The Wilmot and Frankland Ranges
My third son, Sandy was born in 2013. Sandy was given the middle name ‘Frankland’, after the range on the west coast of Lake Pedder. We were trying to give each of our children some connection to the Tasmanian landscape through their names and Sandy had scored this one. It also meant that it was very necessary for me to visit said landmark in honour of our new addition! Ulterior motives! So, ‘Into the Franklands’ was born with Sandy and a plan was made to visit the range in February 2014.
I had rustled up three other mates for the mission; Ferg, Woolza and Gordo. The plan was as follows; Drive to Strathgordon and take Gordo’s boat with us. We would leave the boat at Strathgordon then start the walk at Serpentine dam and head along the Wilmot then Frankland ranges before descending off range to finish on the lakes edge below Frankland Peak. At this point our friends, Mike and Mark would drive down and meet us on the lake with Gordo’s boat before ferrying us back to Strathgordon. This would avoid a fairly monotonous couple of days walk around the lake edge to Scotts Peak and get us home to families a bit earlier. The perfect plan. As it turned out, Woolza had to abort the mission a few weeks out leaving just myself, Ferg and Gordo heading ...
Into the Franklands..
The date was set and on the 21st February 2014 we were on the road to Strathgordon. Gordo and I were towing the boat from Launceston, and met Ferg half way at Bridgewater. We then had the windy drive to Strathgordon where we arrived around 3pm. A long but nice drive into the heart of Tassie's wilderness - my favourite part of the state - The South West!
We found our accommodation at the Strathgordon Chalet (old hydro workers quarters, now a nice little hotel) and then went to visit the dam. Lake Gordon looked dismal. Sure the dam itself is fairly spectacular but looking at the scarred landscape of Lake Gordon and knowing the stories and lengths that the likes of Olegas Truchanas went to trying to save this area did sadden me. Found myself wondering 'what if?'
That evening we dined in the Strathgordon chalet, and arranged to leave the boat at the chalet as well as organising a lift to the trailhead with our host. We then did a final pack and got an early night.
Next morning we awoke to a fairly drizzly day. We had a quick breakfast and then our host drove us down a lonely road to drop us off at the Lake Pedder Serpentine Dam. We had left our boat in his carpark and explained to him that we would have some friends coming to get the boat in 10 days time. We also explained that they would then head out on the lake for 2 days, 1 night before returning with us. The perfect plan... It was 8am. After donning rain coats, we made our way across the dam wall and started our journey and climb up the first peak of the walk - Mt Sprent. After a brief bit of forest, we were climbing in open buttongrass and were on the summit in a bit under 3 hours - quicker than we were expecting. It was windy and misty on top so we didn’t stay there long. Visibility was zero so we headed off the summit in the direction we were to head along the rest of the Wilmot range.
We continued along the ridge following a nice open button grass lead through big chunks of quartzite rock that looked like someone had scattered them across the landscape. After a while the mist finally lifted and we were shown our route ahead and the expanse of the Pedder impoundment to our east. It was around here we found an amazing rock perched atop another in a crazy balancing act. It was incredible and none of us could think how such a large boulder could possibly have become perched on top of another. If you put weight on it you could 'rock' the rock. Crazy. Ferg was even able to balance atop of it! Shortly after this we stopped for lunch and to survey our route. As we sat nibbling on our salad rolls we realised that in the mist we had started down the wrong ridge and were headed to a dead end! A variation in direction of just a few degrees had led us from a central point (Mt Sprent, down the wrong ridge). We looked slightly to our west and to the obvious lead along the Wilmot range that we should have been following. Shit! We had been on the wrong lead since Mt Sprent so this would cost us a couple of precious hours. We decided to quickly pack up and be on our way taking a shortcut back across a scrubby gully to join up with the Wilmot Range proper.
After about an hour and some pretty thick scrub we were back on track following the odd pad towards a series of knolls that lead to Koruna Peak, the base of which (Islet Lake) was our planned destination for the night. As we arrived at each knoll we would have a decision to make - left or right? With lots of pads we would often take the more obvious one around the knoll only to be ambushed by very thick scrub. It was very hard to tell on approach which side of the knoll would be better but when I head back to this walk again, I think I would tend to stick to the right hand side of each knoll. This took up a lot of the afternoon with nice open leads in between the knolls but as the sun dipped towards the horizon we thought it best to admit defeat for the day and find a spot to camp. We managed to find a spot nestled amongst the button grass where we got some great views out to the west. Koruna Peak taunted us just ahead....
We awoke the next morning to a cool breeze, and mist that was gradually clearing. We quickly packed up, had brekky and headed back on our way along the range. After about an hour or so we were arriving at the base of Koruna Peak. From here, we found a pad which skirted around the eastern base of the peak down through scrub and into a small buttongrass field. We then crossed this and up to Islet Lake where we stopped for lunch. The sun was now beating down on us as it warmed up. We relaxed at Islet Lake for about an hour before following a pad south up a valley. The walking was nice and we followed this pad up, then down a forested valley on the other side to a nice grassy plain. Before we reached the plain we had to go through a bit of jungle and even do a bit of pack passing through a tight rocky section. Today we were just going to keep walking til we found somewhere nice so we then crossed this plain, then made our way up a scrubby hill which we then sidled on the eastern side. Before long we came around to find another nice open patch below is. We quickly sauntered down to this - It was lovely, with a nice little creek streaming through. We crossed the open grassy area, crossed the creek and then walked a bit further to find a nice area to setup a tent with a grand stand view of the Lake and surrounding area. We couldn't see it but somewhere down below, slightly to the south east was Lake Wilmot. It was 4pm. As the wind got up, we set up camp and had dinner overlooking Starfish Inlet. A beautiful but breezy evening.
We awoke on day 4 to the sound of rain on the tent. It had been breezy all night but then the rain started early. A quick inspection outside also revealed very thick fog... Interesting times. We put the cooker on and over brekkie decided to push on through the next section. The hope was that we would finish today at Coronation Peak and camp there. It was going to be difficult though. With the thick fog and no real pad to follow anymore we'd have to rely purely on our navigation skills. We had a good look at the maps and chose our route through the series of three hills that lay ahead of us and would lead us into Tribulation ridge which leads from the Wilmot Range and into the Franklands.
It was a quick pack up and we were on our way heading up the hill that stood above our camp. The visibility was about 50m and we stumbled on up through the wet, scrubby vegetation to the top of the first hill. From here a brief consult of the map and along to the first hill. We saw faint pads here and there but nothing definite. We continued along and as we walked we could see through the mist the 3 faint hills as we passed them. This felt like the right way. After passing the 3rd hill we descended slightly just as the mist cleared a bit and before us Tribulation ridge revealed itself. Awesome! It wasn't long and we were climbing this ridge leaving the Wilmot Range behind. The ridge itself reminded me a bit of Lightning Ridge near Mt. Lot. Shortly into our ridge traverse we stopped for a quick bit of lunch.
The mist kept coming and going. With lunch done we continued along with some fairly exposed sections but nothing out of the ordinary. We rounded a bend to be presented with 'The Dragon' a very prominent rock feature. Ferg and myself had some photos of us straddling it and we proceeded further along the ridge. Shortly after the Dragon, the mist really started to dissipate revealing our surroundings further. At some stage Coronation Peak revealed itself to us. Wooo Hooo! Exciting times ahead. By the time we reached the hill overlooking Coronation peak the skies had cleared completely, the sun was belting down and it was looking good for an afternoon ascent! Gordo had decided that he wanted the arvo to chill out as his knee was a little sore, so we decided we would tempt the weather and park our tent on the hill directly overlooking coronation. We quickly set up and Ferg and I trotted off down to the saddle connecting the main range to the peak. Within 10 minutes we were at the saddle campsite where we then followed a faint route up the northern then north eastern side of Coronation. 45 minutes after leaving our campsite, Ferg and I were on top of Coronation Peak. The weather was magnificent and we couldn't believe that only a few hours earlier we were navigating through mist and rain. What a day. I hadn't had a feeling like this after summiting a peak since the first time I had finally reached Federation Peak back in 2001(read the trip report here). Hard to describe but an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. This was one of the more remote and, I think, iconic Tassie peaks to climb (Diamond Peak taunted me in the distance though). We had fantastic views in every direction. Gordo could very clearly see us from camp and got some good shots of us on the summit. We hung around on the summit for a bit before heading back to camp. The return journey was a bit shorter, taking about half an hour.
We arrived back at the hill overlooking Coronation, to start cooking dinner (we had to obtain water from a small trickle of water nearby) and watching one of the most magnificent sunsets I can ever recall in all of my years hiking. We had 360 degree views from just above our campsite and to the SSW could see a valley expanding out from us that led all the way to Payne bay near Port Davey and the Breaksea Islands. Great views of The Prince of Wales Range, Denison Range, Frenchmans, Anne, Western Arthurs, Federation and much much more. There were also some great views of Double Peak which we would cross over the next day. After a bit of amateur night sky photography it was bed time. Tomorrow would be Double Peak day.
It had been a much nicer, calm night and we were all awake early to see an absolutely magnificent sunrise. From our tent door we could see the day breaking over Mt Anne. After a bit of morning photography, we munched on brekkie and were on our way early along the awesome looking spine of the range with Double Peak smack, bang ahead of us. This was my favourite kind of walking. Airy, open ridges, with views all around! We sidled a couple of smaller looking peaks before rising up to the open meadow plateau below the summits of Double Peak. It was a beautiful, but cool day. There was a lot of low lying cloud in the valleys. We walked around the open meadow area before following a pad heading up Double Peak. It wasn't long before we were on the main summit. Again, really good views but the breeze was chilly so we didn't hang around long. We continued on the pad down the other side of the peak and began following Madonna Ridge towards Redtop Peak. Somewhere along the ridge we found a nice spot for lunch. It was around this point that Gordo's knee really started playing up. We had departed our lunch stop and he started getting some really bad pain and was struggling to weight bear. We weren't at Redtop Peak yet, and the mist was starting to roll in so we made the decision to lighten Gordo's load. We started ferrying his pack so he could walk without it. We also made the decision to head for Cupola today and not the Citadel Shelf which had been our original plan. The rest of the afternoon was fairly arduous with Ferg putting in some superhuman efforts carting Gordo's pack most of the way. At about 3pm we arrived at the open expanse of the Cupola and set up camp in the nice open valley there. We'd reassess in the morning and go from there. While we were setting up the mist became thicker and the rain started. It was a windy night.
It rained most of the previous night and we awoke in the morning to wind and scattered showers. Gordo's knee was no better so we decided to stay at Cupola today and Ferg and I would do some reconnaissance to find an exit off the range down to the Lake below. We would have to return another time to complete the traverse. Not that this was a bad thing. I had loved this walk so far so would look for any excuse to return. We had a lazy morning and when the time was right and the weather cleared a bit, Ferg and I headed up to the summit of the Cupola. From here we got some good photos and views to the ridges and hills below leading down to the lake. There would be a steepish drop off the peak to begin with but after that it looked okay, albeit for a bit of scrub bashing. We also identified a small bay which we would descend to which should hopefully make boat collection easier. So, the plan was set to retreat off the range the following day. We would lighten Gordo's load so he only had to carry minimal stuff and we also constructed some walking poles out of our tarp poles that we were carrying. The rest of the day was spent reading and relaxing as rain showers came and went. Late in the afternoon the wind really got up and through the night it was so strong it would just about flatten the tent. It was so windy, we even had our packs mostly ready to move incase the worst happened and the tent blew away! Getting off the range now seemed very sens
It had been a rough night with some really crazy winds belting over us. It was so windy it had badly bent the pole of my MSR mutha hubba. It was time to get out of here. We packed up and set Gordo up with his poles before trudging across the meadow of the Cupola in drizzle. We followed the level of the meadow and then started to sidle around the base of the main peak. Once we were in view of our chosen descent line we headed down towards a saddle of scrub. We travelled pretty well down here and after a fairly steep descent through okay kind of scrub we arrived at the middle of the saddle where we had a quick rest. Here we found some old school soup cans rusted out (maybe from Keith Lancaster days?). We continued along to the next ridge above us through much thicker scrub and were relieved when arrived at the other side of the saddle to some more open walking. From here we zig zagged our way along some ridges before making the final descent down to the lake. After about 2.5 - 3hours we arrived at a little bay (the one we had identified earlier) and set up camp. The weather was clear here but the cloud and wind still hung on the range above.
Once set up we pulled out the sat phone and made a call to our pick up team and explained to them the situation and the new pick up point. We'd now have to wait nearly 2 days for them to arrive.
So, Day 8 was spent relaxing by Lake Pedder, reading in the sunshine and testing the flotation of our sleeping mats! We also explored around the small bay we were residing in as well as discussing plans to return to this point in the future to finish our traverse.
We awoke on day 9 after a sleep in. We knew that our support crew had to drive to Strathgordon from Maydena, get the boat then drive down to get us. We'd have to wait a while. We packed up, explored a bit and waited. Finally, around midday we heard the boat and it was with much excitement that we saw it pull into the bay and up to our campsite. Mark and Mike - you legends! It wasn't long before we were all on board. It was then out into the lake and onwards to a lake side campsite we had identified from the range a few days earlier. We found the site and pulled into the beach where we set up camp. Out with the gas bbq and we were well on the way to our final night lakeside feast with our support crew. What a great way to finish the trip! The weather remained overcast but reasonable. An enjoyable final evening.
Today just involved a final pack up and driving the boat half an hour back to Strathgordon. We arrived back there and then had the long 4 hour drive back to Launceston with a stop in Huonville on the way. Before we left Strathgordon, we thought it only right to go and tell the owner of the lodge that we appreciated him letting us leave the boat in his carpark. We went in thanked him and had a laugh. Especially when he jokingly told us he'd wondered where we were and that he'd called 'the search party' for us. Didn't seem very funny but anyway. We headed off and the moment I hit phone reception my mobile rang. It was my wife. I answered, the conversation went something like this;
ME: 'hi, we're out and about 4 hours away!'
WIFE: 'Are you ok?'
ME: yes, why?
WIFE: Because I had the police knocking on our door last night asking where you were and if you were ok and that you had been reported as missing!
I should explain at this point that I always leave a meticulous itinerary (even for a day walk), with all of our loved ones. We also sat phone message/inReach message every day letting family know we are ok. The conversation continues....
ME: WHAT! Why?? We weren't due out til today and the walking register at the start and at the boat ramp reflect this?!?!?
WIFE: I know but they say some guy at Strathgordon said you are missing and lost!I told them you weren't due out til today and that i had just had a message from you so the report made now sense. They left it at that.
ME: Ah, that kind of makes sense now but what the hell?!? Seriously??? See you soon.
So it turned out that old mate at Strathgordon hadn't been joking and had reported us as missing to the police, despite the fact we had detailed him with all our intentions. Luckily my wife had the common sense to point out all the facts. Anyway, all's well that ends well and it now makes a good story.
Til next time!