March 25, 2009

Adamsons Peak, The Calf & Mesa in a Day

Stuart Bowling 

Peaks: Adamsons Peak 1225m (GR 857001, 3 points)
The Calf 1152m (GR 844004, 1 point)
Mesa 1012m (GR 822002, 1 point)
Maps: 1:100k – Huon; 1:25k – Raminea
Distance: Approx. 24km.
Starting point: Adamsons track (Peak Rivulet Road – GR914021).
Date: Saturday 14th February 2009.
Time to summit & return: 10 hours (including lunch & rests).
Party members: Stuart Bowling, Jeramie Spong.
Adamsons Peak lies deep in the southern part of Tasmania, the last significant range before the Southern Ranges of the south coast. Access is via the Huon Highway from Hobart, past Geeveston to Strathblane, where either the Adamsons Road or Darcey Link Road will take you to the sign posted start of the Adamsons Track.
This part of the state is notorious for bad weather; even with a perfectly stable forecast we still suffered a half day of temperamental rolling sea cloud, not the worst of conditions, but evidence of the fickle nature of a range so close to both south and east coasts.
As always, this trip report is intended as entertainment only and is not a guide for others to follow. Although generally easy walking, apart from some scrubby sections, this is a very tough undertaking as a day walk and if inspired, should only be attempted by very fit groups in the longer days of summer, noting and sticking to a safe turn-around time. Please walk within your limits and stay safe out there.
A clear forecast and a free Saturday saw plans afoot for another long day walk; today’s adventure was to take us back to Adamsons Peak via the Adamsons Track, a walk we had both done the previous winter in beautiful, clear crisp conditions. Today however, our objective was further afield; we planned to continue on past the summit of Adamsons Peak to The Calf and further still to the rarely visited, scrub covered Mesa, some 7kms west of Adamsons Peak.
An early start from Hobart saw us kitted up and away from the starting point of the Adamsons Track at 8:35am, the weather clear and mild. The track to the Adamsons Plateau is first class, wide enough in places to walk four abreast, and complete with walker registration box. The signed / recommended time to the summit of Adamsons is 8-10 hours, which allows for the full range of group types, ages and fitness. Today we would need to complete this section in less than half this recommended time if we were to complete our more distant objectives and get back to the car before night fall; based on our previous return trip to the Adamsons summit in deep snow in less than 5 hours we hoped we were in with a chance.
Although humid, and a little exhausting at first, we made good time up to the plateau, stopping at the old hut ruins for our first break at 9:55am. The views from here are fantastic (if you ignore the extensive logging coupes) and take in the Huon region to Recherche Bay to the Southern Ranges. To here and return would be a great day walk in its own right for those wanting a shorter, more leisurely outing.
We were away again 20 minutes later, the track a little less defined from here but generally still easy to follow as it sees a fair amount of traffic. We powered up the ridges arriving thirsty and exhausted on the summit at 11:10am. The views from the summit are superb and with clear conditions we could see the whole Southern Ranges and south coast peaks, Federation Peak, the Hartz ranges and much more. We took the lazy option of a 20 minute morning tea break here, taking in the sun, the fantastic views and various savoury and sugary snacks, trying to refuel and re-motivate for the long journey ahead; The Calf and a distant Mesa now in view to the west of where we slumped on the summit.
Go time now and we would need to keep up our current pace all the way, Mesa seeming a long way off, but thankfully the western plateau beyond The Calf looked clear and would offer little resistance. Coming off Adamsons we sidled quite high initially, waiting until we hit the western ridge before descending toward the Adamsons / Calf saddle, picking up some cairns initially and a reasonable pad at the bottom, to our surprise. We kept on this pad all the way to the top of The Calf, keeping us clear of some scrubby sections low down. It would be fair to say that the traverse to / from Esperence Peak and the Hartz area is more popular than I initially thought, the time saved from finding this pad was much appreciated. The Calf is a great little peak dolerite, displaying classic, pyramidal symmetry and a small exposed summit.
We had made quick time to this point and the terrain had offered little resistance; would our luck continue? We only lingered briefly, setting off at 12:30pm, the views diminishing a little as a menacing looking sea cloud had started to roll in from the south coast, obscuring full views from this summit. We descended the western ridge of The Calf and soon found ourselves on the western plateau which offered delightfully easy walking on alpine heaths and grasses.
From the end of the western plateau we got our first full view of Mesa and the terrain ahead; Mesa itself looked a lot greener than the maps had indicated and I now worried about a slow, thick scrub bash up to the summit. We dropped over the rim of the plateau taking note of the fantastic rock quality along this sedimentary band, a great little climbing crag if not so remote. We now entered a short band of scrub, mostly scoparia, thankfully only brief and not inflicting too much pain. We soon reached the saddle between the western plateau and Mesa, stopping briefly to explore the bouldering potential of some free standing blocks; arguably some of the best quality metamorphosed sandstone I had come across; it would be a long walk to here with a bouldering pad strapped to your rucksack tho.
Our final objective now ahead of us, we donned scrub gear and entered what looked like thick valley scrub – scoparia, tea tree and bauera. Initially we found a little resistance, but thankfully we soon entered a mixture of horizontal, scoparia and myrtle forest with a carpeted floor of pineapple grass, it was turning out to be better than expected. We made great time and arrived, exhausted again, on the summit of Mesa at 1:35pm, our half way point and our main objective for the day. It was enlivening to be on such a remote summit for lunch, the Southern Ranges and Precipitous Bluff especially, seeming very close, separated only by some very remote valley wilderness. To the west, the views encompassed the large flat expanses of The Boomerang and Mt. Bobs, Bobs Knobs fanning out to the south and Federation Peak poking its fang just above. To the north, the Pictons, Mt. Weld and the Hartz range all looking familiar, even from this new perspective.
Lunch over, and a little tired of the constant heckling from a squadron of summit mosquitoes, it was time for the long homeward mission, leaving the summit and its amazing views at 2:05pm. Back down through the forest and scrub we maintained good time, minimising further infliction of wounds, arriving clear of this obstacle at the saddle at 2:35pm.
Both being keen climbers, myself more of an ex-climber these days, we couldn’t resist putting up a quick hikers problem on the obvious square block just beyond the low point in the saddle. Discovering no easy way off this little summit we had to reverse our upward moves, not so easy in clumsy hiking boots, but both got down safely; safer than my suggestion of launching ourselves the 4m or so onto the ground, as soft as the landing looked.
Away again, we plodded up hill, through the annoying scrub band once again just below the plateau cliffs and back up onto the plateau proper at 2:55pm, still maintaining good time and fairly certain of regaining the car at a reasonable hour, everything going according to plan. We decided on keeping to our inward route on the return, re-ascending The Calf to avoid any bothersome scrub on the lower slopes, re-gaining that summit at 3:25pm.
We had each carried around 3 litres of water in with us, but with that now gone, and no more readily available, early stage dehydration started to come into play; being no stranger to this drained feeling from other expeditions, co-ordination started to become a little sloppier and a general feeling of lethargy started to prevail.
From The Calf back up to the summit of Adamsons was exhausting to say the least, from the saddle another 200 metres of vertical ascent; once on the re-ascent we stayed on the boulder fields, picking up a run of cairns and therefore saving a little energy in the path of least resistance. We were glad to reach the summit once more at 4:15pm, knowing now that water was close at hand and the rest of the journey being nearly all downhill, all 1100 vertical metres of it. We didn’t linger to savour the summit again, the sea clag blocking any views now, no water to quench our parched bodies and little to no interest in any snacks; liquid was what we now needed badly. We stumbled our way back along the summit ridge, descending the main spur at pace and, throwing packs down, relished the first stream we came across just above the eastern plateau. It was the best orange Tang flavoured mountain water I had ever tasted, instantly rejuvenating both body and spirit; the simple things start to matter a lot in these situations. There we sat drinking, and now, with renewed appetite, snacking for some 15 minutes, lying on the pineapple grass now able to appreciate a little more our accomplishments thus far.
From here it was plain sailing down, tho the effects of such a big day couldn’t be denied and we were both tiring a little, even after our refuel. Back down the now familiar Adamsons Track at pace saw us back at the car at 6:30pm, just under 10 hours after leaving that morning. It was a big accomplishment and we were both happy now, not just for being able to stop moving, but for achieving such a distant objective in a day. Perhaps someday we will be be-knighted by these mega days, but for now we remain ambitious, if overly sometimes. Now just the long drive home to Hobart, a hot shower, a cold drink, a comfortable couch and a very lazy Sunday ahead. Mission complete. 

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