Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Meander From Mount Murchison to Lake Sandra in the Tyndall Range

The Tyndall Range continues north of the Anthony Road culminating in the turretted Mount Murchison at 1278 metres at the very northern end of the range. We had seen Mount Murchison from our first Tasmanian hike up Mount Farrell a few weeks before, and, in the meantime, I had found out about two tracks into the area, one to the summit of Mount Murchison, the other to Lake Sandra (my namesake) about 3 km to the southwest along the spine of Mount Murchison. This, of course, allows for a through walk from the Anthony Road, hiking to the top of Mount Murchison then ambling along the impressive ridge that encircles Shaded Lake and creates a narrow cirque, descending to Lake Sandra and taking the track back down to the Anthony Road. 

 Shaded Lake and Murchison Cirque

On through walks such as this Doug and I usually start at opposite ends, meet in the middle, then continue on, but, as much of this walk was off-track and we had no real idea where the Lake Sandra track actually was (few tracks are marked on Tasmanian topographic maps) we decided to walk this one together thereby adding about five kilometres of road walking at the end of the day.

 Gaining elevation quickly on the Mount Murchison track

The Mount Murchison track starts at pole D15 on the Anthony Lake Road and is well signed with a log book at the start of the track. It appears to be a, rightfully, popular walk. The track is gentle by Tasmanian standards (!) and begins up a forested spur ridge. Within half an hour, you emerge from the forest into lower bush and the views begin. There is an un-named lake (shaped much like Australia minus Tasmania) in a narrow valley to your left, above this, some falls guard the narrow entrance to Shaded Lake cirque, which is very impressive viewed from above. Higher up, the track climbs more steeply to a little pass on the ridge and sidles around the east side of the mountain high above another unnamed lake. At this point, the trig station is clearly visible to the north. 

You pass through another small notch on the ridge this time to the west side of the mountain above Shaded Lake, some small unnamed tarns, and the impressive cirque enfolding Shaded Lake. The track then sidles up below low angle slabs to the summit where Roseberry lies off to the west, Tullah to the north, Mount Tyndall virtually due south, and the peaks of Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park to the east. We were about two hours to this point and as we are still (perhaps always will be) in Canadian alpine climbing mindset did not stay long on the summit before beginning the traverse. 

 Doug where the track crosses to the cirque above Shaded Lake

The ridge ahead appears to be bristling with gendarmes and we made the rookie mistake of assuming the route did not lie along the ridge line so we followed the track back down below the slabs and attempted to traverse west below all the pinnacles on the ridge. This put us into thick bush, slippery slabs, and general unpleasantness. Back up we went to the summit and I ducked down the ridge from the summit heading west and immediately noted a faint foot pad and a few cairns. Duh! 

Off we went again, sticking to the ridge (which we would have done in Canada) and scrambling up and down a series of small little rock steps. One section required sidling along a narrow ledge above a short cliff band then a YDS class 3/4 downclimb (I have no idea what the Ewbank grade would be) to easier terrain below. This is the "crux" of the traverse and if you can do this, the rest of the route will be a doddle. There is some more fun ridge scrambling along tilted slabs, a climb up to another little summit, a bit more easier scrambling and then the ridge broadens out and all difficulties (such as they are) are at an end. 

 Mount Tyndall to the south

It is very pleasant walking over talus and alpine meadow above Shaded Lake down to a first broad saddle. The next minor bump on the ridge can be sidled on the north to another narrower saddle above a narrow cliff-lined valley. Finally, up about 50 metres to another small highpoint on the ridge. It is worth scoping out your route down to Lake Sandra so you do not get mired in dense bush before you descend. Generally, what looks best on the map, a broad gently curving spur ridge is best and with judicious route finding there is minimal spiky bush. Down among the creeks that drain into Lake Gaye, you'll want to stay on the higher ground (obvious from above) and climb gently up to the 950 metre mini-ridge to the southeast of Lake Sandra. The track emerges onto this ridge and we walked right to the last cairn marking the faint foot pad. 

 Doug ridge-walking

The Lake Sandra track is not nearly so good as the Mount Murchison track but it is serviceable. Follow the foot pad up to the high point of the little ridge east of Lake Sandra to an elevation of about 950 metres and then descend in a very windy fashion down the spur ridge that runs east, then south. The track is easy to loose up high so keep your eye on the many cairns and red paint splotches. We had to backtrack a couple of times when we wandered off the track as it seems to wander around in quite a circuitous fashion. Lower down, as the track descends into thicker forest there really is only one way to go and there are no more cairns or splashes of red paint. But, you could barely penetrate the forest down here were you to wander off the track so no difficulties should be encountered. 

 Looking down on Lakes Gaye and Sandra

Eventually you'll come out at pole D55 on the Anthony Lake Road and will have about a five kilometre walk back to your vehicle. You could try hitch-hiking but we didn't bother as the walk takes only about 40 minutes. All up, the day is around 17 km with about 800 to 900 metres of elevation gain and is a really excellent day out. 
 Doug on Lake Sandra track

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