This adventure all started with an attractive option to join the Hobart bushwalking club on a trip to Tramontane. It didn’t matter too much that I was in the middle of my final uni semester, or that exams had been moved forward a month so I’d have to have learnt content and handed in essays before I left (in 5 weeks, essentially). The crazier uni got (3 of those 5 weeks were intensive face to face classes) the more I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately the weather turned foul just in time. We delayed two days. It stayed horrid. The problem was we had to cross the Collingwood River and we didn’t fancy having to swim it then walk for the next 4-5 days in rain. The walk was cancelled.
We stayed home for the next three days, because the weather was still no good. But it looked like it would be good enough for 5 days before either of us had to be back working/studying so we decided on a split trip to Darwin, Sorell, South Darwin, and then back to the Jukes range. We adjusted our packs accordingly and made an early (enough) start.
On the drive the weather got worse after passing Lake St Clair and we started to doubt the forecast that had the rain set to stop by 11am. As we neared our turn off I discovered that half the data I’d transferred to our GPS hadn’t made it (or more accurately, wasn’t visible to us). We didn’t have the crucial route we wanted for Sorell, which had quite a reputation, or South Darwin and Jukes. I was kicking myself and Graham wasn’t too happy either!!
Our collective mood was made worse by having to start out in the drizzle, which just hung around. It was humid and muggy and we were soon as wet from sweat as we were rain. If we’d had a 4WD we could have saved the road walk and it’d have been super fast.
After some time we hit the Mt Darwin turn off to the right. We dumped packs and geared up for the fairly short walk. We were most delighted to find that at the end of the 2km road there was the start of a taped track – we’d not expected it at all, and it was very gratefully used! The scrub would have been nasty to push uphill through. Unfortunately there were a few spots where the track branched in more than one direction and eventually all sign of it ended prematurely, just before reaching the much more open ridge. It was a pity, but it did make us all the more grateful for having had it for so long.
As we climbed the final bit of ridgeline the drizzle stopped and the clouds started to lift. We caught glimpses of Lake Burbury and by the time we reached the trig at the top the view was, comparatively speaking, quite extensive. We rested a while and attempted to dry out. I managed to download memory maps and the Sorell route onto my phone AND figure out how to make them work. While it wouldn’t be as accurate as our gps, it would prove very handy!
We walked down feeling much better. Partly because it wasn’t raining anymore and we could see blue sky, partly because we’d finally stretched our legs and climbed a mountain. Back at our packs, we sorted ourselves out and headed for a little knoll just off the Darwin/South Darwin saddle. It provided us with a near new pair of scrub gloves for Graham (if you lost a pair there recently, do be in touch!) as well as beautiful flat camping, half a view, and a head start on what we knew would be a big day.
We woke to the same cloud, but it was high enough we could see where we were going, to a point. The summit of Sorell remained hidden, but that just added to the majesty and mystery of the mountain. We set off early, so that we’d be back at a reasonable hour for dinner.
The road walk was short, but left us with a taped and cairned ‘track’ – probably once used by prospectors (maybe still by some fossickers) – to follow. Again, we were very grateful. After a short descent through knee high buttongrass and leptaspurnum we hit the rainforest. It was wet and slippery underfoot and quite steep in places. The track gave us a lovely straight line to follow. Unfortunately the newer tapes petered out and we were left searching for very very old remnants of what had been pink tape.
When we popped out next to a huon pine at the river crossing we were glad we’d not camped down there. There were no attractive sites (although I’ve heard since there are?), it was humid and plagued with mozzies and leeches. We determined that the spot we’d chosen was pretty well chosen.
We left the river behind and continued on our way. Presently, we broke out of the forest and into the same kind of low sparse scrub described earlier. The track was nearly impossible to follow, but it didn’t matter. We knew where we were heading and it was all about staying on the ridge. We duck and wove, wishing the sun would hide behind cloud for just a little longer. Occasionally we walked past little bits of pink tape.
Gaining height, we approached the visibly scrubby foothills of what we knew would be the hardest part of the trip. Descriptions included horrible/diabolical scrub, and near vertical ascents. We were, however, pleased with our speedy progress to that point so plunged head long into the scrub where we thought the track most likely went. It took a little while to confirm it, but it was. And how lucky we were to be on it!!! We crawled, clawed, scrambled, slid and someone managed to propel ourselves forward and up (though mostly up at this point). It would have taken considerably longer to complete the trip without the ‘track’.
At the top of the worst of it we expected a nice easy stroll up onto the ridge proper and along to the summit. But no luck. The walk onto the ridge was steep enough it felt more like a climb and while the ridge itself wasn’t too bad, there were enough ups and downs and unevenness.
But we made it, if quite slowly in the end, in just under 6 hours. Though we didn’t have much time to spare, we did enjoy the summit for 40 minutes. Partly to eat lunch and muster our strength for the next 6 hours, but partly because like the day before the cloud that had been kissing the summit most appropriately disappeared as we approached. It came back as soon as we departed.
We were much faster on the descent, although we had to take care not to slip too much! We were hot, tired and drenched in sticky sweat and scrub. The plodding began and step by step we made our way back. We did still have the energy to enjoy the olive whistlers, the three different types of sundews, the Christmas bells, Waratahs, Hewardias, orchids and a number of flowers I’d not seen before! We got there in 11 hours all up and celebrated tiredly with a home cooked and dehydrated meal, then watched the sun set from out little rocky lookout. I fell asleep while trying to write notes!
We woke and packed at a reasonable time, and headed straight up the road to where we’d branch off to climb South Darwin. We dropped packs and made the very short easy walk in no time. It was a tad cloudy, which was a pity, but at the same time we were enjoying not being too hot. The road walk out was long, but at least it was downhill.
Back at the car we turned further along the road to check out access to Mounts McCall and McCutcheon, before having lunch at the dam and then heading to Jukes. I’ve already written a blog about my first trip up, so won’t bore you with more details here.. maybe just a few photos instead 😉
Day 1: 7 hours, 14.3km, 1115m ascent
Day 2: 11 hours, 12.7km, 1438m ascent
Day 3: 3:35 hours, 8.5km, 417m ascent
Photos from Jukes: