SEDGWICK AND THE TYNDALL RANGE.
AN L.W.C. ALTELNATIVE WALK DURING EASTER OF 1952.
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Party: Mavis and Henry Hudson, Lindsay Crawford and Keith Lancaster (leader).
Leaving Launceston at 7 p.m. on the crisp starry night of Thursday, April 10th. 1952, with a large contingent of members bound for various destinations on the combined H.W.C. - L.W.C. Easter walks, we augmented our load at Hadspen and Bronte Park and then left parties behind at Lake St. Clair and the Frenchman's Cap turn-off and, after some delaying mechanical trouble, halted the bus near the road-side in the King River valley and settled down to slumber at 3.30 a.m..
About three hours later we were astir and covered the remainder of the journey (only a few hundred yards) to the King River Picnic Ground through thin river mist. Contact was made here with the H.W.C. section of the Eldon Range party and, after breakfast, the bus transported our small party to Linda before returning Eldon bound. In brilliant sunshine, beyond the ambit of the river mist, we left the Lyell Highway (930’ - 8.50 a.m.) and, passing the hotel, closed in on Mt. Lyell, planning to scale the Lyell Ridge, descend to the Comstock Valley, climb Mt. Sedgwick and then on to Mt. Tyndall via Mt. Geikie. The steep mountain-side accounted for frequent rests and a re-adjustment of loads, and our chosen route was not the best available. Reaching the crest of the Lyell Ridge (2670’ – 2m. - 11.15 a.m.), a fine view of the country ahead was encountered. Mt. Sedgwick and the Eldons particularly claimed our attention and the route up the former was studied closely.
Swinging around to the right, we descended diagonally in order to avoid bad scrub in the Comstock Valley and to reach a clearer course farther afield. A short scrub tussle and a rocky gully crossing brought us to an easy descent down to the open country where we soon crossed the old tram route near the base of the Lyell slopes. Pushing across the reed-covered opening into the valley, we had another brief skirmish with a ti-tree-bauera thicket before we gained the bank of Comstock Creek, found an easy ford and stopped for dinner on the far bank (1000' - 4m. - 1.20 p.m.).
The sky had clouded somewhat when we resumed at 2.40 p.m. through more thick, wet feather-top reeds and marsh. Soon we forsook the marsh and entered light scrub, crossing the Sedgwick Creek to secure clearer going. A track I had discovered on a previous, trip was gained soon after and we followed it towards Mt. Sedgwick, re-crossing the creek to its eastern side. After following the track up-hill to the eastward of both branches of the Sedgwick Creek for a considerable distance, we crossed back over the eastern branch and followed up the crown of the small ridge dividing the two branches. The course was fairly clear through low scrub and cutting grass but it thickened higher up. Here we located running water in a small depression on our right and chose a camp-site nearby on one of the many old logging tracks encountered in this area (2400' 6m. - 4.55 p.m.). The camp floors had to be leveled for both the 3-man and 1-man tents, but good co-operation soon had them both comfortably mattressed. The clouds were thinning and the weather looked safe as we retired at 8.20 p.m..
Light rain fell during the night and cloud-mist surrounded us in the early morning but soon lifted and we had fair views through rapidly opening windows in the clouds. Leaving at 9.50 a.m., we pushed through the remaining collar of scrub to gain the crest of a fairly clear ridge leading right up under Sedgwick. The route up was steep but clear and, beyond the broad platform above, rose the peak itself. Climbing above the conglomerates, we reached the dolerite cap and finally the trig. sta. on Sedgwick's summit (3750’ - 1m. - 11 a.m.).
The sky was almost overcast with a high ceiling but a glorious panorama
was available despite many of the mountain peaks (both in the Reserve
and to the south-east) being cloud-capped. Glacial lakes dotted the high
country to the north and north-east as well as the better known lakes
to the north-west. The Tyndall Range and the latter section of our route
thereto showed clearly and enticingly. The long zigzag of the Eldons vied
with the clear, lake-studded plateau to the north as the outstanding attraction
amongst the many available. A magnetic check was taken of the surrounding
peaks as follows:
At 12.15 p.m. we left the cool mountain-top and lengthily discussing prospects of successfully adhering to our original plans of climbing both Mts. Geikie and Tyndall and returning to the King River Picnic Ground by the 2 p.m. dead-line on Monday. Descending westward to the high plateau, we chose a small tarn as our dinner-site and proceeded with our second cold midday meal (3000’ – 1¾m. - 12.40 p.m.). Here by common assent we agreed to split up the party owing to diminishing prospects of all being able to account for the objective. Much time was devoted into splitting up our community rations and gear in fair proportions and at 2.20 p.m. we parted - Lindsay, Henry and Mavis bound for Mt. Owen (Lindsay as leader) and I for the Tyndalls.
In descending to Lake Margaret, I encountered thick, mixed scrub of many components (ti-tree, myrtle, horizontal, leatherwood, banksia, bauera, cutting grass, macquarie vine, etc.) and, after this down-hill tussle, discovered the lake-shore strewn lavishly with dead timber piled many feet high ( 2150’ - 3m. - 3.17 p.m.). Beyond this debris, steeply-sloped, slippery conglomerate formed the shore-line, often forcing me back into the dense scrub. Approaching the eastern end of the lake, the shore cleared and two substantial inflows were crossed in quick succession. A little further around, I left the lake (2150' – 3¾m. - 3.55 p.m.) for the high ridge leading up towards Geikie, just as a light sprinkle heralded the arrival of a low cloud over the lake. Light scrub mingled with the tall button grass on the lower slopes but the scrub diminished as I ascended and faster progress became possible. I sought a camp-site in the lee of the first high knoll but water lay around everywhere and it was not until I gained a small shelf on the eastern side of the narrow col beyond that a small strip of pineapple grass made a comfortable camp-site possible (2820’ – 4¾m. - 4.50 p.m.). Wood was scarce (particularly dry-sound wood) but the fire was soon burning and the tent in position. Low clouds were surging all around and rain looked imminent when, tea over, I retired at 7.25 p.m.. Light rain fell during the early night but later the mist cleared and brilliant moonlight prevailed.
Sunday morning was frosty and chill with a cloudless sky and keen, limpid air. I was astir at 5.45 a.m. intent upon a determined effort to traverse the Tyndalls and return to the Sedgwick camp that night. At 7.40 a.m. I was on my way, traveling light and packless. The cliff-face of Geikie was an imposing sight but a short distance ahead. Our climbing ridge swung to the left away from it to the base of the Chin. The ridge-crown became scrubby but 'roo leads kept the way fairly open. A scrubby couloir provided a steep but easy route to the summit of the Chin, a substantial satellite on the southern flank of Geikie (3600’ – 1¼m. - 8.17-24 a.m.).
The translucent atmosphere permitted the utmost enjoyment of a grand view which rivaled that from many mountain tops. There was a fine sight to seaward where the sands of Ocean Beach gleamed in the morning sunlight - a gleam only surpassed by the brilliant whiteness of Mt. Owen to the southward. The Professor, Mt. Zeehan and Mt. Dundas were a less familiar trio of peaks dominating the western aspect. The summit and cliffs of Geikie towered across the northern view but around the eastern corner the thrilling recognition of the giants of the Reserve - Cradle Mt., Barn Bluff, Pelion West, Ossa and the Du Canes – emphasised the scope of the panorama. The Eldons, of course, looked as grand as ever; the new angle on nearby Sedgwick added to its attraction; the distant King Williams showed clearly as did the Frenchmen's Cap and the Surveyor group. Small lakes seemed to fill every little indentation in the surrounding high country, which possessed quite an amount of open accessible country.
Although frost and ice still covered the summit, the rising sun was minimising the crispness of the atmosphere. Dwarf heaths, hewardias and everlastings covered the clear summit, making walking a real pleasure. The ascent from the Chin to Geikie was over such an inviting surface, followed by a brief rock scramble to gain another but wider plateau of Geikie’s summit. The highest point was the southernmost of three high points above the eastern cliffs (3830' – 1¾m. - 8.40-52 a.m.), and here an even grander view was available. The panorama was almost identical to that described from the Chin but the slight increase in elevation improved vision.
As time was at a premium, photography and sight-seeing were strictly curtailed. Descending northwards to the high col below, the northern continuation of the Tyndalls was reached and followed. It was great going along this resilient alpine turf with hewardia and dwarf heaths still predominating. Outcrops of conglomerate, with autumn tinted, dwarfed fagus covering them in the form of a creeper, lent variety on the high section, and were exploited to advantage by choosing an easy stepping-stone route across them. Looking back, the cliff-face of Geikie made an interesting geological study with its pronounced bands of conglomerate strata. Small tarns and lakes appeared ahead as I neared Mt. Tyndall and gradually the route lost elevation. Estimating that the highest peak lay in the eastern section of the high ground ahead, I chose a course eastward of Lake Tyndall amongst delightful surroundings. Beyond the lake, the ascent began but, on gaining the top of the eastern peak, it was obvious that another optical illusion had tricked me and the highest peak was probably the westernmost.
When passing the higher central peak, I thought it worth while to make the slight deviation and climbed to its summit (3720’ 5½m. – 10.20-35 a.m.). The view was fine and visibility still very good although a northerly breeze was bringing in cloud which already had eliminated Cradle and Barn Bluff and capped Mt. Murchison. The alternative route homeward via the clear plateau, Lakes Dora and Spicer to Marble Bluff (Quartzite Mill) over the route once occupied by Scott and Moore’s old track looked as if it would have paid good dividends as well as adding variety, but I was obliged now to retrace the outward route so as to reclaim my depoted gear.
Resuming westward, an easy grade continued to the broad top of Mt. Tyndall's main and westernmost summit. From the top (3780' - 6m. - 10.55 a.m.) another remarkable panorama lay unfolded. The button grass valley leading towards Mt. Murchison via Lake Selina and Anthony Creek provided something new. Mts. Ramsay and Read and their surroundings also constituted unfamiliar and interesting country. It was the southern view, however, which took full honours with a tranquil foreground of green plateau and silvery lakes, a steel-grey Mt. Geikie rising beyond, and further back a chocolate-red Mt. Sedgwick and a gleaming white Mt. Owen - such a display of diverse colour as seldom presents itself from any mountain-top. Sweeping the whole horizon, I recognised, in turn, Mts. Pelion West, Achilles, Thetis, Ossa, Cathedral, Du Cane Ra., Geryon, Acropolis, Gould, Eldon Bluff, Eldon Peak, Gould’s Sugar Loaf (around edge of former), Hugel, Rufus, Gell, King Williams - then too blurred in far south-west for clarification - Frenchman's Cap, Sedgwick, Owen, Jukes, Sorell, Geikie, Cape Sorell, Ocean Beach, The Professor, Mts. Zeehan, Ramsey, Read, Murchison, St. Valentine's Peak and Black Bluff. Substantial cliffs fell away to the north-west - the clean cuts in the conglomerate looking as smooth as glass and a formidable test for any rock-climber. The whole of the Tyndall Range was composed of similar conglomerate which was an interesting change after the dolerite and quartzite of most other mountains.
Tearing myself away from Mt. Tyndall at 11.15 a.m., I was set quite a task to regain the Sedgwick camp before dark, so I sped on as fast as possible, choosing a good course back to Geikie where, in shouldering the mountain higher than necessary, I dropped a few minutes. Passing over the Chin at 12.55 p.m., I halted on top of the steep couloir for photography and then descended down to last night's camp (2810’ – 11¼m. - 1.25 p.m.).
Dinner and packing up occupied the ensuing hour. The warm sun had dried out tent, sleeping bag, etc. which had been hung out to dry. The few distant clouds of the north had lifted now and all peaks showed out, Barn Bluff very prominently. The camp lay in a grand setting and the view to the Tyndalls, the Eldons, Mt. Sedgwick and Lakes Mary and Margaret was most attractive with the ruddy glow of Sedgwick contrasting sharply with the creams of the quartzite outcrops and the drab greens of the patches of scrub.
Leaving at 2.35 p.m., I descended down the ridge to Lake Margaret (2150' – 12¼m. - 3 p.m ) and, soon after crossing the two inflows, left the lake (12½m. - 3.12 p.m.) to exploit a light button grass break which led up through dense scrub. It was arduous up-hill work but soon generally clear going was reached as I approached the gully leading towards Sedgwick. With the clearest route forcing me more and more in towards the high ridge overlooking Lake Margaret, I elected to ascend it where a recent “burn” indicated freer movement. It is questionable whether the decision accomplished any advantage as finally I dropped down into the head of the original valley. Passing yesterday's lunch site by the tarn (3000’ - 14m. - 4.15 p.m.), I weaved in amongst the light scrub and swampy soaks, seeking the clearest course and gradually ascended around the base of Sedgwick to gain the high shelf at its southern base. Here I regained our outward route and retraced it down the easy ridge until our Sedgwick camp-site was reached (2400' - 15m. - 4.58 p.m.). Camping was made much simpler now with ample bedding already available and, dinner over, I was able to retire at 7.15 p.m.. It had been a busy day - plenty of hard plugging but the rewarding scenery seldom had been surpassed.
The night commenced bright and starry with a high film of cloud infiltrating during the early hours of the morning and tempering the expected coldness. I was astir at 7 a.m. to see the clouds slowly disintegrating under the influence of a relentless sun. Away at 9 a.m., I retraced our outward route down into the Comstock Valley, locating an old overgrown track along the northern bank of the stream but abandoned it and crossed the Comstock Creek near our crossing of Friday (990’ - 2m. - 10.5 a.m.). Soon I was out amidst the reeds of the broad clearing and it was a hot climb up on to the track around the slopes of Lyell (1000’ - 3m. - 10.45 a.m.).
Choosing to follow the track around the mountain rather than tackle the high ridge above, I pushed eastward. Only a few high clouds remained and the track provided little shelter from a hot sun. Obviously a tram-line from the Comstock mine once occupied the track which maintained an even elevation, although making an illusionary increase in height as the ridge and valley below steadily receded in altitude. The course soon became wearying with reeds and slush most of the way and scrub overgrowing the track at each of the frequent creek crossings. However, I followed it around the eastern edge of Lyell and, turning around to the southern side, left it when it appeared the highway must be close below (5½m. - 12.20 p.m.).
A descent through broken scrub brought me to the Lyell Highway (6m. -
12.45 p.m.) where I discovered I had covered much more track than necessary
and now was quite a distance past the King River bridge. I walked down
the road to the Picnic Ground (740’ - 7m. - 1.3-6 p.m.) and, finding
none of the party there, walked down the rough by-road to where the bus
was parked (8½m. - 1.40 p.m.). After dinner, I left in the bus
with the Eldon party, picking Lindsay, Henry and Mavis up at the Picnic
Ground (740’ - 3.10 p.m.). They reported a successful week-end.
They had followed an old track up the northern side if the Comstock valley
on the Saturday afternoon, camping that night near the old Comstock mine
workings. On Sunday morning they moved around to West Lyell to gain the
Lyell Highway and climb Mt. Owen during the afternoon to secure a very
extensive view. They returned to Linda late in the afternoon, camping
under the slopes of Lyell. Monday morning had been spent in exploring
the early section of the old Crotty Track, allowing sufficient time to
regain the Picnic Ground by the 2 p.m. dead-line. After gathering in the
other parties en route, we returned to Launceston by 11.15 p.m..
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