The Frankland Range is a stunning walk along open ridgelines in Tassie’s southwest. The views are spectacular every day, and the feeling is one of being on top of the world, all day long. Where there is scrub, there’s always a cairned route or decent pad to follow. So even though there’s technically no track, it’s not a tough walk from that perspective either.
Most groups will probably take 7-10 days to do it, if they’re doing the full traverse from Sprent to the Jim Brown/Terminal Peak, depending on how fast they want to move, and how many peaks they want to climb. We only had 6 days, so instead of taking a few days to get to Coronation via Sprent and Koruna, we were lucky enough to get a boat ride out to the shore of Lake Pedder just below Coronation. Lucky in one way – saved a lot of walking – not so lucky in another!!
We took the boat ride in, managed to avoid the dead trees still sticking out, or just submerged under, the surface of the lake, but couldn’t get too close to shore as it was boggy and not ideal for a landing. So the boots came off, and we waded in, found some solid enough ground and put them back on. Waving our goodbyes, we turned towards our goal for the day. The mighty Coronation : worth 6 points for peak baggers.
And what a day it was to be. We made our way across a flat button grassy plain, and then started heading up a spur. As we got higher, the scrub started to get higher. Going was relatively slow, and we stopped for a lunch break. We started up again, and when we got to a part where it looked like we’d be heading into scrub and wouldn’t see much for a bit we had agreed on a course of action. From below it looked like there was a relatively Scrubless strip running below and around Coronation, so we thought we’d try to get on that.. and try we did! And try, and try… it wasn’t easy to move as the scrub was thick, the trees were intertwined, and the ground was up and down – the kind of up and down you get with big clumps of cutting grass. After some time of this, and realising the green patch we’d seen must have just been all scrub, we decided to head for the base of coronation to see if the going was better.
The climbing wasn’t too easy, but we eventually made it, and it was nice to be able to take 2-3 footsteps in a row every now and again without stopping. Because we were going so slow, we had a talk about whether we headed back and camped out for the night where the scrub had been lower, or whether we just kept pushing on. Most were in favour of pushing on, knowing if we headed back we’d be very far behind, and would still have to get through the scrub the next day. So onwards we pushed. And on.. until we came to a large crack in our sidling around. We’d spotted it from below and had decided it looked too scruby and too steep to ascend, and had thought we’d go further round where it looked like a less scrubby ramp led to the ridgeline, which we could follow up. When we were standing here though, it didn’t look like fun having to drop down so much to just get over this crack, and it looked like it might be climbable.. So I headed up for a recce, and decided it was worth a shot, though there were some parts we’d need to pack haul.
There were a few tense moments getting up, the packhauling was slow, the light was fading fast, and there was a cave to climb up and a hole at the top to have to go through. This was after going one way and deciding it wasn’t going to work.
When we popped out of the hole in the top of the cave we were in tangly myrtle, then scoparia, and we were all getting to the end of our tethers, and started to look round for possible spots to rig a shelter as we walked. There wasn’t much at all. We got to one bit that looked like it might be too steep to drag ourselves up, and just about gave in, while John scouted round to the right over some rocks. We’d just about agreed on a tiny patch against rock to huddle up on, when we heard the yell that it was a goer.
So we followed his voice, and a little bit of up later and we were in the open. If we could have seen we would have let out whoops of delight I reckon. We followed the land up, and I scouted ahead for some flat land, in the rough direction of where we had a campsite marked. We didn’t get to the marked site, finding instead a nice section of flat and deciding not to walk any further. It was late by this stage, 10pm, and we all just wanted bed! We discovered the next morning just how perfect our spot was (luckily there was no wind) – I don’t think we could have set up in a more prime location if we could have seen (this wasn’t the only time this happened on this trip either)!
Anyway, we were pretty damn happy to be out of the scrub, and to have some prime camping ground (to our eyes on that night, and not too bad in general really), so we set up tents, had a bit to eat and crashed. Though we did manage to attempt a few shots of the moon as it rose behind the flank of Coronation during the night.
We awoke the next morning to a cottonwool blanket of mist, at about our level, just hanging over the ridge we would have walked down had we come over Sprent and Koruna. It was just beautiful as it hung about, but slowly wafted off into nothingness as the minutes ticked by, just small clusters hanging back. By the time we were packed and had started up Coronation, leaving packs below, there was just enough left to give us some awesome photos. Getting up Coronation itself was nice and easy, like a walk in the park compared to the day before. We were all a little more than excited to finally be standing on top, feeling we definitely deserved the 6 points.
We did a bit of self congratulating, then on the way down mucked around with some photos on an overhanging narrow bit of rock, just for fun :). With all that, we still made it up and back in under an hour, so I think it could easily be done in 20-30 minutes. Back to the packs, still a bit high even after donning the weight again, and off we headed… down then back up as we got onto the ridge we were to follow along.
And the beautiful walking started. The rock formations are unique, the range and surrounding terrain undulating, sometimes quite sharply, in a most untamed, wild, and beautiful way. Wherever you look there are mountains, lines of ridges, often in contrast to the flat, still expanse of Lake Pedder. It’s a view you never tire of.
But despite all the view, the walking was relatively ‘flat’. Some ups and downs, but nothing major, as we headed first to Double Peak. We sat and had lunch in the sun, which was just starting to stick its head out of the clouds, and figured out which part of which peak must be the highpoint, and what was the best way to climb it. Our notes were a tad confusing, but we figured it out, climbing up and over the southern peak, taking our packs most of the way, as the route went up and over, 30 metres to the west of the high point.
We hadn’t yet tired of taking photos of ourselves on summits, so we did a bit of that, before finding the way down and on towards Redtop via Madonna’s ridge (I reckoned it must have been named after the singer, given a particular rock formation appears to resemble the shape of a well endowed woman!), which has a great big square stone (unusually so) with a small cairn on top marking the summit. More photos here :), and a good bit of admiring how far it seemed we had walked, as we looked back at where we had camped the night before, receding into the distance.
After Redtop, it was on to Cupola, and such a nice green football field with running water at hand that we didn’t have to think long before deciding where to camp! We set up close to a few trees (there was a slight breeze) and headed up to claim our points, and watch the light start to dim. This was probably the earliest nights of the whole trip, at probably one of the nicest campsites. Probably also the easiest day, even though it was a 4-peak-12-pointer.
Us girls awoke early and enjoyed the sunrise while waiting for the guys to get ready, and then we headed off to start another VERY memorable day.. one I’ll never ever forget. First up was the Lion, so named because it apparently resembles one from the right direction (I’m not so sure). This was the only time the notes we had led us astray, so we had a bit of a foray into some prickly stuff thinking we were supposed to stay off the ridge. We soon regained height and found some cairns leading to the summit, and heading back we stayed close to the ridge without a problem. More photos were taken on the summit, but we seemed to be largely focused on the next, attention-demanding target: the Citadel.
Well, really the Cidatels. There are two, the second (NE) one being the higher, and they stick out prominently. The other part of the reason we might have been fairly focused on it was that we believed that it would be the hardest to get up so far. Before we got there though, we dropped off the ridge to set up camp at the shelf camp there. We really should have read the notes more carefully.. including the story about a possible FREAK WIND!!! Would have saved us a bit of a heart attack. But no, so we went about setting up our tents on some nice open soft ground, with a small waterway running across it. Just perfect we thought. The pegs went in to the soft ground easily, all the gear was thrown into our tent (mats, sleeping bags, food, cooking gear, warm clothes), and we were starting to organise the things we’d need in a daypack for the climb up the Citadel when all of a sudden that freak wind came along. I had turned my back to the tent, when all of a sudden I heard a shout from the girl I was sharing with, at the same time as my insulated jacked, which I had placed on the ground next to my daypack, went flying up into the air. The shout was because it was joined by, yes, our whole entire tent, with all our gear in it! We stood frozen and watched as the wind lifted it up, maybe about 10 metres, and out over a drop of 20-30 metres. Hearts in mouths. And then, lo and behold, the wind changed its mind. It circled back, bringing the tent with it (my jacket wasn’t so well behaved), and plonked it at the feet of one of the guys we were with. Far out. Seeing the tent safe and back in our hands, I raced after the jacket, finding it not too far into the scrub.
We decided after that to move into the not as nice but more sheltered part of the shelf (not realising that there was quite a nice little spot further down from where we ended up). So up our tent went again (we were only minus 3 tent pegs, can you believe?!), this time tied to about 3 trees and as many or more rocks!!
Us two girls were both a bit wary about then heading off to do the Citadel, leaving our tent behind, but sometimes that’s how it is. Five minutes after setting out, the blue sky became grey, and the mist was all around us. Visibility went from awesome to about 10-20 metres. Just to make the climb more interesting! And it was a nice little climb.. at times you dangled from scoparia, though I really have no idea how it could attach itself so well to what was mostly rock. It was fun for the rock monkey in me, though the ‘I hope the tent’s still there when we get back’ part of me put a bit of a damper on it. Bit of a pity we didn’t get the view from the summit, but you can’t have everything! So we headed back, us two girls running the last 30 metres just to make sure the tent WAS there (it was). We knew by this stage that we wouldn’t have time to do remote peak, we’d just taken too long getting to where we’d got, and the weather wasn’t that great anyway. It was a bit of a blow, but a good excuse to go back!!
The next morning was one of those beautiful moments. The mist had gone, and it was just us and the mountains and the sunrise. So we faffed around with our cameras, just enjoying, before getting ourselves into gear and ready to walk again.
We had three peaks lined up for the day, the first a rather special one, named (or I like to believe so) after the guy leading the trip! All three were easily ascended, and while Murphy’s bluff was a few hundred metres off the track, Cleft peak was much closer, and Greycap was literally on the track. Probably a good thing, cos we were getting a tad tired by this stage. But knowing we wanted to be out in two days time, even though we had a third we could possibly use in an emergency, we made the choice to push on to just below Frankland Peak when the spot we could have camped at wasn’t very appealing and had very little water. It was awesome walking amongst the buttongrass, which turns beautiful orangey yellows in the afternoon light, and looking back at the lines of ridges fading into the distance. Sometimes being tired is a good thing, it gives you more reason to stop and look at the view, and marvel at all that is. Sometimes though you just need a spot to call your home and bed for the night.
Camping below the peak wasn’t ideal. It was rather exposed, and we made sure we held the tents down well as we were erecting them. Pausing every now and again to take photos of the setting sun. Our tent got tied down to the biggest rocks we could find, and we made sure there was one person in it at all times once it was up! Water was scarce, but we found enough to satisfy our needs. We hunkered down for the night, aware that tomorrow was going to be another long day.. not quite aware of just how long it was to be though!
We woke up and watched as the tablecloth of mist slowly descended on us as we packed away our gear and tents. We’d already decided that given the time we had we’d have to skip Secheron, Lloyd Jones and Terminal Peak, instead walking out over the Giblin range. We were walking in the mist by the time we set off, and managed to walk right up Frankland Peak without an issue, though I was slightly aware that there were some slight drop offs to the sides. Fortunately following a direct line to the highpoint worked well!
We took a few snaps in the mist on the summit, another significant peak for the trip, though not a hard one to climb, then turned around and headed back to the packs not wanting to cool down too much. The walk down along to Right Angle peak and then across to the point we had to drop off the range was nice and easy going, though relied on 100% trust in the gps as we really couldn’t see where we were going. There was a moment or two when it seemed the sun was pushing through the clouds in the distance, but we stayed in the mist all the way off the range.
Getting off required finding a cairn and a pad down into the scrub – crucial as it’s not scrub you’d want to bash your way through. We found it though, and headed down. There was one slightly tense moment as we lost the pad in some mossy forest, but some scouting around revealed the way and we were off, following a ridge down to the river, which we crossed, in order to head back up the other side and onto the Giblin range. We stopped for some lunch just on the other side of the river, a wet, cold and not so noisy affair, as we were all a tad tired. Then it was just a mater of pushing on. We weren’t so high, and the mist wasn’t all enclosing anymore, so we strung out a bit, each left to his or her own thoughts. I walked along and caught glimpses of the folded range that ran alongside us, thinking back to that little trip.
Up and over Giblin we went, another point, and slowly slowly made it to the end of the range. Dark was falling fast by the time we made it to the ridge we wanted to drop off, so I wasn’t allowed to run up Jim Brown :p, and as we descended the head torches came out. We spotted some lights on a small island off the coast, figuring there were some kayakers out and about, probably wondering what the hell we were doing out at that time in the rain!
Anyway, we managed to avoid most of the scrub, but by the time we were on the flat we could see nothing, and were relying purely on gps. As always, straight lines lead you right into scrub, and we had some horrible head high or higher weedy stuff to try and get through, along with other stuff, which was the last thing we wanted when we were wet, cold, exhausted and not entirely sure where we were supposed to be camping or what the site looked like. We finally pushed our way through the scrub to find we were in bog.. it took a while for the wheels to whir into motion, and realise that it wasn’t just bog, it was the edge of Lake Pedder!
A brief discussion about which way we should be going, and we headed south to the rough coordinates of a spot someone had camped before us. I think we were all very doubtful we’d actually find the spot in the dark, and probably figured we’d just be looking for anywhere semi-suitable. But we were lucky once again.. very very lucky. After a short distance we came across hard ground, and not just that, but relatively flat and scrub free ground!! Very relieved, we pitched tents as fast as we could in the rain, stripped off and got into bed. No hot meal for us girls that night.
Again, as with the first night of the trip, we awoke, looked outside and wondered at our surroundings. How we could have landed smack in the middle of the most suitable campground around in the dark was beyond me, but we’d done it. We had a bit of a joke, then a lot of a grimace as we donned wet gear. It was still grey and misty, but it wasn’t so low and the light mist like rain we had during the day wasn’t hard to cope with at all. So long as we kept moving we were warm enough.
The walk back round the lake shore was longer and tougher than you’d imagine. It was boggy in most parts, which requires more energy than you’d care to give, and it didn’t help that us girls couldn’t stop laughing at one another. It’s hard to pull yourself out of a bog when laughing, almost impossible to run through one! But there were some beautiful things to look at and take photos of :). By the last hill I think we were all pretty tired, but we knew it was the last hill, and the trip was about to be over. There was no real rush to be back… except to get into warm clothes, out of boots, and dig into the Pringles and soft drinks we’d stashed in the car!!
As we drove back home, I started wondering what I might get up to three days later on my days off… there is no cure for the rock monkey in me :p!
All up: 61km, 4135m ascent.