South Ben Lomond Circuit

Having only been to the Ben Lomond National Park during winter, we were keen to check out the numerous bluffs along the southern rim, as well as the two highest lakes in Tassie. We started the walk at Storys Creek, planning to do a clockwise circuit with an overnight stop at Lake Youl. The track begins on some old forestry roads and climbs up through dry sclerophyll forest for 1.2kms, before the road ends, leading onto an easy to follow path that winds higher towards the rim of the plateau. Before long, the forest gives way to large boulder fields and an uninterrupted view of Stacks Bluff and Denison Crag can be enjoyed. Cairns can be followed across the boulder field and up a steep chute on the eastern side of Denison Crag to reach the plateau. The short side trip to check out Tranquil Tarn is well worth it, especially on a warm day when extra water is required.

Once on the plateau we had a quick snack, then continued west towards Stacks Bluff. We occasionally lost the pad, but for the most part it was pretty open and easy going. We dropped packs and picked the easiest looking route up to Stacks, and stumbled across some cairns along the way. We reached the summit in just under 3 hours and spent some time walking around checking out the cliffs on all sides. On the way back to our packs we made a quick trip up to Wilmot Bluff to claim a point and get some good views NW to Heimdall and Asgard Crag. We then followed the eastern side of Lewis Creek down through Foster Vale and through to Lake Youl, passing by large cushion plants and tarns surrounded by flowering plants. The remainder of the day was spent paddling around the very shallow Lake Youl and admiring the small sand dunes formed by the relentless wind that is normally present in this area.

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Start of the track at the car park.

Alpine finger orchid
Stacks Bluff
Denison Crag
Tranquil Tarn
Up the chute, Storys Bluff and Sphinx Bluff behind
On the plateau
Stacks Bluff and Wilmot Bluff
Looking north from Stacks Bluff summit
Dolerite stacks on the southern end of Stacks Bluff
Nice alpine gardens
Denison Crag, Story Bluff and Sphinx Bluff
Asgard and Heimdall Crag from Wilmot Bluff
Nice tarns below Wilmot Bluff
Lewis Creek
Tarns near Lake Youl
Sand dunes and scoparia
Getting ready to paddle on Lake Youl
Sunset over Lake Youl

Day 2: The morning started well with a nice sunrise and only a faint breeze; but by the time we had packed up camp and made it about halfway to Lake Baker, the clouds rolled in from the east and visibility dropped to to about 30m. We arrived at Lake Baker and pumped up the raft for a quick paddle on Tasmania’s highest lake. Our next target was Pavement Bluff- unfortunately the cloud was still present, so we had to rely on the GPS in the absence of a marked track. We found the easiest way forward was following the rocky river bed of the River Tyne, which is no more than a small creek at this altitude.  This not only avoids some of the scrub, but also prevents damaging the sensitive alpine plants. We reached the summit of Pavement Bluff in just under two hours after leaving Lake Youl, but the clouds were still lingering and so we had no views whatsoever. Our last bluff for the weekend was Sphinx Bluff, and we experience the same sort of weather as we traversed SW across the plateau to The Knuckle where we dropped packs.

We followed a small scree down to the saddle then picked up a cairned route that climbed up the north western side of the bluff.  The dolerite on Sphinx Bluff was quite different to what we had seen on the trip so far and was well worth checking out.  Again we had no views on top, so we returned to our packs and made a bee-line to intercept Storys Creek. I was keen to check out Coal Falls but I wasn’t sure how we would go following the creek down as there was little information about it.  It ended up being pretty straight forward, and we made it to the falls without any trouble. We had some food and poked our heads into the old coal mine which was now home to a few swallows before continuing to follow the creek down, which was pretty slow going and hard on the knees. At one point the creek disappeared, leaving only a dry creek bed before reappearing about 100m downstream. As we neared the old forestry road we left the creek and made our way southwest through the open forest.  We did come across a few tapes and cairns but they were few and far between, and were more confusing than helpful. Before long we popped out on the road and were then 10 minutes from the car.

All up 27.1kms with 1196m ascent.

Getting there: The Stacks Bluff Track starts behind the old school in the small township of Storys Creek (google maps pin here).  There are a few blue arrows that indicate the way up the forestry roads.  The road is quite rough and probably not suitable for a 2wd car with low clearance. There is plenty of parking further down and would only add a few hundred meters of walking.

Looking back at Lake Youl
Stacks Bluff and Wilmot Bluff from the between the lakes.
Nice alpine gardens and the cloud getting thicker
Paddling on Lake Baker
Pavement Bluff summit
Great view 
Large cliffs on Pavement Bluff
Dolerite on Sphinx Bluff
Nice walking on Sphinx Bluff
Storys Bluff
Heading down Storys Creek
Waterfall on Storys Creek
Large dolerite towers on the way down
Coal Falls and coal mine 
Coal mine
Mist on Storys Creek

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