Friday, 14 May 2021

Western Arthur's A to K Circuit. SouthWest National Park, Tasmania. 4 days/ 3 nights, 54 kilometres.



Map sourced from Google Maps.

INTRODUCTION:

Here we go- the big kahuna.  The infamous Western Arthur's!  
Well at present only the A to K Western Arthur's circuit is permissible, not the full traverse, so that's what I looped around at the end of April 2021. 

Common impressions about the hike include:
  • Low daily mileage.  
  • Spectacular mountain scenery and copious wild alpine lakes.
  • The planet's absolutely worst, horrible weather.  
  • The trail of sucking knee deep mud to Junction Creek.  
  • A rite of passage for every self respecting Aussie hiker with a large pair of hairy rocks between their legs (metaphorically where the ladies are concerned).

The walk that supposedly induces a continual 5 day adrenaline rush and compels people to regal stories of agonising hardship and death defying adversity in the Southern hills of Tasmania.

Well yeah, nah.  Sort of.  Depends.

This wild romp in the mountains has been promoted and discussed ad nauseam online for years, in fact I heard whispers of the Western Arthur's (WA) and the apparent difficulty in traversing the region as being second only to mighty Everest whilst wandering around Nepal yonks ago.  
Tales of terrified walkers and sickly down climbs abound and they are probably mostly almost maybe true.

This is my 2 cents and dodgy advice regarding the WA  Alpha to Kappa Circuit.



GETTING THERE:  

Around 4.5 hours of driving South from Launceston or 2 hours West from Hobart to the trail head/ parking area/ campground at Scotts Peak Dam Road, South West National Park.

No scheduled transport runs to Lake Pedder, however on demand shuttles originate in Hobart.  
I used one (cannot remember the business name) waaaaay back in 2011 when I hiked the Port Davey and South Coast Tracks and it cost me around $120 from Hobart. 

A young guy from Sydney I met at Lake Oberon said he had jumped on a bus to Westerway (a town on the B61 highway from Hobart) and hitched a ride to Lake Pedder.

Windy roads and spectacular forests will guide you down the C607 to Lake Pedder.
The final 30 kilometres is gravel and potholes so take it easy.

Maydena is the last settlement where provisions can be procured but I would hit up a larger sized town such as New Norfolk beforehand where choice and range is far more extensive if you need anything essential.  

There is a walkers register at the Port Davey trail head where the hike begins, the track starts over the road just to the left.

PERMITS:  

As the Western Arthur Range lies within South West National Park you are required to purchase a Tasmanian Parks Pass, displayed on your vehicle if you have parked one at the trail head.  Tas Parks Pass Website


SAFARI TRACK RATING:

Fuckin gnarly.  

This 54 kilometre circuit has been run in under half a day but most punters take 5 to 6 days depending on the weather and how heavy their pack is and how many people are rolling together.

The first 7 kilometres on the Port Davey Trail to Junction Creek is legendary even in Tasmania for it's thigh deep mud and the only way to successfully hike it is to embrace the slop and laugh it off.  
After the first easy spell of duckboard planking it gets nasty real quick.

 Recent popularity of Lake Oberon as a 2 or 3 day out and back hike has smashed the low lying ground and any improvement to the 'track' will probably only encourage more foot traffic.  It's is what it is and I don't feel any need to revisit it soon.

The climb up Alpha Moraine, basically a steep, rocky ridgeline, is straightforward and the path to Oberon is nicely constructed and unchallenging.  

After that the fun stuff begins; the down climb to Lake Oberon gives you a taste of what is to come in the days ahead.  Very doable and nothing outrageous but not the easy, flowing walking- you know, eating up the miles- that I personally chase.   Slow going and the arms are utilised often.  

I carried and used a 10 metre 6mm prusik cord as a rope to lower my pack down the very steep sketchy bits when I felt unsafe downclimbing with it on my back.  
Just remember, the holds, tree roots and ledges are always there when you need them even if you can't see them.

After Lake Sirona I bowled down the track without any complications and took the shortcut to McKay's Track which was flat, fast and spat me out at Junction Creek for a return battle with the mud.

Photo of the topo map I carried.  I hiked anti clock wise on the lollipop loop.


DAY 1:  Scotts Peak Dam Trailhead to Lake Cygnus.  17.3 km.

7 hours.  Discovering the magic of these mountains, good camping on the platforms.

DAY 2:  Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon.  4.2 km.

4 hours.  The rain hooted down at 12pm so I threw up the tent and read Beau Miles' latest book.

DAY 3:  Lake Oberon to Haven Lake.  8 km.

9 hours.  Really fun day poking up and down and around the cliff edges and loving my surroundings.

DAY 4:  Haven Lake to Scotts Peak Dam Trailhead.  24.5 km.

10 hours.  Mostly flat walking, great sighting the range from a distance.


Junction Creek crossing.



Track junction after the muddy stuff (mostly) ends.




MAPS AND RESOURCES:


I carried the TasMap Western Arthur 1:50000 topographic map.


The track notes from John Chapman's South West Tasmania 2017 Sixth Edition were spot on.




Every now and then the track would get a bit faint or seem incongruous so I checked the basic offline Western Arthur's Traverse map on the Gaia App.  
There is a fair bit of Telstra mobile phone coverage on the high points overlooking the Arthur Plains facing North too.

Lunch stop at High Moor Campsite on Day 3





Another crazy pants-browning down climb.


Haven Lake Tent Platform campsite Day 3


First light above Haven Lake.




Heading West on the McKay's Track to Junction Creek.

GEAR:

I hate talking gear.  I swear the only reason some dudes get outside is to use their gear.  And talk gear.  And then talk about how they used their gear.  Slap me.

Anyway, it's an exciting changeable environment up there at 1000 metres above sea level in the Arthur's so here's what I did.  

No huts, no shops, few bug out options.  I prepared and then some.

I went solo and possibly a tad overboard because of this and carried a monster pack weighing 13.8 kilos everything included; full kit, food for 6 days and a litre of water.  Too heavy to feel safe on many of the down climbs so I belayed my pack when necessary and it was torn to shreds by the end of my 4 days of fun.  
But hey right.

Tarptent Rainbow, Sea to Summit Ether Light Mattress, Heavy duty Montbell Down Jacket, 2 quilts just in case I froze my arse off, one Gossamer Gear hiking pole and plenty of clothing.  
Topo Mountain Racers on the feet and I never wear socks.  
I carried gaiters but they just stayed in my pack as cargo.  I wore pants and shorts as the sun or cloud dictated.  

I had read somewhere that the mice that lurk around the official campsites were very friendly and keen on an easy feed so I stored my food supplies in an OP (Odour Proof) sack.

Aside from a dusting on Day 2 I struck a mostly fine weather window and although my rain jacket was useful on the windy ridgelines, late April wasn't really cold or wet this year.

Embrace the mud bitch.




Sunrise over Lake Pedder whilst driving home the morning after finishing up the trail.

OTHER RESOURCES:

I recommend Cam Honan's excellent post everything you need to know about the WA Traverse.


Erin Saver's blog posts about her WA Traverse in 2017 were very useful.



Monday, 3 May 2021

Mt Maurice, North East Tasmania, 6 kilometres return.

 



Map sourced from Google Maps.

INTRODUCTION:

A short, non taxing, mostly level saunter through quiet mossy fagus forest to the flat, wide summit of Mount Maurice.  Kick ass views during fine weather but worth the hassle anytime unless it's chucking down. 



GETTING THERE:

This is the bit that prompted me to write up this hike.  

There is a fair slop of confusion on the interwebs regarding getting to the Western trailhead of the Mt Maurice walk.

This is how I found my way from Launceston.  And full disclosure; I attempted to locate this track a few years ago and completely lost my way due to forestry activity diversions and being a general dumbass.  I guess I've improved my navigation skills or maybe I just got lucky. 😉

  • From central Launceston it is around 33 kilometres to Camden Hill Road on the A3.
  • Chuck a right hand turn onto Camden Hill Road, it is after the Myrtle Park Recreation Ground.
  • Toddle up for 7.5 kilometres and keep left where the road turns onto Diddlelum Road. 
  • 10 kilometres later turn left down a gravel track.  This is Knights Road.  Google maps should be able to get you here.
  • I parked up just before the dodgy bridge going over St Patricks River, 600 metres down the road.  Photo below.  There are rough informal camping sites on both sides of the river.



  • If you are happy crossing the bridge in whatever you are driving/ riding then head up the road for 3.7 kilometres (cautiously) and locate the trailhead sign on the right hand side at the end of Knights Road. Photo below.


The road is ok for 2WD I'm guessing, I dunno as I walked the road.  It was quiet and I'm keen to walk, not drive.  There were potholes and largish rocks but nothing too exciting that made me go 'Oh wow I wouldn't come up here without a full on 4 wheel drive'.

SAFARI TRACK RATING:

Easy as.  Bit of scrub bashing and mud for 200 metres or so before the incline uppy bit to the summit, otherwise well marked and mostly runnable. 




Map sourced from page 41, 50 Family Walks Around Launceston & North East Tasmania. 2008


As I stated I walked up the road from St Patricks River and the overall distance was about 12 or 13 kilometres return.  Half this if you drive all the way up Knights Road.







MAPS AND RESOURCES:

I used the ever useful '50 Family Walks Around Launceston & North East Tasmania' by Jan Hardy and Bert Elson. Hillside Publishing. 2008.





Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Mt Cameron, East Coast, Tasmania. 10km day hike.


 INTRODUCTION:

Safari's sexy adventures over on the far North East Coast during the frigid months of Tasmania's extended Winter season always include this whopping chunk of rounded granite. .

Mt Cameron ticks all the boxes for those that get off on solitude, dry sclerophyll forest tracks, loads of lumpy boulders and banging views.

Last year I took my old-as-fuck dog, Penny to the area.  The idea was to give her a brief sniff and wander up the first few hundred metres of the main path- she had other ideas and ran off chasing the trail and smashed it to the summit like a complete savage.  

Right on Penny!  


Map sourced from Google Maps.


 
GETTING THERE:

From Launceston; get yourself to Bridport and head East on the B82 (Waterhouse Road) which can be a sketchy narrow piece of shit road.  Take care.

After 50 kilometres look out for Old Port Road on the right.  Photo below.

From Gladstone: head West on Waterhouse Road for 10.5 kilometres.  Old Port Road will be on your left.  Photo below.


Drive South down the track for about 7 kilometres.  Your looking for this marker (photo below). 

Head up the forestry road on your left for 3 kilometres to the walking track start at a locked red gate.  2WD access on these roads is fine.



Map sourced from www.hikinginsetasmanianblogspot.com.  I didn't have a map and this is the best I could hunt down to show the general path taken. Plus this blog post from 2014 was a great help regarding logistics.  A much recommended website!




Safari Track Rating:

The main track is well marked and there is no need to roll past the Scottsdale High School Field Study Centre anymore as the track bypasses it now.  

I recommend checking out the Douglas Lookout and the Maze.  Take your time, have a wander.




There's a bit of hopping over ledges and steep poky bits towards the final ascent.




On a clear day views out over the North Coast at Waterhouse and Tomahawk can be savoured.


I returned a few weeks later and camped out on a bluff on a Saturday evening.  No people, no noise.  Blissful wild surroundings.

Sources:

Hiking in SE Tasmania blog post about Mt Cameron walk


 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Tyndall Range. West Coast, Tasmania. 3 days- 2 nights, off track hiking.

 


INTRODUCTION:

Recently, the fair isle of Tasmania was blessed with a fortnight long, perfect weather window.  

These happy occurrences usually compel me to pull a few sick days at work, making the most of clear skies and a fortunate life.

I tossed up roaring down South to wander the Western Arthur's or tear off into the Wild West coast and see if all the fuss about this oft mentioned Tyndall Range was justified.

Seeing as how I loathe crowds in our wild places (Yup. The Arthur's were chocka as I suspected, according to reports) I pointed the van towards where the sun sets and enjoyed possibly my favourite short walk in Tasmania.

Wondrous, astonishingly dramatic landscape and 'another world' environs awaited.  

Truly uplifting stuff I tell you.



Map sourced from Google Maps.

HOW I ACCESSED THE TYNDALL RANGE FROM LAUNCESTON:

If driving from the Northern localities, aim the vehicle to Tullah, keep heading South on the A10 for a few kilometres then turn left onto the B28, known as Anthony Road.
Buzz on down the winding highway past the Mount Murchison walk track head and car park. 

From the Mount Murchison track head it is around 18.5 kilometres past Lake Plimsoll to a non descript gravel track on the left with shallow pot holes that I had no problems driving through slowly.  This is your parking area and where the walking starts.
Keep an eye out for the pile of old tyres with a bit of red spray paint on them out near the road as a marker.

Leave your vehicle behind the gate (red X) as sometimes it is open, sometimes locked (yellow line).


Map sourced from Google Maps.

Grab your shit and head over the bridge, turning sharp left after a couple of hundred metres.  Keep going.  Cross a shallow rivulet and the walker registration box (red arrow) with intention book is on your right and glorious knee deep mud just past it.


Walker registration and the start of the mud.

SAFARI TRACK RATING:

A well worn footpad wends it way up to Mt Tyndall and the lake.  After that you're on your own dodging cushion plants and Scorparia and crunching across ankle high scrub and traversing smooth Dolerite to wherever you choose.

It's an area that gets abysmal weather for a large chunk of the year and the exposure of the plateau exceeds the Walls of Jerusalem area in my opinion, so be prepared.  
No huts or formal infrastructure.  Yet.  I'll get to that later.

The first couple of hundred meters plugging through the head high bush and sloshing mud might win the walk the worst start of any track in recent memory.  Stick at it and get the grind up the hillside past the boot washing brush done, it's worth it.


Photo of the Tasmap I utilised to figure out what was where.



Fagus leaves.



MAP/ NAVIGATION:

I used the Tasmap 1:25000 TYNDALL as shown below.  Mt Giekie is visible heading South for much of the time, I just locked onto the trig point and moved in that direction. 




First night's campsite along Lake Tyndall.

After an hour or two of uphill slogging the track flattens out, culminating in a junction heading Northish to the Mt Tyndall summit and down to Lake Tyndall.

I met a young dude that already had his tent up amongst the flat rocks and low bushes near the the water's edge.  We had a chat, he directed me to check out the numerous waterfalls dropping off the cliff on the Western side of the lake and that was the last human I saw and spoke to for 2 days.





RANDOM OBSERVATIONS:

  • Don't trust the boulders to be locked in and stable when hopping across the moraine fields.  More than a few 'rockin rocks' spat me off making for exciting pants browning moments.

  • I sighted stuff all animal life and no scat. None of the usual wallabies or wombats which was weird. A few white lip snakes and hoards of over friendly tiny black ants though and the occasional bird of prey lurking above.

  • The constant faint drone of trucks on the highway far below humming away in the background during both nights I lay in my tent.  Just a reminder that I wasn't that far from the big bad world.

  • Loads of King Billy and Pencil Pines which I really like. 

  • The views off the Bastion into Maria and the other lakes were quite epic.  Frenchman's is bold on the horizon and the Southern mountains of the Overland Track can be sighted too. Take your time.



Mt Giekie summit and trig.



Strawflowers.

King Billy growing around Lake Tyndall.

The kick ass weather I experienced had absolutely everything to do with why I cherished my time up in Tyndall Regional Park.   I am pleased to report I found only a slight scunge of toilet paper and no litter or evidence of humans being dickheads in these untouched surroundings.

Early morning dip in a pristine tarn.

Mt Tyndall trig.

View down into Lake Plimsoll from Mt Tyndall.

FUTURE PLANS FOR THE TYNDALL REGION:

Get in before the current right wing shithead Tasmanian State government fucks it all up and pushes through with intentions to market these public lands to weak, cashed up insta-face-page attention seeking wannabe's and establishes huts and cuts benched trails through nearby fragile landscape.

Parks and Wildlife Next Iconic Walk link

I truly hope this doesn't happen.  There are enough cushy options in Tasmania to entice the unthinking and unadventurous twats who buy into this shit.

Rant over.