Keith Lancaster 

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

On Wed., Dec. 25th. 1963 (Christmas Day), in company with Dick Janes and Arnold Rowlands, I left Launceston at 4.30 p.m., drove down the Midlands Highway to Granton, then Lyell Highway to Gretna and then via Bushy Park and Westerway to Maydena, where we bunked the night at Maydena Recreation Hut at 11 p.m. It had been cloudy and windy throughout our journey.

Thursday had a rough, wet morning and it was obvious there was no hope of securing plane transport. We were up at 6 a.m., tardily away, through the A.N.M. road barrier at 9 a.m., held up for 15 min. by a fallen tree across the road, and at the Adamsfield Track junction at 10 a.m.. Here our transport left us and we strolled along the Adamsfield Track with considerable loads and were happy when Adamsfield was, reached (11¼m. - 12.50 p.m.) and we were able to have lunch. We started off again at 2 p.m. but stopped for a while at Clarke's abandoned workings (13m.) and met two walkers coming from Lake Pedder.

We followed the bombardier track out onto the Denison Plains, passing the Boyd Hut (17½m. - 4.55 p.m.) and then crossing the Wedge River (20m. - 5.50 p.m.), where we camped nearby. The weather had improved as the day wore on and showers were only occasional. We retired at 8.55 p.m..

It was a fine warm night and Friday, Dec. 27th. produced a cloudy morning with a little moisture. We were up at 5.30 a.m. and away at 7.35 a.m.. Atkins River was crossed (1¾m. - 8.15 a.m.) and at length McPartlans Creek (6½m. - 10.12 a.m.), where we halted to re-allocate the food burden in the packs. Resuming at 10.55a.m., we left the bombardier trail and turned eastwards up the Upper Wedge River valley, close under the Sentinel Range, and rested for a while on a small rise (11.30-42 a.m.). Progress was a little tedious as the way was not all that open. We had lunch at a tiny creek near its junction with the Wedge under the Sentinels (9m. - 12.30 p.m. - 2.2 p.m.).

The wind was freshening and the clouds looked more ominous as the afternoon advanced. We wound our way up the valley and up the slopes of the eastern Sentinels to gain open button grass on a high saddle (15m. - 5.50 p.m.). We commenced a reconnaissance for an old track cut by Burrell and Penny around 1953 until 6.10 p.m.. At 6.13 p.m. we resumed, climbing to a higher button grass patch and then down eastward to a creek-bed. We searched both up and down for the track, and eventually found it west of the creek and followed it south until it was lost after 200 yds. in the gloom of twilight. We turned back down to the creek-bed and established a rough camp site (19m. - 8.55 p.m.).

It was a slow job in clearing the site to establish our tent. Cooking was slow, too, due to poor fuel and the meal was still on at 11 p.m. A light sprinkle brought it to an end soon afterwards.

There was light rain overnight and Saturday dawned overcast and moist. We were up at 6.30 a.m. but did not get away until 8.40 a.m.. Unfortunately, we had not marked the track last night in our desire to get camp established before dark and we were unable to find it in the morning. Instead of persisting (for the track led through some two miles of rough forest) we impatiently decided to push through as best we could to the Huon Plains below and consequently, paid the penalty. We had ascended the ridge to a high button grassed summit at 11.15 a.m., and could see the plain at S. by W. and, after some discussion, decided to strike out for it at 11.35 a.m.. The early half was relatively fair going through unburned forest on a good slope. On the lower slopes, the prevalence of scrub-choked creeks made progress very tedious and it was not until 2.2 p.m. that I staggered out onto clear button grass on the plain. (6m.). Early on the descent our party had split up and, as there was no sign of Dick or Arnold, I realised they must be some distance behind in the forest. I decided to push on for water and stopped for a belated lunch at the first creek (7m. - 2.30 p.m.) and then waited patiently for my companions, who failed to materialise until 4.30 p.m.. They lunched in their turn and it was 5.20 p.m. before we resumed. We plugged along until we reached a tiny creek under the highest peak of the Defenders before settling for camp (10m. - 7.25 p.m.). The afternoon had been warm and sunny and the night was clear and cool as we retired at 9.50 p.m..

A fine warm morning heralded the arrival of Sunday, although there was an abundance of clouds. We made an all too frequent late start at 9.30 a.m. and made our way down the western side of the huge button grass plain that extends from the Huon to Lake Pedder. Arriving at the N.E. corner of Lake Pedder (3m. - 11.50 a.m.) we found the lake fairly low and the crossing of Maria Creek quite shallow. We moved farther along the eastern shore of the lake to reach the popular campsite (3½m. - 12.15 p.m.). and stop for lunch.

Resuming at 1.40 p.m., we followed the track behind the sand dune southwards to the S.E. corner of the lake (2 p.m.) and turned eastward along the track leading to the Huon Crossing, reaching the junction where one track leads towards the Crossing and the other a staked track leading towards Scotts Peak (2.55 p.m.). Off again at 3 p.m. after drinks, we took the latter course but abandoned it shortly (5½m. - 3.10 p.m.) and swung to the right into Jones Pass.

Relatively recent “burns” had improved the going in the early section of the pass, a fact we appreciated as we pushed along its northern side. Below Lake Surprise (4.45 p.m.), we descended and crossed Jones Creek to follow up the southern side as thick forest would soon bar progress elsewhere (7½m.). We needed to ascend well up the slopes of Mt. Giblin to get above one section of the forest and, even so, the crossing of a few scrub-choked creek gullies added to our trials. Then light rain began. At last we were able to descend to the creek (now quite a tiny stream) once more near the end of the forest and select a fairly comfortable campsite (10m. – 1530’ - 6.35 p.m.). The rain cleared as we made camp but the clouds hung low and a cold sou’-westerly took over. We retired at 9.20 p.m. to soon hear it raining heavily during the night.

It was still raining steadily on Monday morning and we delayed arising until 8 a.m.. The creek had risen substantially overnight and seemed assured of further development. We managed to cook breakfast but it was eaten in the shelter of the tent. It was 10.20 a.m. when we set off for Cinder Hill in light rain. At 10.35 a.m. we crossed the creek to its northern bank and encountered easy going up to the H.W.C. 1952 camp near the head of the pass (1800’ - 2m. - 11.15 a.m.).

We were over the crest and descending the steep south-western slopes of the pass alongside a Frankland tributary at 11.25 a.m.. Turning to the right, we swung over to a ridge spur and descended via its crown to the plain below to have lunch alongside the Frankland (600' - 3m. - 12.20 p.m.). We departed at 12.50 p.m., heading southwards towards Little Cinder Hill which seemed to be the easy access route to the Cinder Hill range. The East Frankland River was waded (4½m. - 1.40 p.m.) in knee-deep water. Then we climbed over a low saddle which gave a clear lead down to a plain bordered by Long Ridge on the south. Continuing towards Cinder Hill, we crossed the South Frankland, a deeper stream, at 3.30 p.m. and decided to camp there as the weather was worsening all the time (650' - 8m. - 3.40 p.m.) and no better campsite could exist this side of the climbing ridge. We managed to make camp between the showers and were comfortably settled and fed before dark. Hail showers hammered the tent during a very cold night.

Heavy rain was still pelting down on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 31st. and none showed any inclination to sally forth until a break occurred late in the morning, resulting in a late breakfast in the tent. The barometer had dropped enormously but rose again in the afternoon, bringing a few fine breaks. Certainly not a day to be climbing along the high tops of the Cinder Hill range. We managed to cook a good dinner towards evening, reducing our rations to two meals for the unproductive day. Intermittent rain continued during the night.

We were awake early on Wednesday (New Year's Day), but showers delayed a rising until 6.30 a.m., after which more rain delayed our breakfast. Having lost a whole day through bad weather and another through slow progress, we were two days behind sched¬ule and agreed to have one big day on the mountain and then press on to the Arthurs in order to keep up with our planned schedule.

At 9.40 a.m. we set off lightly burdened and reached the foot of the climbing ridge leading to the summit of Little Cinder Hill (½m. - 9.55 a.m.). The ascent ridge was fairly open with no scrub over 2-3 ft. in height, becoming clearer as one ascended. The grade, however, was very steep, necessitating much zigzagging but an hour's' hard labour found us all on top (2300' – 1½m. - 10.55 a.m.). We had some heavy showers during the climb and it was misty on top. The high peak to the east claimed our attention as it was obviously higher than Cinder Hill and easier of access.

We set off for it at 11.10 a.m., by-passing the next small crag to the east to encounter a clear ridge top from which the high peak ahead lay at 115 deg. mag.. The ridge linked up directly with our objective, although a couple of undulations had to be surmounted before the climb commenced, but this had no major obstacles and all were on top of the high peak (3250' 5m. - 1.35 p.m.). The peak is much more rugged on its eastern side with some ragged quartzite spires which gleamed like marble when touched by the sun. Believing the peak to be un-named, we called it "Marble Towers" which seemed fittingly descriptive, but we have since learned it was named many years ago as "Mt. McConnachie”. {Mt. Maconochie]

We had lunch on top and, with clearing weather, gained a good view of the surrounding mountains, many of which were new to us. It was impressive country with a wealth of variety in the landscape and an enticing clearness along the ridges that made a re-visit a future pledge. A magnetic sweep of the horizon yielded the following salient features:
Green Bluff (3200' - these heights approx. estimates only), 194;
Greystone Bluff (3300'), 214;
Pine Creek and Low Propsting, 251;
Big Propsting, 254;
Cinder Hill (3100') 283;
Little Cinder Hill, 293;
Long Ridge, 312;
camp, 316;
Double Peak, 326;
Frankland Peak, 21;
Mt. Giblin, 40;
Folded Strata Range, 45-58;
Mt. Anne, 54;
Mt. Hesperus, 110.
At 160 deg. is a rocky peak connected to Marble Towers by a low ridge and itself the start of a long range of low peaks running out to 100 deg,.

We left Mt. Maconochie (Marble Towers) at 2.45 p.m. and took a course to the N.W., planning to return via the outer (more northerly) ridge overlooking Doherty Ground. We stopped and waited for Arnold a couple of times, not an unusual performance, and finally on a tiny button grass knoll at the edge of the light forest on the ridge. At 4 p.m. I returned to the base of Mt. Maconochie to the point where Arnold was last seen and looked for him on both sides of the ridge before returning to the waiting Dick at 5 p.m., whereupon we concluded he must have preferred to return via the route we had taken to the peak and was now well in front of us.

We set off through the burnt forest on the ridge top, gaining the other end at 5.15 p.m. and swung back onto our outward course, lighting a tall button grass on the crest of a rise as a signal for Arnold. We found our broken path through the "burn" leading up to Little Cinder Hill, by-passed the top and trudged wearily down the long climbing ridge to regain our tent (530' 10m. - 6.50 p.m.). At 7 p.m. we heard a hail from the direction of the climbing ridge and answered, concluding it was a reassuring hail from Arnold. He arrived before 8 p.m. in good time for tea. The afternoon had been cool though fine and cloudy. There was a light shower as we finished tea, but it was fine as we retired hopefully at 10.20 p.m.

A fine but overcast morning greeted us on Thursday, Jan. 2nd. The bush had dried out somewhat, clouds were skimming over the peaks and prospects for a good day appeared rosy as we set off at 8.15 a.m. We retraced our outward course, finding the streams much lower. On the crest of the low ridge (14oo’ - 4m. - 9.22 a.m.), I took a magnetic check on our position: campsite 214 deg.; Cinder Hill, 216; Jones Pass, 72. Off again at 9.40 a.m., we headed for the East Frankland, crossed it at 10 a.m. and then swung up the plain (only mediocre going) to the base of Jones Pass Hill (650' – 5½m. - 10.40 a.m.).

At 10.55 a.m. we commenced the long steep climb but found it generally clear and far superior to our outward route down. We gained the summit (1870' – 6½m. - 11.55 a.m.) and the H.W.C. camp (1800’ – 6¾m. – noon), where Dick undertook to go down the old staked route to find a lunch spot and boil the billy whilst I awaited the arrival of Arnold who was again trailing. He arrived ten minutes later and we all had lunch a little way down the pass (1600' – 7¼m. - 12.20 p.m.).

Away in light rain at 1.20 p.m., we re-crossed the creek, but re-crossed it twice more before reaching our outward campsite. Then we climbed fairly high on the slopes of Mt. Giblin to pass over the timber line, negotiate the scrubby traverse of the tiny creeks and then drop down to the base of the pass (9m. - 3.15-20 p.m.). The clouds hung low on the mountains but there was little rain. We crossed Jones creek again soon after, and eventually reached the track formation (950' – 11½m. - 4.40-45 p.m.).

Espying a new staked track running through the middle of the plain in the direction of Scotts Peak (the course we wished to take), we crossed over to it (4.50 p.m.) and found it quite a good course over the burnt plain with three bridges (a la cyclone gates) over beds of Jones Creek (5.5-10 p.m.) and another over Scrubby Creek (5.30 p.m.), bringing us to the Port Davey Track at 6.15 p.m., where we settled for a campsite soon afterwards (870' – 15¾m. – 6.20 p.m.). It was a nice sheltered spot, although bedding material was scarce. The rain had been rather steady during the latter half of the afternoon and showers still continued to hamper us during camping preparations. Nevertheless we completed all the usual chores, except for drying wet clothes, before bunking in at 9 p.m..

A strong wind developed during the night and Friday Jan. 3rd. had just another overcast morning with a cool wind and showers. Up at 6.30 a.m., but not away until 9.5 a.m., we crossed a large creek on a further wire bridge after a few yards' walk and about 1½ miles out along the Davey Track, we encountered a lone walker at his campsite and spent some considerable time chatting. We reached the crest of the high windy ridge on the track (1350' – 3½m. - 10.50 a.m.) to commence descending slightly; then over undulating country where tiny forested streams passed on their way to the Huon. Crossing Junction Creek, we reached the junction of McKay's Track with the Davey Track (770' – 7m. - 1.10 p.m.) and pushed up to the H.E.C. shelter shed (800' – 7½m. – 1.25 p.m.).

We gathered up our air drop, which had been safely flown in, and re-packed it - all of which took up quite a deal of time. As showers were still all too frequent, we decided to spend the night here rather than get another 3 to 4 miles along the track, with the result we had two bumper meals and cooked dampers. We retired at 9,15 p.m..

Determined to catch up lost time on our schedule, we were up at 5.30 a.m. on Sat., Jan. 4th. but still did not get going until 8 a.m. The sky was still overcast, some peaks were clear and others cloud-capped, but a rising barometer gave us hope. We crossed Two-Mile Creek (8.55 a.m.), passed the 3-mile peg (9.24 a.m.) and crossed Four-Mile Creek (9.38 a.m.). Approaching Seven-Mile Creek, the H.E.C. angle-iron stakes, which marked the course of McKay's Track, veered off to the left of the track. This probably would provide a better course to the Craycroft but was not likely to help us in our approach to the Eastern Arthurs. Thus we adhered to the sparsely blazed old pad, wading Seven-Mile Creek and resting on the clear rise beyond (6m. - 10.25-37 a.m.). I passed one of my old campsites (7m. - 11.25 a.m.) where I camped with Wally Bock and Helen McGeickie. We then had a 10-min. tussle crossing through scrub around another creek. A few more tiny streams were crossed in quick succession and we stopped for lunch at the last of these (800' - 9m. - 12.27 p.m.).

Light rain hastened us away at 1.10 p.m.. We crossed Strike Creek (10½m. – 1.50-55 p.m.) and picked a good course to Pass Creek, although we found the latter part tiring and were glad to dump our re-stocked packs at the campsite under Luckmans Lead (900' – 15½m. - 4.45 p.m.). It was a nice sheltered spot recently cut in a thicket. The late afternoon had been fairly free from rain but clouds still enveloped the high tops. We found ample time to make it a most comfortable camp, cook some more damper and so to bed at 9 p.m..

Up at 5.10 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5th., we realised we must be close under Federation Peak that night if we were to climb it on the morrow and adhere to our schedule. Although overcast as ever, the morning was warmer with low cloud and a freshening wind. Away at 7.23 a.m., we reached the top of Luckmans Lead (2030' – 1½m. - 8.20 a.m.) and found the going through the forest had become more and more worn as successive parties had pushed through, and we emerged on the open tops above the forest, known as the Boiler Plates (2500' – 2¼m. - 8.55 a.m.).

We were making fair progress southwards, descending a little and then ascending again underneath the Needles when a chilly rain squall hit us and there was a conference on whether or not to abandon the project, but we hopefully decided to push onwards. A little later a freezing wind added its weight to the discussion along with more rain and heavy mist and unanimous agreement to cancel the Federation project was reached and we turned our backs on it. A quarter of an hour later, the sun broke through and conditions improved in the east although the western sky still looked unrepenting. The return walk was much warmer, the lower section being in sunshine and unhurried. I was not affected personally by the abandonment decision as I had been on top of Federation before, otherwise I guess I would have been arguing very strongly that we must continue.

Back at camp (900’ – 6m. - 12.15 p.m.) we had a leisurely lunch munch. Showers followed and, then, ironically, it became gloriously fine. We went for a ramble and climbed "Quartz Crystal Hill" from which we took a few photos, a rarity on this trip. After a pleasant, lazy afternoon, we had an early tea which was fortunate as a shower had us scurrying to bed at 8.10 p.m.

On Monday, Jan. 6th. we were astir at 6 a.m. to observe a clear, almost cloudless sky. Ironically, this was to have been our day on Federation if we had reached its base. Not to be completely thwarted, we changed plans to fit the occasion of fine weather and chose to tackle West Portal, the next highest peak of the Arthurs as a day trip.

Travelling with only a one-day pack, we set off at 7.50 a.m. and utilised the low ridge up the middle of Pass Creek valley, then onto the higher East Ridge and along its crest until we reached the top of Peak 29a, now the summit peak of Lucifer Ridge (3500' - 4m. - 10.45 a.m.). We then moved across to a junction from which another ridge led up to a high rocky summit, the highest of the Crags of Andromeda, in the quartzite of which I discovered veins of specular hematite. Then down southwards into a trough and up once more to gain the high summit of West Portal (3950' – 5½m. - 12.57 p.m.).

It had been a race to get on top before the clouds blocked the view and, although we were strung out like the proverbial cows of Brown, it was a losing battle. The clouds kept a tight rein on the view as we turned back for camp at 1.33 p.m. Only on the lower slopes were we free of the persistent clouds. We returned home via the East Ridge, pausing at a beautiful tarn, Lake Rosanne, on its northern slopes, and finally reached camp (900' - 11m. - 5.53 p.m.). It had been a wonderful day – easily the best of the trip and for once free from rain. The clouds were thinning again towards evening as we retired contentedly at 8.30 p.m..

Strong periodical gusts of wind occurred at times during the night and there was some light rain. It was also showery during breakfast next morning as we strove to get going for Geeveston. Off at 8 a.m., our first objective was the Craycroft Crossing. As the way appeared trackless, we headed towards the Craycroft, crossing Pass Creek about ½ mile from its junction with the former. Searching for some form of track leading to the Crossing, we pushed along the base of a hill on the west side of the Craycroft. As our search proved fruitless and the going was scrubby, we crossed the Craycroft and explored the east bank with no better results. It was a problem to work out just where this track could be as we had crossed what I considered its likely course.

We lunched on a hill (8m. - 2-3 p.m.) and then crossed a scrubby creek to reach the next hilltop (4 p.m.). Then, as I knew a track led down to the Crossing from Baldy, we crossed another gully and gained Baldy's summit (9½m. - 4.30 p.m.), from which we followed the track down northwards to the jeep track that led to the Picton and beyond (10¼m. - 4.45 p.m.). It had been a hard day's scrub-bashing and extremely hot, trying work and camping here would have been welcome, but we had to press on further to maintain our tight schedule. We dumped packs and went down to the Crossing to confirm its position (10½m. - 4.50 p.m.), then back again and, after a short rest, on again at 5.15 p.m..

The jeep track was rather steep in places and steady rain accompanied us throughout. At last we settled for a campsite close to the Huon (600’ - 15m. - 6.55 p.m.). The heavy rain made cooking very difficult. We were all rather wet and had a late tea in the tent before retiring at 9.45 p.m..

The heavy rain continued well into the night and the morning of Wed., Jan. 8th. brought showers and sunshine. Up at 6 a.m., but a poor fire due to wet wood and the need for shaving made our start later than ever - 10 a.m.! This jeep track, popularly referred to as the "Yo-yo Trail" is no walkers’ dream of an ideal track. Grading is almost non-existent and the bulldozer had apparently just ploughed up over each ridge to its crest and then gone straight down the other side to repeat the process. As the ridges were steep, so are the grades and 1 in 3 is all too common. We reached Harrisons Opening (2m. – 11 a.m.), leaving the worst of the grades behind, and so on to Blakes Hut (480’ – 7½m. - 12.55 p.m.) for lunch. We were afoot again at 2.10 p.m. along what was now very familiar walking to us all. We crossed the Picton suspension bridge (14m. - 4 p.m.) and pushed out onto the Arve River Road (550' - 16m. - 4.40 p.m.).

Geeveston was still a day's march away and our hope for a lift didn't look rosy as the only vehicle around was a small car that looked as if it had been parked there for quite a while. We decided to walk up the road, hoping that a timber truck may come out of one of the spur roads. We made but slow progress as rushing seemed of scant avail and anyway the hill was long and steep. We were little more than a mile along when we heard a car coming up behind us and luck was with us. The driver of the car was Toni Knoll, a migrant living at Huonville, and he was just returning home from a trip to Lake Pedder, having used huts all the way. We managed to all squeeze into the VW and accompanied him to Huonville where, with his assistance, we spent the night. Next day we journeyed by bus back to Launceston in time for work on the morrow.

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