Updated: Mar 3, 2019
This was a tough one. Was meant to be summer, but winter came early....
Some of you may have read about Woolza and my South West Epic in 2004 (if not read about it here). On this mission, one major objective evaded us - The Western Arthurs. We had been meaning to get back into the Arthurs for a while and in 2011 we found an opportunity to do a full traverse of both the Eastern and Western Ranges. We planned it well out. All we needed was the weather to be kind.
DAY 1 - Huon Campground to Junction Creek
We had roped in Woolza's step dad, Stephen into driving us from Launceston to the Huon Campground at Scotts Peak Dam. I really don't think he knew how far it was! Anyway, he was kind enough to drive us and by about 2pm on day 1 we waved good bye and donned rain coats before heading south to Junction creek. We hiked in on the familiar track and it took longer than expected. We were a little out of condition. We arrived at Junction Creek, crossed and headed to a campsite about 20 minutes towards the Western Arthurs that we had seen previously. It took about 4.5hrs to this point. It had drizzled most of the way and the campsite wasn't as good as we remembered. We'd opt for Junction creek next time. An early night to bed listening to the rain.
DAY 2 - Junction Creek to Lake Cygnus
We departed camp early in anticipation of a big day heading up into the range. We were on the Arthur Plains straight away and boy was it windy. With the shell on, we plodded through the mud and were soon at the foot of the range looking at the track up. We were keen to get up there. As we climbed the first section we passed some others coming down. They had seen enough and wanted to get home. We didn't let this deter us and continued on, having a break for lunch about half up the climb. It was cold and the weather wasn't improving.
After lunch, we continued and the climb felt like it was taking forever. At some stage we finally crested a rise and it felt like we were getting close to the top. Shortly after, when the wind began to blow we knew we were near the top of Mt Hesperus. It was a struggle to stand up straight! We made our way slowly along and eventually found shelter in the small valley that led down to Lake Cygnus. The Lake was a welcome site and we arrived about 7 hours after departing camp that morning. It had been a tough day! As we settled in to make dinner we heard the rain start again only it sounded different. We opened the tent to find heavy hail falling and then snow. This was unsettling. We went to sleep that night with the same sounds haunting us. Hopefully things would improve...
DAY 3 - Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon
The morning brought no good news in regards to weather. There were consistent patches of snow laying about and the mist was thick. This didn't fill us with optimism but we were here so we would battle on. We packed our gear and headed off as soon as we were ready with full gear on - thermals, fleeces and full shells as well as gloves and beanies. The walking was ok and the track well maintained. We made good progress to the sidle around Mt Hayes and then descended off it and towards Procyon Peak. The wind and rain continued and at the moment, all we wanted to do was get to Lake Oberon. We moved up the next climb and then over to Square lake. This was a nice area and in good weather it would have been fantastic to really take our time.
We had a quick snack and a small lunch but the next hill beckoned and we headed up hoping to get the classic view over Lake Oberon. Probably due to the strong wind and trying to stay standing up in it, we were already tiring and the hill up to the Oberon lookout seemed to take forever. However, when we arrived, we were rewarded with a view. This was nice, especially with the summer snow lying around. We took a few customary photos and made the descent down to the lake. It was pretty steep but not too bad and there was even some substantial boardwalk as we neared the turn off to the campsite. We arrived and setup on a tent platform. It was feeling a little warmer and that evening the skies even cleared a bit for some great views of Mt Pegasus which we intended to pass over the next day.
DAY 4 - Lake Oberon to High Moor
We were looking forward to the climb up Mt Pegasus today. Alas, we woke to more rain and mist. But we had to move on, so we packed up and got going relatively eary. The first objective was Mt Pegasus. We quickly made our way towards the peak and were on its flanks in no time. The climb was a little steep but nothing we couldn't handle. Near the top of the peak we arrived at the infamous 'tunnel section' and took packs off to pass them through the small cavity in some fallen rocks. Once we were through this we followed a well formed track through the range and slightly down a bit before sidling around Lake Uranus and then up and over Mt Capricorn.
The descent off Capricorn was pretty much vertical with us having to climb downwards with via steps worn into the scrubby lower flanks of the peak. This was the first real 'interesting' part of the range. The constant rain made it all that little bit more tricky! At the bottom of the descent we arrived at a small cave in a cliff which looked like a perfect spot for lunch. Given the rain, the shelter was welcome and we were able to take wet gear off and warm up a bit while we ate a hearty lunch. Ghee on wraps was the order of the day! While we were here three Swedish hikers we had met earlier arrived and we had a good chat with them.
With lunch in our bellies, we moved on and it was only another hour or so before we arrived at High Moor a bit after 3pm. We were happy to be here. We setup in the rain and then got in under the fly before organising ourselves and drying off. Our Swedish friends arrived not too long after. It wasn't too windy but the drizzle continued all afternoon while we slumbered and read books. Woolza brought out the playing cards for a bit but a full game of cards was a battle. Hopefully the weather would clear as we didn't want to be doing the Beggary Bumps in these conditions tomorrow!
DAY 5 - High Moor to Haven Lake
If there was one day we wanted good weather, it was today. BUT, it was not to be. We awoke to the same drizzle from the day before and one look out the tent door and we thought 'we're not going anywhere'. We had a sleep in and then woke to chat with the Swedish crew. They were on a time commitment so were leaving. At about 9am we waved good bye. At this point we started thinking. It was calm, just a bit wet. We made a decision - to move on. We packed up and by 10am were leaving High Moor bound for the Beggary Bumps, a complex passage of gullies and cliffs. We would take our time.
We followed the track and almost immediately were on high and exposed sections of dirt pad on cliff edge. A little unsettling. But we made good progress, soon arriving at The Tilted Chasm and then close to the old section of track known as Lovers Leap. Just after this we arrived in a saddle which looked like a good spot for lunch. The weather had even cleared a little and we could see Lake Ganymede to our south and Lake Mimas to the north. We had a big meal before continuing along 'the bumps' enjoying the less rainy conditions. Paradise! The walk from here gradually made it's way up towards Mt Taurus. It took us longer than expected. We arrived at the top of Mt Taurus where we could see our destination, Haven Lake in the distance. It didn't look too far or too bad.
With the Lake now in sight we put the foot down and tried to move a bit quicker. But the track would have one last laugh. When we were least expecting it, we had some very steep drops which required very careful negotiation. These again slowed us down and it was about 5.30pm by the time we finally arrived at camp. We were buggered. It had been a pretty big day and I never could have thought it would take so long to travel a bit over 2km! What a crazy day!
DAY 6 - Haven Lake to Promontory Lake
Well, after it been horrid weather every day of the hike thus far (yesterday a slight exception), we were treated no better on day 6. We awoke to the sound of rain yet again and resigned to the fact we needed to move on to Promontory Lake and the final section of the range. We were pretty spent. A combination of lack of hiking the last year or two as well as the weather had really tested us and today we were feeling it.
We left camp around 9am and headed off towards Mt Scorpio. The mist was as thick as we'd had it and the rain continued. The track was good though. Nice hardened stuff that was relatively easy walking. Anything would be easier than the previous day. By the time we reached Mt Scorpio we stopped for about 20 seconds at the summit before continuing down towards the turn off at the top of Kappa Moraine. At this point we were pretty wrecked but knew it wasn't too much further. It took about another real struggle of an hour through some muddy terrain to reach the south eastern corner of Promontory Lake and find a camp. It wasn't a bad spot albeit muddy. It had taken us about 5 hours to reach here - a lot longer than we were hoping. My knees were really starting to hurt which was an issue I hadn't had before. We setup, got in the sleeping bags, munched on food all afternoon and had a long sleep. It was such a miserable rainy day that not a single photo was taken. We decided tomorrow would be a rest day.
DAY 7 - Rest Day at Promontory Lake
We were a week in and finally the sun decided to shine. We spent the day drying out gear and just relaxing in general. We managed to go for a bit of a stroll around the area and got some views over the Arthur Plains and north to Pedder and Mt Anne. We could also see to the south and got some great photos. Woolza surprised me with a treat of some Falafels for lunch. He had to make them from scratch but they were delicious. After a great and relaxing day we went to bed that evening well rested and ready for a big next day.
DAY 8 - Promontory Lake to Pass Creek
Well, after a fantastic rest day it was time to move on. We had a big day ahead and planned to make it to at least Lake Roseanne today but maybe further. We awoke early in the dark and were away at sunrise. The weather wasn't the best and we started off in overcast conditions with patchy drizzle. It didn't take us long to climb up past the sculptor and then The Phoenix where we saw some incredible rock formations. Around this time the weather started deteriorating (again) and by the time we were nearing Centaurus Ridge we had full shells on with fleeces underneath. It was unpleasant but we found a spot along Centaurus ridge (near knoll 976m on the 1:25,000 map) to have lunch that provided some shelter. At this point we were already feeling the pinch but weren't too bad - we'd definately get to Lake Roseanne.
After a brief lunch we moved on and covered the section to the base of the Crags of Andromeda in reasonable time. By the time we arrived at the turn off to the West Portal, the weather was atrocious with wind and rain constant. We decided against the short side trip out to the Portal and continued on. (EDIT: Oh how we regret that now! An Abel we could so easily have had! We will return!)
We now moved along the open rocky walking of the Crags of Andromeda. The weather improved a little but we still needed to keep the raincoats on. It wasn't too long before we headed off the Crags and then followed the cliff faces through tracked scrubby stuff. This went on for about an hour before we arrived on the ridge above Lake Roseanne. I was now back in familiar territory and the rest of the walk from here, I had done at one stage or another. We arrived at the Lake Roseanne turnoff and had a chat. The plan was to follow Lucifer Ridge down to Pass Creek the next morning. This is a largely trackless ridge used to link the Eastern and Western Arthur Ranges. I had walked up the ridge to this point some 10 years prior and my memories told me it was fairly open and would be an easy descent. Based on this, we decided to continue down the ridge tonight to get to Pass Creek. This would give us an easier day tomorrow. So, off down the ridge we went.
About half an hour down, we thought this was a bad move. It was scrubby, difficult to navigate and it was now 4.30pm. It felt like slow going. But we had chosen to do this so on we went. At about this time a Par Avion plane flew past and I waved to my parents (I happened to know they were doing a daytrip to Melaleuca today and had told them to keep an eye out for me). I don't think they saw us though.
We continued, exhausted and finally arrived at the familiar campsite at Pass Creek at 7pm. We were spent and it had been one of the biggest days walking either of us could recall. We hastily set up camp, while getting dinner on the boil at the same time. In no time we were in our sleeping bags drying out and eating our food. Woolza was asleep while it was still light and I wasn't far behind. I set the alarm for 7.30am.
DAY 9 - Pass Creek to Stuart Saddle
The alarm went off as planned at 7.30am. We didn't hear it - well I might have hit snooze. We deserved a sleep in. Now that I was in very familiar territory, I knew we didn't have to get further than Stuart Saddle today so decided we could sleep longer. We eventually got up about 9.30am and departed camp by 11am. We headed off up Luckmans Lead into the Eastern Arthurs at a casual pace with the comfort in our minds of having completed The Full traverse of the Western Arthurs.
I like Luckmans Lead, it's nice walking and you get some great views. We made our way up and after about 3 or 4 hours of walking arrived at the tent platforms at Stuart Saddle. This would do for today. We had camp setup quickly and decided upon another snooze. Later in the afternoon we awoke, now well rested for some fine views of Federation Peak and the rest of the range. We were happy and cracked out a bag of lollies to celebrate. We enjoyed an evening of minimal rain and intermittent views. It was good to be back in the Eastern Arthurs.
DAY 10 - Stuart Saddle to Hanging Lake
We were looking forward to todays walk as it would put us in one of our favourite campsites of all time - Hanging Lake. But, we had to get there first. Our memories of this section after our last trip through here on South West Epic were of a really long day. So, we set off at about 8.30am hoping to arrive at camp in a reasonable time. We were at Goon Moor by 10am. We had a brief stop here for a snack before moving on past the Gables and then on to the Four Peaks Section which is the part we thought would slow us down. To our surprise, we made good time through here and were at Thwaites Plateau in no time. We spent some time walking up here and checking out the Devils Thumb before arriving at the intersection with the Southern Traverse at 2.30pm. We looked in its direction knowingly before heading in the opposite direction down to Hanging Lake. A bit after 3pm, we were set up and ensconced in our tent. The weather remained overcast but it rained little. This had been a good day both walking and weather wise. We were happy. We just hoped it would stay this way for the next couple of days for us...
DAY 11 - Hanging Lake
We had slept well during the night but had been woken on several occasions by the rain. Or so we thought. When I awoke to the sunlight in the morning, I noticed shadows on the roof of the tent. One tap on the roof and my suspicions were confirmed - Snow. My heart sank. I opened the door to see a white landscape outside. It had snowed a lot during the night with 2 or 3cm settling. I rolled my eyes and got back into bed. Woolza was unimpressed also. We had hoped to maybe walk to Bechervaise Plateau today via the Southern Traverse but this put that idea to rest. The other option of course, was to head there via the Forest Chute but we were completely unfamiliar with this route so decided to stay put for the day and see what happened. Regardless, we would be heading out tomorrow.
We spent the day reading our novels, playing cards and watching the snow melt a little. The weather even cleared at one stage so we got outside for a brief while to take some photos.
DAY 12 - Hanging Lake to Track near Mt Bobs
Well, today was the day. We had decide to get within striking distance of finishing tomorrow - a day earlier exit than anticipated. We were sick of the weather and we awoke to worse weather than the day before. The mist was thick and it was snowing and raining again. We woke in the dark at about 6am, got the stove cooking and after a warm brekkie we were on the track by 7.30am. We entered the notorious Southern Traverse uncomfortably but knowing what we were in for. Not far in while crossing a relatively easy bit, I managed to slide down a rock, cutting my fingers. Unpleasant. I kept it together though and we moved on. No point putting bandaids on, they'd just come off in these conditions.
We made good progress and it wasn't long before we arrived at the turn off to the direct ascent to Federation Peak. Here, we got the only photo of the entire day. We looked up waving good bye to the peak and moved on. It was time to get out of here. The southern traverse is old ground for us and we moved through it to the final section of Geeves Gully. When we arrived at the section where you head up the gully we were surprised to see it had become a waterfall. Fun. To give some persepective, this whole section of walking is some 500m above Lake Geeves and knowing this can make you nervous. With that in mind we got up the gully carefully but quickly and were elated to arrive on Bechervaise Plateau about 1.5hrs after leaving camp.
On the Plateau, we had some phone reception, so in the pouring rain, I called our pickup driver and told him to meet us in 24 hours at Farmhouse Creek. 'Actually, make it 1pm tomorrow to be on the safe side'I recall telling him. 'No worries' was the reply.
From here, we moved on. the wind was howling and we just wanted to get off the range as quickly as possible. We headed off down Moss Ridge from the Plateau, stopping for a quick lunch in the familiar cave near the top of the knoll on the ridge. It was then down from here through the gymnastics course of Moss Ridge. We arrived at Cutting Camp where we had camped previously and the creeks were overflowing. Normally it would take us an hour from here to Crest Camp but today we had knee deep water to negotiate. We arrived at the creek that led to Crest camp about 2 hours later. This creek, which is normally a leaping step to get over, was a raging torrent. It took us almost another hour to find somewhere to cross up stream, it was then another half an hour back down to the track! This was a complete nightmare! We knew what water courses lay ahead and if these small creeks were this big, then who knew what was going on not far from here. We decided we needed to get out of the Cracroft valley and camp in the forest below Mt Bobs if we were a chance of getting out tomorrow. We battle on.
From Crest Camp, we continued on and another 1.5hrs later arrived at the South Cracroft campsite - which was waist deep underwater! We spent some time wading the water to the campsite before arriving at the river crossing. The log crossing the river had about 1cm of it left above the water surface so we got over the river and continued through the valley before eventually starting to ascend up in to the forest of the Mt Bobs saddle. It was now 7.30pm and it was starting to darken. After half an hour of gentle climbing we had had enough. We were wrecked, so we ended up just setting up the tent there in the middle of the track/pad. We could barely fit but it would do. We had the tent setup quickly and were inside asleep after a quick dinner in no time. Everything felt damp and Woolza was battling his own personal demons after the days walk. Easily the hardest days walking we have done. We went to sleep in the comfort this time tomorrow we would be in beds...
DAY 13 - Homecoming
With the prospect of home on our minds, we woke in the morning excited to leave. By 8.30am we were walking and on our way OUT! Within an hour we were back alongside the familiar Farmhouse Creek and cruising. We were finished by 12.30pm. Arriving in sunshine, our driver was waiting for us but told us he was about to leave! I had told him 1pm, but he had thought I'd said 11am?! Lucky. Just the luck we needed today as we were absolutely over the moon to be finished. We had completed what we set out to do and in some of the hardest conditions imaginable. I felt a little proud. We swore for the first hour in the car that it would be the last time we did the Eastern Arthurs but by the time we arrived back in Launceston some 4.5hrs later, I was already thinking about 'next time'.
I love this shit!
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