THE ADAM RIVER COUNTRY
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 Friday, Oct. 29th. 1948 at 6.10 p.m., Jack and Trevor Daniel and I left Arthur St., Launceston per car en route to Junee. The weather was fine as we left, with a moderate barometer, recently recovered from a shallow low. The car boot was loaded with our three bicycles, our other equipment occupying the rear seat. Our objective was Mt. Wedge, which we hoped to gain via the Sawback Range which appeared easy going when viewed from the Thumbs last Christmas.

Granton was reached (10'- 112m.- 9.17 p.m.) and the Derwent Valley - Lyell Highway followed as far as Hayes. A short cut across the Derwent was taken then and the main Valley Road regained at Bushy Park, and so on via Maydena to the end of the motor road beyond the Junee (900'- 157m.- 11.30 p.m.). A light shower greeted our arrival and the party split for the night between hut and car, turning in at 12.15 a.m..

Astir at 5 a.m., it was not until 7.3 a.m. that we mounted our cycles to commence the first stage of the day's journey. An abundance of cloud obscured most of the heavens and a fresh northwesterly was blowing. The hut on the left, three miles out, had been burned down but, a little beyond this point, a branch road from Australian Newsprint Mills, Ltd.'s road into the Florentine Valley entered the track for a few yards, being used to tap the hillside of quartzite gravel above the track for road surfacing. The car could have been brought to this spot via the new road.

From here the track had been cut about by the jeeps used by Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd.. With the rain holding off except for an occasional sprinkle, we passed Crisp's Huts (1400'- 8m.- 8.22-28 a.m.). the site of the Divide Hut which had been burnt a few months previous (l850'- 11 m.- 9.5-10 a.m.), a new surveyors' camp (1480'- 13 m.- 9.22 a.m.) and the Florentine River (1220'- 17m.- 9.50-55 a.m.), and found the unfamiliar track beyond just as undulating. After a long hard climb to the Thumbs-Sawbacks saddle, we descended about quarter of a mile on the Adamsfield side before deciding to abandon our bikes and cross for the Sawbacks (1420'- 22m.- 10.55 a.m.).

We lunched during a light shower before setting off at 11.23 a.m. for the northern tip of the Sawbacks, located at 173 deg.. The intervening stunted scrub and button grass presented no obstacle and we made the northern peak of the Sawbacks (1950'- 1m.- 11.50 a.m.). It is questionable whether this low summit would be Stacey's Lookout or a higher one farther south. Proceeding along the range, we found the route not near as easy as we had hoped and, generally, had to rise and fall with the serrated ridge to avoid rock and scrub obstacles. The stiff westerly wind made conditions cool and soon heavier showers occurred. We were about half-way or more along the range in the vicinity of its highest point (5m.- 2 p.m.), when we secured our first glimpse of Mt. Wedge through the heavy cloud barrier to the south. The whole peak was densely wooded right to the summit and the near approach of wooded country in our path made it abundantly clear that we hadn't the remotest chance of scaling Wedge in the time. Obviously, if we continued, we would be some considerable distance short of Wedge's base at nightfall and, to have a chance of gaining the summit, we would need to be well up the slopes. Progress along the Sawbacks was becoming more and more hampered by increasing scrub encroachments, whilst the troughs of the serrations appeared much deeper as the southern end was neared. Button grass leads in Wedge's direction did not exist.

A council of war resolved in the abandonment of our Mt. Wedge objective. Argument triumphed that it would be better to ascend an easily accessible peak such as nearby Clear Hill than to endure an unrewarded ordeal through wet bush with weak prospects of a worth-while view. Thus it was that we reversed direction at 2.10 p.m. and descended the western slope of the Sawbacks towards a derelict hut to the N.N.W.. Reaching the hut after crossing the Adam (1350'- 6m.- 2.25 p.m.), we set about dinner, occupying quite time in preparing an appetising repast.

The sun was in command through broken cloud when we resumed at 4 p.m. intent upon gaining what appeared to be a track around the base of the Ragged Range. A little time was lost through trying to find a way through the dense bush behind the hut, but we found it necessary to incline direction to the right, descending suddenly to a derelict store (6 m.- 4.25 p.m.), only about a quarter of a mile from the hut. Beyond this ex-habitation, we soon realised that the apparent track around the base of the Raggeds was really a water race. We decided to adhere to the valley with its open button grass, hoping to find a clear route through to the base of Clear Hill, near which we hoped to establish camp for the night.

After crossing a western branch of the Adam, we reached another derelict hut (7 m.- 4.50 p.m.). Keeping to the western side of the valley along the top edge of the button grass for dryer footing, we pressed on in the direction of Clear Hill, hoping to find a lead through the encroaching gums ahead. Nearing the level of the northern end of the Raggeds, we were obliged to swing right to avoid the gums ahead and eventually recrossed the (West) Adam. Soon after we encountered a well-concealed swamp in dwarf ti-tree and had to wade through two to three feet of water for quite a distance. We then found a passage around a deep lagoon to gain the main Adamsfield track (11m.- 6.15 p.m.).

Turning westward, we followed the broad track, almost immediately re-crossing the Adam in a diverted bed, alongside some extensive osmiridium diggings covering the old bed of the Adam. We crossed and re-crossed the Adam again before the track brought us to a small settlement on the south bank of the Adam, where we met the two prospectors, George Chaffey and Norm. Clark and the latter's family (1200'- 11 m.- 6.30 p.m.). With the characteristic hospitality of the outback folk, we were given a room and bunks in George Chaffey's comfortable homestead and the freedom of the house bestowed upon us. We had quite a late night in talking with our new acquaintances after a late tea and turned in about 11 p.m..

Sunday dawned fine with a light river mist and scattered clouds. The two successive late nights produced a lethargic rise at 7.30 a.m. and our start for Clear Hill was as late as 9.15 a.m.. Our two new friends took us a little way downstream to where the button grass on the north bank appears. Here we crossed the narrow clearing towards our objective, using a short button grass lead to cross the Eve River and then a well-defined 'roo pad through the gum and scrub to gain a small button grass clearing beyond. Keeping the Eve River well to our right and the slopes of Clear Hill to our left, we elected to carry on in this direction until opposite the open lead on the eastern side of Clear hill and ascend from there.

Picking our way as best we could through gum thickets to alternate patches of button grass mixed with ti-tree, cutting grass, bauera, macquarie vine, etc., we encountered steadily worsening vegetation which became so awkward as we approached the southern end of Clear Hill that we chose to swing to the right, cross the Eve and, after using a small button grass clearing on the east bank, re-cross the stream, follow it upstream through the feather-top reeds for about a quarter of a mile and then leave it (1270'- 2 m.- 10.50 a.m.), heading for Clear Hill at 304 deg.. This small button grass rise was soon covered and we were confronted again by the Eve, which had swung sharply to the westward, and a steep, thickly forested ascent on the other side. After following the stream up a few yards, we crossed it through the horizontals and myrtles and found the ascent not unduly difficult, reaching the broad, open button grass expanse beyond (1600'- 3 m.- 11.15 a.m.).

With the scrub hazard behind us, it appeared plain easy sailing ahead as we steadily ascended to the stiff grade towards the summit. There were quite a few gullies to be crossed as we approached near the peak, whilst showers descended at frequent intervals, our absence of capes forcing us to shelter on occasions. The actual peak was slow to appear and many false peaks were approached and climbed instead owing to poor visibility caused by cloud, rain, hail and snow. Rock and richea had long replaced the button grass ere we topped the last rise and made the top of Clear Hill (3800'- 6m.- 1.35 p.m.).

Rain and snow soon had us scampering for cover beneath the rocks and the few light eats we had brought disappeared with remarkable rapidity. The view from the top was nil, whilst back on the slopes clouds had limited the panorama to the nearby peaks.

At 2.5 p.m., we commenced our return journey, retracing our steps very closely back down the mountain to the forest and so on across the Eve (1450'- 9m.- 3.48 p.m.). Maintaining our outward route still, we descended the small clearing, crossed the Eve and located the small button grass patch a little farther down-stream. Here we deviated from our outward route in an endeavour to find easier going. We followed the button grass until it run out among the gums. Then we crossed the Eve and struggled through very bad bauera, ti-tree and cutting grass for a good quarter of a mile until we found clear going which we more or less succeeded in finding by keeping slightly to the east of our outward route. We reached and crossed the Adam River (1190'- 11 m.- 5 p.m.) at the place we had left it that morning and then decided to follow the river down to the falls.

The falls were about half a mile down-stream and we had a pleasant surprise at the magnificent sight they presented. There was quite a descent for us from the top of the falls to secure a vantage point beneath, where the typical West Coast jungle provided a worthy setting for that thundering avalanche of water which hurtles down over the cliff for a hundred feet and more, most of which is accounted for in one terrific leap.

The journey back to the camp was made via the southern bank and, later, the track from Chaffey and Clark's dam. Regaining the house (1200'- 13 m.- 6.50 p.m.), tea was the first consideration but sleep was again delayed owing to the necessity of drying out all our clothes - a result of the many afternoon showers and wet scrub.

There was more rain through the night and Monday dawned dull and cloudy. We delayed our departure in order to witness the singular method adopted by George Chaffey and Norm Clark in winning their osmiridium from the surrounding flats. The method consisted of tearing up the soil with the aid of a high pressure stream of water directed through a huge nossle and the lifting of the soil by another powerful jet of water through a chimney to a sloping race where slots in the base of the race would hold the osmiridium and the iron, whilst all the other lighter metal would be washed off by the pressure of the water.

At 9.15 a.m. we left for home, plodding along the track to reach Ernie Bond's house in the centre of Adamsfield (1300'- 1 m.- 9.48 a.m.). where we had a long chat with Ernie before resuming at 10.50 a.m. in the rain. We ascended towards the Thumbs-Sawbacks saddle, reaching the place where our bikes were parked (1420'- 2 m.- 11.10 a.m.). resuming at 11.25 a.m. and gained the top of the saddle to enjoy a long down-hill coast.

Intermittent light showers punctuated the homeward journey. We crossed the Florentine (1220'-7 m.- 12.12 p.m.), and the Little Florentine (9 m.- 12.20 p.m.) to pass the surveyors' camp (1480'- 11 m.- 12.52 p.m.), the Divide Hut site (1850'- 13 m.- 1.18 p.m.) and Crisps' Huts (1400'- 16 m.- 1.53 p.m.). Beyond here we were overtaken by a jeep and spent ten minutes talking to the Australian Newsprint Mills staff about the road route, etc.. The remaining journey to the car then was completed (900'- 24 m.- 2.50 p.m.) and, after changing quartz mud-spattered attire for something a little more habitable, we drove off about 3.33 p.m..

The journey home was without incident and we passed through National Park (480'- 11m.- 4.10-18 p.m.), New Norfolk bridge (50'- 35m.- 5.11 p.m.), Granton (10'- 45m.- 5.25 p.m.), Jericho (1200'- 79 m.- 6.17-35 p.m.) and reached home (30'- 157m.- 8.30 p.m.).
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