Saturday, 30 March 2013

Trestle Mountain - 24th January 2013

I had a very good walk to Trestle Mountain on a quite grey day. The last time I went was in May 2007, and little has changed. I've done some minor updating of the description on the Huon Walks website, so the walk description there is up to date. The most significant change seems to be that the creek I might once have thought was good to drink from seems to have a festering swamp behind a point where the track now crosses it. I think this has been caused by erosion and damming, probably by motorcycles passing through the creek. It'll probably be alright in winter when there's been enough rain to flush it out, but it wasn't looking too inviting a couple of months ago.

The Huon Valley and Huon River from Trestle Mountain - 24th January 2013

Collins Bonnet from Trestle Mountain - 24th January 2013

Now, I have increased the size of jpg files I am uploading. I'm hoping the enlarged files still fit neatly within people's browser windows, and I assume most browsers will be set to resize larger photos anyway. If any regular viewers find they can't see the pictures properly though, let me know and I may do something about it.

View Trestle Mountain in a larger map

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Pelion Hut to the Mersey Forest Road - 18th January 2013

With rain forecast after a good day out at Paddys Nut, I would have the option of climbing something else on the following day or heading straight out to the car. Now, the usual exit from Pelion is along the Arm River Track, but the car was left towards the end of the Mersey Forest Road. Advice from a friend and perusal of the maps showed that exiting via Lees Paddocks would bring me back to the road, and require only about 2.5km of walking along it to reach the car, parked as it was at the bottom of the track to Lakes Bill and Myrtle. If I did this again, I'd probably drop the pack at the end of the track to Lake Myrtle, park at the end of the Lees Paddocks Track and do the road walk at the start without the pack. Hindsight and common sense are wonderful things!

Predictably it dawned rainy. So, no mountains, and the vision of a hamburger at Deloraine formed. While the Overland Trackers headed off to Pelion Gap in full wet weather gear, I headed along the Arm River Track. I haven't used this before, so it was all new. The track is well made, and is largely duckboard. At the far end of Lake Ayr there is a remote area logbook. Here, the route to Lees Paddocks heads to the right.

As Chapman says, it heads along the edge of the button grass plain, and is easily followed. It then however becomes indistinct as it climbs onto a small ridge. As expected, I lost it. It's not a major problem, as long as you have a compass, and you can pick the approximate direction and will emerge beyond the hill and trees and can cast about for the actual track. I was keen to actually find the correct route, and ended up on the ridge wandering about in the scrub just as the rain came down most heavily, looking for the actual track over the top. In the end I gave up, took a compass bearing and emerged about 50m from where the far end of the track was marked as it entered the trees. Interestingly, I found that in the rain and mist, the forest was quite disorienting - I had trouble with directions after wandering about for a short time. So, the message is, yes, as Chapman says, the short bit of the Lees Paddocks Track over the ridge is "indistinct", and, always carry a compass!

From there the track to Lees Hut is clear. You pass Reedy Lake, and then start to descend, eventually quite steeply through lovely myrtle forest, emerging on the paddocks near Lees Hut. The hut is visible from where the track emerges. The day I was there, two gentlemen from Devonport were in residence, and generously made a cup of coffee for a soggy bushwalker. They were friends of the current lessee of the paddocks. They expected him to arrive the following day on horseback, whereupon they would all be doing some spraying for thistles. Nearby 19 head of cattle munched away.

I was directed towards the track, and had a look at the "bridge" over nearby Wurragarra Creek. This resembled a narrow sloped skating rink, with grip-giving barbed wire nailed on only the lower, and far, end of it. I waded the very low creek. The chaps at the hut had said something non-committal about "fixing" the bridge, but I think that was more about ensuring the continued attachment of the ends of the bridge to the banks of the creek.

The Lees Paddocks Track from here is obviously well known to northern walkers, and is well trodden by both them and the cattle. In a number of places the cattle have made a quagmire, but in general there's a walkway around it. I made one impromptu sidetrip when I failed to note the actual continuation of the track and instead found myself at Oxley Falls. Not realising that I wasn't on the main track any longer, I was a little bemused for some time to find that the track didn't continue beyond where the falls could be viewed. This was the last time I was "lost" on this trip, and it took me a little while to work out that I must have missed the proper route some hundreds of metres earlier. The rest of the walk was uneventful.

Kia-Ora and Pelion Plains Photos

I had some opportunities for late afternoon and evening photography at Kia Ora and Pelion. I was surprised by the way so many people sat inside the hut while the sun set and lit up the landscape. Must have been tired! The photos are taken over three nights.

Cathedral Mountain from Kia Ora. The highest point is Twin Spires, visible to the far left of the picture.

The Du Cane Range behind Kia Ora Hut, Castle Crag to the left.

Mount Pillinger from Kia Ora. Mount Pillinger sits above the upper Mersey Valley north of Kia Ora.

Mount Pelion West is an imposing site from near Pelion Hut. You have to walk a little way towards Mount Oakleigh to get this view across the plains.

Mount Oakleigh as sunset nears. The shadow on the slopes between the sunlit trees and cliffs is the shadow of Mount Pelion West gradually extending across the whole mountain.

Barn Bluff is visible from Pelion. here a lenticular cloud has formed around its summit just as the sun has set.

Mount Pelion West.

Last light on Mount Oakleigh.

The sun has set and night falls on Mount Pelion West.

Stitched panorama of Mount Oakleigh. The full size version of this has a LOT of detail!

Mount Pelion West and Mount Oakleigh from Pelion Plains. Some learning required with panoramas - I really did need to continue further to the sides of this, given that I was taking in heaps of sky. Obviously I need to go back.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Paddys Nut - 17th January 2013

Our hero magically transported himself to Pelion Hut (it would apparently be against OT rules to actually WALK there from the end of the Never Never). On the way he failed to climb magically transport himself up Mount Ossa, due to not being able to raise the enthusiasm to climb it for the fifth time while it was covered in cloud and drizzle.

From Pelion, a day walk to Paddys Nut and/or Mount Thetis appears possible, indeed, The Abels Vol. 1 says Mount Thetis is a mere 2 1/2 hours from Pelion Hut. Experience tells us, however, that their estimates seem to be for (i) very fit walkers, (ii) impervious to scrub, (iii) who know exactly where to go in untracked country. I suspect for me to get to Mount Thetis it is going to take much longer, even if I have no trouble following the route. Recent efforts suggest I will lose the track at least twice unless it is marked with large orange-painted stone bollards and a boardwalk... On this basis, I suspect I will climb Paddys Nut from the outset, and leave Mount Thetis for a time when I am set to camp up there.

The track to Paddys Nut heads left (south) from the Overland Track west of the turnoff to Old Pelion Hut. If you want more info, you can find it in books and online, including in Chapman's tome. Email me for a better description if you like. Blazes and other markers show the route heading south into the scrub. It heads uphill and is basically marked most of the way up the ridge and onto the saddle between Mount Ossa and Mount Thetis. Of course, I lost the track where a smallish tree had fallen lengthwise on the route, and headed a little left of the proper route. It's OK, as in general the track just heads upwards. This did entail a botanical excursion into a huge patch of scoparia, the fun of which was only marginally mitigated by the attractiveness of their flowers. At another point on my own personal route, I found Tasmania's largest leeches (no lie!), which basically jogged in formation up my gaiters as I perched on a fallen log to peruse the map.

The Richea scoparia was in flower, but remains a total pain to move through without a track.
There are actual track markers showing the route along the flatter part of the ridge leading up to the saddle, and these were visible maybe 100m from the midst of the scoparia thicket. Having regained the correct route, it is pretty easy to follow to a point above the actual saddle near some pools of water. Some of these pools are good for drinking, although a couple were pretty salty!

Mount Thetis from the Ossa-Thetis saddle, beyond a salty pond.
I could see Mount Osaa above me to the south from here, but to the north there was only a wall of cloud. I was pretty sure where Paddys Nut ought to be, so descended into the actual saddle, and then followed the pad towards Paddys Nut. I don't think there's a marked route up the Nut, but it's easy to head up the middle of the boulder field with some zigzags. As I did so, the cloud cleared, and a steep climb up the hill brought me to the summit. There are two bits which might be the summit, and I chose the more easterly. I think it might be slightly higher.

Mount Ossa from Paddys Nut

Views from here were great, Mount Thetis, Mount Pelion West, Mount Ossa, Mount Achilles, Perrins Bluff, and other peaks north and east. Looking at Mount Thetis, I decided I was fairly unclear where the route went, and considering the description of the boulders as "huge", I decided Paddys Nut would do for the day. Predictably I'd spent longer getting there than the Abels team reckoned I should have spent getting all the way to the top of Mount Thetis.

Paddys Nut, Mount Pelion West and Barn Bluff from the Ossa-Thetis saddle

Overall, Paddys Nut is a good sidetrip from the Overland Track, although if lots of people actually did it, then it would rapidly degrade. There are already bits which are eroded too much, and would be quite boggy in wet times.

Oh, and I lost the track at a slightly different point on the return.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Pirates Bay Birdlife

On a rainy Saturday when the walking tracks were closed, I found a variety of birdlife along the shore.

Pied Oystercatcher.

Pacific Gull

Pacific Gull

Sooty Oystercatcher

Silver Gull

Silver Gull

Sooty Oystercatcher

Pacific Gull

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tasman Island Cruise

This is more "near the bush" rather than in it, but it's outdoors and very spectacular, and affords a view from the sea of a series of well-loved Tasman Peninsula bushwalking locations. We went with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys' Tasman Island Cruises. There are other providers, but these are the folks with the yellow boats, and they operate from the building next to the Port Arthur shop. They also operate a bus service from Hobart, as well as cruises around South Bruny Island. They provided my son with a week's worth of so-called "work" experience a few years ago, during which he spent one day helping in the office, and four days out in the boat, including driving it. He kept texting me while I sat in meetings to tell me how good work was. In true Tasmanian fashion, I also went to Hobart Matric with Rob Pennicott many years ago.

Our boat was crewed by Damo and Damo. They're known as the Damos, and have a well-honed patter. They know a huge amount about the place and spend a great deal of time imparting this to their guests. I have to presume other crews are just as good. A warning, if you are not good on your feet, take the bus from the office to the boat, as the walk down the hill is a decent hike and steep in places.

Apparently each trip is different. They follow a basic plan, but weather, sea conditions, tides and the various birds and animals encountered vary all the time. Our trip was quite calm, but overcast for much of the time. A bright sunny day would have made the photography easier, but the (relatively) smooth sea helped a lot.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It costs $110 per person, and you need to book. See their website. The trip lasts 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Ours was almost 3, I think probably because they kept finding things to show us. You will need warm clothes, and I recommend a good beanie. Your camera is your own responsibility. I should think you could get a fair bit of spray on rougher days, but last weekend there was very little. I think next time I might take a GoPro!

These cliffs of sedimentary rock west of Cape Pillar are tilted, and as the boat sped past I got a sensation of racing downhill, which was a little unusual.

They will take you inside sea caves if the sea allows. This one has water 30 feet deep inside, and it is clear enough to see the bottom.

Dolerite cliffs with interesting weathering closer to Cape Pillar.

The Blade at Cape Pillar, this time from sea level.

We were fortunate to end up amongst large flocks of Short-Tailed Shearwaters, Mutton Birds. They were flying about hunting food just above the sea surface. As the boat raced alongside, it seemed as if we were flying with them.

Hunting with the shearwaters were some albatrosses - this is a Bullers Albatross.

Bullers Albatross. Photographing this bloke showed how hard it is to get a decent photo from a moving boat.

Bullers Albatross and shearwaters.

New Zealand Fur Seal. These are the playful ones, and they appear in small groups at various spots. this one is just lazing about.

Australian Fur Seal - There is a large colony, apparently all male, living on Tasman Island. The boat will spend a while showing these blokes off. I gather the ladies live in Bass Strait.

The bottom of The Chasm, Cape Pillar. This is the gash in the earth around which you edge high above before climbing to the end of the cape.

The Candlestick and Totem Pole at Cape Hauy.

New Zealand Fur Seals near Cape Hauy.

New Zealand Fur Seal near Cape Hauy.

The Candlestick, Totem Pole and Cape Hauy from the north.

Sea Cave in sedimentary rocks between Cape Hauy and Eaglehawk Neck.

Cape Hauy, The Candlestick and The Lanterns from north of Thumbs Point.

Pattersons Arch

A natural waterfall from a wave-cut rock platform.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cape Hauy Handrail - OR Taking responsibility for oneself...

Now that we face a handrail being installed on Cape Hauy (correct pronunciation here, alternatives from here), I present this reminder of the appropriate sort of sign to place in front of idiots who potentially might try to wander off the end of a fairly obvious cliff...

Click on the picture to read the detail, it's YOUR responsibility.

This one is on the way to the Maingon Blowhole, a nasty, steep, slippery gash in the earth which will consign you to a 40-ish metre fall into a sudden narrow rocky slot in an otherwise easy, sandy, flat coastal plateau, and then a rough watery, wave-washed grave at the bottom. This is undoubtedly the sort of thing you don't want to find unexpectedly on a dark night. You'll probably die on the way down, but if you don't then you will at the bottom. (Cheerful aren't I?) On a bright sunny day, only people with a deathwish would manage to fall into it, but meanwhile it's a noted and promoted family walk on VERY easy tracks from Remarkable Cave out to Mount Brown and Crescent Bay.

NPWS have done a risk assessment on their new highway to Cape Hauy which says that there needs to be handrails around the end of the cape. It's undoubtedly dangerous, but for goodness sake (note the politeness) it's supposed to be. It's the top of a cliff, a fatal cliff, it's one of the most brilliant places to sit and eat lunch in the whole flamin' world!!! A handrail will NOT improve it, but will in fact destroy the entire experience. YOU PRATS! 

We need some laws which stop people blaming "someone else" for their own stupidity. See Tasmanian Times for some further info and commentary.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Case Study, the mine as tourist attraction

The Endurance tin mine, northeast Tasmania, favourite local recreational site. (Detail from Google maps)
This site includes the blue lakes.

The Blue Lake near Pioneer in Northeast Tasmania has been held up as proving that mining is no barrier to attracting tourists. This website was used as evidence that tourists were being encouraged to visit the place, and that it was a significant "attraction". Indeed, mines often attract tourists. I've been in two underground tourist gold mines in Kalgoorlie, one of which has now "disappeared", so to speak, as it once existed in the void that is now the super-pit. Tourists stop to look at the super-pit too, because it is so gobsmackingly huge. Old mines can be interesting things to find and explore, and no doubt there is a group of tourists who deliberately travel to see mines. I suspect they are a very much smaller "niche" than those who travel to see natural wonders. Let's be honest, mines are NOT natural, they generally have a rather deleterious effect on the area in which they are located for at least a significant period of time. Overall though, the idea that eventual mining tourism or remediated mines posing as recreational sites might be some sort of mitigation for the loss of natural values has to be seen as tenuous.

The Blue Lake is no doubt an interesting feature. (Photos here) I've been there a few times. It is part of the area of the Endurance tin mine. I first visited in 1981 while the mine was still operating, as part of an extensive northeast Tasmania geology excursion. We saw the water-blasting in the pit from next to the water cannon, having walked down a dubious slope of waterlogged quartz slush. It was very interesting. The mine closed in 1982 apparently, and the pits have filled with water forming "lakes". Since then I've visited in the mid to late 1980s and again in the early 2000s. I'll have to go again. If anyone knows of significant remediation done here in the last 10 years, do let me know. There is no obvious information about such efforts available online, although I'm still looking.

There are several of these "lakes". One is actually called the Blue Lake, being the largest and furthest from the road. The closest to the road is known as the Little Blue Lake or the Tourist Blue Lake, but appears in most photos named as the Blue Lake. It is the iridescent lake photographed most often. The larger lakes appear to now be used for water recreation, including water-skiing. The area is described as "well renowned" and "remediated", probably by someone who doesn't know their a__e from their elbow. (Guide located here.) This place is not as idyllic as it might seem.

This mine, and two other large mines in the area, are known for leaching acid into the Ringarooma River. This is a river down which huge amounts of mine waste has been flushed over the last 150 years - 40 million cubic metres is one estimate (p43). Google Maps shows the story, and documents available from Mineral Resources Tasmania add the details of this rather toxic place.

Two main studies have been done on (i) the movement of acidic water from the mine area into Ruby Lagoon, and subsequently into the Ringarooma River and (ii) the lack of success of attempts to re-vegetate this obviously damaged area. The whole area can be seen clearly in Google Maps, and is some kilometres in length.

A report summarising these studies is found here:

The Lakes get their colour from  minerals. The tourist lake has suspended white kaolin clay particles which makes it an iridescent milky blue. There are heavy metals present too, although in general these are not at high concentrations. Apparently people swim in it, but I'm not sure I'd be keen. On the other hand, I suspect the heavy mineralisation might mean the water doesn't support any lifeforms that might be harmful to us. The whole area has very high concentrations of Aluminium, Iron and Tin in all of the water. This study provides details of the water quality.

The water leaches out of the lakes, and from general rainfall runoff, through the huge area which has either been mined, or is where the tailings were placed. The water is quite acidic, although it varies, and continues to end up in the Ringarooma River. Yum!

There have been a couple of major attempts to re-vegetate the area, but neither has been very successful. There is little natural soil over much of the mine area, and the mine detritus is deficient in some nutrients needed by most plants. In addition there are aspects of the tailings which may actually be poisoning the plants, including Aluminium and Iron. Vegetation is only expected to return very slowly. Making it harder is the fact that 4WDs have obviously damaged some of the vegetation. I suppose this was predictable.

Ironically, while apparently the people of the northeast are enjoying the blue lakes as a sort of heavy-metal, mineralised bogan paradise, the mine is still available for operation, and is in fact being flogged online here. They reckon there's 3,663 tonnes of cassiterite in the Endurance mine. I wonder if anyone would be allowed to start this mine up again, given the likelihood of additional pollution of the river. The locals might like it the way it is, but it's hardly going to drive any sort of tourist boom.

Nearby Mount Cameron might be more attractive though, if you can work out how to climb it. We did many years ago after a couple of abortive forays were brought up short by granite cliffs. I think perhaps it's time for a trip.

Happy to correct any errors in here.