Friday, 25 January 2013

Wellington Falls from The Springs - 7th January 2013

I hadn't done this walk for a good few years. Probably the last time I did it, I carried Isaac on my back. (Editor: That would make it ~17-18 years ago!) I recall falling over somewhere at the top of the Potato Fields and Isaac's continuation along the 'track' without me was only retarded by Mr Macpac's clever restraints. I submit that Isaac is now too big for anyone to carry along anything, let alone the Wellington Falls track. There's a Hilux Ute that will back me up!

Smoke from the fires obscures the views from the Milles Track on the way to Wellington Falls - 7th January 2013

Anyway, I wanted to redo this walk, for inclusion in the upcoming set of iconic Wellington Walks. This walk around the south side of the mountain is pretty impressive, and ventures into the rougher and more remote parts of the Wellington Range. A note for the unwary - on cool or chilly days, the south side of the mountain can be very cold. This walk is rougher than many others on the mountain, and much of it crosses rocky tracks or boulder fields. However, it has good views, and the terrain feels more remote. That's because there are fewer people here, and fewer people walk here regularly. You do need to be self-sufficient. There is a low-level escape route if the weather cracks up on you too - although, your car may be left at The Springs.

If you want to make this a circuit walk, you can, but it is likely to become quite lengthy. Notes at the end will explain how to achieve a circuit.

Walk Description

The walk starts at The Springs. Drive to the upper carpark, along the one-way road that departs the main Pinnacle Road to the left at The Springs. There is plenty of parking here. Depart up the steps through the trees from the middle of the carpark.

The Potato Fields stretch away up the hill, as seen from near Disappearing Tarn - 7th January 2013

The track climbs through the trees to a 4WD track. Turn left, and follow the Milles Track. This will shortly pass the Icehouse Track on the right. The track becomes more rocky, but is hard to lose, and undulates a little around the flanks of the mountain, providing good views to southeast and south in a few places. It descends to pass the left-hand turnoff to Snake Plains, then descends further to Disappearing Tarn, at the bottom of the boulder field known as The Potato Fields. I understand that there may occasionally be water in Disappearing Tarn, but I have never seen it. I have looked many times! The track then climbs across boulders on the Potato Fields, and into light forest where the track can be a little damp at times (Tasmanian/English understatement should be evident there.) On my recent visit it was in fact quite dry, but I think this is unusual. Then follows a descent through the forest to the well-made track that arrives at the top of the falls. There are good views of the top of the falls, which are no doubt impressive in times of high flow.

The view of the top of Wellington Falls from the established lookout.

HOWEVER, let me tempt you into descending into the chasm. Below the large log that lies across the bottom of the viewing area, you can descend to the bottom of the falls. Beware: if you do so, you are absolutely relying on your own common sense and capability. There is an obvious track around the right hand end of the large fallen log. Below this, you will find at least two obvious ways to descend. It doesn't much matter which you take, as you will be end up squeezed between cliffs below and cliffs above. Be very careful, especially if you have anyone in your party who can't discern that the way ahead is too steep for their limited skills (eg. children, fools). There comes a point close to the bottom where you have to slide down a gravelly slope, under a fallen log and then scramble left over the same log to progress. You will emerge a short way below the bottom of the falls. Depending on water flow, you should be able to clamber upwards towards the base of the falls. You may be able to head downstream too, and the river may allow you to take a dip. In times of high flow, use your own judgment about what is viable.

The falls from below

Taken from directly below the falls, showing the cliffs. You won't be able to
safely get to this point in times of high flow.

The rocks here are obviously heavily weathered by high water flows. Have a good look at the cliffs and the channels the falls use - this was probably carved when there were vast amounts of ice and snow on the plateau above, but I haven't been here when flows are highest, and should do so to see what it looks like.

The alternative approach - and making a circuit

Wellington Falls is probably more usually approached along the Pipeline Track from Neika. Many people would use pushbikes to ride along the winding and relatively flat Pipeline Track, then leave their bikes at the end of the walking track that heads up and across the hill to arrive at the top of the falls from the opposite direction. The walking track is well made, and the use of bikes cuts the time required significantly. This alternative track can be used to make a circuit, so that you could for example start at Ferntree, climb to The Springs, walk to Wellington Falls and then return along the Pipeline Track. I did it once quite some years ago, and it makes for a lengthy walk. A circuit can also be achieved using the Snake Plains Track.

Vertical panorama looking down the gorge below Wellington Falls.

No comments: