FRENCHMAN'S CAP
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.
REPORT OF LAUNCESTON WALKING CLUB TRIP ON JAN.26th.-29th.1951.

Party: Misses Betty Grierson, Joyce Walker, Bess and Ann Husband, Betty Bell and Margaret Williams and Messrs. David Pinkard (driver), Trevor Giles, Eric Newman, Norman Hoyle, Mark Smith, Lindsay Crawford, Ken and Keith Lancaster (leader).

The party left Launceston at 7.10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26th. per Club 'bus in warm weather. Travelling via the Bass, Lake and Lyell Highways, a complement of five members was left at Lake St. Clair at midnight, the main party continuing on to the huts at the beginning of the new Jane River Track (1380'- 1 a.m.). All were settled down to sleep in bus or hut by 1.30 a.m. and reveille sounded three hours later. Breakfast over, we resumed in the bus at 6.20 a.m. for 2 miles along the road to the entrance of the old Jane River Track.

From here the foot journey commenced (1320'- 6.30 a.m.) and soon the party was crossing the Franklin River via the "flying fox". The sky was cloudless with morning mists hovering over the Franklin and Loddon Rivers. Our plan was to reach Lake Tahune that day and, with the co-operation and agreement of walkers, the heavier burdens were shouldered by the stronger walkers, leaving the less robust lighter packs to enable them to keep pace with the remainder.

A steady gait was maintained during the ascent over the high shoulder of Mt. Mullens (2m.- 8 a.m.), but soon after a halt was made for photography as the Frenchman appeared away to the south-west. A long, steep ascent ensued to the crossing of the first Loddon River (1280'- 4m.- 8.20-32 a.m.) where some light lunch was partaken. Then followed the crossings of the Middle and South Loddon Rivers and the heat became intense on the dry button grass plains beyond. Soon after crossing Philp's Creek, the turn-off to the Frenchman up Philp's Lead was reached (1350'- 6m.- 9.35 a.m.). The old Jane River Track has fallen into such disrepair that hardly a stake remains to trace its course along the plain.

A steady pace still continued up the lead but still the big party remained intact and took a well-earned rest at the upper crossing of Philp's Creek (1550'- 8m.- 10.10-30 a.m.). On the steep climb through the myrtles beyond, the first split in the party developed but, as we were nearing our midday meal goal, Lake Vera, there was no useful object in restraining the more fleet of foot. After passing though a little more button grass and light timber, Lake Vera was reached (1930'- 10m.- 11.15 a.m.) by the leaders and the uneven track around its northern and western side negotiated to gain the camp-site amidst the tall Huon pines at the south-western corner of the lake (1930'- 11m.- 11.40 a.m.).

Soon the waters of Lake Vera were agitated by the gyrations of various hikers seeking relief from the heat. Dinner followed and sections of the party started drifting off for Lake Tahune from 1.15 to 1.40 p.m.. The elements of the party became more strung out as the climb up the Barron Pass proceeded. The vanguard gained the top of the Pass (3150'- 13m.- 2.30 p.m.) and spent much time in photography and rest, but half the party were yet to appear when they resumed at 3.7 p.m.. The heat was at its worst as the parties moved along the high ridge west of the pass and it was a relief to drop down on to Artichoke Valley (3150'- 14m.- 4.10 p.m.) and gain the shelter of the few pines beyond. These persisted until we passed over the shoulder of Pine Knob. A little more undulating going brought the leaders to the hut at Lake Tahune (3280'- 15m.- 4.42 p.m.).

A swim in the cold waters of the lake was the first apparent necessity and then some set about preparing tents for the night, whilst others attended to the cooking and other incidentals. Later sections of our party continued to arrive until all were present by 6.15 p.m.. A few clouds appeared in the afternoon but were thinning out at nightfall.

Sunday rolled in fine, although the barometer was declining slowly. The keenest were astir at 5 a.m. with the others following suit within the hour. The first section left the lake at 6.30 a.m. for the climb to the Cap, and the remainder were off at intervals up to 7 a.m.. The route up to the North Col, which overlooks Lake Gwendolin to the westward, and then southward up to the Cap itself was well marked. Members reached the cairn on top (4756'- 1m.) from 7.25 a.m. onwards and enjoyed a good view. Apart from distant clouds in the north and south, nothing marred the wide panorama until a fire, started in the King River valley about 8.30 a.m., started to disperse its smoke over a very wide area.

Perched on the lip of the sheer 1000' cliffs on the eastern side, we secured a bird's eye view of Lakes Cecily, Gertrude and Magdalen, Clytemnaestra, the Barron Pass and the eastern section of the range with pine forests and button grass clearings alternating below. The high peaks to the north and north-east stood out prominently and it was a thrill to view these old friends from a new quarter. The peaks of the south and south-east also showed out well, throwing out a challenge to us all to penetrate their fastnesses. The western line of mountains formed an impressive skyline, permitting here and there a glimpse of Macquarie Harbour beyond. A magnetic cheque of the more interesting points in the landscape revealed: Barn Bluff 357 deg.; Eldon Bluff, 349; Eldon Peak., 336; Mt. Murchison, 330; Mt. Sedgwick, 322; Mt. Geikie, 318; Mt. Dundas, 314; Mt. Lyell, 314; Mt. Owen, 305; Mt. Huxley, 295; Mt. Jukes, 287; Mt. Darwin, 266; Mt. Sorell, 259; Macquarie Harbour, 250-229; Clytemnaestra, 198; Wilmot Range (?), 162-158; Hamilton Range (?), 152-137; Arthur Range, 152-146; Mt. Wedge, 141; Mt. Anne, 137; Prince of Wales Range 137-123; Snowies, 134; Clear Hill, 132; The Thumbs, 128; High Rocky and Wellingtons, 127; Spires, 123; Reed's Peak (Denison Ra.), 122; Mt. Field West, 118; eastern peak of Frenchman Ra., 110; Wyld's Craig, 108; Mt. King William 3rd., 99; Barron Pass 98; Mt. King William 2nd., 88; Mt. King William 1st., 69; Mt. Rufus, 44; Mt. Gell, 40; Mt. Olympus, 34-28; Mt. Byron, 24; Pyramid Hill and Mt. Manfred, 21, Mt. Gould, 18; Acropolis, 17; Mt. Geryon, 16; Mt. Hyperion, 12; Walled Mt., 11; Mt. Ossa, 10; Mac's Mt., 9; Mt. Thetis, 7; High Dome and Achilles, 2. Clouds were hiding quite a few of the mountains in the Reserve.

At 8.55 a.m. Bess and I left to try conclusions with our southern neighbour, Clytemnaestra, the remainder preferring a quieter day. We descended the mountain to the south-west via breaks in the low cliffs there and gained a low saddle far below, then we ascended an intervening eminence to descend again to another col which linked directly with Clytemnaestra. Little vegetation occurred along these ridges and tiny lakes appeared on the western slopes. The hot sun was very trying whilst negotiating these exposed, waterless ridges. At the end of a long climb, we gained Clytemnaestra's summit (4200'- 3m.- 10.13 a.m.) and photography followed. The view is similar but far more restricted than from Frenchman's Cap which is the dominating feature of the landscape. Several of the smaller lakes nearby were visible and tracks on the hill-slopes westward showed plainly. Soon, however., the King River valley fire threw a dense smoke screen over all.

At 10.55 a.m. we commenced to retrace our steps, using the identical course back to the walls of the Cap, where we quenched our thirst by sucking water from the moss on the cliffs, later locating a trickle of iodised water. Regaining the top of the cliffs, we shoulder the mountain, gaining the track a little above the North Col and following it back to Lake Tahune (3280'- 7m.- 1.20 p.m.).

An enjoyable swim and dinner presaged our departure for Lake Vera at 3.20 p.m.. The remainder of our party had left between 11.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m.. We regained Lake Vera at 6.10 p.m., where still another swim was required as a refresher. All were settling down well in the construction of camps and preparation for the night.

Sunday morning was cloudy but fine and all were astir before 5 a.m.. The first party was off at 6 a.m. and included Anne who bruised both ankles in a fall whilst returning from the Cap. All were under way by 7.20 a.m. and clear of Lake Vera by 7.35 a.m.. Unfortunately, Ann found difficulty in negotiating the early rough section and her party soon dropped right to the rear but she improved as the Loddon Plains appeared. The remainder were clear of upper Philp's Creek crossing by 8.25 a.m. and beyond the track junction by 9 a.m.. Members arrived at the Franklin River from 11 a.m. and all were assembled there by 2 p.m.. Swimming was not so popular here owing to the shallowness of the stream. Dinner over we had vacated the river by 3 p.m. and, journeying back to the road and bus, were under way at 3.10 p.m.. There was a slight hold-up at Lake St. Clair whilst we awaited the return of one of our parties, when we resumed once more at 5 p.m., reaching Launceston at 9.30 p.m..

Flora: An abundance of variety exists amidst the flora along the track. Unfortunately, the dry summer was responsible for a poorer display of blossom than normal. Almost all the common vegetation of Tasmania is represented and many uncommon plants are found.

Myrtle forests with their underlying fern glades lent a cool touch on the Mullens Pass and beyond Philo's Lead. The stretches of button grass along the Loddon Plains had their monotony broken by occasional Xyris, Patersonia and Styllidium blooms and several little clusters of the delicate little violet Utricularia. The fine Huon Pine forest around Lake Vera is one of the best existent in the State, whilst King William Pines were plentiful beyond Barron Pass. Blandfordia was in bloom around the Pass and a few places elsewhere. Hewardias, gentians, and ranunculus were in evidence around the Cap itself.

Fauna: Evidence existed of the presence of most creatures which inhabit the south-west of Tasmania. However, few of the larger animals appeared openly. Only two wallabies were sighted. The rare ground parrot was seen in the vicinity of Clytemnaestra.
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