Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A Quick Look at the Walls of Jerusalem National Park

Adam and myself want to hike the Overland Track one day so in preparation we need to make sure our gear is up to par and also our fitness is ok for such a multi day hike. So we are doing a few 'easier' hikes first to see what we need to do to get ready for the Overland Track.

One of Tassies other well known destinations for hiking is the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. It has a reasonably well marked track into the walls and if your fit and willing you can hike in and out as a day trip as its only about 20-25 klms return, depending if you do any of the side tracks. 

Most people take several days to do the general area. Adam and I decided to take it a little further and add some extra adventure by going past the recognised tracks marked by National Parks and finding our way out another way in an area thats not necessarily marked by parks.

As it turned out this was nearly a dangerous mistake given our experience and what turned out to be our (my) lack of preparedness for the area!

So heres our first experience hiking high in Tassies mountains.

The day started blurry before we even left the house....I wonder if this was a sign of what was to come!

We live at the base of these mountains so it was only a reasonably short drive and we were in the car park ready to go.

As it turns out its ironic that we take a photo of this warning sign at the very start of the hike!

And we are off, all excited and heading up the steep climb.

No sooner had we set off, we came to the log book area where we signed the book with our intentions and washed our boots at the request of parks to stop disease in the area.

We knew the track climbed quite a bit for the first 2 or 3 klm's so we were prepared for the slug up the hill with our heavy packs.

At times it was like a rock scramble, but all good fun at this stage of the hike.

After quite a few rest stops to allow our heart rate to slow back down we soon arrived at Trappers hut.

We stopped at the hut for a quick snack and breather.

After a bit more of a scramble up the hill the track started to flatten out a bit. We were still gaining altitude but not as quickly as the first 2 or 3 klm's.

After about an hour or so of hiking we were at 1200 metres and looking at the peaks in the distance.

The well marked track continued through the bush, winding its way past many small tarns and lakes which was a real eye opener for us as we were carrying 4 kilos of water between us that we definitely didn't need to carry!

Every now and then the track wasn't as well marked but there was always a tell tale sign as to where you need to go. In this case a couple of rock cairns.

But mostly it was a well defined track and even some board walk to protect the environment.

After about 6 klm's we arrived at the Walls and Wild Dog Creek Camp Site.

It was good to see some colour in the distance!

We stopped on one of the tent platforms and had a quick lunch. It just started getting a bit drizzly with rain so it was rushed and given that it was quite crowded and not the most appealing place to camp in the misty rain we chose to push on to Dixons Kingdom and do the peaks from that area instead.

Not far from Wild Dog Creek the weather really started to come in on us and visibility was beginning to become very poor.

Right at the wrong time, as we pass by the whole reason we are there the weather reduces our visibility to a point where none of the land marks were visible LOL
So the full West Wall, Solomon's Throne, The Temple and Mount Jerusalem are all still on our list of peaks to explore!

Im sure the land marks are in this mist somewhere ;)

We were lucky enough to just be able to see the Pool of Bethesda and a wallaby who was watching us.

But we pushed on continually climbing through the drizzly foggy weather.

Reaching our highest point of the hike, 1350 metres.

And not long after we started to drop back down a little bit in towards Dixons Kingdom Hut.

And then, bingo. Dixons Kingdom Hut. After about 11 Klm's our camp site for the night.

Parks dont particularly promote camping in this area as they prefer people to use the platforms at Wild Dog Creek, but given how crowded it was at Wild Dog Creek and the fact that they have built Toilets at this hut I think they concede that people will camp here. Even though we were the only people here at this stage.

This is the area we were going to walk out if we could find our way!

I won't go on about the Hut and its significants, you can google that if you wish but its a nice little dark shelter.

In which Adam has a little lie down in!

Not long after getting there another man turns up and proceeds to set up camp in the bush and as luck would have it the weather looked like it may start to clear and allow us to climb some peaks tomorrow.

We set up camp and made some soup.

Cant complain about the backdrop ;)

We then proceeded to cook tea, had a chat with our new friend and watched as another group of younger people arrived and set up in the bush.

It was starting to get really cold and quite a breeze came up so it was off to lay in our nice warm bed and read a book.

We cooked some damper in the Trangia....just to prove its possible, but yummo it was beautiful.

We then went to sleep......well actually we didn't really sleep. The weather got really rough. Little did we know a massive cold front had blown in and all Tassies higher peaks were covered in snow.
The wind gusts were that bad at times we were certain our tent was going to take off with us in it!
However we put ear plugs in and tried to ignore it, except I found it difficult because even though I was wearing nearly every bit of clothing I took, I was still quite cold for some reason. Adam was toasty in his minus 5 sleeping bag but mine was not rated anywhere near as good. I made the mistake of thinking thermals and extra clothing would keep me warm if it got too far below freezing.

Anyway what seemed like an eternity of laying there being cold, daylight came ensuring any sleep was very limited if any was had at all.

As it turns out we had put some heavy items in the inner tents pockets which had weighed the sides down allowing water to run in the tent, so we were laying in a pool of icey cold water LOL
I was also thinking it must be a heavy frost because the tent looked like it had a heavy film of ice on was snow!!

So we had some breaky in the hut, and packed our backpacks in the hut with all our wet gear and made the decision that we had to walk out of the area today.
We planned on spending two nights so we could climb some of the peaks but spending another night in the area now that we had wet gear and given that my sleeping bag was not performing in this environment (especially now it was damp!) was not a wise decision, so we had no choice but to head out today.

And also given that it was now snowing quite heavy it would have been foolish to risk another night because it may have turned into a few more nights if we couldn't walk out!

We did decide to still take on the unmarked track for the walk out though LOL It was only 15 Klm's so what could possibly go wrong?

So off into the snow and unmarked track we go.........

The good thing about being packed up and heading off into the snow and wind is that we are very warm while we are walking. In fact most of our warm clothes are in our packs, our rain jackets and thermals are more than enough to keep us quite hot while walking.

We are some what excited to be trying to find our way in these conditions. The first couple of kilometres was a scrub and bush bash through some very wet grounds using nothing but a waypoint on the GPS to guide us in the general direction.

But as we were advised when planning this trip, Lake Ball was easy enough to find and soon enough we were on a well worn track and was very confident we were on the right track out of here!

The photos as you may have noticed are getting quite blurry! This is because I was unable to dry the lens with my wet gloves on our little point and shoot water proof camera.

But the track bashed its way past Lake Ball and Lake Adelaide in what would have been an absolutely amazing track if it wasn't for the appalling conditions we were encountering.
This is our sort of terrain and to be honest the conditions were our first real experience at snow and blizzards and rain and we were in a warped sort of way really enjoying the challenge LOL
Shame we could hardly see our surroundings most of the time ;)

We arrived at another hut, this one was Built by Ray Miles. The Miles family is or at least was well known in the Molecreek area when I was in school.....assuming its the same family, which Im sure it would have been!

After a quick look in the hut we kept powering our way past these Lakes through some great terrain. At times having a giggle at how some people must react when they encounter some of the terrain we were scrambling over.

Have I mentioned how much water there was? LOL The water in the fast flowing little creeks was so perfectly pristine I took a photo of it!

The weather was really turning it on for us. It was a range of heavy snow to sleet to rain to hail and every now and then it cleared up......good old Tassie.

Once we got past both the larger Lakes the terrain was then on mostly flat ground, but of course all the water that was running on the tracks higher up was ending up down below and we were now having no choice but to walk in at times knee deep water!

It was about now that things really took a turn for the worst. It really started snowing heavy and within half an hour to an hour the ground was getting covered in snow.

I didn't get any photos of it because i was in "we gotta get the hell outta here" mode, because I knew if I was to loose the track in this particular area it could be a case of having to set the tent up and sit it out.......and that wasn't a pretty option. It was virtually a total white out. I had no way of knowing if it would last for an hour or 2 days, but I knew it wasn't good and we had to keep powering on while we could just make out the track in the snow.
Upon reflection as i write this blog I really wish I had of snapped a few photos.

But as luck would have it and typical of Tassie highland weather, it stopped snowing and the sun came out! What a relief. The snow melted and yes the track was at times knee deep again in water but we were far better off having wet feet than we were of having to sit it out in the tent!

The sun was so nice we took the opportunity to stop and have a quick bite to eat. We were now only about 3 or so Klm's to the Junction near Trappers Hut so we were confident no matter how bad the weather got now we would find the junction.

Sun! Oh how we loved you LOL

And before we knew it we were back to the junction and heading back down the first steep hill back to the car :)

Once we were back on the marked track we ran into quite a few people walking in to the National Park to spend a few days looking around and told them about the lovely snow and rain! They told us that everyone else they had seen coming out had a similar tale to tell, albeit they were at least on the proper track out!

All the other hikers we ran into on our journey all stopped and had a chat which was good to see. We learnt quite a lot on this trip and in some ways we are really glad we got to experience some bad conditions in a relatively easy place to escape.

We now have a far better idea what we need to do before we head back into the mountains again.

The most important thing is that we or more to the point, I, need a better rated down sleeping bag. At least minus 5 I think.
We need a better tent. Our motorbike touring tent has served its purpose on the bike etc but its not ideal in those conditions we encountered, especially as staying dry is critical.
Our gloves eventually gave way to the wet weather and our hands got wet, which of course meant they froze if we didn't walk with them in our pockets.
Adam needs better hiking boots.....he chose to wear his joggers on this trip and they took water in way too easily. Ill admit no hiking shoe would have stayed dry but his feet got wet way too easily.
We need to better organise our packs because when its wet weather and you are packing your gear away it would help to have it all better organised......clip lock bags and shopping bags wasn't really cutting it as we had no real system.
Oh and a good supply of anti inflammatories and pain killers for my knees will be an essential item!

A couple of the positives are that we know our gortex jackets are water proof and we know we will never freeze while we are walking! 
Another positive is that we now know what we need as far as a tent goes in the way of room, head space etc.
And of course we now also know what sort of Klm's we can do in a day and then back it up and also have a better idea of what sort of elevation we can climb for our (my) fitness level.

Bring on the next adventure........... :)