WALLS OF JERUSALEM VIA THE MERSEY VALLEY ROAD
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An L.W.C. party left Launceston at 7.15 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27th. 1959 and drove via the Bass Highway, Mole Creek Road and Mersey Valley Logging Road as far as the Forestry Dept.’s camp near the Arm River which was reached at 10.15 p.m., camp being set up, appropriately, in the Mess Hut.
Astir early on Saturday, we were away at 7.40 a.m. along the newly formed road, following it up the Mersey Valley until within about three miles of the commencement of Howells Plains. Here the condition of the “road” obliged us to leave the bus as we started walking at 8.10 a.m. Soon after entering Howells Plain, we left the “road” and crossed to the Mersey where several crossing logs span the river, one of which we secured with a wire hand rail for flood emergency.
After some searching around on the Horse Plain, we located the faint track which leads up around Howells Bluff to the plateau. About half way up, we stopped for lunch at a pleasant creek. The plateau was reached at 2 p.m. and here the party split up, the more active to climb Howells Bluff and catch us later, and the remaining minority to continue leisurely on with me to Lake Salome. My section resumed at 2.45 p.m. and the slow pace enabled me to lay the foundation of blazing a trail from the plateau edge to Herods Gate. With tree blazes and rock cairns, I made a substantial start, hoping to do more on the return. One or two of the rock cairns, perched on substantial rocks, were most conspicuous markers. The course chosen was one previously explored along a tarn dotted shelf in a direct line to the Walls. Without doubt, it would be the prettiest and quickest course available.
We abandoned the blazing approaching the valley near the base of Herods Gate and the party wound its way very slowly at the slopes towards the gate. At length the steep climb was over and we picked our way around Lake Salome to the northern end by 5.15 p.m. and set up camp. The remainder of the party had an uneventful trip to and from Howells Bluff and arrived at camp about 6 p.m. We retired at 10.30 p.m.
Low mist surrounded us on Sunday morning and, after some delay, we made a late start for the Pool of Siloam, where we lingered, hoping for a clearance of the mist. With the weather still unco-operative, we continued on between Zion and The Temple and then swung south above Zion Valley. One section left us at 10.30 a.m., bound for the East Wall, thence to return to camp. The remainder continued with me over Jaffa Gate and located Dixons Kingdom hut below. At 11 a.m. Gordon Bessell and Jeff Long set off for Lake Ball, from which they were to return to camp via Damascus Gate. The remnant continued with me westward through the very substantial pencil pine forest and over Damascus Gate to arrive back at camp first at 12.30 p.m.
After lunch, I climbed Ophel with Terry Brannigan in only 18 min. from camp. Poor visibility gave us little sight seeing.
After a brief stay, we were soon back at camp. As the afternoon advanced and Gordon and Jeff failed to return, I organised a search party and set off at 4.15 p.m. with ten searchers. We split up into sections and combed a wide area, covering Zion and Jaffa Vales and the nearby areas. All sections reported back by 7.30 p.m. without achieving any success. Although the mist had lifted a little during late afternoon, conditions were still such that extensive views were not possible. We had our dinner and made an early retirement, planning to continue the search at Daybreak.
Despite thick mist, Terry Branagan, Roger Duncan and I were up and away at 6 a.m. on Monday, groping our way around the lake and down to Herods Gate. Instructions were left for the remainder of the party to start for home at 9 a.m. irrespective of circumstances. We three were prepared to stay on and continue the search indefinitely. At Herods Gate, according to plan, we started to swing around to the southern side of the West Wall to comb the area towards Lake Ball. I started using the whistle before going far and very soon we heard an answering call below us to the S.W. We waited a while and soon Gordon and Jeff were with us, being none the worse for their night in the open. They had missed the camp through going too far north on their return but they had picked up the track near the hut under Howells Bluff and decided to try to return to us by nightfall. They were still two miles away as darkness fell but lit a fire in the valley and kept reasonably warm and dry despite some drizzle. Once again the possession of matches had turned what could have been a chilly ordeal into an easily bearable experience.
We were back at camp by 8 a.m. and able to join in the general start for home at 9 a.m., all in a relieved and happy frame of mind. More blazing was completed on the way out, including improvements to the lower track on the slopes of Howells Bluff. However, the encroachment of prickly beauty over quite a large section would take quite a lot of satisfactory clearing in order to make the track real open.
Lunch was taken on the banks of the Mersey (1.5-2.45 p.m.), which is a very attractive place. The party then steamed or puffed along at widely divergent paces to the bus, arriving from 4 p.m. onwards. Our trip homeward was uneventful and we reached Launceston at 9.30 p.m.
My general impression on this trip is that it could be made an annual affair. In fine weather the Walls of Jerusalem offer some outstanding mountain and lake scenery, the plateau route is easy and attractive and the whole course is the quickest access route to the area. With the general improvement being made in the road, the walking distance should soon diminish. It would also be a good move for the Club to undertake further track clearing and marking over this course to assist future walks and also to ensure the safety of walkers on the high section during misty conditions.
PARTY: Misses Frances Dobson, [??]
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