Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Welcome To Tasmania: Mount Farrell

It is 30 years since I spent a year in Devonport, Tasmania as a student midwife at the Mersey Maternity Hospital, and, riding the Spirit of Tasmania into port on the Mersey River nothing was familiar, except, perhaps, a little bit of sandy beach west of the Mersey River where I used to swim (almost all year!). 

I certainly don't remember as much palaver boarding the Spirit of Tasmania at Melbourne. We were astonished to find that, even though we arrived almost two hours before the boat was due to depart, there was a huge traffic snarl clogging up several streets in Port Melbourne as cars, caravans, trucks and motorcycles queued across multiple intersections. Once we actually crawled our way closer to the loading zone we found out why, as not only was our car and caravan searched, but another official climbed up to inspect the kayaks. 

Luckily, we managed to convince her that our wetsuits were clean and dry and we did not have to pull those out as well. Two litres of Shellite were confiscated, never to be seen again, and a small refill of butane was taken away for pick-up in Devonport. No wonder the check-in line moves so slowly.
Add all this to a 9 or 10 hour boat journey, another quarantine inspection for unlucky travellers at Devonport, and arriving in Tasmania feels as if one has arrived in an entirely different country. But, this is still Australia. Free camping is still easy to come by and the country side and coastline is as beautiful as anywhere.

 Lake Macintosh

We arrived in Tasmania with a huge list of multi-day walks and kayak trips we wanted to do, as well as some rock climbing, day hiking, peak bagging and single day kayak trips, and it was a bit hard to decide where to go first, particularly as we seemed to have no data reception on our mobile telephone to get a weather forecast. However, in a brief period of mobile telephone reception we got what appeared to be a good weather forecast in the southwest of the state and decided to head down to Strahan to do an 8 day sea kayak trip around Macquarie Harbour. On the way, we would pass a track leading to the top of Mount Farrell near Tullah, an alpine type peak to the north of the Tyndall Range, and welcome opportunity to exercise our legs.

Tasmanian roads are as narrow and winding - perhaps more so - as other roads in Australia, so, even though the distance is not far, it was 3.00 pm when we left the track head at Tullah on a well signed track leading to either Mount Farrell or Lake Herbert (or both). The track starts climbing straight off up through dense second growth timber passing a few very hidden old mine shafts. After about half an hour, you emerge onto button grass and more open terrain and you can see craggy Mount Murchison at the far northern end of the Tyndall Range to the south. Another ten minutes or so, and a junction is reached with one red arrow pointing to the lake (left fork) and the right branch heading to Mount Farrell. We took the right fork and the track immediately disappeared into dense button grass and shrub. There is a foot pad, it is just a bit obscured. 
 Mount Murchison

After a short climb of perhaps another 100 metres, the track emerges on a ridge scattered with conglomerate boulders. The track becomes clearer again and steadily climbs south along the ridge with views of Lake Roseberry and Lake Macintosh, and, as you get higher, tiny Lake Herbert tucked under the slopes of Mount Farrell. A false summit on the ridge is reached, but the track carries on, a bit more obscured in places and, about 15 minutes from the top, a cluster of boulders and thick scrub on the ridge is turned to the right before the track climbs again and traverses with some scrambly sections on the conglomerate boulders to the top and the trig station. The best views are actually from a large conglomerate boulder just before the trig station. 

 Doug on the track to Mount Farrell

Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park is, of course, not far to the east, and I'm sure some of the big peaks we were seeing are icons of that National Park but I am not familiar enough with any (I did climb Cradle Mountain 30 years ago) to recognise any. The view, however, is superb and highlights the wonderful wilderness that still remains over so much of Tasmania. It was 5.00 pm, so time to be away down the mountain again. Lake Herbert is only 100 metres below and the track to the lake is much clearer and more defined than the one to the summit, and, there is nothing, apart from thick button grass and waist high scrub preventing a descent to the lake and track, but we opted to follow the track back down (I was wearing shorts - last time I'll do that). 

 Viewpoint over Lake Macintosh

There is, however, another junction, about 20 minutes below the summit near some rock boulders where you first get a view of Lake Macintosh on the way up and a red sign marks this junction (hard to see on the way down). A deeply gouged trench drops about 5 metres down to the east and you can join the better lake track easily making a little bit of a circle route. All up we were about 2.45 return, although it would be nice to also have time to visit Lake Herbert and perhaps have a swim. A great and easy reintroduction to Tasmanian walking with outstanding views. What more can you ask for?

Lake Herbert

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