Our recent trip into the Western Walls was a bit of blatant escapism. I’d just finished a stupidly busy season on the Overland Track (and was still feeling the after affects of the post-season guide party…) and Erica was recently returned to Tassie after a prolonged stint in the Big Smoke that is Sydney. Both of us wanted a bit of empty-space time, and the faint, quiet tracks that comprise the western half of the Walls of Jerusalem seemed the perfect place.
Oddly enough it was the first we’d walked together in a while. I say oddly because I’ve known Erica forever, spent a few seasons racing dingy’s with or against her and hold her solely responsible for planting the bug that would become my guiding ‘career’. Despite that I think the last time we did a trip was Frenchman’s about 5 or 6 years ago (back when the Sodden Loddons were still sodden) so it was good to get out again.
The route we chose was pretty basic – a circuit through Chapter Lake, Junction Lake, Lake Meston and Lake Myrtle, with side trips to the Cathedral Plateau and Mt Rogoona and hopefully exiting via the semi-secret Jackson Creek Track.
As usual, we started late (despite my fondness for photography and surfing, I’ve never got my head around the pre-dawn thing) and by the time we’d collected double-shot caffeine from the Deloraine Deli (excellent) and four days food from Woolies (less excellent) we were way behind schedule.
Eventually we made it to the trail head and after a very rushed food distribution and re-pack (which I’d come to regret) we got under way on the Moses Creek Track. An old logging road took us to Jackson Creek and the rego booth, where we had a quick search for the end of the Jackson Creek Track, which we were hoping to follow out from Lake Myrtle at trip’s end. It proved easy to locate and well worn, which had us hopeful for day four.
The first few hours of the route were steeply uphill, initially through some heavily damaged old logging areas, but then through some lovely rainforest and wet sclerophyll. Fungi season was in full-swing and I think I spent most of the rainforest section on hands and knees… Given that I was coming off seven months of intensive walking and Erica was coming off a few years of office work, I don’t think she objected to the photography breaks!
After passing some odd, shallow lakes, we crested a ridge and began the steep descent to Chapter Lake. There was a bit of confusion when we came across a bunch of unmarked tracks (they all end up at the falls eventually) but before long we made it to base of Grail Falls, where we were treated to one of the most amazing shows of fagus I’ve seen. Both of us had completely forgotten about the autumn colours, but due to a very late season things were in full swing.
We had a quick lunch and then bashed through the scrub until we found the route up to the Cathedral Plateau. We ascended very steeply beside the Falls, before the track levelled out and followed the south bank of a creek towards Chalice Lake. The fagus along this creek is honestly one of the most incredible displays of colour I’ve seen in Tasmania, made even more remarkable by the gnarled old Pencil Pines pushing up between the Tangle-foot.
It was a slow processing making our way onto the Plateau, with my tripod making regular appearances, but eventually we made it around the beautiful, convoluted Chalice Lake and began the gentle ascent to Tent Tarn, where we had planned to spend the night. We made it not long before dark, and after dumping packs I went in search of a suitably icy tarn to chill the evening’s brew.
On returning to camp I soon discovered that in the rushed re-pack back at the trail-head I’d removed my entire supply of loo paper. An ernest discussion and search took place and we decided that between us there would be just enough to avoid the inevitable chopper rescue. Dinner was had and with winter’s short days upon us, it was soon off to bed.
Day two dawned and our main aim in life was to summit Cathedral Mountain. Cathedral is a bit of a legend amongst Overland guides. One of our huts looks straight across the Mersey Valley at it’s enormous western face (if you’ve followed my Overland Diaries posts you’d have seen a few shots…) and there isn’t a guide who hasn’t planned a mission to camp at the top. Erica had already made it up a few times, but this was to be my first time. Needless to say I was pretty excited!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. It was clear enough at our level, but there was a persistent, hard layer of dark grey that was concealing the top 100m of the mountain. We had a crack nonetheless, and got a bit lost in zero visibility at the top, but no views were had…
We headed back to Tent Tarn, collected packs, and began making our way back to the Falls. After a quick lunch break at the top, we descended to Chapter Lake and started heading south. There was a bit of track confusion to begin with (why oh why do people incorrectly tape tracks?), but before long we made it to Cloister Lagoon and began traversing it’s long eastern shore.
This section proved to be another amazing show of fagus, and on reaching the lagoon’s southern end we were both pretty amped to find a fully mature example of the very rare Tasmanian conifer hybrid; Athrotaxis laxifolia.
Cresting the hill behind the lagoon, we descended along the creek line through some lovely Myrtle Beech forest before entering the open country around Junction Lake. Then it was an easy 15mins to Junction Hut, where we planned to spend the night.
The hut, along with a very similar example at Lake Meston, was built by Dick Reed in the late 1960’s, with help from the Ranicar and Rilev families (hence the three ‘R’s carved into both huts) and Alf Walters and Boy Miles, and is a lovely example of Tasmanian Highland architecture. Nonetheless, my Nammatj was looking pretty comfy so I left the hut to Erica…
Rising the next morning, the weather was looking a bit more promising so we had a quick brekkie and got underway, both eager to get on track and have a crack at Mt Rogoona. Leaving the hut, the track meandered through open country for a while before moving into stands of dense tea tree scrub, the regrowth from an old bushfire, as it skirts Lake Meston. We had a brief chocolate stop at the Meston Hut before turning hard right and ascending to a saddle.
The Rogoona junction is at the high-point, so we dumped packs, grabbed some nut bars and a raincoat, and headed off for the summit. The weather behaved this time and we had amazing clear views for the whole side trip. Rogoona is a bit of a peculiar mountain; at 1336m it’s big enough by Tasmanian standards, but being completely surrounded by taller peaks and plateaus it kind of lives in its own little world, the king of it’s personal oyster.
The summit isn’t a peak as much as the highest rocky knoll, and for the most part the route follows a vaguely cairned pad across a large alpine plateau. It’s beautiful country, in that wide open way that the Central Highlands have; gnarled old Snow Peppermints interspaced by big slabs of lichen-encrusted dolerite. About half way across we come to a big tarn with a little colony of stunted Pencil Pines and fagus, and some beautiful campsites scattered amongst the rocks.
Reaching the high-point, we were gifted a phenomenal view out over the Cathedral Plateau to the Du Cane Range. I said a while back that Clumner Bluff might have the best view of the Overland Track mountains, but I think this one might just pip it!
After a google check to try and figure out where the Jackson Creek Track started for the next day, we buggered off back to the packs and a long-awaited lunch. Then it was onwards and downwards toward Lake Myrtle. This area made for some pretty sad walking, as it was heavily damaged by bushfire and there were several groves of burnt-out Pencil Pines – a very slow growing species with no resistance to fire…
Soon we made it to the fantastic (if exposed) campsite at Lake Myrtle, and after a solid dinner it was time for a beer and some long-exposure tripod work under the light of a full moon.
Early the next morning I woke to heavy rain on the tent, and by the time we rose it was clear that the weather that had been threatening for a few days had arrived. It was still relatively warm (by Tasmanian standards) but wet and with a low, heavy layer of cloud.
We didn’t waste any time and before long we were making our way around the northern shore of the lake and down the Jackson Creek Track**. The first half of this is a beautiful route, especially in the mist, and the Moses Creek/Jackson Creek circuit proved a great way to explore the area without having to do an hour of road walking at the start/finish. The second half is very steep though, so I’d think twice about coming up with a full pack!
About an hour and a half after leaving Lake Myrtle we were back at the end of Mersey Forest Road and ready for home. Well, home after I sat down and removed something in the order of 35 leaches. No shit.
All shot with a Ricoh GR.
**If anyone is planning this route, here’s the must-knows: From the Lake Myrtle End: cross the creek at the north-east corner of the lake (as if you were doing the Lake Bill Track), turn left (west) immediately. The route follows a very clear, eroded pad along the northern shore of the lake for about 15mins, then turns right (north) and crests a saddle. It stays level for a while and crosses some open, marshy areas. In one of these the track disappears, but just follow the valley to its northern end and you will find it again. Then it drops steeply for about 40mins until reaching the rego booth at the start of the Moses Creek Track. At one point it moves through an area that has been logged and becomes faint: follow the cairns and sawn trees.