PHOTO: MICHAEL LOOKING DOWN TO FISH RIVER FROM THE NORTH END OF LONG TARN. PHOTO AROUND 1995.
A hiking journey of tasmania
18 Feb 2001
A warm southerly wind is gusting across the cool waters of Lake Curly lying at 714 metres and the quartzite dome of Mount Curly is a sheer 351 metres above the lakes rippling surface. The sun is warm and for south west Tasmania the weather has been hot. Particularly the scrub trails making an onward journey one of maddening thirst and hot knees from the numerous scratches. In parts the scrub is twice your height and the claustrophobia of being wedged amongst the banksias without forward view makes the journey seem a pointless one. No sooner though one finds the welcoming sight of the button grass expanses and the numerous channels of tea tree colour water and one becomes happy again. With a good drink and a stop to rest your arms!
Last night at our frosty campsite my arms ached and my knees burned. Now I sit on a course sandy beach massaging my arches and swatting the large Tasmanian flies. Their large abdomen is banded and rounded giving them the appearance of a honeybee. The drawing of blood with their proboscis is irritating and needle like and focussed upon the blood of my old leech bites.
As I look across the lake I can see a miniature island twenty five metres in length with eucalyptus and tea tree rising vertically and covering every patch of earth. As I look upward the cirrus cloud suggests cooler days ahead and wedging under them are cumulus clouds, not yet dark with moisture. The surface of the pondage is dappled, unlike Lake Rona yesterday which reflected perfect images of the vertical rock slabs of Mount Reed at 1250 metres. Mount Reed was more impressive but today I at least sit on a sandy beach that promises a soothing night for my back.
19th February 2001
the Gell River 19:55
The wind howled fiercely from the south funneled by lake Curly making unsettling whooshes all through the night. By sunrise the adrenaline rush of being confronted by an hairy arachnid overcame my morning torpor. Every journey begins with the first step or the first spin of a peddle. Once overcome the journey always seems easier than preconceived in the comfort of home. Today every step was a journey! Slipping upon river rock and fighting through the neck high heath slowed us to one point one kilometers per hour. The Franklin-Gordon wild rivers National Park is a trackless expanse of button grass, acacia, banksias and eucalyptus. We waded in the teatree coloured water amongst the big rocks, leaving a water trail akin to the skimming of a flat stone. Michael then found himself between a tiger snake and its rocky ledge habitat. It was coiled with its mouth ajar, exposing its fangs and although it initially backed away, it none the less made an attempt to give warning by moving diagonally ahead. Michael backed away into the river then to fall temporarily, immersing his backpack. Most of our day was walking in the Gell River where upon we sustained many a fall upon the slippery rocks. Michael describes this as expedition hiking. This area is rarely visited due to inaccessibility, lack of tracks and the denseness of the forest. Occasionally wombat trails and remnants of previous fire damage have made our travails easier. Our camp is two metres above the slow moving river on the only patch of level sand found all day. It is adjacent to a large wombat hole and an animal trail to the water. being nocturnal, there could be rumblings in the night.
20th February 2001
Gell River (most northerly point)
Without any large and distant landmarks we found ourselves navigating by taking sights on the river direction to find our locales. The tea trees, the banksias and gums made land travel impossible. Occasionally we exited the deeper sections of waterway to scramble through the scrub,cutting off meander loops. We saw freshwater cray and a tree species whose frangipani coloured flower petals gave the vague illusion of snow falling. The scent of sweet nectar and the astringent odour of tea tree gives the impression of a perfumed cleanliness. With our scratches, leach bites and severe body odour we would have to be overpowering to other creatures and possibly very foreign to them. Our journey took us to the most northerly loop of the Gell placing us exactly on course to the airstrip walking track. The final climb through the buttongrass to a high smooth saddle was exhilarating. With our compasses pointed north and by sighting object to object our transect took us to the track near another airfield and on course. Our glee turned to frustration as the trail faded to nothing near the thick forest. Yet Mt.William could be seen clearly by line of sight ten kilometers away. Tonight we rest and in the morn decide whether to turn back or proceed.
Battlement Hills (Northern Denison Ranges)
We spent many unladed hours in an attempt to locate the trail to Mount William the third. Finding ourselves in the position of retreating southwards to the Denison Range we are tonight camped just below an unnamed peak of 893 metres. (410600). By the time we had erected the tent I was rather chilled, having previously become overheated finding a path through the tangled teatree forest below. It was my turn to confront a tiger snake, which sat motionless and hypnotically eyeballing me. I was motionless for what seemed an inordinate period of time. Michael directed me to retreat backward which I did with great haste, never turning back to see my foe. The Tiger snake is in fact a beautiful creature with a totally black body, which strangely stands out clearly in its textured surrounds. They fear us greatly and if left alone will not attack. Apparently their forward coiled strikes are extremely fast and only used as a deterrent. Give the animal space and he is happy to wander to find something smaller to eat!
In my hands I hold a river stone ½ inch high and 1½ inches long which has the appearance of a cratered asteroid but molten and flattened at one end. It is a metal of some kind, is silver in colour and shows no sign of oxidation. Perhaps it is a precious metal of some value?
Of more value though is the campsite we have found. High up and a *cold 8° with a roaring wind which has cut keyholes through the jointed conglomerate rock. We find ourselves surrounded by turrets of rock with hardy King Billy native pines, stunted and competing for each crevice. Our site is amongst a few carved rock pools on the flat ground. We can see the blue-grey prominence of Wylds Craig to the sunrise side and have views of Mount William 3rd . this is simply a wonderful place to relax and loosen the legs for the onward journey tomorrow.
22nd February 2001
Lake Wugata & Lake Malana (Bonds Craig)
Today was an enjoyable day of relatively free walking, making our way upward all day past spires of rock and weaving through the occasional small gulch. Once past the thousand metre contour line the vegetation became diminutive hardy melaleuca, pineapple grass and Scoparia indicating the rise to alpine climes.
Lake Wugata is probably only 350m wide but almost circular with a geologically recent terminal moraine consisting of quartzite blocks having little vegetative cover. To the west, vertically inclined strata border the lake whose lakebed contains only white rock and little aquatic flora. The water from this small pondage is clear not having the tannins of the lowland streams. At 1100 metres the plant life is lower and thinner, the teatree only at waist height but averaging one foot length.
I was so exhausted and thirsty upon reaching here that as I pursed my lips to drink I almost imagined I could empty this small glacial lake. As I did so a colorful yabbie swam by fixing its stare upon me. I continued to sip water imagining what animals inhabited the unplumbed depths. Briefly, I recaptured my old fascination that I had as a snorkel diver in the late seventies.
This area receives 3000mm of precipitation (Adelaide having 610mm) and only ninety days that are rain and snow free. Thus far, the closest to moisture has been the morning dew, the days cloudy with patches of hot sunshine.
The temperature is now 10° and the cumulus clouds are drifting slowly to the south west in the absence of any ground wind. The cover is half octa so the promise of an overnight zero temperature reading is quite possible; even in this cold the skitters and flies are noisily flitting about.
The sun has dipped below the Craigs casting feint orange hues upon the highest rock, the lake itself is darkening in the receding light and only dapples break the meniscus of the lakes surface. The rockfalls that contain the lakes defining fluid almost appear man-made, the eastern side having no vegetation and the rocks unweathered and angular. From the landbridge between lakes Wugata and Malana, the Gordon ranges are framed by columns to my left and slabs of quartzite to the right. Via the flat saddle between these the, valley is still warmed by the sun and other ranges backdrop each other sixthfold in various steel blue hues. Tomorrow we may be back upon the buttongrasses meandering our way in the footholds between them and the melaleucas. Hopefully the Gordon River is still able to be crossed. Any height gain of two feet would necessitate swimming to the other bank.
23rd February 2001
Diamond lake(Denison range)
Diamond Lake is a tiny (125metre) long pondage lying on the eastern slopes of the Denisons just above the foothills sloping to the Gordon River. The waters here are tannin free and contain the slightest hint of a colour like malachite.The slopes are of the usual metamorphic and like all these glacial lakes have a terminal moraine at one end and vertically tilted fingers of rock at the other. At the low end of the pondage is the outflow channel down 520 metre to the Gordon River.
The tallest of teatree lines this channel and others of similar size densely fill the upward channels between the vertical rock slabs. At the high point of our walk; The Great Dome at 1215 metre; in the exposed wind, the driven mist and the ten degree warmth the teatree was often no more than two inches high like a soft grass to walk upon. This is the same species that has scoured my knees and often been at head level. Some small cushion plants have been evident abut both them and the infrequent Pandani seem to be dying. South of Lake Rona ,on the high ground, this is particularly evident with significant pads of dry hay coloured vegetation. There is little indication of human tramping in this area but in view of no rain for ten days and Hobart's heatwave two weeks ago, this could be a global warming feature.
Our journey to here was in exhilarating wind blown mist across flat mountain saddles with the occasional flanking of tall rockslabs. Going around them on the tilt-side often gives better footing due to small rock falls. This is definitive Tasmanian tramping when one has to rug up and work in the cold. The Gordon Valley when viewed in the mist breaks is cloud free and from that viewpoint the day is probably twenty degrees, wind free and with cloudy patches. Beyond the Gordon River Valley the extensive logging tracks can be seen with patches of brown, bare and denuded hills. With the advancement of the day the cloud which we had previously walked through has risen above the high vigilant crags revealing a monotone grey sky. We lay in our tent either reading history books, perusing maps or simply looking outside the tent at the dramatic landscape that surrounds us.
tasmania one year later:-
WILLIAM RANGES (TASMANIA)
Owens tarn 24th March 2002 14:45
The Mount William range is a northerly bearing range about 17 kilometers long with its widest section of plateau being around three kilometers. The highest peak is King William the second which reaches skyward at 1359 metres. The general area consists of low lying scrub which grows to waist height even at the summit of King William the third lying at 1172 metres.
The blue skies and warm temperatures of 20° and the reasonable scrub navigating have made this walk not the usual Tasmanian traverse. Our base camp at Owens tarn is at the centre of the range enabling free walking to the southern limits and occasional forays to nearby outcrops. South of our camp is a wedge shaped outcrop that eclipses the rising sun, its silhouette outlined red in the still morning. Below it is a massive landfall that reaches the shores of Lake Tudor almost 300 metre below where I sit.
Arriving here has been achievable trekking the most difficult section being the upward scrub bash from the boggy marshes of Divide Creek to Saxon Creek upon the high plain.
The grade overall was 100m climbs per 300m (18.44°) with the steepest short sections being 100m climbs over 30m (73.30°).The thorny Scoparia, the snow gums and particularly the isolated copses of banksias made our advance one of excessive sweating, fatigue and arms that ached so much that in the final comfort of our tent I was unable to lift a water sack! Initially I estimated the climb to be an hour but 2½ hours later we reached the treeline where large snow gums with their striated orange barks bid us farewell.
This walk was originally planned from the Denison Ranges last year but thick woodland and a fading trail prevented our ascent. Today I sat upon King William 3rd viewing the valleys of the Gell River and the Denison Ranges to our South. Eleven months ago I sat on the button grass plains looking Northward and wishing to climb the distinct peak in the distance.
Saxon Creek (base of Slatters Peak)
25th March 2002
Our climb to the summit of Slatters peak lying at 1300 metres was an enjoyable one across large boulders, rock saddles and via low melaleuca. The final distance was across a boulder land bridge connecting tow conical peaks. Looking to the northeast the relief was almost vertical all the way to the Guelph Basin. By wedging myself between two large rocks I was able to delight in my fear of heights, knowing that no risk existed. I imagined whilst hopping from rock to rock that I was a mere ant and that I was actually walking upon beach sand! Such was the scale of my immediate environs. My magical thought soon became distracted, by the low and foggy cloud tumbling across the high plains. Its been a cool day with refreshing cold winds upon the craggy peaks. Mount William 2nd (the highest in the area) was itself a low curvature dome with a myriad of small ponds, rock outcrops, cushion plants and teatree, a very pretty landscape affording views all the way to Frenchman's Cap.
Tomorrow our return to the plains of Divide Creek will involve descent via the Saxon Creek gulch, a drop of 410 metres through less scrubby terrain than our original climb many days ago.