Thursday, April 30, 2015

Walking The Walls With Jason: A Loop Walk Through The Walls Of Jerusalem National Park

I've been lucky enough in my outdoor career to be able to share a rope, a kayak, a tent, with some real legends in the outdoor community. These trips are always special, not necessarily because of the places we've been or the mountains we've climbed - although those were wonderful too - but because these people are somehow larger than the rest of us. They dream bigger, push harder, continue further and are real inspirations to everyone in the outdoor community. Meeting these folks is fantastic, doing a trip with them is a privilege. 

King Davids Peak From Damascus Gate

When Jason B, who won the 2014 Australian Geographic Adventurer Of The Year Award for his solo kayak circumnavigation of Australia, which included crossing Bass Strait twice (once by the western route and once by the eastern) and circling Tasmania, contacted us about doing a bushwalk in Tasmania, Doug and I leapt at the opportunity.

 Bills Lake From Solomons Throne

After some rather brief telephone conversations and even briefer text messages we agreed to meet up in Deloraine and walk in the Walls Of Jerusalem National Park. We would all walk together through the Walls Of Jerusalem and, while Doug and I would make a loop walk back to the start of the track, Jason would continue through The Never Never (yes, it really is called The Never Never) and out the Overland Track.

 Hanging around at Junction Lake

Dixons Kingdom, Mount Jerusalem:

If you've paddled solo around Australia, you know how to get up early and get moving, and we were all up before dawn on our first day of walking. The parking lot at the Fish River had about a dozen walkers cars testament to the popularity of this National Park which is in many ways more beautiful than the more famous (nearby) Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. Despite all the vehicles, we had quiet campsites as most people seemed to be on their way out. 

 Mount Ossa and Pelion from Solomons Throne

We started our walk at Fish River which is one of the commonest entry points to the Walls Of Jerusalem and wandered up a good track to the first of many old huts found in the park, all relics of early times when trapping and cattle grazing were allowed. Soon after Trappers Hut, a track junction is reached. We headed off to the southeast along the track that leads to Dixons Kingdom. The track running due south goes down to Lake Adelaide and can be used to make a short 22 kilometre circuit walk. 

 Pool of Bethseda and The Temple

We were soon up in beautiful sub-alpine meadows passing Solomons Jewels, a series of tiny blue tarns. At Wild Dog Creek there is a campsite with hardened tent pads, where we stopped for a break. There is another short climb before you walk through Herods Gate under the north facing cliffs of King Davids Peak. Lake Salome is framed between Zion Hill and The Temple, and behind is Mount Jerusalem. Another short climb leads to a narrow pass between Solomons Throne and The Temple where a cold south wind made lingering impossible. We scooted down through a gorgeous forest of King Billy Pine (some trees 1,000 years old) to Dixons Kingdom where there is another old cattlemans hut, several grassy campsites, clear streams and a good track leads north through Jaffa Gate to Mount Jerusalem.

The track through the rock cleft to Solomons Throne

Tents were put up, tea was had, and we wandered, in a bitterly cold wind, north through Jaffa Gate and up past many small tarns, ponds and colourful gardens of alpine plants to the top of Mount Jerusalem. There are an extraordinary number of lakes, puddles, pools, tarns and other bodies of water in the Walls Of Jerusalem and it is quite an amazing view from the summit looking across all this pooled water. We found a spot tucked under the summit out of the wind and simply sat soaking it all in.

The afternoon and night felt bitterly cold. Jason had dinner at 4.30 pm, and while Doug and I held out until 6.00 pm, we were all in our tents well before dark. 

 Mount Moriah from Damascus Gate

The Lakes: Ball, Adelaide, Meston, Junction:

Twelve hours huddled fully dressed in a too well ventilated tent is enough for anyone so I got up in the dark and walked - carefully on the frosty boardwalk - back up to Damascus Gate and on up the re-routed and well constructed stone track to the top of Solomons Throne (Halls Buttress on the old 1:25K topographic maps). The final section of the track climbs rock steps through a narrow chasm. I watched a stunning sunrise over the surrounding lakes, forests and mountains, and, when the sun was fully up, walked back down to camp where Doug and Jason were getting breakfast. The wind of the previous day had subsided and the sun, when it reached into the narrow valley was warm. 

 King David Peak from Solomons Throne

A faint foot pad leads down Jaffa Vale to join a more prominent track along the north shore of Lake Ball. Fagus, a deciduous beech tree, was turning and the bright yellow of the tiny scalloped leaves was stunning against the blue sky. At the western end of Lake Ball, the meadow was white with frost and another stunning rock garden of many coloured alpine plants set off the blue of the lake. 


We descended down to the north end of Lake Adelaide where there is a serviceable, but dark campsite. The better camp is on the southern shoreline four kilometres away. The track wanders up and down along the eastern shore of Lake Adelaide, climbing and descending short distances to avoid rock bluffs. At the south end, it traverses light forest to reach a sandy beach and delightful camp site on the north shore of Lake Meston. Halfway down Lake Meston is another old cabin, this one has a dark campsite nearby and some people have even been sleeping in the ramshackle hut. 

Lake Adelaide from Solomons Throne

Beyond Lake Meston, the final four kilometres of track to Junction Lake wanders back, forth, up and down, passing brief patches of Button Grass at the Mayfield Flats, slender Lake Youd and eventually reaching Junction Lake near another old hut. The campsite is above the lake on a level bench with some large scattered boulders and big eucalpyts. It was a warmer night and it was nice to stay out of the tent until dark, which comes soon at this time of year. 

Lake Myrtle, Lake Ball, The Blizzard Plains:

We had an even warmer night thanks to the cloud cover that moved in early on, but the morning air was damp and promised rain. Jason left us heading west through The Never Never to meet the Overland Track just north of Ducane Gap. Doug and I walked back to old hut halfway along Lake Meston and took the track (marked by a cairn) that leads up over a saddle to the east of Mount Rogoona and down to Lake Myrtle. By the time we had crossed the 1200 metre saddle, Mount Rogoona had disappeared into the cloud. 

 Lake Myrtle and Mount Rogoona

There is another beautiful grassy campsite on the north end of Lake Myrtle with a view of Lake Myrtle and Mount Rogoona. Then the track follows the creek and is muddy at times to Lake Bill. Button Grass meadows along the Blizzard Plains north of Lake Bill are, as usual, soggy with water, but this section is short and we managed to keep our boots dry. A 300 metre descent down a dry track through eucalpyt forest quickly leads to the parking area. While Doug put the tent up to dry off the morning dew, I walked eight kilometres along the stony Mersey Forest Road back to Fish River trail head to retrieve the car.

Morning Light

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