Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting All Taswegian: Mount Tyndall

Our first two weeks in Tasmania we had outstanding weather, especially considering we were in the wet southwestern area of the state, so, when the rains arrived, we greeted them with a sense of inevitability. Tasmania is, after all, a lot like British Columbia in Canada, cool and wet.  After sitting out one wet day in Queenstown, I figured that if you want to travel in Tasmania, perhaps it is as well to get used to getting damp, wet even, and, possibly miserable. Doug did not share this philosophy, so while I set off to hike up to Lake Tyndall, he stayed dry and comparatively warm in the caravan at the parking area. 

To find the Tyndall Range track, I assume you have to somehow know where it is, as it is unmarked on any map, not advertised on any official website, and hidden down a gated road with signage and a register box only once you have reached the trail head. I found out about the track the way I find out about most things. I noted an extensive area of alpine terrain on the map - the Tyndall Range extends for some 35 km between Roseberry and Queenstown - and Googled "Tyndall Range track." This brought up a few trip reports with enough detail to allow me to pinpoint the trail head on the map. 

If you take the B38 (Anthony Road) north from Queenstown, about 10.4 km from the junction of the A10 and the B38 (south or Queenstown end) you will find a gravel road heading off to the east. On my 100K map, a gravel pit is indicated but no such pit appears to exist. Park snappily as a locked gate is just ahead. Walk around the gate and cross a sturdy bridge over Tyndall Creek. Shortly thereafter you will reach a T intersection with the gravel road that services the power-line. Go left and in a couple of hundred metres you'll come to a sign and registration box marking the start of the track.

 Somewhere in there a track exists

I left Doug cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast in the caravan and headed out kitted out in all my wet weather gear and wearing a warm pair of not at all waterproof gloves. Soon after I turned left at the T intersection, I came to a good sized creek running over the road. I thought for two seconds about taking my boots off to wade through and then just splashed on through the ankle deep water, boots and all. This was tremendously liberating as I now did not have to worry about keeping my feet dry any longer. Which, as it turns out, was a good thing as the track was awash with water. 

The first 100 metres of elevation gain is through thick scraggly timber. There is a good enough foot pad, but the bush is thick on either side and overhead. Take a look at the picture of this part of the track to see what I mean. You can't get lost, as there really is no where else you can go in this section.  At around 630 metres ASL, the track emerges onto a little spur ridge and is pretty good all the way to about 1100 metres where it peters out. You'll be well into low alpine vegetation by this then and a track is unnecessary. As Tasmanian tracks go, this one is not really steep at all. It heads steadily up the west side of the range through button grass and other low shrubbery but is never really steep (not because there are switchbacks or anything so civilised but simply because the western side of the Tyndall Range is not that steep in this location). 

 Somewhere near the top of Mount Tyndall

The higher I climbed the colder, windier and whiter it got. I kept expecting to come out at Lake Tyndall but the track actually goes to the top of Mount Tyndall. About 40 metres (elevation) and perhaps 0.4 km from the summit, the track disappeared and the route to the summit was marked only by sporadic and, in the weather I had, widely spaced cairns. Now, on a clear day, or even if you had a compass, you could easily stroll across to the summit as the terrain is easy but I found myself squinting through the gloom to find the next cairn, and, when I turned back to see where I had come from everything looked very much the same - white - and the last cairns were barely visible. 

At this point I realised I had neglected to bring a compass and had only the GPS on our mobile telephone (which I do not trust as it frequently stops working). Suddenly, it seemed all too easy to get lost on this high plateau in this cold, wet, windy and white weather, so I turned about and groped my way past the last few cairns until I found the track again and headed quickly down. I am sure the whole alpine plateau from Mount Tyndall down to Mount Sedgwick is quite delightful but all I saw was the inside of a very full and very wet milk bottle. 
 Lake Julia peeks out of the fog

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