We left Launceston early on our way out to the Weldborough area and thought we might bag a quick Abel on the way. The easiest to get was Mt Barrow and neither of us had ever been up that way before. The drive up the side of Mt Barrow winds through some nice forest before reaching a large scree field that is reminiscent of Jacobs Ladder on the way to the Ben Lomond ski fields.
We then parked at a turning circle just below the large communication tower and proceeded up towards the ridge. There is a large metal and concrete staircase that provides access to the comms station which we followed to avoid walking through the scrub. The landscape was typical of any other mountainous region of jurassic dolerite and we were quickly rock hopping our way along the cliff top towards the summit that lay a few minutes further west.
A somewhat favourable weather forecast allowed for a short trip to the Southern Ranges. We arrived at the start of the track around 8am and were on our way along the old tram line shortly after. After crossing paths with a handful of lyre birds- one of which stood on a limb long enough for me to get a quick shot- we arrived at the Mystery Creek crossing. It was flowing, but not enough to cause any concern as we made our way across. We reached the junction at the old quarry and turned right, as the track starts climbing up Marble Hill almost immediately; before long we were overheating.
Once near the top of Cave Hill, the track flattens out briefly while passing through some nice rainforest (also full of Lyre birds), before another consistent and slippery climb. We reached a patch of tea tree forest contains a small clearing for tents around 1hour and 40 minutes in, popping out at the burnt edge of Moonlight Flats 25 minutes later. Visibility had dropped to about 15 meters as we passed along the eerie landscape, burnt following lightning strikes in 2013/14. The track was pretty overgrown with scoparia on the way up to Hill 1, as well as a few sections on the way down to the saddle between Hills 1 and 2. We stopped briefly on top of Hill 2 to have some lunch and to admire the wind blown shrubs growing across the dolerite.
From there on in the walking was a lot clearer as we walked along the open hill tops and we arrived at Pigsty Ponds after 5 hours and 40 minutes. We reached the small creek crossing and decided to drop packs before heading up to Mt La Perouse. About 10 minutes further along the track after a small ascent, the junction is marked by a very large 3 pronged arrow constructed out of small rocks. The track to La Perouse is indicated by the longest arrow and heads in an easterly direction, as you wind around the sides of the peaks. We arrived at the large summit cairn in just over 40 minutes; but unfortunately the cloud and the drizzle had not abated, and we returned to our packs damp and disappointed. The night was spent camping by the head waters of the D’Entrecasteaux River, hopeful of better weather the next day.
The morning of day 2 started with a nice sunrise and clear skies in all directions, and the jagged silhouette of the Cockscomb rising above our tent provided plenty of motivation to finish packing and get exploring. Our plan was to head back along Moonlight Ridge to Hill 3 and before detouring to follow the ridge down to The Hippo. On our way back up to Hill 4, we spotted a tent next to one of the small tarns at Pigsty Ponds- we later found out it was a friend who we had met a few months earlier at Lake Petrarch.
We reached the summit of Hill 3 in 1 hour and 40 minutes, and made our way down the dolerite ridge line towards Agnetes Garden. The walk out was easy open walking, and once at the base of The Hippo we followed a cairned route that made its way through some scrub, with a quick scramble up the eastern side before turning west to the summit. We reached the top exactly an hour after leaving hill 3 and took in the views over Mt Leillateah towards the ocean. Once back to our packs, we sheltered behind some boulders for lunch, and were battered by the infamous winds on our way out. The walk back along Moonlight Ridge seemed to take a lot longer than the walk in, and the knees were very grateful when we reached the car 4.5 hours later.