Frenchman’s Cap: 6-9 January 2013

Frenchmans and Clytemnestra
Frenchmans and Clytemnestra

Well, after an emotionally exhausting two weeks, and some miserable weather stopping me from going on a walk, I thought I might revisit a special walk. Frenchmans was my first multiday solo walk, with stunning weather until the walk out, and some beautiful photographs that mum might have enjoyed even more than I did! This is probably less useful to readers than other walk descriptions as the track is quite well known, well walked and well marked, and for that reason I won’t bother with maps.

Clytemnestra from Frenchmans
Open walking to Clytemnestra from Frenchmans

Anyway, I set off after a days work on Sunday, and walked the estimated 6-7 hours in to Vera in just over 4. Luckily it had been pretty dry (in fact it was a few days after the major fires to hit Tassie this year had broken out) and the Soddon Loddons were still wet enough to catch you out if you weren’t paying attention, but were nonetheless easy enough to get through. The next day was a biggie. Expecting it to be 10-14 hours, depending on how I travelled, I woke early, packed and headed off at 5.30am, up through the forest to Barron Pass, where I think it’s obligatory to stand in awe for a moment as you take in the view that just hits you as you pop up. The hard uphill work done, I continued on along the ridge, occasionally dropping or climbing as the track dictated, until I reached the Tahune Hut at 8.30.

My Scramble Down Frenchmans
My scramble down Frenchmans

Dropping my pack and donning what seemed like an almost weightless daypack, I continued up the track that takes you to the Frenchman’s Cap summit. Very nice track work, with only one rocky bit that might concern the less than confident of scramblers on a wet day, I was up by 9.30 without rushing too much (in fact, I was feeling a tad weary from the day before). Took a few photos, but as usual, my eyes quickly became glued to Clytemnestra, my next target for the day. I knew it would be the real test, as I had no idea of the terrain, or how easy it would be to get of Frenchmans, only having Chapman’s notes to go by. As it was, I was in for a delightful surprise. The going looked, and was, relatively easy once you got down. Just low scrub and loose rock to walk along, with a small climb at the other end (though by this stage I really was quite tired and it seemed to take forever!).

Clytemnestra Summit with Frenchmans in the Background
Clytemnestra summit with Frenchmans in the background

But I’m getting ahead of myself, I needed to get down first. Reading Chapmans notes, and the warning not to descend too early or you’d be coming down the exposed way, I kept walking for a bit and then headed south. I didn’t walk far enough! I did walk past where Chapman had advised not going, but because where I did end up had no way down, and I didn’t feel like walking back up to continue west before heading south (as Chapman advises), I thought I’d try my luck with the exposed way. I did backtrack once when I got to a steep drop, but managed to climb my way down. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone other than the very confident on rock. See photo for the way I went down.

Cute Little Guys Everywhere
Cute Little Guys

Anyway, the rest of the walk out to Clytemnestra was quite nice, although tiring and hot, and the small trickle I stumbled upon as well as the pool of water right near the summit were delicious to the parched mouth! Not to mention the views. In particular, the view back to Frenchmans from Clytemnestra was stunning, with Sharlands, Barron Pass, White Needle and Philps all visible (see header photo). Having made excellent time, getting to the summit just before 12, I allowed myself a small lie before heading back to Frenchmans, and then Tahune.

Frenchmans from Clytemnestra - soon to be the new Frenchmans Cap map cover shot
Frenchmans from Clytemnestra – now on the cover of the Frenchmans map!

The next day, I’d planned to do Sharlands and the White Needle, so it was another early, but not quite so early start, which saw me retrace my steps to the spot described by Chapman as the best location to head over to Sharlands Peak. Dumping my pack, I followed the semi formed pad through low scrub, making my way to the ridge line I think Chapman was talking about. Hit it a bit too far north I think, and had to get back down before regaining height, but then managed to follow it all the way to a false summit, from which you could see the real summit. Getting there was then pretty easy. The hardest part of that bit was that you couldn’t actually see the summit, or anything that made you sure you were going in the right direction. I relied purely on my GPS and my interpretation of Chapman’s notes, which I didn’t find the most helpful.

White Needle - one to come back for.. along with Philps and Pine Knob
The White Needle

The way back was much faster, given I knew where to go, and I was putting on the pack in no time at all. It was still early in the morning by the time I got to Barron Pass, but I was tired enough from the two days prior that I couldn’t even start to think which way I would try to scramble up White Needle, so I figured it would probably be safer if left for another day. So I just plodded on to Vera Hut, arriving just before the rain at 11am. Tossed up about whether I’d walk out that day, but the rain set in and made the choice very easy! The next day was a tired slog out across the Loddons in the rain and mud, but still not as muddy as I imagined it could get..

All up: 56.5km, 3786m ascent.

And two more photos:

Barron Pass, White Needle and Philps
Barron Pass, White Needle and Philps
Early morning walk on a nice track
Early morning walk on a nice track