HILL, GOULD’S SUGAR LOAF AND PYRAMID HILL
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On Friday, Oct. 31st., 1947, in company with Jack and Trevor Daniel, I left Arthur St., Launceston at 7 p.m., bound for Lake St. Clair. With a fairly steady, moderate barometer, there appeared reasonable prospects of fine weather although cloudy conditions were predicted. Clouds were much in evidence as we sped via Exton (70’ - 26m. - 7.38 p.m.), the Great Lake and the Lyell Highway to reach Lake St. Clair (2420’ - 110m. - 10.20 p.m.).
It was well after midnight before we settled down to sleep and were astir again at 4.30 a.m. on Saturday. Breakfast over and loads allotted, we set off with heavy rucksacs aback at 6.10 a.m.. The clouds were just clearing the high mountains and little sunshine was penetrating through. Passing over the Cuvier Bridge (¾m. - 6.27 a.m.), we found the stream swollen from recent rain. The journey up the button grass along the Cuvier Valley was accomplished in fair time, despite a profusion of water and the beach on Lake Petrach gained (2750’ - 7m. - 8.55 a.m.). A rest from our heavy packs followed as we brought out the camera and began mapping our trackless course for Coal Hill.
At 9.30 a.m. we started off towards the Cuvier outlet, seek¬ing a crossing and finding one a little way downstream where the river forked and trees had been fallen to form the necessary bridge. Then we proceeded around the south-western side of Lake Petrach, reaching the western end at 10.10 a.m. and then swinging away towards Gould's Sugar Loaf. Passing a few small lagoons, the route through the wide button grass stretch rises slightly and we gained the Alma-Cuvier watershed (9m. - 10.30 a.m.). The bare ridge running down from the south-east corner of Coal Hill was our next objective, marking as it did the easiest route to the high ground. A 20-min. spell was taken near the base of the ridge and the ensuing climb up the easy scrub-free incline brought us right under the crest of Coal Hill and the remaining steeper ascent to Coal Hill was little harder (3700' - 11m. - 11.55 a.m.).
Mt. Cuvier is the dominant attraction from Coal Hill, its craggy ramparts rising loftily only about a mile away to the north. Nevertheless, most of the peaks of the reserve show out quite well, too, and the view of some of the other nearby heights is most interesting. A brief summary of the more conspicuous points visible includes:
Lunch on the cool, exposed and sunless summit of Coal Hill over and a study of the numerous points of interest available from this admirable vantage point abruptly terminated, we turned our attention to the loftier neighbour to the south - Gould's Sugar Loaf. Leaving at 12.50 p.m., we descended to the long adjoining col and ascended the bare gradual incline towards the Little Sugar Loaf, the northern spur of Gould's Sugar Loaf. Avoiding the soft snow patches wherever possible, we scaled the Little Sugar Loaf (4200’ – 12½m. - 2 p.m.) and we were able to relieve our backs once more as we made the following check of surrounding points for mapping purposes:
After half an hour, we resumed our way towards the major peak on the ridge - Gould's Sugar Loaf. We left our packs down the side of the Little Sugar Loaf and pushed on to the windswept col to the south, where many of the exposed rocks bear evidence of the erosive power of high winds. Clear easy climbing was still the order of the day on the brief ascent to Gould's Sugar Loaf, obviously much higher than its estimated altitude of 3972' according to Government maps. Gaining the top (4400’ - 13m. - 2.55 p.m.), a panorama lay open around us. From the bare, snow-spangled ridges of the Sugar Loaf to beyond those remarkable glacial cirques on the mountain side to the wooded gorges of the Alma and its affluents on either side, there is a wide diversity of intensely interesting subjects available. From the aptly-named form of Pyramid Hill, the swiftly-rising Cuvier, the symmetrical cone of Byron and the unusual prolongation of Olympus to the widely varying forms of the Du Canes and the higher giants beyond, the Eldons, the Frenchman and the numerous other more distant ranges, there exists that variety in outline and unusual characteristics and liberality of quantity that can only be equaled by the peaks within and around this great reserve and excelled by very few indeed! The clouds, still high and clear of the majority of peaks, were gradually breaking and letting through a little sunlight - ample for sight-seeing but insufficient for photography. A check of the numerous points of interest within range revealed:
The cool-westerly wind still persisted as we left Gould's Sugar Loaf at 3.50 p.m. and retrieved our packs at 4.3 p.m.. It was near here that we espied the reconstructed stakes marking the old branch route of E.A. Counsel to the peak. We had passed a few stakes of his old 1878 track to the west outward journey from Coal Hill. Thus, upon resuming at 4.10 p.m., we followed the stakes, according to pre-arranged plans, back to their junction with the main Counsel track (14m. - 4.35 p.m.), now very well staked and then turned westward, following the track down the slope. Soon we left the scrub-free area behind at last and descended steeply through a gum forest, at the foot of which a Canning River tributary raced noisily northwards and where we discovered a good camp site just as we were considering making a move for preparing one. (2850' - 15m. - 5 p.m.). Taking advantage of this ideal site - sheltered from the wind, mosquito-free, leech-free, abundant firewood and water, tent poles, etc. - we halted for the night in warm sunshine and soon had the tent up and the evening meal under way.
After a comfortable night, we were astir next morning before 6 a.m. and left camp at 7.20 p.m., intent upon pursuing the old track westward and climbing Pyramid Hill (261 deg. from camp). The valley was enveloped in low mist and visibility was limited, all the peaks being obscured. We carried our gear all in one moderate rucksac which changed backs at half-hourly intervals - an innovation which proved very successful. Crossing the Canning tributary at the camp, the track inclined to the right across the button grass, soon entering some timber and descending to the Alma side of the watershed. After a little difficulty in following the track through the light gums, we were back on the Canning side and threading our way through the bauera, ti-tree, cutting grass, etc. which encroached upon or enveloped the track. With the lifting of the mist, we were able to distinguish the peaks in the immediate vicinity and, at length, found ourselves climbing out of the valley to reach the alpine ridge adjoining Pyramid Hill (3200' – 3½m. - 9.20 a.m.). Pyramid Hill lay at 125 deg. from here and its summit was still fringed with the slowly rising cloud-mist. Only an apparently thin collar of gums barred the approaches to Pyramid Hill but, upon tackling this, it proved deceptively larger and more formidable than anticipated with its ti-tree and scopari underscrub. On the other side, we were rewarded with very clear and easy going right to the top of Pyramid Hill (3900’ – 4¼m. – 10.50 a.m.). This hill is most aptly named - the southern end of the triangle running away in broad glacial cirques, the north-east ridge descending abruptly to patches of button grass near the Alma-Canning watershed, and the lesser defined western ridge joining up with the alpine ridges and cols extending westward and linking the adjoining hills.
The rising clouds still capped the higher peaks but, as we lazed around
the summit, we had the pleasure of seeing them lift still further and
break up, letting in quite a deal of sunlight. The cirques and the large
sheet of snow on the eastern side of the summit occupied much of our attention
but, as the distant mountains divested themselves of their misty wreaths,
the craggy ramparts of High Dome, the Eldons and the innumerable other
peaks soaring up on all sides released their irresistible claims. Another
check-up on the various points of interest was made from here as follows:
After a long stay on Pyramid Hill, we left at 1.40 p.m. in warm sunshine
and soon were back down the western ridge to the stakes on the Counsel
track by which we had ascended (3200' - 5m. - 2.10 p.m.). From here we
carried on along the ridge westward, following the track along the crest
of the ridge mainly
At 3.25 p.m. we started back to camp, retracing our steps to the col
under Pyramid Hill (3200’ - 8m. - 4.3 p.m.) and then happy to plunge
down amidst the trees to escape the heat of the sun. We made better progress
in following the track homeward, having gained some knowledge of its eccentricities
and made our Canning Creek camp by 5.55 p.m. (2850' – 11½m.).
The sky clouded over again at dusk and Monday morning dawned under overcast
skies and a rising N.W. wind. Packs aback, we were away at 6.57 a.m.
Heavy clouds were banking up in the north-west, indicating an early weather change, but visibility was reasonably good. At 8.35 a.m. (2½m.) we were descending the bare ridge under Coal Hill, despatching our second whip snake. Below the ridge, excellent free going continued. After crossing a small stream in which anaspides existed, we located a badger at home in his lair in a hollow log and, whilst laying down on the grass to afford him closer study, we were besieged by leeches of all sizes, many obviously recent guests of host badger. After ridding ourselves of these unwanted vampires, we crossed the Alma-Cuvier watershed (4½m. - 9.30 a.m.), passed through the string of lagoons and gained the south-western shores of Lake Petrarch. Crossing the log bridge over the Cuvier (2730’ – 6½m. - 10.20 a.m.), we paused for a snack, resuming at 10.42 a.m.. The long stretch down the Cuvier valley slowly banished the many peaks of our week-end acquaintance from sight and the car was made in fair time (2420’ – 13½m. - 1.15 p.m.).
Dinner over and clothes changing completed, we drove off at 3.15 p.m..
With a tyre blow out about ten miles out and another on the Lake Highway,
we were in grave difficulties but, with our last tube precariously uncased
by an improvised “sleeve”, and cautious travelling, we succeeded
in making Launceston (30’ - 115m. - 8.45 p.m.).
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