This trip was originally going to be a traverse of the Eastern Arthurs; however, with the huge fires burning in the southwest we had to change our plan. Our plan B was an extended trip checking out some of the peaks in the Pine Valley area, but upon reaching Lake St Clair we were informed that walking tracks had been closed due to a small fire west of Nereus. We then had to come up with a new plan pretty quickly, and decided to head into the Cuvier Valley to try and bag a few peaks around the area.
I had been eyeing off visiting Lake Petrarch for a while and this was a good opportunity for a visit. We left the visitors centre just after 2pm and made our way along the end of the overland track. Just after crossing the large bridge at Waters-meet, we reached the turnoff to the Cuvier Valley which is marked by a large sign that reads “track not maintained”. We walked through open forest before reaching the extensive button grass fields, where we had good views of Mt Othrys and the Seven Apostles. I was too busy taking photos to notice a very large lumbering wombat pass just in front of me after we had startled it, before disappearing into some thick bush by the track. For the most part the track was in good condition; I believe a number of working bees have been held there over the last couple of years, and the track has been cleared almost all the way to the lake, which we reached in 3.5hours. We found a nice spot in the pines looking over the lake and the sandy bank to set up camp, and enjoyed burritos for dinner.
We awoke the next day to no sunrise and low cloud shrouding the lake. Unsure of what the day would entail, we set off early along the western lake edge. Here, the track was a bit more overgrown and hard to follow in places; we lost it on the northern side and so made our way across the plains to what looked like would be the most sensible way up to Byron Gap. Not long after we came across some tape and were back on an easy to follow track through the forest. About halfway up the cloud started to lift and the impressive cliffs of Mt Byron appeared just above us. We reached Byron Gap about 2 hours after leaving camp, and dropped packs before retracing the track about 30m to pick up the pad that heads up to Mt Byron.
The walk up passed through some nice forest before reaching a boulder field that leads all the way to the top, making for a good scramble. We reached the summit in just 30 minutes and waited some time in hope that the clouds would lift; thankfully we didn’t have to wait long, and enjoyed the views during lunch. We returned to our bags and decided that we would then head to Mt Olympus from Byron Gap, rather than taking the route up from near the Echo Point hut. We found a faint pad heading up and followed that for a few hundred meters, before it disappeared and the scoparia took over. Luckily this didn’t last long and we quickly made it up through the scrub bands to the open alpine fields below the cliffs. Instead of heading up to the summit, we decided to follow the extensive boulder fields below the cliffs on the eastern side. This route wasn’t too bad- albeit slow at times- except for a small section of thick scrub on the slopes above Lake Helen. We reached Lake Oenone ~4 hours after leaving Byron Gap and found a nice campsite beside one of the numerous tarns below the lake.
The plan for the day was to summit the northern end of Mt Olympus, then walk back out to Lake St Clair. We followed the pad up on the eastern side of Lake Oenone to the saddle between the two high points of Olympus. We then continued NW along the ridge line, scrambling up some large boulders to reach the flat expanse that stretches all the way to the summit. I was surprised to see that the numerous large tarns up on top were almost all bone dry; a worrying sign of the current conditions, particularly with the fires raging all over the state. We reached the summit in 90 minutes and took in the excellent views in all directions. On our return, we took the pad that heads back down on the western side of Lake Oenone among dolerite columns which was considerably quicker; however it was a bit more airy. This track may have been first cut by Emily’s great great uncle, during his time as the Lake St Clair ranger in the 1930’s- it’s thought that he built a ladder that climbed up the dolerite to reach the summit.
The track down to Lake St Clair from camp was difficult to follow and we found ourselves in thick scrub on multiple occasions. We ended up following a creek to try find the pad again, and passed by numerous large waterfalls that were no more than a trickle. A number of large cliffs need to be descended as you get closer to the lake, and we were able to pick up the tapes that mark the safest way down each cliff face. The long and boring walk back along the Lake St Clair took just over 3.5 hours and we will not be doing it again for a third time.
All up 43.5kms with 1814m ascent over the 3 days.