November 1999 – This was my first attempt at Federation Peak. As a broke but adventure keen Uni student living in Hobart, I had heard about this ‘cool mountain’ in South West Tasmania called ‘Federation Peak’. Apparently to access it the easiest way was to start at Farmhouse Creek. Someone told me it was near Geeveston. So, I found Geeveston, then the creek on a map and talked two unsuspecting mates (Ivo and Beggsy) into tagging along. After a late departure from Hobart (around 1pm), we drove (in a crammed Mitsubishi Cordia) thru the maze of forestry roads (years before the nice road to Tahune airwalk), eventually finding the rickety bridge crossing Farmhouse creek. We drove over the bridge, parked and proceeded on one of our most testing walks.
These were the days of minimal track work, no tent platforms and some truly epic storms. We followed the rough track up along side Farmhouse creek in the late afternoon. There was no real plan, just get as far as we can on day 1 (we had 3 nights allotted for the trip). After crossing the creek we headed up to the first saddle through thick cutting grass, then forest. The track was fairly obvious and once we hit the top of the hill we followed tape along the track. It wasn’t long before we were descending but after about half an hour the track was getting rougher and rougher and the tapes less frequent. This did not feel right. With it now getting dark we decided to stop and setup camp in the very crammed space that we had. We setup and tried to find some water but to no avail. Ivo went to sleep dreaming of water.
We awoke with a plan to retrace our steps and try to find the correct route. We had figured out that we had in fact been following an old route and, in the dark of the forest, had turned off the new track. It only took us half an hour or so to return back up the hill, finding water on the way, and before we knew it we were back on the new route. We followed this through the forest and down the other side to the valley of buttongrass and intermittent clumps of trees. As we entered the valley we got our first view of the peak. We really started to power along crossing the Cracroft River, then turning into the Cracroft river valley. As we walked along the valley we got photos with the objective behind us and late in the afternoon, we arrived at Crest Camp – a beautiful little campsite that would be perfect. The plan for tomorrow would be to see if we could climb the peak.
We thought we’d have a crack at the peak in a day walk from our basecamp at the foot of the Crest Range. From the start, the weather was awful. We proceeded through the cracroft valley, passing paperbark camp, then cutting camp. From here we entered obstacle course known as Moss Ridge. It lived up to it’s reputation but with day packs on, we flew up pretty quickly, stopping for a bit of lunch at a rocky overhang. We made it to the top of Bechervaise Plateau at the base of the main peak. In 1999, there was no obvious route to the top of the plateau. The weather now saw rain and wind driving through. Early in the afternoon we arrived at the very top of the plateau and at the base of the main cliff of the summit tower. In the weather and with no track notes (Chapman’s book was something I dreamed of owning but couldn’t afford), we really couldn’t tell where we were supposed to go. We arrived at the top of a steep and long looking gully (Geeves Gully). I said to the others ‘this can’t possibly be the way’ so we chose to retreat. The weather wasn’t favourable anyway and we had now reached our cutoff time to turn back. (Note: a couple of short years later, on a future mission, I would discover that this was in fact the correct route).
We turned back and started the slow trudge in the rain back to our base camp. The walk from Cutting Camp, at the base of Moss Ridge felt like it took forever and the camp was a welcome site when we arrived that evening absolutely exhausted.
The final day saw us walk all the way out to the car from Crest camp. A pretty big day really now that I look back on it. We arrived at the car mid afternoon and headed back to Hobart. As we dropped off Ivo at his house in Sandy Bay his neighbour (Jon Nermut of Thesarvo fame) popped his head out the window;
JON: How’d you go? Did you get to the top?
ME: No, we got to the top of a plateau but the only way we could see was to go down some crazy gully so we turned back.
JON: Yeah, that’s the way! That’s the route!
ME: Holy shit!
We may have been young and full of ambition and exuberance – it was a hard trip but at the same time, a great learning experience for me. We would go on over the years to make many more trips to Federation. Whenever I’m there, I reminisce of this first foray into Federation Peak.