I thought that the map of the Cathedral Mountain area looked very attractive – a gently sloping alpine plateau dotted with lakes and tarns, surrounded by precipitous cliffs to the south and west but with easy access from the northeast. That scenic rim was particularly appealing to me. It turned out to be everything I’d hoped for, and more.
Our first day was a fairly routine trudge from the end of the Mersey Forest Road up past Chapter Lake, Grail Falls and Chalice Lake to camp at Tent Tarn. I say “routine”, but there was delightful forest, creek and lake scenery along the way. We set up tents just west of the tarn, on a continuous bed of cushion plants broken up by little ponds, small pencil pine clusters and scattered boulders. Mt Rogoona loomed across the tarn in the east but Cathedral Mountain itself was hidden by the foreground slopes to our west. A perfect calm day ended with a clear calm evening and a bright moon.
Day 2 started with a glorious dawn. Our plan was to start at the southern edge of the rim and work our way north as far as we felt like it. Getting to the rim involved some tedious scrub, but emerging over the final crest was a “yahoo!” moment – a 180º panorama the Never Never and upper Mersey Valley below, the Du Cane Range in the middle distance and other peaks extending far to the south and west. And that was just from the low point we had first come to.
As we progressed along the rim every minor peak (mostly unnamed) gave a different perspective. The rim curved northwards and the views to the south fell away as new features appeared to the west and then north – Mt Ossa, Pelion West, Pelion East, Barn Bluff, Cradle Mountain itself (fairly distant), Mt Oakleigh, Mt Pillinger. Too many to photograph, too hard to capture the range of the full panorama. Far below was the Mersey with Lees Paddocks starting to come into view, and we could also pick out the old Du Cane hut and the public and private Kia Ora huts. Too much to take in.
The named peaks on the rim are nondescript when you are up at that level. Cathedral Mountain itself is a barely perceptible bump despite its spectacular cliffs when seen from the Mersey or the Overland Track. We stopped for lunch at Twin Spires which at least had some local prominence. Our group split here – a majority went on to Bishop Peak (some keen peak baggers and Abel counters in that bunch) while others took a fairly direct route back to Tent Tarn. The latter group regretted not going out of our way to find the pad that leads from Tent Tarn to Cathedral Mountain because we encountered 200-300 m of the worst scrub that any of us had every experienced.
The Day 3 plan was to get to Dean Bluff, the northern extremity of the rim and directly above the north end of Lees Paddocks (where some of us are planning to camp next weekend). However the morning brought thick mist which lingered for a long time. Fortunately it started to lift, not long before the time we had decided would be pack-up-and-go-home time, and we set off for Dean Bluff instead. This was all off-track navigation with initially poor visibility but as we progressed the mist level rose (slowly) and eventually it was a glorious day. Intermittent moderate scrub was tedious at times but we covered the ground at an adequate rate. Brief pause on Curate Bluff (an insignificant pimple) then on through more scrub and boulders to finally reach Dean Bluff.
Getting to the crest and looking over was another “yahoo!” moment – the end of the bluff is a more-or-less knife-edge ridge projecting out into a sharp bend in the Mersey Valley so offering stunning views from both sides. Our proposed campsite for next weekend was less than 2 km away but 700 m below. And all the same peaks as yesterday were visible but from a different perspective – Pillinger much closer, the Du Canes further away.
One more tiny peak on the way back was Curate Bluff, completely different to all the others because it comprised massive jumbled slabs of fragmented dolerite which if any larger would have been too big to scramble over. But they were actually rather fun, at least for some of us.
We tried a different return route to camp, hoping to avoid scrub. It mostly worked until cliffs blocked our way and there was a very unpleasant combination of scrub and steep rocks to climb before regaining easier terrain. All this while the clouds had been growing more stormy. Intermittent phone reception allowed us to see that there were some pretty big storms showing up on the weather radar. But we were lucky – the downpours missed us and there was no rain at all until some light showers after we were back at camp.
Our fourth and final day was just the walk back out the way we had come in – pleasant walking but nowhere near as exciting as the peaks of the rim. That scenic rim is up there with the best places I’ve been in Tasmania.
Absolutely sensational photos, aren’t we blessed to have such beautiful places in Tasmania – accessible to you very keen bushwalkers. Well done.
Nice description Peter…