Recently walked from the Walls to Lake St Clair over 7 days.
Will write up a post sooner or later, but before then here’s the GPS track on a 25,000 TasMap.
Click map to see full sized picture.
Day 1 (3rd January 2017):
For me, the walk into the Western Arthur range began along a familiar track. The walk to Junction Creek is around 9km from the Scotts Peak dam car park, and is tolerable.
I’d previously been to Junction Creek camp a few years back, when Dash and I did the Port Davey/South Coast Track walk. It wasn’t very exciting then, and it hasn’t got any better.
It’s best described as a warm up. The few steps that need to be taken to get to the destination. The brussel sprouts you’ve got to eat, before you can get to the delicious main meal. The starter motor which gets the engine going. The … well you get the idea.
Me, my mother Angie, my father Clive and friends Pete and Jimmy set off towards Junction Creek. Finally. It was the late afternoon, and after the messing about getting ready – which always takes longer than you’d hope – we were about to leave.
As you can see, Clive doesn’t have his pack on here. Sick of waiting for him, the rest of us – minus Clive – walked up to the walker registration booth to sign in (the track goes just behind where Dad’s water bottle is pointing).
But when we turned around he’d gone. He was no where to be seen. He hadn’t walked past us, he’d disappeared. We hadn’t even got out of the car park and already we’d lost someone.
“CLIVE!” we yelled, to no response. “HELLO?”.
I sprinted up the track to the Huon Campsite, and found him.
“Wrong way,” I said. We both walked back to the group.
It was not the best start we’d ever had. Lesson learned: don’t leave someone – especially Dad – behind.
After wasting another 15 minutes on that little journey, we were finally off. We walked through the lovely little forest that bridges the car park with the Junction Creek track.
I remembered walking this track before. You can look up at the road, which winds up the hill to the Red Knoll lookout. It doesn’t feel quite like a bushwalk until that’s gone.
But it isn’t long until it’s just you, some lovely boardwalks and the clear blue sky (if you’re lucky).
From here, most of the rest of the track is spent avoiding mud and bog.
The mud begins about 2km after the car park, and rarely lets up.
In a way, we were lucky. It hadn’t really rained all that much before we got there, and so parts of the track had started to dry out.
But it wouldn’t be a post about a walk in the South West National Park, without complaining about it. So that KPI is now achieved.
My feet got wet pretty much straight away. It’s probably because I was wearing shoes with more holes in them than a plot of a Dan Brown novel. The rest of the group seemed to be fairing pretty well. Maybe because they were avoiding them better than me, but probably because they had better shoes.
Anyway, we walked along slowly counting down the kilometers until Junction Creek camp.
As we walked up and down a few smaller hills, I knew the Western Arthur Range would soon be coming into view. Finally, it did. And what a sight!
The clouds were rolling in from the south-west, and spilling over the range. It was as if they were hugging the mountains and lakes hundreds of meters up, insulating them from the cold space above.
Reality was different. For the walkers already up on the range – as we’d later find out – it was Yet Another Day In A Long Line Of Days of constant mist, rain, wind and pretty much zero visibility. Rather unpleasant walking; I know the feeling.
For us though, it was spectacular. And as it turned out, was pretty much the last bad weather for a while. For the next three days of our walk, the weather was amazing.
As I cleared the final hill before the walk down to Junction Creek, I reflected on the last time I was here. I was interested in seeing the campsite again. When I got there, it had changed a fair bit and wasn’t nearly as nice as it once was.
Since our last walk, there’d been a destructive fire in January 2013, and what seemed to be few floods. Small logs litter the campsite, and the canopy and cover than once existed had gone.
Dash and I slept up the hill a bit, and so I wandered up there to have a look. It was also a much sparser place. It lacked the same cozy feel.
This time round, the camp was also a lot more full. We’d had the place to ourselves back in March 2012. Now, we struggled to find a spot. We took the last few remaining places near the river (which is to the left).
“There’s going to be a lot of tents up on the range,” one camper told me as I wandered by. “How many tents do you have?”
“Three,” I answered. “Five people.”
“I’ve been counting the tents this afternoon,” he said. “There’s at least 10 here now. Most people are going up tomorrow.”
Hm… it seemed as if it would be a very tight squeeze at Lake Cygnus the next day.
We had a pretty late dinner and went to bed. For me, sleep came quickly.
Day 2 (4th January 2017):
Today we had to walk up Alpha Moraine. It’s a whopper of a walk. At least 700 meters of altitude to conquer, as the roughly 2.3km track winds its way up to the top.
No one got lost today, which was a bonus.
We were the second group to leave camp, and we got away at a pretty good time. I always like leaving early, as it means you can get going in the cooler morning and so you don’t have to slog it out too much under the hot afternoon sun.
Out destination today was Lake Cygnus. We were to walk past bluffs, crags of quartzite and alpine flora.
This is when the walk starts to get more interesting! It’s why we were here.
The day begins with a quick walk (compared to what’s coming a bit later) across the Arthur plains along the Port Davey Track.
You eventually come to a fork – the track either goes up Alpha Moraine, or down towards Bathurst Harbour.
It was slow, but solid going up the mountain. Behind us, we could see the other groups that had left a little later. They were slowly gaining on us as they walked the flats and we had the hills, but they never did catch up.
There was still a morning mist, so the top of the mountain was obscured behind cloud. It wasn’t long before people who had walked out from Cygnus that morning started to appear.
In traditional walker style, one had to stop to chat (and have a break). We heard that the weather had been horrid over the last week. Rain, hail, winds. Everything under the sun, except for the sun itself.
For one man who stopped to chat, it was the first time he’d seen further that 50 meters in four days. He said he originally went up to Oberon to take some photos, but ended up getting stuck in his tent for a few days. Eventually he pulled the plug and was on the way out.
If only he’d waited one more day.
It took us about an hour to get from Junction Creek to the turn off, so we started the ascent at about 9am.
An hour into it, I’d done about 1.5km. Another hour later, I’d done another one. It’s not exactly quick walking, but we were at the top having a look at the amazing views by midday.
We ran into a woman, who was waiting patiently for her partner who was a professional photographer. He too – like the people we met coming up – was finally seeing things he could take photos of, and was making the most of it.
After a quick snack, we pushed on walking across the flat and wonderful ground at the top of Alpha Moraine.
I took the opportunity to quickly run up Mount Hesperus, and was rewarded with an amazing vista all the way down to the south coast.
We finally cleared the last ridge, and were greeted to the site of Lake Cygnus, a lovely little spot. We arrived around 2:15pm, where we had lunch.
Despite the fear the night before that Cygnus would be packed, we were the first ones there. There was a family that was going to stay another night, and they had taken the spot down on the beach.
We picked the smallest of the platforms, and squeezed our three tents onto it.
The idea was to use the space as efficiently as possible in case other groups turned up, but we needed have worried. The huge area with the rubber mats – which could sleep 6-7 test – wasn’t used at all that night.
It seemed that half the people skipped Cygnus and went straight to Oberon. The others apparently stayed at Lake Fortuna – an old campsite that’s not on the “official” list anymore.
Lunch was down at the beach after a quick swim in the very cold water. It was lovely.
Eventually it was dinner time. Everyone ate and went to bed. I wanted to have a quick look at the weather forecast, so walked up to the ridge above Cygnus. The general rule of thumb is that if you can see Lake Pedder and if you’ve got a Telstra connection, you’ll probably get reception.
Weather forecast for the next day was wonderful. We were in the middle of two highs, and the outlook was “partly cloudy, 20-26 degrees, light winds”. Perfect.
It was a stunning night, so I walked a little further up the hill to get this panorama.
What a day!
When I got back, everyone was in bed. It was about 9pm.
Day 3 (5th January 2017):
Today’s plan was a day trip (return) to Lake Oberon, the lake we’d all been waiting for.
We set off around 8am to walk the 4.5km route.
The walk to Oberon isn’t too hard by Western Arthurs standards. Apparently it starts to get far more difficult, exposed and technical after you’ve passed Oberon. Lucky for us, we weren’t going that far.
The walk starts by climbing out of the Cygnus bowl, and heading over the ridge towards Mount Hayes. Mount Hayes is a 1119 meter high peak I’d quite like to climb, but I didn’t get the time/opportunity this time round – so it’s on the list for next time.
There are moments on the walk where you go over a ridge, and you’re presented with a whole new vista. Then, as you gaze around you wonder “where the hell does the track go?”
This is one of those. The track just drops down this gully, with scree and rocks everywhere. It’s steep and slow going. You can see Dad just (wearing a green shirt)
This is the view from the saddle looking back up.
It’s hard to know how the first people navigating the area worked out where the hell they were going. These days we just follow a trail.
It must have taken a long time.
Over the next hill, we come to a longer section before dropping down into Square Lake.
A wonderful area that has a few stops for camping at a pinch. There’s a lovely bit where you go trough some think scrub, and have to clamber over the stream that runs from Square Lake down the range.
We debated if Square Lake really deserves the name. It was a silly discussion.
Up one more hill, across it a little bit and up some more and we were finally where we wanted to be: looking down at Oberon!
This is as far as we’d go this trip. We didn’t bother the long trek down to the lake’s edge. It apparently takes 30-60 minutes one-way, and there wasn’t really any reason to do it. The view is what we were after, and it’s what we got!
Pete set the camera up for a group shot, giving himself 10 seconds and legging it. He just made it!
We had lunch, and then… started walking back.
I took the opportunity with Dad for a quick summit attempt up Mount Orion. It took us about 20 or so minutes, and we were rewarded with amazing views back to Pedder and of the range.
We had a brief discussion about taking the ridge back to Pyocyon Peak, but Dad had left his bag back at the lunch spot so we didn’t – luckily as it turned out. It would have taken hours.
I was curious as to where Epsilon Moraine started, as apparently this is the section where you get onto it for either a decent/assent – though Parks discourages that these days, as it’s not a maintained route.
An hour behind, I wanted to catch back up so I flew down Orion, rounded Square Lake, and caught back up with Mum somewhere a before Mount Hayes.
Another break was had at the top of Lake Cygnus. We ate chocolate in the sun. It was magical.
Then it was back to camp. After dinner we walked back up to the ridge line to get a few photos as the sun set.
Though despite the views and the amazing colours, the internet needed checking and messages needed to be sent.
As the light dimmed, it was time for bed on the very cramped platform.
Actually, there was a bit of camp drama on Day 3.
Mid-afternoon, when we were pottering about we noticed a large group appear on the horizon. They all made their way down to Lake Cygnus. Hellos were exchanged, but the group seemed to be a little …. pissed off.
They had taken hours to get to Cygnus. We’re talking 8-9.
The reason for their very long day would soon become clear, both in overheard conversations and later them telling everyone who’d listen.
It appeared that the group usually walked together. They’d flown in from interstate to walk the Arthurs, and at the last minute a person – who’d never travelled with the group before – joined, assuring them he was experienced.
Whether he is or not, I’ll never know. But we eventually caught sight of him some hours later on the horizon, with a huge backpack.
We found out from some of the others, that his original pack was much, much larger.
Half his stuff had been left at Junction Creek, so the story went. More of it had been left on poles along the Arthur Plains. Even then, he’d apparently still insisted on taking things like:
I don’t know if the “spice rack” was an exaggeration from a member of the group who was clearly frustrated with the slow-going, and pack hauling the others had done of the guy’s stuff to get them there before dark, but I can’t imagine many of them have been used at Lake Cygnus.
Anyway, an hour and a bit later, the guy had finally made it down the Lake Cygnus hill and was making his way to the beach to set up his canvas hut thing.
I’m not sure how they went, because the next day we had to get off the Western Arthurs, and get back home.
We woke up early, packed everything up, skipped breakfast and took off.
Sometimes going down is worse than going up. Actually, mostly going down is worse that going up.
It’s not always faster either.
7am departure. We walked about an hour, then set up and made some hot drinks and a quick breakfast before pushing on.
It wasn’t long before we came to Alpha Moraine and begun a multi-hour (2-3) decent.
Plod, plod, plod.
Least the views were nice.
Eventually – as expected – we started passing a few people heading up. They looked as tired as we probably did several days earlier.
Finally we made it down, and started along the wonderfully flat Arthur Plains
It was like this for a while. I found some of the stuff from the group before hanging on one of the poles. It looked like a pretty big bag.
We hit Junction Creek, had a snack and started the last 9km.
It was muddy. It was hot. It was slow going.
We made it back to the car around 3-3:30pm. It was hot. Water was drunk. We packed the cars up, tore off down to Lake Pedder and had a traditional after bushwalk wash.
What a walk. Stunning, phenomenal, brilliant. All those words. And more.
And we’d had pick of the weather too. Not a drop of rain, mostly clear skies and still days. Couldn’t have been better.
I only wish I had kept going. Anyway, when I got home I called Dash and made the pitch to him: Western Arthurs + Eastern Arthurs + Full Traverse + 2018?
He’s keen. Yes! Can’t wait to go back!
I’ve been to Maria Island twice now. Once in December 2016, following the first time about two decades ago.
My memories of the first time are very scattered, yet after arriving on Maria for the second time I wondered why it’d taken me so long to return.
Getting off the ferry and walking into what could be described as town – Darlington – is nice, but it took an hour or so before I started to relax and get into the “vibe” of the walk.
We didn’t really want to stick around in Darlington, so headed straight towards the next closest “official” campsite of Frenchs Farm. It’s about 11km or so south, and is easily accessed via a road.
It’s not a track, it’s a road. Parks vehicles can – and do – drive up and down it. One passed us when we were about 3/4ths of the way there.
The day was warm, and I had big plans for the trip – I wanted to get up both Mount Maria, and Bishop and Clerk. Unfortunately, due to the weather turning bad I didn’t get up either.
The first night was spent at Frenchs Farm, and was a lovely evening. After a nice little meal, we went for a wander over some of the old paddocks that historically would have been used for farming.
The farm animals and/or crops have gone – replaced by fields of wombats. You couldn’t throw a stick without hitting one.
They ambled about unworried. You’d look in one direction and count 10. Look in another direction, count another 10. Wombats, wombats everywhere.
When it got dark, we went to bed but woke to a noise best described as someone sawing wood. The noise made as the teeth of a saw are pulled and pushed through a log.
Wondering what on earth it was, I opened the tent and shined the torch which revealed a large wombat gleefully rubbing its butt up and down on a sharp stick. It looked happy. Satisfied, it wandered away munching on grass as it went.
Is that rain? Dammit. A peak outside the tent revealed that the island was misty, cloud covered the peaks and it didn’t seem like it’d be getting better anytime soon.
Nonetheless, we set off at around 10am for a quick walk over to Point Lesueur via Encampment Cove.
I wanted to see the campsite (I like seeing what things look like), and it wasn’t long before we wandered through. It was wet, but not too bad. It’s used heavily by people who come in via private boat – and I’m told the Frenchs Farm site is far quieter.
Wasn’t long before we got to Point Lesueur, checked out the weather station and walked back.
We passed a large (guided?) group all wearing the same style jacket. It was red.
Rest of the day spent at Frenchs Farm, watching it rain, and trying to take photos of wombats.
We were originally going to stay another night, but the weather hadn’t improved much. So instead we walked back to Darlington, changed our ferry booking and went home.
I really want to go back to Maria Island soon. A few things I’ll do differently:
That’s all. It’s a fantastic place, and there’s so much more to do there.
The day was sunny, warm (some would say hot), and we were ready for a quick visit to one of Tasmania’s favourite capes, Cape Hauy!
We’d stayed the night down on the Peninsula, so it was a quick drive down to the Fortescue Bay.
It was only a few hours out and back, so I could walk light. It’s always a fantastic reminder on how much more pleasurable walking light is, when compared to other – ahem – heavier trips.
I didn’t get many photos unfortunately. I seem to always forget, so unless others take them I don’t have any!
The track was, as expected, lovely. As part of the Three Capes Track, it’s nicely graded, well sign posted and wide.
I’d been out to Cape Hauy before – before the Three Capes upgrades – and the track is now much, much easier.
Anyway, a good walk. Five stars!
1. dangerously high or steep: the track skirted a precipitous drop.
* (of a change to a worse situation or condition) sudden and dramatic: a precipitous slide in the government’s popularity.
2. (of an action) done suddenly and without careful consideration: precipitous intervention.
We (Dash and me) woke early in Hobart on Friday 2nd, ate breakfast, drank coffee. The usual morning routine. Then we jumped in a car with our driver (Dad) and made our way south. Destination: Ida Bay.
We had planned a rather long – and as it would turn out rather optimistic – journey over the Southern Ranges to Precipitous Bluff, turning north to Vanishing Falls, then back via New River Lagoon to the South Coast Track for an exit (pursued by a bear.)
As such, we had 10 days worth of food in our packs, along with a pack raft, oars, and all sorts of other stuff we were sure to need for the next week and a half.
The bags were… heavy as fuck. Mine was around 24kg; Dash’s a few kilograms lighter at 22kg.
We said goodbye to Dad, who was about to fall asleep (and I think had a several hour nap as we thrashed our way up to Moonlight Ridge), and walked into the bush.
The weather was great. Not too hot, but cloudless and still. Perfect Tasmanian bushwalking weather.
We were optimistic about the distance ahead. We knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as previous walks (e.g South Coast Track, etc). But we knew – if we were lucky – we’d be getting some great views, and also finally I’d be conquering the mighty PB (Precipitous Bluff). It’s a mountain I’ve long wanted to visit, ever since I gazed up at it from Prion Beach a few years earlier as we flew along the SCT.
A picture of Precipitous Bluff had been on my phone screen for the past six to eight months. A constant reminder – when ever I looked at my phone – at the mountain I really wanted to visit. I am taken by it’s sheer cliffs, at its seemingly impossible approach, and trek up to the plateau on the top, at its infamy for good weather (lol, sure… /s),the way it dominates the landscape, at its (possible) views of a spectacular part of the state and – frankly – its name.
We had planned to get there – again, rather optimistically – by the fourth day if all went well (which of course we assumed it would).
So we walked. By about 2:30pm we were at Moonlight Creek. And we walked some more. We must have had lunch somewhere (probably somewhere this photo was taken), and after lunch we walked more.
We passed Hill 1, and paused. It was now started to get a bit later in the day (about 4pm) and since it was September, we knew we had until about 5:30pm-6pm before it would get dark.
The decision was made to keep going to Pigsty Ponds. It was our target for the day, and we were sure we could make it.
It was about 5km from the saddle between Hill 1 and Hill 2, to Pigsty – and relative to the first section of the day, flat.
We walked. And walked.
The part of the day (always at the end), where you’re sick of it came and went. And we walked some more. Eventually we cleared the last Hill (aptly named Hill 4) and could see Reservoir Lakes, and knew we were close.
We walked down into Pigsty Ponds with time to spare, quickly found a good campsite and unpacked everything.
A big day, but a good one. We were happy, optimistic and ready for dinner.
I had a two-way satellite messenger with me and used it regularly for the trip to let everyone know what we’d done that day/we were okay. I’ll use those messages in this post, because they’re more revealing of our mood/feelings at the time.
I say that because the mood (and weather) of Day 1 was not to remain the same for the rest of the walk….. In fact, it was about to change for the worse. You could say it was about to take a precipitous turn.
We woke to coldness, stillness and ice.
Yes, that’s (rather large?) chunks of ice in a (not small) lake. The smaller lakes around the tents were frozen over. The tiny lakes were frozen solid.
No wonder we were cold overnight.
As we finally rolled our ice covered tents up and pushed them in the bag, we started having a discussion about the track – and destination ahead.
It was within a few minutes along the track that the decision was made to carve Vanishing Falls from our itinerary and replace it with a few side trips along the Southern Ranges. It wasn’t sad at all – and even if we hadn’t made the decision then, it would have been made later. It was too ambitious, too far. Too much bush bashing, too much extra time. Good bye Vanishing Falls, we hardly even knew you.
Now: a side trip. Mount La Perouse.
You can sort of see when and where we decided to do MLP. None of this back tracking along the track we just walked crap, we’re going to summit both MLP and that little hill 946m high!
The trip to Mount La Perouse was fantastic. A lovely walk up the mountain, without backpacks, to meet a flat open area on top of the mountain.
There are a few huge piles of stone dotted around the top – I’m not entirely sure which one signalled the actual summit – but it didn’t matter. The view was fantastic.
We walked back to our bags, heaved them up, and set off towards Ooze Lake.
It was a short day, and as we climbed Maxwell Ridge the clouds started closing in.
I like to think this was the point along out Southern Ranges traverse where things (read: The Weather, and as an extension our walking enjoyment) started getting worse.
The day’s walking wasn’t too bad, pleasant even. But the foreboding mood of the slowly growing winds wasn’t a great outlook for us.
Despite the name, Ooze Lake is a great spot. It’s surrounded by two steep hills/mountains on one side, and a rising bank on the other with the lake at the bottom.
We wandered around for about 15 minutes, trying to find the best spot. Eventually we settled on a site up the hill a bit.
With the tents up, Dash had a nap. I went for a wander. I climbed to the snow line of Lake Mountain and walked down the track a little way where we’d be heading tomorrow.
When I got back to camp, Dash had decided it was time to try out his pack raft. So, he did.
I don’t know how many people in the past have done this, but I would imagine Dash’s efforts aren’t replicated by too many people. I don’t think there’d be many people who’ve paddled on Ooze Lake.
It also meant we could name his craft: HMAS Ooze.
We’re keen to give you some perspective here too. Here’s a shot of me on the shore.
After that, we started to make dinner. Then the winds arrived.
They started fairly light, but as night fell they got stronger. And stronger.
Outside cooking was abandoned. We moved to the tents, and I made sure everything was seriously pegged and tied down.
It was a rough night by any measure. Compared to the stillness of the first night, it felt like a cyclone.
I woke many times during the night to the whole tent shaking like crazy. It became a cycle: drift to sleep listening to rain hit the side of the tent, wake to a violently shaking shelter.
The infamous Southern Ranges bad weather was here. And it wouldn’t be going away.
I’m told the change in tone of the update message in the morning was noticeable.
And here’s the elevation plot of the day from Pigsty Ponds to Ooze Lake:
We woke to a roaring wind, rain and all round bad weather. It was cold, wet and miserable.
We wanted today to get to Wylly Plateau camp, but I think we both knew it was unlikely.
There were also dangers ahead.
We set off from a now windy and damp Ooze Lake at about 8:20am walking the northern edge of the lake, before taking the track up the hill.
We skirted the edge of Lake Mountain, and set off south west towards one of the (the?) highest point of the trip: Pindars Peak.
Turns out now – looking at our GPS track – that we got pretty close to the top of Lake Mountain, but we didn’t get there so what ever.
But from there, there was a constant walk upwards. The weather was horrible. Really, really horrible. It was blowing full on towards us, pushing not just wind but rain. We were soon wet and cold. It was, as they say, hypothermia weather.
My legs were soaked. The top layers were going better thanks to my coat. We pushed on.
We finally got to a point where we were sheltered, but came across another problem. Snow.
There was heaps of it. It lay all over the track, and it was deep.
We were the first across it – there was no evidence of anyone else having been here since it had fallen. We trudged through it the best we could, progressing slowly.
I had – luckily – organised a GPS track of someone else who had done the walk before (at a more summery time), so we always had an indication of where we should be, even if we couldn’t see the track.
The snow walking (well, falling through to the ground below) continued for a while on and off. There was boulder jumping, and the grab for a plant/bush and hope-to-hell-it-holds. As I say, slow going.
As we kept going through the snow, it occurred to me that if either of us slipped and were injured, we were going to have a Big Problem.
And as we kept getting higher, the snow problem kept getting worse.
We were perhaps 40 meters (in altitude) from the highest point of the track over Pindars, where I almost called it quits and turned back.
I think I was hip deep in snow, looking across a huge snow drift when I said to Dash “I am a minute and a half from ending this.”
Dash said, to his credit, said: let’s keep trying – just this next bit, we’re probably nearly at the top.
We don’t have any pictures of this section, mainly because it was too cold and we had better things to do (ie, keep walking and not get hypothermia), but there was this part where we walked across the snow and it was either thick enough or strong enough not to collapse as we walked over it.
It was that section of snow which allowed us to keep going. About 50 meters of it. Had I fallen though it, I’d have gone back. But it held and we skipped across, up and over the Pindars saddle.
We obviously didn’t go up Pindars Peak. Far too much snow and we were far too busy, but we did get over. Just.
Once we made it over, it was down hill again to Leaning Tree Saddle camp.
We flew past Pandani Knob, kept on going. Cold. Wet. Weather: raining, windy.
More walking, more rain, more wind.
We started walking up the 800 meter hill that makes up one part of Leaning Tree Saddle. We got to the top, and started walking straight down the other side.
At one point, we got a glimpse of the flat(ish) area that would make the camp. While we ideally wanted to get to Wylly Plateau camp today, we were at a point where it was getting vital that we get out of our wet clothes and start warming up quickly. Hypothermia weather.
When we got to camp, we wandered around an area that was like a swimming pool. Every flat area was soaked and water was everywhere. We walked up and down, desperately looking for somewhere dry enough. Or, to put it another way, somewhere that wasn’t a river.
We eventually found two tiny spots that were (somewhat) sheltered, which had a very small rise out of the pool. It was good enough. Even though getting out of the tent meant stepping into what seemed like a lake, it was fine.
Tents were up quickly. We were into them out of our wet clothes ASAP. Life started getting better. It was 2pm.
It probably took us 2-3 hours to fully warm up/recover, but by dinner our good spirits had returned. Dinner was cooked from bed (again), as the wind and rain continued to lash our tents. I might have read a few chapters on the Kindle; Dash went to sleep.
Thus ended the worst day of the trip. The rain continued overnight. The wind didn’t stop.
And the elevation plot for our Day 3. Remember, “Pindars” does not mean Pindars Peak. Close, but not quite.
This is what we did on day 4. Apparently. 10-11km. Urgh.
The first two hours out of Leaning Tree Saddle again got us wet. The slopes of Mount Wylly were exposed, and the wind was still strong. Visibility was poor. We were scanning for markers continually, but with the help of the GPS track we saved quite a lot of time with navigation.
We practically flew over Wylly Plateau, before hitting more scrub.
Have I mentioned the scrub yet? No, I don’t think I have.
The scrub is pretty hard going at times. A very small track, with trees and bushes that almost seem designed to grab and hold you. It’s probably the oars strapped to the side didn’t help much, but either way it was hard. The exposed sections may have had high winds and poor visibility, but at least they weren’t scratching to shreds like a pack of 100 hungry cats would when you hold the only tin of tuna.
The track moved from large sections of mud through saddles, to bag grabbing scrub and hill climbs to exposed sections of high wind and horizontal rain. It wasn’t exactly fast going, but the distance needed to be covered.
By about 11am, we were on top of that hill (standing a 884m) above the word VALLEY on the map above. From there, it would be a long trek down through the saddle and onto Kameruka Moraine.
Kameruka Moraine held nothing easy for us either. There was 30-45 minutes of navigating boulders, before they thinned out and were replaced by a rabbit-warren of tracks down to PB low camp. We got lost a few times, managing to back track and re-discover the track. It got old after a while, but eventually we walked into Low Camp. Low Camp is “hardened”, which basically means many years ago a group of people spent a lot of time putting heaps of logs on their side and building a camping platform of sorts. It was very welcome and nice to have somewhere relatively out of the pools of water to pitch the tent.
We were at Low Camp by 3:30pm, and no doubt in the tent warming up by 4pm.
Dinner was cooked (again) in the tent. The wind was still blowing. It was still raining. Spirits were low. I was worried about un-passable snow drifts.
The weather forecast was predicting a slight improvement the next day, and a fantastic day the day after. That improved spirits.
I may have read a few more chapters and then decided to swap books entirely. That made me happier too.
Finally, I went to sleep accompanied by the sound of wind and rain which I was now getting used to.
We woke to this! No clouds, and only a bit of wind. OMG.
That’s the top of Precipitous Bluff. PB. The actual mountain.
I need to go back a few days to explain why this was worthy of a photo and discussion in the illustrious publication that is TGA.
Usually on the approach to PB, you get glimpses from the heights of mountain tops as you approach. The dominating pile of dolerite gets bigger by the day as you take muddy step by muddy step.
That’s if the weather is good. For us though, we didn’t get to see it much at all. Occasionally, for a minute or two we’d see parts of it as the clouds shifted. Then … nothing as they shifted back.
So to wake up on day 5 and actually see the bluff we were here to see, it was nice.
Alas, it wasn’t around long. As it got a bit later, the clouds again came in and obscured the view.
Oh, today was also supposed to be the day we were going to head north into the bush to get to Vanishing Falls. Thank lord we gave up on that idea for this trip. I’m not sure we’d have got out a) alive, or b) not in a rescue helicopter.
We packed up, and stepped into a huge mud puddle. The day had begun. We immediately got lost and spent the next 10 minutes trying to find the proper track. The track eventually found, we set off up PB.
The climb up to PB high camp was easy. There were a few scrambles in places, and a few simple rock climbs in others, but for the most of the time it was an easy climb.
My fears about snow thankfully didn’t turn into reality. There was maybe one small part, but nothing like the day going over Pindars. Eventually we found ourselves at PB high camp. We were at the junction to either head down PB or head up to the summit – a 15 to 20 minute walk. The weather was horrible, we didn’t even bother. There’d have been nothing to see even if we had.
A small disappointment for sure. Always great to get the view and bag the peak, but on the other hand we’d made it to PB! My bushwalking goal of many years had been achieved. We were happy.
Until we turned the corner from high camp, and faced the first gully that would take us down to about 800 meters.
To say the wind was strong coming up the gully would be under estimating it. It was ferocious. It smashed into our faces, relentlessly. We pushed into it and headed down the gully. Slowly descending, hoping for a bit of shelter.
Eventually we found it at the tree line as we skirted around the cliffs on the western side of PB. It took about an hour to get to the tree line, and another hour to get to the point where the track turns sharply right (on the way down) to begin the long, long decent to sea level.
FWIW, the co-ordinates for the turn off are approximately 781866 (grid ref), or -43.472283, 146.60205 (GPS). Only say that as TasMap has very helpfully* removed the track from the Precipitous 1:25,000 map.
It was about three and a half hours to walk from the turn off to the beginning of the flat area at lagoon level. It wasn’t easy going. I mostly prefer to go up rather than down. It was slippery and dodging fallen branches took time.
But the track was – for the most part – pretty well marked all the way down, as long as you fastidiously followed the tape and string.
The top section was very well marked, the middle section has missing sections but with enough time you can find the next piece of tape, the bottom section (lagoon level) was too well marked – there were pieces of tape everywhere but no track pad.
At the very bottom, believe it or not, we got lost and just ended up going our own way. Eventually we found and crossed over a log (over what I assume was Damper Creek), and we were at Cavern Camp.
It was glorious. Flat, calm and the weather was lovely. As the sun disappeared, there might have even been a rainbow. I can’t really remember. All I do know is that it was wonderful. Even the water tasted amazing.
I think my update message that night was to the point:
The weather forecast for the next day was still promising too, which was even better. We were hoping for a good day because we had a 7km paddle ahead of us and didn’t really want to do it in the rain, or worse – with a headwind.
We slept very well that night. In fact, I slept so well I can’t remember even waking up. And we got a sleep in!
Most days on the Ranges, walking started at about 8am. For day 6, we started hours later. After 10am. Meh, we deserved it. But the late start did have ramifications down the track.
Originally, we had planned the Vanishing Falls trip so that we’d be able to paddle out again down New River. After we cancelled that part, we obviously still had our pack rafts, so we put them to use.
Usually the route from Cavern Camp to Prion Beach is via wading along the side of the lagoon. The time this takes ranges from three to six hours, depending on how much water there is in it.
We could basically take it in a straight line though, cutting off all those corners.
It took us two hours and 40 minutes to get from Cavern Camp to Prion Beach boat crossing, where we had lunch.
The paddle was a great change from the constant walking over the past five days. It wasn’t super easy, but at least we were using a new set of muscles.
Oh and the weather was wonderful. It was perfect.
It took us two hours and 40 minutes to get from Cavern Camp to Prion Beach boat crossing, where we had lunch while sitting in one of the boats used for the Prion crossing.
We also used the time and sunlight to dry a few things out as much as possible.
After lunch we set off, headed along Prion on the dunes just behind the beach. All was good.
Then we got to Milford Creek.
Milford Creek is usually a small creek crossing, but today – for some reason – it was a lot harder.
Getting across the creek was fine, but either the river had changed pushing it very very close to the dune bank or the tide was in (thus achieving the same thing), but we had to walk through the thick bushes and it was chewing up the time. We were hoping to get to Surprise Bay for the night, but the unexpected bush bushing put an end to that.
In the end, it was so difficult we just pulled out the pack rafts again and just paddled to the end of Milford Creek where the South Coast Track again heads inland.
I’m not sure if this section is always like this, or if we were just unlucky but it was a lot easier the first time we did this section of the SCT several years ago.
If you know the answer (has it changed and is it always like this, or if it was a tidal thing) please let us know in the comments!
Anyway, in the end this section ended up taking an hour of our time. Very unexpected. It was just after 4pm when we set off to the camp for that night which had now become Osmiridium Beach.
Osmiridium was about another hour away, and the time flew. We walked into the campsite (which was new to us – last time we did SCT we skipped it) and walked down to the beach to see the sunset.
We got going at about 8:30am, knowing the day was going to be a big one. Last time we did the SCT, we walked from Surprise Bay to Cockle Creek. That wasn’t going to happen this time round, but the walk to South Cape Rivulet was still going to be difficult.
We also knew very early on that we’d be pushing to to make it to camp on time before it got dark.
It ended up being about 21km long, which included going over the South Cape Range which sits about 450 meters high. It meant going all the way up, then all the way back down again.
The weather was okay, but the forecast had rain in the afternoon.
Took us two hours to get to Surprise Day camp, giving us 5-6 hours to get to South Cape Rivulet. The clock was ticking.
So up we went. Up the range, up and up and up. Dash was like a rocket, I struggled. We were both fatigued, but Dash’s spin class training was giving him a serious boost.
We got to Granite Beach fairly quickly all the same – about an hour or so from Surprise.
Then came time to finally do the South Cape Range.
The first section is about 1.2km long, for a 320 meter rise. It’s steep. The next section is about 2km for the final 140 meter rise to get to the highest point. But then, there’s the down again.
The top of the range is generally the muddiest/worst. Here’s what I wrote about this section last time we did it (in 2012):
It was muddy, and full of roots. It wasn’t nice walking. You had to pick your way though a potentially ankle-breaking track and wade through pools of water and mud. The track was also pretty overgrown too, which made it very slow going.
I’ve heard that people take hours and hours and hours to do this stretch – especially when it’s raining – and now I understand why.
Nothing has changed since then. It was pretty horrid. Of all the sections on the SCT, the stretch over South Cape Range needs the most essential track work. The whole part over the range needs to be boarded to stop the huge, huge mud piles and track erosion.
From the top to the camp site at South Cape Rivulet, it’s about 7km. 7km to lose the 450 meters, with a few more hills added in for fun.
We plodded along, getting closer with every step. But we were running out of daylight rapidly. The last few kilometers, it was gloomy and getting darker. While sunset was close, much of the gloom was the clouds and trees blocking out the sun.
We sped walked the last kilometer, finally arriving at the campsite with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare.
We were buggered. A very tough day, and a day that both of us would pay for later with small injuries.
I wrote about the sleep in at Cavern Camp causing problems down the track. This was – arguably – one of them. Had we reduced our sleep in and got going a little earlier, we may have made it to Surprise Bay which would in turn have given us more time to tackle the Range. That said, the Cavern Camp sleep in was bloody nice.
Final day! About 11-12km total. Should have been easy. Urgh. But we were tired, fatigued, dirty and ready to finish.
We set off from South Cape Rivulet camp at about 8:30am. I had messaged Dad to aim for about 11:30-12pm at Cockle Creek for a pick up.
After walking along the beach, you come to a 100 meter or so hill that is Coal Bluff. It’s not too hard, but not really welcome when all you want to do is finish!
Nonetheless, Coal Bluff was conquered quickly. We took the time to take a few quick shots near the top, just for old time’s sake.
By that, I mean I had a photo taken here in 2012 when we both first walked the SCT. I wanted a before/after kinda photo. Also interesting to look back on the amazing weather we had in March 2012!
After that, we came to Lion Rock. Then all that was left was the six or so kilometre walk back to civilisation.
At about the 9km mark, we ran into a group of three people who were just starting their walk to Melaleuca. They were the first people we’d seen in a whole week. They were clean, keen and looking strong. We were dirty, tired and ready to lie down.
After a few more kilometres we ran into Dad who’d been walking up the track to meet us.
The final bit was easy, then we were done!
We chucked the bags in the car, grabbed some towels and hit the beach for a traditional after walk clean up swim!
And then we had a beer. Why the hell not?
Here’s the elevation information from the last day:
Oh and here it is for the whole walk (if you click on it you’ll be able to see all the details).
So that’s it! A blog post of the Southern Ranges, going for more than 5200 words. I highly doubt anyone will read it, but just like the walk it’s sometimes more about the journey.
In case you’re wondering, you can download the Southern Ranges Circuit via Precipitous Bluff GPS (.GPX) file we generated. Be aware we got lost a few times, but nothing ever too badly.
And here’s a download to a few GPS waypoints I gathered on the way. They include:
And with that, for this blog post at least, we’ve reached the end!
(Actually not quite the end. Massive thanks to Dash for his company and all the photos used here. I didn’t take a single one. I didn’t even take my phone camera out. What a lazy shit I am.)
Walking date: September 2, 2016 to September 9, 2016
This was a walk that was different from what I had imagined.
For some reason, I thought it was going to be a rather simple affair. When looking at the estimated walking time from point A to point B, I was thinking I could easily do it in half? quarter? of what was suggested.
‘Meh, 8km. Not a problem. Polish that off before lunch,’ was one of my thoughts. ‘I’m usually a tad faster than Chappy/Chappo? (John Chapman), he says six – eight hours. I reckon I can do it in two,’ was another.
This was a very silly thing to have thought. Like some sort of idiot, I had forgotten to account for the fact that the circuit can simply be described as very up and very down.
Other warning signs should have been the reason why I wanted to do the walk in the first place.
Mount Anne came to my attention after several walking groups, over several months, were plucked off parts of the circuit by the rescue helicopter.
Also the “Mount” part in Mount Anne should have been obvious.
It’s not an easy walk, by any account. But it is an amazing one.
We were lucky to have good weather from day 1 to day 3. Actually, it wasn’t just good. It was stunning. Blue skies, very little wind, certainly no rain. Perfect. If I were to complain about something, it was maybe a few degrees too hot. But that is one of personal preference, and really is me finding a way to gloat about how good the weather really was.
In the end, we completed the walk in two nights/three days.
One issue with the Mount Anne Circuit is that the start and the end points aren’t in the same spot. They’re separated by about 9km.
So here’s what we did: I dropped off Dad and he started walking up the mountain. Then I drove to the exit point, parked the car, pulled a bike from the boot and then rode back to the start. I locked the bike up in the Mount Anne car-park and began the long, slow plod up the hill to try and catch father.
This is what most of the bike ride looked like. It wasn’t very interesting. The bike also had only one gear. The best thing about the ride was it was over sooner than I expected.
I walked through the car park, up the small hill to the registration booth. Then, then along the lovely flat part of the walk. Then, the hill began and it didn’t stop for hours.
Up and up and up. Up a ridge, up a hill, up a pile of rocks. After a period of walking, I heard some scratching ahead of me. I thought I’d caught up to Dad (quicker than I expected), but it was a couple of young guys making their way to Mount Anne. I polished off the last of my water, said my good byes, and continued the slog which by this point seemed to have lasted longer than a Donald Bradman innings.
Not because Bradman is known for spectacularly long periods of time behind the crease, but because I don’t understand cricket so even watching a grab of it on the news feels like eternity. Though to be fair I had probably been walking longer than the classic Australia v England 6th August 2015 innings, where Australia was all done in less than 19 overs.
Talking about being bowled out before lunch, I was starting to get a bit hungry. But there was walking to do, so I kept moving forwards and upwards.
I made it to the hut (see below) and heard Dad, but he was up the mountain (I think where this picture was taken). He was still going, so the chase was still on.
I sat down, had a drink of water that would put a camel to shame, ate more chocolate than Augustus Gloop and discarded (into my mouth) more nuts than Veruca Salt’s squirrels. Another quick drink and I was off again.
Incidentally, right in the middle of that photo you can see the hut and a little to the right is the toilet.
That toilet used to, I’m told, be facing out – so you’d get one of the best views in the world from a toilet seat. But they’ve rebuilt the old shit-house, and now it faces in – so no view anymore except of a bunch of trees. A travesty of the highest order.
Before I knew it, I was at the top.
No sign of Dad though. He had disappeared.
Insert tension causing music here.
I kept walking. Another hour passed, and then, in the distance there he was. The chase was complete. I had caught up.
He’d spotted me earlier than I spotted him, and had the camera ready.
We regrouped, just in time to tacked the boulder field before the Mount Anne/campsite track junction.
It wasn’t long before we made it to Shelf Camp for the night.
What a place that campsite is on a good day. Spectacular views no matter which way you look. Straight ahead is the mighty Mount Anne:
Or behind, the tiered cliffs
We had something for dinner, can’t remember. It was good though. Then sleep.
My mat had a small hole in it though, which wasn’t great. Especially camping on a sheet of rock. Oh well.
(Writer’s note: I finally fixed the hole, in September 2016. Sort of when I finished this write up from February)
The morning started slowly, as usual. Wasn’t my fault. Never is.
When we got going, we made our way slowly towards the ridge line that would eventually lead to The Notch.
Firstly, we needed to get there.
Oh no, we didn’t head off straight away. We went up Mount Anne first. Well, most of it. I sort of got a bit stuck in the final assent, leaving Dad to go on alone to bag the peak. I just sort of waited on a ledge and got bored. Not a worry in the end.
We made our way back to Shelf Camp, packed up and were finally on our way.
It wasn’t long before we got lost (well, a little bit). We knew the direction we needed to go, we just lost the track.
On the left hand side, you can see the TasMap tent. That marks Shelf Camp. We pretty much got lost straight away. Though we did find a “possible” campsite (as marked), so it wasn’t too bad a detour.
But a little bit further on, we got lost again. We travelled up a ridge line that seemed to get narrower and narrower. At the end, The Way seemed to disappear entirely. Confused, we turned back. We eventually veered north and bushbashed/sort-of-followed-what-looked-kinda-like-a-track-but-not-really around the big pile of what we thought were un-passable rocks. Eventually, as expected, we found the track. We also discovered where we went wrong.
We were on the correct path. The Way was simply a bit of a climb down, and around, a boulder. From there it would have been obvious. Silly us. Oh well. It wasn’t too too far off track, and it only cost us a bit of time. But if you’re doing it in the future, the track is there. Just look a bit harder than we did.
Bit that part of the track behind us, it brings me to The Notch.
The Notch is – depending on who you talk to – something that’s either not really worthy of much discussion, or the scariest, most daunting thing you’ll come across in bushwalking anywhere in the entire world.
Ok, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but some do talk about The Notch like its a proper noun deserving of awe.
Meh. Wasn’t too bad. Here’s me climbing down into The Notch.
It was a pretty easy scramble down. The climb back up the other side wasn’t too hard either, but I did have to take my pack off and get Dad to haul it up with a rope.
About 50 meters down the track from here, we stopped for lunch. It was a nice break.
After lunch we continued on, up Mount Lot. The view from the top was wonderful. Lots Wife stood proud in the distance.
We then began our decent down Mount Lot, along a very narrow ridge line.
This is one of the things that makes the Mount Anne walk so wonderful. The view, on a nice day like we had, was spectacular. You’re given a 180 degree vista of scenery.
One side gives you an almost bird’s eye view of Lonely Tarns.
The other side, down to Lake Judd:
After getting down Lightning Ridge, it was a quick walk to one of the Lonely Tarns, and a small creek. It was a lovely warm day, so a perfect spot for a quick dip.
After that, it was a quick 3km walk down the track to our camping spot for the night. Oh we appear to have briefly walked off track again, but didn’t seem to matter.
The camp spot was a flat section of ground just off the track. It was nice in February, but I’m sure in the wetter months it would have been sodden.
Not really much to report. We would have packed up the tents – Dad was probably slow, but I can’t remember anymore.
It was about a 9-10km walk back to the car, but we had to probably go down 800 meters.
It was about a 500 meter walk before the decent began. It took about two hours to do most of it.
The view from the top looking out to Lake Pedder was lovely.
We started Day 3 at about 9am. It was all done by 2pm, including lunch at the wire bridge that crosses some river (probably the Anne River).
So that was that. Three days doing the Mount Anne circuit in fantastic weather with spectacular scenery. It was a hard walk – a lot of ups and downs – but it was very rewarding.
And the car was waiting for us! Just where I left it a few days ago, before I began the walk with a bike ride.
With the walk done, there was one job left: a traditional swim. We drove down to a boat launching ramp and jumped into Lake Pedder. It was warm (well, the top 10cm was), smooth and relaxing. The perfect way to finish.
Here’s the elevation profile of the walk, with the various landmarks added in.
And you can get a GPS download of the walk here too (caveat: we got lost a few times, so you can’t rely on it being 100% accurate)
The Never Never. Something that had been on my todo list for a while. Finally got around to it May 2015. It was a great trip. Freaking cold, but meant the ground was frozen in parts which made easier walking through the Never Never.
Also visited Pelion Hut again, for a night’s stay. Also walked up Mount Oakleigh and Mount Pelion East.
Falls, can’t remember their name now…
Frosty Lee’s Paddocks
On top of Mount Oakleigh, looking out across the Pelion Plains with Mount Ossa in the background
Mount Ossa, from Mount Pelion East
You’ll often need a log to get across the Mersy River. Here are some I noted as I walked. Be aware they might have moved since, or might be dangerous now, so be careful.
And finally, other random GPS locations
This is a guide on how to install the software, and then obtain Shonkymaps for your eTrex GPS device.
I’ve seen it appear in the weblogs a few times, and had a few emails wondering how to do it, so I’ve decided to write a quick little guide. Hopefully it’ll make it easy for you. Keep in mind, this is a guide for WINDOWS.
So I did the Overland Track the other day.
It was good. I didn’t take many photos. There were too many clouds.
Though there was a wombat or three.
I’d write more, but the trip has been covered by others far funnier than I:
All I can add, is to agree that Bert Nichols Hut is a shocker. Too big, badly designed, freezing and boring. It mightn’t have helped that I was there by myself. The rest were wonderful. Actually, I like a list so here is (in order) my ranked lists of huts (that I saw)
I’ve probably missed some, but what does it matter? It’s not as if there’s much choice.
The walk was about 88km all up. I got lost a few times in the cloud, which was pretty amazing considering the track is so well marked. You want to see my route? Okay… Here’s the GPS log of the Overland Track.
If you want more GPS information, email these guys. Our Hiking Blog has a great collection of GPS waypoints for the Overland Track. Everything you can think of: peaks, tracks, huts, turn offs, bridges, etc. Very useful.
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife also have a good collection of tracks and huts for GPS.
For the record this was my daily trip log:
Few big days and a few slack days as I sat by the heater in my sleeping bag, reading while it rained (there was a lot of cloud).
P.S – Parks and Wildlife at Lake St Clair should have an iPhone 4 and/or 5 charger. I sent them one via eBay because they were so nice. Can someone check to see if it got there and let me know in the comments? Thanks!
Day 9 – Surprise Bay to Cockle Creek
Walking difficulty: Hard (hilly and muddy)
Mud: Yes. Again.
Note: For GPS data, go to the GPS data page.
We didn’t yet know it, but day 9 was to be our last day. We were planning on staying another night before making our way back to Hobart, but the how shower and non-hydrated meal was just too enticing.
Though we paid for our decision. It was a long, hard, hilly, muddy, root-filled day.
After leaving the wonderful Surprise Bay early, we soon made it to Granite Beach.
While it was something different to walk along, it wasn’t pleasant to do so.
There’s a cool waterfall thing though.
The rocky beach is but a warm up for the hilly slog ahead.