BACK TO THE RESERVE
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.
Our plans for Easter 1949 were fixed quite early to cover a four-day trip to that western outpost of the Cradle Mt.- Lake St. Clair Scenic Reserve known as the Amphitheatre or High Dome and situated between Eldon Bluff and Mt. Manfred. Circumstances, however caused us to alter our plans on two occasions during the Easter and thus High Dome eluded our hopes.

On Thursday, April 14th. at 7.25 p.m., Jack, Norm and Trevor Daniel and I left Arthur St. in fine, clear weather and, travelling via the Bass, Lake and Lyell Highways, reached Cynthia Bay, Lake St. Clair (2420'- 112m.- 11.15 p.m.). The journey was uneventful except for some light fog around the Great Lake and for the last few miles when a broken spring leaf caused concern by rubbing against the wheel hub. A closer investigation, after we limped through to our destination, revealed that the three main leaves were broken presenting us with quite a problem for our return trip.

After spending the night at the end of the road, we were astir early and were all ready when Mr. A.J.Lamont, the ranger, arrived with his motor boat. Leaving Cynthia Bay at 7.40 a.m. we espied the low mists evaporating fast and quite a few patches of snow on the nearby peaks. Not a ripple disturbed the lake even in the narrows and the ideal weather and delightful scenery made the boat journey a most enjoyable one. Arriving at the northern end at 9.10 a.m., a cloudless sky without a breath of wind augured well for our vacation. At 9.20 a.m. we set off along the track to Nichol's Hut. Arriving there (2500'- lm.- 9.50 a.m.), we took the Marion track with the object of utilising it to make position for a direct cross-country essay at Mt. Manfred. Our full plan for the climbing of High Dome was to approach it via Mt. Manfred, the Canning Gorge, its heavily-wooded eastern slopes and return via the remains (if any) of the Ewart track and the E.A.Counsel track to the Cuvier valley and Cynthia Bay. We decided to leave the track soon after the Marion crossing (4m.- 10.40 a.m.). After a delay due to photography, we resumed at 11.54 a.m. exploiting the button grass lead towards the peak as far as possible, then through dwarf ti-tree to more semi-open country and then through easy forest via a maze of shallow gullies and unusual terrain erratics until the main ascent was reached. Rock and cliff outcrops soon started to interfere with our easy progress and compelled deviations and, as a little more altitude was gained, the thickness of the scrub made progress very tedious. At length we found easier going as we neared the top of the long ridge from which Manfred rises and, gaining the sum-mit of the ridge, swung round under Manfred's cliffs and used the rocks on the northern side to find an easy route to the top (4580'- 6m.- 1.25-40 p.m.).

The top of Manfred commands a very extensive view and, although we had seen the whole of the panorama from several nearby peaks before, one could never weary of gazing upon that multitude of peaks, gorges, lakes and forests. As we dined on that lofty point with not a suspicion of breeze or cloud to mar our delight, we made the following magnetic check of our surroundings: Walls of Jerusalem, 35 deg.; Mt. Gould, 21; Falling Mt., 19; Acropolis, 10; Geryon, 6; Massif, 3; Hyperion, 355; Ossa, 353; The Guardians, 351; Pelion West, 339; Barn Bluff, 335; Mac's Mt., 333; St. Valentine's Peak, 319; last peak of Du Canes (Mt. Nereus ?), 310; Murchison, 290; High Dome, 273; Eldon Bluff, 270; Eldon Peak, 266; Sedgwick, 258; Lyell, 248; Owen, 240; Huxley, 234; Jukes, 230; Pyramid Hill, 223; Darwin, 219; Frenchman's Cap, 196; Little Sugar Loaf, 189; Gould's Sugar Loaf, 184; Gell, 168; Cuvier, 162; Ragged Range, 161; Sawback Range, 157; King William 2nd., 154; King William 1st., 148; High Rocky, 147; Hugel, 144; Byron, 116; Olympus, 108; Table Mt., 95; Ida, 88; west peak of Manfred, 263.

High Dome looked a grand sight across the Canning Gorge but the western peak of Manfred prevented an examination of a low level route. Cuvier, our nearest neighbour, was much less conspicuous from here in contrast to Gould and the Du Canes.

At 2.45 p.m., we vacated Manfred's summit, and descending towards the western peak, reaching the clear col between them and then skirting the cliffs via the northern side to pause for examination of the route ahead at 3.20 p.m. on the western side of the western peak The descent to the bed of the gorge below did not look so difficult and it appeared probable we could make the Canning before nightfall. The long climb through the gums out of the gorge and along the ridges leading towards the summit of High Dome looked a tough proposition for the morrow and would probably claim all or most of the day. To return to Cynthia Bay in the two days, either via our outward route without lake transport or via the Ewart and Counsel tracks with the existence of the former in doubt, looked a solid proposition. Then there was the proposition of making the car road worthy by the strengthening of the broken spring which, even if it could be put in reasonable condition, would take some time. A lengthy debate upon the advisability of continuing with our original plans or selecting an alternative more in keeping with the remaining time available resulted in a majority decision to abandon our High Dome objective.

Thus, with new plans to reach the Guardians, Mt. Gould and the Labyrinth, we started our retreat at 4.25 p.m., again passing around the northern side of the western peak and then threading our way around the main peak of Manfred also via the northern side. Reaching the north-east foot of the cliffs, we decided to follow the apparently clear ridge-top running away to the east with the object of finding an easier descent route. Unforseen obstacles made the attainment of the level section of the ridge-top slower than ex-pected, nor was the ridge-top as clear as expected. When we moved over to the northern escarpment to seek as descent route, we encountered sheer cliffs. Pushing along the 'scarp towards the east and passing a couple of deep and narrow fissures, we finally found an awkward but practical route down the low cliffs and soon all were safely in the myrtle forest below. Twilight was approaching as we descended, seeking a satisfactory camping site. These were not scarce but we were intent upon securing one giving the utmost comfort and finally called a halt (3220'- 11m.- 6.10 p.m.), pitching our tent upon some comfortable artichokes with plenty of wood and running water nearby.

Saturday dawned very promisingly with just a few tiny clouds showing and a light breeze. We were not under way until 8.45 a.m. but had no difficulty in descending through light scrub to reach the button grass of the Marion valley, cross Marion Creek and reach the track a little above where we left it on the previous day (3000'- 1m.- 9.20 a.m.). We then followed the track up to pretty Lake Marion (3080'- 2m.- 9.32 a.m.) nestling under Mt. Gould and the Guardians and spent some time there feasting upon the scenery. Resuming at 9.45 a.m., we followed the track to-wards Gould through the pandanni and myrtles, soon climbing above the tree-line and making our way to the rocky summit of Gould (4900'- 4m.- 11.25 a.m.) via the southern peak.

For the second day in succession we had dinner on a mountain peak with only the snow patches to provide us with liquid refreshment. The sky was almost cloudless, the air quite still and the day very warm - an unexcelled set of circumstances in which to enjoy the remarkable sights available from this high vantage point. The view across the Acropolis and Geryon was superb, whilst the other Du Canes, Ossa, Manfred and Olympus demanded much admiration. A magnetic check from the summit revealed the following; Table Mt., 89; Pillinger, 35; Walls of Jerusalem, 31; Davala Bluff, 29; Deception, 18; Falling Mt., 10; Western Bluff, 8; Acropolis, 355; Massif, 353; Geryon, 346; Ossa, 336; Hyperion, 333; Cradle Mt., 328; Pelion West, 323; Thetis, 321; Achilles, 310; Mac's Mt., 290; St. Valentine's Peak, 308; Murchison, 280; Guardians, 257; Eldon Peak, 251; Eldon Bluff, 249; High Dome, 243; Lyell, 237; Owen, 229; The Pyramid, 227; Jukes, 220; Darwin, 212; Pyramid Hill, 209; Manfred, 196; Frenchman's Cap, 192; Gould's Sugar Loaf, 186; Gell, 171; Cuvier, 184; Gould's southern peak, 165; Byron, 158; Hugel, 154; King William 2nd., 153; Rufus, 152; Denison Ra., 147; High Rocky, 145; Olympus, 131; Wellington, 123; Dromedary, 120; Ida, 102.

Leaving Gould at 1.10 p.m., we descended a steep chimney on the north-west side to swing around on to the col adjoining the Guardians and then up to higher ground where we deposited our packs (4300'- 4m.- 1.45 p.m.). Setting off westward at 1.55 p.m., we crossed the snow-patched alpine country through patches of low scrub and soft snow and finally reached the high part of the Guardians which overlooks Lake Marion (4580'- 5m.- 2.45 p.m.). After a good look around from this new outpost, we set off at 3.25 p.m. for the heights to the north-west, anticipating they may be higher points of the Guardians. We reached the first of these eminences (4570'- 6m.- 3.40-44 p.m.) and passed on to the farthermost (4570'- 6m.- 3.48 p.m.) but there was insufficient aneroid variation to determine positively which point was the highest on the Guardians. From this new position a very interesting view of the climbing route to High Dome was possible, as well as a good peep into the Canning Gorge.

At 4.10 p.m. we left on return to our packs, regaining them (4300'- 8m.- 4.54-57 p.m.) and, swinging northward, climbed up the substantial elevation ahead to descend sharply to a low col, then over a smaller rise to cross a further col and rise once more. Away down to the left of the col, Long Lake appeared in the deep wooded gully between the Guardians and Walled Mt., whilst to the east the descent was much steeper to Pine Valley far below. With the approach of night, a camp-site was our immediate responsibility as we pushed towards the first lake of the Labyrinth. Ignoring less inviting sights, we reached the small lake where its outflow cascaded down a series of rapids towards Long Lake, and chose a sheltered site at the lake's northern end (3680'- 9m.- 5.50 p.m.).

The higher altitude and surrounding snow meant a cooler night but we enjoyed a reasonable rest. Sunday came in with just a few high clouds around and still no wind, giving promise of another glorious day. Mt. Gould was a spectacular sight from our camp in the early sunshine. At 9.8 a.m. we left camp and headed north with no definite intentions but hoping to find an encouraging route across to Geryon. The following up of the Labyrinth past the chain of small lakes with their surrounding pines was a delightful experience.

Where the Labyrinth turned to the left, we swung to the right and followed the plateau edge along until we gained a spot from which to view the route to Geryon (3880'- 1m.- 9.40 a.m.). From what we could see, the route around appeared easy enough but there didn't appear to be enough time in which to climb the various points on Geryon and descend to Lake St. Clair before nightfall. Thus we turned out backs on Geryon at 9.55 a.m. and elected Walled Mt. as the day's climb - a much easier proposition. Returning to the point where we parted company with the Labyrinth, we swung north-westward around the largest lake of the chain, reaching its western end and dumping our packs (3750'- 1m.- 10.23 a.m.).

At 10.35 a.m., we were under way once more, the sky becoming thinly veiled in the extreme north. Finding an easy-grade ascent via the adjoining rise on its south side, we were soon on top of Walled Mt. (4600'- 3m.- 11.27 a.m.). The sheer cliffs and chimneys of Walled Mt. surpassed those of the Guardians and we saw High Dome from yet another interesting angle. With only the deep wooded Wallace Gorge between us and the giant Ossa to the north, with the whole of the intricacies of the Labyrinth spread out below us, with the whole "Rifle Sight" aspect of Geryon perfectly displayed and with the numerous now-familiar forms of the many rugged and fantastic mountain peaks, both near and far, appearing on all sides, our delight was unbounded. A magnetic check of the major points visible disclosed: Acropolis, 95; Geryon, 79; Massif, 61; Western Bluff, 45; Hyperion, 38; Pelion East, 34; Ossa, 19; Paddy's Nut, 6; Thetis, l; Pelion West, 351; Achilles, 339; St. Valentine's Peak, 333; Murchison, 298; Mac's Mt., 284; Eldon Peak, 268; Eldon Bluff, 262; Owen, 254; High Dome, 245; Jukes, 245; Darwin, 237; Pyramid Hill, 221; Frenchman's Cap, 216; Gould's Sugar Loaf, 200; Manfred and Gell, 194; Cuvier, 193; Guardians, 185; King William 2nd., 183; Hugel, 180; Rufus, 179; Byron, 179; Gould and Olympus, 165; Wellington, 156; Dromedary, 154; Ida, 147.

At 12.50 p.m. we left Walled Mt. (4 m.) and retraced our steps to our pack dump in the Labyrinth (3750'- 5m.- 1.35 p.m.) and hand our dinner. At 2.35 p.m. we set off on our return to Cynthia Bay, passing around the south of the lake and reaching the plateau edge at its closest point. Here we swung around to the right hoping for clearer going but encountered steep rock and had an awkward descent down a chimney to gain the forest below. Progress through the early mixed forest was reasonable and our speed improved as we made lower ground and approached Cephasis Creek. Crossing the creek, we found easy going down the left bank and continued thus until we gained the Acropolis track crossing (7m.- 3.55 p.m.). It was then just a matter of following the track south-westward until we came out of the forest at Pine Valley Hut (2750'- 8m.- 4.10 p.m.). After a brief look through the visitors' book in the hut, we were off again at 4.40 p.m. down the sloppy plain track and elected to stay at Nichol's Hut (2500' 12m.- -6 p.m.).

Easter Monday rolled in with a little wind and a little cloud, but still fine and settled. We were off at 8 a.m. on the Narcissus Hut track, taking the southern turn-off (1m.- 8.:25 a.m.), passing the Byron Gap turn-off (2m.- 8.43 a.m) the Olympus turn-off (6m.- 9.50 a.m.) and, taking a brief rest at the huge creeper rock (8m.- 10.30 a.m.). The lake track was in good condition and my decision to wear sandals proved a practical one. The wind was increasing and the lake was a little choppy in the narrows. Resuming again at 10.40 a.m., we reached the Cuvier track (l2m.- 12.7 p.m.), we swung across the Cuvier and soon came out at the car (2420'- 14m.- 12.25 p.m.).

The re-assembling of the spring leaves and the reinforcement of the three breaks in the spring was our first task and proved a slow and tedious one. It was 3.5 p.m. before we were able to get under way with dinner over and the spring remedied to our satisfaction. The early pace was dead slow but, after inspections disclosed the spring holding position perfectly, we gradually increased pace. We were on the Lake Highway when darkness descended and had a good trip through to Launceston (30'- 113m. -8.45 p.m.).
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