FRANKLAND TRAVERSE AND THE BOMBARDIER TRACK
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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.
|As the result of some considerable previous planning, Dave
Pinkard and I left Launceston on Friday night, Dec. 1st. 1961 and spent
the night with David Wilson at Hobart. We set off early on Saturday morning
for Cambridge where we were booked for air transport to Lake Pedder. Our
departure was delayed substantially due to cloud and unfavourable weather
reports, but we were ultimately under way with Mr. Tanner at 11 a.m., journeying
over the Derwent valley and then between the Maydena and Mueller Ranges
where we entered cloud level at 3000’, having little to spare on visibility
as we crossed the high country. We landed on Pedder beach at 11.45 a.m.
and Dave continued on with the pilot to effect our air drops. He returned
soon after with the news that everything had to be dumped on the Serpentine
plain opposite The Dome as there was no hope of inducing the pilot to attempt
the high level drop on the Franklands owing to wind and cloud hazards.
We set off southwards along the beach, leaving it at the S.E. corner and heading S.E. for the eastern end of the Franklands, dumping our heavy loads at 12.50 p.m. (1½m.) under the range and starting into our chicken and sandwiches. Lunch over, we resumed at 1.50 p.m. up the first section of the range on our planned traverse. Occasional light showers greeted us, along with copious clouds and a light westerly. We toiled up to the first peak of any significance (2500’ - 2½m. - 2.40 p.m.) and continued on to the next, a more rocky one (2520’ - 2¾m. - 2.45 55 p.m.). Then we followed a bearing of approx. 200 deg. mag. to the next peak, clearer and higher than those just visited (2820’ - 3¼m. – 3.8 p.m.) and then westward to the top of a still higher eminence (2850’ - 3¾m. – 3.22-30 p.m.).
We then crossed to the base of the first really substantial peak, possibly the most visited one and one which shows quite prominently from Pedder beach. Skirting northwards, we passed under the rocky cliffs of this peak which we will call “East Peak” for want of a better name, and left our packs in the next gully (4½m. - 3.55 p.m.), planning to return and make camp lower down the gully. Continuing up the gully, we climbed steeply to the top and then crossed a high col southward to reach a high summit (3020’ - 5¼m. 4.45 55 p.m.). The showers had eased during the afternoon, the wind had dropped and so had the clouds which were now all around us, restricting visibility considerably. So far our passage along the range had been quite open and yet a diversity of flora was ever present. Hewardia, bauera, native plum, sprengelia and lemontyne were frequently with us.
The thickening cloud made navigation difficult on our return journey to the packs. We stumbled upon another cairned summit a little farther west soon after leaving and then straightened our course to north, ultimately coming down a ridge towards the packs but didn’t locate the gully until much probing ensued. Regaining our burdens (6m. - 6.10 p.m.), we descended down and down until we found a suitable shelf close to wood, water and shelter (1850’ - 6½m. - 6.30 p.m.). We succeeded in making a pleasant camp and retired between 10.30 and 11 p.m. The night was warm and fine except for a couple of light showers.
We were astir at 6 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3rd. Patches of sunshine were finding their way through breaks in the clouds. At 8.25 a.m. we started off by crossing the creek and following up the western wall of the gully to a flattish shelf. From here we angled westward around the mountain for half a mile and then climbed a steep gully to its top at a high col (1m. - 9.50 a.m. - 10.25 a.m.). The sky was clearing and most peaks were clearly visible, so the cameras were put to use before resuming around and up to what proved to be the highest point of East Peak [Terminal Peak] (3050’ - 1¼m. – 10.40 a.m.). This peak is bluff-like in appearance and posesses several raised summits of similar altitude. Our morning's plan had been to bypass the peak’s summit and work around to its west, but its broadness had thwarted that plan and we now realised that it was all for the good.
At 10.58 a.m. we left the high top and descended westward towards Peak BK5 (or Surprise Lake Peak), reaching the clear, broad col below (1½m. - 11.1.0 a.m.). We bypassed the next small elevation on the range on its northern side to reach another col close under BK5. Here we swung around the base of its northern wall, edging towards a steep gully leading up through a break in the cliffs. We clambered up the eastern wall of the gully, keeping clear of the thick scrub around the creek in the trough but nevertheless encountering enough scrubby patches and rock erratics to make climbing with full packs very arduous indeed. At length we clambered up the steepest section near a small waterfall to gain the upper, tapering section and halt for lunch (3000’ – 3m. - 12.30 p.m.). Though absent in the northern sky, low clouds were still passing by overhead. Our lunch site had a northern aspect and good views in that direction entertained us during our stay.
At 1.45 p.m. we resumed up the remainder of the gully to the high col above (3¼m. - 1.53 p.m.) where our packs were dumped and we headed eastward up the rocks to reach the rocky summit of BK5 (3300’ - 3¾m. - 2.15 p.m.). The view was quite extensive with most nearby peaks being clear of clouds except to the S.W. Overhead cloud and frequent low surges made photography hopeless. We made position to look at Lake Surprise below us to the south. Setttng off again at 2.25 p.m. we reached the packs near the col (4¼m. - 2.35 p.m.) and were off again in ten minutes up another spur to the W. From here we had next to contend with the major peak of the whole range – nameless, but Peak BK6 or Three Lakes Peak for identification purposes. We descended towards the northern gully running down from BK6, planning to cross it low down and ascend via the ridge beyond. Approaching the gully, we changed our minds and decided to climb it. As we made elevation, our struggle up the steep gully was worsened by more scrub and it was a very tired trio that dumped packs near the head of the gully (5½m. - 4.30 p.m.).
Dave and I then struggled up the rest of the gully and swung up the ridge eastward to clamber out onto the high top of BK6 (3450’ - 5¾m. - 4.45 p.m.). Thick cloud, racing in from the S.W. enveloped the high points of the range, leaving only the N. and E. open for inspection. At 4.55 p.m. we hurried off and were back with our packs in ten minutes. Climbing westward up and over an adjoining peak, we found a long northward descent ahead. We moved down the easy, open slopes, keeping an eye open for likely camp-sites. Dumping our packs in an area of giant rock erratics (6½m. - 5.18 p.m.), we explored the immediate vicinity, an operation impeded by the quickly lowering clouds. We chose the lee (E. side) of a huge rock as our campsite, pitching the tent amongst some sheltering bushes on what would be a very exposed site during a storm (2650’). Wood wasn't abundant but we managed to secure sufficient. The low clouds cleared a little towards evening and I took the precaution to record that the Right Angle Peak lay to the S.S.E. and that the high southern peak of the range lay W.S.W. from here. The main range continuation onwards lies N.W. to the next elevation and then W.S.W. to the low col with its own little peak filling the trough and from there the ascent of the Central Franklands continues W.N.W. along the ridge crest. The sky was quite clear when we retired at 9 p.m.
The wind blew strongly throughout the night with a light shower falling during a brief lull. We were astir at 6 a.m. to find the sky overcast and the wind a light southerly. Rain commenced during breakfast as heavy, high clouds came in from the N.W. The peaks in our vicinity were still visible when Dave and I left at 8 a.m. to climb Right Angle Peak and the higher southern peak, leaving David to climb BK6. We skirted Right Angle Peak on the western side and swung across for the higher peak. In expectation of worsening weather, we made haste, reached the base and climbed up the prominent scrubby, steep gully which led up to bare rock and on to the summit (3230’ - 1½m. - 8.55 a.m.). The wind had dropped and visibility was still reasonably good, though limited. We built a small cairn on top and believe we were its first visitors.
The continued sinking of the clouds influenced our early departure at 9.5 a.m.for Right Angle Peak and our return to camp. Our route back was almost direct along the higher ground. We climbed the first summit to find that the central summit was a little higher and so crossed over to it (3100’ - 2½m. - 9.40 a.m.). We placed small cairns on each summit. The clouds had fallen below our present level and visibility was now very poor. We left almost immediately for camp on a compass course of N.N.W. through thickening mist. We were well on target when we sighted David who had come a few yards along in order to guide us in.
Heavy rain set in as we regained the tent (2650’ - 3¼m. – 10.10 a.m.), so we sheltered inside pending an improvement. During the first fine break, we packed up and were away at 11 a.m. A cool southerly wind kept the temperature down but the cloud had thinned somewhat. We made our way towards the low col which opened the way to the Central Franklands and we were in mist again as we passed over the first ridge. With the aid of the previous night's recorded bearings, we pushed on and came below the mist before we reached the eastern trough of the low col (2250’ - 4½m. - 11.30 a.m.).
We skirted around the northern side of the rocky spur on the col and emerged at the western trough (2150’ - 4½m. - 11.45 55 a.m.) and halted for a rest. Then we climbed up the steep, scrub free slopes on a W. by S. course. Adhering to the main crest, we found the terrain temporarily erratic but, as the fall was too steep on the north and the slope rather scrubby on the south, we could do little better than keep to the top and meet the ups and downs as they came. The mist soon became so thick that visibility became worse then ever. We descended over the northern escarpment to secure shelter under a rock overhang whilst we lunched (2500’ - 5¼m. - 12.20 1.10 p.m.).
The rain had developed into a continuous light rain as we carried on westward along the crest. Our gradual ascent brought us to the top of a cairned hill (2680’ - 5½m. - 1.30 p.m.) and, after a short descent, we had quite a steady climb up to the cairned summit of quite a substantial eminence, the first real peak of the Central Franklands [Greycap](2950’ - 6¼m. - 2.10 p.m.). Here I discovered the loss of the party log which it took little time to work out was left behind at our lunch spot.
All were adamant that this all important record must be regained, so David and I set off back through the mist immediately, leaving Dave on the peak as a means of identifying our position when we returned. Keeping up a solid pace, we found our way unerringly back to the lunch spot (2500’ - 7½m. - 2.40 p.m.), retrieved the log and brought it up to date and then hastened back to rejoin Dave (2950’ - 8¼m. - 3.15 p.m.).
In a few minutes we resumed westward, gradually losing height. The rain was now quite heavy and the coldness was becoming acute. Visibility was also becoming worse and, despite probing around, it was not possible to determine the range crest as we slowly lost altitude. We adhered fairly close to the northern escarpment. We encountered an unusual rock formation near the escarpment and the rock's northern side and found an admirably sheltered shelf under its high wall (2450’ - 9m. - 3.50 p.m.).
We were so favourably impressed with this place as a campsite that we chose to stay, despite the early hour. We were obviously off course a little and the thick mist could easily make the location of the range crest quite a lengthy and tiring affair and we would be lucky indeed to find such favourable shelter farther afield. We chose a tent site just below the shelf in a small thicket and made a fire on the shelf to warm us up. The rain continued steadily as we cut out a tent space and erected the tent and mattressed it, but all was warm and dry back on the shelf where we consumed our evening fare and dried out our wet gear. We retired quite early just as the rain eased, the night becoming generally fine.
We arose at 6.30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5th. and were packed up and away at 9.7 a.m. As we emerged around the southern side of the huge rock, we found that a northerly breeze was busily breaking up the clouds and visibility was fairly good. The range crest showed out a little farther to the south and it was apparent we had left it only a short while before camping when it curved southward. It was only a few minutes walk across to the crest which was quite low here and ran in a semi circular course towards the first high bluff.
At the end of this section, which forms a col like link between the first high peak of the Central Franklands and the first high bluff, we ascended a small spur along a most conspicuous wombat pad. Here three fissures broke the terrain, though now practically filled up with earth, rock and debris. The origin provided food for speculation. Then we climbed up to a high section of the range's main backbone which provided a junction with a ridge running out to the first high bluff. Here we dumped our loads (2980’ - l¼m. - 10.15 a.m.).
It was but a short walk across to the summit of the First Bluff [Cleft Peak] (3100’ - 1½m. - 10.25 a.m.). The sun was now shining strongly, the clouds quite high and well broken and the wind a light northerly. We examined the course ahead, studied that by which we had come and had a general look around, although the more distant view was limited. It was wonderful after the uncertainty of yesteday. The cameras were also no longer items of ballast. With the need to keep moving to make up for time lost yesterday, we cut our stay to a minimum, returned to our pack dump (2980’ - 1¾m. - 10.52 a.m.) and resumed westward along the main ridge.
Descending a little, we were soon amongst 10’ high scrub which continued along the crest of this low section. Game pads assisted our passage and finally we ascended to more open going and reached the top of Bluff Junction Peak (3060’ – 3m. – 11.30 a.m.). This peak is higher than The Bluff, to which a clear branch ridge runs northwards, but not as high as the First Bluff. After a short break for photography we resumed at 11.38 a.m., gradually descending westward as we followed the clear crest along, soon choosing to stop for lunch as some small pools appeared (2850’ - 3½m. - 11.50 a.m.).
During lunch we decided we would occupy the afternoon with a visit to the southern peaks of the Central Franklands. Unlike the eastern and western sections, the Central Franklands do not maintain a general main ridge but have much greater width, several branch ridges and a distinct, unattached line of high peaks forming a substantial ridge a mile farther south and parallelling the main ridge. These peaks have been rarely visited and the highest one was believed to be unclimbed. This lay only about a mile in a direct line from us with a thickly scrubbed valley between, but it seemed quite a reasonable proposition to climb it and return in time to reach the campsite on the Citadel shelf about a mile further along the ridge.
At 12.40 p.m. we were on the move again, continuing a little farther westward to a saddle trough from which we took several bearings as thick clouds were starting to roll in once more from the S.W.. We recorded that the valley crossing clearing was at 200 deg. Mag., that a course of 260 deg. Would then find the easiest going to the bare rocks on the mountain slope, that 320 deg. Would then bring us to the lake outflow under the high peak, where an ascent on 260 deg. should lead us to the top.
At 12.50 p.m. Dave and I set off for the highest southern peak, leaving David to go on to the Citadel shelf and prepare camp. We descended southwards over a couple of quartzite outcrops and then through a fairly thick mixture of scrub, preponderantly ti tree, to reach the small opening in the trough of the valley (2450’ - 4½m. - 1.30 p.m.). We made the diagonal ascent through relatively open going to the bare rock and the passage around to the lake outflow was quite clear (2700’ - 5m. - 1.55 p.m.). A voluble chorus from hundreds of frogs was our greeting. We ploughed through a small scrubby collar at the outflow and then up the ridge on the west side of the lake through variable going. We paused at the base of the final climb (2.10-15 p.m.), having reached cloud level but as yet there was no indication of imminent rain and occasional glimpses of blue sky appeared.
From the summit of the southern peak (3250’ - 5½m. - 2.25 p.m.) the clouds barred the view, except for a brief sight of the Hardwood Plains. We built a cairn before leaving at 2.53 p.m. and were back at the lake outflow at 3.15 p.m. with the frog chorus reaching an intense crescendo. A slightly different course brought us back to the clear valley trough (2450’ - 6½m. - 3.35 p.m.). We picked a much better course up through the ti tree, finding a few reasonable leads only a few yards to the west of our original course. We emerged from the scrub at the crest of the range (2820’ - 7¼m. - 4.12 p.m.), picked up our packs as the first sprinkle of rain began, and set off westward along the range. About half a mile along, as we began climbing a fairly high peak along the main ridge, we turned right, down a clear lead and then down a track, cut last year by Dave and his party and just improved further by David, to a high flat shelf overlooking Citadel Lake. Here DavId had set up the tent in the lee of a clump of trees and appeared to have things well organised as we arrived (2800’ - 8m. - 4.45 p.m.).
It was a lovely campsite with a bright northerly aspect and views of The Lion, The Citadel and The Bluff. Good permanent water, ample firewood, abundant bedding material and possibly the best shelter in the vicinity make it the outstanding campsite of the whole area. The rain held off until we had camp fully established. Showers developed around 6 p.m. but it cleared again towards evening and the clouds became broken. We retired at 8 p.m. in order to be ready for an early start as we planned to make a one day dash to Coronation Peak and back on the morrow as Dave was due to leave us soon and it would give him an opportunity of completing the traverse of the main peaks of the Franklands.
Heavy rain and strong wind returned soon after our retirement and continued throughout the night and well Into the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 6th. We arose at 10 a.m. during the first break but found it a slow job kindling a fire. Intermittent hail showers mixed with the few sunny breaks, but the cold wind never let up. After breakfast we started off at 11.35 a.m. with one rucksack between us in gradually improving weather. We climbed onto the range crest and climbed westward to the summit of the high peak overlooking our camp (3230’ - ¾m. - 12.10 p.m.), sighting quite a number of the peaks around us.
We descended a little and continued climbing westward up a rocky peak, around which we traversed high up on the southern side to descend to the point from which the ridge to The Lion branches off Lion Junction (3100’ - l½m. - 12.30 p.m.). After skirting the next elevation on the nothern side, we swung over to the south to skirt Dome Junction Peak and reach the col to its west (2750’ - 2½m. - 12.50 p.m.). We bypassed the next summit in similar fashion and then ascended diagonally to reach a high spur, just west of the summit of Pink Top [Redtop Peak] (3000’ – 3m. – 1.5 p.m.).
Continuing westward along the crest of the range, we descended again, climbed over a tiny rise and down again, and then ascended to a low shelf where we stopped for lunch (2850’ - 4m. - 1.35 58 p.m.). A hail cum snow shower brought lunch to an abrupt conclusion and we started off again, mainly to keep warm. We were soon ascending Double Peak and coming in close contact with the cloud ceiling and at length found our way out onto the top where a recently erected trig. had collapsed in ruins. (3280’ - 4½m. - 2.33 p.m.).
Descending westward, we left our rucksack on the plateau and climbed again, this time to the lower N.W. summit of Double Peak (3200’ – 5m. - 2.55 p.m.). With the time rather late, we felt it unwise to continue on to Coronation Peak, still a couple of miles away, but decided to return to camp and try to avoid benightment on an unfriendly mountain ridge. Accordingly, we set off at 3 p.m. and returned to retrieve the rucksack (5¼m.). We bypassed the high top and made fast pace back to our lunch spot (2850’ - 6m. - 3.30 p.m.).
Adhering to the ridge crest, we ascended to the cairned top of Pink Top [Red Top] with its pinkish hued quartzite (3050’ – 7m. - 4.10-15 p.m.). The sky was still overcast and the cold wind persisted along with an occasional shower of hail. We passed over the top of Dome Junction Peak (3000’), descended to the low, sheltered plain below and then headed for The Dome, reaching the top in misty conditions (3220’ - 8¼m. - 5.0-10 p.m.). Back with our rucksack on the plain (8¾m. – 5.20 p.m.), we continued campwards, passing over the top of the high peak above our camp (3230’ - 10m. - 6.20 p.m.), and then to camp (2800’ - 10½m. - 6.30 p.m.).
The weather was still unsettled and cold, though the wind and cloud was lessening now. Just after we arrived, we saw the magnificent spectacle of a brilliant double rainbow framing The Citadel. It lasted only for a few seconds and had weakened far too much by the time it occurred to race for our cameras. We retired at 9 p.m. planning to descend to the plain tomorrow and for David and I to reascend the range via the Double Peak climbing ridge. The night continued windy and moist.
Thursday, Dec. 7th. brought no stability to the weather. Another damp, misty morning delayed breakfast preparations considerably. We went across to the south peak of The Citadel later in the morning. It was quite an easy approach across from the shelf and we toyed around hopefully for photography, climbing to the cool summit and returning to camp after an hour. We packed up and set off at 11.5 a.m. for the Serpentine Plain to retrieve our air drop. Our food rations were now in need of supplementation.
We pursued the usual course up and around to Lion Junction (3100’ - 1½m. - noon) and then turned north along the branch ridge to The Lion. As one clambered up onto the rocky crest, the full force of a howling south westerly was upon us. Low cloud and light rain made the passage uncomfortable and it was a relief to gain the summit after a heavy buffeting (3200’ - 2¼m. - 12.35 47 p.m). We pressed on down the northern side, making good position on the steep descent to the rocky outcrop near the head of the climbing ridge. We negotiated this, still in strong wind and increasing rain and reached the beginning on the lower section (3¾m. - 2 p.m.). After a short tussle with overgrown button grass, we came onto a good wombat pad along a fairly clear crest and followed this down to the base of the ridge (4¼m. - 2.15 p.m.). Wet, cold, and shivering, we ploughed on through the heavy rain towards Timber Creek, planning to camp there at the first good site.
Arriving at the creek (1150’ - 4¾m. – 2.30 p.m.), we found a reasonable site and lit a fire to thaw out. Then we started clearing a site for the tent, during which time David located my old campsite 100 yds. Further downstream. It was still in excellent shape, occupying a clear patch inside the scrub, well sheltered and ideally situated for a flood-level creek crossing, drinking water, wood, and bedding. We shifted down to this excellent site, pitched the tent and had a snack, after which we set off with emptied packs in search of our air drops.
We crossed Timber Creek on a substantial log and strode N.W. down the plain. Dave, who was responsible for the dropping, directing operations. We located the three bags of the drop less than a mile away in the approximate position he expected. Opening the bags, we stowed the contents in our rucksacks and even brought back some the coloured plastic ribbons as markers for use around the campsite. There was little loss by damage.
Continuous light rain allowed us no opportunity to dry out our wet clothes at the camp, but we spent the afternoon in effectiIng a split in the rations, primarily for Dave’s benefit, as he would be leaving us on his way home in the morning. His earlier plan to cross the Serpentine and return by the Hydro track was abandoned owing to the developing flood and he was now resigned to the longer course via the Port Davey Track.
We retired to the tent to eat our evening meal, comprising some of the heavier tinned delicacies, and then crept into our sleeping begs. The rain increased to a steady downpour during the first half of the night but became intermittent thereafter. It was still quite showery when Friday, Dec. 8th. Dawned, but Dave sallied forth at 6 a.m. intent on an early start.
We breakfasted and Dave packed during the brief fine breaks. The creek had risen considerably, indicating that we were fortunate in being no longer on the high tops. Dave left us at 9 a.m. and it must have rained solidly during most of his long journey to Huon Crossing, his night's objective. By afternoon the creek was running substantially higher, the highest I had ever seen it, and, as time had not such a vital bearing on our plans, it seemed inadvisable to break camp until conditions improved. We kept the fire going all day by re stoking it at each fine interval. There were no worthwhile breaks and our meal times were unconventional. The weather culminated in a thunder storm in the late afternoon. Towards nightfall it looked a little more hopeful and the creek began falling. However, it rained and blew steadily throughout the night and became colder.
On Saturday, Dec. 9th. conditions were just as bad as ever. Steady wind and a cold rain obliged us to have a cold breakfast inside the tent. The enforced inactivity and confinement to the tent began to get on our nerves and we came to the conclusion we must start pushing westward. We packed our gear in the tent, having difficulty to wedge everything into our rucksacks now that our supplies were so amply augmented.
We were under way at 10.50 a.m. in the first sunshine of the morning. In little more than a mile we encountered our first problem, the crossing of a flooded creek. This stream invariably dries up in mid summer but today it had spread out beyond its banks and would probably demand a chest high wading. Scorning such a method on such a chilly day, we elected to scout around it and cross it higher up on the ridge slopes, a plan we accomplished with little difficulty after a substantial detour.
We swung up over a shoulder to look down into the Inner Sanctuary (1300’ - 2m. – 12.20 p.m.). We followed the ridge inwards towards the range centre, planning to get well upstream before crossing the much more substantial stream careering down from Double and Coronation Peaks. We crossed one substantial tributary of Double Peak Creek before we reached the floor of the Inner Sanctuary plain and then pushed up the main stream looking for a good crossing. A log crossing was non-existent, neither were any of the many rocks protruding from the bed suitably placed to effect a crossing. Finally we waded it at a rapid about waist depth (1200’ - 3½m. – 1.15 p.m.) and halted on the rise beyond for a snack.
We had also pursued this course to meet up with the base of Double Peak climbing ridge which was now only a few yards ahead of us. This ridge would take us back onto the range at the point where we had turned back three days before and we could continue along the high tops to the western extremity of the Franklands and so on to Mt. Sprent. David knew of a reasonable campsite well up on the ridge, less than two hours journey ahead despite our heavy loads. We had hesitated all morning to make a decision, hoping that the weather would give some favourable sign of an improvement, but showers were still frequent, the wind still keen and low clouds still covered the crests. It is not surprising that we finally decided to abandon the attempt and make an all-out effort to reach the Hydro hut across the Serpentine that night. Perhaps if we had pondered more on the difficulties confronting the latter proposal and not concentrated most of our thoughts on the former’s problems, we may have thought otherwise, for the exposed mist enshrouded traverse could hardly have held any more terrors than the plan we adopted.
We crossed over to the Double Peak climbing ridge (1400’ - 3¾m. - 1.45 p.m.), looked despairingly up into the mists into which it disappeared, and then swung N.W. towards The Starfish. Our next watery obstacle, Coronation Creek, presented little trouble as we waded it only knee-deep in a forested patch (1100’ - 4½m. - 2.20 p.m.). We encountered some thick scrub on the other side but pushed through it to rest a while on top of the clear ridge above (4¾m. - 2.40-45 p.m.) and take stock of the course ahead.
Down on the open plain, we were soon wading for chains knee-deep in water over the pock marked ground. More stable footing came as we closed in on The Starfish and it was quite good as we swung up onto the low ridges and worked our way around the N.E. slopes to reach the central saddle that leads down to Access Basin (1150’ - 8½m. - 4.50 p.m.). Our main problem lay ahead the crossing of the swampy Ti Tree Creek in the centre of Access Basin, normally quite a sticky business in dry weather, but a very doubtful possibility under flood conditions. The sun shone fitfully through a cloud break for the first time for ages as we scanned the relatively narrow opening between The Starfish and Detached Peak no more then a mile across, but what a mile!
We turned N.W. along the ridge leading towards the narrowest part of the opening and, when we reached the floor of the plain, we had a clear, dry passage for a couple of hundred yards. Then we started wading through shallow water which gradually deepened as we neared the head high ti tree scrub approaching the centre. The water was soon up to our thighs and freezingly cold. We kept pushing on steadily but cautiously so as not to get too cold. It seemed that the first creek bed would never appear, but at last it confronted us, the first stretch of obviously moving water yet encountered in the passage.
David depthed it packless in order to probe its possibilities. Luckily it was barely up to our necks, so we held up our rucksacks over our heads and cautiously threaded our way across. Saturated and freezingly cold, we carried on through the ten foot ti tree with water nearly up to our waists. We threaded our way through breaks in the scrub, hoping that the next bed of the creek would not be far afield and no deeper. However, it was quite a distance away and, when we reached it at length, we were immersed once more up to our necks. We pushed on, looking expectantly ahead for a rapid appearance of dry land as cramp from the intense cold seemed imminent. No improvment occurred and we encountered two further beds of the creek, almost as deep as the others, before at long last the water line receded and we came out on “dry” land.
Despite a light shower, we lit some button grass and tried to thaw out our shivering frames but, despite being half choked with smoke, we engendered little warmth as our clothes were just too saturated. Turning north, we steered a course around the western slopes of Detached Peak, heading for the Serpentine. Clear leads frequently ran out and scrub had to he penetrated, but it was a good clear lead that finally took us down to the river (880’ - 12½m. - ?.10 p.m.).
Dusk was approaching and we hurried on apace, hoping there was still time to reach the Hydro hut on the other side of the river. Just a short distance further down stream, we sighted the hut, only about ½m. away. A good clear run along the river side soon had us to the point immediately opposite the hut (13m. – 8.25 p.m.), and we rushed on towards where we expected to locate the Hydro cage, make our crossing and follow the other side of the stream up to the hut.
The going soon worsened with scrub and swamp appearing as daylight faded. Then, when a broad, swampy valley barred our path, we saw the futillty of continuing and decided to set up camp (870’ - 13½m. - 8.45 p.m.). It was not a very inviting site and we had to clear a space for the tent and collect quite a deal of ti tree for bedding to insulate us from the sodden ground. As there was a light drizzle, we dispensed with fire lighting. Peeling off our saturated clothes, we crept into our sleeping bags and at last we were able to slowly rid ourselves of the shivers. A cold snack followed and soon contentment, comfort and good spirits prevailed. The night was calm with only occasional drizzle marring the outlook. It had been a very tough afternoon and, with lights out at 10.50 p.m., we were soon in heavy slumber.
Another unsettled morning introduced Sunday, Dec. 10th., but with the but now so close, we were not to be deterred. After a brief cold snack, we packed up and were off at 7.15 a.m. Referring to our maps of the area, we could see that the Hydro cage must be at the entrance of the gorge which could be seen another ¾m. downstream. Last night we had just rounded a ridge which ran down from Detached Peak to the river. Between this and the next ridge, which ran down from the peak to the gorge, lay a small flat, swampy and wooded in our vicinity. Turning away from the river, we ploughed across the damp plain, finding reasonable going after a while but, as we reached the gorge, with the cage conspicuous about 300 yds. further downstream, we struck very difficult going and did not reach the cage until 9 am. (1 mile).
We lit a fire and had some soup and eats and then crossed in the cage, having to tie it up on the far bank with a rope. It was a slow affair from then on. At first we skirmished with more solid scrub on the hillside from the cage and, beyond this, fouled frequent swampy patches and ti tree jumbles between scattered “clearings”. How thankful we were that we hadn’t pushed on any farther last night as we’d never have made it. We fully expected to find a good track at least linking the cage with the hut, but contact obviously was made only by boat. Finally we climbed up onto the small ridge opposite last night’s campsite and swung along it to descend straight down to the Hydro Hut (870’ - 2½m. – 11.35 a.m.).
Once inside, rucksacks were dumped and a life of luxury began. We had no cares for the inclemencies outside. We started the fire (there was an abundance of sawn wood around) and changed into the few almost dry clothes we had left. Then cooking operations began and dinner extended over a lengthy period. We followed this with a bath and then out came our soaking gear for drying out. More cooking and more eating ensued, with the trying out of new recipes and the production of damper. It was wonderful to be inside a large well equipped hut, having access to the many mod. cons. of the Hydro Commission. We finished the day by reading some of the local literature in the comfortable beds.
We awoke on Monday, Dec. 11th., once more to hear the patter of rain drops (would the weather never take up?). However the weather was better as showers were shorter and less frequent, although there was still an abundance of cloud on the mountains. We decided against a return to the Franklands or Mt. Sprent as it would mean a long scrub bash to get around Detached Peak and our experiences in that area had sapped our enthusiasm. Instead, we chose to have a row upstream in the H.E.C. fibre glass dinghy.
We rowed eastward for about a mile, exploring a substantial billabong up to its junction with the main stream, but we were prevented from entering it there by a fringe of bordering ti tree. It was much easier coasting back downstream.
Back at the hut at 12.30 p.m. for lunch, we were so pleased with the improvement in the weather that we elected to tackle Detached Peak in the afternoon. Accordingly, we pushed off at 1.35 p.m. out to the right and upstream for ¼ mile to beach the dinghy under an inviting clear ridge at 1.55 p.m. The weather was definitely better, though far from settled. Blow flies had shown out for the first time for many days, indicating it must be warmer, and so it felt. We climbed up the bare ridge and on to its open top (1300’ - ¾m. - 2.15 p.m.) only to find that it was only remotely connected with the summit of Detached Peak and that it would be much better to tackle our mountain from another ridge further downstream.
Leaving at 2.20 p.m., we were off in the dinghy at 2.40 p.m., soon passing our campsite of two days ago and pulling into the shore about ¼ mile further downstream near the centre of the plain and alongside the swamp (2.50 p.m.). We had a few moments of zigzagging around in order to find a dry course over the swampy area close to the river before coming into the clear. Here David, who was in front, suddenly came upon two snakes apparently mating, and a skirmish followed with the despatch of one snake and the disappearance of the other.
Selecting a clear ridge approach, we covered the remainder of the plain and climbed steadily. The summit was well concealed and the ridges erratic. Much climbing and some scrub bashing was necessary before we crossed from ridge to ridge and came out on the summit of Detached Peak (2200’ - 2m. - 4.30 p.m.). There were three rocky summits close together vying in height, the central and western heights appearing about equal highest. We heightened the small cairn on the western top as we looked around. The sky was steadily clearing and most of the mountains nearby were visible. A recent heavy fall of snow stood out on Mts. Anne and Eliza, grim evidence that the last few days cold had been general in the vicinity. The intricate network of lagoons and billabongs along the Serpentine plain was another unusual feature in the landscape.
At 4.50 p.m. I started back, linking up below with David who had gone over to the eastern side of the peak to take photos. Retracing our ascent route, we went back to the dinghy (4m. - 5.50 p.m.), rowed upstream to the branch leading to the hut and disembarked there (870’ – 6.20 p.m.). The sky was almost clear now and we had high hopes of a good tomorrow when we planned to set off along the track towards Adamsfield. That night all the stars stood out brightly and fine weather seemed assured at last.
The magic of a bright sunny morning was ours on Tuesday, Dec. 12th., although clouds drifted in from the east and soon covered the sky and topped the mountains. We left at 8.5 a.m. and followed the track left by the H.E.C. bombardier which seemed to have little difficulty in handling any grade or any sort of going. Numerous thickets of ti tree lay flattened in its path and many a button grass crown had been crushed flat. We found following the track very easy until we reached a few flooded creek crossings and were obliged to wade knee-deep. Our rucksacks were still heavy enough to provide the only barrier to full enjoyment of the walk. We steadily moved into the Stillwater valley and suddenly came upon the next H.E.C. hut (950’ – 8m. – 11.45 a.m.), a much less pretentious though newer shelter.
Taking advantage of the facilities here, we boiled the billy and lunched. The situation was pleasant with The Sentinels and Junction Range visible ahead, a substantial green hill to the east and the Franklands and Wilmots showing to the rear. Some photography presaged our departure at 1.10 p.m.
The bombardier trail led through more ti tree, then through a pass and over a low saddle to emerge at Hermit Valley, a broad button grassed area, bordered on the north by the Junction Range, on the east by a continuation of the Sentinel Range with low hills and rises forming its boundaries to south and west. The clouds were breaking again and sunshine was evident as we crossed the valley. Meanwhile the white quartzite outcrops on the high peaks of the Junction Range were exerting their influence and we agreed to climb them before making camp.
After making position close in under the range, we dumped our rucksacks alongside the track (1050’ - 11½m. – 2.30 p.m.) and started up the ridge towards the nearest summit. The ridge was green with low growth but even this was broken enough to make progress comfortable. The going improved in growth and grade the higher we went and soon we were amongst hewardias and blandfordias. We deviated a little to the east to take photos of the imposing Sentinels and Mt. Wedge before swinging back to the N.W. and on to the serrated summit of the first peak (2750’ - 12½m. - 3.20 p.m.).
The northern outlook was good, with the Pleiades, the King Williams, Clear Hill, The Thumbs, and the Denisons all looking attractive. Half a mile along the range rose another and higher peak, obviously the highest peak of the Junction Range. Between it and us, and on the eastern escarpment, lay an unusual quartzite formation, more or less diamond shaped with the strata conspicuously whorled. This would doubtlessly be the “High Horn” listed on the H.E.C. map. I was keen to carry on to the higher peak and set off solo at 3.25 p.m., soon crossing the broad intervening valley to gain the high summit (2800’ - 13m. - 3.45 p.m.). [Cullen 716m.]
From here the panorama was even finer and the view of the Wedge and Boyd Plains was interesting. Time would not permit a check on the many features within range but, for a relatively small peak, the area visible was extremely wide with high mountains and rugged country showing out in every direction. Leaving at 4.10 p.m. after the usual formality, I returned to the peak to the S.E. (2750’ - 13½m. - 4.22 p.m.) and then descended back to where the rucksacks had been dumped (1050’ - 14½m. - 4.50 p.m.).
David was evidently some distance ahead along the bombardier trail, so I hastened along. A section of the old South Gordon Track was clearly cut into the bank as I approached McPartlan’s Pass and I climbed on to it so as to walk a few yards along it and pay homage to its constructors. The trail then wormed through the pass, a narrow gully between high hills, and ultimately emerged at another broad plain. The bombardier trail maintained close proximity to the base of the Junction Range, swinging northwards and soon I joined forces with David who was waiting by the wayside. We probed a few possible campsites but continued on and crossed McPartlans Creek, the headwaters of the Stillwater and chose to camp a few yards farther on in the open (1050’ - 16½m. - 5.45 p.m.).
Our camp was in a truly wonderful setting with intimate views of The Sentinels, Mt. Wedge and the Junction Range peaks with Clear Hill and The Thumbs relatively near. The sky had been clearing as the afternoon advanced and, whilst we prepared camp and the evening meal, the sky cleared completely. We turned in at 8.40 p.m. under a star-studded sky with The Sentinels chosen as the morrow’s objective.
Wednesday, Dec. 13th. had a fine, warm morning with the cloud well broken. The sun was already hot when we started off packless at 7.50 a.m. for The Sentinels. We headed south from Our camp across the swampy button grass, paralleling McPartlans Creek and aiming for a low rise on the plain. The going improved as we went. We halted on top of the low rise (¾m. - 8.10-25 a.m. ) for photography. The Sentinels looked very attractive from here with their steep walls of ruddy quartzite.
We then changed direction towards the base of the mountain, trudging across the button grass to where a creek emerged from a deep gully formed by the wall of the main Sentinel massif on the N.E. and another section of the Sentinel range on the S.W. We followed the gully up for a while, then crossed the creek to the base of a steep but open climbing ridge. Wildflowers were out in profusion here – blandfordia, tea tree, lemontyne, white waratah, sprengelia, etc. On the ridge we made satisfactory progress, gaining altitude rapidly and climbing from one rocky pinnacle to another. Farther and farther back into the rocky massif we clambered, reaching the crest of the range and following it along eastward until we reached the cairned summit (3200’ - 3m. - 10.30 a.m.).
The view was splendid and the clouds high and broken. We could see many familiar features from an entirely new angle. A still higher peak appeared about a mile farther on to the east with Mt. Wedge near at hand to its north. Behind us the range continued to the S.W., gradually receding as it neared the Serpentine plain, the Franklands and Wilmots showing up behind. Mt. Anne, the Arthurs, Snells Ridge and Lake Pedder were main favourites to the south, whilst northwards and westwards a countless mass of mountains were revealed away to the distant Eldons and Du Canes. Nearer at hand, the Prince of Wales and Junction Ranges both looked attractive. Like most south west ranges, this one had been fired clear of scrub along the northern slopes whilst the southern slopes were generally choked with thick vegetation. Around here it climbed right up to the very crest, a tangle of tall scopari, ti-trees and dwarfed myrtle.
Keen to push on to the higher peak, I parted with David, who was planning to return to camp, at 10.55 a.m. and clambered eastward along the rocky crest. Two large eagles appeared, swooping low around us. In order to avoid a detour, I dropped over the southern escarpment amongst the scopari and managed to steer a course back onto the crest. From there I managed to adhere to it for a while, but ultimately had to detour to the left and finally ascended the high peak steeply from the north to arrive at what appeared to be a previously unclimbed summit (3300’ - 4¼m. - 11.45 a.m.). This provided even a grander view, particularly of Mt. Wedge. Less than a mile eastward I could see the point on the tapering shoulder of The Sentinels where I had crossed on my way to Mt. Wedge in Jan. 1954. The view down into the long valley of Swampy Creek was something few have been Privileged to see.
I tarried a while, taking a few photos, constructing a small cairn, and
then I was off at 12.15 p.m. for camp and a late lunch. I descended the
peak diagonally to the N.W., having a little trouble in finding a way
through and across one steep and scrubby ravine. Reaching the base (5m.
- 12.50 p.m.), I traversed around the foot of a rock wall, sometimes pushing
through scrub but gradually finding easier going until I regained our
David was back and had already lunched and I was not slow to follow suit. It was extremely hot and I could not resist a lay down in the tent before resuming homewards. We were packed and away at 4.5 p.m., the course of the bombardier rising slowly around a shoulder running down from the Junction Range until it crossed over it and we celebrated the occasion with a rest (9m. – 4.35 45 p.m.).
After some more winding, the track descended more steeply and came to the broad plain through which the Atkins, Wedge and Boyd Rivers thread their way to the Gordon. All the way along, we would see the tall stakes driven in by Milton Fletcher as he marked a course for a track. The bombardier was never far from this course but seldom right on it. Fletcher’s route has been chosen more for a foot track and would have been dryer going.
The plain brought a monotony to the scene and progress became a steady trudge with one fixed intention of putting as many miles behind as possible in the hope that the Boyd River Hut could be reached that night. Each water course could be identified from afar by its belt of timber, the extent of which invariably indicated the size of the stream. We crossed Atkins River (12¼m. - 6.0-5 p.m.) and then the Wedge River in a broad forest (14m. - 6.40-45 p.m.). Then came the most monotonous trudge of all and we were both pleased when ultimately we gained the Boyd River Hut (950’ - 16½m. – 7.35 p.m.).
Water is apparently not close to the hut as I had to walk ¼m. for it. The use of the H.E.C. bunks, bedding and other facilities made our stay comfortable. Happily, the hut is on the outskirts of the mosquito ridden forest and the pests were not serious.
Thursday, Dec. 14th. brought a continuation of the good weather, as is usual on the way homewards anyway. We left the Boyd River Hut at 9.10 a.m. and passed leisurely through the Boyd forest, collecting some forest seedlings on the way to the Boyd bridge (½m. - 9.30 a.m.). The day was warm and sunny as we put another couple of miles behind us and then began climbing up a steep, windy road formation which crossed the shoulder of the Raggedys and so on to Clark’s dam (3¾m. – 11 a.m.). We had a rest and look around at the abandoned home of the Clarks (1280’ - 4½m. - 11.15-30 a.m.), now out of the osmiridium business owing to the low price of the metal.
Then we continued along the old jeep road to the main settlement of Adamsfield, now practically uninhabited with the death of Mr. S.L. Gerny (1380’ - 6¼m. - 12.10 p.m.). We had lunch and explored the area before leaving at 3.20 p.m. Crossing the pass near Staceys Lookout (1500’ - 7¾m. - 3.50 p.m.), it was a long, warm walk down to the Florentine bridge 1300’ - 12¼m. – 5.15-20 p.m.). After passing the Little Florentine (13½m. - 5.42 p.m.), we planned to get well out towards the road in the hope of obtaining an early lift out to Maydena. However, we settled for the abandoned home of a pensioner on the south side of the track (1350’ - 14½m. – 6 p.m.).
In the shelter of these cramped quarters, we cleaned up the place and made ourselves comfortable, cooking a good tea. The night became very humid and the sky heavily overcast, but little rain fell. In the morning (Friday, Dec. 15th.), rain was imminent as we set off at 8.17 a.m. along the track. Reaching the junction of the track with the A.N.M. branch road (¾m. - 8.33 a.m.), we swung along the road for another mile to arrive at the main A.N.M. road (1550’ - 1¾m. - 8.57 a.m.). Rain was now falling as we hung around awaiting the arrival of transport. After half an hour we clambered into a huge Pacific hauler and reached Maydena soon after.
It was then a matter of waiting for the afternoon bus to Hobart, during
which we were able to check up on the world news, including the Federal
elections. Back at Battery Point in the late afternoon, I was able to
retrieve my car and ultimately start for home, reaching there about 10
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