Sunday, 21 January 2018

Frankland Range.

16th - 19th January 2017

The Wilmot and Frankland Ranges are a remote mountain range in the south-west of Tasmania. It hugs the western shore of the Lake Pedder impoundment, and is regarded highly among the bushwalking fraternity of Tasmania as one of the more beautiful 'off track' walks the state has to offer. The range has no Abels (although, it does have plenty of peak bagger points, but that's a whole other ballgame). Although the access to the Wilmot (the northern section of walking) is very easy, the whole range remains remote, due to it being cut off from road access via the large lake. Nick and I went on this walk for the pure enjoyment of it, the reason we love bushwalking - to be out there in the wilderness.

Day 1
After having driven down south the night before; we had slept at The Sentinel picnic area, about 30kms to the east of the Serpentine Dam. This was so we could wake up nice and early on day one and get a good start. We were with packs on and walking across the dam head to the trail up Mt Sprent a wee bit after 7am. The trail was good, well marked, and well trodden. It lead steeply away from the dam, climbing rapidly through scrubby terrain before breaking out into more open buttongrass 30 minutes later. The walk to the top of Sprent was lovely from then, still a steady incline, but with beautiful open views and rocky Quartzite outcrops to look at. Within one and a half hours we were on the summit of Mt Sprent; looking south along the range that offered amazing open walking.

After some summit time we started our 'off track' journey. For the most part, the ridge of the range is open with low grasses, making navigation in clear weather a breeze. Any point where scrub is found, or a rocky outcrop slows navigation, there are well cairned and trodden routes (more than either of us expected). I would say it is very nearly not an off track walk... We headed south, tending to the western side of any knolls we walked passed, as that was the least scrubby side. Walking was joyful and quick. The kilometers were chewed up and not long after lunch we found ourselves under the north slopes of Koruna Peak. We found a great track on the eastern side of the slopes that lead us under the cliffs of the peak, and delivered us to Islet Lake about 7.5 hours after we started walking. Here, we found a great sheltered campsite in some trees beside the lake. Neither of us felt particularly keen on going to the summit of Koruna, so swam in the lake, played cards, and enjoyed the place.

Frothing for a walk.

Serpentine Dam.

Climbing up Mt Sprent.

Looking south along the range yet to come.

An iconic Tasmanian track marker... Haha!

Mt Wedge from Islet Lake.

Day 2
Another early start saw us walking by 7:30am, but in thick fog and cloud that had inundated the range. This was no matter, as we picked up the track leading south of Islet Lake. About an hour after walking, we arrived in a more open section of broad ridge, and the track petered out, so navigation was necessary for the next few hours. We found our way along the range well, and by around 10:30am the fog had lifted, making the going far easier. Navigating via your eyes is far more enjoyable! We kept walking south, passing some amazing open grassy football field like sites, ideal for camping on. Soon, we hit the point where the Wilmot Range ends and the Frankland begins (a very obscure point, in my opnion - a saddle of 860m elevation...) From that point we were on Tribulation Ridge, a slightly rougher part of the range, with some scrubby saddles and scrambling on rocks. We passed the Dragon's Head, hands down the MOST impressive rock feature I've seen in Tasmania. We climbed it. Of course.

Further along the range, we dropped down off the main ridge to the Coronation Shelf, which sits beneath Coronation Peak. We left our big packs there and took the 30 minute scramble to the top of that irresistible mountain. The views were magical, and we spent a good while on top. Once back at the packs, we found somewhere to set up camp on the grassy shelf. Water was from small water soaks and yabbie holes, but the views from camp were amazing! Once the sun had set a bit, we had a good throw of the frisbee. A very enjoyable place to sleep.


Some amazing walking up there...

Coronation Peak, shrouded in cloud.

This made me think of something...

... There it is!

The Dragon's Head.

Of course we climbed it.

We climb ALL the things!

Coronation Peak.

Walking up the peak. Note Nick at the very bottom on the left?

A fine summit view.

A fair chuck o' the friz.

Coronation Shelf camp <3

Day 3
I awoke to hear "My tent's broken!". Oh dear. In the night (a not very windy night) one of Nick's poles had snapped, and torn through his tent fly. Not very impressed, Wilderness Equipment. On a near new tent.... We made plans to patch it up that night, had breakfast, and moved on. Once back on the main ridge, we continued south. The first feature to contend with was the fantastic Double Peak. Sidling to the west of the first peak to a hanging valley between the two, before climbing onto the summit of the second peak. I think this was my favourite view on the range. It was amazing.

From there we continued going, following the beautiful open ridge of Madonna Ridge towards the minuscule Redtop Peak. A short snack break on the summit of that, and then we continued towards The Cupola. We dropped packs and made the 20 minute stroll towards the summit of that feature, crossing another delightful camping spot on the way. The summit of The Cupola was super gradual to get up to, but had a huge drop on the other side! So the reward for effort was great! Once back at our packs we had an early lunch and pushed on to out next destination. Half an hour later our packs were off again and we headed out to The Lion, another very cool looking feature on the Frankland Range. The walking to The Lion was a bit rougher, but still not hard. The summit again, outstanding. The view to The Citadel and The Moat was the standout feature for me.

Once back at our packs, we had a difficult section of range, a lot of steep ascent and decent through some thicker scrub, to get around a gnarled feature of Quartzite. But soon we were on the other side of it, over another knoll and looking down to The Citadel Shelf Camp, regarded as one of the best on the range. 5 minutes down to it and we could see why, open grassy fields, shade beneath windswept Teatrees, a small creek, and an amazing view. Perfection. We set up camp, fixed Nick's tent, and relaxed in the shade, as the day was very hot. In the evening, after dinner and when the whole area was shaded (but the temperature was still in the high teens), we went for another good throw of the friz.

This is where the whole walk went balls up.

After 10 minutes of chucking the frisbee around, I jumped to catch the high flying disc above my head, and landed... Wrong. Nick said he saw my foot collapse under itself, I heard a loud crack, and I was on the ground. We didn't know if it was broken, sprained, strained, or what. We splinted it up, hobbled me to my tent. Popped painkillers. And hoped.

Paper Daisy.

Looking to Double Peak.

One of my favourite views.

Looking back at what we've done.

Nick looking towards Frankland Peak.


A PWS survey tag.

The view from The Cupola.

Soaking in that view.

Everlasting Daisies keeping a watchful eye on The Lion.

Climbing The Lion.

The view from on top.

A crazy piece of Quartzite that looks like Dolorite!!

Citadel Shelf camp. A good spot for frisbee, or a heli...

Tent repair.

Coral Fern. So delicate.

Sunset on The Citadel.

Annnnnnd. Cooked.

Day 4
The next morning, my foot was still in a lot of pain, and the swelling was getting bigger each hour. We decided that it was time to push the button on the PLB. It was a hard decision, but also very easy.

Hard, because in many other cases, we would probably wait a few more days, maybe see how it goes. But with no phone reception on the Frankland, and no easy way out off the range, we couldn't confer with anyone. We didn't exactly know what had happened, and if it was bad, waiting for a few days might cause more damage. And that made the choice somewhat easy. There was no choice. We pushed the button, packed up camp, and an hour and a half later the Police Search and Rescue landed their chopper right on the spot where I had done my ankle. 35 minutes later, we were in Hobart. Surreal.

I have badly sprained my right ankle, and am looking at 4-6 weeks apparently before I'll have my mobility back to what it was. As I am writing this, a few days after the evac, I know if we had stayed in one spot for a few days and rested it, there would still have been no chance I could have walked out of that range. Let alone with a 30kg pack on my back. Please donate to the rescue chopper crew, you can do so through Westpac (which I normally don't support - big bank with poor investment choices and all... I'll leave my political stance out of this one), but the work the emergency girls and guys do is incredible and they deserve all the praise and help they can receive.


Heroes of the Wilderness.

Frankland Range, I'll be back.


Friday, 5 January 2018

Mt Pelion West

4th - 5th January

Mt Pelion West

Day 1
To me, Mt Pelion West the matriarch of the Overland Track mountains. She isn't the loftiest, that honor goes to the neighboring Mt Ossa, but something about her dominating shape, high above Pine Forest Moor demands you stop and look up. I have wanted to visit the summit for years, and since beginning my Abel quest, this was the 5th occasion I'd set aside time to conquer the mountain that has a reputation for 'Big rocks. Big Holes.'

I walked up the Arm River track late in the afternoon after I finished a shift at work. A walk I have done many times, that I can almost drift off into a dream state as I stroll along. I spent a good while trying to re-count all the times I've walked the track, and as of now I believe it to be 24. I arrived at Pelion Plains around 7:30pm, pitched my tent, socialised with some mates, and made Overland Track walkers jealous with my avocado laden Subway footlong.

11 Cars in the Arm River car park.

Some of the lovely retaining wall track work on the switch backs.

Myrtle Orange.

Day 2
I awoke a bit before 6am, with a plan in my head to get over Pelion West, and head around to the base of Mt Achilles for the night. Pelion West traverse, here I come! The weather was supposed to be alright, and it felt promising. I left Pelion Plains at 7am, and walked north along the Overland. An hour and a half in, just before Pelion Creek, I came to the junction I'd looked up many times, the track up Pelion West. The track was well defined under foot, if a little scrubby with re-growth (the route was taken off maps some years ago - hence it gets less visitation). After a while of pushing through Pink Mountain Berry dominated under-story, I came out onto a beautiful shoulder of coral fern and low Tea Tree. Pelion West would have been in view, if not for the pea soup cloud that inundated me. I kept walking. Up and up, through some scrubbier track before coming out onto Dolorite boulders, with the track beginning to be marked by cairns. Still in the cloud. And rain. From this point, the going was tediously slow. The visibility was so poor I could sometimes not make out the next cairn, the rocks were deadly slick, and the holes where as huge as I'd been told. I slowly made my way to the summit, which I reached around 11:30am. I had no view, and sheltered down into a gap to wait for a while.

After half an hour on top with no view, I went onward to find a route off the the western side of the mountain, but spent a long time back-tracking when I got stuck. After half an hour with virtually no progress, and rain becoming heavier, I decided it was too unsafe to continue with my plan. I headed slowly back along the cairned route. I trudged down off Pelion West, and made my way back to Pelion Plains. I decided to just keep going, and headed home - defeated.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I am very upset to have not had a view, and honestly, to have had a bad time on the mountain. This is reflected in the lack of photos I took. Either way, Pelion West has been 'bagged'.
I'll return.

Frog Flats. There should be mountains there!

Mt Pelion West track junction.

The track had some good work done on it.


Heading straight up.

The top rock. I didn't climb it - I wanna live.

18 left.