The Overland Diaries pt.XXII – of snow and rain

It’s been a strange start to the season, especially considering the almost arid seasons we’ve had recently. Winter pushed almost all the way up to christmas, and spring seems to be making it’s way steadily through what should be mid-summer. We had more snow through October than all of our ‘winter’ trips combined, and mid-January has seen the waterfalls at full-flow.

Strange times…

Barn Bluff Hut after overnight snow

Snow sentinels

Snow Peppermint with cloud swirl

Cradle Cirque frozen mid-afternoon

Drifts on the Windermere Plains

Kitchen Hut

The snow begins…

Frozen Scoparia

Snow on the coral ferns

Fresh tracks

Ice on the Myrtle Beech

Pencil Pine by Lake Windermere

Tableau

Guests/adventurers…

The Overland Diaries pt.XX – fungi season

Late season is fungi season on the Overland Track, and it’s fair to say it’s one of my favourite times to be up in the mountains.

If you look carefully you’ll find fungi in the park at pretty much any time of the year, as long as there is moisture, shade and some old organic material, but it’s late summer and early autumn, in the deep, cool rainforests of the Upper Mersey and Upper Forth valleys where they really put on a show.

All shot with the surprisingly versitile Ricoh GR. I have no idea what any of them are called (except the first; a Strawberry Bracket) so if there’s any mushroom experts out there let me know in the comments!

Western Walls of Jerusalem, Cathedral Plateau and Mt Rogoona

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!

Moses Creek track

Old logging debris

Funghi on the Moses Creek Track

This patch covered two or three square metres of rainforest floor.

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.

Lone vagus next to Chapter Lake

Fagus below Grail Falls

Fagus and Pencil Pine

Fagus and Pencil Pine

Fagus

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.

Chalice Lake and the Cathedral Plateau

Pencil Pines

Snow Peppermints

Dolerite and shrub

Brew

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…

Misleading sunlight near the top

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…

The valley toward Cloister Lagoon

Cloister Lagoon

A roof of fagus

Red

Pencil Pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) left and the Pencil Pine/King Billy Pine hybrid, A. laxifolia right

Myrtle rainforest

Junction Lake Hut

Junction Lake Hut

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!

Early morning light at Meston Hut

North-east towards King Davids Peak and Solomans Throne

Erica way up above Lake Myrtle, with the Du Cane Range behind

Summit cairn

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.

Burnt-out Pencil Pines

Lake Myrtle and Mt Rogoona

Moonlight on Lake Myrtle

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.

Great trip!

All shot with a Ricoh GR.

Good weather for home!

Ghost Pines on the Jackson Creek Track

**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.

 

The Overland Diaries pt.XIX – modes of seeing

If you’ve been following some of my other posts you may have noticed that I’ve recently acquired a new toy, a lovely new Ricoh GR.

The reasoning behind the purchase (other than basic gear-lust) was a desire to simplify – I’ve developed my Micro Four Thirds kit to a point of maturity; the EM5 is all the camera I need and I’ve got about as good a collection of primes as one could hope for, but I had begun to feel as if the gear was getting in the way of the photos. More and more I’ve gravitated towards a documentary style of shooting, but in a way I feel like the gear I’ve been using, and the myriad possibilities it presents, has been dictating the way I shoot. In response to this, I see the GR as a high-quality, no bullshit tool for simply capturing what I see.

I’ve banned myself from buying anymore bodies/lenses over the next 12 months, and I’ll be shooting solely with the GR as much as I can, hopefully pushing the limits of both my creativity and GR’s capturing potential.

I’m hoping that bushwalking will be a big part of those 12 months, and here’s the first taste – a riduculously hot and sunny Overland (36degC on day 5…)

Barn Bluff

Everlastings

Flowering pandani

Alpine Sundew

Oakleigh, Pillinger and Dean Bluff

Light and shadow amongst the Alpine Ash

Anyone know what these are? Pelion Plains

Channeling Fred Smithies on the Pelion East ascent

The final climb

Eucalyptus Delegatensis reach for the light

Making our way through the Upper Mersey Valley

Star-trails over Castle Crag

The first Leatherwood blooms for the season

Rainforest

Shadows at Du Cane Hut

Early dawn from The Gatepost, after a late night climb by headtorch and open-air bivvy on the summit

The Narcissus River rests as the weather begins to change

The Overland Diaries pt.XVIII – storms, mutants + hybrids

Another trip of wild weather as Tasmania’s winter refuses to give in (technically it’s actually summer now…). I’m not complaining – it makes it quite photogenic!

EM5, m.ZD 75mm + m.ZD 17mm

Thunderstorm over Mt Roland

Snow showers over Fury Gorge

Snow Peppermints in front of Cradle Mt

King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides) and Pencil Pine (A. cupressoides) fused together on Pine Forest Moor. These two species are known to produce a hybrid (A. laxifolia) but I’ve never known them to bond before…

Mt Ossa from the Mt Oakleigh spires

Flowering Hybrid Candleheath (Richea Xcurtisiae) – a reasonably common hybrid between R. pandanifolia and R. scoparia

Snow Peppermints in mist on Pelion Gap

Ghost pines on Mt Doris

Pencil Pine carcass on dolerite scree

Flowering scoparia above Pinestone Valley

Fungi, Mersey Forest

New Myrtle Beech growth

Fergusson Falls abstract

Mountain Needlebush (Hakea lissosperma)

Mt Olympus

Mt Olympus

Eucalyptus leaf

Tasmanian Waratah

Mt Gould

Mist rises from the Lake St Clair rainforest

Driving through a blizzard, Central Plateau

Sunshine and snowstorm, Miena