MOUNT STYX FORAY
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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.
On Sunday, 22nd. Dec.1991 I left Launceston at 9.10 a.m. and drove to the Hayes Farm and waited until afternoon to visit a friend there. It was 2.15 p.m. before I resumed my journey via the Lyell Highway, Cawthorns Lane and the Gordon River Road to Maydena. A short distance beyond I was delayed at the A.N.M. & National Park barrier, where I learned that the Styx Road was crossed by an overpass and I was obliged to turn right beyond that in order to get down onto the Styx Road. Only 1.8 km. along the road I was blocked by a fallen tree and spent half an hour in creating an underpass to allow my van through.
Barretts Track turned off on the right 3 km. farther on, followed by the Jubilee Road 4.8 km. farther along. The road crossed the Styx River about a half kilo. farther on, with the South Styx Road branching off on the right a kilo. farther along. The Styx Road is in reasonable condition for a timber road with a sound formation and a generous supply of pot holes.
A sign pointing out our tallest hardwood tree was reached 3.7 km. beyond the South Styx Road turnoff and the tree seemed to be standing up fairly well to the onslaught of the weather. An un named road turned off on the right 0.6 km. beyond, and the Gee Creek Road followed suit 2.8 km. beyond. Just a kilo. more and I reached my chosen turnoff, Jacques Road.
Jacques Road lacked the stability of the Styx Road and required watching. Not long ago it had received a top dressing of a clay like material, and this had been heavily ridged by traffic during a wet period leaving crusted ridge tops which the bullbar would clip unless keen vigilance was employed.
The hydro line crossing was reached after 3.5 km. and a further kilo. along I sighted another tree across the road and was able to back into a branch track which provided access to a hydro pylon over to the left. An exploration of the road ahead was not encouraging as rocks were enmeshed in the clay and could cause problems with my low clearance, even if I could manage to clear the tree away. Consequently, I chose the little used branch track as my campsite at 5.20 p.m. as it was reasonably level and turning places were few. The weather, fortunately, remained quite promising even though there were a few clouds around.
Monday dawned with an overcast sky and a freshing wind. I was astir early and, after breakfast, set off at 6.45 a.m. from the van lightly laden with general essentials for the day. I walked up Jacques Road, passing the 158 hydro turnoff on the left and reached a road bifurcation at 7 a.m.. I took the lower fork as it was obviously the most used and in best condition. However, after passing two hydro pylons I abandoned it at 7.20 a.m. as it must be the main hydro service road. Returning to the bifurcation, I set off on the other fork 159 at 7.35 a.m. on an uphill course.
It soon became apparent that this portion of Jacques Road was no longer in use as fallen trees and light regrowth were occupying the road. As this was my main hope, according to the latest map sheet, of a reasonable access towards Mt. Styx, I continued along it as it climbed steadily upward eventually to suddenly turn left and maintain the altitude gained but becoming more and more overgrown. I gave it away at 8.15 a.m. and headed W.S.W. through the forest towards where I estimated the Styx summit to be.
The forest lacked nothing that a rain forest can boast except perhaps horizontal, and also possessed a complement of sclerophyll species. Apparently the summit and surrounds of Styx had been severely razed by fires in the long ago and huge logs, many of them covered in mosses, and a proliferation of huge rocks were matted up with the vegetation. Progress was tedious and tiresome and the tall trees denied a glimpse of what lay ahead. Even when the treegrowth became lower nearing the top, dense lower growth ensured there was never an open lead amongst the boulders.
A cool wind, a slight drizzle and enshrouding cloud provided my welcome to the first summit I was able to claim at the northern end of the Styx assemblage at 9.55 a.m.. Temporarily I had glimpsed a couple of heights to south and south-west through the cloud-mist and these were probably higher than that I occupied. A couple of red markers I had just seen below the peak indicated that another party had used a similar route.
I deemed it inadvisable to attempt to reach either of the other eminences in the existing circumstances as the weather seemed to be worsening and progress to them would be far from easy. Far better to play it safe for once. I started back on a N.N.E. course and had visions of making my downhill return faster. Alas! it was impossible to hold a set course as hopeless barriers of rocks and trees would compel alterations. At long last I came out onto a clear section of disused road at 11.23 a.m. just where a small marker lay on top of a large rock.
Feeling elated that this may be part of Jacques Road, I turned left upon it and followed it westward, but it became more and more overgrown and almost impassable. Abandoning it, I returned to the cairned rock at 11.47 a.m. and explored the eastern end, but that became hopelessly overgrown by 12.2 p.m. and I went back again to the cleared patch at the cairned rock at 12.15 p.m..
So I chose to re enter the forest on a northerly course, still as difficult as before. The long tiring struggle was rewarded at 12.52 p.m. as I emerged on another disused road which looked in better condition. I explored it westward but it deteriorated very badly on a rise and I reversed at 1.2 p.m. and returned to my entry point at 1.10 p.m.. The eastern continuation offered no appeal, although it was once a well-formed road.
At 1.15 p.m. I was back in the inevitable forest on a north-west course, realising that the hydro road must not be far away and that would be my salvation. The going was still bad with bauera becoming the most retarding factor. I reached the hydro road at 1.36 p.m., turned W.S.W. along it at 1.40 p.m. and reached the familiar bifurcation at 2.2 p.m.. I went up 159 Jacques Road a short distance to collect a couple of plants and was back again at 2.25 p.m.. Continuing vanward, I passed the 158 hydro branch at 2.37 p.m. and was back at the van at 2.44 p.m..
As I was back in good time, I decided to shift my parking place to a lower elevation. At 3.10 p.m. I drove down Jacques to the Styx Road (3.5 km.) and camped nearby. Next morning I was awake early to a nicer day. After breakfast I made a leisurely drive along the Styx Road, gathering firewood on the way and reached the road barrier at 9.10 a.m.. That meant a half mile walk to fetch the caretaker to open the gate and then it was away for home reaching there late that morning.
In reflecting upon my foray, I feel I may have erred by not pushing further westward along the first road I had encountered on my return journey. Despite its heavy regrowth, I believe it soon could have improved and I should have been almost at the point where I had left it to make the ascent. The second disused road I had encountered on my retreat must have been a branch from Jacques Road that was too overgrown at the junction for it to have been discernible.
A further effort on Styx would need to be in more tolerable weather and
could be made from two points. One would be to use the same route as I
had made along the disused section of Jacques Road but to press farther
along it until the clear patch is gained at the cairned rock and ascend
through the forest from there or a little farther east. The other choice
would be from the hydro road at a point east of the second pylon and up
from there crossing the two disused roads en route. The small tree on
Jacques Road would be no problem to remove on either effort. I prefer
the first proposal.
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