PROBLEMS OF CYRIAN [GERYON]
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have retained Keith's original spelling:
The unclimbed sections of sheer-walled, knife-ridged Cyrian had long been intensifying their challenge but it was not until early 1950, by taking advantage of a Launceston Walking Club trip in that area, that we tried conclusions with the steep rock-climb.
On Friday, Jan. 27th., Jack Daniel, Bob Crawford and I left Launceston at 6.15 p.m. with Bob's trailer and boat in tow. The sky was clear and the weather admirable. Encountering en route a little car trouble which was expeditiously overcome by the in¬tervention of Bob, we made the journey to Cynthia Bay and camped there for the night (2420' - 118m. - 11.25 p.m.).
Sleep was curtailed through the noisy arrival of the remainder of the party and 5 a.m. found us all astir. After breakfast, we started off up the lake in Bob's boat accompanied by three other passengers. Reaching the Narcissus (2430' - 7.50 a.m.), it became obvious we were in for a warm, cloudless day. Leaving the Narcissus behind at 8.10 a.m., Jack, Bob and I packed our swags along the track, passing Nichol’s Hut (2500' – l¼m. - 8.36-43 a.m.) and gaining the Pine Valley Hut (2700' - 5m. - 10.50 a.m.). After a spell here, we resumed at 11.20 a.m. taking the Acropolis track as far as the Cephasus [Cephissus] Creek crossing and then proceeded up-stream along the left bank of the stream. The forest going was cool and quite a change from the open plain. Remarkable specimens of Huon, King Billy and Pencil pines lined the way plus a number of myrtles, gums and smaller fry. Several tiny waterfalls added to the attractions as we followed the creek northwards. After about a mile we crossed to the right bank of the stream but found the growth more difficult. After stopping for dinner (2840' – 6½m. - 12.13-1.3 p.m.), we returned to the left bank which we finally left as the rock-slide running down from Cyrian showed up on our right.
Reaching the base of the rock-slide (9m.) about 2.30 p.m. after scrambling through some fagus, we found it hot, arduous work toiling up the steep slide in warm sunshine with heavy packs. It was about 3.30 p.m. before, after several brief spells, we gained the top of the slide at the base of the cliffs of Cyrian. With the base of the rock-climb accomplished and the hour too late for a serious effort to gain the top, our immediate need was to consolidate our position and find a camping spot in the vicinity. The top of the slide was not so attractive as it possessed no flat shelf on which to erect the tent and the only water available was a few drips coming down the steep rock-gully above. Dumping the packs here, I explored possibilities around the cliff-face to the left and, although I worked around almost to the base of the Rifle Sight, I was unable to find any water whatsoever. Upon returning to the top of the slide (11m.), it was found that the billies and mugs were catching enough water to tide us through, so we set to creating a small flat shelf amongst some broken rock nearby. After considerable labour, a fairly flat rock-base was established on which we lined a quantity of twigs with a top dressing of pandanni leaves from a group of stunted pandannis near at hand. By the time the tent was in position and tea ready, twilight was with us and we turned in about 9 p.m. in comfortable quarters with a clear sky above except for a few clouds in the extreme west.
Sunday morning found us astir relatively early. Wind and cloud had developed overnight and there was a distinct possibility of a shower. A fine view of Walled Mt. and the Labyrinth was accessible from our high camp. Leaving the tent behind (3750' - 7.25 a.m.), we journeyed around the cliff-base to the left, electing to ascend into the gap of the "Rifle Sight” and make our initial essay at the three peaks of the "Sight" upon the small "Foresight" in the centre. Traveling light with only food, cameras and rope, we soon reached the gully leading up towards the southern gap in the Sights. After covering the first half of the ascent without recourse to the rope, Bob elected to stay behind owing to an attack of dizziness.
Soon afterwards, Jack and I were obliged to rope up and the tough climbing began. We were using a steep arete between the northern and southern gullies leading up, respectively, to the northern and southern gaps appearing on either side of the “Foresight", hoping to gain the northern gap from which an ascent of the “Foresight” seemed possible. After some awkward patches where belays were non-existent and stances few, we gained a point almost level with the trough of the northern gap but found further progress barred. Descending almost to the point where we had roped up, we essayed another likely route a little to the right. Here, instead of swinging around to the north of the arete, the swing was slightly to the south. Two different walls were overcome by use of the lasso, enabling us to swing around to the right and gain the trough of the southern gap in the Sight (4650' - 11.0-15 a.m.).
From the gap we had an excellent view to the east and south-east. This unique view of the Acropolis was superb, whilst Falling Mt., the Walls of Jerusalem and the lakes of the Traveller Range all heightened the panorama. Below us the eastern wall fell for over 1000’ sheer to a steep slope of scree with an alpine glade far down below. Behind us the western wall lacked little in perpendicularity and the steep gully plunged down through overhangs, walls and steep inclines to the huge bowl of talus in the upper Pine Valley. Above us to the right, the towering wall of the southern peak overhung for some considerable distance, disclosing the utter impossibility of scaling it from this quarter. To our left, the ascent of the “Foresight” was barred by a comparatively recent rock-fall exposing a sheer, smooth face without holds of any description and prospects of surmounting this obstacle appeared fairly remote.
The cold breeze from the west and the absence of sunshine, plus the restriction of movement on this knife-edge “col”, was creating a shivery condition which was not suitable for such delicate finger-play and we were pleased to be off again at 11.15 a.m. abseiling down the steep gully. Rejoining Bob, we continued abseiling, finding it much easier than otherwise and then retraced our route back to the tent for dinner (3750’ - 1.30 p.m.). We discovered that our water supply had dried up and the billies and mugs were empty, so we had to make the most of a dry dinner. Rain-clouds, banking up solidly in the west, indicated an early change and, in view of Bob's anxiety to get the boat down the lake before the wind reached peak force, we all agreed to be at the Narcissus Hut by 6 a.m. on the morrow.
After dinner, Bob set off to return to the Narcissus Hut whilst a few minutes later (2.2 p.m.), Jack and I left to try conclusions with the southern approaches of Cyrian. We angled around to the right, reaching a mixed scrub and boulder-strewn slope from which a small stream trickled. Soon we were at the southern crest of the slope overlooking the “col” joining Cyrian to the Acropolis and with the small southern eminence of Cyrian showing up near at hand on our left. Progress was easy across to the foot of the steep rock-climb and, although Jack went some distance up the nearest gully, we didn't persevere in our efforts to gain this summit, partly owing to the fact that the way to the southern peak of the Sight was blocked by a huge cliff beyond but mainly owing to our obligation to start homewards to honour our agreement with Bob. The small southern eminence appeared quite climbable by an approach around the eastern side.
We regained the tent (3750’ - 3.20 p.m.) as the first shower arrived and, after hurriedly packing, were off down the rock-slide by 3.40 p.m.. Finding a fairly good route back down through the forest, we regained the Acropolis track (6 p.m.) with the rain easing and then made the Pine Valley Hut (2700’ - 6.20 p.m.). Here the remainder of the Launceston Walking Club were encamped and we spent some time discussing our mutual shortcomings, having seen some of them earlier on the Acropolis and held long range conversation with them from Cyrian. At 7.30 p.m. we resumed southwards along the forest track in the twilight, gaining the track junction (8.15 p.m.), then the main track turn-off (8.45 p.m.) and finally Nichol’s Hut (2500’ - 9.40 p.m.) in heavy rain. Camping the night at Nichol’s Hut as accommodation was available, we were astir early next morning to be away at 5.55 a.m. with three other L.W.C. members for the Narcissus Hut. Upon reaching the Narcissus only a few minutes behind our undertaking, it was obvious the rain was over and a beautiful fine day was before us. It was too late, however, to return to Cyrian or undertake anything fresh, so we had a quiet day cruising around the lake and making an early start for Launceston where we arrived at 9.50 p.m..
Our next opportunity to probe Cyrian’s ramparts came at the following long week-end in March when Jack and I left Launceston at 6.10 p.m. on Friday March 3rd. to combine with our Hobart friends who were leaving earlier. The existence of cloud in the Mt. Projection area and the recurrence of fuel-pump trouble occasioned some delay, but we gained Derwent Basin (2420’ – 117½m. - 10.50 p.m.) and soon turned in for the night after a vain search in the vicinity for our companions.
The overnight wind, cloud and sprinkle was still there in the morning and, whilst Jack worked on breakfast preparation, I set off for Cynthia Bay in search of our Hobart contingent who were found encamped in the huts there. Returning to Derwent Basin, we speeded up preparations and were away in Mr. Cummings’ motorboat at 6.25 a.m.. This large boat made short work of the swell on the lake and we embarked at the Narcissus Hut at 8.5 a.m.. At 8.20 a.m. we were off with substantial packs. Clouds were low but broken and the weather remained fine. Passing Nichol’s Hut (2500’ – 1¼m. - 8.45-55 a.m.), we pushed on to the Pine Valley Hut (2700’ - 5m. - 10.23 a.m.). Resuming at 11.40 a.m. along the Acropolis track, we reached Cephasus Creek (½m. - 11.55 a.m.) and here we parted from Rhona Warren and Dorothy Keats who had other plans, leaving David and Nancy Wilson, Jack and I to carry on up the valley. Progress was not so pleasant owing to the wet condition of the forest, especially so when the fagus was encountered well up the valley.
This time we were carrying 250’ of rope instead of the previous 150’ and proposed camping up the head of the valley in close proximity to the northern peak of Cyrian - the one section which had previously been climbed. We were planning to climb this peak the following morning and then formulate a scheme for tackling the other more difficult points.
Near the head of the gully, the fagus became nasty and we gradually veered to the right, trying to surmount it. Coming out on the broad talus shelf above, we had a brief change from the vegetation before plunging through the last fagus belt and reaching the alpine scrub on the steep slope above. Here, amidst an abundance of water, we had a late dinner (3720’ - 11m. - 3.20 p.m.) which had been delayed owing to the absence of water. After dinner we explored possibilities of finding a suitable camp-site, a difficulty accentuated by the scarcity of shelter from the cold north-westerly as well as finding a flat shelf large enough. With a site selected a little higher up the mountain-side, we were obliged to put in quite a deal of work in finding and erecting tent poles, clearing and mattressing, but at length the 3-man and 1-man tents were in position end to end. Steady light rain commenced early in the evening and adversity increased when the 1-man tent failed to turn the water. However, this didn’t prove so serious as at first appeared and not a great deal of water penetrated the sleeping bag.
Daybreak came with low mist all around the tents, plus intermittent light sleet. With conditions so bad for rock-climbing, we were slow to rise but initiative and drive by Jack succeeded in getting us underway by 10.37 a.m.. We ascended by the natural gully through which our creek descended and soon we gained the summit of the plateau (4300’ – 10.55 a.m.). Turning right towards the south-east, we journeyed along the top, taking shelter from the weather as occasion suggested. At times quite a reasonable view of our closer surroundings was available but the grandest sight of all was the northern end of Cyrian as it loomed up steeply ahead of us. After losing a little more time sheltering near the base of the rock-climb, Nancy elected to wait behind and a little way up the route we chose, the three remaining males, to rope up on one short pitch, after which we took shelter a little below the top as a steady snow-storm began.
When the snow eased, we decided to rope up for the final pitch but were slow to restore warmth to those cold fingers and toes. We gained the top which is crowned by a tiny rock-cairn erected by one of our few predecessors to this spot (4800’ - 12.40 p.m.). The rope had proved useful although not indispensable on the climb. Snow and mist still shrouded the summit and showed little prospect of improving, persuading David to return to Nancy while Jack and I stayed on, hoping for the best.
Impatient at inaction, we decided to push southward towards the first gap in the Sight as the southern peak of the Sight loomed out of the mist. We had to descend a little as we pushed along the narrow ridge and, as the ascent commenced beyond the depression, we encountered an awkward slab right on the knife-edge and the rope had to be brought into play again, although a longer descent may have avoided it. Then all was easy to the edge of the sheer precipice (4750’) which dropped down into the northern gap in the Sight and still 1000’ below - a most awe-inspiring scene and one of, if not the deepest, of Tasmania's sheer drops. Here a bird's-eye view of the little Foresight revealed possibilities of a successful approach via its northern arete, but sufficient could not be seen to ascertain how it linked up with the trough of the northern gap. The towering unclimbed southern peak of the Sight still looked as formidable as ever, rising perhaps a little above us to the south.
But cold fingers and a wet rope with loose snow on the rocks is not inducive to ticklish rock-work, so we started off back to the summit, passing over at 1.10 p.m. and returning back to our tent, heavy rain just beating us in our race for shelter (4000’ - 3.20 p.m.). With the latest deterioration in the weather making it unwise to persevere further with efforts to reach either the Foresight or the southern peak, we decided to pull out of our high elevation camp and retreat to the comfort of Pine Valley Hut. Breaking camp at 4.15 p.m., near the conclusion of the heavy shower, we descended to the rocky shelf below, crossing it to the S.S.W. and dropping down into less formidable going. The route back then became identical with our outward one and darkness was with us before we gained the Acropolis track. It was a relief to acquire the comforts of the Pine Valley Hut soon afterwards (2700' - 7.50 p.m.) and the company of Dorothy and Rhona who had been to the Acropolis.
Monday morning broke with more rain and low cloud with a little snow
showing out on the ridges. It was a lazy morning for us and we treated
ourselves well internally. At 12.50 p.m. we started off for the Narcissus
Hut, passing Nichol’s Hut at 2.25 p.m. before gaining our objective
at 2.53 p.m.. The walk had been under generally fine conditions along
a flooded track, interspersed by periods of intermittent hail and rain.
We waited at the hut patiently for the arrival of Mr. Cummings and his
motor-boat, hoping the weather may induce him to start early. He arrived
close to our selected time and we were off at 6.20 p.m. down the lake
to reach the Derwent Basin at 7.55 p.m.. Soon the two parties split up
to reach the widely separated homes and Jack and I soon came in for a
little more trouble due to the car battery starting to run down and give
a poor lighting display. Detouring to Shannon to pick up Alice, a good
supper enticed a late departure. After saving the lights a little around
the lake-shore by using the park lights only with the aid of the moon,
the intrusion of rain threw us back on the full beam. Extensive cloud
around Projection and Quamby slowed us up further but the lights saw us
through to Golden Valley where we were able once more to economise by
frequent switches to the parking lights. It was a very sleepy party indeed
which ultimately reached Launceston at 3.15 a.m..
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