With almost perfect conditions forecast for the weekend, we decided to head up to the Upper Mersey Valley and bag a few peaks in the area. We had thought about returning to the Walls, but in the end chose to head to Cathedral Mountain and avoid any potential crowds that may have also been encouraged by a favourable weather report. Car access to the end of the Mersey Forest road had reopened a few weeks prior, and the large carpark made for a descent home for the night. The beginning of the track follows open and recently burnt forest before reaching a decent sized suspension bridge that spans Jacksons’ Creek. A few minutes later, you reach a walker registration booth and a track junction. The left side of the booth goes towards Lake Bill and rejoins the Lake Myrtle Track, while the right hand side heads towards Chapter Lake and Cathedral Mountain on the Moses Creek Track.
Ten minutes later, another small creek is crossed before climbing up through nice open Wattle Forest. The track then flattens out before passing by some of the biggest myrtles I have seen, followed by a steep climb up towards Chapter Lake. The first sign of snow was observed about halfway to the lake- and should have been taken as a sign of what was to come. We reached Grail Falls 1 hour and 45 minutes after leaving the carpark, sticking to the right at the other heavily taped junction that continues on to Cloister Lagoon. We quickly found the pad on the left hand side of Grail Falls and continued up along the Chalice Lake outlet creek. The pad was hard to follow given it was a foot under the snow, but we did find a number of cairns and were able to cross safely about 550m past Grail Falls.
This is where the soft snow really started to slow us down, and we had to reconsider our initial plan of heading to Bishop Peak. We continued around the northern shores of Chalice Lake, occasionally passing a snow covered cairn and tried to pick out the large dolerite slabs instead of the deep scrub; not always successfully, sinking into snow. We found a nice flat spot and set up camp next to Chalice Lake, before continuing further west to pick up the pad towards Tent Tarn with the intention of summiting Cathedral Mountain. Walking got progressively easier as we neared the tarn and we were surprised to see it fully frozen over. After spending far too much time walking on the tarn we continued west again. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pick up the pad and ended up walking through some very deep snow covering scrub, only managing to cover 900m in an hour.
We reached a highpoint a few hundred meters east of Twin Spires summit but decided to turn back due to time. On the way back down we managed to find the pad just south of where we were; it was significantly quicker, but still would have been hard work to make it all the way out to Cathedral Mountain.
After what was initially a clear night, we woke to find a snow covered lake and little chance of the weather improving so we headed straight back to the car. The way back down was a bit quicker as the snow was slightly harder than the day before, making it back in just under 3 hours.
All up 19.7kms with 1040m ascent.
Getting there: Follow all directions to the Walls of Jerusalem National Park but continue straight along the Mersey Forest Road instead of turning left to the WoJ carpark. The carpark and start of the track is at the end of this road. As at July 2018 the road is suitable for 2WD drive cars.
The Easter break had long been set aside to do an extended walk somewhere in Tas. I was reasonably confident that my knee would hold up if managed correctly, and we’d considered doing the Southern Ranges weather permitting. Our other options were to do the Tyndall Range and check out some of the Tarkine, or to walk through The Never Never. After a lot of planning and weather checking we scrapped the first two options and decided to walk from Lake Ada to Lake St Clair, passing through The Never Never. This appeared to be the safest option, as there is not a great deal of ascent and descent, so would be easier on the knees; plus the forecast for the central plateau looked half decent for the first few days. So after shuttling a car to the Lake St Clair carpark and a great meal at the Derwent Bridge Pub, we headed off to Lake Ada to spend the night sleeping in the back of the ute.
Unfortunately about 20m from the the Lake Ada carpark we hit a wombat and found that she had a baby in her pouch. The mum had died instantly, but the baby seemed in good health; we managed to pull him out and wrapped him up in one of Emily’s jumpers for warmth. We drove back towards The Great Lake to get some phone reception, and got a hold of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. As it was 9:30pm they could not send anyone out to meet us until the next day, and so suggested that we ask the people at The Thousand Lakes Lodge to keep him warm for the night. Luckily enough, they were more than happy to take care of him-we later found out that he was a hit with guests and by the time he was picked up, was happily rambling around the lodge. We eventually made it back to the carpark next to Lake Ada and settled in for the night.
Day 1: Lake Ada to Dixons Kingdom
We left the car at the carpark by the boat ramp at Lake Ada, and continued down the Talinah Track in the early morning. This track can also be accessed with a 4WD, but as it’s for day use only we did not want to risk getting locked in. As we reached Ada Lagoon, we met an older fisherman who was happy to share a few tips about our upcoming journey. He spoke very highly of The Never Never, and mentioned that there is a natural rock bridge upstream of Ferguson Falls that can be used to cross the Mersey. We then crossed the outlet creek and made our way around the southern end of Ada Lagoon, following an old vehicle track towards the distant collection of peaks that make up the Walls of Jerusalem. Even at this early stage, it was obvious that there had been a lot of water dumped here over the past week; water was coursing down the track and every tarn we passed was full to the brim.
We reached the end of the vehicule track after ~45 minutes and made our way towards the remnants of an old hut that was little more than a pile of rusted metal and broken glass. Upon reaching Talleh Lagoons, I noticed a number of brightly coloured plants dotting the shore of the most northern lagoon. Upon closer inspection, I found that these were mountain rocket (belladona montana) and they were to become more abundant as the day wore on. We then had to cross a the small creek that flows from the upper lagoon to the lower lagoon. Normally, this would be a straight forward rock hop but there was enough water coming down that we first decided to check for a safer place to cross. A quick look upstream revealed an old log that might have once been used to cross the creek, but was now too rotten to be any use. In the end we decided to use the normal crossing, and managed to get through without getting too wet.
A short walk from the crossing, there is a very nice sheltered campsite that could be used to break the trip in-or-out of the walls. Given that we had only been walking for 2 and a half hours (9.1kms), we continued on towards Lake Fanny. The track follows Powena Creek (the outlet and inlet creek of Lake Fanny) and passed by a large number of cushion plants of all shapes and sizes.
Once we reached Lake Fanny we continued along the rough pad that follows the eastern shore, losing it and finding our way back repeatedly. There is a decent amount of scrub that can be avoided if you are careful, and our goal was to reach the northern end of Lake Fanny and sit down for some lunch.
A lot of water was coming down Powena Creek and we noticed a number of cairns situated not far from where the creek runs into Lake Fanny; these cairns indicated a relatively easy spot to cross to the other side. The walk from here to Zion Gate was one of the highlights of the entire trip. We passed hundreds of small tarns that were chock full of water, and some were surrounded by Pencil Pine. Walking was quite slow-going as we were forced to zigzag across the spongy, pineapple grass landscape in order to avoid large water channels that looked like they could swallow you whole. Again, there was no obvious pad, but we would occasionally stumble across an old cairn or two. After ~2 and a half hours hours were reached the forest around Zion Gate and began descending into the Valley of Hinom. Once we reached the start of the Fysh River we turned west, and made our way through the Valley of Hinom and up towards Jaffa Gate. The large cliffs of Mt Jerusalem were a nice change from the open and sometimes desolate landscape from earlier in the day.
Once at the top of Jaffa Gate it was only a short walk down some duckboards to Dixon’s Kingdom, where we picked a sheltered spot under the large pines and settled in for the night. Walking for 7 hours and 21.7kms across the spongy marshland took its toll, and we decided to have a rest before summiting Mt Jerusalem in the morning . Unfortunately, we were kept awake most of the night thanks to a very large possum that insisted on getting into the vestibule and causing havoc. At one point during the night I caught him hanging off our food bags that I had carefully hung in the pines.
At this point I will refer to a quote from the Chapman book on Cradle Mounatin/Lake St Clair where he states “Ones love of animals is often forgotten in the battle between possum and walker”
Carpark to Lake Fanny – 11.5kms in 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Lake Fanny to Zion Gate – 7 kms in 2 hours and 30 minutes including lunch.
Zion Gate to Dixons Kingdom – 3.1kms in 1 hour.
Day 2: Dixon’s Kingdom to Lake Meston – Mt Jerusalem
After an interrupted night we woke early to summit Mt Jerusalem and, if the weather cleared, also to summit Solomon’s Throne and King David’s Peak. The wind and rain worsened as we climbed higher, and unfortunately we had no view whatsoever. On the way back down we decided to scratch climbing the other peaks in the area and save them for a nicer day. Instead, we would continue on past our intended destination of Lake Adelaide and head further west towards the hut at Lake Meston. We packed up our wet tent and gear, and followed a pad down towards Lake Ball. The track along the lake passes through some large fagus trees that had just started to turn yellow. We reached the old hut about halfway around the lake 54 minutes after leaving Dixon’s Kingdom, and decided to stop for some lunch.
The track then continues around the shore of the lake, passing by a number of creeks that were flowing quickly. We reached the northern end expecting to see the usual pineapple grass fields; unfortunately they were all underwater, with only the tops of a few mountain rocket plants visible. Shortly after, a large creek needs to be traversed- which unsurprisingly, was rather deep and uninviting. Not that interested in going swimming, we continued further up for about 20m and found a log that someone had placed across two large boulders. After a bit of hesitation, we traversed the small log and made it to the other side. The track then climbs through some old dead pine forest before dropping down towards Lake Adelaide.
We stopped briefly to check out the campsite for a potential future visit, and unfortunately found not only had someone gone to the toilet 2m from the campsite, they’d also gone 5m from the nearby water source, with minimal attempt at bury it. That was enough to ruin the beautiful area, and on we went around the lake. The camping at the southern end seemed a bit nicer but we still had plenty of daylight left so we continued on towards Lake Meston.
The open plains between Lake Adelaide and Lake Meston were a highlight for me, and we would have happily spent more time around there if we hadn’t been walking all morning. Once we reached the excellent campsite on northern end of Lake Meston, we decided to stop there to dry our tent and everything else that got wet the night before. This was definitely the best campsite we came across on the whole trip, and we were surprised that no one else had planned to stay there that night. There were a number of large log seats, a small beach, plenty of water nearby and an excellent view across the lake; we will definitely be back again.
Another restless night ensued, though this time not thanks to a devil spawn possum but actually due to a slow leak in my air mattress. It meant that every 2 hours or so I would wake up on the cold ground and have to blow it back up again.
Dixon’s Kingdom to Mt Jerusalem – 2kms in 35 minutes.
Dixon’s Kingdom to Lake Ball Hut – 3.1kms in 54 minutes.
Lake Ball Hut to Lake Adelaide – 2.4 kms in 50 minutes.
Lake Adelaide to southern end of Lake Adelaide – 4.4kms in 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Southern end of Lake Adelaide to Lake Meston – 2.5kms in 40 minutes.
Day 3: Lake Meston to Junction Lake – Mountains of Jupiter
I woke early to find the tent frosted over and the skies clear; as this was probably the best chance to catch a nice sunrise, I went straight down to the lake to set up my tripod. The lake was mirror calm and certain sections were covered in a small amount of mist-before long the skies turned pink and I had the sunrise that I was hoping for. With the water so still, it was also a good chance to find the leak in my mattress.
The plan was to walk to Junction Lake then drop our packs before heading up to the Mountains of Jupiter for the afternoon. We reached the Meston Hut within 35 minutes and had a chat to some people that were heading back out that day. The hut itself was fairly large and in pretty good condition; something worth remembering if visiting the area in winter, or if the weather is too miserable to camp.
We continued around the northern shore of the lake towards Mayfield Flats, with a dozen or so currawong keeping us company for part of the way. The walk to the Junction Lake wasn’t very exciting so we pushed on to get there ahead of schedule. 1.5 hours after leaving Meston Hut we reached the sign that indicates the Junction Lake Hut. We continued right towards the campsites so that we could get the tent up and dry some stuff while the sun was out. There are a number of nice and flat campsites overlooking the lake, but unfortunately there are also a lot of jack jumpers that were quick to crawl over everything. Once set up, we headed back towards to hut where we would have to find a place to cross the Mersey River.
The normal crossing behind the hut was around knee-to-waist-deep water, so instead we crossed on a fallen tree with the help of a large stick to counterbalance. After a short climb, the well-marked track enters some of the most spectacular mossy forest I have seen to date. It then passes below some large rocky outcrops before emerging onto an open marsh. From here on, the bauera takes over and the legs get a nice tickle all the way up to Lake Artemis. The “track” to Mountains of Jupiter can be found just before dropping down toward the lake. Given that we hadn’t had lunch yet, we chose to head down to the lake and find a nice spot to sit. The overgrown track follows the southern side around and presumably continues out to Lake Eros.
We retraced our steps back to the “lookout” and headed straight up. There is no real path to follow-just a bunch of cairns that are more confusing than helpful-and in the end decided to follow the large rock slabs to avoid the scrub. Once on the rim of the plateau, we made our way east to what appeared to be the highpoint. This would have to be one of the most unusual mountains around, with large dolerite slabs as far as the eye can see and some nice tarns had made me wish we had the time to camp up there. We spent the next little while getting weather updates and touching base with family. The forecast for the coming night and morning wasn’t looking good, and we thought it might be a good idea to spend the night in the hut to avoid packing up a wet tent.
By the time we made it back down to our camp, a few others had arrived and set up. Thankfully no one had set themselves up in the hut, and so we moved in. We lit the fire and patched up my mattress, then finally had the first uninterrupted sleep of the trip. The hut is rough around the edges, but has four bunks and is dry and warm; though the presence of some rodent friends is noted.
Lake Meston north end to Meston Hut – 2kms in 35 minutes.
Meston Hut to Junction Lake – 5.3kms in 1 and a half hours.
Junction Lake Hut to Lake Artemis – 2.5kms in 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Lake Artemis to Mountains of Jupiter Summit – 2kms in 1 hours.
Day 4: Junction Lake to Narcissus Hut
The day crossing through The Never Never had finally arrived. Not knowing how easy it would be to cross the Mersey River, we left early to give us as much time as possible to find a safe way across. The track into The Never Never goes past the campsite and follows the eastern side of the Junction Lake. Before long, we reached the registration box and made our way down the steep and slippery track to Clarke Falls. Unfortunately there was so much water coming down that we couldn’t even get near the falls without going for a swim. By this point I was starting to get a little nervous about the crossing, particularly with full packs on.
Nevertheless we continued along the banks of the river, following faint pads that wound their way through forest and open plains. Feather Falls grew closer but we decided not to detour up to its base and instead to continue along the river. At one point we had deviated a few hundreds metres from the river bank and found ourself walking through some nice moss covered forest, similar to what we saw on the way to The Mountains of Jupiter. After not being able to locate a pad, we decided to head back down to the river and sure enough we passed by what appeared to be a pad through some sphagnum moss down to the river’s edge. This appeared to be the normal place to cross when the river is much lower, but we decided to head a bit further down to try and find a fallen tree. The next 15 minutes were spent pushing through tea tree and scoparia to try and keep the river in view; lucky for us there was a large pencil pine that appeared to have come down recently that provided a decent crossing to the western side.
Once across we located the pad we made our way down to McCoy Falls, passing by a number of other fallen trees that could have also been used to cross safely. The track down to McCoy Falls is steep and requires a short climb down some tree roots. On the way back up, Emily managed to get a leech in her eye and the next 10 minutes were spent trying to pull it off her eyeball where it had latched on, with a pair of crappy plastic tweezers from the first aid kit.
From here on in, The Never Never exceeded expectations. Walking along the moss covered banks of the Mersey, and passing by toadstools of all sizes really felt like something out of a fairy tale. It was unlike anything I had seen before in Tasmania and was worth every leech. By the end we had lost the track again and popped out very wet and muddy on the track to Hartnett Falls, 4 hours after leaving the hut.
Instead of staying at Burt Nichols Hut, we decided to push through to Narcissus Hut so that we had less walking to do in the morning. The walk between the huts was uneventful, but we did pass through some nice forest. We reached Narcissus Hut 8 and a half hours (23.4 kms) after leaving Junction Lake Hut, and it’s safe to say we were pretty happy to put the feet up. Unfortunately the hut began to fill and a long sleepless night ensued, mostly due two noisy snorers and restless tossing and turning of others. This is why I prefer to camp.
Junction Lake Hut to McCoy Falls – 4.8kms in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
McCoy Falls to Hartnett Falls – 3kms in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Hartnett Falls to Burt Nichols Hut – 5kms in 1 hour and 45 minutes including lunch.
Burt Nichols Hut to Narcissus Hut – 10.1kms in 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Day 5: Narcissus Hut to Cynthia Bay
Unfortunately the weather had not improved and our plan to camp on Mt Olympus was scrapped. We decided to walk back to the visitor centre instead of taking the ferry, as we felt a sense of cheating if we had caught the boat. In the end, I was glad we took that option as the walk back-although wet-consisted of a nice stroll through beautiful myrtle, sassafras, manfern and dogwood forests, spaced out far enough apart to keep things interesting. It also gave us a chance to locate the track up to Olympus, as well as sussing out the small but welcoming hut at Echo Point. In the end it took us just over 4 hours and 20 minutes (17.3kms) to reach the visitors centre from Narcissus Hut, and we happily jumped into the free showers before the midday ferry arrived. Before long, we were at The Hungry Wombat Cafe devouring a burger and chips, and back to reality.
Narcissus Hut to Echo Point Hut – 6.3kms in 1 and a half hours
Echo Point Hut to Cynthia Bay 11kms in 2 hours and 50 minutes
Getting There: Turn onto Lake Augusta Road from Liaweenee and follow past the Thousand Lakes Lodge. Continue along the dam wall and follow all signs to Lake Ada. There is a large carpark at Lake Ada.