Cathedral Circuit – the Never Never

**NOTE** While some of the sections of this walk are marked tracks (Lake Bill Track, Lake Meston/Junction Lake Track, OLT, Arm River Track, Reedy Lake Track and Lees Paddocks Track), the Never Never section is entirely unmarked and the Reedy Lake section is very poorly marked and infrequently used. As with other posts, know your shit if you plan to go there…

Ever since I walked the Overland Track for the first time as a 12yo, I’ve been fascinated by the area known as the ‘Never Never’. This is the final stretch of the Upper Mersey Valley, running from Junction Lake in the Walls of Jerusalem NP, to Hartnett Falls in Cradle Mt/Lake St Clare NP – essentially connecting the two Parks. The area is entirely un-tracked and remains a fairly serious undertaking, despite only being about 6km in length…

A couple of months ago I had the chance to have a go at it, planning a four-day trip circuit with a fellow guide that would circumnavigate the Cathedral Plateau – starting at the end of the Mersey Forest Rd and walking from the western section of the WoJ to the Overland Track, via the Never Never, and then returning to the road via Lees Paddocks and the Mersey Valley.

We set out on the Lake Bill track in cold, wet and windy conditions, with a forecast that told us it was only going to get worse… Less that an hour into the walk on our arrival at the Blizzard Plains we were visited by the Police Search and Rescue chopper, asking if we’d seen a lady that had called up with a broken leg at Lake Meston – and then promptly disappeared… Unfortunately we hadn’t, and we were to hear the chopper circling for the rest of the day. There was no story in the papers a few days later so hopefully she was OK. We continued along the very boggy buttongrass plains until we reached Lake Bill itself, where we were treated to stunning (although intermittent) views of Mt Ragoona (Able – 1350m). The rain was coming in solidly now so we continued onward, finding that the track around the lake is quite a bit further up the hill that the 1:25000 TasMap suggests…

We then moved up a narrow, rocky and very beautiful valley connecting Lake Bill with Lake Myrtle – loosing the track a few times until we arrived at the very pretty and very wet campsites at the eastern end of the lake. Definitely a site I’d like to come back to in drier conditions! Then it was a quick jaunt over the saddle to Lake Meston and the Meston Hut. Given the conditions we decided to spend the night in the Hut.

We awoke late in the morning and made our way lazily toward Juntion Lake. Initially we’d planned to head up the Lake Artemis Track and onto the Traveller Range, but after chatting to some walkers we met and pondering the forecast (overnight snow to 600m) and just generally feeling unenthusiastic, we decided to look for a nice campsite around Junction Lake – eventually finding out about 1km from the hut.

After setting up the tent we went for a bit of a wander around the lake to scope out the beginning of the Never Never ‘track’ – and also have a look at Clark Falls, which are located on the Upper Mersey a few hundred metres after is comes out of the lake. Well, check the photos – they’re awesome! One of the most impressive falls I’ve seen in Tassie, with what looks like an amazing low-water swimming hole on the first step…

Next morning we awoke to that wonderful light scratching on the tent that says ‘Snow’! Sticking our heads outside there was only about 1″ on the ground, but the temperature had definitely dropped and the clouds had that swirling lack of definition that indicated a heap more was on the way…

We packed up and headed back down to Clark Falls and into the Never Never. This section (especially in snow) really is stunning… There’s something of a pad that runs through the valley, but it’s very easy to lose and in areas it disappears entirely. Most of the time we walked through either wet sclerophyll with pockets of rainforest and the odd buttongrass plain. There was also a few thickets of tea-tree scrub that made for very difficult walking. One of the high-lights was a fantastic view of Feather Falls coming off the southern side of the Cathedral Plateau and dropping what looked to be 70-80m! Unfortunately we didn’t have time but next time I’m in the area I’d like to get a closer look at these!

The further we got into the Never Never the more nervous we got, as we knew that we possibly had to wade across the Mersey above Hartnett Falls and there was a lot of water around… As a last resort we thought we might be able to get across the rock-bridge below Fergusson Falls, but we had no idea how accessible it was from the eastern side of the river. We finally got to Hartnett and after studying it for a while, we decided to pull out the rope and give it a go… Well, it was sketchy, and at times you could feel the flow pushing your boots along the river bed, but we made it none the less and finally got back on a proper track on the far side.

To continue the adventurous element of the walk we then decided to avoid the Overland for a bit longer and instead take the river track from Hartnett down to Fergusson. If you haven’t done this I highly recommend it! Absolutely beautiful rainforest track right next to the river, and it also goes past a couple of great little swimming holes!

After Fergusson we finally headed back up to the OLT and onward to Du Cane Hut, where we planned to spend the night. On unpacking bags we found that my partners liner had leaked and her sleeping back was literally dripping wet… With the temperature inside the hut noticeably below zero, we decided to cut our losses and head up to Kia Ora to see if we could borrow a spare sleeping bag of the Cradle Huts crew (thanks Grant and Ed). Then it was back to the PWS hut for a night of gossip with a bunch of Air Force lads and some European indies.

We woke on the final morning to find about 20-30cm of snow around the hut, and more falling. We decided to bail on the original KO-Lees Paddocks track idea (as we weren’t sure if we’d be able to cross KO Creek) and went the long way around – KO to Pelion Hut, then the Arm River Track to the Reedy Lake Track and finally out the Lees Paddocks Track. While this was quite a bit longer, it had a added benifit of being the first group of the day to go through Pinestone Valley and Pelion Gap, which meant virgin snow and jaw-dropping views of the Du Cane Range and Mt Ossa.

Unfortunately, it was about here that I got a drop of snow on the sensor of my GH2 and photos stopped for the trip… So you’ll have to take my word that the Reedy Lake Track (especially the last hour before Lees Paddocks) is one of the prettiest I’ve walked – give it a go one day!

Finally we got back to the Mersey Forest Rd at sunset (after a bit of a jaunt down toward Lake Rowellan after missing the Pine Hut Plain turnoff…) and drove off at 20km/h to avoid running over pademelons… Fantastic trip all up!

Shot on a GH2, Lumix 7-14, Voigtlander Nokton 25mm and m.Zuiko 45/f1.8

Blizzard Plains and Mt Ragoona

Police S&R at Blizzard Plains

Lake Meston Hut

Lake Meston Hut

Fagus

The Never Never

Upper steps of Clark Falls

Young eucalypt

Junction Lake Reflections

Junction Lake campsite

Snow on gum leaves

Tasmanian Snow Gums

Junction Lake in the morning

Down by the Mersey

The lower section of Clark Falls

Fagus

Feather Falls

Du Cane Hut

Walking through Pinestone Valley

Mt Pelion East

Mt Massif and Mt Hyperion - the Du Cane Range

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