Australia Day 2016 saw Reuben VK7FREU, XYL Helen and myself VK7TW rose early and head off to Derwent Bridge at the start of the Derwent River. Derwent Bridge is 174km (about 2.5 hours) along the Lyell Highway which ends up at Queenstown on the West Coast of VK7 (Tasmania).
We called into the Walker Registration at Lake St Clair (parks pass required) and registered the short walk from Rufus Canal Rd via Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus and then back to Lake St Clair via Mt Rufus track. We also checked the track wasn’t closed due to the fires.
Then we went through Derwent Bridge and west down the Lyell Highway 8.6km to the Rufus Canal road. Head down the Rufus Canal Rd about 2km until a bridge and just after the bridge there are painted poles marking the track on the eastern side of the road. This is the start of the Gingerbread track. It was already smoky from the West and NW coast fires.
The walk in along the Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus is about 6.5km and is a series of rises to button grass plains then around the Spur and across to Gingerbread Hut and then a steep ascent to Mt Rufus.
Gators were essential walking through button grass and some muddy patches. It was mostly dry though. This is normally a muddy and wet track! We came across a Copperhead snake skin that was not very old as it was still flexible and estimate it would have been at least a 1.2m snake with a 16cm circumference in the middle of the skin. Fortunately we didn’t see the owner of the skin!
The first landmark was Joe Slatter hut which is looked after by the Wellington Ski Club. This hut is large and sleeps 14 in bunks. It is well looked after, we signed the log and continued on.
Vegetation varies from Myrtle Forest to Tea tree forest, button grass plains, pandani groves, low scrub to cushion plants and alpine vegetation up the top.
This hut is much smaller and would sleep 4-5 at a squeeze upstairs in the roof – emergency accommodation only – signed the log book and followed the snow poles up to Mt Rufus, this was steep in sections.
On top is a large stone man-made square cairn that can be seen from way off. Plenty of spots to plant the squid pole and setup and operate. There were many people passing through doing the Mt Rufus Circuit down to Shadow Lake who were interested in what were doing. Reuben and I each made 10 contacts from around Australia on 40m. We tried 15 & 10m but had no-one come back so after 45m on summit we decided to make our way back. Thanks to all who contacted us.
Mt Rufus straddles the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. We decided to give out Wild Rivers VK Flora and Fauna Award (VKFF) numbers – VKFF-0185.
Mt Hugel is the closet summit and is only 2.5km away but it’s a steep climb and has to be negotiated from the Northern slopes up from Shadow Lake and Little Hugel. The smoke was thick and the other summits were a distant silhouette.
The Mt Rufus track from the Summit to Lake St Clair is 7.5km and is a constant descent starting with Alpine vegetation, low scrub, snow gums, tea tree, pandanis, sword grass and Myrtle forest.
It took us about 3 hours to walk out and were back at the carpark with Helen about 4:30pm. Thanks to Helen and all who contacted us. Another great SOTA activation and another first peak activation in VK7. 2.5hours back along the Lyell Highway and we slept well that night 😉
Hear you on a peak somewhere!
73, Justin, VK7TW