February 28, 2009

Mt Weld in a Day

Stuart Bowling
Peak: Mt. Weld
Height: 1345m
Maps: 1:100k – Huon; 1:25k – Weld
Ref: 654384
Distance:14km.
Points: 4
Starting point: South Weld Road (712374).
Date: Saturday 28th February 2009.
Time to summit & return: 10 hours (including lunch & rests).
Party members: Stuart Bowling, Jeramie Spong.


Mt. Weld is one of the more prominent and recognisable ranges in the south of the state, the summit proper capping the northern end of the impressive 8km long Weld Ridge. To the north of here lay the green valleys of the Weld River and the Jubilee Range, to the west the Gallagher Plateau & Anne ranges, to the south the Huon River valley and to the south east and east the unfortunate scars of extensive logging operations for which the name Weld is so recognisable to the public at large.
I had been intrigued with the idea of attempting Mt. Weld in a day for over a year, old Tasmanian Tramp articles like Phil Robinson and partners impressive success in a weekend from Red Tape Creek via the Gallagher Plateau and Grant Dixons success in a day via the regular route adding further impetus to my plans, these pioneers setting bench marks for future generations.
With a growing list of long, hard day walks under our boots and recent and much appreciated beta from Paul Geeves on the ‘regular’ route, it was time to make an attempt, a clear forecast the icing on our preparations.
The start of the walk lies deep within a network of forestry roads, a phone call to the Huon offices of Forestry the day before confirming unimpeded access to the area; a recommended strategy as Forestry operation and boom gates could alter accessibility on a day to day basis.
An early pick up time saw us on the road just after 6am, taking the now familiar road to Geeveston and along the Arve road. Today was to be a series of new roads however, bypassing the usual left hand turn on the Arve road which heads to Tahune; today straight ahead on the South Wood road, across the Houn River, left along the Eddy road onto the Fletcher road and finally right onto the South Weld road. The start of the walk is on a 90 degree left hand corner, where the road heads uphill, an obvious parking area and tagged totem pole next to cutting grass clumps indicating the start of the adventure ahead.
Kitted up in full scrub regalia (gloves essential), we were away into the cutting grass at 8:45am. The first stage of the day follows an old dozer track, sidling for around 3km to the Trout Lake outlet creek (695395). This was generally easy walking, the track obvious most of the time, but the cutting grass relentless, several wounds forming on both of us when the razor strands didn’t resist as much as they should. A few wrong turns here and there, quickly corrected, saw us at the creek at 10:10am; my first step into the creek sent me sideways, tipping me head and shoulder into the bubbling brook like one of those bobbing bird toys that sit dunking on the side of a glass of water. It was a refreshing wake up and I was no worse off for my mishap, Jeramie’s taunts being shaken off as quickly as the cool water itself.
From the other side of the creek we immediately headed off to the left, a run of pink tags indicating the route ahead. Up along a rotting log, through a small section of forest and up a small hill brought us to a small grove of horizontal forest, reminding me instantly of my fantastic Christmas trip up Moss Ridge to Federation Peak. Beyond this short obstacle the real deal begins, over 1000 vertical metres of ascent lies between this point and the summit.
The route from here initially climbs steeply through tea tree and dogwood forest before opening out into beautiful old growth myrtle and eucalypt forest, the route however not always obvious and could really do with re-tagging. We found our pace slowed dramatically through this section for we had to locate each tag carefully and had to back track several times to correct false leads. Despite this we made pretty good time, stopping a couple of times to converse with our old friends the Lyre birds, reaching the sub-alpine zone for our first extended rest of the day thus far (678385), taking shelter from the intensifying sun in a small strand of myrtle and pandani. Some snacks and rehydration and we were away again 10 minutes later, the route now following a rough pad through a mixture of scoparia and other hardy, spiky species, the scrub armour very much still required.
Soon this pad emerges onto a large flat area (672383) next to a small creek, the summit ridge now in sight, but still some 350 vertical metres of ascent above. A vague pad crosses this open area and then even vaguer pads sidle across to the outlet creek of the high, unnamed lake. At the creek we had a quick break, refilling water bladders and bottles for the final assault on the rocky summit ridges above. Following the southern (left hand) side of this creek we soon reached the high lake which would provide fantastic, if exposed, camping; the views south east of the eastern lakes, Lobster and Trout, quite magnificent apart from the visible back drop of clear felled hills.
The tops now in sight, we showed renewed vigour, following a line of pineapple grass terraces to the ridge above the lake (660382) and onto rock, always a preferred medium. We now decided to sidle to the north rather than continue high up on the first rock tower, perhaps sidling a little too low as the scrub, mostly scoparia, slowed progress again. Tiring of this we headed up again, the going easier once more on the rock scree just below the ridge top, and reaching the saddle (656383) below the summit proper, excited to get our first views out west to a lot of familiar and spectacular areas. From here a quick scramble led us to our target, summiting at 1:40pm, very happy with our time, if a little weary.
Lunch was spent not just refuelling on tasty ham salad baguettes but also on the visual smorgas board laid out in all directions. To the north the Snowy and Jubilee ranges, around west to the Anne range and Gallagher plateau, south to the Western and Eastern Arthur ranges and Picton ranges; the south east and eastern views not so appealing as described earlier. It would have been nice to spend longer taking this beautiful wilderness panorama in more, Jeramie probably happy to extend his summit nap, but we were only now half way into our day, so it was with lack lustre enthusiasm that we set off for home at 2:05pm.
The hard part of the day done, or so I thought, it was now just the long descent to the outlet creek, aka Dunking Stuart creek. We avoided the lower scrubby sidle from the high saddle, this time staying higher on rock just below the rock tower, scrambling down the ridge above the lake with no name. Jeramie insisted on following this ridge further east beyond our ascent route, reasoning we would simply drop down off it to directly gain the large flat area below; I always sceptical and preferring to stick to the inward route followed on blindly. Retribution for Jeramie came quickly in the form of a painful scrub bash down the hill through stunted eucalypt, myrtle, pandani and a little bauera, I unfortunately also suffering for this lesson.
We reached the flat area next to the little creek at 3:00pm, dropping onto the soft heath carpet in now increasing exhaustion, more due to the extra energy given to the downhill bash at this point in time. I immediately heard a loud huffing noise and thought I had disturbed a wombat; what I had disturbed was a 4-5’ Tiger snake which now slithered off only a couple of feet away from where I now slumped, most displeased with having to relocate his afternoon sunbaking session, but thankfully not displeased enough to make a physical confrontation out of the matter.
A quick cup of Gatorade and a few jelly beans and we were away again 5 minutes later, thankfully locating the exit from this area thanks to the little pad across the moor. Back through the scrubby highlands, the pain on bare arms was starting to intensify; a combination of cutting grass and scoparia wounds, exposed to the suns burning rays; laziness and not wanting to further over heat stopping us from donning jackets. This section passed without too much incident, a few false turns that can only be expected on vague scrubby pads and soon we were back under the cool shady embrace of the rain forest. It was here that things again got a little frustrating again and progress slowed to a halt on several occasions. Wary of losing the route at this late hour we were continually forced to stop at tags and carefully locate the next one, often needing to retreat to preceding ones to correct ourselves, a little frustration starting to show, particularly on my part; equanimity not my strongest trait on this afternoon.
Eventually we got through the vague sections and were soon back on the lower slopes, now much easier to follow; back through the horizontal grove, along the rotting log and we were at the bottom at last, the creek providing a convenient and much needed rest stop. We slumped here for 10 minutes, trying to compose ourselves for the long haul back through the cutting grass, difficult at this later hour in a thus far long and exhausting day.
Away at 5:15pm we once again entered the fray, the initial section a little clearer through more open regrowth, but soon we were pushing again through the familiar razor strands; scoparia vs. cutting grass would be a choice of the better of two evils, the latter still probably my preference as crazy as that seemed at this point.
Half an hour into our retreat from the creek it was Jeramie's turn for a reptilian encounter, nearly treading on another 4’+ Tiger snake concealed in the undergrowth, as is usually the case, providing a fright for both man and beast.
Nearing the end of the day’s adventure now we stepped up the pace further, a little tired of the horrible regrowth and generally a little fatigued. It was with shouts of relief and joy that at 6:40pm we finally pushed through the last clumps of cutting grass that obscured the car, the road and the end of a very long, hard day.
It had been very much everything I had expected and more; a full wilderness experience with varied forests, creeks, lakes, reptiles and a beautiful mountain in the heart of southern Tasmania. Tasmania’s unique landscapes continue to inspire and motivate me and I feel truly privileged for these experiences. 

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