IN THE HEART OF THE CRADLE MT. - LAKE ST. CLAIR SCENIC RESERVE
|Home to Index|
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') :
MT. OSSA (5260’) Tasmania’s highest point:
SOUTHERN APPENDAGE OF OSSA (4880’):
MT. MASSIF (4950'):
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.
MT PELION EAST (4850’):
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’):
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’):
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.
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
ACROPOLIS MT. (4850’):
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.
|Home to Index|
If you would like more information on Keith Lancaster's diaries, please feel free to send me an email.