Keith Lancaster 

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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.

My last remaining peak in the Cradle Mt. - Lake St. Clair National Park, Mt. Nereus, had eluded me on two previous occasions owing to the time factor, so the five-day break at Christmas 1968 seemed more than ample for the project. However, I didn't leave Launceston on Christmas Day until after Christmas dinner and then encountered tyre and exhaust pipe trouble en route, delaying my arrival at the H.E.C. buildings at Lake St. Clair until 6 p.m. Here I arranged boat transport up the lake and, after parking my car at Cynthia Bay, left in the speed boat at 6.30 p.m. and in 20 min. was at the Narcissus Hut. It was a smooth lake with a light southerly breeze and the speed seemed quite unbelievable after the previous slow motor boat journeys I had made. It was certainly the de luxe method of travel. The lake was high and only 1' below full capacity and thus looked at its best during the voyage. Patches of snow are showing on all the surrounding mountains above the 3000' mark - truly a white Christmas. I stayed overnight at the hut in company with four Sydney walkers and retired early at 8.45 p.m..

On Thursday Dec. 26th. (Boxing Day) I was astir at 7 a.m. to see an overcast sky with low clouds and a light southerly. I left the hut at 8.10 a.m. for the Labyrinth, passing the site where Nichols' Hut stood (2450' – 1¼m. - 8.43 a.m.). The weather was still calm and overcast with plenty of mosquitoes around as I passed the Mt. Gould turnoff (1½m. – 8.50 a.m.) and the track junction leading to the Overland Track (2500’ - 3m. - 9.27 a.m.). The weather and mosquito position remained unchanged as I passed the junction with the Forest Track (4m. - 9.50 a.m.) and reached the Labyrinth Track Junction (2450' – 5½m. - 10.25 a.m.).

I rested awhile, resuming at 10.30 a.m. with the clouds looking a little thinner. The Labyrinth Track was very muddy at the start and needs corduroying, whilst in the forest it needs clearing and blazing. It was getting hard to follow and obviously nothing had been done to it since I cut it in 19 . I rested awhile at Landslide Creek (6m. – 10.54-59 a.m.) and reached the edge of the plateau (3600' - 7m. - 11.40 a.m.). I was now well above cloud level and it was rather misty with a strong S.S.E.. wind and a little moisture. A line of tiny cairns had been erected along the plateau leading northwards, apparently to Walled Mt. and I followed these, strengthening them here and there perchance the mist worsened and my line of retreat became obliterated.

I stopped for lunch and made a fire to keep warm (3670' - 7¾m. - noon), feeling rather despondent as it looked as if the heavy mist would prevent me from finding an accurate course to the high Du Canes. The wind dropped a little during lunch and then became changeable in direction, eventually settling into a light nor'-westerly. Then the sun peeped out at 1 p.m. and the clouds lifted. I could see mountains around me for the first time and took magnetic bearings on them immediately as follows: Walled Mt. 260 deg.; Eros 300; Parthenon 150; link to Guardians 185; High Dome 220; Eldon Bluff 240; top of Labyrinth ridge on right 80; southern lake of Labyrinth 220; track descent from plateau 130; continuation of track 300.

I resumed at 1.24 p.m. in a rapturous mood - it's amazing how a clear sky can alter the whole perspective. Nevertheless, I still continued strengthening the cairns along the route to the northern end of the northern lake of the Labyrinth as an insurance against problems that may arise as I returned from Nereus. The wind had worked around to the south again but the clouds were lifting and the sun warm. I made a further magnetic check as a return precaution from here Walled Mt., 270 deg.; route out, 130.

Leaving the lake (3500' - 9m. - 2.5 p.m.), I headed straight for Walled Mt. and made an easy ascent, mainly along wombat pads, over the summit of the first foothill. Then a short descent brought me to where I passed between two tarns in a gully (3650' – 9¾m. - 2.20 p.m.). I was off again at 2.32 p.m. and met a party from the Climbing Club of South Australia high up on the slopes near thick snow patches and lost quite a little time in fraternising. I then shouldered Walled Mt. rather high on open plateau at its western end (10m. - 4.20 p.m.) and spent 8 min. in photography and examining the route ahead. Happily the mountains to the west were free of cloud, with Mac's Mt. lying at 257 deg. mag. and its access ridge 277 deg. mag..

Descending westward along the range towards Macs Mt., I reached a sheltered valley (4250' – 10½m. - 4.40 p.m.) where I thought a camp-site may exist, but neither firewood nor tent poles were there. I climbed up again via a snow patch to the ragged crest of the access ridge the reach its summit (4400' - 11m. - 4.55 p.m.). Macs Mt. still lay on the 257 deg. bearing with Mt. Nereus at 272 deg.. The course down the crest of the ridge was very rocky but it had a sloping clear patch on the northern side of the crest. Beyond this, a steep gully descent followed to a green slope leading down to the low col at the base of Macs Mt..

Half way down this slope, I settled for a campsite on a narrow shelf in pleasant surroundings (3650' - 12m. - 5.30 p.m.). As a precaution against clouds in the morning, I checked Macs Mt. summit at 264 deg. and the route back at 87 deg. and listed details of the course. The clouds were falling noticeably by 6 p.m.. I made a comfortable camp and cooked a good meal. The sky seemed generally clear in the far west and the local clouds did not look dangerous as I retired at 9 p.m.. During the night I was awakened by the tent coming down and had to turn out to adjust it. Almost for certain it was caused by a wandering wallaby fouling the main rope.

I was up at 6 a.m. on Friday to discover a calm morning with scattered low clouds. I was away to a good start at 7.15 a.m. with a day pack intending at least to regain this campsite by night. The stiff ascent to the top of Macs Mt. was accomplished (4360' - ¾m. - 7.50 a.m.) and the next peak on the range checked at 300 deg. Descending westward, I finally detoured around the southern side to reach an open saddle (3600' –1½m. - 8.27 a.m.) which would be quite a delightful fine weather campsite - a green opening amid tiny gums, myrtles and scopari. I resumed at 8.35 a.m. and ascended through open going to the clear summit of the next peak (4000’ - 2m. - 8.50 a.m.), an unnamed peak covered with native grasses and light alpine bushes. It was so verdantly attractive that the name of Green Mt. seemed fittingly descriptive. There was plenty of sunshine now and the sandflies were becoming active. Low clouds were more isolated but were still around on the high peaks. Mt. Nereus lay at 270 deg. mag., as also was the edge of the clear shelf below, from which the descent would be made to a brownish clearing.

Resuming at 9.2 a.m. westward I found that the southern lip of the "clear shelf" was a little overgrown in greenery (2½m. - 9.20 a.m.). I checked the brown clearing at 245 deg. from here, had a rest and then started the "scrub bash" towards the clearing at 9.35 a.m.. It was a relief to arrive at the brownish clearing (10 a.m.) to discover it was an isolated patch of button grass nearly ½ mile broad. Reaching the far end of the opening (2950’ 3m. – 10.15 a.m.), I turned westward through myrtle, sassafras, paper barks and pandanni to gain a ridge crest, the broken crest of which I followed northward, encountering considerable opposition from sprawling snow gums and scrub along the crest. The sun was really hot now and perspiration ran freely. The ridge ran to the mountain where the slopes were wooded all the way with the rocky summit protruding above (3850' – 4½m. – 11.15 a.m.).

The summit view, though limited, had its compensations. Perrins Bluff, Pelion West, the Eldons, High Dome, Macs Mt. and the whole array of the other Du Cane peaks looked superb. The wild country of the Canning and Wallace R. gorges displayed forests, the diversity and purity of which would be seldom excelled. In spite of all this, I was eager to be getting back, especially as I was feeling the need for a drink. After some photography, the retreat began at 11.30 a.m.. From the eastern end of the summit, I descended steeply through the tree growth and was soon below the rocks, and angling towards the button grass patch. I met and despatched a 4’ tiger snake along the way and reached water at a mossy pool and stopped for lunch (3080' - 5m. - noon).

The pool was surrounded by a virgin, unburned forest wherein pandanni grew to 30', the tallest I have seen collectively. With so many of these, plus a large number of King Billies and paper barks, it would be a tragedy to risk a campfire in the area as, once they caught fire, it would produce a terrific conflagration. A patch of forest that has never experienced fire is almost unique now in Tasmania.

At 12.30 p.m. I was off again eastward and with the aid of compass and aneroid, I managed to regain the button grass patch at the same point I had left it. I found a better course generally on the uphill through the scrub to the sandstone escarpment (6m. - 1.30-38 p.m.), had another short scrub-bash and then it was easy going up to the shoulder of "Green Mt." (2.2-12 p.m.) and thence down to the saddle on its east (7m. - 2.20 p.m.).

Instead of climbing over the summit of Macs Mt., I shouldered it on the northern side at 4000' and it proved successful, permitting me to arrive back at camp in early afternoon (3650' – 8¼m. - 3.5 p.m.). Far too early to consider making it another overnight stay here, I pulled down the tent, packed up and was off again eastward at 3.42 p.m.. The afternoon heat made the uphill climb along the ragged access ridge all the more trying and near its top I met Reg. Williams and a party from the Climbers Club and had a chat. Resuming, I made good progress over the shoulder of Walled Mt. and, once down its S.E. slopes, I picked up the cairned route and followed it out to the second last lake on The Labyrinth towards the south. Then I descended below the track to reach the shore of the southernmost lake, Lake Ophion (3470' - 13m. - 6.20 p.m.) where I decided to camp, well satisfied with the day's performance and the weather. The sky was almost cloudless as I prepared camp and I retired at 9.15 p.m. just as darkness was descending.

A clear night with a heavy dew gave way to a pleasant morning with the usual few low clouds around. I was astir at 5.30 a.m. but a little lethargic and was not ready to break camp until 8.5 a.m.. I had planned the day's programme as I returned from Nereus, although it had received some earlier consideration. It was to climb over the Parthenon to The Guardians and thence via Horizontal Hill to Lake St. Clair - quite an ambitious programme and something rarely tackled. I started off uphill eastward to regain the cairned track but I did not reach it until nearing the plateau edge, but it made little difference as the way was quite open. I halted at the plateau edge (3600’ - 1m. - 8.35 a.m.), pondered over the route for a while and resumed at 8.40 a.m. towards The Parthenon.

I had minor skirmishes with scrub and rock and the final ascent proved quite steep, but the northern cairned summit was soon reached (4175’ – 1¾m. – 9.37 a.m.). Scattered low clouds capped most of the high peaks as I examined the view and course ahead before resuming at 9.50 a.m..

There was quite a gap between the Parthenon and The Guardians necessitating quite a descent and the ensuing climb proved somewhat scrubby and culminated with a snow bank ascent. I had to descend a couple more times through breaks in The Guardians, steadily pushing westward towards its higher end. The sun was making its presence felt and so were the sandflies. At length I reached the lip of the escarpment just westward of the highest paint of The Guardians and overlooking a steep descent towards Horizontal Hill (4200' – 2¾m. – 10.20 a.m.).

Photography, aided by good weather and excellent vantage points, occupied quite a little time. I resumed at 10.33 a.m. only to find I was in the wrong descent gully and possibly one that wouldn't hold good. I pushed a little farther west, located a safer descent gully, took more photos and began the descent at 11 a.m.. The climb down was steep and, encumbered by the pack, difficult but I was safely at the foot at 11.15 a.m..

The course to Horizontal Hill then led across a tumble of rocks, many of them loose, to a moraine (11.25 a. m.) and down this and through scrub with some assistance given by animal pads, to a pool of water in the trough dividing The Guardians from Horizontal Hill (3400' – 3¾m. - 11.37 a.m. ). As water would probably be scarce, I took advantage of the large pool to halt for lunch in the warm sunshine.

At 12.40 p.m. began the hard scrub-bash up Horizontal Hill where scopari, dwarfed myrtles and tea trees never let up and even the 2' high vegetation approaching the summit offered strong resistance. The summit of Horizontal Hill (4050' – 4¼m. - 1 p.m.), about 100 yds. in diameter, was a friendly open flat with numerous water-worn circular hollows (some filled with water) in the sandstone rock. There was no cairned summit but this was rectified, although meagerly due to the absence of material.

After a brief stay, I was off at 1.10 p.m. down the S.E. side, finding the way very much easier than that on the ascent. Some early escarpments presented problems, especially as the scrub was fairly thick in their vicinity. I maintained a steady course towards the outflow of Lake Marion, but deviated whenever the going became thick. However, I encountered a few small plains as planned from the summit view but they weren't as open as anticipated. The last "plain" encountered was covered with matted tea tree scrub 3-4’ high and my mouth became very dry from the dust disturbed from these bushes.

I reached Lake Marion at a campsite where three tents were erected (7m. - 2.48 p.m.), but there were no occupants around. Resuming at 3.6 p.m., along the foot track, I found it very overgrown but made reasonable progress, passing Nicholls Hut site (11m. - 4.38 p.m.) to reach the Marion Creek crossing (11¼m. – 4.44 p.m.) and have a short rest. Then on once more at 4.50 p.m., passing the Narcissus Hut junction track (12m. - 5.16 p.m.) and the Byron Gap track junction (13m. - 5.38 p.m.) to steadily push around the lake-side track of Lake St. Clair to eventually gain Echo Point Hut (2400' - 17m. - 7.15 p.m.). Here it was a full house but, as it was beyond me to reach Cynthia Bay that night, I cooked along with the rest, set up the tent, had the usual "chin-wag" and retired at 9.20 p.m..

On Sunday, Dec. 29th., low clouds were skimming the lake in the morning, but all was calm with a northerly drift. I was fortunate in being relieved of my pack by a canoe party and left packless at 7.28 a.m.. I reached the track junction with the Byron Gap Track (5m. - 9.10 a.m.) and arrived at Cynthia Bay (2400' – 5¾m. – 9.25 a.m.) to locate my pack, dump everything in the car and set off for home, which was accomplished without incident.




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