Great Pine Tier: 3-6 April 2018


We’re going on a bushwalk!! It’s going to be a good one… after a few days of lamenting what looked like horribly wet weather across the north, west and south of the state, and reluctantly settling on a brief car camping trip to the north east, the mood took a turn for the better. The latest forecast had us excitedly considering a few days wandering around the Walls of Jerusalem region, with only a tiny bit of hesitancy (we never trust the weather man entirely!).

And so we muddled our way through packing – it had been a long time and was no longer something I could with my eyes closed. But we got there (and didn’t forget anything too crucial), and were good to go only an hour late on Tuesday morning.

We’d chosen to head in via the Lake Augusta/Ada route, for something different. It made for a shorter drive, but we still managed to spot three wedgies (turns out this was only a taster for what we would see)! Pulling up at the cleared dirt carpark we couldn’t believe the blue skies around, and set off happily, but tentatively – each nursing pre-existing sporting injuries.

The track is a very decent 4WD road for some time, and the walking less exciting as a result. There are, however, plenty of lakes and the odd hut to check out. And the wildlife was something else indeed. Two platypus, a giant wild spider, a dragon (the lizard kind) and a funny fat insect with super skinny legs made up the ‘before lunch’ count for us.  A cormorant who’s flown inland came shortly after. This was, of course, on top of the usual grasshoppers, skinks, ducks and green rosellas. The funny insect thing turned out to be a mountain katydid, I was informed by a friend, which have a cool little trick where they camouflage in nicely, unless a predator gets too close, whereby they lift their wings up to reveal super bright apparently scary colours on their bums!

By this stage we were on the foot track, walking through landscape that is so typical of the region. While not arduous – incredibly flat and no scrub to contend with – both of us were weary by the time we arrived at Lake Fanny, and paused for a snack while we contemplated our plan of attack up what looked like a rather green Great Pine Tier.

We took our time crossing the outlet from Fanny to keep our feet as dry as possible, then wound our way between the scrub around the southern end of the lake. So far so good. With some excellent decisions and the odd guess we continued in the same fashion up a green but not scrubby chute onto the spine of the tier, where the going continued to be just as easy, winding through eucalypts, over rock and low heath.

The true summit was a tad evasive (not clearly marked on the map), so we did a bit of a tour of some of the higher points to ensure we actually had claimed our first peakbaggers point for 2018! Though it was 5-5:30 hrs after having set out, we were knackered and decided to set up camp near the largest lake on the plateau. Though the views west to the Overland Track mountains were a tad obscured, and the site wasn’t beautiful, it was a pretty place to be nonetheless. We watched an orange moon rise in the cloud free sky, then fell asleep without a problem at all!

Near Ada lagoon – lots of fishermen huts to explore here

Ada Lagoon – we saw 2 platypus here!

Typical walking in this area

Reflections in a tarn on Great Pine Tier

Think we’ll camp near here, on Great Pine Tier

From the summit of Great Pine Tier, looking towards Mersey and Turrana in the distance

Graham claims his first peak and point for 2018

The colour was pretty as the sun set

Very different colour on the trees the next morning

We awoke to another lovely day, explored the campsite a little before cooking breakfast, doing some physio, and packing to leave. We continued to wander our way along the tier’s ridge, then dropped down and headed to intersect the track coming off Jerusalem, ultimately headed towards Dixon’s Kingdom. Graham had yet to climb King David’s Peak, so that was our next stop.

It was a beautiful sunny day, almost felt like summer, and it was a bit of an effort climbing up the last hill to the track. There, we dumped our packs in the scrub, took water and snacks, and bounded down the track, feeling very much lighter without packs. There were heaps of people out and about, and Dixon’s Kingdom was full of Wilderness Equipment tents (I was pleased to see!). We greeted everyone we passed, and they all seemed pretty happy!

It didn’t take long till we were turning left off the track up to Solomon’s Throne, and after a very short sharp ascent, were on top, looking over to King David’s, which had a tiny figure standing on top. That was our true destination so we kept on moving, tracing our way along the edge, attempting to stay on one of the multiple branching pads.

It’s a decent way between the two peaks, but the figure that we’d spotted from Solomon’s Throne was still on the summit, lying on the rocks out of the wind, enjoying the sun and listening to something through headphones. We ducked out of the wind as well and had a snack, before deciding we should return and take our packs over the far side of Jerusalem. And so we did, enjoying the easy walking and being grateful we didn’t have to camp with everyone else. As we walked we passed numerous middle aged people, most with Wilderness Equipment packs and gaiters. Just as I was telling Graham I thought they must be a group, who should come along but Zane, otherwise known as Abel Zane, or one of the three we had had an impromptu meeting with at Lake Curley when we were doing the Spires! It was great to see him happy and out on the track again.

We eventually made it back to our packs, feeling pretty tired by this stage. We were due for a late lunch, however, which temporarily boosted the energy levels. It was still a slog with full packs up Jerusalem, and we sidled round the right hand side of the summit to avoid unnecessary effort.

Picking our way down the far side, we popped out just south of Zion Gate and wandered across soft green heath and moss. We weren’t in a huge rush, knowing the further we walked, the further we’d have to walk out in two days time. We also knew we’d be camping close to five, to avoid walking in the dark. As it was, we picked our way up the hill in front of us, and found a lake a short distance over the far side, with some lovely and flat sites to camp. We barely had to voice the question, before packs were off and we went about the usual end of day routine.

From the end of Great Pine Tier looking towards the Walls over the country we’d walk

Great Pine Tier would have been fabulous before all the pines were burnt out

Graham takes in the route ahead as we approach the Walls

On King David’s Peak looking towards the Overland Track

The chute on Solomon’s Throne

The pines were a big feature of this walk

How about we camp here?

Pretty colours again that night, followed by stars and moon

We woke to another lovely day, though we were expecting some rain later in the afternoon. We also had a long day ahead with unknown terrain, so we were up and breakfasted fairly early. Graham started us off on a route that changed with every new view – such was the nature of the terrain. But we chose well, and avoided and serious scrub, ducking and weaving so much at times we felt we were going round in circles! The route we finally took followed the high points to the west of Daisy Lake.

Just over 2.5 hrs after setting out we were sending the odd message from the top of Mersey Crag, happy with our progress. We still had Turrana to go, but it looked feasible. It did, however, take a lot longer than we expected to get off Mersey, and the walk up Turrana was longer than I had remembered. Three wedgies were playing in the wind and stole our attention momentarily.

We were both stumbling over the smallest of obstacles as we walked the last few hundred metres, and I knew I was glad we’d be having a slightly longer break given we had lunch to eat. It was windy on top, so we took the view in quickly before sheltering off the summit out of the wind. As we ate we decided on the route back to the tents. We opted bravely not to retrace steps (the ‘known’ route) and instead follow the continuation of the Little Fisher track south along the edge of Long Tarns, until a point closer to camp, where we’d head up and over a series of smaller rises (the ‘unknown’ but less up and down option).

Conscious of the time, distance and of the rather cloudy turn in the weather, we were keen to get going. We made excellent time back down to the track, and had an enjoyable half hour wandering along it. It made for very easy going, and there were a number of stunning spots that would be worth camping at.

Where Long Tarns juts out to the west we headed up and over Richea Ridge, managing to avoid all the scoparia! Two more knobs and we could see our little orange tent. A most welcome sight! We’d got back safely with time to change into warm clothes and cook some soup before the rain set in.

The next morning the sun turned the pines orange

It was a nice camp site

Looking towards the Walls as we start climbing up the ridge towards Mersey Crag

Graham on Mersey Crag

Climbing up Turrana and loving the pines

Mersey Crag from the walk up Turrana

Graham and one of the multiple cairns on Turrana

True to our excellent luck this trip, the rain stopped over night and we woke to a damp but clear morning. Just as well, we figured we had a long walk out. After packing the very wet tent into Graham’s pack (thanks!!) we set off with a few extra layers on. Encouraged by our success the day before, we once again chose to be creative with our route, scrapping the ‘retrace our footsteps’ for a more direct route straight down to Lake Fanny and round the edge. Why would you want to go over Jerusalem and Great Pine Tier if you didn’t have to??

As it turned out, the walking was very open, very flat and very easy. We made record time to the top of the lake and my suspicion that there might even be a pad round the side was confirmed with a few cairns and the odd stick. It was a different matter trying to stay on it, however, as the wombat pads were often more distinct than the track itself. It also clearly wasn’t a bushwalkers track, and usual unwritten ‘rules’ didn’t seem to apply. To be honest I found the off track walking we’d just done much easier – there at least you could go wherever you wanted!

We celebrated our speedy return to the track head at the southern end of Fanny with a super early lunch, then plodded the very long way back out, seeing more mountain katydids than you could have imagined (and being rather shocked that we’d never seen them before this trip!). A surprise encounter with an older couple on their way in to spend a few days at Fanny was as delightful as it always is, and momentarily diverted attention from our sore feet.

We arrived back at the cars in perfect time, with enough daylight to drive home and keep the wildlife safe.

All up: 70.8km, 2221m ascent

Day 1: 16.6km, 5:44 hrs, 391m ascent

Day 2: 15.7km, 8:04 hrs, 821m ascent

Day 3: 20.0km, 9:18 hrs, 788m ascent

Day 4: 18.6km, 6:48 hrs, 263m ascent

Walking out, it wouldn’t be the Walls area without at least one photo of cushion plants!

Pines and reflections, what a beautiful area

The long road out.. love the colours though

Mountain katydid in all its camouflage

Mountain katydid showing it’s colour under threat

Wolf spider blending in well

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Mersey Crag, Turrana Bluff and Mt Claude: 11 November 2013

Mersey Crag and Turrana Bluff GPS route

Mersey Crag and Turrana Bluff GPS route

Knowing that I’d be up climbing Clumner with the club on the Sunday, I figured I might as well do a day walk on the Monday too, and planned to explore Mersey and Turrana. When all of a sudden Tuesday freed itself up too that added an extra day, but without a tent I was still limited to day walks. That didn’t matter at all, so I stuck with the plan, and figured Roland and Vandyke would be safe bets for an unplanned walk on day three with what was bound to be a very tired body!

 

The sign says it all: Little Fisher River

The sign says it all: Little Fisher River

So after saying good bye to everyone at Clumner, I drove the short distance towards the start of the Mersey/Turrana track. Unfortunately, the bridge over the Little Fisher River you need to cross to get to the car park (as described in the Abels) is undriveable. Even if you could get over the mound and then the dip that someone has fashioned, I’m not sure you’d want to trust the bridge. Bit annoying, as that added an extra 50 minute road walk, but I was too tired to worry too much, and knew I had all day to climb the two peaks. 10 minutes to get things sorted for the next morning, then into the sleeping bag on the back seat and I was dead to the world in no time.

 

Off the road and on the track, and what a nice track.. bridges and all

Off the road and on the track, and what a nice track.. bridges and all

I woke at 6 the next morning, to some cloud but nothing threatening. A fast breakfast and I was set to go 15 minutes later, keen to get the road walk over. It went fast enough, though it was nice to get off the road after the car park and onto the nicely carpeted track. The initial part of the track is very nice, easy to follow, and the log book would suggest the area is frequented regularly, though the mountains don’t seem to be the primary destination.

 

Beautiful myrtle forest and rivers

Beautiful myrtle forest and rivers

When you hit the myrtle forest, which is very nice to walk through, the track becomes more difficult to follow. There’s the odd piece of tape, cairn (read single rock with not quite enough moss on it sitting on a log), marker or red paint to guide the way, and the rest is pure guesswork and a bit of concentration. I slowed down, taking care not to wander off in the wrong direction, also taking time to enjoy the river, its small cascades and the myrtle forest.

(Minor interlude here, I need to bake some biscuits!)

Rina Dina falls

Rina Dina falls

About 50 minutes from the car park, at 8am, I turned a corner to be startled by the Rina Dina Falls – as delightful as the Abels suggest. Some more forest, one very short bit of straight up and two fixed ropes (still quite sturdy), and then the pad leaves the myrtle behind and winds through some shorter scrubbier stuff (much easier to follow) before breaking out onto a lovely but slightly wet bit of flatness. There are a number of pads that work their way to the far end, and a short climb takes you to a decent sized cairn in the middle of the saddle that joins the two peaks.

 

On the saddle between the two peaks, looking at Turrana

On the saddle between the two peaks, looking at Turrana

You’re on your own here, though there’s plenty of animals, and maybe some human, tracks to follow. It’s a bit up and down, light low alpine scrub, rock and tarns to negotiate, with the summit playing Mr Elusive until the last few hundred metres. There was a little bit of scree, which I opted for, being a bit tired of the other stuff and arrived at the southern most cairn. I recalled the Abels saying that there was a chockstone nearby which was marginally higher (so it was) but that it required ‘rock climbing equipment for a safe ascent’. Ha, well.. My excuse was I didn’t have any.. and it was less of an ascent and more of a step across, you could say. Really :).

(Biscuits are out.. yummm)

Nice views :)

Nice views 🙂

From here you could see another cairn, but clearly lower, even further to the north, and some pretty spectacular dolerite columns. I did the photo thing, but the wind and cold hands had me moving after a short while. I was aware also that it was 4 hours after I’d started, so 3 since the car park, which was half an hour slower than the Abels suggested time. Although I was rather tired from Clumner and I’d taken care with navigation, I’d had no real breaks and I’m usually well within estimated times. So on I pushed, back past my starting point on the ridge and up again, climbing through low scrub towards Mersey.

 

The Walls in the distance, on the way to Turrana

The Walls in the distance, on the way to Turrana

Mersey is a lot closer, and its one where after the initial climb you can actually see the summit. I do always like that. When you get closer there’s a cairned pad you can pick up, which takes you across a short rock hop to the summit. I think I preferred the views from Turrana, but I’ll always enjoy any view from a peak! Another pause, a shiver, a fleeting thought that it would be nice to have friends to chat to to keep me there a bit longer, then a turn to the next task at hand.. It’s 12.30, do I go back the way I came (a fair bit of retracing, and quite a long walk back) or do I be a tad presumptuous and pretend that I fall into the category of ‘experienced bushwalkers’, and follow the Abel’s alternate route (much more direct). It requires following the ridge down and along a bit further, before locating a river and following it down, crossing when you hit myrtle forest.

 

From Turrana to Mersey

From Turrana to Mersey, featuring the cairned summit

I had initially intended to take this option because walking along the river was described as ‘sheer delight’. I had reassessed at various stages of the walk, deciding maybe I was too tired to want to concentrate and should stick to what I knew, to my final decision that I would take it after all, because I wanted the shortest way back – I needed sleep!

 

Another view to the left as I head for the chockstone

Another view to the left as I head for the chockstone

So down I went, short bit of scree, then low scrub, easy to go down through, probably a bit more work going back up. The river was easy to find, and it’s not that hard to follow it down, keeping it to the right. The eucalyptus forest was indeed scrubby, despite a number of pads that you picked up and lost equally quickly, and for this reason I’m not sure sheer delight is entirely accurate. I did decide at one point it might be easier walking down the river, and so I headed over to it. Decided it looked so nice it deserved a photo, only to find my camera wasn’t in my pocket.

 

Dolerite columns from the chockstone

Dolerite columns from the chockstone

Bugger! How long ago had it come out? How was I supposed to find it in the scrub? In one moment I’d lost all my photos from the walk. I couldn’t let that happen, even though I knew my last photo had been taken at the top of the ridge, before descending, and the camera could be anywhere between there and where I was. 700 metres of horizontal distance, 130 metres of vertical distance, 25 minutes coming down, much longer going back up! Not to mention the issue of finding my path through the scrub… It seemed impossible, but a good friend once told me that anything is possible, and at times like this I’m desperate enough to believe it (ok, maybe there’s always some truth to it, but there are times I really cling to it!).

 

View towards the Overland peaks from part way up Mersey

View towards the Overland peaks from part way up Mersey

So off I went, slowly retracing steps, trying to remember bits of where I’d been, using my gps to tell me if I was on the money, and a third eye (?) searching for a hint of blue (thankfully I opted for bright). I was lucky. 10 minutes and 300 metres later, I had my camera and, more importantly, photos back in my pocket. Phew, disaster averted. Back into the scrub, and down I went, ready for the myrtle forest to start.. anytime.. now?

 

Mersey (close) and Turrana (distant) summits

Mersey (close) and Turrana (distant) summits

And sure enough it did, quite suddenly. I crossed the river on some slippery rocks, took a photo of a waterfall or three – they were quite plentiful here – and realised that this must be where the sheer delight bit came from. And it was, until I nearly stepped on a tiger snake!! He didn’t budge, I took three steps backwards, took the camera out, lent over slowly (like he was going to move now if he didn’t before, stupid!) and took my snap.. then gave him quite a decent berth.

 

Back in the myrtle forest, so very nice

Back in the myrtle forest, so very nice

The myrtle forest was as open as anything, and walking was nice and easy, just as well, because I was at the tripping over my own feet stage. It was all downhill or flat from here, so I settled in to the long walk back. The first part was over all to fast, but the road walk seemed to take forever. My feet were sore and I was tired, so I jogged the downhill bits just to get back faster. Was really wishing I’d thrown the bike in the back of the car (would be a good idea for anyone doing this exact walk, the gradient is certainly conducive to riding, both ways, though back down would be easier). I did wonder as I walked/jogged, at what looked like relatively fresh tyre tracks in the mud, and the absence of fallen trees, as to whether there might be access from the other side of the river.. there was certainly a road that branched off that way.. hmmmm..

 

Spotted these on the way out, very cute!

Spotted these on the way out, very cute!

Very grateful to be back at the car a bit before 4.. just over 9.5 hours of walking, 32.2km (yikes, I hadn’t realised that!), 1225 metres ascent (no wonder I was tired!!!!).

 

Mount Claude GPS route

Mount Claude GPS route

But wait, the day isn’t over just yet, apparently! Having decided to climb Roland and Vandyke the following day, I thought I’d drive over that way and find somewhere to park the car and sleep. I got as far as the lookout at the Claude end, and thought I’d check out what the sign said. Oh, fancy that, 2 hours return to Mount Claude, medium grade. That means easy, and less than 2 hours if it’s written on a PWS or Forestry sign.

 

On the way up, mum and baby jump in to say hi

On the way up, mum and baby jump in to say hi

So I thought it might be a good spot to watch the evening pass, and maybe get the sun going down. I limped along (did I mention sore feet), grateful of the very easy track. I got to the bottom of the rock that is the summit and looked at the track that descends round the northern side of the peak, then looked at the less well worn pad to the right that had a branch across it, as if to say don’t go this way.. so that’s the way I went – I wanted to go up, not down right?

 

That's my summit.. well, just behind that

That’s my summit.. well, just behind that

It was the right way (I guess tourists don’t climb these things), and I soon spotted some cairns marking out a short scramble up the conglomerate rock. That stuff’s interesting.. I’m not as familiar with it as I am with dolerite, and it takes a while to learn how you can trust it, but some of the moves you can pull on it are quite fun.. really!

 

The chockstone :). FUN!!

The chockstone :). FUN!!

I was shocked at how much of a scramble Claude actually was, mostly because I just wasn’t expecting it, and I checked out the chockstone, then what I think was the cave (more of a tunnel perhaps), and ended following it east, popping out to the east of the summit and making a short slightly exposed scramble up and round to the summit cairn. Pretty cool little bit of rock to make the mountain that bit more fun. Always up for another challenge, I decided on the chockstone back. And to be honest, that was easier (albeit a tad more exposed) than the climb up the rock once I was over the chockstone!

 

Roland and Vandyke in the distance

Roland and Vandyke in the distance

I found a suitable rock to sit on, and took of my gaiters to give me some sort of protection from the somewhat unevenness of the conglomerate (dolerite wins by far in the comfort test). Finally I could rest. And rest I did. I’d already donned my two jackets and beanie, but after some time I was feeling the cold, probably accentuated by the tiredness, and had started to feel a little ill. Maybe not enough water, maybe low blood sugar (later that night I found out mum had gone to hospital with a slightly more severe case of possibly a similar thing). The clouds didn’t make a nice sunset seem too likely (good call) so down I went.

 

Summit cairn and view

Summit cairn and view

I took a leisurely 3 hours in total, but a fair chunk of that was spent sitting on my rock, for 6.2km and 430 metres ascent.

 

View from my rock.. one day draws to an end to allow a new one to begin

View from my rock.. one day draws to an end to allow a new one to begin

A fitful night’s sleep, worrying and wondering about friends and family, but as always it was better being in the solitude of the mountains than at home alone.