FEDERATION FAILURE
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.

At last my 1948 annual leave came around but, try as I would, I was unable to secure hiking companions for any venture whatsoever. The news that the J. Thwaites party had just returned from Federation Peak with another weather rebuff plus the sting of last year's failure finally decided for me the unattractive ordeal of a solo blitz at Federation planned on a nine-day maximum journey.

Thus on Friday, Jan. 28th. 1949, I left Launceston at 7 p.m. in sultry and cloudy weather en route for Federation. Arriving at Hobart soon after 10 p.m., I lost a few minutes in trying unsuccessfully to see Ron regarding the approaches to the Peak and, resuming at 10.15 p.m., journeyed down the Huon Road, choosing a by-road as the night's camp (720' - 140m. - 10.45 p.m.).

Saturday broke fine and clear and I was away at 5.20 a.m., having breakfast at a stop by the wayside and then on to park the car at Irving Fletcher's (120' - 18 m. - 8.15 a.m.). Weighed down with a pack of about 55 lbs., I set out from Fletcher's at 8.33 a.m., passing the end of the road (2m. - 9.8 a.m.) and Frying Pan Creek (50' - 3m. - 9.33 a.m.) to reach the Arve River (90' - 5m. - 10.33 a.m.). The early morning mist along the Huon soon lifted and the sunshine and humidity caused sweat to flow very lavishly in crossing the Arve Plains. The first creek beyond the button grass provided a welcome midday meal respite (10m. - 12.18-1.5 p.m.), whilst the Picton Forest made the heat more endurable prior to reaching Picton Hut (180' - 12m. - 2.10 p.m.). A tin of apricots proved most palatable here but the liquid oozed straight out through the skin pores. A sudden blast of wind brought a light shower and cooler temperatures.

Resuming at 2.40 p.m., I reached the Picton River and, with the new bridge not completed, waded to the other side in about 2' of water (160' - 13m. - 3.19 p.m.). The track to Blake's Hut was under process of re-cutting and I reached the end of the easy newly-cut section just as the bad scrub is entered (15m. - 3.50 p.m.). To counter-balance the advantage of the new track, the next section has deteriorated considerably and a further shower of rain added its discomfort. After some difficulty in following the track, I reached the almost unrecognisable camping spot used on my first trip - the "Shaw" camp (15m.- 4.25 p.m.). The remainder of the journey to Blake's varied little from my previous experience and the following points were passed as I battled towards my objective for the night: Riveaux Falls (16m.- 5.23 p.m.), Riveaux camp (16m. - 5.33 p.m.), Bracken fern (Geelong Grammar [this should read: Geelong College]) camp (17 1/3m.- 6 p.m.), Big Creek (300' - 18m. - 6.27 p.m.), button grass patch (320' - 18m. - 6.53 p.m.) and Blake's Hut (370' - 20m. - 7.40 p.m.).

Very pleased at realising the first section of my schedule in spite of the late start, I was unable to make an early retirement with wet clothes requiring drying, etc.. Soon after arrival, I made the acquaintance of "Mr. Smith'', a large brush 'possum so-named by a previous party and who keeps close at hand in expectation of any tit-bit which may become his lot. Unfortunately, my limited food supply did not permit me to make a good impression on "Mr. Smith" but, for all that, he did not desert me during the night and made a close inspection of all my gear. I kept the mosquitos at bay by using the tent as a net but still, as the previous night, five hours' sleep would be the limit.

Sunday rolled in fine with scattered clouds. A cache of a day's food made the pack slightly easier. At 7.50 a.m., I was away, gaining the top of Blake's Opening (1050' - 2m. - 8.44-52 a.m.). (Note: to locate Opening exit on return, head 358 deg. or towards southern end of Weld. The ensuing steep ascent was warm work until "Red Rag" scarp was reached (2170' - 3m. - 10.18-38 a.m.). Increasing wind was speeding the passing of the clouds overhead. Still adhering to last year's course, I passed Clearwater Creek (2550' - 3m. - 11.33 a.m.) to reach its main feeder, North Lake (2800' - 4m. - 12.15 p.m.).

A cold dinner of sandwiches and cake prefixed my departure at 1.5 p.m. into the cool westerly and over the saddle ahead to descend to the first of the two north-flowing streams beneath (5m.- 1.30 p.m.), close in to the wall of Picton. Keeping the hill with the thick coat of dead timber and the landslides on my left, I climbed over the rise ahead, around the pool and down to the tiny North Plain Creek (2880' - 6m.- 2.10 p.m.) after passing the third landslide. The route then inclines left slightly to take the clearest course towards the junction of Hewardia and Fool's Ridges. I ascended Hewardia Ridge direct and gained cloud level (3300' - 6-7m.- 2.36-3.0 p.m.) and, as a consequence of both, lost some time in securing my bearings. When all was cleared up, I journeyed westward down the ridge and made the rock cairn beyond the quartzite outcrops (8m.- 3.16 p.m.) and met the party from Geelong College on their return from Federation. Thus I was first to learn of the first ascent of the peak and some details of the climb during a 17-min. chat.

Clouds seemed to be developing everywhere when I resumed. Passing the Low Col camp (2700' - 10m.- 4.25 p.m.), I searched vainly for water on the other side of the col, then climbed to the South Picton Ridge into thick cloud and, after continued water scouting in the increasing mist, located a tiny supply on the high ridge overlooking Pineapple Flat (3380' - 11m.- 5.45 p.m.) and elected to camp in the most sheltered available spot nearby. Rain was upon me before I had gone far in my preparation for camp and hampered me somewhat in my culinary preparations. I chose a camp-site between two huge rocks on the leeward side of the crag and turned in about 8.45 p.m.. The night was very cold whilst the wind increased to high velocity and curled around the mountain, attacking the tent from the south and thoroughly testing the pegging and durability of my tiny covering.

Needless to say, sleep once more was elusive and, with Monday arriving enshrouded in mist and all outside very wet and cold, a quick cold breakfast was chosen in order to permit of early exercise to regain warmth and circulation. Leaving at 7 a.m., I descended gradually down the crest of the slope to the south-east and at 7.20 a.m. located Pineapple Flat through a mist break to the left. Reaching the flat five minutes later, I shouldered Mt. Chapman (ex McPartlan's Bluff) and descended to the quartz outcrop on the bare col to the south, thence up the abrotanella slope ahead, inclining slightly to the right at the diagonal quartz outcrop to avoid the summit of Abrotanella Rise and ascend direct to the small rock cairns on the ridge above (2m.
- 8.0-10 a.m.).

With the cloud-mist lifting, I took several compass shots in order to guard against cloud trouble on my return. They proved invaluable. I reached the foot of Anderson Bluff (ex Farmhouse Cliff Bluff) at 8.15 a.m., had shouldered it on the east to the south end by 8.20 a.m. and reached the base of Burgess Bluff (ex South Picton) (2m. - 8.38 a.m.). Descending diagonally around Burgess Bluff in a drizzle, I located the little knoll on Wilsmicro Lead and dropped down upon it (2000' - 4m. - 9.43 a.m.) and, inclining right, descended down the button grass lead to reach the South Craycroft camp-site (1050' - 5m. - 10.25 a.m.).

A hot dinner, some drying out and the laying of a cache preceded my resumption at 12.45 p.m. during the only brief spot of sunshine I saw that day. In spite of a continuance of clouds all peaks were visible now, i.e. with the exception, of course, of Federation. I crossed the West Craycroft at the first serpentine and kept to the higher button grass. Showers were soon in evidence again as I progressed towards the burn through the ti-trees and banksias ahead. Recrossing the West Craycroft beyond the burn at 2.10 p.m., I started to round Hopetoun on [173] the south bank, keeping out wide in the ti-tree and button grass for a while until the riverside going improved. I located the track incline from the river (still well blazed) at 2.45 p.m. and soon reached the paper-bark camp (1200' - 8m. - 2.48 p.m.). The afternoon was one of frequent showers. I decided to camp here for the night and get things ready for a big attempt tomorrow. The drying-out of clothes was a problem under the showery conditions and took up most of the afternoon, whilst mosquitos were abundant and troublesome. Several toes and both insteps were badly rubbed from boot contact and bathing didn't seem to allay their deterioration. One of my knees was through the trousers and I had lost my needle for repairs. Trousers' buttons and braces were in bad state of repair, whilst one rubber boot was leaking. The barometer, however, was rising although the continuation of showers did not make it appear so. Turning in about 7.30 p.m., the innumerable mosquitos dashed all hope of a good night's sleep in spite of efforts to convert the groundsheet into a mosquito net.

Tuesday, Feb. 2nd. came in with broken cloud and a little sunshine and, leaving a small cache behind, I was off at 8.8 a.m. with a pack of about 30 lbs. still. Keeping well out from the West Craycroft, I found fair going amongst the ti-tree and button grass and crossed a south branch of the West Craycroft (1m. - 8.45 a.m.). I then followed up a few button grass burns which marked a previous route and was able to follow the trail of the Geelong College party without undue difficulty. I added a few burns to clarify the route. I crossed the main stream of the West Craycroft (1240' - 1m. - 9.28 a.m.) and entered horizontal and pandanni. The horizontal was wet, rotten and moss laden and, after sticking it for a while, I edged up the side of the foothill of Federation on the left, hoping to get above it. The horizontal went well up the hill-side and, where other growth is met, its composition was such that it contributed nothing towards improving progress. An odd fall or two occasioned by the treachery of rotten branches accentuated the dismal mood already animated by renewed instep rub, saturated garments, clothing problems and that accursed loneliness. A gully was looming ahead and it was questionable whether to go through or above it. In fact, I was at a loss as to whether to continue siding the hill or ascend it, so little would the clouds let me see of Federation's approaches.

It was at such a moment when the hour of climax arrived - a test which, had I managed to survive it, probably would have let me account for Federation. But, alas, I regret that morale was too low to withstand the trial. It was whilst taking a chance on the solidity of one of the aforesaid rotten branches, that I took a spiller, one foot wedging between two other branches as I fell and severely spraining my right ankle. It was a few moments before I was able to free my foot and sometime before I could restore some degree of usefulness to my injured ankle. During those 20-min. of enforced idleness, I regret all desire to attain Federation vanished.

At 11.20 a.m. (1520' - 2m.) I started my retreat, stepping very gingerly and cautiously with my maimed limb. As the ankle warmed up, it functioned quite well. I emerged from the horizontal at the West Craycroft crossing (1240' - 3m. - 12.45 p.m.) and then set about blazing and clearing the return route. Re-crossing the southern branch of the stream (4m.- 1.38 p.m.), the blazing was continued and I feel that the result would prove satisfactory to the next party. The weather improved and the sun was out before I regained the paper bark camp (1200' - 5m. - 2.15 p.m.).

I had dinner at the camp and departed at 3.33 p.m., leaving [174] my small cache behind for the next party. Proceeding downstream, I crossed to the north bank over two beds (5m. - 4.5 p.m.) and was in relatively open going at 4.20 p.m.. Trying out a new route which proved much easier and quicker, I kept fairly close to the stream and re-crossed it at the foot of a wooded hill much higher up than previously (7m. - 4.56 p.m.) to enter open button grass. I detoured to the right over a button grass rise to study the route to Mt Bobs, but lowering clouds, the knowledge of a falling barometer and the uncertain condition of my feet deterred me from pushing up the valley to press my claims on the morrow. Then I descended to the South Craycroft and followed it down for about half a mile to the South Craycroft camp (1050' - 5.40 p.m.).

I was just in time to beat the brown ants to the more vulnerable items in my rock cache. I had a tremendous meal and gave my feet much bathing attention before turning in at 8 p.m.. The instep sores were much deeper and the right ankle was swollen. The sky was overcast and the mosquitos less numerous. A fair night's sleep was obtained.

Wednesday, Feb. 3rd. came in as dull as ever with low clouds obscuring the hills all around. I was away with a 30 odd lbs. pack at 7.10 a.m., hanging on to all food in case I failed to reach Blake's before nightfall. I toiled up to the knoll on Wilsmicro Lead (2000' -1m. - 8 a.m.) and, changing direction to 10 deg., soon entered thick cloud, attaining the summit of Burgess Bluff with only about 30 yds. visibility (3500' - 2m. - 9.10 a.m.).

Here the magnetic shots taken on my outward course proved invaluable. Pushing N.N.W., I soon located Anderson Bluff and, shouldering it on the east, changed direction to 30 deg. to reach the rock cairns above Abrotanella Rise (3m. - 9.46 a.m.). Continuing through the dense cloud-fog in the direction of 20 deg., I descended to the diagonal quartzite outcrop, thence inclining to 10 deg. to make the quartzite patch just beyond the col trough. Here I shouldered Mt. Chapman on the west, getting close up to the rock wall so as to see when I had sufficiently rounded it in order to make the true descent to Pineapple Flat, which was duly accomplished (3000' - 4m. - 10.22 a.m.). I ascended the ridge to the N.W. until near the top (10.45 a.m.) and then followed the ridge along. At 11 a.m. I descended to what I thought was the Low Col but it turned out to be a low spur running away to the east. Discovering my error at 11.15 a.m., I was back on the ridge again at 11.30 a.m., visibility improving with the lower altitude and increasing wind. I had just passed over the Low Col when the clouds lifted sufficiently to reveal it below me at 11.50 a.m. and I dropped down into its trough immediately (2670' - 7m. - 12.10 p.m.).

Dinner was due but I dare not squander time dining whilst the cloud-break was there to be exploited. A nine-minute stop for re-fuelling and pocket filling had to suffice before I resumed up the long rise northward (actually 340 deg.) to where the ridge turned right (8m. - 12.50 p.m.). The Clouds had definitely lifted a little and visibility was much better, although fine cold rain and cloud descended upon me frequently. Changing direction to 20 deg. for a few yards, I swung back to 320 deg. to reach the junction of Blandfordia and Hewardia Ridges, thence back to 20 deg. for a short distance before climbing up to the rock cairn on the higher section of Hewardia Ridge (9m. - 1.26 p.m.). Then it was just a matter of keeping near the quartzite outcrops to reach the quartzite cairns on the scarp overlooking North Plain Creek (10m. - 1.45 p.m.). Down at North Plain Creek (2888' - 10m. - 1.58 p.m.), I paused for a little refreshment in a brief dash of sunshine, but it was sprinkling again ere I left at 2.5 p.m..

Reaching the two north-flowing streams beyond the next saddle (2700' - 11m. - 2.36-57 p.m.), I found that the Geelong College party had camped on the low rise between the streams - a more sheltered spot than North Lake. I lost some time here in readjusting my socks which had disappeared in the boots. The instep sores were giving much trouble and my feet were starting to drag. Passing North Lake camp (2800' - 12m. - 3.20 p.m.) and Clearwater Creek (2550' - 13m. - 3.40-48 p.m.), the clouds still hung only about 200' above me.

Near the foot of the cutting grass patch, I came upon the trail of the Geelong College party and, following it into the myrtles, unwittingly was lead astray. Coming to the edge of the scarp near a small landslide, I was able to pick up my bearings and regained the track about 200 yds. to the left near Red Rag Scarp (14m. - 5.10-15 p.m.). The other party, however, had descended into the mixed forest below and regained the track below Blake's Hut. Reaching the top of Blake's Opening (1050' - 16m. - 6.15 p.m.), I struggled on to regain Blake's Hut (370' - 18m. - 7 p.m.).

Clouds were still fairly low when I arrived but the stars were out brightly between 9 and 10 p.m.. "Mr. Smith" soon put in an appearance and, with my abundance of provisions, I was able to humour him and make closer acquaintance. He showed great relish for my cooked vegetables which were starting to pall somewhat with me.

Thursday dawned fine but overcast with a N.W. wind. I enjoyed my best night's sleep of the trip and was tardy in arising. I was not away until 8.58 a.m., a black cloud looming threateningly overhead. Passing the button grass break (1m. - 9.37 a.m.) and Big Creek (2m. - 10.1 a.m.), my injured ankle gave its first indication of instability. The continual stepping and swinging over logs was having a bad effect on both ankle and boot rubs. Approaching the bracken camp, I met the Melbourne University party outward bound for Federation under the leadership of Prof. Cherry and many minutes passed in conversation.

Resuming, I passed the bracken camp (2m. - 10.52 a.m.), Riveaux camp (3m. - 11.20 a.m.) and a new camp just used by the Melbourne University party (4m. - 11.55 a.m.), to reach the "Shaw" camp (190' - 4m. - 12.13 p.m.). Dinner was partaken here before resuming at 1 p.m. and making the end of the newly-cut track (5m. - 1.38 p.m.).

I had a 10 min. talk with the track cutters on the plain beyond before wading the Picton River (160' - 6m. - 2.10 p.m.), seeing the palings being cut for the new bridge and then on to the Picton Hut (180' - 8m. - 2.42 p.m.). Apart from the monotony and rapid deterioration of feet towards the close, there is little to record of the remainder of the journey back. The Arve River was reached (90' - 14m. - 5.18-24 p.m.), then Frying Pan Creek (17m. - 6.31 p.m.) and finally the car at Irving Fletcher's (120' - 20m. - 7.43 p.m.), where I spent the night in the car, retiring late after dining, bathing and talking with Irving Fletcher.

Next morning (Friday, Feb. 4th., I drove off late in the morning for Hobart and civilisation, arriving at the capital at 12.15 p.m..

Keith Lancaster
"Mountaineering in Tasmania", Vol. II, pp 171-175

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