Hiking Frenchmans Cap (Day 1&2)

Thursday morning 16th December 2021, I drove to Queenstown. After Tullah on my way towards Mount Tyndall, I stopped for a quick photo opportunity at a lookout below Mount Murchison on the Anthony Road. Due to Covid-19 the PWST introduced a permit system for popular walks. Even with the state borders still closed, the slots for Frenchmans Cap were fully booked until March. Just by accident we got two remaining slots on a short notice a few weeks ago. But as we just had finished the Three Capes Hike four days earlier, Kristy decided to not join on the Frenchmans Cap hike, as she still had her knee problems. She even wanted to cancel the reservation for the permit, and called the PWST, but somehow they didn’t care as the reservation system was done via a third party provider.

Lookout towards the East from below Mount Murchison
Just a normal sign in Tasmania…I mean, what are you going to do on a lazy Friday night with your unregistered guns, right? (There’re at least 260,000 unregistered guns in Australia, despite the fact that after the Port Arthur massacre gun laws in Australia were tightened)

In the evening I started my hike from the Frenchmans Cap carpark at about 17:30 o’clock. We almost had the longest day of the year, and sunset was due to almost 21:00 o’clock. Thus, such a late start wouldn’t be of any problem. After a few minutes you cross the Franklin River. Nowadays it has a convenient suspension bridge, you no longer need to use a Flying Fox or swim through it. But it had really low water level. Due to La Niña, the predominant rain fall was no longer in the South-West of Tasmania, but rather in the North-East, and as such the southwest was already quite dry for the end of Spring.

Franklin River had really almost no water…I was a bit shocked to this
Perfectly established tracked, with culvert to let the water run off and keep the track free from washouts (rarely seen on Tassie tracks)
First view of Frenchmans Cap after crossing the Franklin Hills

The track is well marked and maintained nowadays. You can’t miss it. And also after the re-routing of the original track a few years ago, which was a few kilometres to the east directly through the Loddon Plains, and freshly cut of Laughton’s Lead the time of waist-deep boggy holes is gone. Due to the frequent usage, the old track was a real Tassie boggy mud trench. Nothing of those old adventures can be found anymore on the current track. After crossing the Franklin Hills and getting out of the forest, you can already get a first glimpse of the nearby Frenchmans Cap. Then you descent to the Loddon River. Loddon River was literally not flowing and just a black mess. There are campsites on both sides of the river, as well as there were at Franklin River, but I decided to continue. After the Loddon River, you enter buttongrass plains. Despite the fact that it was so dry, the track routing is now away from the bog holes. Yes maybe you get muddy shoes, but that’s nothing compared to boggy peat. Furthermore, I also have to say, I’ve never seen so dry buttongrass plains before. I was even wondering if and when they would start to burn. It’s not the first time that those dry buttongrass plains get lid in the World Heritage area by lightning strikes.

The Loddon River was so black, that it was a perfect mirror
Nothing was flowing at the Loddon River

I camped behind small creek before the ascent of Laughton’s Lead starts. There is a small bridge over the creek, and the freely running creek provided plenty of fresh water. I even found a wooden platform next to a yellow toolbox, about 150m behind the creek. It took me about 2:30 h from the carpark to get there.

The moon over the Buttongrass Plains in early evening
Lovely sunny evening at the descent to the tributary of the South Loddon River
Wooden Tent Platform for the night

On Friday morning I continued my walk and headed up at Laughton’s Lead towards Vera. The track is in a really good condition, properly benched, and trenches everywhere, so that the water can flow freely away and doesn’t produce sever washouts. At about halfway you meet the junction to the now overgrown old track towards Philps Creek. The last few kilometres towards Vera Hut provide now even a boardwalk. I made a brief stop at Vera Hut and had a quick walk around the campground, but except an empty tent, there was nobody there.

Agamemnon on the way to Vera Hut
Boardwalk on the lead up to Vera Hut

After Vera Hut the track becomes a bit rougher. The walk along Vera Lake is quite hard, and involves several climbs over numerous root trees. It’s not as smooth as before. Then the steep climb through the forest towards Barron Pass starts. It’s in sections really steep, but not exposed. In the beginning you walk next to a small creek. You can’t miss the track, and nothing is really exposed. In the end it took me about 2h to get the 400m elevation gain.

Follow this creek uphill towards Barron Pass
Traversing below Nicoles Needle

The weather at this day was really good, and once at Barrons Pass great views open up to Frenchmans Cap and Clytemnestra on the other side of the valley, as well as to Lake Cecily and Lake Getrude directly underneath it. To the south of the pass you’ve the White Needle peaking out, and to the North it’s Nicoles Needle.

White Needle from Barron Pass
Frenchmans Cap (left) and Clytemnestra (right)
Lake Cecily and Lake Getrude (did you realise that all European names are female in this area?)

You continue by traversing below Sharlands Peak. The terrain is steep, but, again, well maintained. Nothing to hard, and not even really exposed. After this 30min traverse or so, it gets a bit easier. You’ve a nice view back to Barrons Pass, as well as to the Vera Valley and Donaghys Hill (from there I saw the first time Frenchmans Cap – almost 11 months ago) in the North. From here you could do a side trip to Daverns Cavern, but I couldn’t be bothered doing 2km of trackless bush bash. After crossing the Artichoke Valley, and heading through a small saddle, you’ve almost reached Tahune Hut. Along the way you always get glimpses of Frenchmans Cap. There’s a short ladder to overcome a steep section just before the hut.

View Back to Sharlands Peak and Barrons Pass
Artichoke Valley has a sort of micro-climate
View to the North along Vera River (and Donaghys Hill)
Finally, the roof of Tahune Hut is in sight

Tahune Lake lies in a cauldron and the hut is nested just at the edge of it. Tahune hut was just built recently. Thus, it’s a very modern hut, and has a great view from the lunch area. I left my gear at Tahune Hut and headed up to the summit in the late afternoon, making use of the good weather conditions. The old track along the gully is closed due to excessive erosion. The new track makes a big zig-zag at the bottom of the mountain before a sharp left turn and getting up steeply through a couloir. Once you gained this, the rest of the walking up to the summit is basically straightforward.

Cauldron of Lake Tahune
Tahune Hut just nested on the edge

If you miss the turn off (as some other walkers told me, they did in the first instance), you basically walk over the North Col another 5 km to the Irenabyss at the Franklin River. You could even walk out via the Raglan Range, which requires an additional 10km of trackless bush bashing. And last but no least before that, swimming through the Franklin River with your packraft (which need to be carried in and out), or any other device which gives you additional buoyancy for your heavy backpack, for example your inflatable mattress. Somehow that wasn’t appealing to me, I wonder why…

The old track directly towards North Col…
…is closed now due to severe erosion
Lake Gwendolen with Lake Burbury in the background

The view from the summit of Frenchmans Peak was just stunning. It provides a real 360° view. I could see Lake Burbury to the West, Bathurst Harbour with Sarah Island to the south, could guess the Prince of Wales Range to the South, and King William Rang to the East, and Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain to the North. Basically all my mountains and points I’ve been to, I could see from here. All these fond memories of Tasmania seen from a single point, my final summit.

The summit cairn of Frenchmans Cap (there’s a big debate about it), and the foundation of the former trig point
Lake Burbury to the West towards Queenstown
I finally made it also to Frenchmans Cap – my final mountain in Tasmania
Even Bathurst Harbour with Sarah Island, where I’ve been with Kristy in April, can be seen from the summit
To the South is the wildest and roughest part of Tasmania, one might be even able to guess the Prince of Wales Range
To the East lies the no less rough King William Range
And last but not least the characteristic summits of Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain to the North.

Hiking Three Capes (Day 3)

Sunday morning, 12th December 2021, we started hiking out. First we back tracked the Cape Pillar Track to the junction of Denmans Cove, and after 20min we arrived at Retakunna Cabin. We filled up our water bottles and used the toilets. The friendly rangers saw us and were a bit surprised, as all their guests already headed off. After the hut the ascent to Mount Fortescue starts. It’s nothing major, only 250m in elevation gain on 2.2km distance. The steep section has well prepared steps, and shortly before the top we even overtook a mother with her daughter from Queensland. After three quarters of the way, the track from Wughalee Campground joins in to the Three Capes Track. It could be easily missed, but you’re also not supposed to walk in the opposite direction. Mount Fortescue is overgrown, and you hardly see anything. Nevertheless, after few more minutes you basically walk along the cliff line and several lookouts appear along the way, where you can gain different views of the shoreline.

The peninsula towards Cape Pillar, our walk from the day before
Kristy took her seat on the jungle throne

On the way down from Mount Fortescue the forest changed, and the trees became much more open. It was a sunny Sunday, and it was definitely warmer than the day before. Also there’s no water source after Retakunna Cabin, so make sure you’ve filled up enough. On a greater lookout with some boulders in front of it (it looks like they were put there by PWST), we made a longer break and enjoyed the view. There was a big arch carved into the stones right below us, and our view swept over to Cape Pillar.

Lookout towards Cape Hauy
Rugged cliff line, and a big arch formed down in the blue water
Kristy enjoying the view in the sun
Last View Back along the coastline to Cape Pillar

After maybe another kilometre we reached the junction to Cape Hauy. And as it was a nice Sunday, the crowds came in for an easy day walk from the Fortescue carpark to Cape Hauy. We had a sip of water and left our big backpacks at the junction, before heading off to Cape Hauy. Kristy struggled already with her knee, so she didn’t really enjoy the walk, even it was now much easier without the big backpacks. After a small dip, we easily reached Cape Hauy. It provided nice views not only back to Cape Pillar, but also into Fortescue Bay and along the shoreline to the North. Whereas The Moai was hidden around the corner, but Maria Island was clearly visible off the coast. The Totem Pole and The Candlestick were directly infront of us. Kristy stayed at the viewing platform, while I was exploring the area a bit. I scrambled down and was looking for some better views of the Candlestick and the Totem Pole. I could definitely see several pieces of tad on the Candlestick.

You can’t miss the track to Cape Hauy
Cape Pillar
Fortescue Bay
View to the North, with Maria Island peaking out on the right
The Candlestick and The Totem Pole from the viewing platform at Cape Hauy
The Totem Pole is harder to climb but not has high…
…as the Candlestick

The walk out from Cape Hauy was straightforward, and took us maybe less than 1:30h. As the weather was good, and we were once in the area, we decided to make some stops around Eaglehawk Neck. First we headed to the Tasman Blowhole, and I walked to Fossil Bay Lookout and stopped on the way back at the Tasman Blowhole. Kristy couldn’t be bothered after three days of hiking, and she had it already seen before. Also I’ve to say, it wasn’t anything special.

That looks like the official finish of the Three Capes Walk
Fossil Cliffs
Tasman Blowhole

Then we just drove to Tasman Arch, which is just a turnoff away. Yes, you could walk there, but the sun was already going down. You wouldn’t imagine it, but directly off the carpark, there’s definitely a big Arch. We continued for several hundred metres to Devils Kitchen, which also opened up views down south along the rugged coastline of the Tasman peninsula. You could walk the Tasman Coastal Trail along the coastline all the way to Fortescue Bay (as Jon did once by accident) or vice versa. Devils Kitchen is now a big cleft, after the arch collapsed a long time ago, deeply washed into the sandstone. It’s formation started about 270 million years ago. And the sea levels also changed by more than 100m in the last 2 million years. There are nowadays sea level, sea caves, sea cliffs and notches at up to 100m depth, which resemble those above the current sea level.

Tasman Arch
Rugged coastline of the Tasman Peninsula
Devils Kitchen is really deep

After crossing Eaglehawk Neck we stopped at Tessellated Pavements. Tessellated Pavements are a very rare occurrence. These flat rocks have polygonal cracks. Those cracks can have different origins. Nevertheless, it’s a rare occasion where nature provides some kind of regular shape. We drove out via Pirates Bay Drive, and had a stop at Pirates Bay Lookout. The evening sun provided a nice lighting across the Pirates Bay, and along the shoreline down to Cape Hauy, where we just had been a few hours earlier.

Tessellated Pavements
Pirate Bay from the Pirate Bay Lookout at Pirate Bay Drive (Sure, Tasmanian names are rather original)

On the drive back we took a left turn in Dunalley into Fulham Rd, and drove via Carlton to Sorell along the shoreline through the scenic meadows. It was just sunlight when we arrived in Sorell, but we decided to have dinner there, as you know it’s hard to get anything to eat in Australia after eight.

Last view back to the Tasman Peninsula from the scenic coastal drive back to Sorell
GPX Track

Hiking Three Capes (Day 1&2)

Kristy and I drove off early Friday morning, 10th December 2021. We headed south to Sorell. Our first coffee stop was in Ross, where we also had a quick look at the old stone bridge over the Macquarie River. Apparently it’s the third oldest bridge of Australia which is still in use, and for sure was built by convict labour. We passed Oatlands on the Midland highway, and shortly afterwards turned into Mud Walls Road. Our next stop was the Richmond bridge in Richmond. It’s the oldest surviving large sandstone bridge in Australia. But don’t bother, it’s not even 200 years old. In late morning we arrived in Sorell, and had a few errands to run and stocking up on supplies.

Ross Bridge
Richmond Bridge

In the late afternoon we finally continued driving to Fortescue Bay, where I had already been with Will, and Jon earlier that year. We got out backpacks ready, and then took the Old Cape Pillar Track to Bare Knoll Campground. It was early December, and summer solstice wasn’t far away. Thus, we had one of the longest days in the year, with a really late sunset. The start of the path was a bit hidden in the beginning, but then easy to follow. It took us maybe a bit more than 2h for the 8km or so.

Kristy on Old Cape Pillar Track (it would be really hard to miss)
There’s a very short section of buttongrass just before the junction from Denmans Cove to Cape Hauy

The new touristic Three Capes Walk starts at Port Arthur, and then you take a boat to Denmans Cove. Followed by a short walk to the Surveyors Cabin. The whole 3 nights/4 days hike costs about 400$ if I’m not mistaken. Yes, you sleep in super modern huts, but you still need to carry your sleeping bag and food. But you don’t need a stove, gas and tent. That’s all. You could walk-in via the Denmans Cove Track but then you have your car at the end of Andersons Rd, and you would need to hitchhike back at the end of the walk. This is also 10km longer. Another alternative would be to walk in via the forestry road above Denmans Cove, and then bushbash down to it. That looks doable, but you don’t save any distance either. You’re not allowed to walk-in to Denmans Cove from the Old Pillar Track because of the spread of root fungus. That’s the only reason. Apart from that you could do the Three Capes Track, as Free Capes Track in its entirety. The ranger from Bert Nichols Hut gave me all the advice. She even told me that the huts a free for day use, like taking fresh (rain) water and using the toilet. I’m not sure about the (warm?) showers, presumably not. Though the campsite also provides toilets. And she also said that the first 13km from Denmans Cove to the junction of Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy are nothing special, and actually not worth to walk. Thus, we opted for the more convenient way. Shortly before we reached that junction we could even get a glimpse of Cape Raoul over a buttongrass plain before sunset. During the Three Capes walk, you walk to two capes (Cape Pillar, Cape Hauy), and have good views to Cape Raoul way behind Port Arthur, the third cape. The Bare Knoll Campground is a large campsites with several wodden platforms. As the state borders were still closed, we had the campground for ourselves, as all the Melburnians and Sydneysiders tourists are not yet welcome in our nice, small state. Alternatively there is even the close-by Wughalee Falls Campground. But for that you need to descent to the Retakunna Creek. The only water supply at Bare Knoll Campground is the rain water from the small toilet roof. In summer with a lot of people this could run out. Then you would need to source water from nearby Retakunna Cabin or Munroe Cabin.

Cape Raoul in the evening

On Saturday morning we started our day hike to Cape Pillar and the Blade. Cape Pillar is on a peninsula. Thus, you’re walking in and out the same way. We left the tent in the campground and only took are small daypacks. The track is maybe the best I’ve ever been onto in Tasmania. It’s made for bloody tourists, and feels more like a Sunday afternoon stroll than a bushwalking experience. It’s even easier than the Overland Track. It’s well cut through the sturdy bush. And after maybe 20min we arrived at the Munroe Cabin, which had a viewing platform and provided a nice view to Cape Hauy, our destination of the next day. The track literally goes through the hut, and we filled up our water bottles and enjoyed the view, before we continued. Munroe Cabin is a modern hut, but very expensive for what you get IMHO. There seem to be only extremes in Tasmania, either you carry your tent and all your gear, and then it’s for free, or you sleep in a (half-managed) hut, which even doesn’t provide food, which is super expensive. I don’t know why there can’t be managed hut, with decent prices for accommodation and food. The private tour operators along the Overland Track, and the Three Capes even charge you much more. Good old neoliberal Australia.

Munroe Cabin
Cape Hauy on the other side of the bay, you could even imagine to see The Totem Pole and The Candlestick

As I said before, you can’t miss the wide track. And the boardwalk had even railings. I’ve never seen that before in the Tasmanian bush. Due to the very good state of the track, there were even a few people trail running it on the entire length in one day. That doesn’t surprise me.

A cargo ship makes it way around the southern edges of Tasmania
Some of the wild flowers were blooming in late spring

About 1h after Munroe Cabin we already could see Cape Pillar the first time. We just followed the boardwalk. There are even some benched along the way, in case you need a convenient rest. These are not only benches, but benches with art. Or should I say, art with a bench around. So, there’s no excuse you need to sit in the mud during lunch break.

That’s typical Tasmanian bushwalking experience. You can image that all tracks in Tasmania are as rough as that. In particular when it comes to the railings…be aware of those!
Is it art, or can it get chucked?

A few minutes after the benches we reached the western shore on top of the impressive cliffs. The blue water was crashing onto the stacks far below. In the distance we saw Mount Brown and Cape Raoul. We followed the cliffs on top, and reached The Blade about an hour later. We weren’t running like the trail runners, but instead just enjoyed the walk and took our time. From the Blade you’ve a direct view onto Tasman Island with the lighthouse on top of it. And still it’s out of reach. In severe weather, you can imagine how rough this place can be.

On top of stacks, towering above the blue water
Cape Raoul (left) and Mount Brown (centre) on the other side of Port Arthur
Balancing Boulder
Tasman Island is already in sight
High Cliffs seen from the Blade
Tasman Island seen from The Blade
Kristy with Cape Hauy in the distance
I’m actually just checking, if it starts to drizzle, on The Blade

On the way to Chasm Lookout we saw another Echidna. Well first you hear them, before you actually see them. Just look at them, and enjoy their presence. Looking works best with your eyes, not with your fingers or hands. Just in case you forgot about that 😜.

An Echidna on the way, he was busy to look for food
View back from the Chasm Lookout over the peninsula from Cape Pillar
Another bunch of stacks deep down in the water at Cape Pillar
Cape Hauy in sight from Cape PiIllar

Chasm Lookout is actually not as impressive as the blade. We still had lunch there, as it was the end of the track, and listened to the blue water deep below us, with a view of the cliffs and to Tasman Island. The way back was the same, as we came. And we reached our campsite in the late afternoon. Just in time before there was a bit of a drizzle, and we kept dry in our tent. Still alone on the campsite.

One of the big chasms
The Blade
Those big benches reminded me of the oversized ones along the Saar-Hunsrück-Steig
This (traditional?) branch shelter is next to Bare Knoll Campground, but not clear if someone just had too much time collecting branches, or if it is indeed based on indigenous traditions.

Hiking Mount Rufus

On Saturday morning, 4th December 2021, the next weekend after I finished the Overland Track I went back to Lake St. Clair visitor centre. I drove in via Deloraine, then headed up to the Central Plateau towards Miena, and the turned into the Marlborough Road. Nothing new so far, as you can only take one of two ways to Lake St. Clair. I made a brief stop at the Bronte Flume with the big water pipeline across the Serpentine valley. I would estimate the diameter of the pipeline at about 2-3m. After the pipeline the water is discharged into the Bronte Canal and eventually into the Bronte Lagoon.

Water Pipeline discharges into Bronte Canal
Doesn’t look like much water in the Bronte Flume

After having lunch at the Lake St. Clair visitor centre, I started my walk quite late. I planned to stay overnight at the Gingerbread Hut. You could do the traverse also in a single long day, but as I had time and the weather was fine I opted for an easy 2 day walk. Yes you need to carry a bit more gear, but not too much food. I’m even not certain, if I carried my tent, or trusted that I could stay in the hut.

The start was quite easy, and you follow the signs of the Mount Rufus circuit. There was even a boardwalk over some boggy terrain in the beginning. Then you climb uphill through some lush green forest. The route finding is easy, as the track is well used and marked. Some day walkers came towards me on my way uphill. After maybe 1:30h I reached the tree line, and the views opened up. You could clearly see Lake St. Clair and the Pumphouse, as well as Mount Olympus to the left. Lake St Clair is the deepest lake of Australia, but it was also dammed in 1937 by additional 6m in order to drain more water for the Tarraleah Power Station on demand. Those varying lake levels caused severe erosions. As far as I’m aware of, the lake level stays nowadays at the additional 6m, and is no longer varied, as the pumphouse was decommissioned in 1990, and is an “eco-resort” since 2015 (Whatever “eco-resort” means in Tasmania).

Reaching the tree line…
…provides a nice view back to Lake St. Clair

After gaining a mountain spine, you get a first glimpse to the King William Range and the Lake King William. Surprise, surprise, it’s another artificial lake created by the Clark Dam and its waters are also discharged into the Tarraleah Power station. Thus, the border of the world heritage area, is on the western shore of the lake. On the other side you can get a glimpse to Forgotten Lake and Shadow Lake. Those, small lakes are natural. You also can see the big summit cairn and on the other end of the mountain spine.

The summit of Mount Rufus with the big cairn is already insight

From the summit I had a great 360° view. To the east was Mount Gell and the characteristic Frenchmans Cap in a bit of a distance. Directly below the peak in the valley was the spring of Franklin River and Lake Undine. And to the north you had all the mountains which I also passed along the Overland track. And to the south was Lake Dixon, formed by the Franklin river, and the King William range and presumably the Prince of Wales Range in the distance.

Lake Undine in front of Mount Gell, and the characteristic Frenchmans Cap in the distance
Lake Dixon with the King Williams Range in the distance
From the summit you could see from Lake St. Clair (left) to Lake King William (right)
Mount Rufus Circuit leading down to the col towards Mount Hugel, Forgotten Lake to the right with Little Hugel above, and Mount Olympus (right background)
It was a bit chilly on top, I’ve to say

From the summit of Mount Rufus I headed down the Gingerbread Track. According to the map the tiny Gingerbread Hut should be quite close, and only a few hundred metres away. But there is not a really well used track. After a few metres I found a first white pole, going down a gully. I followed those white poles for about 20min, and then saw the hut to my right, even a bit more uphill. I guess those poles are mainly for winter ascents, or not many people doing a traverse of Mount Rufus, and instead are heading back via Shadow Lake. I stayed there overnight. It’s a private hut and maintained by the Wellington Ski and Outdoor Club. In the dark the hut would be hard to find for sure. There was even a report in the hut book, that someone went out in the night and it took them almost 2h to find back to the hut. And that was even by knowing where the hut must’ve been. The hut is very small, and maybe sleeps 4 people in the upper floor, and has a table in the base. There are several small creeks around for water supply.

Gingerbread Track is marked with white poles, starting a few hundred metres from the top.
After following the gully down, the Gingerbread Hut appeared right from me
It’s tiny hut, but provides nice shelter…
…and a beautiful view down to Lake King William

I enjoyed the beautiful sunset in the evening, as well as a coffee in the morning with a direct view to Lake Williams. The next day the track was much more visible. The weather was still great and I had great views on my way down. After about one hour, I arrived at the Joe Slatter Hut. This hut is much bigger, and sleeps several people. It even has a stove inside, to keep it warm during winter. Originally both huts were built by employees from Tassie hydro, as ski lift stations. It’s just hard to imagine how you would lay a cable from one hut to the next. Well in the end, this never emerged, as those original people left. Nowadays those huts you can still use as a base for backcountry skiing.

The small Gingerbread Hut, just below the summit. The approach was via the right small gully, which was reasonably clear of bush.
Beautiful weather, with a clear sky over the neighbouring mountains
And a last view back to Mount Gell and Frenchmans Cap
After a while I passed a large valley, quite beautiful, and reached the tree line again

After the second hut I was in beautiful gumtree forest. Nevertheless, there were still some boggy buttongrass sections in between. Not that you think, you would forget that you’re still in Tasmania. There was even a walkers book for registration at the end. It didn’t even had the option, to mark a traverse of Mount Rufus. I popped out on the Rufus Canal Road, and crossed the Navarre River immediately. Then I had an easy walk out to the Lyell highway. Once on the highway, I walked for less than a kilometre until I reached Harbacks Road. There’s a carpark, but I think camping was officially not permitted. Anyway, it’s the start of the King William traverse. I left it to that, and instead hitchhiked back to Lake St. Clair. There are not many cars West of Lake St. Clair, and not everyone takes you. Nevertheless, after maybe 20min I got a lift by two Nepalese guys to the junction at Derwent Bridge. They told me, that they were from Sydney, but due to the lockdown were living since several months in Queenstown and are heading now to Hobart. At the junction I waited less than 5min minutes until I got a ride for the last 5km, as there were some many cars driving to the visitor centre on a sunny Sunday midday, it was quite straightforward. After finishing the Penguin Cradle Trail, and The Overland Track, I walked now all the way (not continuously obviously) from the Northern Shore of Tasmania, to here, in the middle of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Joe Slatter Hut seemed to have seen better days
It’s quite spacious inside, and it was clean and tidy. Even a new stove was just recently installed for the winter.
That was the nice section within the gumtree forest, with blooming flowers in Spring.
Back to buttongrass plains, from opposite Harbacks Road with a view to Mount Rufus (right) and Mount Gell (left)

I drove back the other way via Queenstown, and stopped afterwards at the Loftus Hills Memorial Reserve. It has some interesting boulders, some leftovers from former glaciers created a long time ago. After that short walk, which is directly next to the highway, my next stop was Lake Plimsoll, after I passed Mount Tyndall. Lake Plimsoll is another man-made lake, and feeds water into the Tribute Power Station, which is eventually discharges into Lake Murchison (another dammed lake). Nevertheless, it’s a nice area and from here I even could have a look back to Mount Tyndall and the other surrounding mountains.

One of the boulders from the last ice age at the Loftus Hills Memorial Reserve
Lake Plimsoll with the dam and the penstock entry at one side…
…and the view back to Mount Tyndall and the surrounding mountains on the other.
GPX Track

Hiking Overland Track South (Day 3&4)

Saturday, 27th November 2021, after the clouds Mount Geryon and The Acropolis, I started to hike out via Lake St. Clair. The Overland Track follows gently the Narcissus River in a beautiful forest. The weather was just fine, only a few cumulus clouds were in the sky. After about 1:30h I reached the turn-off into the Pine Valley. From here on you don’t need a Overland Track permit anymore. Maybe you still need a free permit for the Pine Valley to restrict visitor numbers. But as Pine Valley is typically reached from the south, you can walk freely from here to the visitor centre and back.

The Acropolis and Mount Geryon from Bert Nichols Hut
Beautiful hike through the forest
Turnoff into Pine Valley, from here on there’s no longer a Overland Track permit required

Shortly before crossing the Narcissus river, there was a short boardwalk over a small buttongrass stretch (yes, that’s the Overland Track). Due to the clearing you could clearly see Mount Olympus and Mount Byron. I had my lunch at the small Narcissus hut. Most hikers waited here for their boat to get a lift over Lake St. Clair. Thus, Narcissus hut is not very often used for overnight stays. Maybe, as a stopover to get into Pine Valley or Marions Lake, if you walk in. I highly recommend to walk out along Lake St. Clair and not take the boat. The beech forest along the lake is just beautiful.

Mount Olympus is insight
Nice walk along Narcissus River

Thus, after noon I continued to Echo Point Hut. I wasn’t in a hurry and took my time for these last 7 km. Echo Point Hut is notorious for its native rodents. Yes there’s a lot of rodents shit everywhere, in particular behind the steel box underneath the table. I still opted to sleep inside, as I figured that out too late. I carried my tent over the last 3 days, but I actually never used it. There are steel containers outside of the hut now, where you can put your whole backpack in to protect it from the rodents. Hence, you don’t need the steel container inside the hut any longer. And it was full with kindling anyway, if I remember right. There’s a pier in front of the hut, but the boat only stops in the morning to drop of guests, who which to walk back one-way to the visitor centre. You also have a nice view to the other side of the lake, with Mount Ida and its cone peak standing out.

Mount Byron after lunch
Very old trail markings are now almost completely overgrown and taken back from that tree
Echo Point Hut with the green steel container to protect your backpack from the rodents
Mount Ida with its conical peak on the other side of Lake St Clair
Almost sunset at Echo Point Hut, as we’re already in the shade of Mount Olympus

Sunday morning I continued my hike, as it was only 10km left to the visitor centre. I think I agreed with Kristy on an approximate pick-up time before, but I’ve had also a bit of reception to text her, 1 or 2h before I reached the visitor centre at a small headland. It was the best decision to hike out along the lake. During the morning I could see and hear the boat going to Narcissus Hut, and I just thought, if they knew what they’ve just missed. About 30min before I reached the visitor centre, I came to the turn-off to Platypus Bay, where I already walked to with Kristy back in April. Kristy already waited a bit at the visitor centre for me to arrive. In several stages I finally completed the Overland Track. These include our hike to Cradle Mountain, my hike of The Overland Track North in Winter, one section from Forth Valley to Walls of Jerusalem, and finally the last few days.

Last view back to Mount Ida
Calm and nice Lake St Clair
Mount Olympus from nearby Fergy’s Paddock campsite
Yes I made it

After a short break we drove along the Lyell Highway and stopped at The Centre of Tasmania next to Bronte Lagoon. Apparently, it’s the geographical centre of Tasmania and it’s marked by a big cairn. The whole area is shaped by the Hydro Tasmania Power scheme. A few kilometres upstream water is diverted from the Nive River, which now flows through the Bronte Canal, and shapes the Bronte Lagoon, which was created in the 1950’s. Eventually the water is discharged into the Tungatinah Power Station. We continued along Victoria Valley Rd, and passed Dee Lagoon, which is also part of the same scheme, as well as Lake Echo. That’s a lot of land use for just 125MW installed capacity.

Me at the Centre of Tasmania, with Bronte Lagoon in the back…
…and fed by Bronte Canal to the right

After turning North into Bashan Road we also passed the new Cattle Hill Windfarm. Just for comparison, this wind farm alone as 144MW installed capacity, on a much smaller area, with less invasive development than any hydro scheme. And even the capacity factor of Tungatinah Power Station with just 54% isn’t great at all. Presumably that’s due to the dry summers here in the area. In Waddamana we paid a visit to the old power station. It was Tasmania’s first hydro-electric one. It was fed from diverted water from the Ouse river via the Great Lake, but it’s no longer in use. Instead the diverted water is now discharged via the Poatina power station, which eventually flows via the South Esk river to Launceston in the North. Creating drought problems along the Ouse river to the south. When I was driving to Hobart in January and stopped in Ouse we had almost 40°C on that day. The old prestigious building now serves as a museum, but it was already closed when we arrived. Thus, we just had a walk around the outer premise, and you could even see some of the old penstocks. Kristy still had bad memories from her childhood of Waddamana, as she once went here on a primary school trip here, and got terribly cold. Lucky us, it was late spring and quite warm today.

Passing by Cattle Hill Windfarm
On the way down to Waddamana
Historical hydropower station in a prestigious building
Old penstocks are already partially dismantled
The entrance looks more like a casino, than a power station

On the drive out we stopped at Penstock Lagoon, where the water was once collected for the power stations down the Ouse valley. Pnestock Lagoon was fed from the Great Lake via the Shannon River and two canals which were dug into the hard rock. Nowadays, those canals are almost dry and getting slowly filled up again with soil. We bypassed this time Miena, and drove via Poatina Road along Arthurs Lake, another man-made reservoir from the 1920’s. We briefly stopped at Cramps Bay and had a look at the Great Lake from the other side.

Penstock Lagoon
One of the former canals to feed Penstock lagoon is slowly taken back by nature
That’s Tasmania, it’s always handy to have a bit of old rusty steel in your backyard…you never know what the future will bring
Great Lake from Cramps Bay

Before we drove down from the Central Plateau, we stopped at the Poatina Head Race. Here the water from the Great Lake is delivered via an underground pipeline and then discharged via the penstock into the underground Poatina Power Station. The carpark provides a great lookout point. We could not only see the Tamar Valley, but also Ben Lomond on the other side of the wide valley. And for sure the low plains are characterised by agriculture. Nevertheless, it was nice to see all this lush green.

Entrance Portal to the Poatina Headrace…
…on the eastern side of the Central Plateau…
…with great views across the Tamar Valley to Ben Lomond on the other side.

Poatina was built in the 1960’s for the workers of the power stations, with all amenities you can think of. The once closed town, is nowadays a normal community. We drove through it and had a quick stop and walk around. But as you can imagine this small village is as dead as any other small village on a Sunday evening.

Penstock and electrical substation in the evening sunlight
Beautiful view along the slopes from the Central Plateau
Brumbys Creek Canal, the run off from the Poatina Power station

It got already a bit late and we got hungry. So we stopped for dinner in Longford, and we just made it before the kitchen in the pub closed at 20:00 o’clock (yes, that’s Australia, after 20:00 o’clock you may only get beer, if the pub is still open at all I mean). After 4 days in the bush, I opted for a steak with some vegetables. The meat was OK, but the green asparagus was Aussie style…black burnt, yes it was literally black burnt asparagus. You could taste the charcoal, but not the asparagus anymore. Afterwards they even asked me how it was…well, hui you know, I just don’t like burnt vegetables was my (sort of) polite answer.

GPX Track