**For the photographers** – This trip was shot on an Olympus EM5, m.ZD 12mm f2, CV Nokton 25mm f0.95, m.ZD 45mm f1.8 and m.ZD 75mm f1.8. I used all lenses regularly except the 75mm, and I would have loved to have something like a compact m.ZD 10mm f2.8 (you listening Oly?). I didn’t take a tripod and never wished I’d had one, although this was mainly because of the weather. I took three batteries and only needed one, using it for 252 photos.
I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that the Western Arthurs Range, located deep in the Southwest, isn’t the premier ‘serious’ marked route in Tasmania.
There’s certainly other features that garner more interest; for instance Federation Peak in the nearby Eastern Arthurs, as well as probably Mt Anne, Frenchman’s Cap and Precipitous Bluff. And there’s also unmarked routes which are much, much harder, such as the Prince of Whales and Frankland Ranges. But for day after day of solid, diverse, technical bushwalking, with those little orange triangles pointing the way and beautiful stone pathways taking you there, the Western Arthurs has to be it.
There’s three main ways that people undertake the Arthurs. The first and easiest is a return trip from Scotts Peak up Alpha Moraine to Lake Oberon, at the north-western end of the Range. This can be completed in two big days, and if you establish a base camp at the beautiful Lake Oberon there’s a ton of fantastic peaks that can be attempted as day trips. That said, it misses out the most interesting/challenging sections of track through the heart of the Range…
The second option is the one we undertook – a partial traverse from Moraine A down the Range to Kappa Moraine near it’s south-eastern end. It doesn’t quite cover the whole lot but it does the most interesting bits. For those looking at doing the ‘whole thing’ this is the most common option, and for a fit group with good weather you’re looking at about 6 days.
Finally, there’s the full-traverse, ascending Moraine A and continuing past Moraine K to exit over West Portal and the Crags of Andromeda. This adds at least an extra two days to the previous option and leads you into less frequented areas of the range. If you fall into the Super Keen crowd, you can even head down Lucifer Ridge to Pass Creek and join up with the track to the Eastern Arthurs and Federation Peak – completing a full-traverse of the whole Arthur Range and exiting via Farmhouse Creek. This takes ages…
After spending the day driving down from Launnie and picking up a quick meal in New Norfolk (I highly recommend the cafe near Maccas – fantastic lamb curry), our group of five 20-somethings set off from Scotts Peak late on a Thursday arvo, hoping to make it in to Junction Creek to get a bit of a head-start for the next day. We made it, but I can’t say it was a fantastic start to the trip – heavy rain and a heap of mud with big sections of track burnt out during the recent fires… We arrived to the sheltered and dry campsites above the creek about 45mins after dark and I promptly went to bed, still feeling the effects of finishing an Overland the previous day.
We woke in the morning to sporadic rain and occasional views over the plains to the Range. It would stay the same for much of the day, the only positive being that it wasn’t too cold… After the solid slog up Moraine A (700m ascent over a couple of km) we emerged into mist that would remain for the rest of the day. We quickly traversed the first section of the range, passed through the Capella Crags before turning off the main track and descending to our second night’s camp at Lake Cygnus.
Day three dawned to similar conditions, and spirits weren’t great as we left Cygnus and headed up toward Mt Hayes (1119m). The mist continued and we decided to bypassed the summit before heading into the first technical section of track, descending a steep and heavily eroded gully onto the series of saddles and knolls between Hayes and Procyon Peak (1136m). On approach to Procyon a bit of blue began to tentatively appear above us, so we quickly dumped packs and made our way up the scrambly pad to the summit (Chapman recommends approaching from the campsite above Square Lake but frankly that option looks far sketchier than going up from the saddle, which we found very straightforward). On top we were greeted with some fantastic views as the cloud banks swept through – Mt Orion (1151m), Square Lake and Mt Hayes surrounding us, and the Arthur Plains nearly a kilometre below. The ‘alternative’ route along the ridge-line between Procyon and Orion certainly looks ‘interesting’.
After returning to our packs we sidled around the base of Procyon and made ourselves a lunch spot on some boulders by the shore of a very beautiful Square Lake. After lunch we ascended again to reach the saddle between Orion and Mt Sirius (1151m), gaining our first view of the legendary Lake Oberon, and doing our best Dombrovskis impersonations with some conveniently placed Pandanis. We then descended sharply along the base of the Orion cliffs, a fun bit of walking with Ed’s completely deadpan “I’m fucking terrified” being a highlight. At the base of the cliffs we found a solid bit of track-work had made the rest of the day to Oberon a bit of a walk in the proverbial park.
On arriving at the Oberon campsite we found a beautifully constructed stone pathway. Unfortunately it was sitting below three inches of mud and water (it wasn’t flooding mind you) in a bit of a landscape gotcha… Oh well, the tent platforms were nicely sheltered and Lake Oberon was as gorgeous as everyone says. Unfortunately some complete fuckwit in the furthest tent-platform (and the furthest upstream) had decided that they may as well just shit directly off the platform and then leave the remains. We cleaned up as best we could, shovelling the waste down to the proper toilet, but beware where you get your water from if you’re heading in there soon… Anyway, after a long and relaxed dinner under the tarp (smartest thing I’ve bought in ages) I buggered off for a bit of a read and sleep.
About midnight I woke to a very odd noise. The wind would ‘whoosh’ into the Lake Oberon bowl, then start to roar as it swirled around and picked up momentum, and then it would slam into my tent. It did this for the rest of the night, and when I got up at 7am the outside of the tent was coated in a mix of ice and hail… We quickly decided that today would be a layday and I promptly went back to a still warm sleeping bag, waking again near midday.
Some time early afternoon the weather finally began to cheer up a bit and we decided to have a crack at a peak so as the day wouldn’t be a total writeoff. Having summited Mt Hayes on an earlier trip, Matt suggested Pegasus South (1053m) and we were off. With daypacks only we sped up the track to Pegasus proper (1063m) and then began the process of finding a route over to the Southern block. Getting a bit ahead of the others, Matt and I turned around to find three dots spider-manning their way down a very dubious looking sheer cliff-face – on regrouping later they muttered something about ‘adventure’. Fantastic views were had the whole way along the ridge and from the summit itself – we eyed the next day’s route toward Mt Capricorn (1037m) skeptically. That evening dinner was noticeably more positive and I’d even say the group was looking forward to the next ay, when we would enter what Chapman describes as the ‘exciting’ part of the Range.
Waking the next morning the weather looked acceptable and we quickly packed and set off, managing to scurry back up to Mt Pegasus without the need to pack-haul, although there is one awkward and thoroughly enjoyable boulder ‘hole’ that needs to be negotiated. We then descended a very steep and technical route that dipped below the mass of Pegasus and then siddled some very steep faces before finally arriving at the saddle before Mt Capricorn (1037m). We had a quick lunch here and then set off, making our way through the Capricorn boulders before suddenly finding ourselves at the top of the single steepest bit of track I’ve ever seen, descending about 200m over about the same horizontal distance.
As we left Chapman’s ‘lunch cave’ the weather began to deteriorate, and by the time we passed the junction for Dorado Peak (1068m) the wind was howling and bringing a whole lot of freezing rain with it. We quickly continued and made good time to High Moor, our planned campsite. On arriving we were shocked to find the tent platforms sitting slap bang out in the open without any shelter to speak of – foolishly we’d interpreted the notes mention of Haven Lake as ‘exposed’ as meaning the other site where sheltered. Checking watches it was obvious we didn’t have time to continue that day and so we dropped packs and set as many guy-lines as possible, eventually developing a faint illusion of security…
What followed was one of the more unpleasant nights I’ve spent in a tent, but nonetheless I woke at 6.45am to – shock horror – sunshine on the fly. Unfortunately it didn’t last, and by the end of breakfast it had closed in again and was well on it’s way to being genuinely cold. We got ourselves organised and headed off, straight into the legendary ‘Beggary Bumps’ – a crazy series of knolls and escarpments coated in dense scrub and sheer cliffs. Technical Southwest bushwalking at it’s very best! We had to pull out the pack-hauling rope for the first time and as we stood on the final ‘bump’ a few hours later and looked back, it was hard not to think of the the pioneering party back in 1960. We were finding it hard enough with a marked track and modern gear – imagine how they must of felt looking at that completely mental ridge-line and wondering how the hell they were going to thread their way through it!?
After a quick and sheltered lunch between the twin peaks of Mt Taurus (1011m) we continued on to the final set of tent platforms at Haven Lake. Looking at the still deteriorating weather the decision was made to get off the Range and down to the Plains as quick as possible. We ascended from the lake and spent the next few hours completing a freezing traverse across the moors to Lake Sirona. On reaching the lake we seemed to avoid the worst of the wind, and the group’s mood improved markedly when we found a beautifully constructed stone track snaking it’s way around Mt Scorpio (1106m) – the notes had suggested finding our own route through the maze of boulders.
From the side of Scorpio we began the knee-destroying 700m descent down Moraine K to the Arthur Plains.We reached the plains without drama and in failing light set off in the direction of our night’s camp at Seven Mile Creek. As night fell we had a final moment of excitement as the track, which appeared to have shifted after some recent fires, ran into a creek which seemed to be running the wrong way… After some solid head-scratching we finally got it sussed and waded into a knee/thigh-deep Seven Mile, finding a nice and dry campsite on the far side.
The next morning we rose late at 10am and set into the slowest breakfast in bushwalking history, finally leaving camp at about 12.30… What followed doesn’t really need describing. Just think mud, 20km, mud, scrub, mud, slog. On the positive side we did get some nice views back at the Range… We finally arrived back at the car right on dark. Done!