You know you're in for a fun time when your day starts with a four and a half hour drive to the rugged, remote, stunning, Southwest National Park. I pulled up to an empty carpark at Scotts Peak Dam, humped my backpack on my back, and strutted down the path that leads towards the Arthur Range. I was walking by 10:30am with the goal of getting to Seven Mile Creek for the night. I spent the first two hours getting to Junction Creek, where the path then diverts in a few directions. The track is well trodden, great in some sections, and muddy in others. I had lunch by the creek, and then took the easterly path, leading across the Arthur Plains. The track continued in a similar fashion, through open Buttongrass fields and small sections of scrubby wet forest where a creeks are crossed; all the while boasting magnificent mountain views. After three hours of solid walking from Junction Creek I arrived at Seven Mile Creek. I contemplated pushing on to camp at the bottom of Moraine K, but decided against it, instead choosing to stay put for the night. The gurgle of the creek sent me to sleep in no time.
|Native Laurel being beautiful.|
|When the path is good, it's good!|
|Someone left a food drop. I looked. It was lots of pasta.|
|Seven Mile Creek.|
I had a big day planned, so I set off at 7:30am from my forest camp, and walked south towards the midway access to the Western Arthurs, Moraine K. It was a foggy start to the day, and I couldn't see much at all, but I held hope that the sun would burn it off. After an hour I arrived at the beginning of the 600 meter climb, and shifted down a gear into a steady plod. As I hoped, the fog cleared as I gained elevation, granting me wonderful views and even a fogbow (like a rainbow, but made of fog). When I got most of the way up the moraine I met the junction to continue west along the range. As I intended to do just that, I left my main backpack there, and continued up into the eastern part of the range, where the 2 Abels I wanted to climb are situated. With a daypack on I flew uphill, and by 10:15am I was onto of Mt Scorpio. It is a side trip from the main track of only two minutes, and a place that I easily spent 20 minutes. The air was still, and the views were crisp. I looked towards the next goal of the day, Mt Aldebaran. After my summit time I headed back along the track, up and over the craggy outcrops and through vegetation clinging to cliffs for an hour or so, until the main track dropped to Haven Lake and I had to head 'off-track'. There was a great pad marked by cairns all the way to the summit of Mt Aldebaran, which I reached by midday. And what a place to have lunch, again, the views were super crisp with the clear winter air, and the valleys so deep I couldn't help but test the echo (this became common practice for me on this trip). After half an hour on top I headed back to my main pack, then continued on for an hour to set up camp at Promontory Lake. I had a splash in the lake, and watched some ducks swimming in the alpine oasis.
|A sea of fog nestled over the Arthur Plains.|
|Western Arthurs looking sooo good!|
|The short walk up Mt Scorpio.|
|And the wonderful view it offers!|
|Heading south along the track.|
|Close to the top.|
|A little summit cairn watching over the ridges and valleys.|
|The track back to my pack.|
|The accommodation for the night.|
Another big day meant I was on the track at 7:30am again. My aim was for Pass Creek at the bottom of Luckmans Lead (the northern approach to the Eastern Arthurs), with the side trip up West Portal as well. First I had to climb up The Phoenix, an hours walk from Promontory Lake. The track is far less used on the eastern part of the Western Arthurs, and as such was sometimes less obvious. But the terrain was open and delightful to walk through, especially on the beautiful morning I had. From The Phoenix the range became more ridge like, and the track was easier to follow over the ragged looking Centaurus Ridge. It was great walking, and soon I was approaching the high point of the track, I dropped my bag and made for the summit of West Portal. The walk to the summit was fun, I got cliffed out a few times on the way up, but when I made it to the top it was amazing. I arrived at 11:20am on the highest point of the Western Arthurs and it was super still with crisp views. The Eastern Arthurs looked amazing, and the country between the two ranges looked formidable. I could easily eye the rest of the route for the day. After my allotted summit time I went back to my pack and headed off along the incredible Crags of Andromeda. These towering slabs of rock protrude from the open ridge and were delightful to walk around and look at. After 40 minutes of walking I got to the point where the ridge turns abruptly to the right, and stopped for lunch before descending the even more impressive Lucifer Ridge. The echos in the tall cliff on this ridge were some of the best I have witnessed anywhere in the world. When I got to the point along Lucifer Ridge where the track drops down to Lake Rosanne, I instead continued along the range westward. This 'off-track' section had, not surprisingly, a very good pad on it that took me all the way down to the Eastern Arthurs Track at the point where it crosses Pass Creek. A short stroll south along that track and I arrived at the camping area at 3:30pm. A very successful day!
|Near the summit of The Phoenix.|
|West Portal and its craggy guardians.|
|The final high point for the Western Arthurs.|
|Well worth it.|
|Looking back along the Crags of Andromeda.|
|Lake Rosanne sitting above a blanket of fog.|
|Looking to Luckmans Lead.|
I had heard mixed things about Luckmans Lead, and as I was planning on doing a day walk into the Eastern Arthur Range I decided to leave as early as possible, so was walking by first light at 7:15am. The weather was the worst of the trip on this day, with constant mist and light drizzle persisting throughout the day. I found Luckmans Lead to be quite enjoyable (especially with a light load on my back). The gentle start up a long Buttongrass covered ridge soon became very steep, with thick sections of vegetation. A lot of hands on climbing was needed to get up , making it fun! I made it to the Boiler Plates, which marks the top of Luckmans Lead at 9:00am. Rather good going. From there I continued along the enjoyable, undulating track to Stuarts Saddle. The Abels book mentions a possible, steep climb up The Needles from here, or to pass beneath the summit to the next saddle for a more gentle approach. I opted for the second option for two reasons; the crazy weather and exposure, and the fact that the Abels book has the wrong point marked as the Abel. The actual Abel is closer to the second saddle. It is a detail that is well known among Abel climbers and is an issue that stems from mapping, and the fact it isn't a 'Named Summit'. The Needles is an unofficial name, and shouldn't be confused with the officially named The Needles near Maydena. Once I arrived at the second saddle, I popped on my GPS to make sure I wouldn't get lost, and headed along the ridge. I topped out on a cliff that I then had to backtrack to skirt under, before climbing to the top of The Needles. It was rather sketchy with the wet conditions, but I was super high on adrenaline when I reached the summit at 10:30am! I conferred with various maps I'd brought along, and the GPS to make sure I was indeed on the Abel, and I was! No view, but the sun broke through to give me a patch of blue sky. I stayed on top for 20 minutes before getting cold and deciding to head back. I made steady going pack to Pass Creek camp, which I arrived at around 1:30pm. The weather came in several times again that afternoon, and I was surprised to hear voices at around 5:00pm! 4 walkers about my age from Hobart had come up the Huon Track with the aim of traversing the Eastern Arthurs. We chatted for a few hours and then all went to bed as more rain came in.
|This was a 10 second exposure. So still.|
|The path leading away from Stuarts Saddle.|
|A glimpse of the false spire of The Needles.|
|On the actual summit!|
|Oh my gosh!!!|
|Heading back down the lead into that beautiful valley.|
|The location of The Needles. Map from the LIST.|
I didn't really have an idea of where I was wanting to spend the night, but settled on being happy with anywhere between Seven Mile Creek and Junction Creek. I headed off at 7:30am for a long day of Arthur Plains bashing. The track got better as the day went along, due to the fact that I passed several other points of access, therefore more foot traffic, therefore a smidgen (and I mean smidgen) more track work. First I passed the Lake Rosanne track, and then about two hours of walking later, the Huon Track junction. I then followed the wonderful track that is benched into the side of a small range called The Razorback. The views from there were great, especially of the low cloud swirling in the forested foothills of towering mountains. I was loving every minute. I reached Seven Mile Creek at midday, and pushed on a bit further for lunch in the open plains. By the time 3:00pm rolled around I was on the bank of Junction Creek, washing off a day of mud from my legs and setting up camp.
|Pastel coloured skies.|
|Looking back at the Eastern Arthurs.|
|The light playing in the morning mist.|
|Looking towards the Huon Track.|
|Walking over The Razorback.|
|Arthur Plains in fine form.|
I slept poorly, waking up at 1:30am. I find that with extended winter walks I sleep worse towards the end of the trip, due to the excess of sleep! So I read, played cards, and tried to snooze until 6:00am when I started to get ready for the day. I was walking with first light, and the two hours and twenty minutes to the car flew by. The world around me was frozen, and the everything was blanketed in extremely thick fog. It made for a engaging walk out, and was a lovely way to end a big, successful trip!
|I found some mud. It's good practice to stay on the path to prevent it getting wider.|
|Even when it looks horrid, it is usually not bad.|
|The final mission for this pair of boots.|