Sunday, December 17, 2017

Western and Eastern Arthurs Traverse - Part 3

A 12-day traverse of the Western and Eastern Arthur Ranges in Southwest Tasmania by Kylie and Clinton Garratt.  Part Three sees us traversing the infamous Beggary Bumps, bagging a fog-bound Abel and moving beyond Kappa Moraine.

Day 5 - High Moor to Haven Lake
Pre-dawn on the tent platform revealed the fog had retreated since last night and there was almost no breeze.  Considering this would be our highest camp for the whole trip we were being treated to delightfully benign conditions - perfect for an early morning assault on Mount Columba.

High Moor from Mt Columba with the not-so-distant Sirius Ridge and Pegasus Minor peering from the mist.
A quick stroll and scramble led to the summit in time for a sunrise which was almost imperceptible through cloud draped over the surrounding peaks.  Views back along the range were mostly obscured although Pegasus Minor and the south ridge of Mount Sirius protruded from the mist.  These peaks, which cradle Lake Oberon, appeared deceptively close as memories of yesterday's efforts made it feel they should be further away.  A map check proves they are a mere 2.7 and 3.7 kilometres distant from my early morning vantage.

Beggary Bumps from Mt Columba
Looking at the range ahead it felt appropriate that cloud was blocking all the major peaks.  It was as if today's obstacle course, the notorious Beggary Bumps, were being highlighted as the only thing which mattered.

Tilted Chasm
From camp the first couple of 'bumps' are quickly engaged.  Relatively easy ascents, descents and sidles soon lead to the appropriately named Tilted Chasm.  A lively, steep descent through the chasm leads into one of many arduous patches of dwarf forest which speckle the mid-sections of the range before yet another sidle and ascent leads to The Dragon.  Along the way we speculated as to how this feature got its name.  The many contorted rock patterns in the area could potentially look like a fire-breathing, winged beast.

The Dragon?
A lengthy sidle around The Dragon was followed by more up and down in steep forest.  At one point there were clear tracks heading both up and down.  It is generally a good rule of thumb to try the up track first.  At least if/when you discover it's the wrong option you have a downhill walk/scramble back to where you first faced the dilemma.  In this case the uphill track led to the affectionately named Lovers Leap.  At this point you emerge on a 4 metre high cliff facing a lower ledge a tantalisingly short but committing leap away.  While it was tempting to 'test-drive' this obstacle I remembered Chapman saying it could be bypassed with a steep scramble down and up.  Back down we went.  Twenty minutes later we arrived at the lower half of Lovers Leap making all of two metres forward progress in that time!

Zig Zag Cliffs above Lake Ganymede with Mt Columba above.  Lovers Leap is near top right.
Having dealt with Tilted Chasm and Lovers Leap my subconscious was clearly getting a little over-confident.  A break in the cloud revealed a lake, seemingly close below us and, beyond it, a distinctive peak which I had seen in Chapman's photos of Haven Lake.  Had we just nailed the Beggary Bumps an hour quicker than 'Chappy slow time'?  A check of the notes revealed I was indeed getting ahead of myself.  The contours on the map belied the series of little bumps yet to be encountered.  The next two hours were spent going up and down like a yoyo.  In several places only a step or two seperated the bottom of one awkward descent before engaging with the next challenging climb.  Kylie looks back at the Beggary Bumps as a highlight of the entire traverse.  Masochist!

Approaching the summit of Mt Taurus with the Beggary Bumps in the background.
In one of the steep descent gullies toward the end of the Beggary Bumps Kylie was leading when she heard an ominous crack.  I had straddled the top of the chasm with my feet on a narrow ledge and my arms holding a tree branch.  The branch gave way and Kylie looked up just in time to see my pack-laden body swing through 180 degrees and back as I became suspended by my arm pit in a fork of the tree overhanging the five metre vertical drop.  Amazingly my feet swung back onto the ledge I had been descending towards and, apart from increased heart rate and dented pride, all was well.  Much thought was expended considering how else this may have worked out.  It was also a great example of why we were always careful not to end up directly above or below each other.

Mt Aldebaran from Mt Taurus
Once we arrived at the broad saddle marking the true end of Beggary Bumps we then had the relatively simple climb over Mount Taurus and down to the tent platforms at Haven Lake.  With my overly optimistic assessment of our progress earlier in the day and my near death dangle my head was in a bad place as we approached the top of Mount Taurus.  It took encouragement from Kylie before I made the five minute detour to claim my two peak baggers points.  I can't believe I almost passed it by.  The view back along the Bumps was most satisfying and Aldebaran looked decidedly stately presiding over Lake Jupiter far below.

Day 6 - Haven Lake to Promontory Lake
After greeting us on arrival at Haven Lake, steady rain continued through the night and into the next morning.  With the lure of peak bagging points and Abel status of nearby Mount Aldeberan we waited until midday to give the weather a chance to clear.  Eventually we shouldered packs and reluctantly gave Aldebaran a miss.  Even as we walked away we were already starting to speculate how we would deal with this item of unfinished business.  Perhaps another traverse.  Perhaps a short trip in and out via Kappa Moraine.  Time will tell.

Haven Lake with its distinctive unnamed peak.
Lake Sirona had a navigational challenge in store.  By now the rain had been replaced by thick fog.  The trail appeared to suddenly plunge into a bottomless abyss right where I thought we should be approaching the lake which, according to the map, was a mere 50 metres below us.  As Kylie climbed confidently down I looked at the map, studied the notes and reluctantly followed, worried we may be launching ourselves off the edge of the range.  Within moments the truth was revealed.  The sullen surface of the lake was blending perfectly with the surrounding mist making it invisible from the low ridge above.  The descent took less time than I had spent contemplating the dilemma.

Lake Sirona hiding in the mist.
Beyond Lake Sirona easy walking led to the tilted pyramid of Mount Scorpio's summit block.  Kylie kindly posed where the main track perches precariously above steep sloping slabs.  At the top the clouds would not part for a view but we did get a faint glory projected around us and the satisfaction of bagging another Abel.

Mt Scorpio
A rapid descent down Kappa Moraine then a more gradual descent past Lake Juno led us to Lake Vesta, our lowest point since ascending Alpha Moraine.  An impressive waterfall linked the two lakes while the surrounding cliffs reached imposingly up into the clouds.  This area featured dense regrowth following a relatively recent fire event.  It was only then that I realised the rest of the traverse had a total lack of recent fire.  The stunted forests along the range to this point had featured fire-sensitive, dwarfed, rainforest trees with an open understory.  I now found myself frustrated at the dense undergrowth getting my shorts wet for the first time in the whole trip.

Lake Vesta
With daylight hours dwindling we regained a hundred metres in altitude and made our way two thirds of the way around Promontory Lake.  After reaching the southern shore we set up camp just in time to enjoy the sun setting over the broody lake.

Promontory Lake

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