THE SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS
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For some time prior to our Christmas 1951 trip amongst Tasmania's southernmost mountains, considerable planning had been carried on by both Launceston and Hobart members of the party and air-drops of food were arranged for the Wylly - V.C. ridge, the Craycroft junction and Junction Creek. We were well-equipped with particulars of the route through the courtesy of members of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club which had pioneered the Lune River-Mt. Bobs overland route. Una had made herself familiar with the early section of the route whilst Max had been through from Lune River nearly to Pinder's Peak. Most of us were familiar with much of the Craycroft and Arthur Range country.
On Friday, Dec. 21st. at 6 p.m., Jim Turner and I left Launceston per car and reached Hobart at 8.55 p.m.. We contacted Max Cutcliffe at 9.40 p.m. at his home and camped there for the night, retiring at 10.20 p.m.. Next morning we were astir early and, after breakfast, picked up Doug. Watkins (return driver), Una Williams and Geoff Bratt, leaving Hobart at 5.55 a.m.. A fair number of clouds covered the sky and low ones around Wellington's slopes precipitated some moisture upon us as we passed.
The road deteriorated approaching Lune River and we lost some time by over-running the place from which the tram-line starts, but at length we were back at the spot in touch with Mr. Donnelly with whom arrangements had been made for transport along the tram-line from Ida Bay (150’). All aboard the quaint tram, we were away at 9.20 a.m.. The sun was breaking well through the lifting clouds now and the weather looked hopeful.
The tram-line is of steel rails and narrow gauge and proceeds for about four miles to a limestone quarry away to the westward. We used the tram for about 2½ miles to where an old wooden tram track crosses at an angle. Alighting at 9.33 a.m. (450’), we had a few “eats” before setting off at 9.48 a.m. with substantial loads down the tram track which swings sharply down to the right in a northerly direction. Beyond the base of the hill, a further wooded tram track, marked with a car number plate, intersects our line at right angles (¾m. - 10.2 a.m.) and we turned to the left along this more overgrown track which steadily deteriorates as cutting grass and bauera take control.
From the end of this track (700’ - 2m. - 10.45-55 a.m.) a blazed route carries on around the hillside until a track junction is reached at the edge of the forest (960’ – 2¾m. - 11.26 a.m.). The apparent continuation of the track leads a few yards around the hill to where a small periodical stream generally provides drinking water. At the sign “La Perouse 8 miles” a track swings uphill to the right and we resumed at 11.45 a.m. along this well blazed forest trail. The track gradually steepened until the forest was left behind on the edge of a 'scarp (1850’ – 4¼m. - 12.45 p.m.). Here sub-alpine scrub lined the route and we pushed through dwarfed myrtle, bauera, banksia, ti-tree and cutting grass, heading across a slight depression in the direction of the high country immediately ahead. A small stream trickled through the trough of the depression and here we stopped for dinner (1800’ – 4½m. - 12.57 p.m.).
The "track" apparently was non est when we resumed at 2.13 p.m.. We picked our way through the low scrub, keeping near the crest of the ridge where the course was easiest until we reached the comparatively clear ridge above. From here we inclined N.W. towards where lay Hill 1 - quite an attractive and pronounced eminence from here. Good progress was made across the favourable ridge overlooking Moonlight Flat but the weight of our packs became more noticeable as the steep climb up Hill 1 commenced. We arrived on top (3300’ – 8m. - 5.55 p.m.) in a strung out procession.
A cold north-westerly chilled us and an abundance of clouds obliterated the mountains ahead. Off again at 6 p.m. intent upon gaining the Reservoir Lakes for the night, we descended westward, climbed over the shoulder of Hill 2 nearby and descended again to the next col with Moore’s Bridge close at hand on our right and Mts. Hippopotamus and Leilateah on our left. During our ascent of Hill 3 a misunderstanding occurred and split up the party whilst awaiting Una who had stopped for a snack. Jim and I agreed to push on slowly whilst Max and Geoff awaited Una. After passing high around Hill 3 we moved along the high col joining Hill 4 and then swung down-hill towards the Reservoir Lakes showing below. Thick scopari, dwarf myrtle, etc. hampered our early descent but relief came as the scrub heightened with lower elevation and finally we emerged from easy myrtle on to open plain around the lakes. We located a satisfactory camp-site (2600’ – 10½m. - 8.5 p.m.) and had barely commenced preparations when the others arrived. Tea was a late meal and we did not retire until 11.10 p.m..
Astir at 5.40 a.m. next morning, we experienced an occasional light sprinkle over breakfasting. The sky was leaden and the cloud ceiling low as we started off southward ho! for La Perouse at 9.3 a.m.. Passing around the eastern sides of the lakes through the fringe of clearings, we ascended a low clear hill ahead and then descended to a pool-studded shelf (with three main lagoons) below. Next we descended into a valley to the southward and then up a natural pass to the top of the col which connects the Maxwell Ridge (which had occupied our right all morning) to Mt. La Perouse, still concealed behind the foothills slightly to our left.
Leaving our rucksacs on the col (3020' - 2m. - 10 a.m.), we pushed along from ridge to ridge S.E. through thickening mist, cold wind and light rain until we encountered a large square cairn - probably the largest in Tasmania - on a high broad plateau. From the top of this trigonometrical station (3800' - 3m. - 10.40 a.m.) visibility was almost nil and the cold, moist westerly soon had us sheltering on its leeward side. The highest natural point of La Perouse was quite a few yards eastward of the cairn. A couple of the boys made a fruitless trip to the eastern edge of the plateau in the hope of securing a view before we abandoned the summit at 11.5 a.m.. The retracement of our course along the ridges through the mist was accomplished without incident and, gathering up our baggage on the col (3020’ - 4m. - 11.40-47 a.m.), we climbed straight up the clear slopes of Maxwell Ridge, shouldering it near its southern summit, and then searching the western side for the connecting saddle to Pinder’s Peak.
We continued our search right along the western side to the northern extremity of the ridge where a low saddle was discovered and followed down for some distance until Max was convinced it could not be the true saddle. Ascending once more, we had not progressed far on our return along the ridge when the clouds relented a little (1.20 p.m.) and revealed the required saddle to the southward, not very far from the point where we first shouldered the ridge. We continued along and dropped down on to the narrow col, halting for dinner in its trough at the western end (2960' - 6m. - 1.52 p.m.), where a little water and shelter from the cool wind was available.
The weather seemed to be improving when we resumed at 3.18 p.m.. The clouds had lifted and broken slightly and there had been no rain since leaving La Perouse. We could see something of the route ahead around Ooze Lake and Lake Peak. After ascending the ridge ahead to the level of Ooze Lake, we sidled the northern side of the ridge via a 'roo pad lightly blazed with rock cairns through the scopari and other growth and arrived at the camp-site in the clearing on the northern shore of Ooze Lake (2360’ – 6¼m. - 3.43 p.m.). Obviously too early yet to establish camp, we pushed on at 3.55p.m., ascending the clear ridge ahead and swinging around Lake Peak near its summit. Beyond this, a high saddle joins up with Pinder’s Peak, forming part of a jagged mountain backbone running westward from Maxwell Ridge to beyond Pinder's Peak. On the left of the saddle, a small shelf below gave promise of a fair camp-site (7½m. - 4.15 p.m.), high above two small lakes in the forested valley far below.
More tiny rock cairns marked the way for a short distance along the crest of the ensuing ridge. As we made ground on the ridge leading up to Pinder's Peak, we encountered strengthening wind and thickening moist cloud. The climb steepened over the final rocks and finally we were all assembled on the cold, gloomy exposed summit of Pinder's Peak (4050' - 9m. - 5.35-45 p.m.).
Leaving the top with the object of finding a suitable camp-site somewhere along the ridge route towards Mt. Wylly, we descended S.W. along an awkward, jagged ridge with steep cliffs bordering it on either side. Exploring the ridge for some distance, we were halted by sheer drops and probed each of the gullies nearby for a possible descent route. The dense mist hampered our efforts and, when we eventually found it advisable to return, cold fingers and feet plus cumbersome packs made the ridge ascent more tricky than ever. Regaining the peak, we retraced our ascent route eastward and were obliged to retreat back almost to Lake Peak before we gained the first acceptable camp-site - the one we had passed by at 4.15 p.m. (3150' - 11m. - 7.43 p.m.). We pitched our tents on small patches of pineapple grass and were able to provide a further hot evening meal in spite of the low mist and damp surroundings. Damp clothes were removed and we retired at 10.45 p.m..
The morning of Christmas Eve provided nothing new in weather conditions. It was still fine but cool and overcast with low clouds permitting occasional glimpses of the lakes below us and the sea beyond. We made a late start at 10.5 a.m., regained the ridge and, approaching Pinder's Peak, passed around its northern slopes at about 3400' altitude through scanty low scrub. Generally, the going was fairly good and, whilst the summit of Pinder’s Peak was obscured by cloud, we realised we were around it as we swung up a natural sloping ledge to gain its elevated western col, which linked up with the series of saddles leading to Mt. Wylly (2m. - 11.10 a.m.). From here we swung N.W. along the ridge-top past the rock cairn, at first along a clear, wind-swept height, but soon dropping down into stunted scrub. Thick clouds surging through from the south-west kept visibility within narrow confines and the lower saddles and succeeding rises were not so easy to locate. With the going through the thickly packed, head-high scrub steadily deteriorating with scopari providing the most resistance, we dropped down into the first low saddle (2420’ - 3m. - 12.45 p.m.) and, after a further struggle, arrived at a tiny clearing at its northern end where a few tiny pools of water marked its trough (2410' – 3¼m. - 1.3 p.m.). As water along our ridge-top course naturally occurred infrequently as we were maintaining a watershed route, we took advantage of the small supply to have our dinner. Mt. Wylly showed out dimly to the north on one brief occasion.
Again under way at 2.25 p.m., we ascended a small, scrubby knoll to the N.W. (2500’ – 3½m. – 3 p.m.) to descend once more into a similarly low saddle with similarly trying growth (3¾m. - 3.10 p.m.). The climb up the next Knoll to the N.W. was much longer and the density of the scrub persisted, but steadily we pushed forward to gain the north-western end of the knoll (2900’ – 4¼m. - 4.0-10 p.m.). Our course still continued N.W., the cold wind still blew in from the S.W. and the cloud continued as thick as ever, but gave just sufficient visibility for us to figure out our course ahead. Gaining the trough of the next saddle (2790’ – 4½m. - 4.20 p.m.), we discovered it possessed, like its two predecessors, its tiny clearing and couple of pools but here the scrub was thinner. Beyond the top of the next knoll along the ridge (3000’ - 5m. - 4.45 p.m.), a short flat stretch provided easy going with little scrub and then the big ascent commenced up an easy grade through an abundance of pineapple grass, followed by a simple rock scramble until we checked in on the summit of Mt. Wylly (3650’ - 6m. - 5.26 p.m.).
We were rather pleased to have made such good progress but found ourselves in what was becoming a habitual predicament - on top of a mountain with camping time but a brief period away. Curiously enough, the wind had diminished as we ascended and, whilst the cloud was still thick all around us, it looked surprisingly thin above. At 5.40 p.m. we left the top and descended to the westward, seeking the saddle which linked up with Mt. Victoria Cross. Soon we located it and followed it down to the westward to where it commenced to flatten out a little. Amongst the stunted myrtle, leatherwood and scopari, we selected our camp-site within close proximity to small water soaks (3100’ – 6½m. – 6 p.m.) and the long task of making camp continued until dark. About 8 p.m. a light northerly breeze commenced and the clouds began to drop rapidly into the valleys, soon slipping right below us. Then as a grand finale, out came Mt. Wylly, its ponderous cone silhouetted just above us and soon it was joined by Pinder’s Peak, V.C., Bobs, Picton and even Federation and Anne! But this remarkable and eerie revelation lasted but a few brief moments. Dusk had intervened. At 10.l5 p.m. we retired under a star-filled sky.
A perfectly clear morning gave a fitting introduction to Christmas Day. The sun shone brightly, not a cloud marred the sky, wind was absent and a little mist nestled in a few of the valleys. Our camp supplied a fine view of the sea coast, Mts. Wylly, V.C. (a very fine mountain indeed), Bobs, Federation, Anne, Weld, Picton and the Snowies but, naturally, this was but a fraction of what the surrounding peaks must be able to reveal. We were away to a reasonable start at 7.15 a.m., swinging along the crest of the ridge leading westward. Where the junction of the main ridge to V.C. with the low ridges leading to Precipitous Bluff occurs, we halted (½m. - 7.30 a.m.) whilst the Hobartians swung northwards towards V.C. in search of the two bags containing our Xmas. food rations.
Precipitous Bluff, which had been hidden from view at our camp by a small ridge rise was a truly grand spectacle to the westward - a grand, rugged bulk of Dolerite rising to a great height above comparatively low country. When the others returned in possession of their booty, we decided to amend our schedule and attempt a one-day, out-and-home packless attempt at Precipitous Bluff instead of making camp at its base. The valley mists were evaporating fast and glorious views of the Arthurs and more distant mountains had added to the panorama as we set off in warm sunshine at 8.8 a.m..
Descending the ridge-side westward through the ever-present prickly scopari, we headed for and ascended a thickly-scrubbed knoll in the direction of our goal. From the top of the knoll (1¼m. - 8.40-47 a.m.), we swung down to the right through more thick scrub and had a drink in a small semi-clear area in the ti-tree on a low saddle below. After this, we zigzagged around a little through the path of least resistance in the tangle of ti-tree, cutting grass, bauera, leatherwood, scopari and the like, trying to pick the best possible course towards the ridge ahead. A gradual descent brought us to a fair creek (2430’ - 2m. - 9.45-50 a.m.), after which we ascended through moderate scrub to the ridge-top (2750’ – 2¼m. - 10.7-18 a.m.). Our course then turned S.E. and, for a while, remained unexpectedly difficult but improved to clear, open country as we progressed down the ridge. It became scrubby again at the foot and across the low saddle leading under the Walls of Precipitous Bluff. Our intention had been to ascend the mountain via the creek gully but, as we encountered the rock wall further south owing to a deviation made to avail ourselves of a clearer scrub course, we decided upon a direct route above. The early climb was steep but ample holds made progress simple. Further up, the grade tapered and its ease was marred only by the scorching heat to which we had not been treated previously during the trip.
Swinging up on to the summit of Precipitous Bluff (3800’ - 4m.
- 12.2 p.m.), a breath-taking panorama encircled us. No finer Christmas
present could possibly delight the soul of a true mountain lover than
this and it was well worthy of the battle with mist and scrub that had
preceded it. Not only were we able to examine the unusual and tortuous
route over which we had pursued our outward course but the intricacies
of the route ahead, particularly between Mts. Bisdee and Bobs, could be
studied. The peak fell away in steep cliffs on all sides and the view
down to the New River Lagoon and its encircling forest far beneath us
was superb. Pinder’s Peak looked magnificent from here and Victoria
Cross was little inferior. Many of our old friends to the north the Arthurs,
Anne group, etc. - looked as grand as ever from this new angle. A magnetic
check on the points visible revealed:
We postponed dinner owing to the absence of water on top so, after a good look around, some photography, etc., we left the summit of Precipitous at 1.4 p.m. and moved down into the creek gully where a fine pencil pine patch provided some shady relief for dinner (2400’ – 4½m. - 1.15 p.m.). At 2.20 p.m. we continued down the gully to the base of the mountain and then more or less retraced our outward course. We crossed the creek under the low saddle somewhat higher up (2550’ – 6¾m. - 4.14-45 p.m.), enjoying a well-earned rest. Swinging back on to our outward route near the scopari-covered knoll, we toiled up the steep slope to gain the high ridge linking V.C. and Wylly. Selecting a camp-site near where we had dumped most of our gear (3150’ - 8m. - 6.8 p.m.) and only about ½ mile distant from last night’s camp, the usual preparation began.
That night we had a feast well in keeping with the festive occasion from the contents of our Christmas air-drop which was secured early in the day. Our spirits were very high, too. We were one day up on our prepared schedule due to the day's accomplishment and the weather gave fair promise for the morrow. With our first taste of heat and its resultant slowing up plus the extra time taken for sightseeing and photography, we realised that our early good progress had been abetted substantially by the cool and cloudy weather. Adverse reports had influenced us in allowing two days for the journey to and from Precipitous, but we had found it quite an easy day trip.
An increasing S.W. wind produced a few clouds towards nightfall and light rain fell overnight but Boxing Day dawned fine although a number of low clouds still hung around. Soon after 6 a.m. we arose but did not start off until 8.45 a.m.. Our course was along the clear high ridge towards Mt. Victoria Cross, but a short distance ahead to the N.E. and a most attractive peak indeed. From the base of V.C., we swung around to the east below a broad "amphitheatre" and thence up its eastern lip to the summit, following the ridge-top northward until the highest peak was gained (3700’ – 1½m. - 9.43 p.m.).
Low clouds had a slightly adverse effect on both photography and sightseeing, yet most peaks and points of interest were visible. Precipitous Bluff looked most spectacular beyond the deep valley to the westward. To the eastward and southward the valley of the Picton lay far below us with an array of peaks and ridges bringing up the skyline, including the ragged form of Pinder’s Peak. The northern view was clouded but many of the peaks, including Federation itself, showed clearly. Altogether it was a grand view - almost equaling yesterday's superb treat from Precipitous.
After adorning the top with a rock cairn, we resumed at 10.30 a.m. and followed the ragged ridge of V.C. northwards, slowly losing altitude. Although by no means indispensable, we found the short rope we had included in our air-drop very useful, making a short abseil eastward to gain an easy slope and, later, another short abseil on the western side to reach the base of the rocks. From here a gradual open descent led down to the ridge linking up with Mt. Bisdee. The early section of the ridge provided patchy going - dwarfed myrtles, scopari, etc. broken by clear leads - but the scrub became very thick as we approached the trough of the saddle. After a prolonged skirmish with this tantalising growth, where one had to crouch and wriggle on hands and knees and sometimes flat on our stomachs, our ignominious approach was relieved considerably when we essayed dropping over the western lip of the ridge, partly to seek a clearer passage and partly to locate water for lunch. Just below the ridge-top, the tree-growth increased and permitted freer movement-but, almost immediately, we were able to call a halt just below the saddle’s trough where a tiny soak provided just enough water to moisten our mouths (2500' - 4m. - 1.30 p.m.).
A good well-earned rest followed dinner and it was 3.25 p.m. ere we resumed, pushing up to the saddle again. The scopari and densely woven scrub remained as bad as ever. A more solid and unyielding mass of vegetation it would be hard to find. Our first respite came when we entered a tiny clearing on the ridge where the M.U.M.C. party of last year had made a camp. We rested here a while on the pineapple grass (2750' – 4½m. - 4.30 55 p.m.), enjoying our first water soak since dinner and obtaining some heartening comfort from the knowledge that we had covered already that day as much ground as had been won in two whole days by our predecessors. Beyond the small clearing the scrub closed in on us once more as we slowly gained ground on the slopes of Mt. Bisdee. At long last pineapple grass and clear rock was secured and the remainder of the ascent route to Bisdee was delightfully easy.
From the top of Mt. Bisdee (3300’ – 5¼m. - 5.43 p.m.) a very extensive view was available with little cloud but some haze. Probably the most interesting portion of the view was that directly ahead towards the Bobs group, as it was through the intervening jungle, so reputedly difficult, that we must fight our way out to the Craycroft Valley. The early section along the “divide” below us did not look so bad as clear spaces showed through the timber. Beyond it looked less hospitable, although receding ground and haze obscured the view. On the rise at the rear, Mt. Bobs East and West and the smaller wooded eminences to their sou’-westward – Bobs Knobs (1 South, 2 South and 3 South) showed plainly but we could gain little comfort by considering a traverse of this long string of ups and downs. However, it was decided to postpone any definite plan of route beyond the trough of the New River – Picton River watershed until we made closer contact with that area. Precipitous Bluff, Mt. V.C., Federation Peak, Adamson’s Peak and Pinder’s Peak all showed out to advantage in a wide panorama which varied little from that seen from our last two higher vantage points.
At 6.10 p.m. we left and moved over the mountain in the direction of Mt. Bobs, selecting from the last exposed rock outcrop a probable camp-site - a pineapple grass clearing on a shelf below. Soon we were struggling through more thick, dwarfed scrub about 10’ high on Bisdee’s slopes. Fortunately, the distance to the shelf was not far and we pushed down to the clearing by 6.45 p.m., dumped our packs and commenced searching for water. A search downhill in the vicinity of the clear lead was unproductive and an intensive search then was conducted uphill where, when the position began to look hopeless, we located an excellent little stream running eastward near the eastern end of the clearing (7 p.m.). Our gear soon was moved up to the vicinity of the water supply and we were able to choose excellent camp-sites on patches of springy pineapple grass (2800’ – 7.10 p.m.). The clouds rapidly dispersed towards nightfall, and the view from the camp was delightful. The night was calm and mild as we retired at 10.15 p.m.
We arose late on Thursday morning to find the sun well established in a cloudless sky. Clothes repairs and hot sun inertia delayed our departure until 11.15 a.m.. We descended through mixed scrub to a clearing at the foot of Bisdee (¼m. - 11.35 a.m.) and then pursued a course direct for Mt. Bobs through the clear going. Ti-tree, however, soon closed in on all sides and then bad mixed scrub took over. Pandanni was the predominant constituent of this dense tangle and grew little more than head high, branching near the top. For about an hour we maintained our course on 320 deg. mag. and then swung to 350 deg. mag. as the scrub improved slightly. Reaching a small valley clearing where a water soak existed (2070’ – 2m. - 2.10 p.m.), we boiled the billies for dinner and studied our maps and notes.
The sky remained cloudless but a refreshing breeze could be felt at times. Resuming at 3.56 p.m. on a course of 330 deg. mag. we soon encountered more thick, mixed scrub which, at times, proved particularly difficult Soon after 5 p.m., our course was altered to 300 deg. mag. and we gained the edge of a substantial escarpment running east-west (3m. - 5.20-35 p.m.). From here we secured a good view northwards and were able to log the magnetic readings of the key points ahead: Bobs Knob 3 South, 304¼; Mt. Bobs West 323. The sun was still warm and the sky cloudless.
Resuming down the steep side of the t scarp through easy myrtle and horizontal, we gained the bottom at 5.50 p.m.. Changing our course to 321 deg. mag. towards what appeared to be the trough of the watershed still a long way ahead, our way led through relatively good bush amidst trees which now grew to 40’ – 50’ in height. We looked around hopefully for the creek reported to exist near here by the M.U.M.C. party and reached a small running stream at 6.14 p.m.. Although the direction and position is comparable with the M.U.M.C. report, the size of the stream was much smaller, but we agreed not to ignore it and take the risk of finding a larger creek a little farther on - a wise decision as the following morning proved. We spent some little time searching for a suitable camp-site and at length retreated a short distance back to the narrow clear leads amidst the paper barks (1910’ – 3½m. - 6.40 p.m.).
We succeeded in establishing another very comfortable camp, mainly due to the bountiful pandannis. Jim’s water bucket was proving its worth at this and other sites a little removed from the water supply. We were avoiding the water shortages and dry camps experienced by our M.U.M.C. predecessors by making our midday breaks and evening camps harmonise with the small quantities of water discovered and by carrying less gear and maintaining a considerably faster pace. The sky remained cloudless and the evening mild as we retired at 10.10 p.m..
Friday, Dec. 28th. rolled in with low cloud, light drizzle and a fallen barometer but the pressure was rising again and the cloud thinning as we started off at 9.5 a.m.. Our course was set at 310 deg. mag. and led through variable growth – not quite as bad as yesterday’s worst but quite bad enough – interspersed by a few bauera-ti-tree “openings”. Taking our first spell on a gradual rise (2030’ – ½m. – 10.0-7 a.m.), we continued to rise gradually, passing over some M>U>M>C> tracks at 11 a.m.. Near the top of the rise, a trickle of water dictated a further break (1m. – 11.15-25 a.m.). The limitations on the view occasioned by the jungle was broken as we breasted the edge of a further substantial ‘scarp (2020’ – 1½m. – 11.37 a.m.), again running east and west, although not so pronounced an escarpment as that of yesterday.
Tree-top reconnaissance indicated our best course at 330 deg. mag. towards what appeared to be the trough of the New River Picton River watershed, only about ¾ mile ahead. Dead timber showed out in that vicinity and the ensuing route looked clearer on a 310 deg. mag. Course. Low clouds obscured Mt. Bobs and its southern “Knobs” from view but, after we resumed at midday, they swung into view on our short, steep descent. We checked our bearings as Mt. Bobs West, 325 deg.; Bobs Knob 1 South, 321; Bobs Knob 2 South, 313. The bearings indicated we had just passed a M.U.M.C. camp-site by on the ‘scarp edge, a little to our left.
Beyond this ‘scarp the jungle thickened end our progress was slow as we struggled forward on 330 deg. mag.. This course gradually forced us on to the edge of the New River ‘scarp and here we battled incessantly with fallen timber, horizontal, an erratic terrain and dense underscrub. We stopped for lunch along this north-south escarpment (1770’ - 2m. - 1.35 p.m.) – our first “dry” lunch spot. The westerly wind was strengthening now and the clouds were more broken. The rain seemed to be holding off and the sun broke through at intervals. At 2.40 p.m. we continued steadily onwards on 330 deg. mag. through very trying scrub - thick and rotten - and still hampered by terrain erratics. Our next spell was in a small ti-tree-bauera patch on the gradual descent to the watershed trough (1520’ – 2¾m. – 5.25-40 p.m.). A five minutes’ walk then brought us to the first running water for the day – a tiny 6” wide westerly running stream. Although a little early, we decided to camp here as the prospects of finding more water in the next hour or so seemed rather dubious and, anyway, an early camp could mean an early morning start we argued. Later we discovered that the stream soon slid underground, so we were lucky to encounter it on its open course. Shifting back uphill to the south, we selected a camp-site amongst the paper-barks, bauera and macquarie vine (1470’ - 3m. - 6.10 p.m.), where once again pandanni leaves contributed to a grand springy mattress. A tree-top furnished us with a view ahead where rising ground was close at hand and the watershed trough appeared to be but a few hundred yards away. It now seemed fairly certain that a direct approach to Bobs Knob 1 South and then around its high shoulder to Mt. Bobs West was our best course. A magnetic check resulted: Mt. Bobs West, 325½; Bobs Knob 1 South, 320; Bobs Knob 2 South, 307; Bobs Knob 3 South, 227. The wind continued from the west whilst the clouds rose towards evening and were more broken. At 9.20 p.m. we retired.
After a light shower during the night, Saturday presented a fine morning with an overcast but high ceiling. Away at 9 a.m., we descended slightly to the creek gully and rose just as gradually beyond through ti-tree, cutting grass, etc.. There was an early delay for boot repairs (1460’ - ¼m. 9.50-10.15 a.m.) and soon the rise we were on began to steepen (obviously the vicinity of the creek gully must be the trough). We were just beginning to settle down to steady progress when Jim’s other boot caused a further delay (1580’ – ½m. – 11.0-20 a.m.). Pushing along through slightly improving going, we reached the summit of the rise, emerging into semi-clear ti-tree, fern and an odd root of button grass (the first we had seen for many days)! At a couple of tiny pools we lingered awhile (1640’ – ¾m. – 11.52-12.30 p.m.), climbing a nearby tree to view the course ahead and photograph the Knobs. The compass here recorded their positions as: 1 South, 323 deg.; 2 South, 310; 3 South, 272. We were maintaining fairly good direction for 1 South and our latest inspection suggested that 1 South should be shouldered half-way up on the eastern side.
The sun shining through broken clouds as we resumed through the small clearing and returned to the mossy jungle beyond. The terrain now sloped eastward and we were well below the water-shed within the Picton River catchment area. We descended a little and stopped for dinner at some running water in the forest (1600’ – 1¼m. - 1.10 p.m.). The forest was heightening a little with a solid mixture of horizontal, ti-tree, pandanni and the like.
Resuming at 2.25 p.m., we made good progress through mossy forest of varying density. After our first afternoon rest (1760’ - 2m. - 3.45-4.2 p.m.), a steady improvement in the jungle became more evident. We steadily made height but the forest and the ridge top on our left prevented a view of the Knobs during the whole afternoon except for a glimpse of Bobs Knob 3 South and Bobs East about 5.30 p.m.. At 6.10 p.m. we reached a substantial stream flowing through a gully from the direction of Bobs Knob 2 South en route to the Picton (2100’ – 3½m.). Here we cut out our camp-sites on two small flat spots on the southern bank and again pandannis furnished an excellent mattress. The forest around here was fast assuming those favourable characteristics associated with the myrtles and sassafras which now were coming into their own in company with some very fine King Billy pines, 40’ high and 2’ in diameter. The clouds had been few throughout the day, but the higher trees overhead had kept the heat of the sun at bay. Retiring time was 10.15 p.m..
On Sunday, Dec. 30th, we were late in rising to discover a dull, somber sky overhead. Light rain was falling as we set off at 10.15 a.m. on the same magnetic course of 323 degrees. Very shortly we breasted the top of the rise (2250’ – ¼m. - 10.30 a.m.) and Bobs Knob 1 South came into view but a short distance directly ahead. A tree-top reconnaissance persuaded us to change our course to 340 deg. mag. so as to shoulder the Knob about half way up on its eastern slope. Resuming at 10.43 a.m. we made a slight descent towards the base of this substantial Knob and then the uphill climb commenced. A fairly clear King Billy-myrtle forest, broken with horizontal, sassafras, pandanni, etc., permitted reasonable progress although large fallen trees often formed awkward barriers.
Reaching what was approximately the half-way mark up the side of the Knob, we retained that altitude as we swung around towards the northern side. In the damp, gloomy forest visibility was curtailed although Mt. Bobs was often in view and sometimes the summit of our Knob 1 South. We reached the trough of the high saddle joining the Knob to Mt. Bobs West somewhat unexpectedly (2580’ – 1½m. - 12.15 p.m.) and embarked upon a direct ascent up the steep slopes of Mt. Bobs itself. The course was quite clear through low myrtles and the ground and rock was carpeted thickly with moist mosses. Never before have I seen moss growing in such abundance as through the scrub and forest encountered between Mts. Bisdee and Bobs, but now we were seeing it at its zenith, our feet often disturbing great chunks as we strove for holds up the steepening slope.
Nearing the top, scopari and dwarf myrtle hampered our progress and we gained the plateau (2m. – 1.10 p.m.) just as the rain commenced in earnest. The southern end of the plateau was rather scrubby and there were several obstacles to surmount early but, as we pressed northward, gradually gaining higher ground, open leads appeared. A strong westerly wind drove an endless stream of clouds across the plateau, making visibility very poor. Passing from summit to summit, we traversed each ensuing rise in an endeavour to gauge the mountain’s highest point. Further north-ward the long plateau widened into an extensive scrubless moor. After examining several of the higher rises, at length we chose an elevated point in the middle of the northern plateau on which to erect a small cairn (3600’ - 4m. - 3 p.m.). It is possible, however, that a point we had traversed a little earlier may have been higher but restricted visibility leaves uncertainty.
Our early plan had been to dine on Mt. Bobs’ summit, but the worsening storm urged us to press on further if only to maintain some degree of warmth in our shivering frames. Descending directly towards the Craycroft Valley, we paused for a very few moments below the lip of the plateau and re-fuelled with raisins and chocolate before wrestling with the low myrtle and scopari .ahead. Soon we were in the midst of a fine mixed forest of myrtle, gum and sassafras and progress down the steep mountain-side was easy. At this stage Max discovered his watch had been dropped and it was agreed that he search back a short distance in the slender hope of recovering it whilst the others pushed on towards the West Craycroft tent. Progress remained easy until the slope flattened out near the base and here ti-tree, dogwood, cutting grass and bauera once more impeded us. The scrub battle over at last, we crossed the South Craycroft (5¾m. - 5 p.m.) - here quite at small stream - and emerged upon more or less open button grass on its western bank.
How we had longed for that moment to leave the monotonous forest behind, but this new surface failed to realise expectations as the button was in a healthy state and accompanied by dwarf ti-tree. The strong head wind and cold rain gave no indication of abatement and it became a serious problem to regain bodily warmth inside our saturated clothes. The button grass thinned as we entered the section which had been razed by the big fire of 1947. Crossing several streams rollicking down from the high hills on our left and ever looking back for a glimpse of Max, we pressed on and on in the gathering gloom of an early nightfall with low nimbus clouds well entrenched on the slopes of the encompassing hills. The walk down the plains was unexpectedly lengthy and we were happy indeed when we gained the shelter of the large tent on the bank of the West Craycroft (1010’ – 9½m. - 7.50 p.m.), followed a short while later by Max, watch and all!
This large heavy tent, which had been set up here on my previous trip to the area in Oct. 1949, was still in fairly habitable condition and its value would be hard to estimate as we arrived in pouring rain at nightfall well nigh frozen. A fire was out of the question and the predominant thought was to be rid of those saturated garments and curled up in the sleeping bag. A cold tea then slowly re-kindled warmth within our bodies aided by what few dry clothes we could muster and, whilst the rain and wind continued in unabated fury, we secured a fair night’s rest.
The morning of New Year's Eve was breezy and showery. During the first reasonable break in the weather we kindled a fire for breakfast and gathered in our air-dropped supplies from across the flooded stream. A slight improvement in the weather induced the remainder of the party to set out to climb Mt. Hopetoun in the afternoon, whilst I remained behind to dry out the large quantity of wet gear, mattress the tent, prepare tea, and whatever else time permitted. The Hopetoun party returned late in the afternoon and some of the new food was sorted before we retired to the big tent for a comfortable night’s repose.
New Year's Day dawned unpromisingly with light rain which increased steadily as the morning progressed. The river was rising rapidly and our early inclination to push on regardless soon melted before the battery of fresh downpours. The final assortment of gear was completed early and, as conditions improved during the late afternoon we reconnoitered both up and down stream in search of log crossings over the swollen torrent. Finally, we selected a tree branch crossing a little above the Craycroft junction but it was too late then to make a start worth while that day. The barometer had behaved rather fickle throughout our enforced stay. It had risen slightly on New Year’s Eve but fell again overnight and a slight rise in the late morning of New Year's Day failed to continue. Showers and wind were still in evidence when we turned in about 7.30 p.m., although the river was falling.
Showers were still with us on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 2nd.. We had a fire blazing early but rain soon confined us to the tent again. The barometer had fallen again overnight but rose a little once more as the morning advanced. Blue sky and sunshine at times showed through rifts in the storm clouds but heavy showers persisted and the river was running high. At length we were on our way at 11.50 a.m. but lost 50 min. in crossing the West Craycroft. Our chosen log crossing collapsed when attempted and the alternative tree-top crossing proved tedious and laborious.
With Hanging Lake and Federation Peak our immediate objectives, we planned to establish camp that night somewhere near the watershed overlooking Lake Geeves. Soon after crossing the river, I tripped and staked my leg with the stubbed stem of a small burned off ti-tree. Upon resuming after the accident, I covered quite a few yards before the increasing pain drew my attention to portion of the stem still protruding through my gaiter. After removing it, an initial inspection revealed a deep wound but, as I had dropped back a couple of hundred yards behind the others, the immediate desire was to retrieve my leeway. A slight limp, which developed immediately, made such an undertaking dubious but we were reunited near the end of the button grass approaching the West Craycroft re-crossing when the others had halted for chocolate.
From that stage onwards I was a dejected passenger, invariably tailing the field. Passing the paper-bark camp (1150’ 3¼m. - 2.30 p.m.), the normal route up the valley was followed and we stopped for lunch at the next camp-site (1220’ - 5m. - 3.40-4.10 p.m.) on the north bank of the stream a short distance above the western branch confluence. Beyond this camp-site a narrow track had been cut only the previous year and, re-crossing the stream, we passed by another camp-site and followed .the southern bank upstream. After about half a mile we lost the track and vainly zigzagged on both sides of the creek seeking to regain it. The growth around the creek was very thick - horizontal and other scrub forming dense obstacles. Finally, we crossed to the north side and sought a camp-site on the ridge-top between the stream and an affluent. Suitable camp-sites did not exist but, with darkness approaching, we made do with the best available (1700’ – 7½m. - 7.55 p.m.). Much cutting had to be done before we set up our poorest camp yet although the still present pandannis afforded a good mattress. Water, however, was absent - the dense forest and the slippery hill-side making an approach to the creek for water most uninviting - and our first “dry camp” resulted. Little rain had fallen throughout the afternoon and the weather appeared to be clearing. Nevertheless our clothes were fairly wet from scrub contact. We retired at 11.10 p.m..
The night was fine and the following morning presented us with broken cloud. After a late arising, the condition of my worsening leg made it impracticable for me to continue. This meant further delay whilst we split up our supplies accordingly. In any case, I was obliged to leave the party after another couple of days so no serious reorganising was necessary. Our reluctant parting occurred at 11.5 a.m. when the others left to push on towards the saddle ahead and down to Lake Geeves. Ten minutes later I set off on my lone return to Geeveston. I followed the ridge eastward through the best leads available in the tangled forest and, swinging over to the right, descended to the stream at a point lower down than where we had last crossed it yesterday. Continuing down-stream through a broadening gully, I located the track on the north side (1¼m. - 12.45 p.m.) just above where it crosses the stream at the point where we had lost it. Obviously the track led up the gully swinging away on the northern side and through which a branch stream flowed.
The track lent much relief to the injured leg and reasonable progress followed down to the upper camp amidst the paper-barks (1230’ – 2¼m. – 1.25 p.m.). Here I indulged in the luxury of a cooked dinner and a leg bath. The quietude of solo walking has its compensations as well as its defects. A native cat slinked by displaying a beautiful black coat with white spots. Its timidity shortly allayed, it returned, and took stock of its visitor at close quarters for some time but ultimately vanished when I had to move about camp. The day was somewhat cloudy but the sun was quite warm at times. The presence of mosquitoes made the camp less attractive.
Resuming at 3.10 p.m., I crossed the creek immediately to pass the next camp at 3.13 p.m. and continue down-stream for a good quarter of a mile before swinging across to the ti-tree - button grass section, encountering same about its best point. The east branch of the West Craycroft was crossed (3¼m. - 4.10 p.m.) as heavy cloud rolled in from the west. Retracing the normal blazed route along the plain and river bank, I re-crossed the West Craycroft (4¾m. - 5.20 p.m.) and was obliged to rest the legs for a while on the open plain beyond (5¼m. - 5.45-6 p.m.).
The remainder of the journey back to the night’s objective, the West Craycroft tent, was coloured by the problems of whether the leg would hold out long enough and a crossing could be effected in time to defeat benightment. Nearing the camp I detoured closer in to the river and located a possible dry crossing where a broad jump from the high river bank on to some rocks below would clear the main stream where it hurtled through the rapids. Slinging the pack over first, I followed, making a successful landing although both legs received a severe jarring. Thus at 6.55 p.m. I was across and a little more than a quarter mile above the camp at the second serpentine. Continuing onwards, I soon gained the camp (1010’ – 6¾m. - 7.5 p.m.) more or less dead beat with both legs troublesome. The reasonable time within which I had made the journey was due much more to finding an excellent course throughout the whole day rather than the speed I was able to summon.
The river had fallen approximately a foot since I had previously seen it. The sky was overcast and the air still. Dinner over, clothes had to be dried and feet bathed before I retired to the tent at 10.20 p.m. with many stars showing out overhead.
The barometer fell substantially overnight and Friday, Jan. 4th. appeared with increasing wind, broken cloud and early rain imminent. My injured leg was very swollen and painful and seemed certain to give trouble. I bathed it well, breakfasted and was away at 8.55 a.m.. Crossing the South Craycroft (1000' – ¼m. 9.10 a.m.), I learned that both streams were now down about two feet on the recent flood level. Mist and rain descended upon me soon after I passed the knoll on Wilsmicro Lead and low, black clouds were swarming over all the surrounding mountains. Thick cloud-mist enveloped Burgess Bluff and visibility was down to about 20 yds.. Passing high over Burgess Bluff, the saddle between that eminence and Anderson Bluff was gained (2¾m. - 11.35 a.m.) but the location of the summit of Anderson Bluff had its difficulties but at length was secured (3¼m. - 12.5-10 p.m.).
As I had not intended returning by this route I had not come prepared with compass directions recorded on previous trips and, consequently, navigation was by memory and guess work. Wet through and chilled in short time, I persevered across the high plateau probing around for the rock cairns adjacent to Abrotanella Rise. Soon after locating them, I encountered fresh trouble when descending north-west seeking the col linking up with Mt. Chapman. Ere long I was in unfamiliar country with a steepening descent. Logic dictated an immediate camp and to “stay put” until the thick mist lifted and for once I chose such a course. Locating a convenient patch of pineapple grass in a sheltered recess, I rushed the 1-man tent into position, discarded my wet clobber and sought sanctuary within the heavenly folds of my sleeping bag.
Light wind, light rain and thick mist continued throughout the day. Biscuits and spread were partaken and rain-water dripping from the tent was collected for drinking. The night was cold although little rain fell. Daybreak revealed that the heavy mist was still with me and visibility almost nil. At 6.30 a.m. a strong gust of wind lifted the mist a little, revealing Mt. Chapman not far to the north and a section of the South Pictons. Checking course on the compass, I hastened into my wet clothes, packed up and was away at 7.5 a.m..
The rift in the mist still held although possessive of an element of precocity. A short diagonal ascent soon restored me to the true course and I limped along as fast as possible in order to take full advantage of the improved conditions whilst they lasted. Failure to be able to bathe the leg overnight probably tended to increase its stiffness and the swelling was a little worse.
The cloud-ceiling still just cleared the South Pictons as I located the Low Saddle and halted for chocolate at the Low Saddle camp-site (2620’ – 2½m. - 8.38-50 a.m.). The fair wind maintained reasonable visibility as I pushed on to Hewardia Ridge, the Arthurs showing out at times. The leg still behaved uncertainly and on the down-hill stretches its instability was most pronounced. The Hewardia rock cairn acquired (3140' – 5¼m. - 9.50-10.0 a.m.), I soon traversed the highest section of the route with visibility still continuing fair. The Arthurs and other western mountains now were clear of clouds although Mt. Anne and some other peaks of the north remained submerged in vapour. The strengthening wind was driving breaks in the massive ceiling but little could be seen of the sun. Passing North Plain Creek (6½m. - 10.30 a.m.), I pressed on to take a short rest at the two twin streams in the next valley (2700’ – 7½m. – 10.55-11.0 a.m.), resuming in a light, misty shower.
Dinner was partaken at the Clearwater Creek camp (2550’ - 9m. - 11.58-1.45 p.m.), where a cooked meal was necessary as little ready cooked food remained. Rain again threatened to interfere and low clouds surged around Picton’s peak. After dinner the leg relished a good bathing and, upon resumption, behaved so well that I formulated plans and hopes for journeying beyond Blake's Hut. An unexpected surprise awaited me in the immense improvement made by the H.W.C. to the route ahead. Car number plates, signs, and all manner of blazings adorned the route through the old “burn” where flagitious cutting grass had sprung up, and the myrtle forest, accounting for good progress down to “Red Rag ‘Scarp” (9¾m. - 2.15 p.m.). Below this, the route was not so pronounced and a couple of weak patches curtailed progress. From the top of Blake’s Opening (10¾m. - 3.10 p.m.) the route down had been staked all the way along the best available course and soon I reached the bottom (3.48 p.m.) and then Blake's Hut (400’ – 12½m. - 3.52 p.m.).
The weather looked much less formidable from this low elevation although the sky remained mostly overcast and the breeze was strong. Although I felt in need of a good rest, the plan to attempt to gain the Picton Hut for the night and catch the 3.30. p.m. bus from Geeveston on the morrow had greater appeal. Thus at 4.5 p.m. I was afoot again down the Huon Track, passing Big Creek (14m. - 4.45 p.m.) and soon tasting the discomfiture of track obstacles. Several large trees had collapsed across the track at intervals but the more persistent obstacle was the large amount of scrub (dogwood, etc.) which had fallen across the track in the dogwood thickets. With an unusually heavy pack for so late on a trip (to which wet clothes and tent contributed substantially), the wriggling under all these barriers, or over them as the case may be, exacted a severe toll from the already over-taxed, unsound legs and it was not long before the vision of reaching the Picton Hut that night began to fade. The section along to the "Shaw camp" (16½m. - 6 p.m.) was punctuated with some indispensable rests and still the going remained tough until the bracken and button grass stretches were neared. Hope brightened as I mounted the Picton suspension bridge (240’ – 18m. - 7 p.m.) and, although minor scrub obstacles still spanned the path, the long hard struggle had its reward as I gained the Picton Hut in the twilight (260’ – 19½m. – 7.33 p.m.).
It was very heartening to observe the way the leg had withstood the heavy strain of what would have been quite a good day’s trek for one in sound condition. A well-cooked tea, drying of clothes and a bath in the tin dish occupied the evening and I retired at 10.30 p.m. to be entertained by a visit from some rats.
The warm night presaged a fine but cloudy morning and I was astir soon after 6 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6th., hobbling around with difficulty upon a very swollen ankle. Another long bathe seemed to ease the stiffness. I lightened the pack by jettisoning my derelict blazer and jute "waistcoat" and a few other oddments and had high hopes of catching the 3.30 p.m. bus from Geeveston as I sallied forth at 9.20 a.m. - much later than I had contemplated. I explored the two strongest 'roo pads behind the hut to ascertain if they had any connection with the Geeveston forestry track but was out of luck. Returning to the hut (½m. - 9.34 a.m.), I went back along the track towards the Picton River but, again, encountered a further set-back by missing the turn-off (which is well-concealed from this approach) and following through to the Picton (2m. – 10 a.m.). Returning to the turn-off (2¾m. - 10.20 a.m.), the possibility of catching the bus looked somewhat hopeless with about 13 miles yet to cover. However, I pushed on as fast as possible along the overgrowing track. Fallen trees and shrubbery added to the hard toil on the long climb up Bog Hill where mud also gave trouble. The incessant jar on the ensuing steep descent had an adverse effect upon my leg and it was with great relief that I was able to rest it during a quick dinner at Deep Creek (7¼m. – 12.24 -57 p.m.).
The new forestry road had been extended to here and hope gleamed brightly as a truck pulled in but it soon dimmed as it was evident they intended picnicking for the day. Using the shorter cut along the old track which appeared to be falling into disuse, I swung into a good pace to gain the Arve River (8½m. – 1.20 p.m.). The next mile provided a solid climb up the jeep track which appeared to possess new branches farther afield. The end of the jeep track seemed slow in coming and the up-hill going on a warm day sapped much of the after-dinner initiative. At length, I reached the old hut which marked the end of the jeep track and the start of the old road (10¼m. – 2.5 p.m.).
With 5¼ miles to go and less than 1½ hours remaining, prospects of catching the bus looked hopeless but I carried on hoping that a left might be forthcoming. Reaching the forestry road turn-off (11¼m. – 2.27 p.m.), I was fast becoming a spent force, the hard, rough road having a bad effect on a leg which needed all the cushioning a resilient turf could provide. The approach of cars and cycles, however, re-kindled hope but they were all traveling in the wrong direction, evidently intent upon a Sunday afternoon picnic at the Arve or Deep Creek. With 20 min. remaining and 2 miles to go, my luck changed as, at the first house on the road possessing a garage, I was offered a lift by the householder who was just setting off for Geeveston. Thus the long chase for the bus succeeded with 10 min. to spare (150’ – 15½m. – 3.20 p.m.).
The reaction of the well-attired Sunday passengers to the bearded and
bedraggled tramp sharing their bus or of Hobart’s tram patrons need
not be ventilated but I experienced further hitches both in securing my
car and again with engine trouble before I reached Launceston early next
morning. It was not until a week later that failure to heal and the advent
of poisoning led to the discovery of a piece of wood still in the leg
but time soon brought recovery.
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