MT HUGEL (4650')
by
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 Saturday afternoon, March 22nd. 1941, a party of six journeyed from Launceston to Lake St. Clair, spending the night in the huts near the Derwent dam. In addition to the usual four companions, we had as guests Misses Freda Daniel and Muriel French. It was our original intention to attempt to penetrate to Mt. Gould, leaving the girls to their own resources at the lake, but, as the weather was not sufficiently inducing for our planned effort as low clouds abounded, we abandoned the project in favour of a less arduous effort.

Thus all six set out for Cynthia Bay (2420') at 8.35 a.m. along the Cuvier Valley track. We gained the Cuvier Bridge which spans the Cuvier River and Hugel Creek at their confluence (1 m.) and here ensued a discussion as to what mountain was to be tackled. Eventually it was decided that Jeff and Harold would attack Olympus, while the remainder would try conclusions with Hugel.

At 9.15 a.m. we set off along the Hugel track, crossing and recrossing the Hugel Creek as we followed it up stream. After some distance the track forsakes the creek-bed and, winding up-wards, passes through gum tea-tree, banksia, hakea, etc. and gains the shores of Shadow Lake. Passing this small lake around the northern shore, we ascend a grassy slope and thence down to Lake Hugel or Forgotten Lake where the track ends (3450' - 10.40 a.m.).

This lake is slightly smaller than Shadow Lake and is encircled by gums and pencil pines. Both Rufus and Hugel were invisible owing to the thick cloud screen but the eastern subsidiary peak of Hugel could be seen rising straight above us in the north. After a respite at the lake, we commenced the trackless portion of our route at 11.10 a.m., through richeas, pandanifolia and scoparia, bauera, gum and the usual variety of mountain scrub towards the northern peak of Hugel. Progress was very slow owing to the inexperience of the girls at bush transit and, although the introduction of hand chains improved the pace, it was afternoon ere we gained the summit of Hugel's northern appendage.

After a further rest, the journey to Hugel was resumed. The uneven nature of the first mile caused increasing delay and, as the peak was neared, signs of fatigue were manifest in our companions. It was not until 4 p.m. that the top of Hugel was reached (4650'- 11m.). Hugel culminates in one unusual rock column and there will certainly never be occasion to build a cairn on Hugel's summit as this unique, spiral rock formation most distinctly marks the highest point. The clouds had lifted slightly during our trek across the plateau and Mt. Rufus and the intervening lakes were plainly revealed. A corner of Lake St. Clair was visible to the east while Olympus and Byron, although heavily cloud-capped were distinguishable. The most amazing highlight, however, of our very curtailed panorama were two fine waterfalls in the valley westward. The recent rains doubtlessly had swollen the volume of the cataracts and probably we were viewing them at their best.

Our plan had been to cross from Hugel to Rufus and follow the Rufus track homeward, thus expecting to save considerable time but, on glimpsing the route to Rufus from our latest vantage point, the plan lost its practicability as a time saver. So after a very brief survey of all visible points, we began our retreat to the Hugel track via outward route at 4.15 p.m.

It was obvious that a brisk return pace must be produced in order to gain the car before nightfall but, despite all assistance and encouragement that we could possibly accord, our companions, our progress was painfully slow. To make matters worse, the clouds descended thickly upon us ere we had progressed far and visibility was so difficult that we decided to abandon the plateau and descend to Lake Hugel while our bearings were still familiar. Rock-erratics on the edge of the plateau created further delay and, as we descended to the tree-line, we encountered a thick jumble of deciduous beech (Fagus gunnii) which necessitated extremely slow travel as the trees had to be climbed over horizontal-tree-fashion. Eventually we succeeded in leaving the beech behind but darkness was now approaching as we pushed slowly through myrtle, pandanni and hakea in the gathering gloom.

Whatever regrets we may harbour at inflicting such sacrifices upon our unfortunate female companions. we will never forget their indomitable courage in tenaciously struggling onwards when each step must have meant a supreme effort, nor their immunity from protest when they were literally dragged through the bush by the relentless and unremitting blitzkriegers, nor their determination to struggle valiantly onwards even when almost total darkness had descended and our chances of success were practically nil.

The low heavy clouds so accentuated the blackness that practically total darkness was achieved. We had not brought our torches as we had not expected any serious delay in regaining the car. It was rather precarious descending further and, as we were still some distance above Lake Hugel and several miles from the car, the only practical scheme was to call a halt. We were half-dragging, half-carrying our proteges through a patch of pandanni when it occurred that such may prove a reasonable camping spot.

The bush was very sodden from the recent rains but, lighting one of the pandannis, the consequent bright illumination enabled us to find some fuel for a fire. After succeeding in starting a fire with dry pandanni leaves we lit further pandannis and soon had sufficient fuel for the night. Without bedding or water and practically no food, we courted rest on a mattress of pandanni leaves after drying our wet garments by the fireside. Upholding the family tradition, the Daniels succeeded in wooing a fair portion of slumber but the remainder of the party were not so fortunate.

At daybreak we were on our way and, slowly descending to the lake, I badly ripped one trouser leg and, as it was dragging in the way, I chopped the bottom off. Soon after we encountered thickets of prickly richea near the lake shore and my leg bore a scarlet criss-cross pattern for many days as evidence of the painful encounter.

It was quite daylight when we reached the track and, after a mile or so's slow progress thereon, it was agreed that I push on to the car in order to allay anxiety there. Making the trip in good time, I learned that the Olympus expedition had shared no better success, Jeff and Harold being benighted before crossing the Cuvier Bridge. Losing the track in the dark, they could not locate the bridge and had to camp on the riverbank until daylight. As their matches had become damp with the sodden going, they spent a cold and fireless night, regaining the car shortly before me.

Breakfast was prepared for all when the remainder of the Hugel party arrived and, in order to make all possible haste back to Launceston and work, we ate as we drove. Nevertheless, it was late in the morning ere Launceston was reached.
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