Mt Rufus

We had originally planned to join an overnight Pandani walk to Rufus via the Gingerbread Track, but in the end had had to pull out due to work commitments. Instead, we decided to do it as a day walk and hopefully meet the group somewhere for lunch. We stopped briefly at Lake St Clair on the drive up the night before and were happy to see Mt Olympus covered in snow.

The start of the Gingerbread Track is not signposted and is only marked by a small cairn next to the road, just past the Navarre River crossing. Initially the track is somewhat overgrown, but soon opens up as it follows the western side of the Navarre River.  Although there was some snow in the forest, it wasn’t until we reached the first button-grass plain that it started to get a bit thicker. From here we were able to follow footprints from a group who had walked up the day before and had camped somewhere along the track, and got our first glimpse of a snowy KWI which is also on the cards for future walks.

Large frozen puddles and very slippery treated pine logs kept our focus while climbing up towards Joe Slatter Hut, which we reached 60 minutes after leaving the carpark. There was no sign of any recent habitats, except for a pair of  well-worn boots with a note saying that they will be picked up again shortly.  From here we decided it was time to put the snow shoes on, as we were starting to sink in the deep drifts.

We lost sight of the markers once we reached the large plateau but continued following ski tracks left the day prior that led towards the western rim. Some time was spent here admiring the sandstone boulders overlooking Lake Undine, Gell and the Cheyne Range.  Pyramid Mountain was also clearly visible, and its namesake shape accentuated with a heavy blanket of snow. As we climbed higher the views just kept getting better, but before long we had dipped back down into the sheltered bowl just south of the summit and looking onto the Gingerbread Hut.

We noticed three people at Gingerbread sitting outside looking out towards us and went over to say hello. They had walked up the day/night before and were somewhat disappointed with the amount of snow and icy conditions. With the conditions being much more favourable to snowshoeing, we then went off the track and continued straight up the large bank behind the hut, cheered on by the three skiers as we climbed the steep face. We were at the summit 10 minutes later and treated with 360 degree views of snow clad mountains, as well as a very strong westerly wind. Luckily the large cairn on the summit provided sufficient shelter to have some food and a quick break.

On the way back down we followed snow markers around the eastern side- which was longer but not as steep as our summit route- before returning to the Gingerbread Hut to say goodbye. By this stage the snow was starting to get slushy and we wanted to get back to the first hut before it would slow us down. Just before we reached Joe Slatter Hut, we bumped into the Pandani group who were on their way up. They had left a bit later than planned, so unfortunately we didn’t meet them for lunch but they were more than happy to talk poo tubes.

The track past the hut had started to get pretty muddy and unfortunately I found a thigh deep bog hole amongst the button grass. We arrived back at the car at 1:45pm and made the compulsory stop at the Hungry Wombat Cafe for a second lunch.

All up 13.4kms in 6 hours and 20 minutes with 734m ascent.

Getting there: Mt Rufus can be accessed a number of ways, the most common being a well-marked track from Lake St Clair.  The less frequented Gingerbread Track is accessed from Rufus Canal Road, a few kms past Derwent Bridge on the Lyell Highway heading towards Queenstown.

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GPS track
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Lake St Clair
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KWI
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Arriving at Joe Slatter Hut
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First sight of Rufus
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Sandstone carvings 
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The path ahead
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Descending into the bowl – Gingerbread hut can just be made out
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Pyramid Mountain (L) Hugel (C) 
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Gell and Lake Undine
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King William 1 and Loddon from the summit
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Heading back down

Mt Hartz

A big dump of snow was forecast for the weekend and the chance to surpass 99 peak bagging points was very enticing. Mt Hartz seemed to be a good candidate as reaching the summit is fairly short and the track relatively easy to follow, even in heavy snow.  We were the first to arrive at the carpark and soon after made our way along the duckboards. The first 15m comprised of pushing through and ducking under snow laden branches covering the track, before reaching the open moors. Unfortunately not as much snow had fallen as I had hoped; though this was probably a good thing as it was very soft, even with snowshoes. A quick detour to Lake Esperance to check out the view was well worth it, though we couldn’t see as much as we’d like in the foggy conditions.

Once on Hartz Pass, we were hit with some very strong wind gusts and snowstorms, with pellets of ice belting us. Luckily there were a number of snow markers still visible, and we were able to follow them instead of relying solely on the GPS for navigation.  Up we went, trying to avoid the patches of softer snow covering the bushes.  We reached the top in just over 2 hours, but unfortunately couldn’t see more than 20m around us. Some protection from the wind could be found in the small rock windbreak where we had some snacks and a rest. Just as we were about to leave, the clouds cleared and we were able to see the Southern Ranges, Bob + Boomerang and the Picton Range.

The clearer conditions held up all the way back to Hartz Pass and made the descent much quicker, as well as more enjoyable with the occasional view of Hartz Lake, a frosty Devils Backbone and the occasional snow tornado whirling along the ridge. We were back at the car just after 12, which left plenty of time to check out something in the area that I had been keen to see for some time and to explore forestry roads.

All up 8.4kms in 3hours and 45 minutes with 518m ascent.

Getting there: The easiest way to access Hartz is by driving along the Arve Road from Geeveston. Follow all signs towards Tahune Airwalk and Hartz Mountain.

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GPS track
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Approaching the carpark
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The sun trying to shine through
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Lake Esperance
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Summit with no view
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Looking west towards the Boomerang
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The clouds clear
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On the way back down
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Hartz Lake
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Hartz Lake
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Devils Backbone
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Mt Hartz and Snowy
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Ladies Tarn
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Largest known flowering plant in the world

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Freycinet Circuit

The weekend forecast was looking promising and the thought of a weekend away that didn’t include snow and sub-zero temps was also enticing. Emily had done Graham and Freycinet before, but I had only done the Hazards Circuit- so we decided to tick them off during the significantly quieter winter months.

Day one started with a quick trip up to the summit of Mt Amos to catch the sunrise.  It turned out to be a ripper and I only just made it in time; unfortunately Emily wasn’t as lucky and missed it by a minute or two.  We drove back into Coles Bay for a nice and fresh brekky at Geographé, before returning to the main carpark where we would start out along the Hazards Track.  The first sight of the cloud-covered peaks of Graham and Freycinet were from Lemana Lookout; though they would not be summited until the following day. Today’s aim was to reach Bryan’s Beach and set up camp, then spend some time checking out the coastline further south.

We noticed a lot of Eleven Armed Seastars washed up along Hazard Beach and did our best to return them to the water. The southern end of the beach has a toilet and decent camping, but no water.  We continued past this camp, through the forest towards Cook’s Beach, and passed the turnoff to Mt Freycinet at the northern end of the beach.  Surprised to find no one at the hut, we stopped for some lunch at Cook’s Beach Hut and filled up our water bladders and bottles from the numerous rainwater tanks. There had been little rain in the lead up to this weekend, and every creek we had passed was dry so the chances of finding any water at Bryan’s Beach were slim.  The track between Cook’s Hut and Bryan’s Beach was clearly less used than where we had been earlier in the day, but it was still well defined and mostly clear of debris.  We reached Bryan’s Beach 4.5 hours after leaving the carpark and bumped into a couple who had been spending the day down there before returning to camp at Cook’s Beach.

We found a nice spot under the she-oaks to set up camp, when suddenly a wallaby hopped up next to our tent to have a look, before it continued down to the beach and began to swim circles in the see while being swooped by seagulls. After all that excitement, we continued down the coast towards the shipwreck on Passage Beach.

Day 2 started with another nice sunrise, this time over Schouten Island.  We left our camp and made our way back towards Cook’s Beach, where we refilled with water again and made our way along the beach to the junction to Mt Freycinet . From here the track slowly starts to climb through the forest, a welcome change from the soft sand. A lot of the plants had just started to flower and added a bit of colour and scents to the forest.  The climb up to the East Freycinet Saddle was steep, hard work thanks to the extra 7 or so kgs of water I was carrying. There were a couple of smaller creeks along the way that were flowing slowly but I would not rely on them, especially during the summer months. From the East Freycinet Saddle, the track descends slightly before another quick climb to the Mt Freycinet/Graham Saddle, which we reached 1.5 hours after leaving Cook’s Beach.

Given that we had only seen 2 people in the last 24 hours, we were surprised to find around 20 odd backpacks spread out in the scrub. On the way up Mt Freycinet we passed the owners of the packs, a large school group of GYC that had initially planned to do the Overland Track, but changed plans due to the weather. Thankfully they were heading to Wineglass Bay and would not be joining us on Mt Graham, so we’d have some peace and quiet. We reached the summit in 30 minutes of rock scrambling, and spent some time taking in the views before returning to the saddle to pick up our packs. We were standing on top of Graham 25 minutes later and had also just earned our 99th peak bagging point. At this point we were pretty happy to stop and set up camp; as expected there weren’t many good spots, and we ended settling with a what I think was the most sheltered spot on the eastern side below the track.  This was a good choice as later that night the wind really picked up and would have led to an interrupted sleep.

An early rise the next day saw us packed and walking by 8am, and we wasted little time getting back to the carpark in 2.5 hours. Lunch was once more had at Geographé, and we were happy to have a mini feast. Given our early start, we decided to check out Bluestone Bay on the way back to Coles Bay. I decided to go for a quick snorkel at Little Bluestone to test out a new underwater lens, while Emily read a book on the rocks.

All up 44.4kms with 1743m ascent.

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GPS track
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Sunrise from Mt Amos
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Approaching Hazards Beach, Graham and Freycinet in cloud
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Graham and Freycinet from Hazards Beach
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An upside-down 11 armed seastar
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Northern end of Cook’s Beach
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Cook’s Hut
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Cook’s Hut
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Bryan’s Bay
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On the way to Passage Bay
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Schouten Island
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Passage Bay
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Sunset from Bryan’s
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Sunrise over Schouten Island
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Bryan’s Lagoon
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Flowering plants
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Hazards from Mt Freycinet
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Schouten Island from Freycinet, Maria Island out back
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Sunset from Mt Graham
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Hazards from Graham
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Wineglass Bay
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The Nuggets from Little Bluestone
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Testing out a new underwater lens
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Underwater macro