2nd – 4th January 2018
An account of a week in Tasmania with my brother, in early 2018.
Day 1: Trailhead to Lodden River Camp (6.5km)
The rain that had threatened all day finally arrived, just as we pulled into Frenchman’s Cap trailhead car park, in the heart of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. We packed our gear between rain showers, taking three days of food with us.
Ahead lay 23km to the summit of Frenchman’s Cap, and another 23km return to the car.
The weather was kind enough to briefly grant us several minutes of sunshine as we took our first steps on the trail (who likes setting off in the rain?). To say we were giddy with excitement would be an understatement.
The initial km of trail passed easily beneath our feet as we conversed, chewing the fat like long-lost friends. Rain showers came and went. Jackets were donned. The mist obscured any long distance views but the atmosphere lent an air of mystery and suspense to our project.
Above all, it was terrific to simply spend time with my brother out in the wilds again.
Still all smiles about an hour into the hike. The packs were not too heavy and the trail was easy on day 1.
Camp was established alongside the Lodden River, amongst the trees. There was no-one else around and the only sounds were the occasional bird song. The river was wide, slow and meandering, and made no audible sound at camp.
We turned in after a couple of welcome brews and a surprisingly good hot meal. (We always have an interesting debate after these trips with friends and spouses about the actual quality of camp food. Is it only good because of the setting and one’s hunger? Or is the food half decent in its own right? My brother and I are probably of the latter opinion: I think we’d both still enjoy a camp dinner at home!)
That night I found a leech gorging itself on my leg, which caused a ripple of alarm between us. He was easily burned off with the lighter, but we were more careful to check for them at day’s end during the rest of the trip.
Day 2: Lodden River Camp to summit of Frenchman’s Cap and camp at Lake Tahune
We struck camp by 8am after a morning brew. Joints were stiff. Eyes were puffy. I was plainly not used to this camping malarky anymore. It had been almost 3.5 years since I last slept in a tent. (Just the way the cookie crumbles. I still see lots more hiking, camping and mountains in my future.)
It was still misty as we traversed above the Lodden plains on the new trail (avoiding the infamous and suitably named ‘Sodden Loddens’, of old). Our path was wet enough thank you very much!
We stopped at the Lake Vera hut for a hearty cheese and ham lunch. Then it was back into the thick forest and shortly after, the steep climb up to Barron Pass. It was tiring work with the packs and general lack of mountain fitness.
The climb is relentless and, just when one is getting utterly tired from the exertion of it, one emerges onto the chilly pass and a sweeping new panorama of lakes and mountain summits.
Frenchman’s Cap summit was still slumbering under a cloud when we passed through Barron Pass.
An open path traversed across the shoulder of Sharlands Peak and onto the ridgeline adjoining F.C. It was a superb section of walking that we romped across. Some more ups and downs before the path deposited us at a misty, atmospheric Lake Tahune:
The situation was wild!
The Lake Tahune hut was in the process of being rebuilt, so it was a construction site up there, but we found a tent platform and pitched our tent as the rain fell. The trees provided some welcome cover. The wooden tent platform had an innovative chain & nail system in place of using pegs. It took a little while to figure out but we soon had the tent pitched taught.
After a brief rest and refuel, we decided to go for the summit that same afternoon, given the weather was relatively good (only cloudy and showers, but little wind). Who knows what the next morning would be like?
Best of all, we could leave the bags at camp and travel light, just taking a water bottle and snack in our jacket pockets. The climb began up a steep gully from the opposite shore of Lake Tahune, with a few scrambly sections. Beyond it was an airy, zig-zagging path over rocky terraces, which reminded us of days in the Dolomites, with the swirling mist.
Sadly there were no views at the summit. We were still elated though. It was the first summit we’d climbed together in years and it’d been quite a journey to reach the top.
It had all the classic elements of a good backcountry adventure: enough hardship that we felt like we earned the summit, enough beautiful scenery to remember for years to come and, of course, the (literal in our case) brotherhood of the shared journey.
On the way down off Frenchman’s Cap we dipped beneath the clouds and enjoyed the most spectacular views of the trip thus far. Just stunning!
Looking down on Lake Tahune. Our camp was at the L edge of the lake, hidden amongst the trees.
Day 3: Lake Tahune camp back to Trailhead (camp at Franklin River)
Not many photos from this day on account of the heavy rain that persisted until lunchtime.
I did not have such a good day. My left knee gave me pain on any downhill section (overexertion, given my lack of backpacking in the last few years) and I had an annoying headache all morning. No choice but to trundle on though.
The dreary day matched my mood. Soon though, one emerges from the other side of such a mood and takes a perverse pleasure in just putting one foot in front of the other and making progress, despite the discomfort.
A hearty lunch and a lie down at Lake Vera hut restored me and I very much enjoyed the easier afternoon walk out to the trailhead. The sun shone on us and mostly dried us off. That night we camped next to the Franklin River, just a few hundred metres from the trailhead.
(Day 4 transfer south, including stop for fish & chips in Hobart.)
6th January 2018
Our initial plan of trying the whole circuit had been scaled back to just a day hike of Mt Anne. The weather had other ideas.
We sat in the car at the trailhead, listened to the rain falling, and willed ourselves to just get on with it. After some deliberation, with the rain easing, we set off and headed up the mountain.
My knee gave me no problems thankfully. The wind nearly knocked us off our feet in places however!
There is a small hut on the shoulder of Mt Eliza, which is a satellite peak to the south of Mt Anne. We stopped and enjoyed this convivial, little shelter, chatting with other hikers over lunch. Some had been camped up high last night and told of a wild night.
We set off into the roaring wind once again, getting blown up the ridge in places, but never in any danger. It was enjoyable and refreshing, but we were doubtful of summiting Mt Anne in this weather.
One enjoys tremendous views out over Lake Pedder the whole way up Mt Eliza:
Hunkered down on the summit of Mt Eliza, behind a boulder to get out of the wind. It was actually a little less windy on the summit compared to the ridge line, so we spent a little time up on the plateau, exploring the next bump and enjoying the incredible views.
The scenery was simply magnificent (click to see larger):
Prudence is the better part of valor, so we abandoned Mt Anne for another day. It gives us reason to come back to the magnificent mountain region.
Mt Field West
7th January 2018
Our final mountain day was a long walk over the high plateau of the Mount Field National Park, to the summit of Mount Field West.
It was a gloriously sunny day, quite the contrast to the weather so far. Buoyed by the sunshine, we set off in high spirits and travelled light, with the minimum of kit.
Sadly this didn’t include any painkillers and I soon developed a headache again. Nevermind, the scenery was stunning. This was mountain walking at its finest.
Navigation was easy with Mt Field West visible most of the day. It was deceptively far away though, so we were both pretty tired by the time we reached the summit plateau, dotted as it was with many tiny ponds and scenic tarns.
I had a little nap on the summit (it was that kind of mountain day) and we enjoyed the 360 degree panorama of mountains, forests and lakes. It was the sort of day we live for, and reminded me of our climb up Black Peak in NZ, and also closer to home, of Munro summits.
I’m not going to lie, the last few hours of the day were tough for me. My headache worsened and made the walking rather grueling. This selfie just about captures my feeling at the time:
Despite the headache, which faded upon taking painkillers back at the car and descending to lower altitudes, it was still a top-notch mountain day with my brother.
I have extremely fond memories of the entire trip, of all the high and low points. Memories I’ll cherish for life.