Du Cane Traverse

**Note** Much of the Du Cane Traverse is either untracked or vaguely marked by irregular rock cairns. It is a very difficult walk, both physically and in terms of navigation, and should only be attempted by experienced bushwalkers. This trip report should not be used as a guide – for notes please check John Chapman’s excellent guide book Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair & Walls of Jerusalem National Parks (http://www.john.chapman.name/pub-cr.html).

The Du Cane Traverse was my first attempt at what I’d consider the three major mountain-top traverses in the Cradle Mt/Lake St Clare National Park (the others being the Pelion Circuit from Pelion West to Mt Ossa and the Eldon Traverse from Eldon Bluff to Eldon Peak). There’s a few ways one can go about it, but basically you go from Falling Mountain, at the Range’s north-east corner, to the Labyrinth at it’s south-western extremity (or vice versa). For a ‘true’ traverse, you’d also include Mt Gould to the south of the Labyrinth.

Due to travel restrictions, we took the rather unorthodox option of approaching the Range from Lees Paddocks to the north (most people I know had done it as a circuit from Narcissus Hut on Lake St Clare). This also meant going the ‘wrong way’ up the very steep and slippery Kia Ora – Lees Paddocks Track, which was a brutal experience for someone who’d spent the last 9 months sitting in a studio doing not much…

Anyway, day one was very beautiful (as LP and the Upper Mersey Valley always is) with a highlight being a small waterfall on KO Creek that dropped into a deep and narrow conglomerate plunge-pool, before exiting through a miniature canyon of sorts – definitely a spot I’d like to come back to for a swim one day! We arrived at the old Du Cane Hut late in the day and dropped off to sleep pretty quickly, being pretty much buggered as we were…

Day two started with a quick hour and a half south along the Overland Track to Du Cane Gap, where we followed Chapman’s notes and dropped down into the open gully to the north of the track, and then quickly headed straight up the side of Falling Mt. This section was probably the hardest of the whole walk, starting with very steep scrub, and then moving into a sketchy scramble over large and unstable dolerite boulders. It took us about four hours from the OLT to the top of Falling Mt!

We then continued along the ridge between Falling Mt and Mt Massif, sometimes following cairns but generally making our own way. There is some absolutely stunning views along this section – north to Pinestone Valley, Lees Paddocks and Cathedral Mt, and south to Lake St Clare, Mt Olympus and Byron, the Acropolis, and along the Range to Mt Geryon. There is also very little permanent water between Falling Mt and Massif, so be warned!

After a few hours we came to the large (as in house-sized) bouldery knoll just before the Mt Massif summit plateau. Foolishly, we followed Chapman’s notes, rather than the advice of fellow walkers, and siddled around the knoll to the south. We then found ourselves faced with a series of very steep gullies that would have to be climbed to make our way on to Mt Massif. I have heard from several others that have attempted the Traverse that the northern side of the knoll is much easier, so in this one case I’d ignore Chapman’s directions…

Finally, after a solid ten hour day, we made it to the Massif Bowl. This is a large grassy depression in the middle of the summit plateau that drains into several sink-holes, and makes for a splendid (if exposed) campsite. For the sake of water quality, please be sure to leave the bowl to do your thing!

Day three and we scurried out of the bowl to the north-west, getting some stunning views of the south buttress of Ossa and west to Mt Hyperion. We then clambered down into the very steep and quite exposed Big Gun Pass. This was one of the highlights for me, and really gives you a feel of the sheer immensity of the landscape! If you’re keen there’s also a couple of cliff-top campsites along this section, although you’d want to be pretty comfortable with hights…

We continued up out of the pass and onto the plateau between Geryon and Hyperion. Being on the cliffs here is something else, with roughly a 500m vertical drop down to the Narcissus Valley below! Due to time constraints we didn’t have time to summit either mountain so we headed onwards and downwards to the tangled dolerite landscape of the Labyrinth. This is one of the classic Tasmanian bushwalking locations and needs no introduction to anyone who’s seen Dombrovskis’ work… Needless to say we spend a fantastic few hours making our way through the countless tarns and lakes.

After the Labyrinth we descended steeply into Pine Valley, our destination for the night. If you haven’t been here, it’s about time. The place is magic…

Day four saw us rise at 5.30am in order to make the 9am ferry from Narcissus Hut. The morning was completed in a rush so not much to say, although there’s was some absolutely amazing Warratahs in fully crimson glory!

All images GH2 and Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 (my first trip with a single prime)

Upper Mersey River - Lees Paddocks

Dry sclerophyll forest - Lees Paddocks

Reg Wadley Memorial Hut - Lees Paddocks

Falling Mt to Mt Massif - the Range from Lees Paddocks

Mt Cathedral from Du Cane Hut

On top of Falling Mt

The ridgeline towards Mt Massif

Mt Pillanger, Lees Paddocks and Mt Cathedral

South to Lake St Clare, Mt Olympus and Mt Byron

Will on the knoll before Massif

Christian and Will cooking up a storm in the Massif Bowl

Big Gun Pass

Hyperion from the Pass

Will on the 'track' through BGP

The 'Big Gun', the Acropolis and Mt Geryon

Will above the void

Mt Geryon summit

The Labyrinth with Frenchman's Cap in the far distance

Labyrinth vegetation

Christian descending into Pine Valley



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