Frenchmans Cap; 1446m; Abel#21
Clytemnestra; 1271m; Abel#75
Sharlands Peak; 1140m ; Abel#131
Having managed to take a few extra days off work for the Hobart Show Day public holiday, we decided to head to the Franklin-Gordon NP to summit Frenchmans Cap, Clytemnestra, The White Needle and Sharlands Peak. The forecast for the first two days were promising and there was only a bit of rain forecast for early morning on the third day. With the new canopy set up on the back of the ute, we chose to drive out after dinner on Wednesday and sleep in the car park, so we could get an early start.
The plan was to walk to Lake Tahune on Day 1, summit Frenchmans and Clytemnestra on the 2nd day then walk back out on the 3rd day after climbing The White Needle and Sharlands Peak.
Day 1: We left the carpark just before 8, with the intention of walking all the 20ish kilometres to Lake Tahune. There has been a significant amount of work done to upgrade certain parts of the track, and this was obvious about 5 minutes in when we reached the first marshland. The original log sleepers had been removed and replaced with a large amount of compacted gravel, with regularly spaced drains. This made for quick walking, and before long we were heading up the Loddon Hills. Just before reaching the suspensions bridge that crosses the Loddon River, we came across a tent whose inhabitants were just getting out for the first time that day. They had walked in the night before and found a nice little spot by the track. It was then onto the not-so-sodden Loddons. I was a bit disappointed that all of the bog holes had been duck boarded, and remnants of old tape on nearby bushes were the only reminder of what the track used to look like before it was made more accessible. However, it was quite nice to maintain good pace and not be knee deep in mud for a few hundred meters. From here, the new track then climbs slightly to what is called Laughton’s Lead. The old track used to go through Philps Lead, which, judging by the map, looks like another boggy marsh. The track then climbs again before before dropping back down to the Lake Vera hut, which we reached just over 4 hours. We found a nice spot by the creek and had some lunch before heading around Lake Vera, and up the Barron Pass. Having reached the top of the Barron Pass, we decided to drop our packs and try and make our way up to the summit of The White Needle. Unfortunately, about halfway up we were unable to proceed and decided to keep going to Lake Tahune rather than spend any extra time searching for the way up. We arrived tired and hungry at Lake Tahune around 5:15pm, and found 3 park rangers with chainsaws clearing the bush around the hut. They had started clearing to make room for the new hut that is supposed to be getting built within the next few months. A number of tent platforms had also been built, but we chose to camp on a pad not far from the lake and with a bit more privacy. Later that night we were sitting in the hut enjoying some port that the rangers had left for us, and all of a sudden the door opened. It was the two people whose tent we passed earlier that day; they had underestimated the walk to Tahune and were lucky to get there before night fell. After some dessert and more port we started chatting, and it turns out they designed the submarine that James Cameron used to descend to the deepest point known on earth.
Day 2: Today was going to be the most exciting part of the trip; mostly off track walking with only a daypack and some decent exposure to negotiate, not to mention the complete lack of cloud and and minimal wind. We made our way from the tent up to the summit of Frenchman’s and reached the summit within an hour. A number of large snowdrifts had covered certain parts of the track, but for the most part it was very easy to follow. After a quick snack at the top we headed west to try and find the way down and onto South Col. Everything I had read about getting down from Frenchman’s mentioned not to head South too early or you will be greeted with some very steep cliffs that offer no safe way down. Out of sheer keenness I managed to find a couple of these no-go zones before deciding to head further west. Eventually we reach a small chute that was clearly the easiest way down. Once we got down, we had the option to head through some scrub towards two small tarns then head up a ridge-this was a longer and less exposed way. The second option was a much quicker sidle below the cliffs on large rock slabs and loose scree; we chose the second option. Once you have negotiated the exposed sections, the walking gets pretty easy. You basically follow a ridge line across that yoyos across to Clytemnestra. The last little climb requires you to head west for a bit to find an easy way to the top, but for the most part it is very easy to negotiate. After some lunch on the summit and checking out a small cave, we made our way back towards the cap. Note that there is very little water along the ridge and only a few small tarns on Clytemestra that look like they would dry up pretty quick. We arrived back at the tent after 7 and a half hours and went for a very quick dip in Lake Tahune.
Day 3: It had been raining on and off since midnight and it gave us a reason to stay in bed a bit longer than usual. By 8:30 the rain had stopped, and it was time to pack up the tent and make our way back to the car park. This was the first time during the trip that the cap had been in cloud; supposedly this is what it’s like the majority of the time. Just before reaching the large landslide, we dropped packs and headed up over the little saddle to try and find Davern’s Cavern and climb Sharlands Peak. About half way to Davern’s Cavern we decided to turn back, as we wanted to get a counter meal from the Derwent Bridge Hotel on the way out. We had enough time to do Sharlands Peak and found a decent way up that only required a small amount of rock scrambling. It was then back onto the main route and down the Barron Pass. It was significantly quicker coming back down and we managed to pass a few people that had left Tahune Hut a while before us. We arrived at Lake Vera Hut at 2pm and had a quick bite to eat before leaving at 2:15pm. Neither of us really talked at all on the way out, and we were just focused on getting back to the car as quickly as possible. At 5:50 we reached the carpark and bumped into Graham and Becca who had just returned from spending a couple of days at Lake Vera to summit Agamengnon and Philps Peak. Not long after, we were at the Derwent Bridge Hotel enjoying a drink and some very tasty dinner.
All up 60.1kms with 4161m ascent.
Getting there: The carpark is on the side of the Lyell Highway, about 30 minutes drive past Derwent Bridge heading west. A bus from Lake St Clair visitor centre can also be arranged.