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.

My mountain trip of trips - one which was dreamed of for years, looked forward to for months and planned for weeks – eventuated when my 1946 annual leave fell due. As soon as work was over on Friday, Jan. 25th. 1946, my wife and I bundled our baggage into the car and set off for Lake St. Clair at 6.20 p.m., eating my tea en route.

The weather has been atrocious for quite a week and a cool rain was falling as we departed, but a gradually rising barometer gave promise of better times to come. We passed through Deloraine (700’ - 30m. - 7.9 p.m.), Rainbow Chalet (3320’ - 55m. - 8 p.m.) and reached Fergusson’s Camp at Lake St. Clair (2420’ - 112m. - 10 p.m.). The lights of the car, which had been flickering for some miles, fused as I reached my destination. Here we suffered our first set-back as Mr. B. Fergusson was unable to transport us to the Narcissus hut in his motor launch. However, he offered us the loan of his rowing boat.

Staying the night at the Camp, we availed ourselves of the rowing boat in the morning owing to our large amount of gear but, owing to unforeseen delays, we did not commence our journey until 9.30 a.m.. The barometer had risen overnight but it was still raining and windy. Once beyond Cynthia Bay, the rowing became hard and grueling as we encountered strong head winds and large waves. Heavy squalls were frequent and it was necessary to put to shore on several occasions when progress was impossible during the height of the squall's fury. At times we despaired of reaching the Narcissus Hut by boat and contemplated completing the journey per foot but the wind and waves abated late in the afternoon and the last couple of miles was done under much better conditions. We tied up at the Narcissus landing at 5 p.m., dried out our wet clothes by the fire and settled down to a good night’s rest.

By morning the barometer’s rise had reached a favourable height and the weather was clearing in conformity. We cacheted a tin of provisions at the hut for our return journey and bade farewell to Mr. C. Elliott, our one companion for the night, at 7 a.m.. We were trying out a new experiment in a very light wheelbarrow made of light conduit and a bicycle wheel and, in spite of apparently satisfactory tests held prior to our trip, the experiment did not prove the success expected owing to the uneven terrain. Upon reflection, we may have fared better if we had each carried a light pack and reduced the load on the barrow instead of piling everything on it. Upon reaching the suspension bridge over the Narcissus, it was apparent that the barrow would have to be unloaded before it could be taken across and, as its progress was more laborious and slow than walking, it was decided to abandon it and endeavour to transport our week's supplies by pack. We had sought to reduce the weight of our provisions to a minimum by concentrating upon dried fruits and iron rations and avoiding tinned foods and other heavy goods but, nevertheless, we had difficulty in cramming it all into the two packs but, at length, with enormous burdens aback, we resumed our journey northwards (1m. - 8.20 a.m.).

The Pine Valley turnoff (2670' – 3¼m. - 9.10 a.m.) was passed and a long arduous journey, broken by numerous enforced spells, brought us to the commencement of the steep climb to the Du Cane Gap (7¾m. - 11.45 a.m.) and, finally, to the top of the Gap (3500' – 9¼m. - 12.27 p.m.). Then a long, welcome down-hill section ensued but, in spite of same, our tremendous loads demanded slow progress and, gradually passing the Hartnett Falls turnoff (3000' – 11¼m. – 1.10 p.m.) and the Fergusson Falls turnoff (2950' – 12¼m. – 1.34 p.m.), we breathed a sigh of relief as we dumped our burdens at the Du Cane hut, alias Windsor Castle (3100' – 13¾m. - 2.17 p.m.). After a well-earned rest, I set about smashing up sufficient firewood for our stay. My new rubber boots were slightly undersized, causing toe trouble as well as rubbing my legs at their tops. An early night to bed was called in view of an early morning assault on the nearby peaks.

Monday, Jan. 28th., dawned clear and bright with the barometer still high and I was off down the Pelion track at 6.5 a.m.. Beyond the Kia Ora, 15 min. was allotted for photography, the peaks of Ossa, Du Cane and Pelion East offering excellent subjects. A steady climb brought me to the top of the Pelion Gap (3730' - 6m. - 7.55 a.m.), the shoulder joining Pelion East to Mt. Doris at the side of the towering Ossa. Barn Bluff, Cradle Mt, Mt. Brown and Mt. Oakleigh appeared ahead for the first time and, with the exception of a large cloud over the Forth Gorge, the sky was practically cloudless.

MT. DORIS (4370') :
A line of stakes from the top of the Gap point the way to Mts. Doris and Ossa and I made in this direction at 8 a.m.. A brief climb amongst some light growth and a short rock scramble and I was on top of little Mt. Doris (4370’ - 7m. - 8.25 a.m.). An interesting close-up of both Ossa and Pelion East is obtainable from here but a general description of the view is best left until we gain the wider panorama attainable from Ossa.

MT. OSSA (5260’) Tasmania’s highest point:
Leaving Mt. Doris at 8.40 a.m., a short descent was made to the shoulder of Ossa and then a long steep climb ensued up the side of Ossa. Emerging on the rocky "plateau" through a rock "chimney", I found the highest point lying to the west on the Pelion West side. Some zigzagging amongst the huge boulders on the summit followed and I was soon astride Ossa's pinnacle (5260' - 9m. - 9.48 a.m.). From this lofty vantage point, a grand array of majestic mountains, deep ravines and shimmering lakes unfolds itself in all directions. Our lofty neighbours, Mts. Thetis and Achilles, rear their craggy ramparts above the myrtle jungle, extending from W. by S. to W. by N. with distant Mt. Murchison looming high on the western horizon. Closer at hand in the W. by N. is a sharp, conical cone (4700') attached to Ossa by a col and a small lower bluff appears a little farther north and a little farther away. In the W.N.W. rises Mt. Pelion West, truly a magnificent spectacle with its huge rocky head towering high over its extensive button grass shoulder which, in turn, rests high above the densely wooded mountain sides which fall down and down into the deep gorge of the Forth River. Unobtrusive Mt. Inglis is next in view and then the glorious outline of Barn Bluff soars heavenward in the N.W. with Lake Will as its foreground. Another mighty peak in Cradle Mt. greets the eye in the N.W. by N. with its neighbouring attendant, Mt. Brown. In the N.N.W., the outline of Black Bluff is observable with the nearer Mt. Oakleigh appearing a little farther north. In the north, distant Mr. Roland is recognisable beyond Lake Ayr in the foreground. Western Bluff is evident in the N. by E. and Table Bluff (Brady's Mt.) and Mt. Pillinger occupy the N.E. by N.. The N.E. brings a trio of heights into line - Mts. Doris, Pelion East and Ironstone Mt.. The northern end of the Rugged Mts., with the Walls of Jerusalem beyond, are present in the N.E. by E. where Cathedral Mt. presents an imposing picture. The great chain of the Du Cane Range then claims attention with Falling Mt. in the E.S.E., Mt. Massif in the S.E. by E., Mts. Olympus, Acropolis and Hyperion in the S.E. and its smaller western peaks in the S.S.E.. Mt. Byron rises trimly in the S.E. by S. with Hugel on its left and Gould and Cuvier on its right. Gould's Sugar Loaf is in the S.S.E. and the Frenchman's Cap lies away to the S.. In the S.W. and further south lie the Owen group of mountains. Eldon Bluff rises in the S.W. and Eldon Peak appears in the S.W. by W..

After lunching on Ossa's summit, I left at 11 am. and traversed the ragged mountain top in the direction of Mt. Massif with the intention of gaining that peak later. I reached a high point to the south (5150' – 9¾m. - 11.18 a.m.), which is really a jagged monstrosity of gigantic diabase boulders which have to be zigzagged between and around in a trying effort to discover a route through their erratic confusion. Then onwards I pursued this tortuous route to the high sharp shoulder which connects the southern appendage (unnamed) of Ossa. Descending to this point (4560' – 10¾m. - 12.7 p.m.), I faced some stiff rock-climbing before I reached the jagged rocky summit of the southern appendage (4880' – 11½m. - 12.35 p.m.).

MT. MASSIF (4950'):
At 12.47 p.m., I left for Mt. Massif, descending the southern side, at first via breaks in the cliffs and then via the great slide, as loose as it is steep. At the foot of the mountain, the head of the Wallace Gorge remains to be negotiated before the Du Canes are reached. Considerable difficulty was experienced in pushing through the undergrowth, the main hampering constituents of which were ti-tree, fagus gunnii and prickly richea. I reached the creek in the trough of the gorge (3120’ - 13m. - 1.55 p.m.), lunched there and resumed at 2.12 p.m.. The presence of myrtle, leatherwood and sassafras made for better going on the other side and soon the long rock lead was secured and the solid rock climb did not end until the top of Massif was achieved (4950' – 16m. - 3.55 p.m.). A wide circle of mountains may be seen from this point. Hyperion and the Frenchman’s Cap lie in the S. by W.; the Rifle Sight (Cirian) in the S.; Mt. Gould slightly further to the east, followed by Mt. Byron in the S. by E.; Acropolis, Hugel and Rufus in the S.S.E.; Olympus and Lake St. Clair in S.E. by S.; Traveler Range in E.; Falling Mt. in E. by N.; high plateau in N.E.; Pelion East in N.; Oakleigh in N. by W., followed by Doris; Cradle Mt. and Mt. Brown in N.N.W.; Ossa group in N.W. by N.; Pelion West in N.W.; Thetis in N.W. by W.; Achilles in W.N.W.; Mt. Murchison in W.; Eldon Range and western Du Canes in S.W..

The sky was becoming cloudy now and a cold northerly wind made my stay on Massif uncomfortable. At 4.12 p.m. I departed with the intention of following the Range along to Falling Mt. and thence to the Du Cane hut. I had not progressed far when I found that the plateau journey was not going to be as easy as anticipated owing to the broken nature of the range. The early threat of a storm and the possibility of becoming benighted on the range contributed to my decision to descend to the Kia Ora and return to the hut. I made the descent about half a mile or more to the east of my ascent and, although encountering some scrub below the rocks, I found the 'roo tracks helpful, at length gaining the button grass. I crossed the Kia Ora, which was split into three streams at the time and, following the stream down, reached the track (2950’ - 19m. - 5.50 p.m.). It was now raining steadily and continued so during my journey back to the Du Cane Hut (3100’ – 21½m. - 6.33 p.m.). Showers continued well into the night but, with the wind increasing in velocity, the sky cleared by morning.

Next morning (Tues., Jan. 29th.) we set off at 8 a.m. for the Old Pelion Hut. There was a good deal of cloud around and a strong wind. Passing the Kia Ora Creek (2950’ – 2½m. - 8.45 a.m.), we climbed to the top of the Pelion Gap (3730’ – 6m. - 10.10 a.m.) where the wind was howling at gale force. In ascending the slopes of Pelion East, the wind took a hand in our progress. Blowing at hurricane force, at a strength far in excess of anything I had previously experienced, we were buffeted one way and another and adopted an approach similar to a yacht "tacking" against the wind and then careering with it. In this way the foot of the rocks was gained and, despite the efforts of the wind to dislodge me at every move I reached the top of Pelion East (4850’ - 7m. - 10.55 a.m.). A great view, similar but not quite as extensive as that from Ossa, is available from here although the presence of clouds was a limiting factor in some directions.

The return journey to the Gap was made under conditions which meant facing a head wind of tremendous force and our attitudes must have been somewhat similar to scenes from Mawson’s "Home of the Blizzard”, where leaning on the wind at a considerable angle was essential to maintain balance and progress.

Regaining the Pelion Gap (3730’ - 8m. - 11.30 a.m.), we continued downhill via the main track through forest and clearing, passing the burnt Pelion Hut site (12m. - 12.55 p.m.) and lunching on the banks of a stream through the button grass off the main track and in the direction of Mt. Oakleigh (2950’ – 12½m. - 1.5 p.m.).

MT. OAKLEIGH (4350’):
After lunch, we split forces – Dorothy going across country to the Old Pelion Hut (about ½m.away) and I striking out across the button grass towards Mt. Oakleigh (1.40 p.m.). After crossing the clearing, the early bush going was difficult but it improved to quite good through the myrtle. Above the myrtle, the usual dwarf scrub had to be negotiated and a steep rock climb followed, on which I nearly pitched over the cliff when a large rock to which I was clinging collapsed. I reached the plateau to the west of the eastern peak and discovered a line of stakes leading to the peak to which I directed my attention, soon securing the small cairn (4350’ - 16m. - 3.20 p.m.).

The peak overlooks the deep, heavily-forested Forth Gorge far below. The creek passing the Old Pelion Hut must take a terrible leap into the Gorge about a mile below the Hut and, if anything approaching a sheer drop, it must rival any local waterfall for height. An array of jagged rock columns decorate the edge of the mountain and present a grotesque picture. A round of peaks visible from Oakleigh are as follows: Brown, Cradle, Barn Bluff, Inglis, Murchison, Pelion West, Achilles, Thetis, Ossa, Hyperion, Doris, Massif, Pelion East, Falling Mt., Cathedral, Walls of Jerusalem, Table Bluff (Brady’s Mt.), Western Bluff and Roland in that order.

The wind was still strong but had abated considerably. I left at 3.45 p.m. and followed the stakes over the eastern peak, which is about the same height as the western, and then down the back of the plateau to the trees, where it becomes quite indistinct at times, but I held it almost until the clearing was reached. As the track had taken me some distance eastward in the vicinity of Lake Ayr, it was some time before I managed to cross over to our lunching place where I had left my pack and by then the descent had taken longer than the ascent - a poor tribute to the route and condition of the mountain track (2950’ – 21¼m. - 5.35 p.m.). Retrieving my gear, I continued on to the Old Pelion Hut to eat and rest (2910’ – 21¾m. - 5.52 p.m.).

MT. PELION WEST (5080’):
On the following morning (Wed., Jan. 30th.), I left the Old Pelion Hut at 6.35 a.m. intent upon climbing Mt. Pelion West. Reaching the main track (½m. 6.45 a.m.), the route leads westward through forest and clearing, offering many a glimpse of my objective, and gradually descends to the Forth crossing (2540' - 3m. - 7.24 a.m.) under the slopes of Pelion West.

From the edge of the button grass flat on the other side of the stream, I chose a direct ascent of Pelion West through the forest (7.40 a.m.). In spite of the presence of some horizontal, the myrtle forest provided fairly good progress while it lasted but the dense ti-tree thickets were extremely difficult to penetrate. At the edge of one of these thickets, I had my progress arrested by a 30’ cliff falling sheer below into a 50’ wide chasm containing myrtles and other growth, bounded on the other side by a sheer cliff of similar height. Besides being an insurmountable barrier, this was a most unusual irregularity in the mountain slope, especially as it was so far from the top of the mountain. By swinging to the left, I found a way around the huge obstacle and, once more, there ensued that slow, painful crawl through the dense ti-tree, with which was interlaced prickly richea (richea scoparia), cyathodes and giant grass tree (richea pandanifolia). Eventually this was replaced by prickly richea and dwarf myrtle and finally the rocks were reached. Ascending to the right of the south eastern cliffs, I made slow progress up the steep walls and, farther up, found the uneven surface occasioned by the confusion of the enormous boulders a delaying and fatiguing experience.

I reached the top of the south-eastern peak (5060' - 10.12 a.m.) and, as it appeared a little higher, I pushed on to the central peak through a maze of most jagged boulders. The top of the central peak proved to be a high rocky spire which is difficult climbing and I did not stay long on the spire owing to the strong breeze (5080’ – 7m.- 10.22 a.m.). The north-western peak must be nearly as high but the intervening gully and the desire to return to the Du Cane Hut before night-fall were factors deciding against tackling the third peak.

The panorama from Pelion West is as grand as can be imagined. The Ossa group of mountains and the Forth Gorge are seen probably to best advantage from here. And what a great display of mountain, rock, ravine and forest it was! I did not make a complete check of all mountains visible owing to the pressure of time but, as they compare closely with those seen from other mountains just previously climbed, it may only make for unnecessary repetition. The great north-eastern ledge of Pelion West, over a mile in width, is a peculiarity all its own. This huge ledge contains forest, button grass, stream and tarn and is less that a thousand feet below the top and falls steeply into the Forth Gorge, intensely forested all the way down.

Failing to see any more tempting route homeward, I returned by a somewhat similar route to the outward, having a snack at a tiny stream past which I made the rock ascent. I believe I encountered a little better going by keeping a little farther to the right. I slipped past the right edge of the forest chasm and entered the button grass at the Forth crossing (Frog Flat) within a few feet of the point from which I left.
[Page 116 missing]
[…on FALLING MT. …]Walls of Jerusalem are silhouetted. Then Hall's Buttress appears, followed by a large lake to the east of the Rugged Mts. (Mersey Head Lake?) in the E.N.E.. Several more lakes are scattered from E. to S.E., some of which nestle on top of the Traveler Range. In the south was cloud-capped Olympus, Lake St. Clair and the Narcissus valley. Mts. Byron, Hugel and Rufus (clouded) rose in the S. by W., then coming Cuvier. Gould rose steeply in the S.S.W., followed by the more distant Manfred. The Guardians and the Labyrinth were on view in the S.W. by W. and the ragged Acropolis presented a magnificent spectacle in the S.W.. The Rifle Sight (Cirian) was no less appealing in the S.W. by W. and nearby Hyperion rose high in the W.S.W. with the connecting Du Cane ridge in the near foreground - a route which does not appear as difficult from this end as from Massif, just across to the west. Achilles was located in the W. by N. with Thetis and the S.E. appendage of Ossa in the W.N.W.. Ossa itself dominated the N.W. by W. and dwarfed neighbouring Mt. Doris in the N.W., between both of which more distant Mt. Inglis could be seen. Barn Bluff towered above the Pelion Gap at N.W. by N., with Cradle Mt. showing up a little farther north. Then Mts. Pelion East and Brown appeared in the N.N.W. to complete the circle.

Commencing the return journey at 9.35 a.m., I descended via the northern side of the mountain joint with the connecting ridge to Massif and the other Du Canes and, keeping fairly high up to avoid the scrub, I hung close to the cliff-base as I swung around to the right, dropping down just in time to avoid the last row of overhanging cliffs near the hut and thence down the grassy slopes to the Hut (3100' - 6m. 10.45 a.m.).

The barometer was now rising rapidly and likewise the temperature as we said farewell to our home of many days, the Du Cane Hut alias Windsor Castle, at 12.20 p.m., bound for Pine Valley Hut. Although the weight and contents of our packs had been halved since our outward journey, they were still sufficiently heavy to make their presence felt and uncomfortable. The Fergusson Falls track (2950’ – 1½m. - 12.50 p.m.) and the Hartnett Falls track (3000' – 2½m. - 1.10 p.m.) passed by and the long climb to the Du Cane Gap earned a rest on top (3500’ – 4½m. - 1.50 p.m.). The long section to the Pine Valley turn off was monotonous and slow in passing by (2670’ – 10½m. - 3.55 p.m.) but, leaving the old track behind after a brief rest at 4.5 p.m., we crossed the Narcissus and reached the Pine Valley track proper (11¼m. - 4.27 p.m.). The remainder of the route was new to us and, naturally, no longer dull in spite of our
tiredness. Reaching the fork in the track (12½m. - 4.55 p.m.), we chose the forest track in order to secure relief from our continual perspiration, and finally gained the Pine Valley Hut (2750’ - 14m. - 5.40 p.m.). Here we encountered two other campers, Mr. and Mrs. Bazely of Sydney.

ACROPOLIS MT. (4850’):
Next morning (Sat., Feb. 2nd.), I left the Pine Valley Hut at 9.35 a.m., in company with the Bazelys, to climb the Acropolis. A recently-blazed track leads from the Hut up a steep grade through the myrtle forest to an elevated plateau at the southern base of the peak. A crossing of the prickly richea-covered shoulder brought us to the cliff base and, mistaking the peak at the N.E. end of the mountain as the highest point, we clambered around the south-east slopes, effecting a fairly easy, though slow ascent of the N.E. Peak (4720’ – 5½m. - 12.40 p.m.). It was evident from here that the central eminence was much higher so I directed my attention to its accomplishment, passing the famous rock columns on the way and reaching the highest point after a stiff climb (4850’ – 6m. – 1.35 p.m.). An excellent view of the rugged Du Canes is obtainable here and a true realization of the inaccessibility of the Rifle Sight (Cirian), which rises almost perpendicularly – Tasmania’s unclimbable mountain. Falling Mt. and the whole chain of the Du Canes present a grand close-up of their ragged composition. Mt. Gould and the Labyrinth lay open before me, and Lake St. Clair and its surrounding peaks, where the increasing clouds permitted, were similarly available. Perhaps the most amazing and appealing sight was the tall rock columns of Acropolis itself, which stood out in bold relief on the razor-edged mountain top with precipitous falls on either side of them.

I descended to the south-east to join my companions at lunch and, after a short stay in the vicinity, we made our leisurely way back to the Hut via our outward route (2750’ - 12m. - 5.25 p.m.). The barometer, after its rapid rise of yesterday morning, had been falling steadily since yesterday afternoon and was now very low. Rain set in towards evening and the barometer was very low indeed in the morning. Snow had fallen on the nearby peaks and the rainfall was without interruption.

As our planned itinerary of mountains had been climbed, we were pleased that the weather break had been delayed so long and were not despondent as we left our friends behind at Pine Valley Hut at 7.55 a.m. and trekked down the gloomy, sodden trail to the Narcissus Hut, passing the track fork (1¾m. - 8.35 a.m.), the Narcissus branch track (3m. - 9 a.m.), gaining the main track (3¾m. - 9.15 a.m.) and reaching the Narcissus suspension bridge (6m. - 10 a.m.). Here we secured our barrow and re-loaded our sodden belongings on it, resumed at 10.10 a.m. and reached the Narcissus Hut (2420’ - 7m. - 10.30 a.m.).

Here the rowing boat had to be extensively bailed out and loaded and a fortifying lunch partaken before our departure at 11.30 a.m.. The boat journey down the Lake was brimful of excitement (in fact, at times, much too full) as we experienced very high seas and a strong north-westerly wind. After the initial mile, the main difficulty was to maintain control of the boat as the wind and waves took charge and hurled us along. To keep our craft away from the shore and out jutting and half-submerged rocks and trees and prevent any disastrous broad-side with the high waves required the utmost vigilance. During peak periods in the storms our chances seemed very precarious and we were pleased when the calmer waters of Cynthia Bay were reached, even though it meant more pressure on the oars. Our journey down the Lake occupied only 2¾ hours in contrast to the laborious upward journey.

Hail and sleet greeted our arrival on shore as we trudged across with our barrow to the car. A dry change of clothes and some food at Fergusson’s helped us to thaw out. We finally got away in the late afternoon, experiencing rain all the way to the Great Lake, where we were treated to some snow for a change. Darkness overtook us soon after passing Golden Valley and, as the car was without lights, we camped for the night and continued on to Launceston in the morning.

Ten days later I lost my left big toe nail and a couple of days later I was able to wear shoes for the first time after my return from the mountains. Reflecting upon the sights of the trip and reviewing their wonders in our photography, however, makes one feel that these trips are well worth while all their little discomforts. My tally of mountains, too, as a result of such a big increase, has now leapt to 63.





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