THE HEART OF THE SOUTH WESTERN MOUNTAINS
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Opportunity to probe much further into the mystic south-western ranges came in Feb. 1951, when it was possible to combine with Melbourne Walking Club visitors on a fortnight's trip into that area. The party comprised Arthur Colbeck, Noel Semple, Keith Harcourt and John Pittle (all of Melbourne) and Bessie Husband and myself (Launceston). The four Melbournians planned a round trip from Kallista to Catamaran via Port Davey, whilst the latter pair were restricted to an out-and-home programme in order to regain the car easily.
Thus Bess and I left Launceston at 7.5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9th. and journeyed to Western Junction to join the remainder of our party on their arrival per plane. At 8 p.m. we all left the 'drome and, taking our normal route to that locality, arrived at the end of the road beyond Kallista at 1.45 a.m. (170m.), retiring at 2.15 a.m..
There was a strong N.W. wind and heavy cloud in the morning and we were off on our long trip at 8.55 a.m.. With all heavily-burdened, some packs exceeding 60 lbs., progress was slow - a factor furthered by a larger number in the group, which necessarily must be governed by the speed of its slowest element. It was wet work pushing through the early ferns beyond Maines, but the cool conditions were favourable for progress. Our first substantial spell occurred at the Divide camp-site (1700' – 4¾m. - 11.23-45 a.m.) where bottled refreshments were partaken. Conditions were still cool with the sky mainly overcast. We stopped at the first of the Weld tributaries for dinner (1550' - 9m. - 1.55-3.10 p.m.).
In the afternoon session, we passed Damper Inn (1400' – 12m. - 4.25 p.m.) and the South Gordon turn-off (1600' – 14¼m. - 5.26 p.m.) and selected a camp-site approaching the end of the re-cut track (1600' - 15m. - 5.45 p.m.). The sky still remained fairly cloudy and generally overcast throughout the day.
We made a little better start on the Sunday morning, being under way at 8.13 a.m. with a much clearer sky overhead. Soon we were on the overgrown section of the track which was in similar condition to before and, once again, we became wet from the damp scrub. Our first substantial break came at "Cot Case Creek" (1800' - 3m. - 10.10-45 a.m.), where the anaspides claimed the attention of the visitors. Progress over the Bowes Pass was slow and dinner was taken at a small stream in the forest on the descent to the Huon Plains. The sun was making its influence more and more felt as the day advanced. We discovered that the recent fires had cleared the button grass from most of the plain below, but had little more than singed the edges of the forests. Consequently stakes were almost absent, although the foot pads" showed fairly clearly through the burn. Sandfly Creek (980' – 8¼m.) was left behind at 4.5 p.m. and, reaching the Huon Crossing vicinity, which had escaped the fire, we decided to cache most of our food in a gum clump and push on to Condominium Creek for the night. After the break in the burn near the Huon Crossing, it was heartening to find its continuance around the corner, and the scrub tangle around the creeks eliminated. The sky was clearing when the first section of the party reached Condominium Creek (1000' – 13¼m. - 7.24 p.m.) and soon all were busily preparing for the night.
Monday morning opened with plenty of promise for a glorious day, but there was still a tardiness in getting away. Bess was off at 7.30 a.m., I followed at 7.50 a.m. and Noel, Keith and John were close behind, leaving Arthur to come up the ridge later. Very soon the male contingent united and the hot, hard grind was on in earnest. At 9.14 a.m., Bess, John and I reached the high level camp-site (3100’ - 3m.) and Bess and I were off again at 9.20 a.m.. The extensive burn which had swept up the ridge from the plain had gone straight through the collar of scrub above us, although it hadn't opened up the way to any appreciable extent.
Passing over the top of Eliza, we stopped for a snack at a tiny pool just beyond (3840' – 3½m. - 10.5-37 a.m.), during which time John and Noel rejoined us. A little farther on we made our final parting with them as they turned towards Mt. Anne and were due back at Condominium Creek for the night. Bess and I paid first attention to the high plateau elevation overlooking the Razor Back - next to Mt. Anne, the highest point of the range. The top of this eminence (4180' – 4½m. - 11.5-25 a.m.) commanded a fine view of Mt. Anne's south-eastern cliffs and the Razor Back ahead of us. We had descended to the commencement of the Razor Back by 11.50 a.m. and thereafter even our moderate packs proved a serious encumbrance. Slowly we wormed our way along the jagged ridge over much the same course as was used at Christmas and finally the summit of Mt. Lot had guests again (3970' - 7m. - 1.50-2.7 p.m.).
A fairly clear sky permitted a fine view from the top although cloud interfered in several areas. As the panorama is covered by our Christmas visit record, repetition is unnecessary. We reduced our stay to a minimum owing to the cold wind and commenced our descent to Judd's Charm, the lake immediately below us to the south. As sheer cliffs marked the whole of Mt. Lot's southern face, we essayed a descent to the westward towards the first practical break in the southern cliffs. Reaching this point, we encountered heavy scrub in a very steep gully, but the grade lessened below and we picked a fairly good course down to the lake and around to the clearing on its southern side (2900' – 8½m. - 3.25 p.m.).
Judd's Charm is a most attractive lake perched on that broad undulating mountain-shelf which skirts the whole southern side of the Anne Mts.. The high cliffs of Lot form a most impressive northern background with a thick mixed forest thriving at its base. The centre of the lake is occupied by a substantial island and the lake surrounds it like an out-sized moat. Our proposed swim in the lake proved a brief affair owing to the intense coldness of the water. After our late dinner was over, it was too late to make the intended journey to Lot's Wife and return, so we contented ourselves with an exploration of the early route and the choosing of a camp-site. The tent was pitched on a patch of pineapple grass which provided a good springy mattress and we moved up to our new quarters about 200 yds. east of the lake. Clouds were gathering as the afternoon advanced and the barometer was drop-ping. rapidly - an ominous warning of bad weather ahead.
Early that night the rain set in and Tuesday was extremely wet and windy. The trough of the depression passed over on Tuesday morning and the barometer rose slowly during the afternoon. Still there was no indication of any improvement in the weather. A small stream found its way through a break in the pineapple grass within the tent, providing us with a laid-on water supply, but restricting our quarters. The tent strained at every fresh impact with the increasing wind and tiny leaks developed here and there in the tent. There was nought to do but stay put until the weather improved, trusting the tent could safely withstand the severe test. Thus we resolved to lay siege to the mountains we had come so far to climb, reducing our diet to two light meals per day in order to make two days' rations extend to a third day.
Gradually the barometer crawled upwards on Wednesday but it was not until the afternoon that any modification in the weather was evident. We decided to tackle Lot's Wife in the afternoon and leave a clear day in which to regain our cache on the Thursday night. At 1.20 p.m. we left camp in as weather-resistant garments as possible. We zigzagged our way through the clear leads along the shelf and ascended the ridge uniting Lot to his spouse via a narrow landslide. This lead us up over the tiny cliffs and above the stunted scrub to a semi-clear narrow ridge (1m. - 2.7 p.m.), above which rose the rocky crag of Lot's Wife. The thick mist permitted little visibility, whilst the wet bush and cold wind made climbing conditions unattractive. Pushing around the northern side of the rock-base of Lot's Wife, we selected a steep rock chimney on the eastern side but, when nearing the top, found the climb too severe. Clambering down to the rock-base again, we tried farther eastward and found an easy scrubby gully, via which there was no difficulty in gaining the top, (3520' – 1½m. - 3.34 p.m.).
It was misty and frigid on top and a problem to get warm. With visibility nil, we erected a small cairn and were soon in retreat for our camp. The route back was a retracement of our outward one and we were pleased to leave the wet bush behind and reach our tent (2930’ - 3m. - 5.5 p.m.). A light sprinkle still persisted and cloud-mist was everywhere. We succeeded in kindling a fire with the aid of pandannis and were able to dry out all our wet clothes and enjoy our first hot meal for two days. With the barometer now higher than when we arrived, it seemed hard to understand the continuance of the bad weather.
Thursday morning rolled in with much healthier weather - quite an amount of blue sky with low mists around the mountains. We were astir early but lost a little time trying to secure a good photo of Judd's Charm with Mt. Lot's cliffs, but the mists refused to oblige. Leaving the lake at 7.52 a.m., we followed the clearing to the S.W. and then broke through the narrow fringe of scrub to gain open going on the ridge top above. We then descended through clear leads to the larger lake below, reaching its outflow at the southern end, where we discovered an old moss-covered rock-cairn. By its aged appearance, it could easily have been piled there by Judd during his early visit.
Then we pushed along to the N.W. [S.W.] around the lake through further clear leads to the next and smaller lake, crossing its outflow into the larger lake at the foot of the steep clear climb up to the high ridge which joins Mt. Lot to Sarah Jane. From here we could see two more glorious lakes set in the midst of thick timber to the south-west. A strong 'roo pad assisted us in gaining the crest of the ridge, and gradually the wonders of that enchanting mountain-shelf, which skirts the whole southern end of the Anne Range from Lot's Wife to Sarah Jane, were unfolded. Lake after lake came into view and the extensive rolling clearings to the south of Sarah Jane. The jagged contour of the long east-west ridge was heightened by the two or three razor-backs and the cliffs of each of the mountains. Cut off from the outside world as it is by the tortuous Lot Razor Back and two mountains at one approach and by thick forests and another mountain at the other, this grand new world is a veritable "Shengri-la" – a wonderland completely unspoiled by the hand of man.
Following the ridge westward almost to the rocky eminences which soon appeared, we descended again to another fine lake on the "Shengri-la Shelf". After another photographic interlude, we swung westward along the clear shelf to reach a small quartzite-banked lake under the cliffs of Sarah Jane, and then slowly threaded our way up the lightly-clad rise which, in turn, lead up to the southern edge of Sarah Jane. We made the final rock ascent of the mountain from the south-west and the weather was nearing perfection as we annexed the summit of Sarah Jane (4000’ - 4m. - 10.40 a.m.).
A wonderful view was available to us and the cameras made up for their
two days’ inaction. The immediate scenery was marvelous with something
outstanding on all sides. Eliza, Anne, Lot and Lot's Wife looked grand;
Lake Judd retained its dark and myster¬ious demeanour surrounded by
its dark green forests in the deep gorge below; the lakes of the Shengri-la
Shelf scintillated in the friendly sunlight; and Snell's Ridge with its
hanging lakes had a lure all its own. A magnetic check of the entire panorama
Completing a cairn on this new peak, we left at 11.40 a.m. to descend to the Anne River for dinner. Following the ridge down to its apparent clearest route, we descended westward towards the open button grass below. The way grew rather scrubby on the mountain slopes but deteriorated into quite bad bush near the bottom, and we were much later than we expected in crossing the Anne River not far below its outflow from Lake Judd (1800' 6m. - 1.38 p.m.). After dinner, we resumed at 2.10 p.m., following the right bank of the stream downward for a while, but swinging back to the left as the scrub thickened. The button grass was not near so open as seemed apparent from above, and several scrubby patches interrupted our progress. We re-crossed the stream as we neared the clear cone (1500' - 8m. - 3.40-45 p.m.) and left it, changing our direction from S.W. to N.W. up a clear valley towards a clear hill. Here we hoped to find a clear lead through to the button grass of the Huon Plains, but we found a forest in our path and had no recourse but to enter it (9½m. - 4.20 p.m.). The early section was through horizontal in a creek-gully and, although awkward, it gave way to something much worse in dense bauera, cutting grass and ti-tree. We left this heart-breaking mess behind (10¼m. - 5.40 p.m.) and enjoyed a brief session of button grass. At last the burn was showing out ahead, but we were obliged to enter more of the bauera-ti-tree tangle (11m. - 6 p.m.) on the outskirts of the burnt forest. Our scrub tussle over, we pushed through the burnt timber to come out on the blackened button grass beyond. Soon the sun was sinking below the horizon and the Huon Crossing still lay many miles ahead. We plodded on at a steady gait and, as dusk was already upon us, decided to camp at Condominium Creek (1000' - 14m. - 7.40 p.m.) as bedding and tent pegs were already in position. That night we combined our few remaining tit-bits into a glorious hoosh and were soon settled in for the night.
Although some light rain fell overnight, Friday gave us the best morning yet - only a few small clouds marring the huge blue sky. We left camp at 7.50 a.m. on empty stomachs and pushed on to our cache (1¾m. - 8.25-30 a.m.) and then down to the Huon Crossing (950' - 2m. - 8.35 a.m.). Here we devoured an enormous breakfast and did not resume until 10.45 a.m.. Breaking out on to the burnt button grass on the other side of the Huon, we located the track in the form of a wide gutter and followed it along into the myrtle forest on the right bank of the Huon. Here was relief from the warm sun, whilst the track was easier to negotiate. Leaving the forest behind after about half a mile, we emerged on to the burnt open plain and followed the faint track-pad along. Approaching Isolation Mt., we left the track and headed for the mountain, depositing our packs at a small stream near its N.E. base (970' - 5m. - 12.5 p.m.). [Mt Solitary]
At 12.25 p.m. we set off on the climb, selecting a course which followed the "burn" high up on to the mountain and then traversed the upper slopes below the rocks and above the timber patches. It appeared that either the middle or western peak was the highest of this long sprawling mountain, so we planned to climb the fire-blackened middle peak first. The peak proved to be a little farther away than expected and the early afternoon soon brought the sweat racing. Upon gaining the top of the middle peak (2360’ – 6½m. - 1.30-45 p.m.), it was very evident that the western peak was much the higher. After a brief stay, we were traversing the mountain westward, finding the western peak rather elusive and, invariably, always just a little ahead of each small ridge-top we surmounted. At length our objective was gained (2580’ – 8½m. - 2.25 p.m.) and we settled down to enjoy the wide panorama and determine its components.
The Frankland Range in the immediate S.W. was first to claim our attention and its rugged peaks soon won a place in our itinerary. Glorious Lake Pedder with its gleaming broad beaches dominated the western landscape with its fitting background of the Wilmot Range Peaks. Then, sweeping around the horizon, our gaze took in the attractive low peaks north of Pedder and the higher ranges beyond, the distant Frenchman, the wooded Junction Range, Clear Hill, Mt. Wedge (well-wooded on every slope), Mt. Field West and the Needles, High Rocky, Mt. Bowes, three high ranges, Mt. Anne, Eliza, the middle peak of Isolation, Sarah Jane, Weld, Snell's Ridge, Picton, the South Pictons, Bobs, Hopetoun, Federation, West Portal, the western Arthurs, Scott's Peak, Giblin, and a few unidentifiable heights.
At last we tore ourselves away from this elegant viewpoint (3.35 p.m.) and, descending to the base of the mountain, had a long walk around its northern base ere we regained our packs (970' - 12m. - 5.8 p.m.). After a light dinner, we were off again at 5.38 p.m., heading for Scott's Peak and the track. Locating the track, we followed it southward in close proximity to the Huon, ever on the qui vive for a camp-site. We chose a well-sheltered hollow alongside a Huon billabong in an area which had been reduced by fire about three years previously (930’ – 13½m. - 6.10 p.m.). Although the stagnant water was a deterrent, the abundance of dry wood and mattressing material were compensations and we enjoyed a very comfortable night.
Saturday, Feb. 17th. did not provide a promising morning. Light rain fell overnight and the sky was almost overcast in the morning. We left camp at 10.45 a.m., being delayed by a couple of sharp showers. Following the track along, we soon “closed in” on Scott’s Peak but the low clouds influenced us to cancel our proposed ascent of the peak, and we continued on towards the Arthurs. We crossed a very substantial creek which emanated from Jones Pass and a further large creek was crossed a couple of miles farther on in some thick low scrub. Here the track completely disappeared and we zigzagged around, searching in vain for it. The rain was steadily setting in as we continued along the plain, swinging in towards the Huon and we stopped for dinner on its bank close under the ever-present Scott's Peak (880’ – 4½m. - 1.5-53 p.m.). After dinner, we veered away from the river and searched the base of the ridge to the westward for signs of the track. We gradually made altitude on the ridge but still found no sign of the track. After traversing around the ridge for a considerable distance, we descended to the plain when it appeared that the track must follow through the opposite valley. We were very relieved indeed when we located the track at the point where it becomes strongly blazed again (1070’ - 9m. - 4.15 p.m.). It was easy work now following it along and soon we passed through a small patch of forest and over a creek (9½m. - 4.30 p.m.). The track then winds and undulates but, if shortness of stakes causes one to lose it, you soon find it again cut into some hillside. Tiny creek crossings and thickets were numerous and it was at one such that we located one of the camping sites of our Melbourne friends (980’ – 10¾m. - 5 p.m.). On and on we trudged through the rain with low cloud making visibility poor, but we were out to make good position for climbing the Arthurs on the morrow. At last, Junction Creek appeared and we crossed it, searching for a reasonable camp-site. We made camp in the rain on the southern side of the creek and a little west of the track (820’ - 13m. – 6 p.m.), first pitching the tent, then mattressing it with the wet branches available, covering this with our wet groundsheets, drying them off with our towel and then peeling off our saturated clothes in turn and crawling into our sleeping bags Our evening meal was a cold one and we settled down for the night hoping for a favourable change in the morning.
Sunday opened fine with broken cloud. Although astir reasonably early, it took a little time coaxing a cheery fire into existence. The drying of wet clothes delayed our departure until 9.20 a.m. when we set off, burdened only with a day's provisions and the usual impedimenta. Breasting the tiny ridge beyond the creek, a joyous surprise awaited us. Ahead, only about a mile away, rose the peaks of the Western Arthurs, a fine array of jagged, quartzite crags rising steeply out of the flat button grass plain.
Clouds wreathed the tops of the nearby peaks, whilst further eastward much heavier clouds obliterated the range. Soon we were striding gleefully across the Arthur Plains, scanning each peak for a sign of a trig. point as Mt. Hayes was the days objective. With no such evidence apparent, we found it impossible to determine the highest peak, so selected our initial peak and planned our route of ascent.
Viewed from the plain, there are four distinct peaks vying for the distinction of the highest peak of the western section of the Arthur Range - three close together and a fourth farther westward. Choosing the most easterly of these, we gambolled across to the base of its natural climbing ridge (1020’ 10.15 a.m.) and proceeded to climb a button grass lead and then through an easy break where a fire of about two years ago had opened the way. Quite an abundance of our scarcer grass-tree, the Richea dracophilla, was the healthiest survivor and, in conjunction with scattered Blandfordias, bloomed magnificently. Beyond this, we took the easiest route available up the rocks and this ultimately brought us to the top of the peak BK1 (3690’ - 3m. - 12.10 p.m.). [Mt. Orion]
The quartzite rock of the Arthurs holds a fascination all its own and is so different to the dolerite found outside the south-west area. We were to see enough of it here and on the Franklands to acquire a stable opinion of its characteristics. The rock is not nearly so broken as the dolerite and adopts the most fantastic shapes. Rock caverns and bridges abounded and the cliffs and gullies often produced substantial overhangs. On the weathered side of most gullies the quartzite would be smooth and holdless, whilst the lee side invariably produced a multitude of tiny handholds, steps and ledges that climbing vertically was simple and enjoyable. On the way up, we espied those two tiny wooded tarns nestling on a shelf below the adjoining peak on our right, but later we were to learn that the Western Arthurs are studded in such lakes and tarns.
The burning quest from the summit of BK1 was the highest peak of the sector or the remains of Sprent’s trigonometrical station which identified Mt. Hayes. A high peak to the southward (186 deg. mag.) certainly looked the highest and was the only peak obscured from view on the plains below. The adjoining pointed peak to our westward (29 deg. mag.) could not possibly be the highest as both the next peak along (297 deg. mag.) and the westernmost peak which culminated in a spectacular rock finger (297 deg. mag.) both rose above its sighting level. Clouds still hung around us and were still much more in evidence to the east ward. However, we obtained a fleeting glimpse of Federation (123 deg. mag.) and West Portal (110 deg. mag.) and it was obvious that no high peak existed on the range between that point and us.
Leaving BK1 at 12.48 p.m. for the peak to the southward, we descended to a connecting col. Here we discovered two nice lakes on the southern slopes of the range. The northernmost occupied a depression below the sheer southern cliffs of BK1. Its waters were black and cheerless and its shape almost square - hence our naming it "Square Lake" and the pair of lakes, the “Black Lakes”. The second lake lay about half a mile to its south-west and received its outflow. The southern slopes of the range were fairly clear with little timber, partly due to past fires.
At 1.32 p.m. we gained the summit of the southern peak - BK2 (3740’ - 3m.) [Mt. Sirius] and found it just as cold as the preceding one on that breezy, dull day. We discovered another fine lake [L. Oberon] lying at the north-eastern base of this peak - the largest lake in the sector. Here again we constructed a small cairn on the summit. The clouds permitted us a reasonable view southwards to Bathurst Harbour, Port Davey and the surrounding country, and the amount of open button grass showing amongst the hills was remarkable.
After dinner, we descended north-westward at 2.25 p.m. into the valley of the "Black Lakes", passing between the two and ascending the ridge opposite. Our objective was the second peak from the western end of the range, but we decided to deviate to the third peak from the west as it was not far off course. Gaining the summit of the latter - BK3 (3670’ - 5m. - 3.35 p.m.) [Procyon Peak] - we were satisfied that it looked lower than the two previously ascended peaks. Leaving at 4 p.m., after building another cairn, we moved towards the next peak along a double col course. The weirdness of the rock formations was nowhere more pronounced than in this area, some of the rocks adopting the most grotesque shapes.
After a steep climb, we gained the top of the second peak from the western end of the range - BK4. It culminated in a triple head, the south-western one possessing the remains of the old trig. sta., thus identifying the peak as Mt. Hayes (3668’ - 6m. - 5.20 p.m.). At last, the riddle was solved and the whereabouts of the old trig. Established! The trig. had collapsed to such an extent that its remains were hardly recognisable. It probably never was a pronounced structure and its timbered top was very rotten indeed. In spite of the lateness of the hour, we decided to re-build it to some degree. A peculiarity of quartzite rock is its unruliness in cairn construction. With dolerite you simply toss a few rocks together and they invariably stay put, but with quartzite you need to fit your rocks together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, and exhibit all the perfections of the stone-mason’s art or there is no future for your structure. A loosely built quartzite cairn will crumble under its weight whilst you build owing to the lack of grip between rocks. Thus it is understandable how Sprent’s work disintegrated and we haven’t a great deal of faith in our effort lasting many months.
From aneroid readings taken throughout the day, it is beyond question that the southernmost peak climbed is considerably higher than Mt. Hayes. The easternmost peak probably also is a little higher, although there can be little difference in altitude between the three peaks along the northern edge or the range.
By now the clouds were lifting and thinning out and we had opportunities of studying the many ranges and ridges to the north and west. Leaving Mt. Hayes at 5.45 p.m., our chances looked slim of regaining our Junction Creek camp before nightfall. We descended to the first col to the eastward and then down the gully to the N.E.. A small tarn showed out amid the greenery on the northern slopes of Mt. Hayes. In circling around the cliff-base of the adjoining neck in order to gain our clear ascent ridge, we encountered plenty of trouble both with rock and tree-growth. The route around proved much longer than expected and it was rather gloomy when we reached the first of the two Tarns we had seen on our ascent. Threading our way through the thick scrub, we gained the second tarn and, climbing the rise ahead, steered into clearer country and was nearing the top of our clear lead as darkness descended. The advent of the full moon was a real boon and greatly assisted us in our cautious descent down the uneven ridge. It was a great relief to gain the plain once more at 8.45 p.m., although we still had a couple of tree-clumps to pass through. We were fortunate in choosing a good course through both of these and thus brought our eventful day’s walk to an end as we trekked into camp at 9.45 p.m. (820’ – 10½m.). After a belated tea, we settled down for the night.
Monday, Feb. 19th. Blew in fine with some cloud and wind. Low clouds again were capping the Arthurs. We were late in rising in view of our late retirement and thus did not break camp until 10.28 a.m.. Our plan was to get back to the Franklands. We retraced our outward route back past the camp-site of our Melbourne friends (980’ – 2¼m. – 11.55 a.m.) and the forest creek (3½m. – 12.25 p.m.) to reach the group of stakes near the foot of the pass (1070’ – 4m. – 12.35 p.m.). With the assistance of the southerly breeze, the sky was clearing rapidly. Less than 2 miles out we had encountered a “25” mile peg but, as we found another “25” peg a few miles farther on, we gave it up as of any value. Near the foot of the “pass”, the track faded out, so we chose the best practical course available along the plain. We stopped for dinner at a small gum clump (1040’ – 6m. – 1.12-2.40 p.m.). After dinner, we encountered a northerly breeze and the day warmed up considerably. We lost some considerable time cooling off at a broad swimming pool on the Huon, resuming from there at 5.5 p.m.. At last we were back at the large scrubby creek (900’ – 10m. – 6.20 p.m.), from which we regained the track and made faster time. We were out to reach the next large creek which flows out of Jones Pass, the route into the Franklands, but we pulled up at a fine old camp-site in a gum thicket, well-satisfied with its camping potential (910’ – 11m. – 6.40 p.m.). We were successful in establishing a very comfortable camp before dark and enjoyed a comfortable night.
The following morning was fine and almost cloudless with a northerly breeze - our best morning yet. We were off at 8.30 a.m. heading directly for the Franklands (270 deg. mag.). Approaching the entrance to Jones Pass, we had a lively tussle with an aggressive tiger snake which fell a victim to the axe. Deciding to take him along to replenish our diminishing food stocks, we encountered yet another tiger snake just inside the pass and he met his end by rock assault. The two 4’6” tigers (Notechis scutatus) were then skun and we went on with high hopes of a sumptuous repast. Soon we crossed the valley of the pass and its large creek to reach what appeared to be the clearest climbing route to what apparently was the highest peak of the Franklands. The clear top of the ridge was easy climbing until we reached the “burn” of a couple of years' existence. Here the dead timber and scrub was matted very close together and there was much zigzagging around seeking a reasonable passage. Progress became so slow and arduous that we moved into the green again and then out into the old “burn” higher up. Then we ascended towards the rocks above, rather earlier than designed, but it meant much better going and was the best course available. From the climbing ridge we could see a fine lake reposing in the green forest at the foot of the tall peak ahead. The hot work of climbing with full packs came to an end as we breasted the crest of the Frankland Range near the north-eastern base of our peak (2670’ – 3½m. - 1.25 p.m.).
We had dinner in a cool cavern nearby, no water being available. There was some camera work, too, before we resumed packless at 2.30 p.m., as both sides of the range could be covered. The southern approach of the peak was hopeless owing to its tall cliffs, whilst the direct eastern route was barred by overhangs higher up. So we traversed around the northern slopes, seeking a practical route up. We tried a hopeful chimney on the N.W. side and such was the peculiarity of quartzite that, although the route up was very steep, it proved relatively easy owing to the abundance of hand and foot holds. Beyond the chimney, it was but a few minutes' scramble to the summit (3200’ – 4½m. - 3.25 p.m.). [Secheron Peak]
The view was very extensive from the top as the Franklands are one of the highest ranges in the vicinity. The haze of the late afternoon, plus a light film of smoke from the few still smouldering spots left by the recent big fire, affected visibility to some extent. Still, most of the familiar peaks, and many more unfamiliar, showed out well. Sweeping the skyline from High Rocky (in the north) westward, we saw in turn the Fields, Wedge, Junction Ra.(?), Thumbs, Wyld's Craig, Clear Hill, Wright, Denisons, Stepped Hill, ranges galore, Frenchman's Cap, Clytem¬naestra, Jukes (?), Wilmot Ra., highest peak of Franklands, Propstings, Giblin, Arthurs, Picton, Snell's Ridge, Scott's Peak, Weld, Anne group, Snowies, Isolation, east end of Franklands, and Bowes. Lake Pedder, with its immense sandy beaches and sand-bars protruding through the shoals, dominated the whole panorama. The fine peak of the Franklands to the west was a grand sight with its steep walled sides, but it was rather disappointing to note that it was higher than the one we occupied as time did not permit reaching it that day.
After constructing a small cairn on top, we left our peak (BK5) of the Franklands, “One Lake Peak” at 4.15 p.m. and retraced our way back down the steep rock chimney to our packs on the ridge below (2700’ – 5½m. - 5.10 p.m.). [Frankland Peak] Our original plan had been to camp on the shores of Lake Pedder but, now that we had another peak in the vicinity to climb on the morrow, we looked around for a nearer camp-site to avoid losing much altitude. We located a likely spot in a small scrubby basin below us to the north. There was a brief period of "scrub-bashing" on our descent as we encountered dense ti-tree, banksia and bauera, but we pushed through to the little sheltered clearing beyond (2030' – 6¼m. - 5.48 p.m.) and, although camp construction meant a lot of work owing to the poor ground surface, we were comfortably established by nightfall. The snake meat took so long to cook tender that we had to postpone its eating until the morning. The soup, however, was a grand brew and had chicken broth beaten to a frazzle. When we tackled the snake meat in the morning, we found the flesh not so attractive, but the least satisfactory feature was that there was so little meat on the boney frames that one would want half a dozen large snakes for a decent meal.
The sun was well up when we arose on Wednesday, Feb. 21st. from a good night's rest. The sky again was very clear. Setting off at 10.45 a.m., we ascended the slope over to our west, gradually working our way up on to a high ridge. There were some truly spectacular cliffs forming the eastern and northern walls of the peak we were assailing and, such was the set-up of the eastern wall, that we edged around it to the north, looking for a suitable lead. The rock formations around here would compare favourably with any of the wonders in our quartzite region. We soon found a promising chimney, again finding abundant steps and holds which made the steep climb quite easy. Soon we had the happy experience of standing on the highest peak of the Franklands - BK6 (3280' – 1½m. - 12.54 p.m.). [Frankland Peak]
One of the first sights which greeted us was the three small tarns on the low wooded shelf to the south – hence "Three-lake Peak”. This grand little string of lakes was visible from “One Lake Peak” (BK5) and their beauty was all the more marked by their dark green setting of virgin bush and the rugged cliffs behind. How they contrasted with Lake Pedder on the other side, its enormous expanse bordered by dull, flat plain - burnt, blackened and bare! Now, at last, we were able to gauge the full extent of the huge fire which had roared through here only six or seven weeks ago and was still smouldering in a few isolated places. In at least two or three places it had succeeded in crossing the Huon River, the smaller streams offering no real resistance to its onslaught. Fortunately, it had done little more than singe the edges of the forests, but it had made a clean sweep of most oft the button' grass and ti-tree copses in its path and many were the roasted remains of “yabbies” dotting the plains. It had covered the whole of the plain area on the eastern side of the Huon north of the Huon crossing and, after a break of little more than a mile, it had inundated a large area to the southward, centering around Condominium Creek and running up the clear slopes of the Eliza and Deception ridges. Westward of the river, it had gutted all the plain area from the Huon crossing to Isolation Mt., running right up its slopes and extending to and around Lake Pedder, away down the Serpentine, through between the Franklands and the Wilmots to the Rookery Plain and up the slopes of Mt. Giblin and the high ridge to the south. The fire appeared to be freshening in the Hermit Valley area and a large well-spread fire was burning southward of the Frenchman.
We made a magnetic check of the main features of the landscape thus:
Overhead the sky was an unbroken bowl of blue and at its zenith rode a brazen, merciless sun. It was indeed a grand spot from which to view the world around us - a world of jagged rock and harsh terrain. Even the winged “inchmen” which flew around the summit of this peak as on the others nearby, seemed in more amiable mood. We constructed our cairn and departed at 2 p.m., retracing our steps back down the chimney and then towards last night's camp. Gathering up our packs (2200' - 3m. - 2.57 p.m.) which had been dumped on the clear ridge near the camp, we descended down the burnt ridge towards Lake Pedder. We stopped for a late dinner alongside a creek on the edge of the “burn” (980’ – 4½m. - 3.40 p.m.), sheltering in the shade from the heat.
When we resumed at 4.50 p.m., a thin cloud-film was developing and the heat was tempered considerably. Reaching the lake-side near a "soak" (920' - 5m. - 5.5 p.m.), we followed the beach east-ward - a broad beach of coarse sand, in some places almost white, in others yellowish and in others a decidedly pinkish hue in conformity with the various shades of quartzite rock found in the area. At length, we reached the broad eastern beach and elected to camp on the edge of the beach at its south-eastern corner (920' – 6½m. - 5.35 p.m.). With the lake at low level, the beach was quite 500 yds. wide here. With its very fine sand, it had the appearance of a sea-beach at low tide. Ants of every conceivable size inhabited the fringe of beach. We scooped out our camp-site in the fine sand and made the tent absolutely insect proof with sand walls. As the hour was late, we experimented by sleeping on the sand without a mattress. The result was better than expected but our poorest bed of the trip. That evening the full moon, shining upon the broad expanse of lake, added a magical touch to those enchanting surroundings.
Thursday, Feb. 22nd. Presented us with a warm, calm and almost cloudless morning. With our provisions sadly diminishing, we had no recourse but to retreat homeward, being dependent upon our small Huon Crossing cache for dinner that day. At 9.17 a.m. we broke camp and, selecting a course over the broad, burnt button grass stretch running right through to the Huon, we made good progress, skirting the sides of Isolation Mt. and regaining the Port Davey Track near its forest entrance (7m. - 12.15 p.m.). With only the forest along the river bank and the small plain to negotiate, we were soon back at the Huon Crossing (950’ - 8m. - 12.40 p.m.).
Resuming after dinner at 2.15 p.m., we maintained good progress under gathering clouds, passing Sandfly Creek (980’ – 10¼m. - 3.30-35 p.m.), and the tiny creek at the base of the climb through the forest (1500' – 12½m. - 4.38-45 p.m.) to halt at our planned camp-site on top of the Bowes Pass (2200’ - 15m. - 6 p.m.), admirably poised for an early morning ascent of Mt. Bowes. A light sprinkle of rain accompanied our camp preparations. Water could not be found nearby and a long walk back along the track was necessary. Otherwise the camp presented little difficulty in making and soon we were under cover from the few light showers that fell during the night.
Peculiarly enough, next morning the sky was cloudless when we arose and
we were off to a good start at 7.43 a.m.. Descending a little way
down the track, we crossed the gully to a rock-capped ridge and found
a relatively easy route up to the top of Bowes with the aid of ‘roo
pads. Gaining the summit (2850’ - lm. - 8.25 a.m.), we found our
view curtailed by morning mists and low clouds. The clouds increased and
darkened as the moments passed. The view is quite interesting although
not extensive. It gave us some idea of the difficulties associated with
an approach to Mt. Wedge. A magnetic check of the surroundings was recorded,
At 9.3 a.m. we left Mt. Bowes and descended eastward towards where the track skirts the base of the mountain. The route down was easy and clear. Reaching the track (2m. - 9.30 a.m.), we followed the familiar route homeward, passing the creek below the old hut site (3m. - 10 a.m.), regaining the cleared track (4m. - 10.35 a.m.), passing the South Gordon turn-off (1600' - 5m. - 10.55 a.m.) and reaching Damper Inn (1400’ – 7¼m. - 11.35 a.m.).
Here we stopped for dinner and whilst there the stillness of the heavily overcast sky was shattered by terrific thunder, soon to be followed by heavy rain. We resumed our journey at 1.55 p.m. during a break in the storm, but encountered plenty of rain and thunder as we trudged along. We noticed that a few new trees had fallen across the track since we last passed. Along the high section of the route, the thunder seemed to crash only a few feet above our heads. Passing the Divide camp (1700’ – 14½m. - 4.50p.m.), we continued down the trail, surprisingly meeting a diamond snake (Denisonia superba) out on such a day. We left his skinny carcass behind! Our wet struggle with the ferns over, we entered upon more friendly country and were happy to arrive back at the car and hut (850’ – 19¼m. – 6.45 p.m.).
In the shelter of the hut we were able to discard our wet gear for something cleaner and more civilised. A grand meal was partaken that night before turning in. Next day the weather improved but fuel trouble prevented us from leaving for home until late afternoon, after a long walk to obtain petrol. However, a little misfortune of this nature had no hope of marring the high spirits which such a wonderful holiday had engendered or disturb our longing to return again and strike much further into that mysterious wonderland.
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