Keith Lancaster 

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Note: The reports have been scanned in as written. I have included the height and distance indications, e.g.:
(1000'- 12m.- 4.45p.m.)
which read as follows: height in feet - miles for the day - time.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26th. 1935, Jeff and I left Launceston per train for Penguin to commence two or three weeks holiday. During the course of our vacation we visited several mountains and it is as well to give the whole tour in detail in order to cover our mountain-climbing experiences fully.

We proposed to make a tour of the state – partly per cycle and partly per train - and hoped to include such grand show places as Hellyer Gorge, Gordon River, King River Gorge, Lake St. Clair, National Park, Hobart and possibly Port Arthur and the East Coast if time permitted.

We reached Penguin that afternoon and stayed for the night. The next morning we set out at 9.30 a.m. to climb MT. MONTGOMERY. At 9.50 a.m. we reached the track to the mountain, having attained an altitude of 430’. Seven minutes later we commenced the walk up the mountain side, gaining the summit after a half hour’s climb. The aneroid gave us an altitude of 1460’ on the mountain top.

As we had become more familiar with the mountain peaks in this quarter since our last visit and as the day permitted a clearer view, it is well worth while again giving in detail the points which are visible from this peak.

Possibly the outstanding feature in the extensive view would be the miles of delightful coastal scenery which extends from far beyond Low Head on the one side to Table Cape on the other. Bounded in numerous places by beautiful golden beaches and held beck in others by rocky reefs and cliffs, the sea takes on a deeper blue from this altitude. Such unmistakeable landmarks as Table Cape in the far W.N.W., Fossil Bluff, Burnie, Emu Bay, Howth, Sulphur Creek, Preservation Bay, Penguin, the Three Sisters, Ulverstone, Leven estuary, Mersey Bluff, Devonport, Port Fenton and Low Head in the far E.N.E. can be seen dotted along the coast-line, each one possessing a charm of its own. Inland, a large number of mountains appear in all directions. Due east, Mt. Arthur forms the distant background to a wide expanse of the Leven, with Mts. Barrow and Ben Lomond prominent further south. Mt. Roland is very prominent in the near south-east with Mt. Vandyke alongside and Extreme Tier and Culmer’s Bluff [Clumner’s] farther southwards. In the south Black Bluff appears, just visible over the eastern shoulder of Mt. Norman, lying only a couple of miles away, being the closest peak of the Dial Range. Another smaller peak of this range limits much of the view to the west. St. Valentine’s Peak, half submerged in clouds, lies in the south-west, with another small peak (possibly Mt. Bischoff) taking up a position a little to the northward. Altogether, the extent of the panorama is amazing for sucha small peak.

At 11.18 a.m., we left the mountain peak and, after reaching the road, went on in the direction of ‘Ferndene’ inspecting some interesting creek scenery, arriving back at Penguin at 1.45 p.m.. After dinner, we set out for Burnie via UNDERGROUND RIVER at 3 p.m..

The route we followed took us up the West Pine Road and after about eight miles riding, we reached the Blythe River and soon located the place known as Underground River at 4.45 p.m..

At this point the Blythe emerges from beneath the rocks from its underground course of about ten miles. This phenomenon is interrupted in a few places where the river momentarily comes into view only to disappear from sight a few yards farther on. Underground rivers are by no means rare but this is easily the longest subterranean river bed made by any Tasmanian stream. The Blythe River is a considerable stream at this point, so the underground tunnel, through which it flows, must be a cavern of no mean dimensions.

After a short stay, we left the Blythe and started off for Burnie at 5.23 p.m., journeying by way of Chasm Creek. Coming down the steep hill leading to the Coast Road, a wonderful view of Burnie is obtainable and we tarried a while to take advantage of the opportunity accorded us. At 6.55 p.m. we reached Burnie, collected our baggage from the railway station and booked our accommodation for the night. We spent the following day quietly at Burnie.

HELLYER GORGE: On Friday morning, March 1st., we set out from Burnie at 7.38 a.m. for Waratah. We cycled along the Coast Road to Somerset and then turned off to the south, taking the Waratah road. This road, although bitumened early, soon became rough and I experienced two punctures before we reached Elliott (680’) at 8.55 a.m., twelve miles from Burnie. Four miles farther on we passed Yolla (900’) at 9.20 a.m. By the time we had covered 21 miles, Henrietta (1250’) was reached at 10.12 a.m. The farms then gave way to bush country covered with gum, myrtle and blackwood. From the time we left the sea behind, we had climbed hill after hill, some of which cost quite an effort to ride over and so it continued until we reached the top of the Hellyer Gorge with the aneroid indicating 1650’.

The descent into the gorge is rather steep and occupies about three miles, but our brakes were good. I had often thought I had seen some truly wonderful bush scenery before, but the superlative majesty of this forest glade was so superior to everything I had previously seen, that it almost took my remaining breath away. Few, indeed, of the predominating myrtles and leatherwoods were below a hundred feet in height and they presented a rare sight, towering high above the roadway – their trunks enveloped in mosses, lichens, parasitic ferns and creepers for a good forty feet – the numerous large, white blossoms of the leatherwoods mingling contrastingly overhead with the preponderating dull green of the foliage.

At the top of the gorge, gums and wattles comprised the bulk of the tree growth, mingled with blackwood, musk, paper-barks and countless smaller shrubs including the beautiful snow berries but, as the descent is made, the giant myrtles and leatherwoods gradually oust them from existence until little else remains but the mighty fagus, the towering eucryphias and the giant dicksonias – all burdened with creepers and parasitic growths.

At the bottom of the Hellyer Gorge, where the Hellyer River passes under the bridge, the elevation falls to 800’. On the river bank, a couple of delightful foot tracks allow one to penetrate farther into this forest glade. Naturally, quite an amount of photography was indulged in but the tall trees allow so little light to enter the gorge that all photos were somewhat blurred in outline.

After arriving at 11.50 a.m., we were awheel again at 1.30 p.m. and commenced an arduous three miles climb, ascending 910’ to an altitude of 1710’ by 2 p.m.. The Wandle River (1850’) was crossed at 2.20 p.m. and we soon regained a 2000’ elevation. We completed our journey to Waratah (1965’) without incident by 3.30 p.m.. After completing arrangements for accommodation, I set out in the direction of little MT. BISCHOFF at 4.8 p.m.. I cycled for about a mile and resorted to walking at 4.18 p.m. and completed the half mile ascent of little Mt. Bischoff at 4.27 p.m..

The peak (2598’) rises only 630’ above the level of the town and (although declining) holds the chief tin lode in the state. The mountain surface is somewhat bare – the flora consisting mainly of stunted bushes. The tea tree (leptospermum scoparium), the leatherwood (eucryphia billiardiera), here a 5 ft. tree at best, the bauera rubioides and the pink-berried cyathodes parvifolia are amongst the mountain growth.

The view from the summit (although not extensive at any time) was further limited by the presence of distant cloud formations. Mt. Cleveland (W. by S.) is the nearest neighbour, while Mt. Pearce (E.S.E.) and Mt. Ramsay (S. by W.) are also near at hand. St. Valentine’s Peak (N.E. by E.) is easily recognisable. E. by N., Black Bluff rises high, with little Mt. Tor visible slightly to the north, with Mt. Everett appearing still farther north. In the S.E., two mighty peaks close together are probably Barn Bluff and Cradle Mt. But poor visibility owing to lack of sunlight, partially obscured the outline of the maze of mountains in this area. In the S.E. by S., a high block-shaped eminence was probably responsible for Mt. Pelion West. Waratah lies at the foot of the mountain on the S.S.E. and S.E. side, while Magnet nestles in a valley in the S.W. by W., the only other cleared district within view.

At 5.36 p.m. I left the peak, regaining my cycle and reaching the hotel by 5.51 p.m.. The following day, Saturday Mar. 2nd. 1935, it was our intention to proceed by train to Strahan but, owing to a very slow watch, the train was missed and we were isolated in Waratah for the week-end, enabling us to make an excursion to Bischoff together. On Monday we journeyed to Queenstown and on the Tuesday morning I set out for MT. LYELL per foot. At 9.53 a.m. I entered the smelters and proceeded through the Mt. Lyell Co’s property towards the peak. The mountain is practically devoid of growth owing to the chemical method of mining the silver, lead and copper from the mountain in the past. A new system has been introduced in the method of mining and the once completely bare mountain slopes are slowly beginning to regain their lost flora.

Nearing the peak, I had my first glimpse of our beautiful red lily, the blandfordia grandiflora – a bright gem in a desert of dullness. At 11.53 a.m. I reached the mountain’s peak (2735’) but was rewarded with only a very curtailed view as storm clouds hung threateningly all around. Mt. Tyndall in the N.N.W., Mt. Sedgewick in the N.N.E. and Mt. Owen in the south were the only peaks dimly visible and I found it expedient to make a hasty retreat from my exposed position as rain seemed imminent.

At 12.2 p.m., I was under way and chose a slightly different route back, progressing more directly down the mountain slopes. Owing to the absence of any live roots whatever in the soil on the slopes, I would often find my foot go straight through the earth where it would crumble under my weight. I continued my way very warily down the weirdest mountain in Tasmania, my unfortunate shins often suffering through a sudden collapse of earth precipitating my legs down some rocky crevice. After completing the main descent, the remainder of the return journey was uneventful and I reached the smelters’ entrance at 1.20 p.m. and five minutes later was back at my hotel.

Next morning we were awheel at 8.15 a.m. en route for Hotel St. Clair. From a 300’ elevation at Queenstown, we ascended the 1150’ shoulder that divides Queenstown from Gormanston by 8.50 a.m. and then descended through Gormanston and Linda, gaining the King River at 9.15 a.m.. A quarter of an hour later we crossed the Princess and gained the Nelson River at 9.55 a.m. where a spell was enjoyed.

We had gained the top of the Raglan shoulder (1400’) at 10.25 a.m., crossed the Cardigan at 10.50 a.m. and descended to the Collingwood (850’) by 11.25 a.m.. The Frenchman’s Cap often captures the eye between here and the King William Saddle. The old track to Jane River turned off on the right and soon after the Stonehaven River was crossed at noon. The new track to the Jane branches off soon after and at 12.20 p.m. we halted at the Franklin River (1000’) for lunch. Myrtles and leatherwoods thickly adorn the river bank and the large grass tree (richea pandanifolia) is also present.

Resuming at 1.30 p.m. a 1600’ climb confronted us from the Surprise Valley to the King William Saddle which I eventually gained at 2.35 p.m., being some distance behind my companion. Proving to be an irresistible attraction to me, the KING WILLIAM RANGE caused me to strike out across the button grass at 2.45 p.m. intent upon its closer acquaintance. I headed for the north-western peak which I erroneously calculated to be the highest of the range. The undergrowth on the sides of the mountain made progress difficult and slow while the warm day brought forth much perspiration. At 4.10 p.m., I reached the top of King William’s north-western peak (3900’) [Mt. Pitt] and was rewarded by an extensive view, marred slightly by haze.

By far the most arresting spectacle was the Frenchman’s Cap, looming up in the W.S.W.. The Loddon Hills and the Raglan Range can be seen in the west. The lofty spire of Eldon Peak appears in the N.W. with a high eminence (possibly Eldon Bluff) N.W. by N.. In the N.N.W. is Mt. Hugel with Mt. Rufus a little farther north. Mt. Olympus lies N. by W. in the midst of a multitude of peaks. The north-east was obscured somewhat by haze and cloud formations but Mt. Hobhouse was visible in the S.E. by E.. Away to the S.E. Wyld’s Craig was discernible, while in the south further peaks of the King William Range were in evidence.

At 4.35 p.m. I left the summit and was back at the Saddle at 5.40 p.m.. Ten minutes later I was awheel again and found my companion patiently waiting for me further along the road. We reached Hotel St. Clair (2200’) at Derwent Bridge at 6.30 p.m. and stayed the night there.

Next morning was Thursday, March 7th. 1935 and we left the hotel at 10.30 a.m., cycling the three miles to Lake St. Clair (2250’) by 10.48 a.m.. We followed the track around the shore of the lake, having an adventure or two with snakes and, after ¾ mile, encountered the Cuvier River. At 12.25 p.m. we struck off along the Cuvier track which passes over button grass clearings. Halting at 1 p.m. for a forty minute lunch, we were 3¼ miles out. Then we began ascending the southern foothills of Olympus, one after another and were able to get a good glimpse of Mts. Olympus, Byron and Cuvier and also Lake Petrarch through which the Cuvier flows. At 3.52 p.m. (6½ miles out) we gained the summit of a high foothill (3900’) from which a fine view of Lake St. Clair may be experienced. At 4.7 p.m. we retreated homewards, gaining the button grass track (2720’) at 4.43 p.m. and losing the pedometer en route. A brisk walk brought us to our cycles by 6.30 p.m. and we were back at the hotel a quarter of an hour later.

MT. OLYMPUS: Friday, March 8th. Found us impatiently awaiting the commencement of a motor boat trip on Lake St. Clair. I had spent the morning repairing and trying out a nice rubber-shelled canoe lent to me by the hotel proprietor as a factor in an effort to scale Olympus from the lake shore. Delay followed delay, and it was 1.55 p.m. before the motor boat got underway with the canoe in tow.

Lake St. Clair is the second largest of our island’s lakes but must rank first in beauty. The surrounding hills and mountains are densely wooded from the water’s edge to where the rocks appear on the mountain peaks. Myrtles, leatherwoods, native pines, tea tree, sassafras, patches of gum and wattle, grass trees, dicksonias and practically all varieties of the West Coast forest growth present an almost unbroken mass of green in every conceivable shade. On the west the 4680' Mt. Olympus rises from the lake shore while the smaller Mt. Ida with its attractive rocky spire dominates the eastern shore. A maze of mountains appear further afield and every peak and every cloud are faithfully mirrored in the clear deep waters of the lake, the reflections produced in which are amazingly clear. The water is cool and sweet to the palate and so clear that submerged trees are plainly visible many feet below the surface.

I was disembarked with the canoe opposite Mt. Olympus and set out upon the ascent at 2.45 p.m.. Despite the seeming density of the bush from the lake, I was favoured by quite a good passage up the mountain side. The floral scenery was wonderful but lack of time called for fast climbing and I made the plateau by 4.45 p.m. to the south of the peak which I gained half an hour later.

The day was perfect – a bright sun - no wind - no clouds – no haze - and what as marvellous view! Nothing I have yet seen can compare with the beauty and diversity of the panorama. In spite of the magnetic appeal of the hosts of nearby mighty mountain peaks Lake St. Clair is the predominant feature in the landscape.

Mt. Ida lies across the lake to the N.E. with the Walls of Jerusalem away to the N.E. by N. Lake Laura, Culmer Bluff and Western Bluff are practically in line at N. by E.. Due north lies the Cathedral. In the N.N.W. Barn Bluff is distinguishable above a maze of mountains including the gnarled, jagged and lofty Du Cane range. N.W. lies little Lake Enone and Mt. Gould. Portion of Olympus obscured Mts. Manfred, Cuvier and Byron in the W.N.W.. The Eldon Range looked great in the W. by N.. In the W.S.W., Gould's Sugar Loaf appears and the Frenchman's Cap rose high in the S.W. by S.. Mts. Hugel and Rufus were near at hand in the S.S.W. with Mt. Gell. slightly further south. Due south the King William Range appeared, then Mt. Hobhouse in the S. by E. and Wyld's Craig in the S.S.E.. Lake Ina could be seen away to the east. I would have been delighted to spend another hour in examining the extensive view but the declining sun gave warning of the necessity of reducing my stay to a minimum.

After only half an hour's stay on the summit, I commenced the return journey and in spite of the thickness of the tree growth obscuring the canoe, I made unerringly for it and was on the lake at 5.45 p.m.. It took quite a while to become accustomed to the threatening roll of the canoe as one plunged the paddle in on one side and then reverted to the other. It seemed apparent that the frail craft would overturn at any moment but, after a mile or so, I became quite at home to the canoe's liveliness and thoroughly enjoyed the voyage. Six or seven miles had to be covered and progress was not fast but the remarkable beauty of the route and the unusual transparency of the water made the long journey anything but dull.

Occasionally, I would sample a cup full of the delicious water of the lake as I went along and as darkness descended I pulled into the landing stage at the southern end at 7.40 p.m. Then on to the hotel which I gained at 6.0 p.m..

Next day we left Derwent Bridge at 9.50 a.m. for National Park, passing Ouse at 2.45 p.m. and gaining our destination for the night at 6 p.m..

On the morning of Saturday, March 10th. 1935, we paid a visit to the beautiful Russell’s Falls and the smaller Lady Barron Falls enjoying the scenery immensely.

At 2 p.m. I set out from the hotel for Mt. Field East, taking the mountain track through the reserve. The motor road only progressed about two miles at this time and then gave way to a bridle track. A side track deviates to the right and taking this I gained the 12' cairn of Mt. Field East at 5.30 p.m..

The sun was low in the heavens and a hasty look round, ere the approaching gloom enveloped all, revealed a most interesting panorama. Mt. Field West occupied the W. by S. and was manifestly higher than its sister peak. The Denison Range was visible at W. by N. and the distant Frenchman showed up in the W.N.W.. Wyld’s Craig stood boldly out in the N.W. by W. with the Du Cane tangle of peaks away to the N.W.. Mt. Wellington was just distinguishable in the dim light in the E.S.E.. Mt. Anne rose high in the S.W. by S. with Mts. Mueller and Picton and Hartz Mt. Bringing up the south.

Turning westward I walked over to Lake Fenton, gaining its shores by sunset. Then, hastily retreating, I passed Lake Nichols and Beattie’s Tarn and pressed on down the mountain track in the gathering gloom, arriving back at the hotel at 8.45 p.m. without incident.

The following day we cycled to Hobart and next day, Monday, March 12th 1935, found me leaving Hobart at 10.7 a.m. for MT. WELLINGTON. Journeying by way of Davey St. which later becomes the Huon Road, I found the cycling very arduous indeed. Passing ‘The Springs’, I battled along the severe cycling grade of the new road to the pinnacle (then in course of construction). Two miles above the Springs, I enjoyed a half hour’s respite for lunch at 12.30 p.m. and, upon continuing, found the cycling beyond me and so resorted to foot. After half a mile, I reached the road men’s camp (3530’) at the end of the finished portion of the road. Taking the foot track from there, a mile’s tramp brought me to the pinnacle of Mt. Wellington (4166’) at 1.45 p.m..

Unfortunately hazy conditions prevailed, substantially curtailing the view from the top. Collin’s Bonnet, the nearest neighbouring peak, lay to the W. by S.. Platform Peak, N.W. by W. and Mt. Dromedary, N.W. and Mt. Faulkner, N.W. by N. were plainly visible with Claremont showing out in the N.N.W.. Mt. Direction and Risdon Cove were seen in the N. by E. and Lindisfarne in the N.N.E.. Mt. Rumney, the city, the piers and Bellerive occupied the N.E. and Sandy Bay the E.N.E.. Droughey Pt. was observed in the E. by N. with Gellibrand Pt. Due east. Derwent Lighthouse and Brown’s River were in the E.S.E. and Mt. Louis and Margate in the S.E.. Grey Mt. appeared in the W.S.W. but the more distant viewpoints were too indistinct in detail to distinguish with certainty.

I found the return journey much more pleasant than the ascent. I have never experieneed such a long stretch of free wheeling before and was scarcely called upon to do any pedalling to regain Hobart at 4.40 p.m..



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