Sunday, December 17, 2017

Western and Eastern Arthurs Traverse - Part 4

A 12-day traverse of the Western and Eastern Arthur Ranges in Southwest Tasmania by Kylie and Clinton Garratt.  Part Four takes us over the final section of the Western Arthurs visiting an Abel enroute and descends to the surrounding plains at Pass Creek.

Day 7 - Promontory Lake to Lucifer Ridge
A stunning sunrise inspired a pre-breakky photography session overlooking the lake.  On the ridge to the south we soon lost all sign of the trail but many gaps in the scrub and animal tracks made for easy walking as we sidled The Sculptor.  We soon gained a view down to Lake Venus and the pretty wetland to its north.

Sunrise on Carina Peak at Promontory Lake
Despite clear skies in most directions cloud seemed to be hanging around The Phoenix.  As we ascended in fog we eventually joined a faint, cairned pad which took us close to the highest point.  For the sake of peak bagging points we deviated briefly to the highest rock where Kylie posed with Millie, our trusty personal locator beacon.  We had been using Millie to send off an "Ok" signal to our families at each summit and campsite along the way.

Kylie and Millie on The Phoenix
Fog accompanied our descent past numerous contorted rock formations until sunshine greeted us in the saddle at the start of Centaurus Ridge.  From here the clouds revealed an encouraging glimpse of Bathurst Harbour and the Norold Range, a graphic indicator of our significant progress from west to east.

The first peak on Centaurus Ridge is the highest so, again shrouded by cloud, a short deviation, selfie and PLB message ensued.

Centaurus Ridge
Following that first peak, most of Centaurus Ridge is significantly lower and the track easily sidles the remaining lumps and bumps.  By the time we reached the foot of West Portal we were bathed in full sunshine making warm work of the long ascent.  Hat and sunscreen made their first and only appearance of the entire trip.

The slightly lower first summit of West Portal taken from the true summit.
The summit route sidles the first peak then descends to avoid the cliffs on the left of this picture.
Where the range swings north along the Crags of Andromeda we gladly ditched packs to head up the highest Abel in the range, West Portal.  After a small peak is sidled an attractive plateau is reached.  Just beyond the plateau cairns seemed to lead ominously down the south side of the peak.  Hoping we had already passed the first peak mentioned in Chapman a fruitless upward climb confirmed there was indeed another higher peak which required significant loss of height to approach the airy climbing gully.

West Portal selfie
While we enjoyed what would be the highest point of our entire journey Federation Peak appeared from the clouds giving us a brilliant, albeit brief, view of the entire Eastern Arthur Range.

Easter Arthur Range from West Portal
After shouldering packs our path meandered through the Crags before reaching another distinct 90 degree turn in the range where Lucifer Ridge droped spectacularly away into the cloud swirling below us to the east.  With only two kilometres to Lake Rosanne it was tempting to push on but Chapman informed us half of that would be through dense forest.  Given our knowledge of how gnarly Western Arthur forests can be we decided that would not be fun in the failing light and found a suitable place to camp.

Eastern Arthurs from Lucifer Ridge
The sunny day and our location on the ridge top meant very limited water.  After watching the last direct rays of sunlight illuminate the Eastern Arthurs, Kylie pitched the tent in the strengthening gale while I slowly filled our water bladder from the only water in sight.  The pool was barely five centimetres deep so, painstakingly, dozens of careful dips with a pot yielded the water needed to see us through the night.

Day 8 - Lucifer Ridge to Pass Creek

During the night we were 'treated' to a classic south-west Tasmania lashing.  Torrential rain accompanied howling gales as Hughie tried vainly to blow us off the ridge.  Had we been ensconced at Lake Rosanne we would not have 'enjoyed' the full benefits of that night-long buffeting.  In the morning water was everywhere.  Barely metres below the ridge crest countless rivulets were tumbling noisily toward unseen valleys far below.  The irony of last night's water collection exercise was amusing.

As predicted the dense forest was indeed slow going.  It would have been a tangled, torch-lit affair had we continued the night before.  We were happy with our choice.

Lake Rosanne
Lake Rosanne and its characteristic monolith appeared eerily from the mist right on cue as the obvious track swung north.  Without any apparent track heading our way we continued east following the broad ridge crest.  After crossing a slightly scrubby saddle we picked up a faint track which we followed successfully over several humps on Lucifer's lower slopes.  An almost total lack of vegetation following recent fires made for easy going while a couple of brief pauses in the deluge allowed for a couple of pleasant snack breaks.

Pass Creek
The further we descended the ridge the more the sound of Pass Creek taunted us from below.  When we finally emerged from the cloud we could see the creek was still within its banks but the flow would make our crossing a lively affair.  A fixed rope made for a safe, albeit entertaining crossing with the bracingly cool, swift flowing stream around knee deep.

After the rarely used track from Kappa Moraine and the even more rarely used route beyond Lake Roseanne the track from Cracroft Crossing to Luckmans Lead felt like a superhighway.  By early afternoon we had reached Pass Creek campsite (which is well past Pass Creek) and were very happy to setup camp, dry out and ponder the Western Arthurs behind us and the Eastern Arthurs ahead.

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