A Week of Peaks
You can check out a full list of gear taken on this walk at this link.
Hatching a plan
Mt Nereus had been calling me for some time now. Holding the notoriety of being not that pleasant as well as ‘the most remote Abel’, it was a peak I had wanted to get out of the way for some time. After our epic Spires and Denison Range trip in 2021, with family commitments, it was going to be difficult for the whole team to take another long stint out for a big walk in 2022 so my core crew of Woolza, Crawf and Beaui decided after the Spires that we would do a shorter ‘highlight’ walk this year, saving ourselves up for The Eldons in 2023.
In late ‘21, I put forward an itinerary that would take us to Nereus and back from Lake St Clair. We’d get it done in a few short days. At the same time I was planning some shorter solo runs and walks to round out 2021, these included trips to Mountains of Jupiter (MoJ) and Nescient Peak to name a few.
Well, 2021 came to a close and after a knee strain, my big plans of some short walks in November and December never eventuated. It was then that I started to create another plan for Nereus in my mind. While the others couldn’t take a whole week out, I figured I could probably make it work even if my ever accommodating wife, was as yet unaware! So, I commenced work on an itinerary that would work for all of us. A few days later on the 30th of January, I put forward a plan to the team:
The other guys had done Nescient Peak and Mountains of Jupiter previously, but I wanted to get them done so felt this would be a great way to make a cracking trip of it. And to get over to Nereus... well, I’d just have to add in a DuCane Range Traverse as well. How convenient and what a link up of walks! From here on I felt I was locked in. It was cemented a few days later when Beaui told me that he would join me for the whole adventure also. Game on!
From here it was a waiting game. Waiting for the 27th March to arrive. Plans and routes would change a little. Then after a long hot summer, the date arrived and we set off.
Sun 27th March 2022, Lake Myrtle Track
26km, 10hrs, 1364m ascent
After refining the itinerary over preceding weeks we were off and away from Launceston early at 6am on a Sunday morning in late March. As we would be finishing at Lake St Clair (some distance away), Woolza had kindly offered to drop Beaui and I off at the start of the walk before meeting us 3 days later for the rest of the second half of the journey. In the interim he would remain in Launny for work.
We headed out of town in the while our families still slumbered, excited about the coming 8 days of hiking. The itinerary we had formulated was unlike any to this region I had seen before and I have to say, I was a little nervous about what we aimed to achieve before meeting Crawf and Woolza at Pine Valley in three days time. BUT, we were into it now! We made good time and after a quick toilet stop in Chudleigh we arrived at the start of the Lake Myrtle track on Mersey forest road (the closest road to Mt Nereus) just after 8am.
After a quick chat and organising the rendezvous plan for Wednesday, we bid farewell to Woolza and turned around to start the slow plod with heavy packs up to the plateau along the Lake Myrtle track. It was GO TIME!
We headed on up the climb through open forest at a good pace. The weather was absolutely delightful. Slightly overcast and not too warm - perfect walking weather.
It was great to be back on the track! For the first time in a few years I had decided to bring trekking poles (due to a combination of the aforementioned knee strain and heavy pack load) and I felt that they were definately making a difference. We were into the swing of things quickly and before we knew it, after just under an hour, we had topped out the climb and found ourselves on nice flat ground. At this point, it was on with the UHF radios and I waved farewell to Beaui for the next few hours so that I could go and attend to some unfinished business on Nescient Peak.
I took off along Blizzard Plains and it wasn’t long before I could see Lake Bill in the distance. After a quick referral to the map, I dumped my pack, donned my lightweight daypack and then headed off up an open lead towards the diminutive Nescient Peak. I was absolutely loving this! I tore on up the slopes at a good pace, giving my legs a good stretch. The evidence of the 2017 fires was still well evident with the stark, burnt out scrub lining the slopes. About 10 minutes in I stumbled upon a cairn. Not expecting this, I warily followed what ended up being a well cairned route to the peak, arriving about 25 minutes after leaving the main track. It was a pleasant summit, if you can call it that and enjoyed a snack and radioed down to Beaui who was now beside Lake Bill. After a quick breather to take in the views, I returned via the same route in very quick time.
Back at the pack, I again radioed Beaui who was now on the far side of Lake Bill. I was probably about 45 minutes behind and we decided we’d meet for lunch at Lake Meston. With pack back on, and on a good, familiar track, I put the foot down and cruised on towards Lake Myrtle arriving there an hour later for a quick snack and some nice views of the lake and Mt Rogoona. I reminisced of my previous trip here in 2018 and after a little bit realised it was time to move on to catch up with Beaui.
With Lake Myrtle behind me, it was only another hour over to Lake Meston where I met Beaui for lunch. We had been in regular radio contact and he had arrived a few minutes before me. We talked about the plans ahead as we scoffed down some much needed lunch. The question today was how far we could get. After having an initial plan of accessing the Overland Track and DuCane range via ‘The Never Never’ we had recently changed this plan to go over the northern end of The Traveller Range from Lake Artemis. We had both wanted to visit this range and give it a quick look with a view to traversing the entire range on another trip. This was a perfect opportunity to check it out. Our current plan was to go up the Mountains of Jupiter (with fully loaded packs), and then down onto the range and across it in order to be atop Mt Massif in the DuCane Range tomorrow. An ambitious plan to say the least. Assessing where we were at currently, we still felt this was doable but were beginning to have doubts about whether or not our access route onto the Traveller was the best option. We began to discuss camping at Lake Artemis before heading across to Lake Merope and onto the Traveller range proper tomorrow. We would reassess at Junction Lake.
With a quick lunch done, it was back onto the well formed track for a quick 1 hours walk to Junction Lake. Along the way we had some great views of MoJ and even bumped into a couple of other walkers who we had a chat to. We had another very quick break at Junction Lake hut before heading up the pad towards Lake Artemis. We had now made the decision to stop at Lake Artemis tonight, taking the Lake Merope option tomorrow. The weather had become warm, and now, about 7 hours into the walk, we were starting to feel the incline drain the energy from our legs so we knew that we had made the right decision. The big packs and lack of track fitness was seeing us wilt.
After what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was about an hour), we arrived at a very large cairn overlooking Lake Artemis. ‘This cairn seems to signify something’ I commented to Beaui. So, I decided I would head up my second peak of the day (Mountains of Jupiter) from here. Beaui, having already climbed it, would head on to the lake and find a campsite. While he had a breather, I whipped out the daypack again and pushed on up the slopes of MoJ. I immediately found more cairns and followed them through a route of light scrub to the upper ramparts. after 15 minutes, I was on open rock and then the summit area. After a bit of a look around, I spotted the summit and bounded off across to it to arrive about 30 minutes after leaving Beaui. It was now 5.25pm. The skies were clear and the views magnificent. There was a bit of a chilly wind, but I took some time to take it all in and gaze across at tomorrow’s objective - The DuCane Range..... It seemed to still be an awfully long way off. ‘I hope the scrub’s not too bad along this Traveller Range’ I thought to myself. With that in mind, I thought it best to get down to camp as soon as possible and rest up! On the way down, I surveyed tomorrow’s route ahead. It looked scrubby. I followed the route back to the Lake Artemis track making a quick call to wife and kids along the way before finally arriving at Beaui’s very lovely Lake Artemis Camp an hour after departing the summit.
It was great to be in camp. Beaui had done well and found a good site on the south western end of the lake. He also had a soup for me ready to devour upon arrival! The evening was delightful and we had time to enjoy dinner while the sun set. We discussed our route for tomorrow and retired to bed early after a large 25km day 1 (of 8!). I was absolutely shattered. Sleep was well deserved.
Mon 28th March 2022, Lake Artemis
13.4km, 9hrs 45mins, 811m Ascent
Another day and another big mission in stall for us. We set the alarm early and were awake just before sunrise. There were plenty of clouds about but the sunrise was magnificent with lots of colour. We had a relaxed brekkie before packing up and hitting the track by 8.30am. We followed a faint pad towards Lake Merope and after 40 mins arrived at its outlet creek, finding a suitable place to cross before heading up and over a knoll on its south/south eastern side. We were pleasantly surprised to find it relatively easy going with the scrub not too bad. There was even the odd cairn. Around 40 minutes later we were on the Traveller Range crossing the northern end of Orion Lakes. We stopped for a quick snack to take in the views. ‘We will definately have to return here!’ I commented to Beaui.
Mindful of the time (as well as how far away the DuCane range looked), we kept moving hoping to make DuCane gap for lunch. We made good progress and found the walking pleasant with little scrub. About 3.5 hrs into the day, we arrived at a couple of final small dips in the plateau which became scrubbier and scrubbier. After a small climb out of the last dip, we arrived on some open rocks on the north western edge of the Traveller Range with good views of DuCane gap below. We had probably come a little too far north, so followed the rim around to where we could drop off. With the weather now hot, and a tarn beside us, we decided now would be a good time to stop for lunch before tackling the short descent followed by a massive climb up Falling Mountain. We gave ourselves an extended break for this reason and had already decided that we would not get to Mt Massif today. We would be happy with a Falling Mountain camp today knowing we could still make our Lake Elysia objective tomorrow.
After a good break, we put our scrub gear back on and headed down to DuCane Gap. We had cost ourselves a bit of time by coming too far north on the Traveller Range rim and as a result we had to loop back to the south to a saddle that we could then drop down through. We didn’t find a pad but it was easy enough and we arrived on the Overland Track around 50 minutes after lunch. We had joined the track a couple of hundred meters south of the gap, so headed north for a few minutes, before finding a good spot to again leave the track and start the climb. Along the way we passed one group of Overland walkers who stared at us incredulously when we responded to their enquiries about our trip. Only a few meters off the track, we arrived at an open button grass field with a grandstand view of what we were about to tackle. ‘That looks like fun’ said Beaui as he looked towards me sarcastically. ‘It sure does’ was my reply...
We crossed the short section of button grass before us and were immediately presented with a wall of scrub. Fun! Oh, and the steep incline started also. We had been discussing how long we thought this may take and we thought it couldn’t possibly take more than 2 to 2.5 hours.
Two and a half hours later, we were scratching our heads wondering how much longer this climb was going to take. It felt never ending. And the scrub! We were now on the upper ramparts and while there was still plenty of scrub, the increasing prevalence of open dolerite boulders was adding some variety to the climb. As were climbing up the eastern side of the peak, in the shadows, things were beginning to cool off, which in combination with our sweat drenched bodies, provided a natural cooling system, which was nice. Over the last few hours I had also started to develop some blisters on each heel. Despite my best efforts to treat the rubbing, they continued and had now developed into full blown blisters. After taking the soles of my boots out things seemed to improve but regardless, I’d need to address them further this evening.
A little over 3 hours after starting the climb, we finally clambered over the final boulder to arrive on the summit ridge. What a relief! A climb I won’t be repeating any time soon. We were immediately presented with the sun shining and a spectacular view of the entire DuCane Range, the MoJ as well as all of the other peaks in the area. We took a brief moment to take it all in, but given that it we only had about an hour of sunlight left, we made haste and only a few minutes later arrived at a small grassy saddle that looked like a perfect high camp for the night. We decided there and then to set up camp and leave the short walk to the summit until the morning. We would enjoy the clear skies and sunset from our prime position this evening. We spent the next hour wandering around the summit ridge, taking photos and admiring the sunset. After the sun disappeared over the horizon, it chilled off quickly. We made some dinner and retired to bed early again before another big day.
Tues 29th March 2022, Falling Mountain High Camp
14.30km, 10hrs 30mins, 800m acent
We set the alarm early and awoke in the dark at 6.30am. We were quick out of bed and on with gear before starting to pack up. The night before the mist had rolled in around dinner time and it was now as thick as ever with maybe 20 meters of visibility. Once ready, we left our gear half packed and made the stroll along to the high point of Falling Mountain arriving only 10 minutes from camp. With nothing to see, we headed straight back to the campsite and had a cuppa and some breakfast before doing a final pack up.
We were on our way again in the thick mist, by 8.45am following a route down the saddle and almost immediately into boulder fields. It was cool so we were layered up and negotiated the wet boulders carefully all the while making good progress. It was initially slow going through the large, strewn rocky landscape but within 45 minutes we started to get hints of the clouds clearing with patches of visibility arriving intermittently. The view of the range ahead (and behind) looked spectacular and we were excited about the day ahead. We were following the odd cairn here or there but kept were continually ensuring we were on a pre planned route. At a couple of points we lost the faint pad but would pick it up again after a short while.
After 2.5 hours, the mist had almost completely cleared and we found ourselves on the northern side of the ridge line we had been traversing. We took a break while taking in views of all the peaks of the Overland track to our north. We were perched directly above Kia Ora hut and could even see the construction of the new public hut from our vantage point. It didn’t look far away and I reminisced of my many nights spent down at the private hut as a guide many years ago. We happened to have mobile phone coverage, so made a quick call to Woolza to make final arrangements for our rendezvous the following day. I put in a request for some blister treatment as they were not improved. I also put forward the idea that I may need them to carry in an extra pair of boots. Woolza, having completed our current walk previously, offered a couple of tips for the rest of the day which we took note of as we looked at the route ahead. After a bit of a snack we were on our way again. From our rest stop we had seen a steep gully heading up the northern side of Mt Massif and now made our way around the ridge towards this. We picked up some more cairns and then followed them around to the gully, arriving at the base of the climb an hour after our rest stop. It was then a steep but easy climb up through the pineapple grass gully to the plateau of Mt Massif. As we arrived at the top we again obtained some incredible views with the rest of the DuCane Range featuring prominently. We continued on the pad and after another 5 minutes arrived at the top of the Mt Massif ‘bowl’, a natural grassy area below the main peak. It was a magnificent sight. From here we dropped packs and made the quick 5 minute ascent to the true summit where we took a few minutes to have a breather and some photos. I also took a moment to make a phone call home. My blisters felt worse and with Woolza and Crawf walking in to meet us tomorrow I took this final opportunity to arrange for my wife to find my extra pair of hiking boots for Crawf to collect. He would then carry them in for me so that I had the option of switching boots if things became really bad. It was a big call but I did not want to put Mt Nereus in jeopardy and was willing to carry extra boots if it meant I made the peak. From where we stood, we could now spot Mt Nereus in the distance and the thought that we would be there in a couple of days felt a little daunting. But, it didn’t dent our mood - we departed the summit and back to our packs for a short lunch in the bowl.
After a half hour lunch it was time to move. Beaui really wanted to get Mt Hyperion done today (I had climbed it previously) and we already sensed daylight would be an issue as we aimed to be at Lake Elysia this evening. So off we headed towards Big Gun Pass. We climbed south westerly out of the bowl onto the rocky ridge line and followed the top of it along before heading down into the pass. The descent was bigger than I was expecting with us first having to descend, then climbing a short gully up a peak in the middle of the pass, before descending again, this time to the bottom of the pass where arrived a little under 1.5hrs from our lunch spot. From here it was straight up. With the sun now beaming and Beaui a slight way ahead, I decided it was time to enter speed mode, so took a moment to take off my thermals and overpants to take on the open climb. With only boxer briefs on under the overpants, I couldn’t be bothered trying to find my shorts in my pack so headed on up the pass in my undies! The cool air was a delight and I cruised on up the pass at a rate of knots, arriving to meet Beaui at the top 25 minutes after starting the climb.
Having spent a lot of time in this plateau area of the DuCane Range high point, I was now back on familiar ground and enjoyed the short stroll over to the high point before heading down to the small plateau overlooking Lake Helios and Mt Hyperion. There was no time for pleasantries as Beaui had another mountain to climb. We turned on radios and I waved farewell to Beaui as he headed down into the Fagus scrub surrounding the lake towards the peak. We had now been going for 8 hours and it was certain that Beaui would be arriving at camp in the dark. Knowing what I had left for the day, I took some time to sit down in the afternoon sun and watched him scale the peak from my vantage point. For the final section he disappeared to the northern flank before appearing at the top of the peak around an hour after departing. I radioed in and got a wave from the summit. Signing off, this was my cue to head off and make the trip down to Lake Elysia. I headed down the cairned route in the late afternoon sun and enjoyed being back on old territory with some fantastic views of Mt Geryon, The Acropolis and Lake St Clair as I descended. While I already had dozens of photos from these same vantage points, I couldn’t help but take a few more. I continued down and arrived at the Pool of Memories after 40 minutes. It was then another half hour before I finally arrived at the familiar campsite of Lake Elysia. I set up my tent in my usual spot. As the sun set, it was then a very casual process of getting organised and starting dinner and hot drinks.
Beaui radioed not long after I arrived in camp. He was commencing the descent off the plateau and on his way to the Pool of Memories. Under head torch, he flew down the mountain and I was surprised when he radioed again from Pool of Memories. ‘Not far now mate’ was my response. Another 40 minutes later, and after a bit of head torch direction from yours truly, in the pitch black, Beaui finally arrived at camp after a solid, 12 hour day. He was happy to have completed Mt Hyperion though and we enjoyed some Miso soup and a very large meal, ensconced in the fact that we could have a sleep in tomorrow while Crawf and Woolza made the trip in to meet us at Pine Valley!
Wed 30th March 2022, Lake Elysia
17.8km, 7.5hrs, 1244m ascent
We awoke fairly early but knew that today there was no rush. In the warmth of my sleeping bag I had a peek out of the tent at the overcast skies and decided more sleep was in order. About an hour later at 8.30am, I decided it was time to get organised so started readying myself for the day ahead. With breakfast on the go we had a chat to a couple of others at the campsite and then after tending to blisters and a final check of our daypacks, we made a move towards Pine Valley at 10.15am. We made good time and cruised over to Lake Ophion at which point the drizzly rain commenced. We continued on in our rain gear and after 50 minutes we commenced the steep descent down to Pine Valley, arriving there just before midday. On the trip down through the forest we had become quite wet so it was nice to arrive at the comfort of Pine Valley. The hut was having some internal renovations done (nice) so we made ourselves comfortable on the deck and started on lunch while we waited for our comrades. We had been in touch on the radioes and knew they weren’t far away.
Surprisingly down here there was no rain, just cloud hanging overhead. As I neared the end of my cheese and crackers, we heard some footsteps and out of the forest appeared Woolza followed by Crawf. Awesome. And to make things even better, I spotted my very comfy looking spare boots mounted to the top of Crawf’s pack! What a legend! After jovial greetings and a quick chat we started reorganising. Our mates had both carried in extra food and supplies for us, so we redistributed these then got organised for the trip up to The Acropolis. While the others finalised plans, I donned my spare boots. The comfort and relief were almost instantaneous. Bliss! I was saved and knew I had made the right call in getting Crawf to lug in the boots. Happy in my new comfort zone, I put my rain coat and over pants back on before heading off behind the crew up the Acropolis track. We made good time as we wound our way up through the rainforest to the small open ridge top which we arrived at after 50 minutes. It was then just a matter of following the ridge before entering a slight ascent through some open forest and then up to skirt around the base of the cliffs of the main peak. This part dragged on a little as it was now drizzling and very misty but 1 hour after arriving on the plateau, and after one steep section, we arrived onto the summit in mild but wet conditions. With no views to speak of we didn’t hang around for long. The summit was composed of large rock slabs with sheer cliffs to the side. We took the customary photos and headed off. With the weather the way it was, I was keen to get back to Lake Elysia ASAP.
We cruised back to Pine Valley in the drizzle and it was nice to arrive back into the rainforest for the final descent as it offered shelter from the precipitation. We were back at the hut by 4.15pm, 1hr 45mins from the summit. We didn’t mess around and quickly organised ourselves before heading back up the track towards the Labyrinth. Having done the climb to the Labyrinth quite a few times, the first section was a bit of a drag when all I wanted to do was get to my tent. However, within 45 minutes we were at the top of the ascent at which point we stopped to leave a food drop strung between two trees. This would be for our exit via The Guardians in a couple of days time. As we knew we would have to carry water to last for potentially the next two days, we wanted to lighten our loads.
With supply cache stashed, we were back on the track and arrived at Lake Elysia by 6.30pm. It was nice having the tent setup ready to step into. Woolza and Crawf however had to get themselves setup and organised. With the rain now passed, Beaui and I setup a shelter with our tarp and settled in for a magnificent dinner curated by Crawf. Our two new companions must have carried a huge weight of stuff in! I doubt I have ever eaten so much. This would be a good foundation for the next couple of days. We retired to bed early in readiness.
Thurs 31st March 2022, Lake Elysia
6.54km, 4hrs, 416m ascent
Overnight the skies had cleared and we awoke to cool weather with patchy cloud and a slight breeze. Wanting to make sure we had an afternoon to relax, we wanted to get away relatively early so had set the alarm for 6.30am. We awoke and started packing, making some brekky while watching the sun rise. By 8.30am we were on our way. The wind was blowing straight through us so I was fully layered up as we made our way back towards Lake Ophion before turning to head up our first objective of the day, Walled Mountain.
As we started the ascent the weather gradually improved, yet the wind remained. The walk was pleasant along an obvious pad and 1.5hrs after departing, we arrived at the summit. The views were awesome and from a perspective of the area I hadn’t experienced previously. We spent some time taking them in. The wind was now cooler again and we departed the peak in full shell wear. Beyond us to our west we could now see the vast summit plateau of Walled Mountain to the west. We strolled along it beside the various tarns, stopping near the final one to load up on water. From here on in, the range was notorious for its lack of water and we had heard some horror stories of heat stroke and dehydration. We figured we would need at least at least 8 litres each to last us the 36 hours or so before we would be back at this point, so each of us had an extra 8kg on the back for the next few hours. I estimated my pack was probably around 27kg now - the heaviest I had carried for some years.
With the loads on our back, we followed the plateau to a small dip before rising again onto a boulder strewn ridge. It was ok to start with but an hour from the summit of Walled Mountain it turned into a car sized boulder hopping mission. We zigged and zagged along the ridge line as we gradually spread out, each going at our own pace. We had now found shelter from the wind, and in the sun, things started to heat up to the point we had to stop to strip off some layers. We then continued on, descending off the rocky ridge line to a flatter area of low scrub arriving at the lip of a steep rocky descent to a deep saddle between the back of Walled Mountain and our next target, Macs Mountain. With the sun beaming, we decided this perched, scrubby area would be perfect for lunch. Each of us found a spot and sat down comfying ourselves for a break. About half way through my cous cous salad Crawf called out to me. I turned to find him presenting me with a can of Coke. I was surprised to see this and thought that it was a very nice ‘non-rationed’ treat but wouldn’t turn back a sip and thanked him. As I went to return the can, he told me to keep it as he ‘had brought a can for each of us’. ‘You bloody ripper Crawf!’ was my response. Incredible stuff - he’d not only carried my boots in, and done the previous nights dinner, but had also delivered the goods today! A memorable performance.
We discussed the route ahead. We figured we probably had 2 to 2.5hrs to the camp just beyond Macs Mountain. We talked about this and someone pointed to the fact ‘that we would probably arrive into camp at around 3/3.30pm.’ On a sugar high and full of crazy ideas, I put forward a suggestion to the team: ‘you know we could just camp here. Will add two or three hours to our big day tomorrow but manageable...’ Beaui responded: ‘But there’s not really any camps here are there?’. Me: ‘Yeah, I just saw one over there as we descend off the boulder field’ pointing to an area a hundred or so meters away. We all stared at each other and began to grin. ‘Lets do it’ someone said. Before we knew it we were wondering around the little perch we found ourselves on looking for sites. We made our way over to the spot I mentioned and low and behold, the perfect campsite. ‘We can see at least 20 Abels from here’, I commented as I counted them off. ‘This is unreal! Are we actually doing this??’. Yes! came the response.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the warm sun, taking photos and exploring the area. We even found a small soak of water in the valley to our north from which we were able to load up on even more water. The perfect afternoon, we (Beaui and I in particular) would be well rested for the massive day tomorrow. After an epic Tasmanian sunset, we had an early dinner and were in bed early, setting the alarms for 6am.
Fri 1st April 2022, ‘Walleds End’ Camp
17.80km, 12hrs, 1305m ascent
The day had finally arrived. I was a little nervous but knew we could get it done, albeit knowing it would be a massive day. Only a couple of days ago, with blisters worsening, I had been worried about the Nereus day trip but now I felt ready. We woke early and prepared our daypacks. It had been a cold night and frost had coated the ground. We packed and prepared water (around 2L each) as well as food and donned our scrub gear. We departed camp at 7.30am as the sun was still rising, heading back towards the top of the descent where we had made our lunch spot the day before.
We headed straight down on to the boulders and descended a steep gully, taking our time on the slippery rocks. Below us, we could see the scrubby saddle and made gentle progress towards it. After a while, the boulders gave way to scrub and we were down and across this after a bit of a bash, 45minutes after departing camp. From here our first climb of the day began. Straight up to Macs Mountain. Following alpine scrub initially, it wasn’t long before we were back on boulders, scaling our way up the peak. With sun now up, we made good progress on this section and found our way up to the summit in good time. We arrived on the top 1hr 15mins after departing camp. Some cloud had moved in and we found ourselves above the mist on the peak. We still managed some great views and spent about 15 minutes enjoying the early morning atmosphere. But, we had a job to do so had to get things moving. We scaled back down the mountain and then sidled around its flanks towards the next saddle. Now heading north east, we descended the boulders and again into scrub. As we headed into the next saddle the scrub became thicker and it was a bit of a bash before we arrived at the base of the saddle 50 minutes off the summit of Macs Mountain. This was the site we had originally planned to camp at. With no sign of water, we were glad we had made the decision to camp where we did and not lug the heavy packs all the way to here. Plus, there were better views from our chosen site.
After a quick rest and repair of my broken shoelace, we made our way towards the next hill (Green Hill). We had viewed it the other side of the saddle and we knew this was going to be thick scrub. As we launched in, it didn’t disappoint. We made our way slowly up squatting and dodging where we could, finding the odd clear patch but it was THICK. Forty five minutes from the base of the saddle, we arrived at the top of Green Hill. Up here the scrub petered off and was only ankle to knee high. A nice bit of respite. The view ahead showed the route out to Nereus. Ahead of us, a slope stretched down to the flat plateau of Urquharts Mesa, with Nereus sitting across a valley still some distance beyond that. I was already feeling tired after the first couple of scrub encounters and the view ahead didn’t excite me. We left the comfort of our perch on the hill and headed down the slope towards the Mesa. We immediately entered thick scrub, made up mainly of Scoparia. The real tall, thick, extra sharp kind. Joy. We descended about 150m over 45 minutes before arriving at low scrub on the Mesa itself. We headed to the south western rim and followed it around to the north. We had heard there may be water here so wanted to check for the return journey. Sure enough at the bottom of a 10m cliff, we saw some pools. At this stage we couldn’t see an easy way down but would worry about that later if we needed water.
We moved on across the nice open expanse of the Mesa, and found a spot to descend onto the next slope. This descent looked very much like the one off Green Hill... slow and scrubby. We could see a large button grass plain at the bottom of the descent. That would be our target. Beyond that was the final climb up a forested ridge to Mt Nereus. With the sun now shining, we headed down, initially in waste high scrub, but it wasn’t long before it again became thick. Plowing on through, the next 1.5km and 200m descent took us 45 minutes before arriving at the button grass. We stopped for a quick break and looked at the route ahead. I was already dreading the trip back. Day 6 of the trip, I was mentally struggling today. Scrub after scrub and the heat of the day approaching didn’t help. But I had been in worse situations. With the peak now within reach, we made our way across the button grass arriving at yet more scrub at the other end. Winding our way through this we finally arrived in some open forest around 50 minutes after hitting the button grass. We now started the final climb up the ridge to the peak. Heading north-westerly, it was a relief to be in the cool of the forest and the lack of scrub was a delight. Around 40 minutes after commencing the climb, we arrived at the base of the cliffs surrounding the main bulk of the peak. We had studied this next section in detail prior to the trip and we stayed close to the base of the cliffs through the forest on the eastern side of the peak until we found a chute up though the rocks. It was quite steep and scrubby but manageable and after a short while we arrived through the scrub to a flat but scrubby summit plateau. ‘What mountain has scrub all over the summit?’ I asked no one in particular. Thinking we were at the top, I quickly realised we were not and it was a further short but frustrating walk through the scrub before finally arriving at the small summit cairn on a little scrubby rise at the northern end of the peak. At last! We had been going for exactly 6 hours since departing camp. It was a relief to be here and hopefully we would be quicker on the way back. We decided to take half an hour for lunch here and enjoy the view. It was quite hot now so we stripped off shirts and sat topless as we munched down a plough mans lunch while looking towards the Eldon Range and High Dome. ‘This time next year we’ll be over there’ I thought to myself. We enjoyed the break but we were all starting to run low on water. I had around 500mls left and I knew that it would not last me all the way home, especially with the increasing heat.
At 2pm we started the return journey. We thought we would be finishing under torch light so wanted to get moving. We followed our inward route and quickly descended back down the chute in the cliffs before returning to the cool of the forest. We made good progress through the open forest and arrived back down near the button grass 40 minutes from the peak. We had decided to stay north of the button grass and try to remain in the open forest for as long as possible, thereby avoiding the open buttongrass plain, and the heat. It was a wise move and we covered ground quickly before arriving again at the thick scrub at the base of the climb up to Urquhart’s Mesa 1hr 20mins after departing the summit. This felt like progress! But, I was not excited about the next part of the journey. From here to the top of Green Hill was going to be a long, tough slog. Green Hill was actually about 140m higher than the Nereus summit! Even on our morning walk in, I had been dreading returning back up here but there was no other way so up we went, into the scrub. After our speedy return to this point, progress now felt very slow. I was hot and thirsty, trying to conserve water but I was now pretty much empty. We blazed on though and after what felt like an eternity, we arrived back at the flat, open expanse of the Mesa an hour after commencing the climb. It was a couple of hundred meters of ascent but felt like so much more. We were all now dying of thirst with little left in reserve and we were only half way to Green Hill. While we had thought we may make it all the way home without a water refill, we knew this would be foolish. We headed back to the high cliff we had stopped at earlier and pondered the pools below. They were more puddles than anything but would do the trick. We spent around 10 minutes trying to find somewhere to descend but to no avail. We may not be getting any water.
As we wondered back and forth along the cliff, I started to try to figure out if there was a water source creating a few trickles off the cliff. The ground around the top of the cliff was damp so I followed the dampness to some very small trickles of water, useless for drinking though. Woolza had found a very tiny dribble and was trying to get some water from that. I wandered back to the cliff for another look and as I passed a scrubby section I looked down to see a very small pool of water on the edge of the scrub just above the cliff. Liquid gold! I called to the others and we very carefully scooped water out of the shallow puddle and drank like kings. I filled my bottle and took a big swig before filling it again. To finish, I knelt over the puddle and lapped up the water like a dog. Woolza and Beaui were starting to hit a wall and wanted to walk at an easy pace so they told Crawf and I to head off. We weren’t going to argue, as we keen to get back to camp. Crawf and I waved farewell to the other two as we departed the Mesa and stormed back into the scrub up towards Green Hill. The section we entered was immediately diabolical. Movement was slow and we we made very, very slow progress up this section. We found a couple of good leads underneath some trees but mostly it was some of the worse scrub I have seen. At two points I became completely stuck in the scoparia, unable to move. After some wriggling I freed myself and continued on. About half way up I entered a clearing to find Beaui and Woolza. So much for getting ahead? The boys had found a better lead it seemed.
We didn’t say much as we were all in our own mental ‘pain caves’ and battled on up the hill. As we progressed, we each found our own little route to the top and arrived back on Green Hill after the longest 40 minutes walking I can recall. It felt like we were close now, we could even see our tents on the plateau on the back of Walled Mountain in the distance. We were all slightly spread out now but within hollering distance. We flew back down to the next saddle in 20 minutes before starting the scrub climb back up to the boulders of Macs Mountain. As we arrived at the rocks, I farewelled Beaui and Woolza who were stopping for another break. I moved on ahead to catch up with Crawf as we sidled around Macs Mountain and caught him just before descending to the final saddle. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping quickly. I donned a jacket as we dropped into the final scrub section for the day. At the bottom of the final saddle, we pushed through the scrub then back up the other side to arrive at the final climb of the day. The steep gully of boulders. In the final light of the day we shot up through it, working up a sweat as we did so. We were close now. I felt as if I was almost jogging I was so excited. Half an hour after starting the climb from the base of the saddle, we arrived at the rim of the plateau and trotted over to our tents. It was last light, 7.30pm. We were home. I got myself dressed into warm gear and started preparing a hot drink. Around half an hour later, the torch lights of Beaui and Woolza appeared at the edge of the plateau. As they arrived in to camp, we all embraced and marvelled at the 12 hour day. Overjoyed was an understatement. Nereus done! After a hearty dinner and an early night, we slept very well.
Sat 2nd April 2022, ‘Walleds End’ Camp
12.13km, 7hrs 15mins, 765m Elevation
After the mission of the day before we all slept in today. It wasn’t planned but we were quite flexible with our plans. Nereus was the main objective of our trip and everything else was a bonus. We awoke around sunrise and lazily started preparations to move on. The sky was clear and the valleys filled with cloud. We sat in the sun and discussed the day ahead. We would be heading to The Guardians today with a possible side trip of Mt Gould. By 9.30am, we were on our way, reluctantly farewelling our campsite.
The first part of the day involved negotiating the rocky ridge that we had made our inbound journey on. We plodded along here with the cloud now lifting and blowing across the ridge as we traversed. The ridge took us around 40 minutes to cover and we arrived in the small dip before the main plateau of Walled Mountain. We arrived on the main plateau and stopped to refill water from the tarns. We continued on casually, in no particular rush just enjoying the views. Moving off Walled Mountain, after two hours we arrived at a couple of small tarns near Lake Ophion. We decided to stop here for a break and basked in the sunshine while having a snack. It was all very pleasant.
Deciding it was time to continue we donned packs and moved on, back to the familiar ground of the Labyrinth track. A half hour or so after our rest stop, we arrived at the edge of the Labyrinth, again above the descent to Pine Valley. This was our cue to head back off the track. Heading south, we followed the pad towards the Minotaur taking a brief stop to collect our cache of supplies we had left a few days earlier, the final days food.
It was getting warmer again now and we headed off towards the Minotaur at a good pace. Crawf had walked this route before and we found a very strong pad and followed it with ease along a series of short climbs and the odd drop. The climb was steepish in sections through light scrub and forest. On the way up, we were beginning to become aware of our time on the track and realised that maybe Mt Gould would be a stretch today. Crawf had done it before and Woolza wasn’t that keen. Beaui was really the only one who had some enthusiasm to do it. We really wanted to enjoy our last afternoon relaxing in the sunshine after a big week. At some point before the end of the climb, Beaui and I called it - lets have a relaxing afternoon. Just under 5 hrs after departing camp, we arrived at the summit of The Minotaur for a break. We enjoyed the expansive views and looked over towards our next target, The Guardians. It still looked a bit of distance away.
After a short time admiring the views, we turned west and started wandering over the plateau towards the Guardians. After around 15minutes we found a nice clearing and decided to stop for lunch. We were in no rush now, so pulled out our collapsible Helinox chairs and sat down to enjoy an extended lunch. After this we packed up and then headed down into a shallow valley before commencing the final ascent up to the main expanse of the Guardians. There was no real pad to speak of but we found the odd cairn here or there. It was a pleasant climb and all very casual. It only took around 25 minutes, followed by a lazy walk along towards a large tarn at the end of the plateau. I was slightly ahead and arrived at the tarn to find the perfect campsite. ‘This will do I thought to myself’. I sat down and just took it all in as the others gradually arrived. A perfect place for our last night. It had only been an hour since lunch and just over 7 hrs since departing our previous nights campsite. We were glad we had given Gould a miss, it could wait for another day. We spent the rest of the afternoon feeling very relaxed and taking some time for sunset photography and even a cheeky DuCane beer or three that we had stashed with our food drop. We were finishing the trip content. As the sun set, we were treated to a cloudless night under the stars. A perfect evening for our last night.
Sun 3rd April 2022, The Guardians
13.16km, 6hrs 20mins, 333m ascent
The final day. Through the night the wind had picked up and we awoke to overcast skies, with a bit of mist blowing over our campsite. The breeze was cool, so we were rugged up as we packed our gear away. Given it was our final day, and we had potentially 7-8 hours walking before catching the 3pm ferry, we were away early at 7.30am.
First stop was the main summit of The Guardians. We headed straight up here from camp, dumping our packs near the summit. Only a short walk, we were on the summit 20 minutes after departing camp. We had some great views despite the cloudy skies and had a good look at the route ahead down to Horizontal Hill below us. It was a surreal outlook as the hill itself was being bathed in ‘waves’ of cloud blowing over it.
After heading over to the edge of the plateau, we found an appropriate gully in the cliffs to get us down off the peak. Quite steep, it reminded me a little of some of the descents in the Eastern and Western Arthur ranges. I loved this type of walking! We descended quickly through pineapple grass and rock before reaching boulder fields at the base of the cliffs. These only lasted a short while before giving way to some thicker scrub which then continued through a saddle before arriving at the ridge up to Horizontal Hill.
1hr 45mins after departing camp, we found a spot to dump our packs and then bashed our way up through the scrubby ridge to the top of the peak. We arrived at the summit of Horizontal Hill 2hrs 15mins after departing camp. We were getting a little wet from some light rain so stopped for a brief moment before heading back down to the packs. To be honest, it was a little emotional. It had been a massive week, and I think that when Beaui and I had first started out on the journey, we weren’t 100% sure that we would complete as much of the mission as we had. There were plenty of easy exit options along the way. My blisters hadn’t bothered me since my spare boots arrived and I think that saved me. I now felt like I was back in some fine bushwalking form. I thought of all this as I headed back to the packs and then commenced our way down the ridge to Lake Marion. After a short amount of scrub, we found ourselves descending the remainder of the ridge in beautiful and open rainforest. Walking through the pandanis and myrtles, we really enjoyed the walk and arrived at the lake about 1 hour after leaving the summit of the hill.
To make things quicker, we decided to wade the lake in bare feet and took our boots off on the shore to make the 15 minute walk to the southern end. The water was cold but bearable and we enjoyed some views of The Guardians and Mt Gould along the way all the while in intermittent drizzle. As we approached the end of the lake, Crawf in front of me managed to trip and take a tumble into the water. ‘That’s a shame’ I commented to him, trying not to laugh but we couldn’t help ourselves. We all cracked up and had a laugh. We arrived at the shore and dried off, before popping boots back on and then starting the final leg to Narcissus. We had no idea how long this would take but powered on regardless. We now really put the foot down and powered out the rather pleasant track to arrive at the Jetty at Narcissus in about 2 hrs, just over 6hrs since departing camp. Relieved, we were about an hour early so stretched out on the jetty, made ourselves a cuppa and marvelled at the last 8 days. The Ida Clair arrived on schedule, and we jumped aboard for a quick trip back across the lake. I had a craving for a burger. However, as it was late on a Sunday, the Hungry Wombat was about to shut but we did manage to score some hot chips. This would suffice today. It was then back to Launceston and reality. On the way home we started hatching plans for the next epic. Stay tuned........