Yes, its a long way out – Tasmania. As lots of folks have noted, if bioregionalism was going to ‘work’ anywhere, it would be in Tasmania. But the reason for this visit was my annual pilgrimage to the Ducane Range area of central Tas. This time, with Steph from Brisbane and Teri from the Bay Area in the ‘States, we headed in via Mt Gould.
The Gould plateau feels nicely remote, even though its just a few hours walk from the ferry drop off at the head of Lake St Clair. Button grass plains, nice open euc woodland and then into wonderful old growth rainforest, barely a trail in many spots, and another hour or so brings you to the lip of the plateau, with incredible camp spots dotted across the many flat rock outcrops that sit between shallow alpine tarns. And the views are great – Mt Olympus, Gould, the lake, Traveller Range, the Cheyne Range and that tangle of hills and ridges out west.
Next day is a trail that kind of trails off as you push up through the belt of rainforest and scrub, finally emerging above treeline and the nice long sidle around Mt Gould itself, crossing under the impressive face of the Minotaur (that gully system has some amazing climbing when its iced up nicely) and into the very atmospheric saddle beneath Gould. It even has a big rock that’s like a recliner couch for a bit of a nap or some cloud or peak watching.
Then a short scramble up a boulder field onto the back of the Minotaur – fantastically exposed camping up here at the obvious spot near the pencil pines. Its all very fragile, so grab some rock platforms if you can to camp on. A detour out to the Guardians offers a bit more of an alpine fix if you need it and have the time. You can do it as a day trip or stay up on the high exposed ridge on top. There are some tarns that provide a good supply of water.
Then, over the top of the Minotaur and its narrow northern prow – which has a wonderful drop off below you and beyond that a vista of the maze of lakes and rock outcrops that is the Labyrinth. Find the deep and very steep gully that drops into the trees from here and do a controlled fall down the gully heading due north (there is usually a small cairn at the very top to mark the start of a very rough trail) before hitting a rocky saddle and climbing over a series of ridges to eventually pop out on the trail that climbs out of Pine Valley and leads into the Labyrinth.
We were heading on towards the nice high country of the Ducane Range but as we were crossing over past Lake Elysia we had a serious lightening storm so we did some power walking until we could hunker down as best we could in the old growth pencil pine forest at the Pool of Memories. Then we had about 12 hours of torrential rain and more weather after that that was threatening to do the same. So we bailed, opting for the cosy big city lights of Pine Valley hut instead of a camp on the Ducane range. As we walked out it cleared as we crossed the low divide near Lake Elysia and it kept lifting and so we were treated to great views of the terrain we had spent a few days crossing – the sharp profile of the Minotaur and Mt Gould.
Back amongst the hordes on the feeder track to the Overland I enjoyed the many languages, dress sense and camaraderie that comes with this famous walk. One more ferry ride and the obligatory greasy food and beers at Cynthia Bay, the clouds trailing over the lake and surrounding peaks, always a hard place to leave …