The Pandani 30th Birthday BBQ – Feed them and they will come!

From Christine Wilson:

An enormous amount of work went into the organisation of the Pandani Birthday BBQ at Site 9 at the Waterworks on the rather damp Saturday of October 15.  The date did not commemorate the actual founding of the club, which took place in April 1991 with incorporation in 1992, but was chosen earlier this year to celebrate an important event with sufficient lead time to organise it well.

The Club has been going for 30 years, quite a feat for a small organisation dependent on volunteers. We have a membership base of around 400 people. Most weeks the Club runs 4 walks and often 5. It is the second largest Club in the state. 

Four organisers ran walks in the vicinity, none of which overlapped, so that members could enjoy an amble in the area before the BBQ. The walks catered for a total of 85 people while total attendance was around 90. I visited the base of the Ridgeway Reservoir, followed by Sixpence Cave on Geoff Buckman’s walk. The wall of the reservoir, which Geoff told us was over a century old, was seeping water in a rather alarming way, but extensive work appears to be taking place to remediate it.

Once at Site 9, the biggest site and one of only two protected from the weather, it was apparent that members of the Anniversary BBQ Committee had been busy since the site opened at 9 am. The hut was bedecked with tree fern fronds, the tables had been set up, there were photos and information about the Club founders and four life members. The two surviving ones, Rosie Bruce and yours truly, were in attendance, recyclable glass in hand. Anniversary Committee MC Sarah Atkinson called for a show of hands to indicate length of membership and the two longest serving members present, Rosie and Peter Murphy, had joined in the 1990s. Liz Thomas, our membership officer, offered Pandani merchandise. 

Club committee members John Vanderniet and Frank van Ravels manned the BBQs, and there was an array of salads. However, the most spectacular offerings were the COVID-safe cupcakes prepared in club colours and featuring the club logo. The occasion was a good time to officially launch an updated version of the logo, largely the same design as the original one but with slightly different colours and tones, created by club member Sarajayne Lada. 

I felt that the BBQ was a celebration of the Pandani Community, the friendships formed and the efforts of many individuals involved the club: the president and committee members, the walk organisers, the members themselves who support the organisers and committee by simply turning up and enjoying themselves. It was apparent that there were people present who had been members for many years, but it was really pleasing to see how many attendees were new to Pandani. A fantastic catch up and a great event. Thanks to all involved, especially the organising subcommittee of Liz Verrall, Sarah Atkinson, Viv Evans and Helen Cooley. We had a lovely time. 

Expectations and Frenchmans Cap

(I drafted this months ago then decided it wasn’t worth posting. But with the Frenchmans Cap slide night coming up next week it has new relevance, so here it is.)

I was supposed to climb Frenchmans Cap in February 1973 after doing the Overland Track with some friends from my Uni bushwalking club. However I suffered badly from gastric lurgy on that first walk so recovered in Hobart while my mates did the walk and came back with tales of the Sodden Lodden.

Next chance was in April 2004 with our kids aged 16 & 20, when the Lodden was just as sodden as ever. But the mud was a source of laughter rather than irritation and we had a great time.

Team effort

By 2021 it was time to have another go. The Lodden was reportedly no longer sodden after major track improvements so we had expectations of a relatively easy trip. But expectations can be a curse. It turned out that only some things had changed and others were the same or worse. The Lodden was indeed now vastly improved and the new Tahune Hut is wonderful. But the track beyond Lake Vera was unchanged, just as rough and difficult as ever. And in worse shape? … bodies now 17 years older.

It was not a bad trip by any means, far from it, but my incorrect expectations messed with my head and enjoyment at times.

The great and the good:

  • Reflections in the perfect mirror of Lake Tahune early in the morning – stunning
  • Lake Tahune hut, brilliantly designed for warmth and comfort, and because we have our own micro-hydro generator I was very interested in the hydro generator far below the hut (quite hard to find and get to, not many people go there I think)
  • Views from Barron Pass, in every direction plus up and down
  • Expanding views and changing perspectives of the surrounding terrain as we gained height on the climb towards the summit
  • Frenchmans summit, of course (eventually)
  • Bum-sliding down the snow on the way back down
  • The vegetation – if you get bored on a walk there is always something of interest in the vegetation and on this walk there was immense variety including lots of things new to me (I’m fascinated by Australian botany)
The best way downhill

The not so good:

  • The unimproved track beyond Vera Hut is … unimproved (and felt very long)
  • Reaching the summit of Frenchmans at exactly exactly the same time that the descending cloud ceiling also reached it; I had a hissy fit and stormed back down but was persuaded to hang around to see what happened, and as the mist came and went we did in fact get some good views

We may or may not ever return to Frenchmans (I don’t feel a burning desire) but I remain very grateful for the opportunity to have done it, twice. And if I do go again I think my now lowered expectations might lead me to be pleasantly surprised.

Cape Connella

Cape Connella is the next cape south from Fluted Cape on South Bruny Island. I’d heard somewhere that a track to it had been re-cleared in the last year or so, and also that there was a taped route directly between the two capes. That would make a lovely circuit which I was keen to explore.

The walk begins along the Slide Track from Adventure Bay. That track is notorious for leeches but I encountered none, perhaps because I had comprehensively sprayed my feet and ankles with repellant. Traces of the track’s origin as a timber tramway could be seen in the form of occasional logs both across and parallel to the track. After climbing steadily to about 100 m the track runs across a long flat section of lush wet sclerophyll forest, but I suspect all the large trees had disappeared down the old tramway.

After about 2.5 km a sign showed the turnoff to Cape Connella (on one of the few remaining very big trees). The route was now a more conventional bush track – well marked and well trodden but twisting and turning through the vegetation. More big trees here, generally more lush forest, particularly as it started to drop towards the coast through rainforest of sassafras, myrtles and tree ferns, and of course fungi. At a steep gully crossing some ropes had been placed down a steep bank to help those who are less sure-footed – I thought not essential but a nice touch and I used them anyway.

(Click to enlarge any photo)

Soon I was at the small promontory called Bev’s Lookout which gave views north to Cape Connella itself and south towards the southern tip of Bruny, as well as to the seriously rough shoreline 120 m below. I had morning tea watching surf crash over rock faces and a boulder beach. A large group would need to take turns looking at the view – scrub right to the edge means there is room for only one or two people at the lookout.

The track became more faint and rough from here but still mostly easy to follow. The vegetation was now what you would expect on a coastal clifftop – fairly sparse dry sclerophyll which would not have been too hard to walk through even without a track (but the track was definitely easier).

As I neared Cape Connella and looked at the map I was disappointed to realise that the track was heading nowhere near the point of the cape itself. But disappointment was unjustified because I was lead to a higher summit where dolerite cliffs plunged 240 m to the water. The top of the cliff line was more dissected than we are used to at, say, Cape Raoul which made it more intricate and interesting. I dawdled along here and the next long section of clifftops for a long time, looking at the views from different places and different angles.

I was even able to get a promotional shot for Pennicott’s boat trips and a self-portrait of my own silhouette.

Eventually the route moved away from the clifftops which had become less distinctive anyway. The marker tapes became more intermittent and the trampled pad was very faint so I often wandered off the route for a short distance but the vegetation was so open it didn’t matter and I always picked it up again. Navigation here was never going to be a problem – just keep the cliff to your right. In one patch that was more rainforesty but still open I was delighted to find orchids in flower – unexpected at this time of year.

Just before the summit of Fluted Cape I stopped for lunch with yet another view and was glad to continue enjoying the solitude before encountering walkers on the popular tourist track at the top. I didn’t linger at Fluted Cape – been here before and the views seemed not particularly special after where I’d been. From there it was a cruisey walk back down the well-graded track to the end of Adventure Bay and a little further to my car. A bit less than 5 hours including meal breaks and lots of lookout loitering – I’d expected longer. Total distance was only 11.5 km and just under 600 m of climbing.

This was a reconnaissance walk – it will definitely appear on the program in future.

(Disclaimer: I know solo walking can be unwise. On this occasion I was comfortable alone because I was on a well-defined route and had a PLB, a phone that had signal for more than half the walk and a pack full of survival gear.)

Cathedral Mountain – a scenic rim

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.

A perfect day at Hartz Peak

(From Robyn Colman, 30 November 2021)

Meeting in Kingston at 8 am, we were in shirts-without-jumpers! It was an auspicious start to a beautiful day in the Hartz Park, where the weather was balmy, the breezes gentle, and the sky blue. We had vast views and tiny flowers. The waratahs were getting ready for Christmas. Fish were rising at Lake Esperance, teasing a young fly fisherman. It was so warm it was almost tempting to swim, but giving our hot feet a cold bath, while refreshing, didn’t inspire anyone to go in further.

Since I was last on the mountain, track work has improved the climb from the saddle to near the summit, with impressive stone steps some of the way. We met two or three young couples also out for the day but there was a sense of having the place pretty much to ourselves. And there, on top of the world, we rejoiced in our beautiful island and companionship.

Thanks to John Tisdell for arranging amazing weather and giving us a relaxed, lovely walk.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Needles and Holes, 10 Aug 2021

Robyn and I were keen to revisit both The Needles and Growling Swallet, but neither was long enough to fill the day so we combined them (plus Junee Cave) into “Needles and Holes” on 10 August.

The Needles are a spectacular quartzite outcrop above Humbolt Divide (highest point on the road to Stratghordon). It seems to be the first bit of classic SW quartzite terrain that you encounter as you head west. On a clear day they offer wonderful 360º views including Mt Anne, Mt Mueller, bits of the Western Arthurs, The Thumbs, Mt Reid (above Lake Rhona), even a distant glimpse of Frenchmans Cap. And of course parts of Lake Gordon in the middle distance.

Looking E along The Needles ridge

The walk is only 1.5 km but it’s a steep climb of 350 m with a particularly rough bit near the top. Some of the group elected to wait just below that where the views were still excellent.

Most of the happy crowd on top of The Needles

We had lunch in a sheltered spot a bit further down (pretty windy on the exposed ridge and summit). The whole walk showed clear signs of the dreadful fires in 2019 but also encouragingly strong regrowth.

Lunch with our backs to the wind

Growling Swallet (isn’t that a wonderful name?) is where a creek descending from Mt Field West disappears down a deep dark hole, to re-emerge (together with water from other streams) at Junee Cave. The swallet itself is a bit anticlimactic because you can’t safely access the point where the water plunges down.

Growling Swallet

But the real delight of this short walk (less than 1 km) is the glorious mixed forest along the way. Massive eucalypts soar above huge myrtles and sassafras with the usual understory of huge ferns and lots of fungi. Personally I think it’s up there among the best forest I’ve seen in Tasmania.

Forest en route to Growling Swallet

Junee Cave is just a 400 m tourist walk, and it was getting close to sunset by the time we reached the opening at the bottom of a south-facing gully. Hence the light was poor and we could not really see much into the cave. Nevertheless it felt nice to have “closed the loop” of the water flow from Growling Swallet.

Junee Cave