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Trip Report: A taste of the Western Arthur Range in South West Tassie

About 10 years I was inspired by the rugged beauty of South West Tasmania when I first saw Peter Dombrovskis famous photo of Lake Oberon and I decided that I would visit the lake one day.

In mid-September I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Tasmania and although I didn’t have the time (or the nerve) for a full traverse of the Western Arthurs I figured I could squeeze in a quick solo trip to Lake Oberon. But like many of my adventures it turned out to be harder than I expected.

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Any thoughts of keeping my feet dry disappeared after about an hour on the trail. The mud was ankle deep for much of the way in but on several occasions I sank in above the top of my gaiters. And with water and mud coming in the top of your boots it doesn’t matter whether they are Gore-Tex lined or not.

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When I got to the Junction Creek crossing I managed to scramble across fallen trees and avoid getting any wetter.

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My first good look at the Western Arthur Range.

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There were some light showers as I climbed Alpha Moraine. The climb wasn’t particularly long or steep but it was quite rough and slow.

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Looking north with Lake Pedder in the distance.

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I had a fairly ambitious plan: Start off early from the car park at Scott’s Peak Dam (3 hour drive from Hobart) and walk to Lake Oberon in one long day.

Maybe I am getting old, soft or just slow but there was no way that was going to happen and I had to settle for Lake Cygnus for my first night (shown above). I found that my walking times were at the top end of the times recommended in John Chapman’s track notes (see link below) and I wasn’t even carrying 12 days of food for a full traverse.

So after a wet night at the Lake Cygnus camping area I packed up and headed off to spend my second night at Lake Oberon.

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The track is well defined and easy to follow albeit rough and steep in places.

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Square Lake was very impressive.

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But this is what I came to see. After about 4 hours walking I made it to the saddle between Square Lake and Lake Oberon. I was lucky to have clear weather and took a heap of photos (click photo to enlarge).

According to John Chapman’s guide book “The walking from Alpha Moraine through the ridge above Lake Oberon is relatively easy”. For those brave enough to continue on and do the full traverse the guidebook uses words like: continual scrambling, steep descents in precipitous gullies and on cliffs, at times the route is dangerous being poised above high cliffs…..

If I was on the easy part of the track I had no desire to venture into the hard stuff especially on my own.

I was a bit concerned about a forecast change in the weather for the next day and the exposed sections of track I had to cover. So rather than camp at Lake Oberon as planned I retreated back to Lake Cygnus for my second night (you can get Telstra service at some points along the range). I was even too lazy to walk down to the lake as that would have taken me another 30 minutes each way.

I was happy with my change of plan except that I felt like an idiot for packing up my camp and carrying all my gear for a full day only to set up camp at the same spot. When I got back to Lake Cygnus I met two other people – and these were the only other walkers I saw during my three days out there.

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Amazingly the track weaves its way up and down along the range through some pretty steep and rugged terrain. I was averaging a very slow 1.2 km/h.

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The northern end of the range near Alpha Moraine is relatively flat and open and makes for enjoyable walking. Lake Pedder shown in the distance.

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The parks people have placed a few of these toilets at campsites along the track. Note the helicopter lifting points. The lack of privacy wasn’t a concern due to the shortage of people around. After descending Alpha Moraine I was back on the flat and muddy section of track back to the car park.

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With a few hours of steady rain the track got wetter and the mud got deeper……

At one point I found myself thigh deep in sticky mud. It wasn’t easy to extract myself and there was so much suction on my feet I was concerned one of my boots would come off and be lost forever.

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I eventually made it to the car park and drove back to Hobart. After three full days of spectacular scenery and a lot of mud I can now cross Lake Oberon off my list. It was tougher than I expected but it was an enjoyable and memorable trip.

If you are heading out this way I recommend you get this book. I found it very useful.

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http://www.john.chapman.name/pub-sw.html

You can find more information about the famous Tasmanian wilderness photographer Peter Dombrovskis here: http://www.peterdombrovskis.com/

Sadly he died in 1996 while photographing in the Western Arthurs but hopefully his work will continue to inspire others to get out and enjoy remote parts of Tasmania.

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