Keith Lancaster 

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Note: This report has been scanned in as written. I have included the height, distance and time indications where used, e.g.:
(1000'- 12m.- 4.45p.m.)
which read as follows: height in feet - miles for the day - time.

Party: Miss Bessie Husband and Messrs. Bill Thompson, Bob Rusher, Tim Hume and Keith Lancaster (leader).

We were left by the bus at The Gap on the A.N.M. road in the early hours of Sat., Oct. 30th. 1954 and established camp there (1880’ - 1.40 a.m.). Astir soon after daybreak, we were away at 7.20 a.m..

Morning mists cloaked the area around us as we pressed up-hill through the light scrub towards the summit of Tim Shea. The poor visibility caused some little delay in obtaining a bearing on the summit and the steady climb with solid packs slowed up the party. However, we emerged above the mist on the summit (2950' - 1m. - 8.15 a.m.) to obtain quite a good view of the surroundings, searching the track below for a sight of our Adamsfield party and noting small button grass fires near Gordon Bend.

Leaving at 8.50 a.m., we descended into the valley below and tackled the steep climb up to the Needles, those attractive quartzite crags on the Mueller Range opposite. It was here that the lack of form, so noticeable in Tim from the start of the day's walk, became very pronounced and he must have caused us quite a half-hour's delay in the climb.

From the top of the Needles (3350' – 2½m. - 10.10 a.m.) a fine view was obtainable. The mist had almost disappeared and scarcely a cloud broke the blue above. The smoke from the button grass fires to the N.W. was having some adverse effect but the view to the Frenchman and away to the Reserve was still open. The nearby surroundings provided much interest: the sprawling cliffs of Field West, the unmistakable outline of the aptly-named Thumbs, the gradual rise to the dolerite top of High Rocky with Mt. Wedge showing around the corner - a panorama brimful of interest and variety, of forest and open plain, mountain and valley.

Happily Tim was content to retire from the party at this stage, realising the unwiseness of continuing as the tougher going lay ahead. It meant a little further delay in reorganising rations, but it relieved me of the responsibility of enforcing his retirement, although we all felt very sorry for Tim. He was given directions on how to reach the Adamsfield Track about 1½ miles away and all were under way once more at 11.25 a.m.

The pace was markedly faster as we swung around the Needles and along the crest of the high ridge towards High Rocky. We searched for water as we went, but the dry conditions of the past few weeks denied our hopes. We stopped for dinner on an open flat just clear of the Needles (2740' – 4½m. - 12.5 p.m.) although it was some time before water was obtained lower down the ridge.

Off again in warm sunshine at 1.25 p.m., we had easy walking through clear leads for about another mile, when conditions deteriorated. The even tenor of the ridge was interrupted and we were obliged to cross scrubby valleys as we struggled towards the slopes of High Rocky. Low myrtle, bauera and cutting grass provided our main resistance and it was a sturdy and prolonged battle with the leading changing every few minutes. At length the vegetation thinned as we clambered up the steep upper slopes of High Rocky and, at long last, we arrived at the plateau above (3900’ - 7m. - 4.45 p.m.).

A remarkable view was bared before us. Mt. Anne was the dominating landmark, but the Arthurs, Franklands, Wilmots, Snowies, Precipitous Bluff, Weld and a host of other peaks combined with the wide expanses of forest and clearing in making a breath-taking picture. Truly we were looking into the heart of the wild South-West. Behind us we were leaving the more familiar landmarks that had been so plainly visible during most of the day. Around us the various high points of the mountain stood out, emphasising its immensity. We gazed around us for some time and also down towards the Port Davey Track in the Damper Inn area before descending over the southern edge to our planned camp-site in an ideally sheltered gully just below (3300’ - 8m. - 5.50 p.m.).

Low cloud lie just above us next morning and a falling barometer increased our tenebrous outlook on the weather's future. With our hardest day behind us, there was no necessity for great haste. We broke camp at 9.15 a.m. and, regaining the plateau, turned to the left and ascended the high peak of High Rocky (4080’ - 1m. - 9.50 a.m.).

The view was very restricted owing to the mist, only the area immediately below being visible. Returning to the plateau, we experienced the first break in the weather – a sharp shower accompanied by strong wind. This was but a forerunner of what was repeated at frequent intervals as we proceeded eastward along the plateau. At the eastern edge I discovered the loss of my compass and a half hour was lost while I made a fruitless search for it back along the plateau. The others descended to Fossil Lake below and I rejoined them 20 min. later (3180' - 3m. - 11.35-55 a.m.). The rain was falling steadily now and it was a slow job inducing the fire to blaze merrily as we dined and endeavoured to dry out.

Resuming at 1 p.m., we descended on a magnetic bearing of -/- deg. towards the Port Davey Track. The first ½-mile was fairly open, but there followed an almost continuous zigzagging about amidst fairly thick vegetation as we progressed along the southern slopes of a ridge heading eastward. As the slope eased, sassafras and myrtle forest provided reasonable going although, as before, large, rotten logs were always in evidence. It was a pleasant surprise to us all when we suddenly emerged on the Port Davey Track (2000’ - 6m. - 2.40 p.m.), just a short distance north of the Styx River crossing. We didn’t know our position at the time and were not sure of it until we had journeyed nearly another mile northwards. We made camp soon afterwards by the side of the track, cutting out two good camp-sites (1800’ – 7¼m. - 3.20 p.m.). This gave us ample time to dry out our saturated clothing and be comfortably established before dark, although frequent showers still hampered operations.

On Monday morning the weather was still unsettled and our plan was to rejoin the main party at the A.N.M. road barrier at 3.30 p.m. We started off at 10.45 a.m. and had a leisurely journey down the track to Rilet's Hut (850’ – 5½m - 1.10 p.m.). We resumed after lunch at 2.45 p.m. and were at the junction of the old road and the Upper Styx Valley road at 3.30 p.m. when a bus almost identical to the Club's swung up the new road but failed to respond to our frantic wavings. We awaited its return, wondering how the driver could have taken the wrong turning in seeking us, but we soon discovered our mistake from a passing truck driver. It took us but a few minutes to reach the A.N.M. road barrier, where we had but about half an hour to wait for the Club bus to arrive. We were home by 11.35 p.m..

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