February 28, 2008

Mt. Riveaux & Pear Hill

Stuart Bowling
Peak: Mt. Riveaux (Pear Hill – unlisted)
Height: 845m
Maps: 1:100k – Huon; 1:25k – Picton
Ref: 716246
Distance: 8km.
Points: 3
Starting point: Junction of Riveaux & Pear Hill Roads.
Date: Saturday 26th January 2008.
Time to summit & return: 8 hour circuit (including lunch & rests).
Party members: Stuart Bowling, Jeramie Spong.
This weeks mission was my choice, and needing to expand our off track and navigational experience, I decided on Pear Hill and Mt. Riveaux in the Southwest National Park (Pear Hill is just outside the park boundary), Mt. Riveaux being about 5km North East of Mt. Picton. Our initial estimates and with little true off track experience to date was about 5-6 hours for the return journey and so a pick up time of 6am was agreed upon.
Taking the same road as for Mt. Bobs (see my previous article), we crossed the Picton River bridge, this time turning right onto the Riveaux road about 2km from the bridge which we then followed for another 2km, parking at the junction of the Riveaux & Pear Hill roads (a locked gate lies another hundred or so metres up the Riveaux road). Here we parked the car and kitted up, donning gaiters and over pants, but with the forecast 25 degrees left jackets and scrub gloves in the packs for later.
We set off soon after 8am and decided to follow the Pear Hill road, seeing if it would take us closer to the base of our first objective. We followed the road for about 1km, the burnt out and clear felled devastation caused by logging operations making it seem more like entering The Western Front than a wilderness area. Deciding to abandon the road here (GR745254) we crossed the burnt out tract at the base of Pear Hill, aiming straight for the top and entering the forest a couple of hundred metres later, glad to leave the scarred landscape behind and be out of the sun which was already quite hot. We didn’t feel it necessary to take bearings at this stage, intending to just head straight up hill and set our course to Riveaux from the top. Fairly open forest walking (i.e. no scrub) ensued and we weaved our way up the hill at a steady pace. About half way up an array of strange noises became ever louder and we spotted a native LIAR bird in the branches, perhaps welcoming us to his forest home or letting loose a tirade of abuse for the devastation so close to his territory. We stopped and conversed with him for several minutes, I’m sure amusing him as much with our gobbles and whistles as he had us with his multitude of strange sounds. It was the first of these birds I had come across in my adventures and probably the highlight of my day – I only hope his home remains intact as it was a truly beautiful bird; a doubtful proposition with logging obviously creeping ever higher up the hill.
We reached the top at 9:30am, a GPS reading actually confirming this (GR737259)– being well below the tree line there are no sweeping views, or any views – just more forest. Taking a quick break to re-hydrate, we checked maps and I donned the compass, ready to head deeper into the green stuff, deeper into the unknown and the wild.
Setting off, saw us generally following the vague ridge / spur which connects Pear Hill to Mt. Riveaux, gradually descending now towards the saddle – again no visual confirmation of this, just more forest. Having to continuously check bearings and the going under, over and around obstacles saw a much slower pace than we were used to, no throwing caution to the wind here, accuracy was the order of the day. Not entirely trusting our rudimentary navigation skills with compass, we regularly (when the canopy overhead allowed clearance) checked the GPS to verify our course and make any minor compass adjustments if necessary, the luxury of modern technology that the pioneers of these sort of walks would probably scoff at.
The route from the summit of Pear Hill down to the saddle had been pretty easy, generally open type forest with little in the way of scrub or much undergrowth and so progress was comparatively quick. Beyond here things changed somewhat. As we began to gain altitude again the vegetation also became more varied – forest giving way to sections of tea tree, cutting grass and a little bauera, slowing progress quite dramatically and inflicting the usual cuts and scrapes. Thankfully, these sections were only short and forest was the more dominant type of terrain, being easier to navigate and easier on the psyche.
Drawing gradually closer to Riveaux, and continuing to gain elevation, the vegetation changed once again with just under 2km to go. We now entered more open eucalypt forest, more open in the general sense that is, as the entire forest floor was a mess of waist to chest high bauera and cutting grass and progress again slowed dramatically – exhaustion and dehydration slowly kicking in. Rest stops through this section were brief at best, every time we stopped moving swarms of March flies materialised, no doubt attracted to our sweaty stench and the prospect of some sweet human blood.
Knowing we were getting close, with some 400m to the summit, we came across something that would usually be a welcome sight, but on this particular walk received abusive comments from both of us; a bright pink tag – we’d found a bloody track!
My reasons for selecting this peak were for the remoteness (remote in a day walk sense at least) and off track experience and discovering a track with fresh tags every 10-20m was disappointing to say the least, our experience had been instantly tainted and we annoyingly, grumpily followed it the last few hundred metres towards the summit. I strongly disagree with cutting tracks to every corner of the state and wonder what we will find on some more remote missions I have in mind for the future – pissed off would be a polite under statement!
Emerging at the top at 12:45pm, we gained our first views since setting off into the forest at 8:30am, and the gentle alpine breeze was a welcome relief to our exhausted bodies. Our summit experience now a little ruined, we quietly ate lunch and boiled up a cup of tea, not feeling any need to rush as we had a track to follow on our return leg. Despite our / my mood, beautiful, clear views were had, with Mt. Picton dominating the southern aspect and The Western Arthurs, The Franklands, Anne and Weld ranges dominating the west through to northerly aspects. The unfortunate scars of Forestry operations dominating the easterly aspects, which we sat with our backs to, ignoring civilization and its ravages, trying to regain the experience we had initially sought.
Departing at 1:40pm we obviously decided to follow the damn track, not really knowing where it would spit us out, but deciding it was now no point retracing our inward route, our mood and motivation now diminished. The track, tho not great under foot, was very easy to follow and in my mind overly tagged with pink and orange ribbons hanging from every second tree, branch and log. We made very quick progress / regress now and after about an hour took a GPS check; we were on the western side of Pear Hill, heading towards the Huon River! Why the track cutters had decided on such a long winded approach was beyond us, and we now knew we would have to navigate / back track to the car.
We came out on a forestry road, marked by a cairn and ribbon at 3:15pm (GR722270), and taking a bearing headed east along the road with about 2km or so to cover to the car. Now very hot, out of water and dehydrated and a little over the whole affair, we marched quickly along the road, discovering we were actually on the Riveaux road and therefore on ‘track’, reaching the Pear Hill road junction and the car at 3:45pm – an 8 hour ‘circuit’.
With the above GR, future parties wanting to access the track can retrace our final steps along the road, bearing in mind there is a locked gate a hundred metres or so up from where we had parked. I won’t put an estimate on a time for accessing Mt. Riveaux via the track, but it would still be a fairly full day. Please bear in mind that there is little to no water on this route, we carried 2 litres each and used it all.
Happy to be at the car, but still a little annoyed, we packed up and quickly drove to the Picton River to re-hydrate, having no water for the last hour and a half – it tasted so good!
We diverted to the Tahune visitors centre for cold soft drinks and ice cream, feeling a little out of place amongst the hordes of tourists with our scratched, battered and exhausted appearance and feeling a little sorry for their ‘Disneyesque’ forest experience. I always feel privileged being a local and able to access and experience the wilderness every weekend and never take these adventures for granted.
We were glad we didn’t know of the track to Mt. Riveaux as the inward journey was a great little adventure, hopefully future missions to more remote areas will not be sullied like this one had been. My apologies to the track workers who obviously work tirelessly to establish and maintain these routes, I just didn’t expect nor want to find one on this occasion.

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