Western Arthur Range
Monday 16 - Sunday 22 February 09
It is 20 years since I did the full traverse of the Western Arthur Range, although I have made trips to parts of it and across to the Norolds since. It came as no surprise that it would now take longer for the journey now than then, nevertheless it still made me wonder how we could have done some of the sections in the times recorded back then. Just goes to show how you slow down as time passes or maybe we now spend more time looking and enjoying this wonderful and rugged wilderness.
And rugged is a very apt description of the Western Arthur Range walk. I suspect that in some ways it has become a little harder too, because although the alpine moors are now hardened with superb rockwork, many sections have suffered significant erosion in the intervening years and have rock faces are left where the earth covering has been lost. In fact I would now recommend taking a short rope to allow for lowering of packs over some of these spots.
A projected easterly weather pattern gave encouragement and our first day was in fine and pleasant weather. The track to Junction was not as bad as it often is, although the couple of notorious bogs still required us the gingerly creep around the edges. Between Junction and the base of Moraine A was quite good and the campsites there were quite dry and reasonable for camping. I had been hoping that we might reach Cygnus on the first day, but overnighting here allowed an early start of the ascent when freshest and in cool of morning. It is an unrelenting and hard climb which felt nice to have over and although we arrived eat Cygnus early in the day, even after allowing for strolling about Mt Hesperus and Capella Crags; I felt that I had done enough.
I had never walked between Cygnus and Lake Oberon in really nice weather but this time the cool, calm and sunny conditions were ideal; as good as it can get. The moorland below the summit of Mt Hayes was superb and after climbs to the top and to Procyon Peak, Sirius and Orion we could enjoy the superb views of Oberon during the descent to the shores, followed by an evening from viewing the light as the day faded to an end.
The only impediment that I could remember, to getting up Mt Pegasus was a tight squeeze through a hole in the rocks, so the tough little cliffy bit early on came as a surprise. The delightful views the other side of Lake Uranus and Mt Capricorn were fondly recalled and, in the lovely weather prevailing, did not disappoint. Some small concern was felt about the likely state of descent off Capricorn after the last 20 years of use, but we did not experience much trouble , although a few of the previous dirt steps have gone leaving just the underlying rock face to negotiate. From the bottom remaining distance to High Moor was much less tortuous even with a side trip to Dorado Peak. After tea I walked back to Mt Columba where panoramic views could be gained, coloured brilliantly by the setting sun.
Just before it was time to arise next morning, rain suddenly started and I thought that this was going to either delay us for a day or make for a pretty unpleasant time getting through the Beggary Bumps. But just as suddenly as it started did it end and we were away not that much later than usual. The two chasms took a bit of time to get through and involved some pack hauling, and the path on the extremely steep faces looked to head off into space. After finishing the main sections one can't help but look back at The Dragon and beyond and wonder wherever did the route go; it looks so amazingly rugged and invincible. Not that the ups and downs ended there and it still took a time to reach the summit of Mt Taurus, where a grandstand view of the backbone of the range could be appreciated. The walk on to Haven Lake still presented a couple of challenges, all of which I had completely forgotten existed.
Although the next morning was fine, a mist rolled in and drizzle soon after and we made the decision to leave the range via Moraine K. A shortcut was taken to Mckays track on the Arthur Plains and during the crossing of a couple of burnt out creek areas I was struck by the amazing volume of seedlings; literally a carpet of Melaleucas and banksias of vivid greens. The weather cleared and the following day was fairly cloud free and quite warm by the time we reached the cars.