SPRENT AND WEDGE
|Home to Index|
As usual, a 12-day Christmas vacation is an awkward period for which to secure walking companions, and the Christmas of 1953 was no exception. Ultimately, I was able to interest Jack Murphy of Sydney in my proposed trip and left Launceston with him at 6.5 p.m. on Christmas Eve (Friday). The original plan was to fly in to Lake Pedder but, as the beach was almost completely covered with flood water, all parties failed to secure any aerial assistance. At Hobart we left a small 4-day ration bag for air-dumping at Pedder when weather conditions improved, and spent some time chatting to Mr. L. Jones. Leaving him about midnight, we drove on through the cold, showery night to New Norfolk, where we stopped for the night (1 a.m.).
I was astir about 5 a.m. on Christmas morning and had the car in motion ten minutes later. The sky was fairly clear early, but it was soon obvious we were running into weather. Freshly fallen snow showed out on Mt. Field and High Rocky as testimony of the night's coldness. We encountered a light shower before we reached the beginning of the Port Davey Track. Walking on to Rilet's (or Rylett's) Hut (860’ - 6.30 a.m.), I met the H.W.C. party of four who were bound also for the Franklands, Wilmots and Wedge. They set out at 6.45 a.m. as I started preparing breakfast.
Leaving at 8.25 a.m. under an almost overcast sky, we made good progress over the early section of the track, but the pace soon slowed down. Intermittent showers kept the bush wet, but walking conditions were reasonably good. We had dinner at the Weld River (1600' - 9m. - 12.50-1.35 p.m.). Progress improved again after dinner and we passed False Alarm Creek at 2.20 p.m. to reach Damper Inn (1400' - 12m. - 2.40 p.m.). Here we rejoined the H.W.C. party, as they lingered over a truly festive dinner complete with celebrations, and we did not leave them until 3.35 p.m..
It was still cool and showery as we plodded on to the South Gordon turn-off (1620’ – 14¼m. - 4.20 p.m.). We reached our day's objective, Hood's Camp (1630’ – 16¾m. - 5.45 p.m.) in the rain and made camp under showery conditions. The H.W.C. party failed to arrive later in the day as anticipated and we retired at 8.50 p.m. with the sky still overcast but fine and with lesser wind.
Light rain fell during the night and the morning of Sunday (Boxing Day) was windy with a little drizzle. We were off at 7.18 a.m. and at Cot Case Creek (1800’ - 1m. - 7.55 a.m.), the top of the high pass overlooking the Huon (2100’ - 3m. - 9.0-5 a.m.), and Sandfly Creek (980’ - 6m. - 10.40-45 a.m.). This last creek was running high but the bridge was just clear of water. At the Manuka Creek beyond, the position was different, both crossing logs being under water and the whole of the swampy area more or less flooded. We must have lost a good half-hour in making a passage through the fallen debris and water but we regained the track on the firmer ground before reaching the plain, and all went well until at last the Huon Crossing was reached (950’ – 9¼m. - 12.35 p.m.). The river was running fast and high - a good foot over the crossing log. A packless reconnaissance along the log disclosed that walking across would be a hopeless balancing feat. Unpacking and undressing, we wrapped all our vulnerable gear inside our groundsheets and returned the bundles to our rucksacs and, with our burdens hitched high, we straddled the log and proceeded to scramble across. A cross piece and a tree branch gave us a little difficulty but in midstream we happily reached the point where the remaining crossboards ran down to the broken other log of the bridge span, and we were able to regain our feet for the remainder of the journey across.
We dressed and lunched at the camp-site nearby, meeting three Sydney walkers who came in from the Pedder area, reporting an abundance of water out that way with grave doubts of finding a crossing through the lagoons. The sky remained overcast but little moisture fell. Resuming at 2.35 p.m., we followed the track along through the forest, leaving it at the other side (10¼m. - 3 p.m.) and striking out towards the centre of Isolation. We crossed the plain a little sharper than normal to obviate any possible trouble with swamp water, and gained the side of Isolation at a 'pointer', (12½m. - 4 p.m.). The afternoon continued overcast but fine with an increasingly strong W. to S.W. wind. Jack was hampered considerably with an old ankle injury and the rub the padding created, and progress deteriorated.
At last the long traverse of Isolation's slopes neared its end and we dropped a little to the level plain to tackle the lagoon crossing. This was effected fairly high up near the southern end and we were across after wading some time through water a little more than knee-deep. Reaching firm ground eventually, we experienced a strong wind along the lake-side, influencing us to descend to the narrow beach and so journey on to the Prospectors' Camp (900'- 18¼m. - 6.55 p.m.). We soon had a fire going, dined and dried out, settling down for the night about 10 p.m.. The evening was rough but still fine and very cloudy. Later in the night, heavy rain commenced and the morning broke wet and rough with the barometer hopelessly low. Fresh snow was showing out on Wedge and Anne and it seemed unwise to push on with our plans to go down the Serpentine plains until the flood and rain eased. Consequently, the morning was spent in the shelter of the camp.
The weather improved a little in the afternoon and the barometer began to rise at last. I decided to celebrate the change with a ramble around to Penny's Lookout (alias Buckie's Bluff - the attractive hill on the northern shore of the lake), partly to explore the depth of the lake's inflow. I left camp at 2.50 p.m. and walked along the beach to the inflow from Lake Maria and the lagoons. I crossed it in two channels about 3 ft. deep, both crossings well out in the sand. After continuing along the opposite beach (or what little remained of it above water), it ended near the top corner of the lake and I followed the raised bank around, avoiding the streams and swampy patches as best I could. I moved out to the first clear burnt lead which led towards the hilltop, crossing three small scrub collars before reaching the summit (2220’ - 3m. 5.13 p.m.). The strong wind had eased a lot, although conditions still were cold and showery. Two 'roos hastily vacated the top upon my arrival. The “burn”, through which I ascended for the major portion of the way, was recovering well and hewardia and dracophylla brightened much of the route.
The view from the top was negligible owing to cloud and showers, although frequent glimpses were had of nearby heights. The flooded Serpentine valley was an unusual sight with a broad conglomeration of winding stream and lagoons writhing in an indeterminable mass of jumbled contortions. The stream's outflow from the N.W. corner of Pedder could be detected clearly straight under the peak.
I left the top at 5.22 p.m. after assembling a tiny cairn. At first, I was inclined to descend direct to the plain and endeavour to hug the northern lake shore homeward, but further consideration and inspection led me to believe there was little hope of much advantage and that the outward route may prove the quickest in the end. Accordingly, I retraced my steps back through the alternate patches of open button grass and narrow scrub collars to the N.E. corner of the lake. The water at the lake inflow seemed colder than ever and I was glad to change into dry clothes when I regained the camp (900’ 6m. - 6.57 p.m.). The H.W.C. party had arrived a little earlier and had made camp at the H.W.C. camp-site. The stars showed out after dinner when we visited them and, with the barometer still rising, prospects looked good for a resumption westward on the morrow. We turned in at 10.30 p.m..
The morning of Monday, Dec. 28th. was fine with low cloud and a high barometer. Although astir at 5 a.m., we weren't away until 7.40 a.m. and then stopped at the H.W.C. camp until 8.5 a.m. Clouds were lifting all the time and the sun increased in warmth, whilst the hitherto dormant sandflies and midges appeared in their legions. We turned away from the lake shore a little way down the southern edge to ensure dryer going closer in to the Franklands. The plain was very watery and the swamp in the S.W. corner was a mass of water for over a ¼m. in from the lake. However, we encountered little difficulty here owing to keeping just clear of the flood water. Gaining the foot of the first low promontory southward of the lake (K2) (4m. - 9.57-10.5 a.m.), we rested awhile before climbing to the crest and halting again for photography (4¼m.).
Resuming at 10.20 a.m., we slowly moved along the base of the Central Franklands, Jack’s ankle still giving trouble and also his knees. We crossed the first substantial creek (950' - 10.55-11.5 a.m.) and stopped at the second creek for lunch (1000' – 5¼m. - 11.25 a.m.), close in to the ridge leading up to The Bluff. The weather had maintained its improvement and, over lunch, we decided to climb The Bluff during the after-noon and explore possibilities of climbing The Citadel.
Resuming at 12.30 p.m., we dumped our rucksacs near the base of the clear climbing ridge (1050’ -5½m. - 12.38-45 p.m.). The ascent route led up through clear button grass and, although steep in places, the grade was fairly good. It was quite a while before we came within sight of the summit, a true bluff which showed out to marked advantage from the high razor-back below it. Cliffs fell sheer for several hundred feet on both eastern and northern sides with ti-tree and other scrub eking out a precarious existence on every little ledge or crevice that could possibly sustain it. In the deep gorge below, dense ti-tree clothed the steeper slopes all the way down to the tiny lake (headwaters of the second creek) half hidden in the trough of the deep defile, where some button grass provided openings in the vegetation. The nearby rock possesses a remarkable whorled pattern and, of course, the erratic shapes of quartzite.
After a lengthy pause on the razor-back, we climbed the remaining rock around to the crest of The Bluff (2730’ - 7m. - 2.15 p.m.). An unexpected and unusual view accosted us - just a little disappointing in that it revealed The Bluff as the lowest of perhaps all the recognised peaks of the range and disclosed we were shut in amongst hitherto unknown and higher peaks with no easy means of contact with the surrounding heights. Double Peak (at S.E. by E.) looked about 2880’ and the high peaks of the eastern sector showed around its northern side. A couple of more distant peaks (perhaps part of Giblin at south) and an even higher peak (Cinder Hill? a little farther west) showed over the edge of the range which tapered southwards from Double Peak. A fairly clear bluff (about 2900') occupies a wide section of the S.S.W. less than a mile away and in the centre of the range which here would be at its broadest. A small rugged peak lies on the col providing the direct route to this bluff. The Southern Peak (about 3000') showed out in the S.W. with a smaller wooded peak running along its northern flank. The Citadel (about 2830’) loses some of its impressiveness from this angle but, nevertheless, is a peak possessing unusual rugged grandeur. Not only is it dwarfed by several of its neighbors, but it reveals itself as a double-peaked eminence with the second crag attached by a high col on the southern side. The ascent route to either crag looks hard and steep with much thick scrub and steep rock to negotiate. The Lion (about 2920' and 1½m. to the W. by N.) which blocks The Throne from view, takes up a prominent position and appears to be joined by a curved col to the wooded peak behind it. In the W.N.W. The Dome (about 2950’) is another attractive peak and blocks Mt. Spectacular from view. The long tapering ridges to The Lion and The Dome sweep away down to the plain in the north. The Franklands continue fairly high and jagged westward of The Dome to about N.W. by W.. Mt. Sprent is in the N.W. with The Starfish and Detached Peak slightly farther north. A range, a little more distant, appears behind Sprent at N.W. by N.; then comes Clytemnaestra and the Frenchman, followed by the Eldons and then the high bluff-like southern section of the Prince of Wales Range. The Southern Needles showed out at N. by W. with an indecipherable maze in the northern region. Also visible were: Denisons in N. by E.; Clear Hill, N.N.E.; Thumbs, N.E. by N.; Field West, N.E.; Wedge, N.E. by E.; followed by High Rocky, then Penny’s Lookout; Lake Pedder starts in E.N.E.; Anne group and Isolation in E.; Weld and end of Pedder at E. by S.; then Snell’s Ridge and the Eastern Franklands. The view had not disclosed any easy method of ascending The Citadel or any of the other nearby heights either from the plateau behind or the gullies and thus my belief that most of these peaks would be very vulnerable from a plateau base at their rear was not established.
As I left the summit at 3.35 p.m., I could see the Sthn. Tas. Aero Club in process of dumping our four days' food at the Prospectors' Camp along with other cargo. The return was easily accomplished and I was back at the pack dump in fast time (1050’ – 8½m. - 4.5 p.m.) but, owing to unconsciously passing Jack on the way down, I had to wait. Jack still was having foot trouble. Resuming at 4.30 p.m., we descended towards the fourth creek, the one which rises between The Lion and The Dome and curves around the eastern edge of Crumbledown on its way to the Serpentine. Reaching the stream (890’ – 9½m. 5.7 p.m.), we searched around for a suitable camp-site amongst the burnt scrub and soon had preparations under way. The planes were back at the lake again about 5 p.m. dropping more supplies. The sky had been a quarter to half clouded most of the day and, towards evening, these clouds were high and well broken. Our camp-site was a little damp but we mattressed it well and it proved very comfortable. I was somewhat tired and footsore and could well understand Jack's difficulty in being unable to maintain much speed with his disabilities. We retired at 8.35 p.m..
We were astir at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 29th. to find the sky still dull, the clouds high and no wind. A light sprinkle occurred after breakfast but the high barometer gave promise of stable conditions. Jack decided over breakfast not to continue westward but to return to the Prospectors' Camp and rest whilst awaiting my return from Mt. Sprent in about two days time. It probably was a wise decision in the circumstances of his unsound legs and general condition, so we agreed to split up temporarily and re-packed.
I was off at 8.20 a.m. with a slightly larger pack, determined to press on as close to Sprent as possible that day. The sun soon found its way through the clouds and conditions were rather warm. I made good progress towards the Western Franklands, halting for photography near the tip of the small promontory, K4 (870’ - 2m. - 9.23-43 a.m.), where The Throne and Mt. Spectacular dominated the scene. Continuing westward, I passed Camp Creek (2¼m. - 9.50 a.m.), the next and smaller creek (9.55 a.m.), and then a large mound (10 a.m.) and a third creek near the base of the detached rise off the end of the next long promontory (3¼m. - 10.12 a.m.). The wide bay of button grass leading to the first pedicle of The Starfish was then entered and I passed the small knoll (10.45 a.m.) and the small creek (10.47 a.m.) to enter rather swampy button grass; along with other thick button grass which had not been burned for many years. As conditions were safe, this was soon rectified. I gained the foot of the first pedicle (5m. - 11.5-12 a.m.) and crossed to the other side (5½m. - 11.22-36 a.m.). This next bay of button grass, although not recently burned, was not in such bad condition and there was little in the way of streams.
I gained the foot of the second pedicle (6½m. - 11.57 a.m.) and was on top of the first ridge at noon. I worked around towards my old camp-site of last year but failed to locate it. Instead of the two lagoons which last year showed up on the plain just over to the right, there were a good two dozen lagoons and it looked almost certain that the Serpentine wound amongst them and was really very close. This was confirmed later from the Wilmots as the plain had closed in here to about only a half-mile in width as it approached the Wilmot gorge. I had dinner at a tiny stream at the far base of the second pedicle (870’ - 7m. - 12.15-1.10 p.m.), not so far from what was my earlier camp-site.
It became rather overcast during dinner with a few spots of rain, but a strengthening wind made the afternoon look secure. Light scrub mingled into the thicker button grass upon resumption and I curved around the extension of The Starfish to reach the next pedicle to the S.W. (7¼m. - 1.20 p.m.). I had been in two minds regarding my approach to Mt. Sprent in the determination of which side of Detached Peak I should skirt. However, I now chose to risk the eastern side which seemed to provide access to ridges in close proximity to Sprent near the head of the broad concealed basin lying between The Starfish and this detached peak of the Wilmots and extending right up to the Wilmots. I descended to the base of the third pedicle (1.23 p.m.) and headed across the apparently swampy, ti-tree clad half-mile wide outlet of the basin towards Detached Peak.
I was soon in the thick of it - terrible jumble of pink-flowering ti-tree varying in height from about 4 to 10 ft., cutting grass, bauera, banksia and reeds, under which lie an abundance of semi-stagnant water linked with an intricate maze of tiny billabongs, oozy and repellent. I crossed a major stream (1.45 pm.), about 2 ft. deep and swiftly flowing – the largest stream crossed this side of Pedder. Another fair sized stream was crossed just a few minutes later, after which I had to do much wading through swamp about 1 ft. deep.
At last the jumble of ti-tree receded and I reached open plain (unburnt button grass) near the base of Detached Peak (2 p.m.). Inclining my direction towards the eastern arm of Detached Peak, I passed its tip (8¼m. - 2.12 p.m.) and a tiny scrubby creek (2.15 p.m.), curving around to the right and following along the base of the Peak towards the head of the basin where the Wilmots almost touch Detached Peak at a narrow valley. This was virgin, unburned country, but I was making good progress through fairly reasonable going and I still felt there was a fair chance of finding a good route to Sprent from the relatively open ridges of the Wilmots near the basin's head. I crossed a tiny open creek (2.35 p.m.) and, shortly afterwards, found it desirable to halt and repair the knees of my trousers which had been ripped by the scrub (960' - 9m. - 2.39-3.7 p.m.).
I continued to follow the base of Detached Peak around until I entered the narrowing gap between it and the Wilmots and then started looking around for a suitable ascent route and camp-site. Crossing the creek in the trough of the gap (3.30 p.m.) and a tinier stream, I dumped my pack beyond, where camping facilities looked fair (980’ - 10m. - 3.37 p.m.). Mt. Sprent had not been visible, being hidden by the ridges, but a steep ridge a few yards away seemed to provide reasonable access to the plateau from which Mt. Sprent should be easily attainable.
At one stage I had hoped to reach this position before 3 p.m. and anticipated sufficient time would be available to make the peak and return ere nightfall. Unexpected scrub and repairs had put me well behind this plan. However, I still felt quite fresh and was eager to push on up the ridge and explore the route with the faint hope that I could push on to the peak if prospects exceeded anticipations. I hung out the tent to dry and as a marker and left most of my gear nearby, taking with me only a few essentials in the rucksac. I checked the position of the ridge as 262 deg. mag. from the campsite and that of Detached Peak as 60 deg. mag.
I left for Sprent at 3.52 p.m. and almost immediately was ascending the ridge through button grass and low ti-tree. At the top of the first rise, I had to push through the collar of a well-concealed patch of forest, an offshoot from that cloaking the gully. There were also a couple of tiny thickets beyond and in places the low ti-tree on the steep slopes was not easy to negotiate. The Wilmot Range appears unique in that there is no evidence that a fire has ever occurred along its slopes and going was quite good under such circumstances. A couple of burnings doubtlessly would have rendered the slopes as open as many of the clear leads on the Franklands and Arthurs. Looking back, I could see a much improved route homewards across the virgin basin below and over a shoulder of The Starfish.
At the top of the steep climb, I reached an elevated knob, “Rocky Knob” (2380’ – 11½m. - 5.2-7 p.m.) from which something resembling Mt. Sprent appeared about a mile ahead to the right. With the scrubbier section of the climb left behind and the plateau near at hand, it seemed worthwhile to push on to Sprent, although it was obvious my stay on top would need to be short. A postponement until tomorrow would mean not only the re-climbing of the ridge but a flirtation with the ever unreliable weather.
Resuming, I was on the crest of the range almost immediately, swinging northward and keeping on the southern edge of the crest for clearer going. I sped along through negligible resistance and the range crest began to broaden and assume the form of a plateau. There were the usual deceptions from high points on this plateau and each time I would find that the summit of Sprent was still a little farther removed, until at last I topped the final crag and the well-preserved remains of Sprent’s old trig. station marked the summit (3250’ – 13½m. - 6.9 p.m.). It is to be noted that my rough aneroid check falls much short of the surveyed 3483’ but, even allowing for the roughness, I query whether the peak is as high as the survey indicates.
It was a grand moment! Well nigh half of Tasmania lay spread out around that remarkable, exposed vantage point. Nearly all the peaks imaginable were visible in a dull but clear light. The high southern end of the Prince of Wales Range was extremely impressive and not so far away. The West Coast Mts., the Eldons, the Frenchman, the distant peaks of the Reserve, the Arthurs and the Propstings all showed out clearly in an almost endless panorama of rugged country. The Serpentine River claimed attention down the north and east where it suddenly sorted itself out of its indefinity on the broad plain as the valley narrowed and entered the Wilmot gorge around the edge of Detached Peak as a fine, broad stream of majestic appearance. It could be seen further downstream ploughing through the forest on its approach to the Gordon. There was no real break between the Franklands and the Wilmots, the lower points on the joint range occurring just a little to the west of my ascent ridge and in two or three places further eastward. I would be inclined to say the Wilmots could be defined as starting from about 1-2 miles eastward of my ascent ridge which would be part of the Wilmots. The dividing point could not be less than 2300’.
Time, of course, would not permit more than the briefest stay on the summit, so reluctantly I was off at 6.26 p.m.. I sped across the plateau and along the crest, almost running at times, and soon was back at the rocky knob (2380’ – 15½m. - 7.10 p.m.). I found progress much easier in meeting the ti-tree of the ridge on the down-hill grade, but made a slight error when negotiating the forest collar but soon it was rectified and I pressed on down to my gear dump and tent (980' - 17m. - 7.54 p.m.).
There was still some daylight left and I set to as fast as possible in cooking dinner and preparing camp. It had been a great day and a hard day, but I had been in good fettle throughout and finished the day in good style, although rather weary. The sky was clear with no wind, the stars gleaming brightly. Everything seemed so quiet and peaceful and civilisation seemed half the world away. Only the call of a nearby mo-poke broke the stillness. Retirement was necessarily rather late - 10.40 p.m..
It was still calm on Wednesday morning and lightly overcast. I wasn't astir so early and didn't break camp until 8.43 a.m.. My plan was to return to the Central Franklands and climb one of them in the afternoon, another the following morning and return to Pedder camp in the afternoon. I had planned a new return route across the broad basin to leave Detached Peak near its S.E. pedicle, heading across the swampy trough to a clear rise beyond and then on to cross a low shoulder where a lengthy ridge from the west joins the western side of the main section of The Starfish.
I re-crossed the two streams nearby and skirted the southern base of Detached Peak until I was in position to move down to my selected course through a much narrower band of swampy ti-tree. After some zigzagging through the early low ti-tree, I reached and crossed the first creek in the trough (1¾m. - 9.30 a.m.). Cutting grass, bauera and other rubbish became abundant as I gained a second stream (9.37 a.m.) and finally the main stream (9.42 a.m.) which I crossed dry footed at an unusual hairpin bend where easily the thickest vegetation obstructed progress for a few yards. However, the crossing of the basin trough proved to be much quicker, easier and dryer via this course. Bursting out on to the open plain (9.50 a.m.), I passed around the western edge of the clear rise and commenced a long trek across damp, semi-clear plain, finally reaching the base of the saddle under The Starfish (3½m. - 10.45-55 a.m.), where I halted for photography.
I was on the crest of the col at 11.3 a.m. and descended to the northern foot (4m. - 11.10-15 a.m.). I was in familiar country now and merely had to swing out for the first pedicle of The Starfish to pick up the normal trail. Whilst crossing this pedicle, I met the H.W.C. party, with whom details of adventures were exchanged (5½m. - 11.45-12.30 p.m.).
The small "burn" of yesterday showed that some small success had been obtained, whilst further out on the plain, tiny fires which had been just kindled were striving to clean up a little more unruly vegetation. Obviously, the results would be limited. I swung a little farther out on the plain than usual but found the going poorer, halting for lunch at the first creek westward of Camp Creek of the Inner Sanctuary (860' – 8¼m. - 1.40-2.35 p.m..
Although the barometer still remained high and the wind absent, clouds began dropping around the nearby peaks of the Franklands. Crossing Camp Creek (8¼m. - 2.45 p.m.), I reached the tip of K4 promontory (870’- 8¾m. - 2.50 p.m.) and, covering the usual route, arrived at our camp of Tuesday night on the timbered creek near Crumbledown (890 ' – 10¾m. - 4 p.m.). Heavy black clouds were spilling over the Central Franklands from the southern side, stealthily engulfing each with the inevitability of a bulldozer. The Lion and The Dome were practically inundated and the other peaks would soon assuredly become involved. It provided an unusual effect and, although the barometer seemed to indicate that it did not portend a weather change, it could have been a cold front well in advance of a coming low. In this region though, it must be remembered, Jupiter Pluvius pays scant respect to the registerings of the barometer.
In view of the thick cloud, I abandoned my plan to climb The Lion that afternoon and decided to push on to Pedder camp and make an earlier start towards Wedge. Off again at 4.10 p.m., I passed the next creek (another timbered creek) at an excellent camp-site (11½m. - 4.35 p.m.), the following creek (4.45p.m.) and the last and smallest creek of the group (4.55 p.m.) to reach the crest of K2 promontory (12¾m. - 5.20 p.m.). The low clouds seemed to be receding a little now. More or less retracing our outward route, I was in the midst of the swamp area at 6 p.m. and out on to the beach (15½m.) at 6.30 p.m., but encountered water obstacles before I finally gained the Prospectors' Camp (900’ - 17m. - 7.10 p.m.). Jack had been taking things quietly during the day and seemed fit. We turned in at 10.30 p.m. in preparation for a start towards Wedge on the morrow.
Low clouds heralded the arrival of Thursday, the last day of 1953. Air pressure still was favourable and, after losing a little time in packing, we started off at 7.58 a.m. along the beach to the inflow (8.8 a.m.), where we disrobed and waded across in about 2’6" of water. The lake had fallen about 6", bringing a few more yards of beach into view. After dressing on the other side, we were able to bypass the lagoon at the rear and enter the open plain. Working in towards the base of the long line of hills which run northwards towards Wedge, we kept a little above the level of the plain and secured dryer and better going despite the frequent crossing of several tiny streams with their thin line of burnt scrub.
When a break occurred in the line of hills on our left, we descended to the plain and crossed the larger creek which flowed out of the break (5m. - 11.20 a.m.). Continuing towards the low, scrubby saddle which provides access to the base of Wedge, we encountered damper going and thicker button grass. After resting at the next small stream (970’ - 11.30-40 a.m.), we almost immediately inclined to the left and ascended towards the trough of the wooded saddle. We followed up a lead of burnt button grass into some burnt forest on the western side of the creek which emanates from the saddle. Then, still in this three year-old "burn", we swung eastward to the creek and stopped for dinner (1150’ – 6¼m. - 12.10 p.m.) at the edge of the "burn".
The early low clouds had soon lifted, leaving all peaks well clear. The sky was now half overcast with fleecy cumulus clouds and the sun was warm. Whilst having dinner, I noticed fairly faint blazes on two nearby trees and explored this to find a weak trail crossing the creek from the east and following up the west bank. This probably was the track cut across the saddle a couple of years ago by the prospectors and which we hoped to find.
Checking the direction of the saddle as magnetic north, we were under way again at 1.10 p.m., but soon lost the faintly blazed route and had a hard struggle zigzagging about through green horizontal but, at length, located the track again further up the saddle trough. Although indistinct in many places early, we followed up the track and found it of great assistance as it sliced through some very dense scrub in which horizontal was very abundant. The saddle proved to be surprisingly broad and it was not until 2.42 p.m. that we reached the top of the saddle, still in thick forest. Upon resumption (1690’ – 8¼m. - 2.52 p.m.), we found that the summit was only one of three. After topping the highest summit (1750’ – 8¾m. - 3.5 p.m.), the track continued to undulate away to the N.E. with a negligible descent. The track was deteriorating in distinctness when we suddenly reached a burnt ti-tree fringe and struggled out on to open button grass (1680' – 9½m. - 3.30 p.m.).
From here we obtained a great view of Mt. Wedge, not far away at 26 deg. mag.. A burnt lead of button grass led down hill to the base of Wedge, this "burn" also belonging to that big one of three years ago. The end of the "burn" at the base of Wedge looked the ideal campsite for the night, lying at 24 deg. mag.. From there the best ascent route seemed to be approx. 40 deg. mag. through an ancient "burn" (where high re-growth was creeping up amongst the tall gum skeletons) to where a higher patch of myrtles occurs about half-way up the mountain on the crown of a broad ridge. From there a course of almost due north mag. led up through thick short scrub towards the summit. The rock looked fairly steep immediately above for climbing with full packs, but a deviation to the left could get one out of trouble.
After erecting a tripod of three burnt ti-tree trunks as a mark to indicate the position of the track more by force of habit than in expectation of a return that way, as we planned to descend on the opposite side of the mountain, we started off at 4.5p.m. down the button grass, reaching a small timbered creek near the bottom (1300’ – 10½m. - 4.30-38 p.m.). Crossing a larger creek in the timbered trough of the valley, probably the main stream of the Wedge River (4.45 p.m.), we entered thick greenery. Following up a small tributary through this towards Wedge, we secured welcome relief when we espied burnt scrub on our left. This "burn" was followed up through light scrub (mainly ti-tree) almost to the end of the "burn", where we selected a camp-site with the little creek just over to our right (1340’ – 11¼m. - 5.8 p.m.).
During camp preparations, I checked the foot of the climb¬ing ridge at 31 deg. mag. in case of morning mist. The clouds were a little heavier now but still seemed harmless. We retired at 8.10 p.m. in preparation for an early start as we need to climb Wedge and descend again to its base if a comfortable camp-site is to be had. The night was calm and humid - just one of those sultry nights that bring out the mosquitoes in their hordes. With conditions too hot to retreat right inside our sleeping bags, we had to choose alternately between sweating profusely inside or being stung by the mossies. Thus we spent a restless night.
I awoke at 4.50 a.m. on New Year's (Friday) morning to the tune of a light shower. Low clouds were present in the valley, the sky was overcast and the barometer had fallen a little, but still was fairly high. We arose and breakfasted at the cessat¬ion of the short shower, but a steadier shower interrupted our packing. Rain continued for quite a while and we completed our packing at the first break and were away at 8.10 a.m. on a course of 31 deg. mag. It was fortunate I had made the compass check on the previous evening as the mountain was not visible.
Soon we were in thick horizontal which was even more troublesome in the creek gully. By working up to the small ridge crown on the left, we found the mixed rain forest of laurel, pandanni, tree-heath and lighter horizontal more penetrable. As the grade of the ascent increased, we left the horizontal behind and entered an excellent young myrtle forest where only the trunks of huge fallen gums provided any opposition. We made good progress through this myrtle until within about 1000’ of the summit where the scrub became dwarfed to about 10' high and so thick that it was arduous work to make any progress at all. The scrub comprised stunted myrtle, scopari and a few Other trees in stunted, sub-alpine form, all densely matted together. We had gained cloud-level and soon were wet through from the heavily moisture-laden scrub and only the energy involved kept us warm. Pushing, squeezing, crawling and wriggling, hampered meanwhile with groundsheet-cape and rucksac, we slowly gained height. Quite a number of dried skeletons of gum trees remained to stand well above this lower re-growth. At some stage in its history (30 to 50 years ago), this densely clothed Mt. Wedge suffered a mighty conflagration which swept at least its southern side from base to summit, very few patches escaping the holocaust. Most of the forest through which we passed represented new re-growth. Gradually, the low growth on the upper slopes became shorter and broken by pineapple grass patches, and at last we were above them and at the base of the rocks at 11 a.m.. The rocks proved easier than anticipated and only the matter of controlling the groundsheet-cape in the strong wind occasioned any trouble. The clouds were breaking and thinning and the sun struggling through as the summit was gained on a clear open top (3700’ – 3½m. - 11.25 a.m.).
We took shelter from the cool wind and light sprinklings on the N.E. side of the summit, feeling confident that the weather was about to improve. An occasional patch of sunshine and blue sky lent faith to our hopes. The clouds often adopted unusual formations and at times would sweep by like huge curtains with their vertical edges clean-cut, giving the appearance of enormous windows opening and shutting. Thus, at times we would secure glimpses of what lay around through this vapoury phenomenon. Broad, clear button grass plains stood out in the west and north along the valleys of the Wedge and Boyes Rivers and providing easy progress through that area. To the N.E. and E. was an area of thick forest, mainly excellent eucal¬yptus timber, and it was evident that it would be hard work punching through this to the Florentine and the South Gordon track. The most practical return route seemed to be to descend to a wooded ridge which extended away to the S.E., its crest probably providing reasonable going. From near the end of this ridge, a route could be found down to the button grass clearings of the Huon valley and a course taken from opening to opening until the Huon was crossed and the broad plain leading up to the forest westward of Bowes exploited to gain the Port Davey Track.
Whilst we hopefully awaited a clearance of the clouds, we lunched and took a couple of bearings, but the cloud and drizzle increased. So, hastily throwing a small cairn together, we decided to vacate the summit at 1.15 p.m. as we were suffering from cold and time was pressing on. We descended the rocks in much the same place as we ascended and then started to swing a little further left in order to pick up the low wooded ridge which we had checked at 123 deg. mag..
The steady drizzle and thicker cloud made it very difficult for us to pick up our bearings and, as the scrub soon commenced to thicken below the rocks, we couldn't afford to zigzag willy-nilly through it. We located a sub-alpine shelf on the south-eastern side, where an excellent fine weather campsite existed with ample water and wood. Beyond this shelf we secured a further glimpse of our chosen ridge, indicating that we were too far over to the left. The ridge-crest didn't appear to be as tractable as from above and was still a little way off. A glimpse below to the S.E. revealed uncompromising gum forest of substantial extent. After making towards the point where we last saw the wooded ridge we entered thicker scrub and encountered a heavy shower. It was now 3 p.m. and it seemed doubtful whether we could traverse the ridge-crest and descend to the plain ere nightfall. We were wet through and realised that a wet forest camp would be most unpleasant and advisable to avoid. We talked things over and agreed it would be safer to descend to last night's camp-site which was within much easier range.
Taking a course of 220 deg. mag., we forced our way over the edge of the ridge we were on and through the dense myrtle and scopari, at first finding it necessary to swing further to the left and later taking a diagonal course as the going improved. Again, we secured easy going through the young myrtle belt, where a little sunshine sometimes appeared between the light showers. Conditions worsened as the grade eased and I swung a little further to the right in order to avoid horizontal. However, it was impossible to secure a really good course and we often had to face up to skirmishes with horizontal, cutting grass, huge logs, laurel, pandanni and the like. The "burn" seemed to be slow in appearing and I was beginning to think I must have gone too far to the right, when we emerged into the opening (5.15 p.m.) and were at our camp-site almost immediately (1340’ - 8m. - 5.20 p.m.).
Soon succeeding in starting a fire despite the damp wood, we managed, between showers, to dry out practically all our saturated gear. My watch stopped soon after our arrival, so subsequent times during our trip are by guesswork mainly. The weather looked a little more hopeful when we retired about 8.30 p.m.. The tent began to leak early, probably due to being rolled up damp all day, and we had fears of what continued showers may mean, but we escaped any major wetting. The night was cooler and happily the mosquitoes and sandflies were absent.
Light showers were still in evidence early on Sat. Jan. 2nd. and we breakfasted and packed during the fine intervals. Leaving about 8 a.m., we retraced our inward route from the Wedge valley up towards the wooded saddle. Unfortunately we had not kept a check on this route as we had no intention of returning that way and we paid the price by failing to locate our small but all-important tripod and getting too high up on the ridge. After wasting about an hour, we spotted the tripod below us and descended down a scrubby gully to it. The tripod was just a little below the level of the low saddle’s trough.
It was quite a few minutes before we located the track a little way in from the "burn". Even here, it was lacking in detail. It was much easier following the track outwards as our footmarks lent additional assistance and we succeeded in following the obscure section right through to the point where we had lunch on Thursday at the edge of the "burn" (1150’ - 5m. - about noon).
As our plan when we left camp was to attempt to walk out in two days, we realised that we must reach at least Sandfly Creek that night in order to maintain schedule; so we postponed the lunch halt and pushed out into the broad button grass plain leading towards the Huon Crossing. There is a marked difference between the recovery of the button grass on this side to that on the opposite side around Isolation since the “burn” of three years ago. Here the grass is much taller and the leaves are linked up with the neighbouring tufts, making it very laborious to wade between them, whilst their spacing makes it impossible to step from crown to crown for any appreciable distance. A succession of tiny, stagnant billabongs crossed our course, each with its swampy and dead ti-tree environment. Light showers still were the rule accompanied by westerly squalls from the direction of Lake Pedder. After about an hour's battling across the plain, we hadn't made much progress and decided to lunch and boil the billy by one of the better watercourses (950' - 6m. - about 1 p.m.).
After lunch, with no immediate prospect of greatly improved going ahead, we inclined a little to the left, heading for the forested edge of the plain and hopeful of finding freer going along its edge. Our change of course provided little respite as the forest side had its vegetation problems and there was many a hard tussle through green ti-tree copses, particularly near one projecting spur of forest where macquarie vine, bauera, reeds, etc. interlaced the ti-tree in a solid, unyielding mass. It was only over the final mile where good easy country was reached before gaining the Port Davey Track and passing along to the Huon Crossing (950' - 12m. - about 6.30 p.m.).
The camp-site here was hard to resist, as we were extremely tired now, but we forced ourselves onwards, finding the Huon had subsided considerably. It was slow plugging along the familiar track and to complete our exhaustion was another off-track struggle through the Manuka Swamp and a wading of the streams. Darkness was close when we reached Sandfly Creek and set about occupying the upper camp-site (980' – 15¼m. about 8 p.m.). Happily there were no sandflies or mosquitoes about. Progress was slow and it must have been 10 p.m. or more when we retired. The sky was completely clear and the air crisp.
I was astir about 4.30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 3rd. to find a little mist occupying the nearby valleys and a light frost. There were several set-backs to an early start, occasioned by much plastering and patching of legs which all showed marked wear and tear. I contrived to re-stake the nearby track which is poorly marked and also gathered some orchids. When we started out about 7 a.m., the sun was already warm and it was obvious the day would be really hot. We were pleased to leave the open plain behind and secure some relief from the sun in the large rain forest leading up towards Mt. Bowes. The pace started to sag approaching Mt. Bowes and we halted for a spell and eats at Cot Case Creek (1800' - 5m.). When we regained open plain approaching the South Gordon Track, the midday sun exerted severe punishment and it was a listless pair that entered Damper Inn for lunch (1400' – 10¾m. - 12.20-1.20 p.m. approx.).
Surprisingly enough, we rallied after dinner, making quite good progress
as far as the Styx River but then the many days of hard toil with insufficient
rest and sleep showed their mark. We gained the car at dusk (860' –
22¾m. - 8.20 p.m. approx.) and, after changing, started off for
home. We stopped at Maydena for petrol and refreshments and at New Norfolk
trying to secure accommodation for Jack, who finally sought refuge at
the Bridgewater station. I encountered car trouble due to the rapid consumption
of engine oil and was unable to find a service station open. When the
oil was approaching danger point and I looked like having to stop and
camp for the night, I managed to obtain requirements at Melton Mowbray
about midnight. The remainder of the journey was a tough battle against
sleep, requiring a few stops, but the ordeal was over about 3 a.m. and
recuperation upon a civilised mattress was commenced.
|Home to Index|
If you would like more information on Keith Lancaster's diaries, please feel free to send me an email.