We were just skirting MacKenzie Tarn below the Rodway Range in rain and fog. Through the gloomy weather, we caught passing glimpses of the fagus on the far side of the tarn – the only winter deciduous tree in Australia – which had begun to turn golden yellow now that autumn had arrived. Doug was wet through having spent most of the day overheating in his waterproof pants and jacket and, in a brief clearing he had optimistically removed all his rain-wear thus ensuring that the rain began again in earnest. I had spent the day shivering with cold but wanted the psychological benefit of knowing there was still one more piece of clothing in my pack which I could put on should things get desperate. I, therefore, was dry but cold, while Doug was wet and hot.
We were in the midst of one of those conversations that only people who have been cramped up too long in too small a space in dubious weather can have. “I don't understand how you can say you wouldn't have done this trip had you known what the weather would be like, and also say you are glad you did this trip” said Doug. Somehow this twisted logic made sense to me. Had I known it would rain all day I would have chosen a lower elevation walk where we were less exposed to wind and rain, but, I was still happy to be out walking. Perhaps it's corny, or smacks all too much of a Barney world-view, but I seldom regret the times I have gone out and frequently regret the times I haven't.
The day had started with a somewhat unpleasant drive up the narrow, windy and muddy 16 km access road to Lake Dobson. Driving up this road simply to get out of the car for a couple of minutes, stare at Lake Dobson, then turn around and go back down, now with a mud splattered car is inexplicably popular with Hobartites. We left the tourists shivering and gazing at the lake, and trundled up a couple of hundred metres to the Mawson Plateau where all the “alpine” track start.
Weather permitting, we hoped to walk up Mount Field West and set off on the boardwalk that leads up to the Rodway Range. Although it was drizzling with rain, there was a hint of blue in the sky and we had some moderate hopes of clearing weather. We had, however, scarcely passed the junction with the track to Tarn Shelf when the drizzle intensified and we began the first in a series of clothing adaptations that would shortly see us fully outfitted in rain gear.
There were brief glimpses of the several tarns along tarn shelf, but mostly we just saw white fog and slippery boulders. The track, which I am sure is very scenic in good weather, runs pretty much along the top of the Rodway Range and is slow walking in wet weather as it mostly involves negotiating a jumble of boulders. We had been walking for two or three hours when the track descended off the Rodway Range down to K Col. A tiny hut was just visible 20 metres above K Col and we decided to get in out of the weather for a while.
Looking down to K Col and the tiny hut
The drizzle by now was frank rain and I found it frightfully cold. It was an easy decision to forgo heading for Mount Field West and, frankly, we did not have enough time for the walk anyway given the speed of our progress. We could, however, continue to Newdegate Pass and come back along Tarn Shelf.
We hiked back up onto the Rodway Range, turned to the east and crossed over Newdegate Pass and descended again to Newdegate Lake where another ramshackle hut provided a little shelter from the rain. Heading back towards Lake Dobson, we were swimming against the flow of most walkers who were coming the other way as we wandered past a series of small tarns on the appropriately named Tarn Shelf. Once we got back on the boardwalk, it was quick walking back to the road end and down to Lake Dobson. My hands and arms were so stiff with cold I could barely open the zipper on my pack to pull out my dry puff, but, I was still glad I went.