MT WELD SCRUB-BASH
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L.W.C. Party: Chris. Binks, Norm. Hoyle, John Davis and Keith Lancaster (leader).
Our Club trip to Mt. Weld on the Jan. long week-end of 1953 did not attract many starters. Previous experience showed that success could only be achieved within the three days with the assistance of favourable conditions and then only by an outstanding performance by the members. The general view of most members was that the task was impossible and thus only a few of the "die-hards" responded. As the Club bus was being used on the alternate Club trip to the North-East, it was necessary to utilise private car transport on this occasion.
Leaving Launceston at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23rd. 1953, the usual course via the Main and Huon Highways was taken to Huonville, turning off there for Upper Huon and Hull, then across the Russell and Little Denison Rivers to take the next turn on the left along the rough road leading in past Sunset Ranch. After some low gear crawling in the vicinity of the abandoned farm, we encountered better road and arrived at its end (110' - 172m. - 11.35p.m.).
We soon settled in and all were astir early and eager for the start. The cloud ceiling was low and the air still as we set off at 6.13 a.m. along the rough jeep track leading westwards towards the Weld River. A fast speed was maintained across the dry plain but little more than a mile out Norm. started to have trouble with a heel rub. Despite this handicap, we pushed on steadily into the forest and gained the point where the track first touches the Weld River in excellent time (100' – 5½m. 8.12 a.m.). The river was very low and conditions augured well for the fording of the stream and our encounter with the jungle creek later in the day.
We resumed at 8.30 a.m. and, after 2½ hours out from the car, were on Glovers Paddocks. It was here that Norm's blistered heel caused him to slow up progress. We hung on to the old Weld track beyond the button grass where it deteriorates in thick scrub until we reached the point where our new privately cut track leads off on the left (8m. - 9.35 a.m.). This light track was still in fair condition despite the growth through which it leads. Norm, however, was dragging badly and it was a welcome relief to all when our track, which regained the old Weld track for a while, descended to the bank of the Weld River (160' - 10m. - 10.45 a.m.) at our selected fording point opposite the creek which led towards the summit - "Watkins' Creek".
So good had been our early progress that we were still on schedule. Dinner was taken whilst we re-shuffled the food and gear, as Norm wisely chose to withdraw. It was bad luck, indeed. A further withdrawal or casualty would be sure to tax our resources as we had only one tent left between the three. We left behind a disconsolate Norm at 11.45 a.m. and forded the shallow water and set off up Watkins Creek, the course followed by Doug. Watkins and Max Cutcliffe on their successful trip at Easter, 1951 and by another party since.
The stream was much smaller than we'd ever seen it before and this gave us better opportunities in transferring from bank to bank in selecting a course. After a while, we began to encounter very heavy going and the rocks along the stream-bed were very smooth and extremely treacherous. Thus we took advantage of a reasonable route up the steep northern slope to enter the scrub along the ridge-top. Previously we had located a fair route amongst the fern and myrtle higher up, but this time few easy leads appeared and soon we were wrestling with thick horizontal. So bad did it become that we were gradually forced down into the gully of the creek, where a small gorge was developing. The roar of falling water greeted our approach to the stream which we gained at the top of the large waterfall described by Max Cutcliffe in “Skyline No 3” - Cutcliffe Falls (730’ – 11½m. - 1.10 p.m.). The urgency of our mission permitted only a very brief inspection of these falls but we gained a sufficiently good impression to plan to examine them more closely upon our return. At 1.17 p.m. we resumed up the creek-bed, generally wading through the shallower waters, scrambling over huge fallen logs and pushing through thick tangles of horizontal which ever and anon enclosed the creek. The polished rocks of the creek-bed, often coated with a slimy covering, made the gaining of a foothold a precarious gamble, which was not improved by the impediment of a well-filled rucksac, the weight of which shifted rapidly with the slightest slope of the body, supplying impetus to each lapse of balance. In this manner, we battled on relentlessly, sweat pouring from us all the time, through an uninviting maze, as monotonous as it was laborious.
A stop was made for refreshments (1350' – 13½m. - 3.20-40 p.m.), still amidst the seemingly endless horizontal tangle. The long battle was soon on again in earnest. At last the creek-bed began to climb more steeply and we reached the second waterfall (14½m. - 4.35 p.m.), a smaller drop of about 50'. At 4.45 p.m. we reached a rather unusual rock formation which formed the bed of the creek a broad, flat pavement of dolerite, worn smooth by the torrent, incised with eroded water-channels and more or less regularly punctuated by a series of steps. We celebrated our good fortune with a rest (4.48-57 p.m.). This phenomenon continued for a considerable distance and provided a change to easy, pleasant walking at a time when our physical endurance was sorely taxed. At the same time, the horizontal at last gave way to a less formidable mixture of ti-tree and laurel, substantially interspersed with bauera and cutting grass.
The "open pavement" was broken by two smaller waterfalls or cascades and, beyond it, the creek-bed frequently contracted to a narrow channel and we were obliged to leave it and pick our way along the bank. As the day wore on, the heavy toll on our energy began to make itself manifest and the last half-hour produced negligible progress. At length we located a suitable camp-site on this high sub-alpine shelf (2500' – 16½m. - 6.35 p.m.) with the rocky high ridge of Weld showing up rather close at hand on our left. Camp preparations began after a brief spell and we succeeded in making ourselves quite comfortable. Clouds began to gather towards evening and to settle down on the mountain. We retired at 10.5 p.m..
Astir reasonably early on the morrow, we were away at 7.35 a.m. with one light pack between three, planning to scale the peak and return to our camp where we left the tent pitched and the site fairly well blazed. Still following the tiny creek upwards, we made reasonable progress through the scrub and bauera and suddenly had the pleasant surprise of arriving at the first lake (2710' – ½m. - 7.55-8.0 a.m.). It was a broad shallow lake on the lip of a broad shelf with broken scrub surrounding it. Although the north-eastern bank looked practicable, we chose to adhere to our predecessors' example and wade around the eastern and northern shores.
Whilst paddling through the shallow waters, a slight commotion in the water disclosed that I was being accompanied side by side with a half-grown lobster, who was trundling along in reverse and appeared quite indifferent to my intrusion. Another small lobster was located farther along hence "Lobster Lake". We left the lake at 8.12 a.m. and walked up a clear rise from which the second lake of the group soon showed out on our left. Passing this lake by at above lake level, we continued on past the small pool beyond and then climbed towards the peak through varied scrub. At length we saw the third lake well below us to the right, indicating that we had erred in gaining elevation. We sidled down to this large lake but found it too deep for wading and so continued on around its western bank through thick scrub. Later we tried the water again, finding it over knee-depth, but managed to work around to a stream in-flow at the N.W. corner (2670’ - 2m. - 8.53-57 a.m.) of "Trout Lake", so-named because of the large number of mountain trout found therein.
Once more we elected to follow the course of our predecessors by pushing up the in-flow but, unfortunately, the lake had two in-flows and, of course, we chose the wrong one. Soon we were above the scrub and over the ensuing rocks and, leaving the tiny creek behind, we ascended a high ridge to the northward, then descending a little to a small tarn in the valley beyond (3450' – 2¾m. - 9.43-10.5 a.m.). The fourth lake lay just below us and ahead rose a steep ridge leading up to the summit of Weld.
It was fairly clear going up the steep ridge-side with a long scramble around the rocks of the peak. Then a high col still remained to be crossed before the highest summit at the northern end of Weld was ultimately gained (4150’ – 3½m. - 10.45 a.m.). The day was real warm now and, even on top, only a slight N.E. breeze disturbed the tranquility. The sky was very clear and only a few clouds dotted the landscape, but a little haze existed. The view was truly remarkable and, happily, we unexpectedly had substantial time in which to examine and study the extensive panorama. The Anne group looked very spectacular across to the westward with the unbelievably clear ridges eastward of Snell's Ridge lighting the way. There were also small clearings of dubious quality near Anne's southern base whilst, nearer at hand, fires had opened up isolated breaks on the slopes of Weld, from which the pale green of re-growth contrasted with the sombre green of the enclosing forest. An upper stretch of the Weld River seemed only a couple of miles away to the eastward with a semi-clear ridge leading towards it. In days gone by, great fires have ravaged the whole of the eastern slopes of Weld and no doubt these have accounted for the present existence of such difficult re-growth. Tall, bleached gum skeletons everywhere soar above the tree-growth as evidence of such ravages. The even bulk of the Snowies, the symmetry of Wedge, the dark skyline of High Rocky of the Fields, the gleam of the Arthurs and Franklands, and the pink hue of Picton were all factors which struck us in a panorama of enormous forests, clear ridges, button grass breaks, alpine lakes and countless mountains.
A magnetic check of the more salient features was recorded as follows:
We built a small cairn on the highest natural point alongside a tiny cairn nearby. At 12.22 p.m. we set off homeward, crossing and descending to the small tarn at which we had rested just prior to the final climb (3540’ – 4¼m. - 12.50 p.m.). Here we had dinner in hot sunshine, resuming at 2.15 p.m. Pushing down through the thick alpine scrub, we reached the fourth lake (2.22 p.m.), skirting its southern bank to halt at its outflow beyond (3400' – 4½m. 2.26 p.m.). Here is an excellent fine-weather camp-site, perhaps a little exposed, but ideally situated. We elected to sample the waters of the lake, quickly divesting ourselves of our clothes and plunging our sweating bodies into the lake. But what a chilly reception! Within a few seconds all were back on the bank shivering. At 3 p.m. we were off again down the scrubby gully of the out-flow towards the next lake ("Trout Lake"). We waded around the north-eastern shore, discovering that mountain trout were just as plentiful down this end of the lake, too. "Trout Lake" and the lake and pools above are drained by a different creek to the others, a factor which accounts for why the mountain trout don't seem to frequent the other system and why the lobster and blackfish of that other system does not seem to exist here. We waded across the narrow eastern arm near the outflow and then left the lake behind (5½m. - 6.40 p.m.).
Ascending through mixed scrub, we soon gained the level of the pool and, skirting the second lake to the eastward, re-entered the waters of "Lobster Lake" (6¼m. - 4 p.m.), wading around to the outflow (2710' – 6½m. - 4.10-15 p.m.). Progress seemed to improve a little by following the outflow down clear of the left bank and swinging across to the right just before gaining our camp (2500’ - 7m. - 4.35 p.m.). It had been an easy and pleasant day and the sky was still cloudless. We retired early at 8.15 p.m. in preparation for the long slogging trip home on the morrow.
We were astir early on the Monday morning and away at 7 a.m. under a cloudless sky. Passing the two small falls and negot¬iating the tessellated pavement in good time, we had our first spell at the second last waterfall (1850' - 2m. - 8.10-23 a.m.). The struggle with the long belt of horizontal ensued through monotonous, unchanging scenery. The creek's volume increased with each tiny affluent. Hordes of sandflies congregated at sheltered points along the stream. A small blackfish was met occasionally in the deeper pools, creating as much interest as the opossum mouse back at our camp. At last the descent suddenly increased along with the animation of the water and we arrived at the top of "Cutcliffe Falls" (730' - 5m. - 10.50 a .m.). It took nine minutes to clamber down to the base of these falls, into a deep, shady ravine. The high northern wall overhung considerably and was draped luxuriously with small fern and mosses. The opposite wall was rather steep, with sassafras, leatherwood, dogwood and manferns hanging precariously to its sides and providing colourful greenery to a grand fall of water which takes a sheer leap of over a hundred feet.
Resuming at 11.15 a.m., we entered some of the worst patches of the route, particularly approaching the point near which we had left the stream on Saturday. There was a large amount of flood debris and the slippery stones were more treacherous than ever. We reached the Weld River and forded it, stopping for dinner on the far bank (160' – 6½m. - 12.10 p.m.). We had descended the stream 100 min. faster than our ascent, but our later start still meant that we must maintain a pace equal to our outward one over the remainder of the course in order to reach the car in daylight.
Under a sky still cloudless and productive of a sweltering heat, we resumed
at 1.50 p.m. and gained the end of our new track (8½m. - 2.48 p.m.)
and soon came to easier going. We had a brief rest at the point where
the track leaves the Weld River (11m. - 3.50-57 p.m.) before tackling
the remainder of the track, now rather familiar. The car was gained in
good time (110’ – 16½m. - 5.58 p.m.) and we devoured
the snack Norm had prepared for us (also in good time), changed and left
for home at 6.55 p.m. The four miles out to the Forestry Road was covered
by 7.22 p.m. and the road improved from a nightmare to just a little rough.
We drove quietly homewards to reach Launceston at 1.5 a.m..
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