Mountains, Waterfalls and Unattainable Lakes

Last weekend was Gemma’s birthday and to celebrate, we went on a spot of adventuring. The initial plan had been to do a part of the Overland Track, namely climbing Mount Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak and exploring the surrounds. That has been put on the back burner for another day.

Plan B was to hike to Lake Rhona, a stunning alpine lake in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. It’s a 28km hike through buttongrass plains and plenty of mud that is accessible only by crossing the Gordon River via a fallen log. Yes, it does sound epic doesn’t it? Before you even get to the river, you need to drive to the start of the trail. It’s located deep within the woods, down ever rougher forestry roads that for us at least, ran out a bit earlier than expected.

The trees that had been scraping the sides and roof of the car eventually became too much and we had to park up and get our heavy packs on about 2.5km early. When we eventually reached the car park, there were already 3 vehicles there and the walkers registration book revealed two parties had gotten there earlier in the day. We would have some company at the lake it seemed.

We excitedly tore into the trail with enthusiasm but also with some trepidation about the upcoming river crossing. Expecting to hear it before we saw it, we were surprised to suddenly come out of the woods at the riverbank next to the tree that lies across the Gordon. Hmmmmm….it looked a little bit under the water about three quarters of the way across. Perhaps it was only a short shallow section and would be easily navigated….

It wasn’t. It was a couple of metres across the log and about a foot at its deepest. I had brought a long stick across the log with me for balance and stuck it down into the water next to the tree to find the bottom. The stick wasn’t long enough……it was deep. We both had heavy packs on, laden with food, clothes and camping equipment as well as our camera bags. I’m not a great swimmer and neither of our packs were completely waterproof.

A cool log bridge across the Florentine River, while the road was still somewhat navigable.
Nope, not getting through there. Gemma returns to the car after checking the route ahead.
Weeeeee let’s go adventuring!
Last chance to turn back. These signs definitely mean business and in no way belittle the seriousness of the risks taken by walkers in the area.
The fateful tree across the Gordon.
Me scoping out the tree.

We crossed back to the start of the log and considered our options. Try to make it across and risk soaking all our gear……or even worse. Or bug out, accept defeat and try something else. We took the safer option, perplexed as to how the two other groups made it across. Convinced they must have had a raft or something 🙂

We hiked back to the car, disappointed that we couldn’t make it to Lake Rhona but spirits still high. We were in a beautiful part of Tasmania, there’s plenty more to see in this area, we’d still have a great weekend.

A rather angry Blue-tongued Lizard on our way back out to civilisation.
A lovely glow on the rocks on the riverbed of the Florentine.

Plan C was formed on our way back to the car and finalised before we got back on a tarmac road. We would set up camp at Mount Field, exploring some of its super accessible waterfalls that day. On the Friday we would climb Mount Wedge in the Southwest and on Saturday we’d explore some more waterfalls in the area. Our campsite at Mount Field was nothing short of luxury in comparison to what we would have had……unless of course we could have floated the car across the Gordon River and then drove along the buttongrass plains and up the mountain to the shores of Lake Rhona. Being able to lay your gear and food out on a picnic bench and leisurely pick and choose items from the car is absolute heaven.

Before we set up camp, we took the short and easy stroll to both Russell and Horseshoe Falls. Okay, Horseshoe is a little bit strenuous and would be a bit of a struggle for some but Russell Falls is definitely an easy peasy walk….and well worth it! It’s a beautiful waterfall, cascading over a few different levels into the valley below. Horseshoe Falls isn’t as spectacular, at least not when in full flow but still pretty all the same.

Ferns line the walk to Russell Falls.
The rather majestic Russell Falls, perhaps the most accessible waterfalls in Tasmania.
Horseshoe Falls, not quite living up to its name and forming the full on horseshoe shape. Still most pleasant indeed.
Weevily Weevil doing weevily things.

We returned to camp, a short walk from the main visitor centre and set up the tent and re-hydrated our delicious spaghetti bolognese, which poor Gemma had to make twice as Clyde, being the mischievous canine brat he is managed to knock the dehydrator off the kitchen top and proceeded to eat the first batch which was almost ready……after SEVEN hours. We were not impressed haha. A yummy hot Milo before bed and an early night before the big day ahead…..climbing a mountain.

Mount Wedge (1,147m) isn’t the tallest mountain in Tasmania, not by a long shot. It IS however one of the 158 Abel Mountains we’ve now become rather keen to see more of. Some of them are super easy, like Mount Wellington which I’ve climbed several times, others are very remote indeed and others are dangerous leviathans that should be approached with caution and respect. Wedge sits somewhere in the easy pile.

That’s not to say that getting to the top was a walk in the park. It was more of a scramble really, through dense forest, over fallen trees, through squelchy pockets of mud, up steep gullies, through spiky thickets that didn’t want to let you through until finally you emerge on the upper slopes and the seemingly never ending false summits that take you from elation to frustration in the blink of an eye. Soon enough however, the trig point appeared and we had made it to the top.

For the last 500m or so, it is nigh on impossible not to take a sneaky peak at the view behind you. Stopping for a rest, you need to urge yourself to just stare at your feet, save the view till you get to the top. Mountains are home to the best vistas of our planet, perhaps that’s why we desire to climb them, to see what the world looks like from up there. It’s an exhilarating feeling staring out onto the world below from the summit of a mountain and this particular view is simply stunning. All around you are some of Tasmania’s most iconic peaks. We met a lovely chap at the top who kindly pointed out some he’d recommend we do in the future, he even pointed out Reids Peak, the summit we should have been on today, had we made it to Lake Rhona 😦

You can’t be disappointed though with views like we had up on the top of Mount Wedge. It was spectacular and just fills you with such a good feeling. For someone who waffles on a bit, I struggle to describe the sensation adequately.

Gemma and I on the summit of Mount Wedge, with the previously ascended Sentinel Range behind us.
That object in the foreground is a helipad for maintenance works to repair an important communication system on the summit of Mount Wedge. The slightly snow-capped peak on the far right is Reid’s Peak which towers over Lake Rhona in the valleys beyond.
That chunk that sticks out like a thumb to the right of centre in the background is Federation Peak. Even from this distance it looks scary.
Gemma getting a shot of Mount Anne and Eliza on the left with the Arthur Range to her right.
A closer look at Reid’s Peak, the one with the sprinkling of snow in the centre. Some day we’ll climb it……some day.
The Gordon River road is the only stretch of tarmac in this area. Beyond it, the glory of the mountains and the true remote wilderness of Tasmania.
The Needles which I have yet to climb are a nice little jaunt off the main road. Will have to add them to the ever growing list 🙂

We spent around 40 minutes on the summit, had a yummy lunch, took some photos and breathed in the glorious clean mountain air before starting the descent back to the car. Managed to get all the way up a mountain and 90% of the way back down before falling on my arse while putting far too much faith in the tensile strength of a tree branch haha. The initial plan had been to climb the Needles (seen above) too but our bodies weren’t quite feeling it when we reached the car park so we put that off for now. We stopped at the beginning of the Marriott’s Falls track and had a soothing and indeed painfully cold stroll in the waters of the Tyenna River. Glacial meltwater + human skin = ouch.

The weather closed in on the Friday evening and we awoke to a slightly soggy camp the following morning. A quick tidy up and hearty breakfast and we were off on our final adventure of the trip, two more waterfalls. Marriott’s Falls and Lady Barren Falls are a bit more of a journey than the two we explored on Thursday and that’s the fun of it, the journey. I absolutely love walking in the Tasmanian bush, venturing towards a specific vista or landmark. I love the variety of the scenery here, no two walks are the same. Our first port of call was to be Marriott’s Falls, located back towards Mount Wedge. The walk in was wonderfully primordial. A gentle stroll along the banks of the Tyenna gave way to an interesting meadow which in turn lead into a dense rainforest of huge ferns and thick thick mud. The falls themselves were quite nice, albeit nowhere near their full flow as the huge crescent of smoothed out rock would attest. The basin of the falls was also littered with debris from previous flooding so it was tricky to get a nice photograph.

Welcome… Jurassic Park.
The Tyenna was filled with numerous little weirs that were most quaint indeed.
Most quaint indeedlydeed.
Would love to see Marriott’s in full flow, I would imagine it’s rather epic.

Our final waterfall of the trip was back in Mount Field National Park. Lady Barron Falls is perhaps less visited by most as it’s a bit of a slog to get there but totally worth it if you’re on the fence. The walk in passes through the Tall Trees Walk and boy are those trees tall! There’s numerous warning signs about the risks of falling trees and branches and I certainly wouldn’t want to be strolling through this area in high winds. The trees here are in a constant battle to reach for the sun, pushing ever higher than their neighbours. In order to get there though they need to shed some weight, so naturally they lose a few limbs. Those limbs just happen to weigh several hundred kilos so yeah, heed the warnings if its windy.

Like something straight out of a grim fairy tale, the upended roots of this massive tree were creepy indeed.
A lovely little babbling brook.
The lovely Lady Barron Falls.

And with that we were done. I think we made the absolute most of the situation and despite the disappointment of being thwarted by the Gordon River, I wouldn’t change anything for the World. Had a most wonderful three days exploring a beautiful part of Tasmania with Gemma who was the best company you could ask for. The next day I’d get to show my appreciation for her loveliness with yet another adventure. Stay tuned for a post on that glorious day on the waters of the Tasman Peninsula.

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