THE HIGH TOPS TO PEDDER
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Note: The reports have been scanned in as written. I have included the height and distance indications, e.g.:
(1000'- 12m.- 4.45p.m.)
which read as follows: height in feet - miles for the day - time.
|The Christmas 1958 trip followed a period of planning
in which transport and co-ordination in route selections was uppermost.
As a consequence, a party comprising Keith McPherson, Ren Millsom, John
de Clifford, Helen Bett (all of Melbourne) and Iaian and Mina Muecke (Sth.
Aust.) left Launceston on the morning of Christmas Eve and had lunch at
the H.E.C. hut on King William Creek under the King William Range. They
were joined later by Geoff Hill of Melbourne, arriving via Queenstown. In
the afternoon, Keith McPherson drove my car back home and at 6 50 p.m.,
in company with Keith and Daphne McPherson (Mel-bourne), Tim Hume (Launceston)
and Des Lyons (return driver), I set off to join up with the vanguard.
All went well until I passed Golden Valley and was halted by a broken rear spring. With the three main leaves broken and the whole weight taken by the fourth leaf, further progress was impossible so, abandoning the whole contingent and their gear at a P.W.D. camp, I essayed a cautious return to Deloraine to seek repair assistance. After a tedious 7 m.p.h. but safe journey back, there followed a prolonged battle of seeking leaves, mechanical assistance, etc. Finally, with the sympathetic assistance of a service station proprietor, I managed to obtain a spring and, after a long wait, prevail upon a mechanic to tackle the replacement at l a.m., setting off at 1.40 a.m. several pounds poorer to reach my slumbering companions at Golden Valley, and sink to rest beside them at 2.30 a.m.
After a short sleep, all were aroused by the late return of the folks in the house alongside, so we hastily packed and set off at 5 a.m. The early Christmas Day weather was cloudy and misty as we hastened on to allay any anxiety the remainder of the party felt at our non-arrival at the King William Hut on Christmas Eve. Without further hitch, we joined them (2580' - 8.45 a.m.) and contributed to the breakfasting shambles in the limited confines of the hut.
At 10.5 a.m. we humped our packs, said farewell to Des and set off along the track under the Hydro transmission line. At the top of the rise, we swung away to the right through clear leads. Light showers and low clouds induced us to keep on our rain jackets most of the time. We soon inclined eastwards, where more open and continuous plain promised easier going. Along the plain we discovered an old jeep track and followed it for some distance. We crossed the Guelph River about ½ mile east of Lake George, but soon after curled in towards the range, but encountering little scrub opposition. After having early visions of reaching the Gap before lunch, we had to settle for a lunch site on a creek between two small lakes (2650' - 5m. - 12.20-1.45 p.m.). The lake on our right was not so small after all.
With Christmas dinner and its limited festivities behind us, we exploited various semi-open leads before fouling a little mixed forest and descending to open button grass close to the Gap, the great break right through the King William Range. We soon encountered some old stakes leading towards the Gap and halted for a rest after crossing the creek in the Gap's trough. Then followed a steep climb up onto the southern section of the King Williams, first through relatively clear going, then through thick scrub up the left side of the creek, then up the easier but damper course of the creek-bed and finally out on to the plateau near a tiny tarn (4.20 p.m.). Contact was made with the various components of our split up party and, after various inspections, a campsite was chosen a little below the tarn beyond the reach of the cool southerly blast (3500' - 8m.). All had arrived by 5.20 p.m. and camp and meal preparation kept us busy until dusk. The clouds which had thinned in the north earlier in the afternoon, were now settling down into the valleys and the cool southerly appeared to check any rain possibilities. I appreciated our comfortable pandanni mattress as I needed sleep - 2½ hours maximum last night and 4½ hours the night before.
A fine, clear sky greeted us on Friday, Dec. 26th. We were up early and away at 7.55 a.m. The walk across the plateau was easy and delightful. Pretty tarns, numerous cushion plants, shiny leafed pandannis, and green undulations all kept us in good spirits. We reached the first high point of Mt. King William 2nd. (4250' - 2m. - 9.20 a.m.). Leaving our packs here, the early arrivals moved over to the eastern edge of the range to see the lakes below. A substantial elongated lake (probably Richmond) lay just a little to our right on the shelf below, its narrow form stretching away to the east. Two smaller lakes were spaced out to its north along the undulating surface extending towards Lake King William. A mile to the south of Lake Richmond, another elongated lake (Banana?) paralleled on a slightly higher shelf and a gully showing further south gave promise of holding further lakes. Back at our packs, we took in the clear, unobstructed view. The peaks of The Reserve, the Walls, Hobhouse, Dromedary, Wylds, the Wellingtons, the Fields, the Snowies, High Rocky, the Denisons, The Thumbs, Stepped Hill, Mt. Anne, Clear Hill, Wedge, the Arthurs, the Prince of Wales, Frenchmans Cap, Jukes, Darwin, Owen, the Tyndalls, the Eldons, the Loddons, Gell, Arrowsmith, High Dome, Goulds Sugarloaf and the Du Canes were all identified on a sweep of the horizon - truly a grand view. A magnetic check on the high tops of the range showed: K.W.1st. 345, the N.E. peak of the southern section, 5, and the adjoining high peak to the south, 175.
Leaving at 10.20 a.m., we had an easy walk along to the other high peak (4250' - 3m. - 10.50 a.m.). This peak vies closely in height to that of the previous peak. On my first visit, the aneroid gave the first peak the advantage by a narrow margin, but this time the placing was reversed, so there must be very little between either in determining which is the highest point on the whole range. From here the southern view was opening up more, and we had more intimate inspections of The Spires, Innes High Rocky, the Franklands, the Wilmots, the Prince of Wales, and Algonkian, the area to which we were going. The range continued on at 145 deg. and two to three miles of thick forest could be seen separating us from the foothills of the Prince of Wales Range.
Resuming at 11.25 a.m., we halted for lunch (4m. - 11.50 a.m.) on the eastern shelf of the next hill. Directly below us was a trio of small lakes which occupied the depression into which me could not see from our earlier plateau edge inspection. The spot and its surroundings were ideal for our midday rest, although most of the party had halted half a mile back.
Under way again at 1.20 p.m., we crossed another valley and followed up with a long zigzag climb to reach the top of the highest peak (K. William 3rd) near the southern end of the range (4050' - 5½m.- - 2.20-40 p.m.). The pace had become very slow. Still adhering to the range, we descended to the col linking up with the next peak to the south and climbed to its eastern edge, seeking the best route down into the forest below on our way to the Prince of Wales range. We had decided on the direct cross country approach, despite the continuous forest, as the much longer route via the open plain would mean adhering to the uneven range for a good while yet.
At 3.50 p.m. we started descending diagonally S. by E. through dense low scrub and boulders. We had planned a course roughly S.S.W. on the floor through the timber and down a valley to a small clearing on the plain and then straight for the range. The going improved as we left the rocks behind, pandanni being abundant as an underscrub. We reached a small lagoon (7½m. - 5 p.m.) on a ti-tree shelf with the wall of the King Williams showing only a short distance S.E. Continuing S.S.W. through reasonably open forest, we found a little running water in a horizontal and pandanni area and stopped to camp (2650' - 8½m. - 5.30 p.m.). Good tent sites were all around and we were soon immersed in our various camp chores. We had another comfortable pandanni mattress and retired at 9 p.m.
The wind increased overnight and the morning of Sat. Dec.27th was overcast with a moist atmosphere. We made a tardy start at 9.20 a.m. on a course of 205 deg. mag. through a green belt of horizontal, sassafras and myrtle. After an hour we were within the location of the old "burn" we had seen from the range. The going here was similar except for little horizontal, whilst here and there tall, bleached tree skeletons could be seen towering above the younger tree growth. This ancient "burn" was not with us long as we passed across its eastern edge and soon were on a steep wooded escarpment overlooking a Denison tributary which led down at 190 deg. mag. towards the small opening on the plain. We continued along the edge of the escarpment on 165 deg. mag., hoping to cross the head of the valley and follow down the ridge on the east side of the creek.
After negotiating a couple of scallops, I located some very old blazes on the trees (later identified as the track cut by Thomas Frodsham in 1896). Soon after, we were installed on the ridge east of the creek, but soon found it expedient to turn down to the creek for lunch (1250' - 3½m. - 12.30 p.m.). The sun had succeeded in breaking through by this and all possibility of a shower seemed at an end. Under way again at 1.50 p.m., we adhered to the creek-bed, finding it fairly clear for a little while. Then horizontal intruded. Oddly enough, we soon found this was worse away a little from the creek where patches of myrtle, sassafras and manfern often improved the course. We endeavoured to leave the creek a couple of times and head for the small clearing, but we were either forced back fairly soon by bad scrub or the creek would curl back towards us. As the afternoon advanced, the creek became more windy and the party very slow. At length we elected to camp on the east bank of the stream (1000' - 6m. - 5.45 p.m.). Except for poor mattressing material, it was quite a good site. Tim surprised us all by catching his first fish for many a day and his only success on the trip - a 4" mountain trout. The sky was fairly clear as we turned in at 9.25 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 28th. gave us another overcast sky with little wind and a moistness in the air. Mosquitoes had turned out in force to give us a rousing send-off. Yet it was 8.55 a.m. before we broke camp, following the stream down for only a few yards and then striking out to the right on a 200 deg. mag. bearing. We encountered dryer country, free from horizontal, and then passed over a low rise to descend direct on to the small button grass opening which we had sighted from the range and to which we had directed our course. It had been good navigation but, now that we had made it, it availed us little in one sense as the clearing had not been burnt for many decades and was overgrown, uneven and swampy.
After pushing through the "clearing", a slight improvement in progress was short-lived for we were soon in the worst scrub encountered to date - a combination of bauera, cutting grass, ti-tree, laurel, feather reeds and dead ti-tree. Pushing slowly towards the Prince of Wales Range, we emerged in open myrtle to reach the bank of a considerable stream flowing eastward - actually the main stream of the Denison (1000' - 2½m. - 10.40 a.m.). We crossed the river on a convenient log as a heavy shower commenced, sheltering from it on the far bank. It was a lovely stream and a beautiful forest.
At 11.25 a.m. we set off on a 240 deg. mag. course straight into horizontal, but the foothills were close and it soon gave way to bauera and ti-tree on the climb. This gradually thinned out and at length we reached the crest (1550' - 3½m. - 12.30 p.m.). It felt good to be entrenched on the Prince of Wales, but the erratic nature of the range and its high scrub pockets made it clear that there would be tussles ahead as we pressed onwards and upwards. We continued S.W. along the crest towards a ragged peak rising beyond a scrub collar. Down on our left, clear button grass leads ran down to the Denison Valley below Innes High Rocky. Showers were becoming more frequent. We halted for lunch at the foot of the scrub collar (4½m. - 1.15-2.15 p.m.). Rain and hail squalls battered us during our snack. Here Iaian and Mina Muecke decided to withdraw from our party and make out via Innes High Rocky and the Gell River to "Gordon Vale" and Maydena. Iain was having foot trouble which had started late on the first day and increased progressively, slowing him up considerably. It was a wise decision as the route ahead would have meant an agonising ordeal, although we were sorry to see either of them leave.
The scrub collar proved easier than expected and the ragged peak was clear on top. At the base of a higher scrubby peak, we waited for the rearguard (5.33m. - 3.25-38 p.m.), and then scrambled up it to find a couple of higher eminences ahead leading up to a high grassy bluff, which we thought may be the peak known as Sanctuary Peak. The weather was still squally with a cold wind. We battled up through low ti-tree and tall button grass to the top of Sanctuary Peak (3150' - 7m. - 5.40 p.m.). The thickly wooded Mt. Algonkian was being left behind on our right. A suitable campsite was our main concern. A peak farther south seemed to conform to our next high point, North Peak, and a make-shift campsite appeared possible in this direction. We crossed the col ahead in low 2' ti-tree and then across to where a gum-ti-tree "old burn" occupied the edge of a slope. This seemed to provide the maximum shelter possible on an exposed range and could provide the necessary tent poles, firewood and water. Reaching the site (2600' - 7½m. - 6.15 p.m.), we had much work to put in to establish camp. Fires were hard to get going with the wet wood, good mattressing was not plentiful, and finally we had many wet clothes to dry out. Thus we did not retire until 10.15 p.m. under an overcast sky with the wind still squally, light showers frequent, and the clouds low.
It was a night of wind and showers and morning broke with low scuds. We were astir, as usual, at 6.15 a.m. and breakfasted, but we remained in camp awaiting a cessation of the showers and a lifting of the clouds which made navigation fairly hopeless. There were few fine intervals during the morning and only occasionally could we see the nearby crags on the range. The afternoon gave a glimmer of hope with a rising barometer and breaks in the rain. Still there was still enough rain to hold us immobile all day. Towards evening, two tiny specks of blue momentarily showed through - our only sight of the sky that day. After drying out everything that had become damp, we retired for the night at 8.30 p.m. to the accompaniment of more showers.
Heavy mist still covered the plateau as we looked out at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 30th. We were astir at 7 a.m. but slow in getting away. During breakfast small patches of blue and sunshine gave some hope of better things to come, although the absence of any wind meant the clouds would be slow to move. Algonkian became visible to the N.W. and North Peak showed out to the south.
Off at 9.30 a.m., we found the early going clear, but soon we encountered stunted scrub along the range crest farther south. It consisted chiefly of ti-tree, but included a wide variety of other associated vegetation. Beyond this, we climbed up onto the summit of our next elevation, North Peak (3250' - 1½m. - 10.40 a.m.). Although there was still an abundance of cloud, visibility had improved a lot and much of the nearby country could be seen. We paused to examine the course ahead and that left behind. The compass logged K.W. 1st. 356 deg., K.W. 2nd. & 3rd. 17, point of leaving K.W. Ra. 27, Sanctuary Peak 34, Wylds Craig 84, Innes High Rocky 110, Bonds Peak 113, South Headland 97, North Headland 94, Southern Needle 194, next peak to south (close) 232.
Resuming at 11.10 a.m., it was but a short scramble along to the next high peak southwards (3280' - l¾m. - 11.22 a.m.), definitely the higher peak of the two. With the view improving in all directions, we pushed along the crest, having a hard battle with thick scrub (4' to 8' high) all along the ensuing col to the next summit (3150' - 2½m. - 12.55 p.m.), where we stopped for lunch. The clouds had dispersed and our view now was most extensive with Mt. Wedge, the Arthurs and the Franklands showing to the south, Mts. Darwin, Jukes and Frenchmans Cap in the west, and the Eldons and Du Canes in the north. The clear plains along the Denison valley and the slopes of High Rocky and The Spires had been claiming much of our attention, whilst plains on the western side of the Prince of Wales Range were now showing to the S.W. But the feature that was fast dominating the whole outlook was the spectacular sharp spire of the high peak of the Southern Needles (179 deg.), now not much more than a mile ahead …… as the crow flies.
We made a tardy resumption at 2.35 p.m. and were soon wrestling with the dense scrub on the razor-backed col ahead. We had a short respite on the next elevation (3140' - 3½m. - 3.40-50 p.m.) before plunging back into more scrub, although not as bad, on the next col. Skirting the western side of the western peak of the Southern Needles, we dumped our packs at its southern base (3020, - 4m. - 4.20 p.m.) to try conclusions with the rocky spire above.
As the party arrived like Brown's cows, organisation was absent in ascent plans and each was left to his own devices. First I went to the summit of the western of the two main peaks - a clear, exposed, but easily accessible height (3300' - 4¼m. - 4.32 p.m.). My purpose was to make a close inspection of the much higher eastern spire and seek a possible access route. Its craggy walls rose very steeply across a steep, narrow gully. A sloping shelf on the northern wall provided a feasible course around to the eastern side of the peak, but what lay around the corner to help was uncertain. There was also a low route around the southern wall, leading up to a substantial diagonal shelf which seemed to end abruptly near an overhang.
Most of the others had proceeded direct down the southern gully for the high spire, so I followed suit. After descending about 100 yds., I climbed onto the diagonal shelf with a couple of others. We could hear voices higher up but their route was obscured. As the shelf looked like ending at the approaching corner, I took advantage of a good lead on the left to swing out onto the southern face of the spire. Here the climb was very steep and exposed but appeared to ease further up, so I zigzagged around the face, selecting the best upward leads. At length the slope of the wall lessened and I reached the vicinity of the top, only to find that the shelf had linked up with a relatively easy breach in the eastern side of the spire, and the others had exploited it to gain the summit much sooner (3340' - 4½m. - 5.10 p.m.).
The sky was very open now and an amazing panorama encircled us. Mountain upon mountain rolled away in all directions from the Arthurs to the Du Canes whilst we gained our most intimate glimpse of the remainder of our course along the range to where the high southern bluff rose up many miles away. Due to the pressing time factor, photography gained preference over compass listing and soon we were on the way back to our pack dump at the base.
Resuming again at 5.55 p.m., we were wrestling with more low scrub and climbing up and down along the serrated crest. One deep gulf necessitated a considerable detour around the western rock base and a long climb back on to the plateau where we elected to camp on a broad clear section (3000' - 7m. - -7.45 p.m.). About ¼ mile ahead, a large rock cairn occupied the next height. Our view from the camp was very extensive and the sun went down on an almost cloudless world as we were preparing camp and dinner. At dusk a S.E. wind sprang up and the sky became overcast. We retired at 11 p.m. under similar con-ditions.
The ridge was thickly mist-covered as we arose on New Year's Eve (Wed.). The air was calm and soon the clouds opened to the west, but a south-westerly sprang up and sent more cloud surging across. We left camp at 8.30 a.m. and found our way by compass up to the cairn we had seen the night before. It proved to be an 8' Hydro trig. of recent erection on what I understand to be Saddle Peak (3130' - ¼m. - 8.40 p.m.).
Visibility was limited to a few feet and, after a delay, we carried on along the crest at S. by E., but halted after some futile attempts to locate a continuation of the ridge. After minor probings, Mac. and I went back to the N.W., seeking a southerly col. At length the mist lifted enough to reveal the valley to the west of the range and soon we could see the link-up we sought, away down below. At this point the range drops away considerably, providing the easiest pass across it. Rejoining the rest of the party who were only about ½ mile from the trig. point, we resumed at 10.50 a.m. down a steep gully to the S.W., descending 500' in a sudden descent to an open pass where button grass and "dead sticks" monopolised the cover.
After halting in its trough (2500' - 1½m. - 11.30-40 a.m.), we continued S. by W., appreciating the clear, often burnt going, making fair progress along the undulating low crest, stopping for lunch in a depression well along the ridge (2480' - -2¼m. - noon). By then the cloud ceiling had lifted to about 3000', exposing many mountains to the east and the large cairn on Saddle Peak was visible at 11 deg. mag.
At 1.10 p.m. we were off again southward, our course still being over button grassed undulations and our pace brisker. Then a steady, well graded climb, still on B.G., led us up to a high saddle on the first elevation of the southern sector (2800' - 4¾m. - 2.45 p.m.). Climbing onto the crest on the right (2880' - -2.50 p.m.) to reconnoitre, I was able to record North Peak at 18 deg., Saddle Peak 14, the high Southern Needle 13, and the Southern Bluff summit 197. Back at the high saddle, we all resumed at 3.8 p.m. over more B.G. rises, passing air dumped sections of a trig., and then up steeply to the summit of the first really high one on the Southern Bluff (3200' - 6½m. - 4.25-30 p.m.). The party was feeling the strain by this and we were often well strung out.
A suitable campsite was our main concern. As we pushed on southward, we were obliged to descend through an awkward gully to the west and then ascend around a spur to reach another crest where there was sufficient flat ground to permit tent erection for all. It wasn't a good campsite by any means. There was no water visible and wood and tent poles were not in abundance. But time was getting on and ahead lay the high peak, but a steep, difficult climb also lay ahead and the route was uncertain. There was little alternative but to dump packs and make the most of it (3050' - 7¼m. - 5.30 p.m.). Good views in most directions were possible although the cloud cover was extensive, except to the far north. Steep wooded slopes ran away on both sides and the craggy spurs rising above the thick vegetation were indicative of the wildness of our surroundings.
Tent poles and firewood were at a premium, but it was water that proved the hardest to acquire and much searching over a wide area ensued before success was ultimately achieved. In the interim I managed to explore a route to the next peak by descending a scrubby gully and cutting a way through towards a long ascent gully. It would be rough and steep going, but it was the only practical course. Mist fell towards sundown and light rain started at dusk. Even so, it was 10 p.m. before we managed to retire, but this was not due to any New Year's Eve revelry.
Cloud mist still enshrouded our lofty campsite as we arose on Thursday, Jan 1st, but soon the plains below on either side were visible. A gentle westerly disturbed the otherwise calm as we broke camp at 9.30 a.m. with the sun shining on the plains below. We descended the scrubby eastern gully and then pushed across through the scopari towards the base of the ascent gully, losing much time in assisting the less adept at overcoming the rock and floral hazards on the way. Somewhat drenched from our contact with the wet scrub, we rose above it on our steep climb upwards and at last reached the bare crest at 11.25 a.m. Then only a short, easy walk across an undulating ridge-top brought us to the high summit of the Southern Bluff (3350' - 1m. - 11.40 a.m.) (Mt. Humboldt).
A low cloud ceiling restricted our view from this, the highest point of the range. Most peaks were cloud capped. There was a light westerly breeze with patches of sunlight touching the plains. We could gain a fair impression of the route and country ahead towards the Hamiltons and Mt. Sprent, although it was still too early to determine just where we would leave the range. We established a fairly conspicuous cairn on top, busied ourselves with photography and then made the following magnetic check of the surroundings: Algonkian 6 deg., Southern Needles 14, Innes High Rocky 40, The Spires 49, The Thumbs 99, Clear Hill 103, The Pleiades 99-110, new plain 162, Mt. Sprent 171, the Hamiltons 175, D'Aguillar Ra. 222, Deception Ra.(?) 278, Frenchmans Cap 327, Warnes Lookout 349.
At 12.20 p.m. we resumed southwards along the range, but very soon encountered difficulties on the jagged and broken crest as it began to fall away. Seeing a reasonable route eastward down the range to the Denison plains, we elected to try it and sample the hospitality of the valley. Our descent was steep and often scrubby as we headed towards a sheltered shelf overlooking a small alpine lake set in a sea of thick forest. Slippery moss also provided a hazard on the steep, damp pitches, but progress was good and we gained a nice lunch spot on a shelf where we relaxed on soft cushions of fern whilst around us small cliffs ringed us in on three sides like an amphitheatre (2550' - 1¾m. - 12.45 p.m.).
At 2.10 p.m. after a warm around a pandanni fire, we sallied forth once more with the sky still overcast and little sunshine breaking through. Exploiting a breach in the cliff wall to our left, we edged around towards the crest of a sloping ridge, heading for the button grass visible on the Denison plains far below. Continuing, we encountered a second lake, lower and N.E. of the one we had just avoided, in a deep wooded depression. Attempting to descend to it, we were halted by small cliffs, necessitating a considerable (slightly uphill) traverse to the left to gain the crest of the sloping ridge we sought. For a little while progress became easy as we descended through sparse ti-tree and B.G. but horizontal soon took over and from then on it was a poor choice of thick horizontal or an atrocious tangle of bauera, cutting grass and ti-tree, with an uneven terrain interspersed with creek crossings.
Many tumbles later, we struggled out onto open B.G. at last to find it almost in its virgin state. We stumbled across it towards a high dead tree which we had earlier marked out as a probable crossing point on the Denison River (500' - 4m. - 6.30 p.m.). As no early clearing showed beyond, we elected to camp on a small affluent of the Denison in the B.G. The site was not good and everyone seemed very tired. Consequently it was late before we settled in. There were a couple of light sprinkles before nightfall but the day ended in the usual fashion with mist covering the high peaks and general rain as far off as ever. Tim had lost both heels from his boots during the afternoon and it was obviously a major repair job for the morrow if he was to continue. He was adamant on this although I had grave doubts of his ability to keep up with the party. I had also trousers repairs of my own to effect. We retired at 10.25 p.m.
The usual weather greeted us on Friday. Jan. 2nd. - the peaks mist-covered, some patches of blue sky and an occasional light sprinkle. I was first astir at 5.30 a.m. as I had the boot repairs to effect. By sacrificing my leather sandal, I cut its heel off and fixed it to Tim's boot with 2" nails and tricounis. I made a smaller heel from the toe of the sandal, using a cut-off tree trunk as a last and my axe as a hammer. It took quite a time but the finished job looked effective. Trousers repairs had to be forgotten in the scramble to get away with the others who were already down making the ford. Mac had started down at 7.25 a.m. and all were across as I brought up the rear a quarter of an hour later. There was only two feet of water in the Denison where it crossed a light rapid near where our campsite creek ran in and the low ridge started on the other side.
Resuming from the far bank after footwear was replaced (490' - 8.15 a.m.), we struck out eastward to locate the open B.G. beyond. This opening led southwards for over a mile before merging into the forest, and here we headed S.E. towards the bare hillside which bounds the valley, planning to exploit its clear slopes southwards as far as possible and then descend to where a long B.G. opening takes over on the plain and leads well towards the Hamiltons. Mixed forest barred our way for another mile before we toiled out onto a steep spur, copiously clothed with healthy B.G. Turning south, we followed the ridge along to a saddle where we stopped for lunch in hot sunshine (1120' - 3m. - 12.30 p.m.).
There was not a cloud in the sky now and perspiration had been shed with rare abandon. Our hopes for water in the saddle were not fulfilled and the "dry" lunch was not appreciated. I took advantage of the lack of general enthusiasm to catch up with my sewing repairs before we were off again at 2.25 p.m. We didn't follow the hillside much longer as ti-tree, banksia and bauera began to mingle with the tall B.G. We descended diagonally S.W. where the opening on the plain could be seen far ahead. At the base of the ridge, we entered ti-tree and soon were resuming acquaintance with bauera, cutting grass, horizontal, and the rest of the horrors. It was a long, hard scrub bash, necessitating frequent changes in the lead. At last B.G. tussocks began to mingle with the ti-tree and, although this meant an improvement, even a mile of this going failed to bring us out in the open and we decided to strike camp at a tiny stream in a semi-open space 550' - 6m. - 6.40 p.m.). The usual lengthy camp preparation plus more sewing and the making of a damper served to delay our retirement until 10.50 p.m. With the sky cloudless, the air windless and the barometer high, we had high hopes of gaining the Hamiltons on the morrow.
Saturday, Jan. 3rd. dawned lightly overcast, warm and still, but the clouds were well broken and the sun hot when we started out at 8.50 a.m. Continuing southwards along the plain, low ti-tree and B.G. provided our main floral acquaintances with a tangle of varied growth at each of the numerous creek crossings. After a mile the open plain materialised but didn't provide the perfect walking we had hoped, even though it was the best encountered since our first day's journey. After a further two miles, deterioration in the going set in. Ti-tree and banksia mingled more frequently with the B.G. and terrain erratics added to our discomfort. Along the crest of the Hamiltons we could see where recent fires had bared the upper section. Under the second clear spur of the range, we headed into the timber covering the trough of the valley in the direction of the range. We encountered some difficult bauera and stopped for lunch amongst it at the first creek, a north flowing tributary of the Denison (680' - 4½m. - 12.15-1.40 p.m.).
The bauera continued westward for only a hundred yards and gave way to a more tractable coverage of ti-tree and B.G. mixed. This continued until we were at the base of our chosen climbing ridge where we immediately encountered trouble. Thick bauera covered the whole of the early steep ascent in association with ti-tree and low scrub. Progress was tediously slow and the cost tremendous in exertion for the unfortunate in the lead. Gradually improvement set in as we clambered upwards, but even the best of the going was hard. At last we left the green tangle behind and entered the upper "burn" and then soon were on the high saddle between the S.E. spur of the range and the main massif (2050' - 6½m. - 4.45 p.m.).
All were very tired and the hot sun had sapped most of our energy as we staggered to the crest like Brown's cows. It was not surprising I could not interest anyone in accompanying me to the summit of the Hamiltons, even though it didn't look so far away and the "burn" extended in that direction. Thus I dumped my swag and set off along from the saddle at 4.55 p.m. After racing over the first rocky ridge, I encountered a nice little stream in the succeeding valley and had a good refresher. Then it was uphill, still through the open "burn", to the crest of the next ridge, along which the going was quite easy. Broad animal pads led along the crest towards the high summit, still some distance away to the N.W. whilst, cupped in a broad amphitheatre to the west, lay a nice alpine lake in a setting of dark green forest. The animal pads were so broad and well trodden that they appeared like man-made pavements and indicated there must have been an abundance of wild life here prior to the fire of last summer. Yet I didn't see an animal of any description.
Continuing along the crest which curved westward and linked with the higher ridge forming the western wall of the amphitheatre, I pushed on as fast as possible as the day was well advanced and I wanted either to catch up with the party or be reasonably close to them at nightfall so I would not have to scrub bash solo on the morrow. Not far beyond the western wall I reached the summit of the Hamiltons (3200' - 8½m. - 5.45 p.m.). How I would have liked to linger there admiring the broad view in the pale afternoon glow. Wild country and endless mountains surrounded me, with Mt. Sprent, the Franklands, the Prince of Wales and Frenchmans Cap the most conspicuous. But there was not a moment to spare. I was off again almost immediately, trotting down the incline on the return journey. Apart from a further refresher in the same cool stream, the pressure was on until I regained my pack at the saddle (2050' - 10½m. - 6.25 p.m.).
An answering call surprisingly disclosed that the party was encamped only about ½ mile down the southern side of the saddle. I set off across to them in the approaching twilight and soon joined them (1800' - 11m. - 6.40 p.m.). We were on the western side of the S.E. spur in a sheltered trough alongside a tiny stream. I was extremely tired and the pitching of the tent, gathering of bedding, etc. was a slow business. I retired at 10.p.m. under a clear star-filled sky.
Another clear, sunny morning greeted us on Sunday, Jan. 4th. as we prepared for our descent to the Gordon River, wondering whether or not a fording would be a hazardous affair. It was calm and warm when we set off at 8.40 a.m., traversing around the west and south side of the S.E. spur and then down the ridge southwards. Crossing a tiny stream, we reached the main southern ridge and descended further. About 1½ miles out, bad scrub took over on the ridge crest and progress became tedious again through thick bauera, cutting grass and ti-tree. In a tiny gap in this tangle, we found the remains of the campsite of the M.U.M.C. pair who had pioneered this route - our only predecessors - but their scrub openings had long since been closed up. We struggled continuously along this crest as it slowly dropped away, the stronger taking quarter hour turns in front and winning only a few yards at each turn. At length we swung down into the gully on our right where horizontal and native plum provided better going. Down in the trough we encountered a further patch of bauera and ti-tree before reaching the Gordon River (800' - 3m. - 1.55 p.m.).
Our catch cry had been "the Gordon for lunch" and never had a resolution been achieved with the loss of so much sweat and energy. We were glad we had managed to hold off until the river was gained as it offered amazing scope for refreshment. We stripped off and swam in a deep pool before lunching, lolling around in shorts and resting. The river water was unusually warm and the scenery very attractive. After lunch, we forded the stream in 2½ feet of water and manoeuvred a few yards farther downstream to where the gorge becomes very narrow and rugged and an apparently "clear" climbing ridge rises up on the southern side.
By this time it was 4.55 p.m. (three hours after reaching the river). We started up the ridge which was deceptively covered with low thick scrub (ti-tree and bauera) and again had to resort to 15 min. leads in order to maintain even gradual progress. It appeared that we may have done better if we had used the western ridge from our camp rather than the southern one as the former was apparently clearer and more direct. However, it probably wouldn't have made all that much difference and possibly the gully route could pay off best.
After 1¼ hours of determined effort, we climbed out of the scrub onto a relatively clear ridge, from which we pushed south-wards, climbing towards the crest of this huge hill through B.G. mingled with a variety of other vegetation, quite thick in patches. As we continued, we sought a possible campsite. Topping our initial ascent ridge, we espied a small creek valley beyond and descended to it through low scrub and selected scattered tent sites on the rise above its southern bank (1250' - 4½m. - 7 p.m.). Although we had covered little distance during the day, it had been hard work through some of the thickest scrub I have ever encountered. We were all very tired, but happy in the knowledge that the worst of the climb was over. The Gordon gorge was still only a short distance away and the rumble of the water was plainly audible. A day to explore the gorge as far as the Serpentine junction should have been productive of grand scenery, but the continual scrub bashing was sapping much of our initiative for deviations and the Lake Pedder aerial food dump was becoming the all-important objective, especially as the food supply was dwindling and had to be carefully rationed. The sky had clouded a little during the afternoon but it cleared again soon after nightfall. The need to bake another damper delayed our retirement until 10.45 p.m.
After a calm, warm night, there was little change on Monday morning. Astir at 6 a.m. with the sky half overcast with high cloud, we were soon feeling the warmth of an ascending sun. Over breakfast we had better opportunity to study our surroundings and it appeared that the Serpentine-Gordon junction could be little more than a mile away to the west. The gorge walls were clearly visible.
At 8.15 a.m. we were under way, ascending towards a distant summit through B.G., banksia, sprengelia and white waratah. Over a succession of erratic rises, covered with low scrub and B.G., we climbed gradually higher until we reached a high summit (2000' - 2m. - 10 a.m.). This seemed about the highest point although ahead to the south we could see another peak which appeared to hold a cairn (Truchanas Lookout). After a rest, we resumed at 10.15 a.m. and followed the ridge crest down and up to this other peak (2000'- 2½m. - 10.35 a.m.). The cairn-top proved to be a painted kerosene tin from an air dump of Olegas Truchanas used on the Pedder-Macquarie Harbour canoe trip. It occupied one of the two almost equally highest point of the elevated hill which is quite a substantial eminence and was doubtlessly part of the Wilmot Range before the Serpentine gorge was carved through. Probably nameless, I have listed it as Truchanas Lookout as a tribute to Olegas' pioneering work in that area.
Mt. Sprent was now the dominant feature over to the right. The steep gullies running into the Serpentine gorge must contain a series of cascades and waterfalls during wet weather. The far Serpentine plain, Crumbledown, Detached Peak and the Lake Pedder depression were also claiming our attention.
Resuming at 10.45 a.m., the party became rather strung out. At the lip of the steep descent to the Serpentine, which could be seen flowing out of the gorge on the northern side of De-tached Peak across a broad plain to the base of Truchanas Lookout before entering the Wilmot gorge, the front party waited impatiently for the lingering rearguard and then descended down the steep incline at a smart gait. They reached the base as the rear party started over the lip. A broad ripple on the shingles ¼ mile upstream indicated an easy ford, so we approached the river bank via a muddy creek inflow and then waded around to the edge of the bank until we gained the ford where we crossed in about a foot of water, halting on the south bank for lunch (850' - 4¼m. - 12.15 p.m.).
Being a warm day, it appeared that a repetition of yesterday's bathing orgies would ensue, but no! It may have been that deep water was not at hand or that the nearness of Lake Pedder had a strong appeal. About 1.45 p.m. three of the party set out on a "Pedder tomorrow or bust" issue. The remainder were under way an hour later, including myself. Beyond the river. we headed un the valley which separates Detached Peak from the Wilmots, keeping to the western side of the plain and threading our way through plentiful B.G. leads. For a mile the going was fairly good but then ti-tree covered most of the course. Soon we were in a thick tangle of ti-tree, bauera, cutting grass, and the like, and progress was aggravatingly slow and extremely arduous. After a while we had the bright idea that, if one of us went at right angles to the left and another to the right, we must shortly locate the route forced by the vanguard. To the left I located the creek which occupied the valley trough and provided a good thoroughfare ten feet wide with about a foot depth of water. On the right Mac located the trail of the others. After consultation, we elected to follow the latter and, for a short while, it paid dividends. Then the scrub eased in thickness and the trail was harder to follow. In time we lost it and, re-entering thick scrub, swung down to the creek which was helpful for a little while but soon lost volume and became as overgrown as elsewhere.
Abandoning the creek, we made fair progress through some stunted myrtle and regained the trail of the others. This we lost and regained several times as we pushed o towards the watershed ahead, wasting more time in locating the trail than we saved by its guidance. Night was coming o fast as we threaded our way to the crest of the low watershed and then pushed down the slight rise beyond, hoping to reach the open plain before nightfall. We were all rather tired and finally settled for a campsite in a small opening near a creek not far from open going (1080' - 8m. - 6.50 p.m.). The usual camp chores followed and we retired at length at 1030 p.m.
Light rain was falling before 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 6th., but we had no serious interruption during breakfast and packing operations. Dark clouds, gathering and lowering, made it obvious that heavy rain would soon be with us. We left camp at 8.10 a.m. in a fine drizzle and in a short while passed near where I had camped on my Mt. Sprent visit. From now on our course was identical to that taken on my return from Sprent with Lake Pedder our evening objective.
The broad swampy plain with its two creeks in Access Basin provided the main obstacle, but our course over was reasonably good and the best route yet discovered. Even when across the swamp, it was a long trek around the outer pedicles to the low shoulder of the Starfish. Heavy rain had set in before we breasted the shoulder (4m. - 11 a.m.) and skirted the southern edge of the main Serpentine plain.
Beyond The Starfish, our course led more into open plain where the button grass was high and the ground sodden. We lunched near a swampy creek, trying to shelter under some banksias, but conditions made our repast a short business. Crumbledown showed through the mist and became our immediate objective. The vegetation all along the plain was fast recovering from the fires of six or seven years ago and, with the pock-marked and sodden terrain, had a tiring effect on the party. Approaching Crumbledown this created a split in the party with the Macs forging ahead and the tired Tim and Jeff stumbling along in the rear with me. I sought better going closer in to the Franklands but here also the vegetation had increased and my slight detours put us farther behind. We lost sight of the leaders approaching the S.W. corner of Pedder, where we shouldered the low ridge and swung wide of the lake to avoid the maze of swampy creeks.
Our pace was very slow and we had a short rest in the maze. However, we threaded our way through a labyrinth of muddy streams without encountering any serious setback and then swung into the lake shore. Here we were joined a few minutes later by the Macs whom we thought to be at camp by this, but they had encountered much trouble from the streams entering the lake and lost much ground. Together we trudged around the shore in diminishing rain, passing the S.E. corner and gaining the main bench. Finally we ascended the bank to gain the sanctuary of the permanent camp (900' - 17½m. - 6.5 p.m.). The rest of the party had gained the camp before lunch in a fast dash from the western foot of The Starfish, where they had camped the previous night. The only other occupant of the camp was Barry Higgins of Hobart. In improving weather, we dried out, cooked, lunched, talked, and retired at 9.10 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 7th. was cloudy and windy and Barry was unable to secure any companions as he set off for The Lion after breakfast. I occupied the forenoon in cooking two dampers and doing some washing, hoping a plane may arrive and supply outward transport. When light showers developed around midday, I decided it advisable to wait no longer but walk out via the Port Davey Track, undertaking to telegram for planes for the others. I took my leave at 2.25 p.m. and traversed the slushy plain around Solitary in heavy rain to reach the L.W.C. camp near the Huon Crossing (960' - 9¼m. - 6.20 p.m.).
The tent was already starting to deteriorate, although it had only been erected the previous summer. However, it had not been very well pitched, the fly was touching the tent in places and both were cupping water above the walls. The location could have been improved as the tent lay under three large tree branches and was in a fire danger area. During a lull in the rain, I dried out my clothes, had dinner and retired at 9 p.m. with the sky overcast and the weather uncertain. Tomorrow I was intending to make an early start and push out to Rylett's hut.
After a cool night, Thursday, Jan. 8th. gave promise of better things with a sunny morning and few clouds. I left camp at 7.10 a.m. and made good progress along the early track, adhering to it right through Manuka Swamp and still maintained a steady 2½ m.p.h. as I climbed out of the plain into the Bowes forest. Light rain began to fall as I reached the high section and the chilly wind made conditions cold and unpleasant. The monotony of a familiar uninteresting track emphasised the loneliness of a long solo walk and the long miles seemed to come in so slowly. The undulating scrubby section below Bowes was probably the most trying of all and it was a relief to come out on to open track and halt for lunch in fine weather within ½m. of the junction of the South Gordon Track (11¾m. - 1.0-55 p.m.).
It was good walking along to Damper Inn (1400' - 14m. - 2.57 p.m.), which seemed so hard to pass by with still twelve miles of hard going ahead. However, I managed to maintain a little better than 2½ m.p.h. over this section, although spasms of cramp occasionally gave timely warnings. With little to spare in the gathering twilight, I staggered into Rylett's Hut (860' - 23¾m. - 7.45 p.m.), gathered up some firewood and bedding before dark and was able to commence a well-earned sleep at 10.30 p.m.
I left the hut at 8.10 a.m. next day, walked into Maydena, did some shopping, met Bill Davies, had a shave, lunched and caught the afternoon bus for Granton. At Bridgewater I was lucky in securing a car ride home to Launceston.
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