the summit, which was an easy 15 minute walk away. The views were amazing, especially as the bluff towers over New River Lagoon. I signed the second last page of the log book up there which had been in use since 2005, and headed back to my pack for lunch in the shade of a rock. After lunch I began the climb down to New River Lagoon, a seemingly improbable route picked it's way through towering cliffs and over steep gullies, before dropping steeply and steadily through rainforest, studded with GIANT Eucalyptus and Mytrle. I set up at Cavern Camp in the forest on the edge of the lagoon, a still and humid night awaited me.

Sunrise on P.B.

"Tassie No Through Road"

A Tiger Snake.

Beautiful cloud action.

A looming presence.

Would you look at that track?!

The summit of P.B is close.

The view was divine.

Going down.

I can't express how mind blowing the track was here.


A giant.

Day 4
In order to get from Cavern Camp to the South Coast track I needed to wade the edge of the New River Lagoon. I knew this was forecast to be the hottest day, so I left early at 6:30am before the day could heat up. I started bare foot in the lagoon, but with too many rocks that only lasted 10 minutes before my boots came on (although, that was enough time to cut the bottom of my foot pretty bad...). The wade was amazing, and one of my favourite parts of the trip. It was calm, warm, picturesque. Black swans and various sea birds kept me company as I splashed along, and I could easily imagine the palawa people living harmoniously with nature in this splendid place. Only one creek that flows into the lagoon is deep enough to warrant going upstream (on a taped track) to a few log crossings. I arrived at the Prion Beach camp site on the SCT only two hours after leaving Cavern Camp.

From here the walking was to be a breeze. The South Coast Track is still reasonably tough in parts, but a lot kinder than the scrubby stuff I had spent the last few days in. I hoofed it along, enjoying new sections of track that I hadn't seen before, and all the while dreaming to come back here with a big group of my closest for a good fun walk. The kilometres chewed themselves up on the quick walking, and soon I was lunching at the Surprise Bay campsite. I wanted to get to Granite Beach for the night, which was only another hour on, so I lazed in the shade for a while before heading off again. I arrived at Granite Beach after an hour of walking from Surprise Bay. I had all afternoon to hang around in the shade reading, re-hydrating, washing, and playing with various bits of debris that had washed up and been brought to camp.

Golden capped Ironbound Range.

The stony shore of the lagoon.

Art by Nature.

Precipitous Bluff.

My faithful wading pole.

Some schwanky new track work.

Swamp Tea Tree.

Some kind of Eyebright.

A cave on the Surprise Bay beach.

Kelp patterns on Granite Beach.

A stream coming from no-where, on Granite Beach.

Day 5
The one down side of coming out via the SCT was that my car would be 23km away when I arrived at Cockle Creek. But I'd have to deal with that when I got there. To start with, I wanted to give myself as much time as possible to to find a lift/walk it, so I left really early. This also was because a 460m climb awaited me first thing, over the South Cape Range. I left at 5:45am in the dark. The walking was lovely, as it was still already warm, but also slightly drizzling on me. The up hill went quickly and I was treated to an early morning view as I went over Flat Rock Plain an hour after leaving. The weather then decided to get wetter, and it mostly rained on me the entire way out. I didn't stop often, and made it to South Cape Rivulet at 9:00am sharp. From there the track gets better and better as it goes over Coal Bluff and the meets one of Tasmania's 60 great short walks on Lion Rock Beach. As I was hot-footing it north to Cockle Creek the rain lifted and the humidity rose. It was lovely walking weather. I arrived at the end of the South Coast Track at 11:30am, five and three quarters of an hour after leaving. I was surprised at how quickly I walked that section of track.

There was next to no-one at cockle creek. I made a few phone calls to people I know in Dover and Hobart, but nothing proved to be much help. Then a couple from one of the only two caravans there (who weren't in when I knocked) walked passed me on their way back from a morning stroll. I got yacking to them and Kay and David from Batemans Bay in NSW were happy to give me a lift! They were super lovely, and we had plenty to talk about. The humbly denied my offer of a bottle of wine or payment for fuel, stating "what goes around, comes around". Super lovely couple! They drove on, I got changed, jumped in the car and headed to the Veg Bar in Hobart for a dang delicious burger! WOOHOO!

Looking over Lion Rock.

Cockle Creek.

Veg Bar - Sloppy Jack Burger! YUM!

22 left.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Agamemnon and the Peaks

1st - 4th October 2017

Philps Peak
Sharlands Peak

Day 1
With a fine forecast for the next 5 days, I excitedly jumped into October with a visit to one of Tasmanian's iconic walking destinations. The Frenchmans Cap area has 5 Abels and I hoped to get them all in one trip. I left the car park on the side of the Lyell Highway at about 10:30am for the 17km walk into Lake Vera. The weather was dull and rained on me most of the way in, but that was as I expected, the good weather was to come. The walk was beautiful, and having been a few years since I'd been up Frenchmans there was more new track work to admire. The track has been receiving attention and funding from Dick Smith and the state government, and the money has been well spent. The walk in took me about 4 hours, which offered me a pleasantly relaxed afternoon of chatting with others at Lake Vera hut.

Crossing the Franklin River.

Great new track, ay?

Watering the valiant steed.

Lake Vera hut.

Day 2
I left the hut at about 8am and headed back up the track about 500 metres to a point that offered me a good lead up towards Agamemnon. There is no formed track up to the summit, so scrub bashing was in order. Firstly I was walking up an open buttongrass slope, which turned into thicker tea-tree scrub as I gained altitude closer to the craggy quartzite outcrops of the ridge line I was aiming for. I found a reasonable pad as the terrain funneled me into the obvious place to go, but the going wasn't too hard anyway. Once I was on the ridge it was more open, although one more gully of scrub had to be dealt with before I was on the higher ridge that offered open walking to the summit of Agamemnon. Again, not too bad and after an hour of walking I was through the worst of it. From that point there was cairns to follow occasionally, but the walking was open and easy so it wasn't necessary. The clouds that shrouded me all morning began to offer signs of lifting, but didn't in time for me to reach the summit. I would come back via this route, so I didn't worry with a foggy photo and instead turned my attention on Philps Peak. The peak was only a few kilometres away, and the walking was mostly wonderful, involving alpine herb fields and craggy features. Only one section of scrub at the lowest point between the Abels caused any annoyance, and that was short lived. About 4 hours after leaving the hut I was on Philps Peak, with a fine view (although Frenchmans and Clytemnestra never showed their heads) just in time for lunch. I spent well over half an hour on the summit before re-tracing my steps back. By the time I was back at Agamemnon, I had a wonderful open view. A White Goshawk flew beneath me as a Wedge Tailed Eagle soared above. A truly acrobatic performance.

My Buttongrass lead.

Some scrub, looking down to the track.

I found a battery in the scrub :/

Misty mountains cold.

The ridge up towards Agamemnon.

Look at that geology! Extra points if you can tell me why it looks like this (I hold the answer...)

Lake Whitham.

The ridgeline towards Philps Peak, and the best view I had of Frenchmans the whole trip.

Atop Philps Peak.

Slushy Spring snow.

A snowmelt fed creek.

Back on the summit of Agamemnon.

A watchful eye.

Day 3
Waking up to bad weather when the forecast suggested otherwise is always unfortunate, but I planned on heading to Lake Tahune for the night, via Sharlands Peak, so I packed up and moved out. Lugging my big pack up Barron Pass wasn't too bad, as I made many stops to take photos. The forest was popping with colour as the rain soaked in, and Vera Creek was pumping. After a few hours of walking I was over the pass and seeking shelter in a small cave beside the track for an early lunch. I prepared myself for a short side trip in the unforgiving weather by donning scrub gear. Sharlands Peak towers above the main Frenchmans Cap track at Barron Pass, and I was excited to climb it. The best approach is from behind, so I waded through some scrub first before quickly gaining height on a very fun climb. Sheer cliffs began to loom in the mist as I closed in on the summit, and soon I was on top, fighting against pelting wind and rain. I took shelter behind a rock; a good place to check the forecast on my phone. The forecast told me that the situation had deteriorated, and my chances of having views the next day from Frenchmans and Clytemnestra were next to none. It was at this point I decided that I would rather enjoy those particular summits in better weather, so after heading back to my pack I walked back down Barron Pass for Lake Vera hut. The time constraint of climbing the Abels is becoming a less important thing to me, as I would rather have a great walk instead of bagging for the sake of it...

Vera Creek.

Native Laurel... Loo-roll! Hahaha.

What a pretty place I live in.

The track up Barron Pass.

Looking towards my route up Sharlands.

That drop.

Unfortunately you can't see what the drop was like on the summit, but it's pretty steep

Day 4
With the weather doing what I expected, I high tailed it out to the car in just a smidgen over 3 hours. Not too bad timing I reckon! The new track certainly helped with that.

As I was passing over the Franklin Range near the highway, the Frenchman group was firmly in the cloud as the rain began to fall.

The track out on the new Laughton's Lead.

26 left.