PILLAR (NEW YEAR WEEKEND TRIP OF 1971)
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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.
|Party: Tom Johnston, Brian McLoughlin, Dick Janes and
Keith Lancaster (Leader).
Leaving Launceston shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday Jan 1st. 1971, under an overcast sky, we travelled south down the Midlands Highway, encountering rain all through the midlands from Conara to St. Peters Pass. The weather brightened the farther south we went. At Brighton, we left the Midlands Highway and travelled via Tea Tree and Richmond to Sorell, thence via the Arthur Highway to within a few miles of Port Arthur where we turned eastward along the rough road to Fortescue Bay.
Arriving at Fortescue Bay at 10.20 a.m., we parked the car near the end of the road as the rough track southwards down the coastline to the jetty site was too boggy to use. Several tents were pitched just off the roadside, providing quite a holiday-maker's village. After changing into our walking boots and shouldering our rucksacks, we were away at 10.35 a.m. down the track leading southwards along the shore and five minutes later were at the grassy clearing which was the site of the timber mill which once provided the sole reason for the existence of the jetty, only a few piles of which remain. A light drizzle obliged us to don our waterproof jackets and these remained with us until well into the afternoon.
Turning inland here and keeping fairly close to the adjacent creek, a recently bulldozed track was encountered and this led southwards along the line of the old Forestry survey line. The bulldozed track was very rough and covered with the felled scrub and light timber. As the grade steepened the bulldozed track deviated to the right and we followed it in the expectation that it would later turn back and rejoin the Forestry line when the grade became more favourable. At the top of the climb (10.50-55 a.m.) we had a short rest and then discovered that the bulldozed track led downhill and away to the N.W. with obviously no intention of rejoining the Forestry line. Accordingly, we forsook the bulldozed track and headed S.E. and later E. through timber and sparse scrub, steadily making altitude and seeking the Forestry line. It was farther away than anticipated and was not reached until 11.15 a.m. near the foot of another substantial climb. Continuing southwards along the Forestry line we climbed steadily until at last we reached the crest at 11.38 a.m., where a maze of light scrub had fallen across our path for the next chain.
After a well-earned rest we resumed downhill at 11.45 a.m. and reached the end of the long straight line at 12.5 p.m. where it abuts an east-west Forestry survey line. A word of explanation on the Forestry lines may be beneficial. They are straight swathes through the forest about 20’ wide and their direction seems to be based on magnetic N.-S. or E.-W.. The straight we had just completed would be a little more than two miles in length. Our plan was to utilise a H.W.C. track which was cut three years ago to Cape Pillar and, although we had no information concerning its whereabouts apart from a map in "Tramp” covering only the southern half of it, we hoped to locate it in this area. Thus, when we say a recently blazed trail start off to the S.S.W. through the scrub from the track junction, I felt confident this must be it and elected to follow it forthwith (12.10 p.m.). We followed the blazes southwards for 200 yds. and then W. and then N.W. and came out on the E.-W. Forestry line at 2.20 p.m. (3m.) only a short distance westward of the track junction.
Here was a dilemma! I called a halt and elected to explore the Forestry line we occupied eastward, hoping to locate the H.W.C. track. I walked packless back to the junction and then up the line eastward and, at the end of a steep climb, reached the crest of Mt. Fortescue to find the line ending about 100 yds. Beyond, overlooking the steep descent to Munroe Bight. No sign of a branch track existed anywhere, so I returned to the junction of the two Forestry lines and re-explored the blazes leading off to the south in the hope we may have missed a southern continuation of the blazes, but to no avail, and I rejoined the party at 1 p.m. (4m.).
We started lunch and I made a short reconnaissance westward down the Forestry line but it descended steeply and there seemed to be no purpose in sacrificing altitude. With no track in evidence, I elected to take the same course as used by the L.W.C. on the two previous attempts to reach Cape Pillar. Thus we set off after lunch at 2.3 p.m. on a magnetic course S.S.W. through the scrub. The going was mixed as we sidled around the hillside, crossing two small streams and encountering substantial resistance from cutting grass, bauera and mixed scrub, sharing the lead and finding the going harder than on the previous trips and the soggy plain slow to materialise. At 2.50 p.m. we had quite a surprise as we emerged suddenly on another new bulldozed track (5m.).
This trail seemed too good to cast aside, so after a short rest, we resumed at 2.55 p.m. along the sodden and slippery trail, at first S. by W. and then S.W. and later curving towards E. The track ended on an open plain at 3.15 p.m. (5½m.). We had a good view of the country ahead. I could see the old L.W.C. course away to the west, a sparsely wooded low hill to the south and the rising plain to the south-east. From the map in "The Tramp" it seemed evident that the H.W.C. track was more eastward and more down the centre of the peninsula than the L.W.C. route, and it appeared that it would be located on the plain to the S.E. or on the hill-slopes to the S. The plain course was closest, so we pressed S.E. to cross the watershed and be on the Munroe Bay slopes. As this side of the watershed was hardly likely to contain the utilised course, we turned back and followed the watershed S. and S.E. and then hopefully up the hillside through easy going and, towards the crest, to everyone's relief, located the lightly-staked H.W.C. trail at 4.15 p.m. (7m.).
Our navigational worries seemed now at an end. We turned eastward along the hillcrest and followed the trail along the crest, down into the forest, across a couple of streams, out into low tea tree where the scrub alternated from eight to two feet and then steeply down through more forest to cross “Lunch Time Creek” not far from its mouth at 4.50 p.m. (8½m.).
Climbing out of the creek gully, we ascended a rocky hillside through struggling bullyokes and then swung back into the scrub around the northern side of the hill. It was reasonably good walking and a sound track through this light forest, but the varied trials of the day had wrought heavy punishment and the progress of our tiring party slowed down. Around the hill, we re-crossed a section of “Lunch Time Creek” (5.40 p.m. – 10 miles out). Beyond this, the track led through probably the most densely packed scrub on the whole route to come out at length on a semi-open rise where angle-iron stakes mark the way down to a high level campsite among the trees:(6 p.m. –l0½m.), only about 300 yds. inland from a string of fresh water pools.
This point would be a little closer to the Cape than achieved on either the Nov. 1955 or Jan. 1958 L.W.C. trips when on both occasions a course closer to the coastline was followed. The course of the H.W.C. track is quite a good one, although open to improvements in straightening, clarifying, clearing, etc. and it is in quite good order for the more experienced type of bushwalker. Although not in the tourist track class, the amount of work already put into this track by the H.W.C. and Climbers Club is immense and they are to be congratulated on providing such a good access route through such inhospitable country.
This high level campsite seemed too good to pass by and we were soon busy erecting tents and preparing a fire. The drizzle of the morning and early afternoon had abated for some time and conditions were quite good now. After dinner we went down beyond the pools to the coastal cliffs from which Tasman Island was inspected at reasonably close range. The cliffside vegetation bore evidence of the ferocity of the prevailing winds as all nearby vegetation was completely flattened. Substantial banksias with up to 12” girth had an enforced procumbent growth, spreading out amongst the rocks but not rising more than a few inches above ground level. Around the pools, one walked on top of all the tree growth without ever being more than an inch or two above the ground. The sky was still overcast when we retired at dusk and there was a steady S.E. wind. The light from the Tasman Island lighthouse showed out constantly. Soon after dark, the rain started and was heavy and squally at times and one tent became a little waterlogged.
At daybreak the rain had finished, but we were enshrouded in heavy mist. The fire was not easy to kindle but breakfast was soon under way and the party ready for the Cape at 7.55 a.m.. The sky was clearing and the mist thinning, although ever and anon more mist would spill up and over the cliffs and our view to seaward was almost nil. We passed the pools and descended to the large tarn amongst the trees below, skirting it on the south. The winding track brought us around the cliffs, past Resolution Point, to reach “Oasis Camp” at 8.35 a.m. - a sheltered sandy site with a substantial pool below. After a stay here, we resumed at 8.47 a.m. back along the cliffs and then down to the left through the “Vale of Desolation”, a relatively open aisle through which a small stream trickled. Then back over to the southern side and down through an ancient “burn” to a low col where “The Trident” an unusual rock formation, shows out below and Tasman Island was coming in closer.
From the low col it was uphill, and quite steeply towards the last, as we came out on the rocky top of “The Blade” (940’ - 9.35 a.m.), a high spire which shows out prominently from afar. From the summit we could see almost nothing as mist was all around us and the rocky crags of “The Blade” seemed to fall away perpendicularly into nothingness. We waited awhile and slowly the mists passed by. At length Tasman Island showed out through the thinning mist to the south beyond some massive gendarmes which occupied the crest of a projecting peninsula extending outwards from “The Blade" towards the island.
With the mists steadily receding, we vacated “the Blade” at 10.15 a.m. and retracted our steps back to the track junction from which the track to the Cape continues (10.22 a.m.). We pushed along this and soon were on "Cathedral Bluff” (950’ – 10.40 a.m.), inspecting the cairn Sprent erected 100 years ago. Then we went further eastward along the track to find the descent route to Cathedral Rock. We descended to where a good photograph was obtainable and we much regretted that it was not possible to secure the Club's climbing rope before we left. The climb looked quite an interesting one and, although short, a rope seemed a necessary safeguard. The full tide was almost blocking the rocky land link and our attempt on the rock in any case would needs be delayed a while.
Returning to the crest, we continued still further towards the tip of the high section of the peninsula, reaching it in a few minutes (12 noon). By now the sun was out fully and the camera was receiving plenty of work. We started back at 12.10 p.m. to reach Cathedral Bluff at 12.25 p.m. and “The Blade” track junction at 12.40 p.m.
Then it was up "The Blade” again for more photography now the mist was gone. Back at the track Junction at 1 p.m., we continued homewards, stopping on the cliff edge for photos (1.15-18 p.m.), then up the “Vale of Desolation" and enjoying its cool running water to reach its top at 1.30 p.m. Oasis Camp was passed at 1.35 p.m. and then on to our camp (1100’ – 2.5 p.m.). The weather was now real warm with few clouds around. We lunched, packed up, and broke camp at 3.35 p.m..
Following the now familiar H.W.C. track, we paused at the lower crossing of “Lunch Time Creek” at 4.25-35 p.m. for a rest before swinging inland and reaching the point where we had found the track on the open hillcrest (5.20 p.m.). We elected to follow the track further in the hope it would lead us closer to the bulldozed track and we may even be able to establish a blazed link from track to track. This policy seemed to be working well as the track soon started to edge down the northern slopes of the hill and we reached its base on an open plain near a swampy section at 5.30 p.m.. The track crossed the plain and continued in a N.W. direction and it soon became evident it was swinging farther away from the bulldozed trail. It was obvious that the H.W.C. track must start from some point off the Fortescue Road near its middle, rather than the eastern end, from which we had entered. To follow it right through would gain us nothing as we would be faced with extra road walking to the car.
Thus we abandoned it at 5.40 p.m. and headed N.E. up the clearing to pick up the bulldozed track. It proved to be farther afield than expected and we entered the trees and low scrub before reaching it at 6 p.m. (perhaps about ¼m. from its southern end). A short rest and we were off at 6.8 p.m., shortly to don our rain jackets as the first shower of the day arrived. At 6.25 p.m. we passed yesterday's point of entry, but continued on as the track swung N.W. and later W.N.W. to end as it entered the east-west Forestry survey line (6.35 p.m.).
We turned right and pushed along the straight eastward, immediately crossing a creek and then began a long steep ascent until we reached the point on the line where we had left it after lunch yesterday (6.55 p.m.). As a campsite this had everything except good level places on which to pitch the tents, but we improvised successfully. The clear mountain water in the stream below was at welcome improvement to the brownish pool water of the previous camp, and firewood was abundant.
The night was warm and the rain held off. Astir before 7 a.m. we had a light shower over breakfast but it soon cleared. Away at 8.45 a.m., we completed the remainder of our journey eastward to the branch with the north-south Forestry line by 8.50 a.m. A good half mile of steep ascent up the rocky slopes brought us at length to the fallen scrub on top of the rise (9.5 a.m.). The overcast sky meant nice cool walking conditions and the steep down hill walking that ensued was no hardship. We entered the bulldozed section at 9.30 a.m. where it had swung away to the N.W. and we were down at the grassy clearing at the old timber mill site at 9.40 a.m. A couple of tents and two cars there bore evidence to improving and drier weather. We covered the remaining short section along the unmetalled roadway to our car at the end of the surfaced road by 9.48 a.m..
A paddle and/or swim in the Bay had a beneficial effect on all and we enjoyed a quiet morning. We lunched at the creek crossing a mile or more along the road. Our journey home was over the same course and rain was again encountered in the Midlands. We arrived home about 5 p.m..
RECOMMENDATION: The rugged coastal scenery in the vicinity of Cape Pillar I would describe as Tasmania’s best. Anything that can surpass Cape Grim, The Lanterns, Bruni Island, the South Coast or Freycinet National Park, as well as Maria Island has to be seen to be believed. The ubiquitous 1000’ sea escarpments, the rocky islets, the countless gendarmes, the unusual rock architecture, the varied terrain and the vegetation plus Tasman Island combine to provide an unforgettable picture. The trip is worthy of inclusion on a Club programme once in every two years and the climb of Cathedral Rock must be considered.
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