Keith Lancaster
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.

As the result of opportunities afforded by combining with Nancy and David Wilson who were using their annual leave for a trip to the Arthurs, it was possible for me to join with them in an attempt on Federation and to take advantage of their air-dumped provisions. The time that circumstances obliged us to make this effort was October 1949, a month in which the weather habitually is unsettled and wet (nor was this time any exception) but, as the prospects of fine weather in this area are not often realised even in the late summer, we had to take a chance on the outcome. The air dump was carried out an Sat., Oct. 8th. and Nancy and David set out on Friday morning Oct. 14th..

On the same evening, I left Launceston at 8.10 p.m. in fine weather which had just succeeded a fortnight's rain which, in its turn, had been preceded by a long dry spell - one of the driest winters on record. Approaching Hobart, I witnessed a wonderful display of Aurora Australis, commencing in the form of over a score of vertical searchlight beams and gradually contracting to the westward to form a broad red wall of flame well clear of the horizon and reaching high in the sky. I reached 326 Davey St., Hobart (300' - 124m. - 9.15 p.m.) and, picking up John, Ron and his wife, was off again at 9.40 p.m..

Taking the Huon Road, we proceeded to Geeveston, there taking the inland road which leads straight onwards to the west as the main road turns at right angles in the centre of the town. The inland road was in good order but gradually deteriorates towards its end about five miles afield. We parked the car near the end of the road (720' - 166m. - 11.15 p.m.) and all turned in for the night shortly afterwards.

Astir at daylight on Saturday morning, I was off to a good start at 6.33 a.m., leaving the remainder of the party to drive back to Hobart in David's parked car. There was a fairly clear sky and a slight northerly wind. The track starts from the road end as a jeep track and gradually rises to descend to the Arve River (390' - 1m. - 7.11 a.m.). Here the jeep track is supplanted by a muddy foot track which leads past Deep Creek (3m. - 7.37 a.m.), up a long windy hill-climb to its top (980' - 4m. - 8.18 a.m.), then almost holding its altitude beyond the Bog Hill camp to descend steeply to the Picton plain. At the foot of the descent, a track junction to the Picton Hut was passed on the right (400' - 6m. - 9.7 a.m.), another track junction leading up the Picton soon appearing on the left (7m.). A swing to the right across the button grass then brought me out to the junction of this new route with the old Huon track (7m.- 9.26 a.m.) and a little farther on the Picton River was crossed on the new suspension bridge (350' - 8m.- 9.45 a.m.).

Lack of condition was causing spasms of cramp in my knee muscles, so a brief rest was taken. Resuming from the bridge at 10 a.m. as the sun burst through the depleted clouds, I took the usual course up the recently-cleared Huon track and my route to the South Craycroft was exactly the same as that described in detail in recording my previous trip to that area. Passing Big Creek (420' - 12m. - 11.40-45 a.m.), I entered the small plain (440' - 12m. - 11.56 a.m.), leaving it behind (12m. - 12.4 p.m.) and reaching Blake's Hut (480'- 13m. - 12.20 p.m.). Here I expected to find Jim Brown and Una Williams but a note indicated they had accompanied Nancy and David further afield and would be returning shortly. I prepared and ate dinner at the hut and cached some food for my return. Notes of the progress made by the party ahead liberally dotted my outward route and it was pleasing to observe that they had been off to a good start from the hut at 6.30a.m..

At 2 p.m. I left Blake's Hut and met Una and Jim near the top of the Opening (2.49-3.5 p.m.), then made the top of the Opening (1100'- 15m.- 3.10 p.m.) and overcame the steep struggle up to "Red Rag 'Scarp" (2100'- 16m.- 4.30 p.m.). Resuming from here at 4.41 p.m., I found Jim's new blazing very helpful through the myrtles and the succeeding "burn" and finally reached Clearwater Creek at some-one's recent camp-site (2300'- 17m.- 5.25 p.m.). I had expectations of gaining North Lake before camping but, as the increasing heavy cloud overhead indicated the imminence of rain, I chose to camp here and try to finish the evening meal before the weather broke.

The tent was up, the mattress prepared, the fire going and the meal nearly prepared when the rain started at 6 p.m. and drove me inside the tent. As the rain eased, I finished meal preparations and ate it in the tent. The clouds were down low around Picton and almost to camp level. Showers were still falling when I went to sleep and I awoke at daybreak next morning to find the tent weighed down with snow and the ground outside covered to a depth of two inches. After vainly awaiting the cessation of the snow-storm, I abandoned hope of kindling a fire and took a cold breakfast inside the tent, packing up my gear as best I could without getting it wet.

At 7.27 a.m. I was under way, visibility being fairly good under the conditions. The snow-laden bushes and deepening snow made progress tedious and cold and the snow depth approached four inches as I gained the North Lake camp (2500'- m.- 8 a.m.). Snow continued to fall in the form of hard "sago" snow but the clouds invariably cleared the ridges except during the peak of the storms. Conditions remained similar to North Plain Creek (2450'- 2m.- 9.10-15 a.m.) and my ascent to Hewardia Scarp (3m.- 9.37 a.m.) brought me under the full force of the Nor'westerly which, with the oncoming snow, developed into a true blizzard by the time I reached the Hewardia rock cairn (3m.- -9.55 a.m.).

The snow and wind eased on the ensuing gradual descent and I came upon Nancy and David still encamped at the Low Saddle camp-site (2350'- 6m.- 10.50 a.m.), where only about one inch of snow carpeted the surface. They had remained at their night's camp, expecting that the snow may prevent me from crossing the ridges and that, as a consequence, there was not the urgent need to reach the air dump first. There was some little delay whilst feeding and packing proceeded and all were under way at 11.55 a.m. across the saddle.

Visibility generally was still good as we pressed along the ridge southwards, taking a short spell on Pineapple Flat (2750'- 7m.- 1.15-20 p.m.). After rounding Mt. Chapman, we experienced strong wind around Abrotanella Rise - a full pressure gale which lashed the ridge clear of snow as soon as it fell. It was snow-ing slightly as we passed the rock cairn (8m.- 2.4-10 p.m.) but we received some respite on the leeward side of Anderson Bluff (9m.- 2.20-25 p.m.) before pushing on to Burgess Bluff and angling down the western slopes to the knoll (10m.- 3.55 p.m.) and thence to the South Craycroft camp (1000'- 12m.- 4.45 p.m.) after some delay at the river crossing. The weather was much better in the valley, a few intermittent rain and sago-snow showers hampering our preparations for camp and the evening meal. We retired about 9 p.m. and had a comfortable night though periodical showers fell.

Monday broke cloudy but brighter, yet it was not long before low clouds and light drizzle coming in on a N.W. wind became the order of the day. We spent the morning securing our air-dumped supplies across the West Craycroft, some of which had been located the evening before. We recovered all but one bag and most of the food was in good condition except for a few items which had become water-logged. Then we started upon the erection of the large 32 lbs. tent on a site chosen in a sheltered spot on the south bank of the West Craycroft in the serpentine area close to our South Craycroft camp. Dinner was rather late that day and we then moved all our gear up from the South Craycroft to the large permanent base camp, then sorting it all out in preparation for a push on up the West Craycroft. We were not ready for departure until 4.30 p.m. and then decided to stay the night at the big camp owing to the lateness of the hour and make a break-of-day start on the morrow. Accordingly we dined well and retired by 8 p.m., the weather giving every indication of improvement.

Tuesday rolled in overcast but generally fine. Astir fairly early, we were away at 6.58 a.m. with moderate packs. Crossing the West Craycroft via the log at the serpentine bend, we climbed to the higher ground beyond but gradually dropped down onto the usual route (described previously), reaching the Paper Bark camp (1150'- 2m.- 8.50 a.m.). Resuming at 8.55 a.m., we were soon out in the button grass-ti tree area where we found the recent burns very helpful. Crossing the east branch of the stream (3m.- 9.20 a.m.), we soon encountered harder going as the ti--trees thickened, but we left these behind to cross the southern (and possibly main) branch of the West Craycroft (1220'- 3m.- -9.55 a.m.) some distance above its confluence with the western branch.

A brief rest until 10.2 a.m. followed ere we entered the jun-gle growth ahead where horizontal, laurel, ti-tree, pandanni, cutting grass, bauera and a host of other constituents formed a tangled, heart-breaking mass twining over the rotten logs and slimy, soaking moss. Keeping a magnetic course of 267 deg. towards the summit of the nearest green climbing ridge of Federation, we gradually wormed our way on to the crest of a slight rise in an endeavour to avoid the denser tangle below. This slight rise proved to be a direct link with the wooded ridge ahead and gradually we climbed forward, slowly gaining elevation. As the route steepened on the ridge-proper, the scrub improved a little but was still formidable and, at length, we stopped for dinner (2080'- 5m.- 1.10 p.m.) high up on the ridge under a huge weeping rock from which we collected the drips in our billy and mugs for drinking.

Dinner over, we battled upwards at 1.45 p.m. through moss and pandanni and a short steep ascent brought us to the summit of the ridge where we were pleasantly surprised to discover "Moss Camp" (2150'- 6m.- 1.58 p.m.), a narrow platform camp-site under the shelter of an overhanging rock. From here we had a good view of Federation still high above us and a fair indication that some awkward climbing still remained along irregular, heavily wooded ridges. On again at 2.8 p.m., we found the ridge-crown little easier with dwarf myrtle, ti-tree and the like locked closely together and the perpetual rise and fall in the terrain interspersed with many rocky outcrops, often facing us with an awkward rock ascent or a longer deviation below through some pandanni-dogwood copse. On many occasions we were able to follow the trail left by John Bechervaise and his party of six (who battled through last January). Still it was a tough battle to the next summit of the ridge (2340'- 4.10-20 p.m.) and the Federation "plateau'' still seemed nearly as far off as ever. Gaining the crest of the next eminence on the ridge (7m.- 4.30 p.m.), it was agreed to camp here if a suitable spot was available. A fairly satisfactory spot was soon located just down to our right but quite an amount of work was necessary before space was cleared and leveled for our 3-man tent and adequately mattressed. Meanwhile David was busy searching for an isolated snot or two of snow - the result being very moderate for the energy involved, but it avoided the discomfort of a completely "dry" camp. The day had been fine with hardly a sprinkle and the wind was still from the north and light. The weather appeared reasonable for the climb on the morrow with broken cloud around. We turned in at 9 p.m..

Wednesday the 19th. dawned fine but both cloud and wind were increasing fast and the barometer falling. It was obvious we must hurry if we were to beat the break in the weather. At 8 a.m. we left the tent and most of our gear behind, travelling with one pack between three. The scrub ascent ahead was much the same as yesterday but at length we gained the summit of the ridge at 8.50 a.m. to halt for shelter for 10 min. prior to dropping down on to the small "plateau" (2550'- lm.- 9.2 a.m.).

The wind was very strong now and accompanied by a sprinkle, warning us of the impending storm. Time was running out for me and I couldn't afford much delay if I were to gain the Peak and return home by the week-end in time for work next Monday. At length, it was resolved that I push on alone in an effort to climb the Peak whilst Nancy and David, with much more time available for the enterprise await my return in the shelter of the "plateau".

After piling in a few "eats", I set off at 9.30 a.m., a short climb through some stunted scrub bringing me to another small "plateau", better watered but more exposed than the last. Across this, a steep wall barred the way to the "terrace" above, but the presence of tough vegetation made the climb much easier than anticipated. The easiest route was by taking a right incline through the widest belt of growth, then swinging away to the left when the way steepens and, after straightening up, coming out on the "terrace" at an easy grade (10.2 a.m.). The "terrace" skirts the eastern face of Federation's sheer cliffs and curls slightly upwards to the foot of the climbing chimney at the south-eastern corner of the Peak, just above the two rocky spires bordering the "terrace". The north-west wind was at gale force and accompanied by a steady drizzle as I gained the shelter of the chimney (10.6 a.m.) and, after a short spell, began climbing upwards.

Water dripping down the chimney made progress less pleasant but, usually with both sides of the chimney presenting an alternate choice of route, there were sufficient finger and toe holds to make the climb not unduly hard. Near the top of the chimney, a slight overhang was avoided by utilising a horizontal crack in the rock-face on the left and, although only finger holds are available here, knees can be used to advantage. Once past this obstacle, an easy rock-slide running from the summit towards Lake Geeves is encountered around the back of the rock and, although snow filled the easier portion of the route, it was soon accomplished and the rock-cairn of Federation Peak gained (3400'- 2m.- 10.30 a.m.).

The strong wind and misty rain provided a poor reception on this exposed pinnacle. The clouds were low all around me and visibility was very limited. Still there was some most impressive scenery in the immediate vicinity to see. The serrated ridges of the eastern Arthurs could be seen below in the north and the steep fall below to the northern lakes set in the midst of dense jungle. The view back towards the way we had come across the plateaux and the "Moss Camp" ridge looked just as trying as it really had been. Away to the westward sections of Port Davey were glimpsed through the clouds with a desolate scrubby area filling in the wide gap to the extensive Lake Geeves far down below at the western cliff-face and out of view from the summit. Hanging Lake and the north-western section of Federation was another inspiring sight.

After making a vain effort to attract the attention of my friends below, I left the summit of Federation at 10.45 a.m.. Retracing my steps down the Lake Geeves slide and down the steep chimney, I encountered cloud swirling up the chimney. With the awkward descent of the chimney completed (3050'- 11.4 a.m.), I speeded up my return as the rain increased, arriving back at the lower "plateau" just as heavy rain set in (2550'- 3m.- 11.25 a.m.).

It was great to enjoy the hot drink which had just been prepared by Nancy and David before leaving on our return at 12.2 p.m.. The journey back down the wooded ridge was to the accompaniment of steady rain and, needless to say, we were wet through before reaching the shelter of the tent (2370'- 4m.- 12.50 p.m.).

Divesting ourselves of our wet clothes, we crawled into our sleeping bags in what few dry garments we could muster, vainly awaiting a break in the weather to afford us a chance of drying our wet clothes. With light rain continuing, we managed to replenish our water supply by catching in our mugs and billies the rainwater dripping from the tent sides. The barometer rose slight-ly overnight but Thursday broke with light drizzle and low cloud all around. Consequently, breakfast was another cold meal and, with the weather being unattractive for a full party assault on the Peak, there was naught for me but to pack up and return homeward, leaving Nancy and David, who had longer leave available, at this handy camp laying siege to the Peak.

Braving the ordeal of struggling into my still saturated garments, I bade farewell at 7.30.a.m.. A little way along the ridge, I lost many minutes through attempting a steep descent down the gully to the right, being brought up by a sheer drop and having to clamber back on to the ridge-top. The mist accompanied me beyond "Moss Camp" (2150'- 1m.- 9.30 a.m.), where I vainly endeavoured to make a fire to add some warmth to my half-shivering frame. Off at 9.42 a.m., I passed below the big dripping rock and struck steep descents through a gloomy, oozy, slimy tangle of moss-laden and rotten tree-growth and densely-packed pandanni but, with the aid of the compass and getting under the cloud-level, I kept a straight course eastward, making good progress and avoiding, at least, some of the tougher scrub we had encountered on the climb. As the base of the ridge was reached, progress became more awkward and more frequent reference was made to the compass in my brushes with the horizontal. Cutting grass was a bad feature of the tangled growth over the latter stages but the rumble of the West Craycroft ahead lent encouragement.

Crossing the southern branch of the West Craycroft (1220'- 3m.- 11.45 a.m.), improvement in the scrub began and, with the rain still holding off I pushed along over the east branch (4m.- 12.10 p.m.), past the Paper Bark camp (1150'- 4m.- 12.30 p.m.), crossing the West Craycroft (5m.- 1.7 p.m.), reaching the open button grass and keeping to the higher ground to finally descend to re-cross the river at the serpentine log-crossing and regain the big tent on its right bank (1010'- 7m.- 2.5 p.m.) just as light rain re-commenced.

My first job was to get a fire going but it was some time before the wet wood was properly alight. In the meantime, I slipped down to the South Craycroft camp and secured the small one-man tent and a few other items. Soon a substantial meal was ready and the fire heaped higher for drying purposes. Taking off all my saturated garments, warmth and comfort was regained immediately. Despite a few light showers, I was successful in drying out all the wet gear, including clothes, tent, sleeping bag, pack, etc. before nightfall. Boot repairs were effected and towards evening the low clouds, which covered all the surrounding hills, started to thin. A good evening meal was followed by an overdue bath and then followed a long session of sewing repairs to trousers, resultant upon skirmishes with the jungle growth, finally concluding at 9 p.m., when I settled down to sleep as the rain re-appeared. All was set for a good start homeward on the morrow with Blake's Hut as the objective for the day.

Friday rolled in fine with some blue patches showing above. I was late in waking and a very slow watch (1 hrs. slow - probably due to a stoppage at night) deceived me into a late get-away at 8.22 a.m.. Crossing the South Craycroft near the camp (1000'- m.- 8.30 a.m.), I pushed up the steep lead ahead to the Willsmicro knoll (1820'- lm.- 9.28 a.m .), looking back at Federation at intervals to see if David or Nancy were showing out on top. Clouds coming in fast from the north soon blotted out Federation from view and rain was obviously near as I pressed on up the slope towards Burgess Bluff. It was raining heavily before I gained the summit amidst thick cloud (2m.- 10.45 a.m.) and soon I was wet through once again.

Along the ridge-top there was the usual difficulty of finding one's way through the cloud-mist and again the compass proved indispensable. After passing the rock cairn on Abrotanella Rise (3m.- 11.10 a.m.), I was temporarily in difficulties which were soon overcome and the course corrected. As usual, Low Saddle was hard to locate although little delay was experienced and the Low Saddle camp was realised (2350'- 6m.- 1.11 p.m.). As the rain now had ceased for the time being, I lunched here, resuming at 1.38 p.m. with better visibility, although often encountering low clouds.

Passing the Hewardia cairn (8m.- 2.37 p.m.), I reached the Hewardia-Fool's Ridge 'scarp (9m.- 2.55 p.m.) and soon found respite from the wind and cloud at the North Plain Creek (2450'- 10m.- 3.3 p.m.). The danger from cloud-mist was left behind me but the all-day struggle to reach Blake's Hut for the night was still at an interesting stage. Passing the two streams ahead (11m.- 3.30-35 p.m.) and North Lake camp (2500'- 11m.- 3.58 p.m.), I dropped down to Clearwater Creek camp (2300'- 12m.- 4.25 p.m.) and find-ing the blazes through the burn and the gloomy myrtles more help-ful than previously owing to Jim's and Una's efforts, I reached Red Rag 'Scarp (2100'- 13m.- 5.4 p.m.). With down-hill going the order from now on, the prospect of gaining Blake's Hut was never in doubt and, reaching the top of the Opening (1100'- 14m.- 6 p.m.), I arrived at the hut at the approach of dusk (480'- 16m.- 6.42 p.m.).

The night was fine and Saturday opened with broken cloud and wind. I was away at 8.55 a.m. in bright sunshine, hoping to see home that night. Passing the south end of the little plain (440'- 1m.- 9.19 a.m.), Big Creek (420'- 1m.- 9.32 a.m.), Riveaux Falls (380'- 3m.- 10.1-5 a.m.), Globex Creek (3m.- 10.15 a.m.), and the Shaw camp-site (4m.- 10.24 a.m.), I entered the myrtles (4m.- 10.36 a.m.) and then bracken (5m.- 10.45 a.m.) and stopped for some lunch at Picton Bridge (350'- 5m.- 10.57 a.m.).

Resuming at 11.32 a.m., I was nearing the track junction when I had the pleasant surprise of meeting Ron, John and Jim who were out combining cacheting gear for a future trip with linking up with me on my return. It was grand having such company after two and a half lonely days and yet it was hard to realise that it was less than a week since we had been together. Soon we all set off homewards having a snack at the Bog Hill camp. Recent rain had made the new track very muddy and bog holes abounded. The sultryness of the afternoon increased with the hour.

Regaining the car (720'- 13m.- 4.30 p.m.), a change of clothes and a filling of the fuel tank presaged our departure at 5.2 p.m.. After leaving my friends behind at Hobart and picking up a few "eats", a bearded driver sped northwards, running into heavy rain over the latter stages before reaching home at Launceston (30'- 166m.- 10.5 p.m.). Soon after the good news arrived that David and Nancy made the summit of Federation on the Friday morning two days behind me.

Keith Lancaster
"Mountaineering in Tasmania", Vol II, pp 187-192

Home to Index
If you would like more information on Keith Lancaster's diaries, please feel free to send me an email.