matty's tasmanian adventures - index


Frenchmans Cap

(successful trip in perfect warm weather)

Walk - 27 Jan to 30 Jan 2012.


27 Jan 2012 - I have been prone to sleeping in on the morning that I intend to start solo bushwalking trips so my answer to this is to start driving to the start of the track the night before starting.

So, I left home at 1am for the 3 and a bit hour drive up the Lyell Hwy to the start of the Frenchmans Cap Track.  I had to drive slowly because there were a lot of animals out near the roadside.  Heading through the Pelham Rd shortcut, a young Tassie Devil trotted across the road in front of me.  They have a very distinctive 'run'.  They seem to rock backwards and forwards.  Along that stretch of road I saw a few quolls as well and many wallabies that always seem to cross the road in front of your car - even though they are already in a safe spot.

As I approached Ouse, I was feeling sleepy so I stopped for a nap and set my alarm to wake me in an hour.  After that I continued up the road, through 14 Mile Track - giving my new Cooper CS4 tyres a test.  They felt pretty good on my Forester.  After another nap at Derwent Bridge I reached the start of the track at 6.45am.

The sky was clear and it was already quite warm.  There were 10 cars in the car park so I expected to find a few people up the track.  I think PWS need to put a toilet at this car park.  I have found toilet paper & 'stuff' behind the shelter at the car park a few times.

I started the walk at 7.15am in a light, long-sleeved shirt and shorts, gaiters and my leather Scarpa boots and a cap with neck flap for the sunny weather expected.  About 50m down the track there are sites to fit a couple of tent on either side of the track - for people who get to the start late in the afternoon or who finish before their lift arrives.

I strolled the 300m down to the sign-in book on the north side of the Franklin River.  I was starting the day after the Australia Day public holiday and I counted 23 people starting the track the day before - and usually there are a few people who don't bother signing in.  To reduce my pack weight I was carrying a bivvy bag with two small poles at each end to keep it off your face, but I was going to stay in the huts if there was room - but you can't rely on finding space.

I crossed the suspension type bridge over the Franklin and headed up the track.  The track was very dry and after 20 minutes I reached the boot-washing creek for Phytophthora.  In the first hour I felt some small twinges in my right knee but after a while the general soreness took over and I couldn't identify it from any other discomfort.  I was using a new Sea to Summit Karijini pack.  It held enough gear and the shoulder straps were comfortable.

The track was very dry over Mt Mullens and Franklin Hills and across the first plain.  I saw 4 people heading back towards the car and I was surprised that none of them were wearing gaiters and they had mud up to their knees where they had broken through the crust into the mud below.  I was pleased that there was some track work on the northern half of the Loddon Plains.  As I headed south across the plains, eventually the track swings to the right toward Philps Lead.  This is where you start walking in a foot deep trench heading towards the washout/landslip that happened in August 2007 - a few days before I was there on my second trip to Frenchmans - when my father and I found that the track had been washed away when we got there walking in at night (but that is another adventure).

As you leave the washout and enter the forest, I stopped at the log bridge over a creek for a good drink.  I started to get a bit weary on the climb in the forest but it was still nice to have the forest floor littered with white leatherwood flowers.  As you get close to the top of the hill the track levels out and then slopes down, still in tree cover and then shortly comes out to another buttongrass plain.  About half way along this 1km section of plain there is route straight up the hill to the south-west (where the scrub is lowest) up to Philps Peak.  I found a description of this in The Abels vol 2. which is a book about Tasmania's mountains over 1100m high.

I continued on to the short downhill at the end of this plain.  Down this hill I passed the Lake Vera Hut's toilet on my right and walked the final 50m of boards to the hut.  I arrived at 1pm and had a wash and lay down in the hut to catch up on a bit more sleep from the previous night.  Three guys arrived at 3pm (ILUVSWTAS on Bushwalking Tas website was one of the 3 adventurers).  They had stayed up in the Phlips Peak are with all of their gear.

By 6pm a group of 5 from Victoria arrived and stayed in the hut with me and a few others turned up and camped.  There were notes in the hut logbook that people had the runs from the water at Vera.  I drank the water from the hut tank without any aquatabs and had no problems.


28 Jan 2012 - I had a good nights sleep and woke up at 6.45am.  I packed and left at 7.40.  It was another fine, clear and already warm day.  I started along the side of Lake Vera wearing my gaiters but took them off at the north end of the lake (after 20 mins) because the track was really dry and they were too hot.  The climb up to Barron Pass was fairly hard with my 24.5kg pack (when I had 2L of water filled for the climb.)  I didn't need to carry 2L of water from the start because for the track was next to a creek for about 45 minutes.

After the creek I passed the landmarks that I look for - the overhanging cliffs on the right, then the great big boulder where you turn left in an open area then the massive cliffs near Nicoles Needle above you as you near the top.  I reached Barron Pass after a couple of hours and was feeling quite stuffed.  I rested at the pass and drank about a litre.  While I was at the pass I heard voices from the White Needle side, but I couldn't see anyone.  After a while I saw a couple of guys about a hundred metres away in dense scrub on the ridge line.  I wasn't sure which way they were heading, but it looked like hard work whichever way they were going.

From the pass the track initially drops down into the forest on the other side and then turns right and heads north-west below Sharlands Peak.  After a short distance I cross a mini landslip of small rocks and then a bit further was a landslip of boulders.

As I walked north-west below Sharlands Peak the ridge gets lower and you eventually get to a saddle where a short distance to the right is the route to climb Sharlands Peak from the back.  I had different priorities so I headed on.  The track continues with some short ups and downs in open sub-alpine vegetation.  I passed a total of 6 people heading back down the hill.  By the time I headed up the steep steps where there are 3 pointy peaks to your right I was feeling pretty stuffed.  At the top of the steps it was flat as I walked across Artichoke Valley and then down some very steep steps to the Lake Tahune Hut.

At Lake Tahune, there was a group in the campsite next to the lake.  A spotted a small quoll nearby that must have been looking for scraps as they packed up.  There was no gear set up inside the Lake Tahune Hut.  As I packed my daypack for the summit, I lay my sleeping bag on a bunk.  The daypack I was using was the Sea to Summit sidetrip daypack.  This is about twice as big as a standard day pack and is made of stronger material.  I haven't seen it on their website lately.  It may have been discontinued.

After a good drink and some lunch I headed off at 1pm towards the peak.  It was hot and the sun was beating down.  I couldn't remember any pools or creeks on the way up so I took 2L of water with me as well as my coat, food bars & other safety gear, camera, phone etc.

I plodded slowly up the steep steps and reached the spot where the old track goes straight up the gully to the saddle.  This is where the new track turns left and takes a left & right zig-zag to a spot where there is a sign with the options to continue ahead to Irenabyss or up to the summit.

The climb to the summit took me 1 1/4 hrs because I was already tired & sore from the walk up from Lake Vera.  On the summit there were 2 people who had overtaken me on the way up.  There were beautiful views in all directions.  I could clearly pick out Cradle Mtn and Barn Bluff to the north.  Lake Burbury, Macquarie Harbour and the ocean off the west coast were clear and I could see Western Arthurs, Federation Peak and Mt Anne to the south.

At the summit there is a semi-circle of rocks piled up about 10 metres from the cliff edge.  A few metres away, I could see the spot where the 4 corners of the trig point that was no longer there.  I found it odd that the trig point wasn't on the highest point of the peak - maybe that is why it was removed - or maybe it just blew off the summit in a storm.

I stayed up there for about 2 hrs and did a lap around the round summit area.  While I was at the summit a small red helicopter came very close.  I thought that they were going to land on the top.  The hovered just out from the cliff and then headed south.

As I headed back down, just below the summit I walked out to the right where there was a great side-on view of the main Frenchmans cliff.  I continued down slowly, exploring as I went, taking full advantage of the perfect conditions.

Back down at the hut I went to have a wash at the lake but slipped on the rock and ended up down to my chest in the water.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't freezing.  I decided to have a swim.  I took my waterproof camera and swam across the lake.  By 6pm the sun was disappearing behind the peak.  It was amazing that the hut was still 20 deg C at 9pm that night.


29 Jan 2012 - I slept in to 7.30am and started walking at 8.40.  It was another fine, clear, hot day.  Just putting on the pack made me break out in a sweat.  By the time I walked up the first set of stairs, I think I had lost a litre of sweat.

As I walked across Artichoke Valley there is a steep hill on the right.  When I looked at it from the summit yesterday it looked like there was a track from there down to the base of the cliffs.

The next landmark was the 3 pointy peaks and then down the steep staircase.  Heading towards Sharlands Peak, it was clear where the ridge was to head up from behind.

I drank 2 litres of water just on the way to Barron Pass.  It was over 30 deg with no clouds.  It was a relief to start heading down from Barron Pass and I was really looking forward to the creek with the bridge - that is about half way down.  The track followed the creek for a while and crossed it again and then I reached the end of Lake Vera and 20 mins later I was at the hut.  This walk took 3hrs 20mins.

I relaxed in the hut but it was 34 degrees inside.  I had a swim in Lake Vera to cool off in the afternoon.  The water was really warm and I swam around taking more photos with my waterproof camera.

That evening in the hut, it was still hot and people kept arriving up to 10pm.  The mozzies were driving me nuts and I was wishing that I had camped outside.  Sometime during the night I heard the rain start and I thought about the bog getting wet again.  It would take a lot of rain and people walking on the plain to break up the crust though.


30 Jan 2012 - People started getting up at 6am to walk back to the carpark.  I wasn't having breakfast and packed quickly.  I started walking at 6.40am.  It was overcast for the first time on my walk and cooler - but still comfortable.  I started at a conservative pace up the first hill past the toilet and across the first plain.

I went quite hard down the hill and had a rest a the creek crossing with the bridge.  I continued to walk with purpose along the trench section toward the spot where the track swings to the north.  It started to drizzle, but it was comfortable.  As I crossed the 2 creeks close together they barely had any water in them.  The drizzle increased to rain but the bog was still solid and walking was easy.  Past the Loddon River I had a slow, deliberate plod up the long hill and then put in some effort again for the 40 mins to the end of the track.

There was mist on the Franklin and it had a real atmosphere about it as I crossed the bridge and signed out.  It was now raining heavily and during the drive back it became torrential and blew a gale.  I was glad to get out when I did but the trip had been really memorable.  I was happy with my new Sea to Summit Karijini pack as well.