IN THE RAIN
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A long week-end trip to the Pelion Huts was organised by the L.W.C. and we left Launceston at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 31st., 1952. The previous week-end a working bee was conducted on the track by members and some of the muddier spots alleviated. The course was via the Bass Highway and Claude Road to beyond Lorinna and then along the old Forth Road which recently had been cleared and re-opened for summer traffic by the Mines Dept..
The weather was fine but unsettled as we set off and it was after considerable pulling and pushing that the bus at length reached the first small hut about 3? miles along the unmetalled road (1150’ – 88m. approx.). One section of the party set off to camp in the larger hut at Gisborne's, a mile farther afield, whilst I joined the remainder who split between bus and hut, retiring at 2 a.m..
Astir at 5 a.m. on Sat. morning, Nov. 1st., all were well away by 6.40 a.m. under a cloudless sky. Reaching Gisborne's hut (l?m. - 7 a.m.), we learned that all the others were ahead. I continued along with the rearguard, passing Waratah Creek (2½m. - 7.30 a.m.), the Forth pool (3m. - 7.37 a.m.), the "8-mile" tree (4 3/8m. - 8 a.m.), "Sardine" Creek (4 7/8m. - 8.10 a.m.), the "10-mile" tree (6 3/8m. - 8.45 a.m.), a small creek (9.5 a.m.), a larger creek (9.17 a.m.), the “12 mile” tree (8 3/8m. - 9.20 a.m.), a medium creek (10¾m. - 10.25 a.m.), the Oakleigh Creek (11½m. - 10.40 a.m.) and reaching the old hut at the Wolfram Mine (1450’ – 12¼m. - 11.10 a.m.).
Leaving after lunch at 12.10 p.m. in charge of the vanguard, I entered the partially overgrown foot-track which slowed up our progress substantially. After following the Forth River up-stream for nearly three miles, we halted at a small creek (1.35-45 p.m.), after which the track swung away from the river and climbed steeply in zigzag fashion. The pace of the party was very slow and rests created further delay, apart from a little time lost in locating the track. Fine views of Pelion West and Barn Bluff appeared and, nearing the top, the track passed close under the steep walls of Mt. Oakleigh, where the cliffs possessed many frowning overhangs. Soon after the long climb was over, we experienced some difficulty in locating the track where the button grass commenced, but the old Pelion Hut was located ere long and the Douglas forded to gain its shelter (2850’ - 18m. - 4.55 p.m.). Shortly afterwards, the remainder of the party arrived, some continuing on to the New Pelion Hut, but the majority were satisfied to pack into the Old Pelion Hut. Cloud increased as the day progressed, and rain commenced to fall soon after our arrival and our prospects looked gloomy as we retired at 9.30 p.m.
Astir relatively early on the Sunday morning, very few seemed interested in ignoring the rain and low cloud to press mountainwards. Norm, however, chose to accompany me on a proposal to tackle Mts. Achilles and Thetis and we were off with one light pack between us at 8.35 a.m.). Taking the track to Frog Flat, we swung south-westward up the valley, where a break in the ever changing cloud formations disclosed attractive glimpses of Thetis, Achilles and Pelion West. All peaks were wreathed in mist and many tiny waterfalls lent added appeal as they careered over escarpments high up on the mountain sides. The forests cloaking the base of each mountain were not of great width, although their density was unpredictable.
Thetis appeared just that little bit nearer to claim our selection as a climb under the adverse conditions prevailing, but there existed also the possibility, if the weather improved, of our continuing across the low col linking up with Achilles and thus back to Frog Flat. After a short journey over the button grass of Frog Flat, we swung into the low ti-tree and bauera to our left, ascending diagonally towards the south to where we had espied a long rock-slide descending deep into the forest from the rocky summit of Thetis.
The ti-tree and bauera provided reasonable going under the circumstances, although our protective groundsheets were worthless encumbrances in the wet scrub. On the first small shelf, myrtle and King Billy pine dominated the forest growth and provided an easy passage, but the ensuing steep pinch was littered with decaying logs. On the succeeding shelf, a pandanni thicket was encountered, from which we pushed through dwarfing myrtles within sight of the rocks above and the rock-slide still on our right. 'Roo pads here facilitated our progress across to the rock-slide where the change from wet bush was appreciated. At the head of the slide, we found little difficulty in selecting an easy course up the steep rock to the summit above. Here winter's snow still lay thickly and we found it expedient to make our course along it towards the highest point farther southward. Gaining the top of Thetis (4850' approx. – 12 noon) amidst swirling cloud and a sprinkle of rain and snow, we promptly set about building a small cairn, after which we ate lunch in a chilly atmosphere.
At 12.55 p.m. we left the top without securing a worth-while view and, partly due to the late hour and partly to the uncompromising weather, decided to return via our outward route. Both during the ascent and descent, we obtained fine glimpses of our surroundings as the cloud curtains would blow aside. Ossa held much snow on its southern slopes, Achilles looked very attractive indeed with a long undulating summit and Pelion West was a gem. At one stage we were able to see as far south as Olympus, whilst Cradle and Barn Bluff showed on a few occasions. A small but imposing bluff at the northern end of Thetis attracted our attention but we curbed the impulse to climb it.
Descending by much the same route, we made rapid progress early but encountered more opposition from an enlarged ti-tree-bauera section before entering Frog Flat. We were very wet and cold and the brisk track walk did little to restore heat on our way back to the Old Pelion Hut (2800’ - 3.45 p.m.). A change into dry clothes soon established satisfaction. We learned that the majority of the Club party had returned during the afternoon for "Wolfram Inn". Thus the evening passed with a community meal and sing-song with a late retirement to the accompaniment of steady rain.
Next morning brought little improvement in the weather and we were all under way by 7.40 a.m. on our return journey. Our first look at the flooded Douglas disclosed we had a major problem in finding a ford and the party moved up-stream, fruitlessly probing each likely spot but finding it many feet deep and the current very strong. Finally, we made the crossing by log about a mile up-stream on the Oakleigh track, which also helped us across the swollen affluents beyond. Then we struck out for the Pelion Track and soon were upon it. Our journey down to the hut at the wolfram mine was uneventful and made in good time for a mixed party. Arriving at "Wolfram Inn" (1450' - 8m. - 10.40 a.m.), a light meal was taken, during which time it was decided that all press on as fast as possible for the bus with the object of starting off early along the treacherous, slippery road. I was left to take up the rear as whip and lend all hastening assistance.
Leaving at 11.14 a.m. close on the heels of the later getaways, I caught
up with the rear-guard at the first creek beyond the Oakleigh, and from
then on it was a pleasant steady walk under improving weather conditions
to Gisborne's Hut (19 1/8m. - 2.45 p.m.) where most of the members were
located, and thence to the smaller hut (1150’ - 20¼m.- 3.10
p.m.). Not long after, we were under way in the bus, which managed the
slimy road much better than anticipated due to the expedient of coiling
the tow-rope around the dual wheels as a substitute for chains. Along
the metalled road, we encountered a set-back - a large tree across the
road - but managed to make a detour around it after much labour. We arrived
at Launceston about 11 p.m..
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