Wednesday, 30 March 2022

No rain on the Du Cane...

    Phil and I have been trying to do the Western Arthurs for 3 years, and I hadn't seen him in as long because of some nuisance virus. In the meantime, Melaleuca at 9 years old has grown legs and a stamina compatible with Tassie hikes, although perhaps not the Arthurs...

    And so with a shorter timeframe available, and with winter fast approaching, we decided on a traverse of the DuCane Range instead. I pulled Balti out of school for a few days, and we met up with Phil and Mellie in Hobart for some supplies, shopping and then a nice Salamanca steak. 

    Then a comfy last sleep...

    (Click photos for large high res, apologies there's lots and they take a bit to load)

Whilst Phil would leave and then return to an area in NSW devastated by floods, Tassie has had a warm and dry summer, and we couldn't believe our luck with the forecast. Lake St Clair is actually so dry that the ferry may soon not be able to make it to Narcissus Bay. We drove up in time for the midday boat from Cynthia, and were soon passing a heap of folk trudging the other way from the final stretch of the Overland. It was still warm enough for a few snakes underfoot to watch out for.
Balti had a fish in the Narcissus and nabbed a couple of nice brown trout for dinner. Walking up Pine Valley, it felt good to be once more immersed in Tasmanian rainforest, it is just so healthy, rich, beautiful and good for the soul.
We made Pine Valley Hut in around 4 hours and pitched camp. Whilst the hut is still open, it's under repair and pretty messy. Still we got the coal fire going to cook the trout in some foil I'd brought in case, and Phil also cooked up one of his very fine stews.
There were a few other couples there, including a pair who we would later find out were quite indignant we'd obviously bitten off way more than we could chew by bringing kids up that far away with us. Too funny. We hadn't even started climbing yet...

In fact the climb up to the Labyrinth whilst solid, wasn't too hard, and mostly enjoyable for the transition of rainforest to alpine, and especially the alpine trees of Tasmania, particularly the very unique and wonderful pencil pines and deciduous beech. whilst there were no golden hillsides, the Fagus had certainly begun to turn, and the Labyrinth, as anticipated, was stunningly beautiful.

    There was a trail mostly of cairns which snaked around dozens of small glacial tarns and lakes, and which wasn't too hard to follow. We eventually made it to our campsite, the Pool of Memories, supposedly the prettiest lake in Australia, with spectacular views and reflections of the Geryon and Acropolis. 

    These two monoliths are undoubtedly a pair of the most spectacular mountains in Australia, and I couldn't stop photographing them.

    There was a fine dry grassy area beside the Pool, and I don't think I've ever set up camp anywhere so picturesque. After camp was established, Phil, Balti and I climbed up higher to Lake Helios, where we all had an extremely bracing swim. It was actually surprising just how cold the water was! Balti threw a few casts, but there were only tiny galaxias at these altitudes.

    As the sun turned on a spectacle on the Geryon, Phil cooked up one of his awesome lentil curries. True to form he did it all whilst recumbent. He'd also commandeered my pack's ice axe holder for a pair of leeks and a stick of celery, lamenting that packs should be designed more with vegetables in mind. 

 The sunset over the lake on the mountains was epic.

After a good day's exercise and Phil's fine meal, we all slept well.  Overnight the wind had built up, and it had turned cold. Up in the high alpine, it looked like it was absolutely howling. Whilst we had originally planned to do the full traverse of the northern DuCane Range and move camp up to Mt Massif, that prospect now looked less appealing. We also knew that even worse weather was coming which might make the exit challenging, with the potential to miss our booked ferry. And so we decided on a day-trip up to the Geryon and Hyperion instead. 

The trail up to the high alpine was pretty easy to follow, with spectacular views all the way. Up high, the wind was furious and it wouldn't have been much fun camping. The dolerite jungle gym up to the summit of the Geryon was fun, and then the views utterly breathtaking.

We then made our own trail north to Lake Helios under the Hyperion for lunch. There were amazing views north to the very impressive Mt Ossa under cloud. It was good to get out of the wind as we strolled back down the pass. Back at camp, the kids got out on the lake with a sleeping mat, and I went for a run up to the extremely beautiful Lake Eos where I had a refreshing swim in some very deep green water. Then we scored another spectacular Tassy alpine sunset.

We knew there was a cold front arriving in the morning so we woke early and packed up camp in the dark. Just as we got the tents down and into our packs, the first drops of rain arrived, however the full front didn't hit us properly until an hour later once we were well off into the Labyrinth.
The descent was harder on my old knees than the climb, but soon the sun was out again and Balti and Mellie went for another fish in the Narcissus where both caught fish. Balti also found a Tassy freshwater crayfish. We made the ferry in plenty of time.

After a shower back at Cynthia, a beer and burger never tasted so good. We had a pleasant stroll in the mist the next morning searching for platypus, and our usual stone skipping competition, before the drive back to Hobart with a brief fish on the Derwent for lunch. 

I definitely need to get back into this area on skis...

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