A MIDWINTER THRUST AT MT. PILLINGER VIA THE FORTH TRACK
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.
On Friday, June 8th. 1951, I was a member of a L.W.C. party which left Launceston per bus at 7.20 p.m. and journeyed via the Bass Highway and Sheffield to camp for the night at some road-side huts in the Forth valley above Lorinna (950' - 75m. - 12.25 a.m.).

Saturday morning broke cloudy with an occasional drizzle and we were off at 8 a.m.. Much time was wasted ere the correct turn-off for the Pelion Huts was located. The "road" turns off the metal road which continues on over the Forth River to a timber mill about a mile beyond. The "road" is unmetalled and indistinct with little recent use and leaves the metalled road about mile eastward of the bridge. It then more or less parallels the river although, at first, it swings away somewhat. After about two miles along this "road" we were obliged to halt and park the bus as a large fallen tree barred the way.

The party soon set off, the last section leaving at 9.15 a.m. (1050'). A few yards along, a new branch road inclines up hill on the left (probably an incomplete deviation) and the main road carries on with ti-tree becoming well established along the sides and centre of the "road". A substantial creek crossed the track (1m. - 9.40 a.m.) and raced down to join the Forth. This creek enters the Forth a short distance above where Hanson' s River flows in from the opposite side, forming the most north-easterly limitation of the Cradle Mt.- Lake St. Clair National Park. On the first small clearing, we passed a tiny hut on the right alongside a tiny creek (2m. - 9.55 a.m.). Another hut, but larger, with another tiny creek was passed by on the left at the next clearing (3.125m. - 10.18 a.m.). This hut is located about mile to the east of the Park boundary.

The track then retained closer contact with the river as the bush thickened and the walls of the Forth Gorge commenced to take shape. A small creek was crossed (5m. - 11.7 a.m.), followed by two larger creeks (6m. - 11.20 a.m. and 6.875m. - 11.33 a.m.), the latter being "Sardine Creek". A small creek passed by (7m. - 11.40 a.m.) and a little beyond in a dried up pool-bed on the side of the track, I found an average-sized, English trout which obviously had been dead but a short while as its nerves were still active and rigor mortis had not set in. Apparently the pool in which it had been trapped had just dried up; otherwise its presence there would be hard to explain and, even so, only a substantial flood in the Forth could have permitted it to reach the level of the pool. It proved quite edible when tackled the following morning.

After crossing another two small twin creeks (8m. - 12 noon), I stopped for dinner on the banks of the Forth (8.375m. - 12.3 p.m.). Fire-lighting was slow owing to the dampness of the scrub and dinner was punctuated by light showers. Delaying dinner in expectation of the arrival of others, I was in the early stages of eating when the various sections started filtering past from about 1 p.m., having dined back at "Sardine Creek". Thus I was last away at 1.27 p.m..

Little variation occurred in the country through which we travelled. The track was in good shape and with little effort could be re-cleared for rough motor traffic. Small creeks continued to enter the Forth on its left bank at intervals as follows:- (8m. - 1.31 p.m.), (9m. - 1.40 p.m.), (10m. - 2 p.m.), 10m. - 2.10 p.m.), and (12m. - 2.47 p.m.) and then a larger creek (12m. - 2.55 p.m.). Amidst the thick growth of a myrtle forest, the remains of an old hut appeared on the left (13m. - 3.5 p.m.). The Oakleigh Creek, easily the largest creek yet encountered, was crossed in the thick of a fine myrtle forest (13m. - 3.10 p.m.) and the forest continued along until we crossed the next creek and came into an opening where a hut and subsidiary buildings were found (1450' - 14m. - 3.25 p.m.).

This spot immediately presented itself as the opportune campsite for the night, especially as units of the strung out party would be half an hour away still. An inspection of the main two-roomed hut confirmed its habitability although the rodents, which had taken over, had made a deplorable mess. The remainder of the afternoon was spent by some of us in the shaft of the wolfram mine. It was not until evening that our true position on the map had been determined, i.e. 5 to 6 miles from the Pelion Huts.

After a wet night, during which the barometric pressure dropped steeply, Sunday broke with low mist and drizzle. Leaving the remainder to continue on to the Pelion Huts, I left at 9.18 a.m. and went back a short distance along the track beyond the creek and ascended the gorge wall to the eastward through the first reasonable thinning in the dense scrub. A short struggle up the wooded slopes was brightened soon by the entering of an extensive "burn". Following the narrow finger of this "burn" upwards, I found it broadening as I made altitude and the going improved greatly as the grade eased near the summit. As I approached the top, I changed course slightly, sidling to the left at about E.S.E. where, according to the map, Mt. Pillinger should lie. Low clouds all around gave little opportunity of seeing far although some interesting ridges across the Forth showed out well at times. When the "burn" (about three years old) terminated (11 a.m.), I carried on through an easy myrtle forest at about 3200' on a high shelf and here located a very old blazed route which seemed to be heading eastward, but it was useless trying to follow it. Crossing a few tiny creeklets and soaks which ran down to join the Oakleigh Creek, I suddenly encountered dwarfed myrtle, leatherwood, etc., shortly afterwards crossing the Oakleigh (3050' - 11.20 a.m.).

The intermittent drizzle then adopted a more steady character, making the dwarf scrub very wet to scramble through. No sign of Mt. Pillinger could be seen ahead and the two or three miles immediately before me in its direction appeared to be thickly clothed with similar dwarfed scrub. As it was necessary to return to last night's camp for the night in order to catch the bus, it was obvious that, once again, time precluded any possibility of climbing our goal within the time limit.

With such a hopeless outlook, it was useless persevering and it was not long ere I re-crossed Oakleigh Creek a few yards higher up (11.40 a.m.) on retreat from Mt. Pillinger's approaches. Soon re-entering the taller myrtles, the route homewards was almost identical with the outward one - just a few yards higher up on the ridge-top. Leaving the, grassy clearing overlooking the Forth at 12.25 p.m., the long descent to the track was soon accomplished via the "burn" and the hut regained (1450' - 1.15 p.m.). After dinner more mining operations produced a few ounces of wolfram after some laborious effort. The remainder of the party had regained the hut shortly before me, finding the track to the Pelion Huts too much overgrown to make any appreciable progress thereon.

The rain cleared overnight and a clear sky and white frost greeted us on Monday morning. All were under way by 9.35 a.m., some starting off soon after 8 a.m.. The rear element, with which I was constituted, had dinner at "Sardine Creek" (1120' - 7.375m. - 11.58 a.m. - 12.40 p.m.) and from there onwards it was a heavy grind back to the bus (1050' - 14m. - 3.35 p.m.). After getting away about 4 p.m., the party had an uneventful journey back to Launceston, reaching our destination about 9 p.m..
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