Frenchman’s Cap and the Irenabyss – Trip report

Planning to hike Frenchman’s Cap in South West Tasmania?

Looking at bushwalking the Irenabyss and get into some tough Tassie hiking?

Drinking water from yabbie holes, Huon Pines , a river crossing and off track bushbashing? You get this and more in Nik’s report.

Nik from Bushwalk Tasmania posted a great trip report about Frenchman’s Cap and the Irenabyss on that excellent forum recently. With his permission, we have re-posted it here with a small amount of editing and additional information. Nik goes under the Nom de Plume of “Son of Beach” at Bushwalk Tasmania – check it out and join, great people, great resource. All photo’s are by Marty aka ‘wotrack?’

View from the summit, Frenchman’s Cap

Maps:
Parks recommend the 1:50,000 scale map called ‘Frenchmans Cap Map And Notes’ It shows the track, huts, plus walking notes and safety information on the reverse. You can get the map from outdoor gear shops, and online at TASMAP

Nik’s comments
The first time I did the Frenchmans Cap track several years ago, I just did the usual highway-to-FC-and-return walk and simply used the special FC map you’ve mentioned which is more than adequate, and all most people would ever need for the usual version of the walk.

However, on this recent occasion when doing the Irenabyss extension of the walk, which includes a reasonable amount of walking with no tracks or water, and seriously difficult scrub-bashing, I wanted to make sure I had all the bases covered with regards to maps and compass navigation. I used only the following 1:25,000 maps this time around: Collingwood, Loddon, Vera and Owen.

Nik at a creek crossing, with Huon Pines

Getting there (and back)
Parks say: The start of the track is located along the Lyell Highway (A10) within the Wild Rivers National Park. The start is signposted beside the Lyell Highway about 200 km from Hobart and 55 km from Queenstown.

Private vehicles may be parked in the carpark beside the highway at the start of the track. Walkers are warned, however, that some vehicles parked beside the highway have been robbed or vandalised. An alternative is to park your car at Lake St Clair and arrange transport with a commercial operator to the start of the track.

Nik’s comment
Yes, that description of the start of the track sounds about right. It looks like they were in the middle of building a much larger car park while I was there, and we needed to just park by the side of the road a bit further up.

Useful Links:
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service – Frenchman’s Cap Track . Excellent information with expected travel times, campsites, huts etc
Bushwalk Tasmania – Nik’s report and many other comments
More of Nik’s photo’s of the Frenchman’s Cap trip

Nik’s Report:
‘wotrack?’ and I had 6 great days on the track (and off it). The Loddens were nowhere near as sodden as last time I went through, despite raining most of that day, and a lot of rain the week before. Also two or three of the worst bog-holes are now duck boarded, which was a pleasant surprise. Artichoke Valley

It continued to rain on and off on the second day, including a few hailstorms while walking up the long hill to Barren Pass. But we were so astounded by the beauty of the forest and the views that the rain and hail didn’t bother us at all. The walk between Lakes Vera and Tahune has got to be one of the most beautiful walking days of anywhere. I didn’t notice the Huon Pines last time I was there… perhaps I just didn’t know what I was looking at last time… it was a long time ago.

We decided not to climb Frenchmans Cap that afternoon, as we were expecting better weather the next morning. We were disappointed. The rain continued on the third day, but cleared to just thick clouds by the afternoon. We spent most of the day at Tahune hut reading books, and eventually climbed to the summit of Frenchmans Cap later in the afternoon. We enjoyed the climb but were a little disappointed by only a brief glimpse of a view between the clouds from the Summit. However the views on the way up were still good.

Cushion Plants Pool near the Summit of Frenchmans Cap


So on the fourth day, we headed out towards the Irenabyss. Finally the weather had come good… one day later than forecast, but better late than never. Since we had to go right past the mountain again, on the way through, wotrack? climbed the summit again, and this time got the full summit views from the top. I had seen the views before, and having just been up the previous day, and being a lazy sod, I waited for him at the summit turn off, and continued reading my book.

wotrack? looking Back to Frenchmans Cap from the Irenabyss Track

We then made the 1000 metre descent in altitude to the Irenabyss, which is a truly magnificent spot. Incredibly beautiful. Pity I had a splitting headache that afternoon. Never mind. We had a good rest and look around and thoroughly enjoyed just being in such a magnificent part of creation.

We packed everything into large plastic bags, and then into our packs, and then placed our packs themselves into large plastic bags. Tied up, then realised that my pack-hauling rope was a lot shorter than when we took it on the Arthurs. Oops! I’d been pilfering bits of it for my sailboard and other uses over the intervening years. o-oh!

Well we tied a bit of wood to one end, and tried some test throws. Yes, it was just long enough to reach the opposite bank. But we could have to fight the current and swim directly across to the steep bank, and not diagonally across with the current to the easy sandy landing spot.

All this figuring out while standing around near-naked, on the bank of the river. Thank goodness we had good weather for all this stuffing around! We could have frozen our… well… you know.
The Irenabyss, great spot for a cold swim!

So wotrack? swam across first, and scrambled up onto the bank. Had to swim fast to get directly across to where the rope would reach without being swept downstream, but he did well. I tossed the across the bit of wood tied to the rope, and just missed his feet, but he was able to grab it. Lowered his pack in, and he pulled it across without problems. Untied the rope, threw it back, I pulled it across, tied it to my pack, threw the other end with the wood back again, took a couple of attempts to get it right this time, then lowerd my pack in and he pulled it across.

Then it was my turn to swim. Well, it was cold. But we were so grateful that it was nowhere near as cold as it could have been. Just a little colder than the 1st Basin in Launceston about a metre below the surface.

We untied the rope, and took off the outer plastic bags, donned out packs and scrambled through the forest to the smaller campsite on the Northern bank of the river. No terribly flat places to pitch a tent, but we found a spot that proved more comfortable to sleep on that it looked.

I won’t give much in the way of detail for the last 2 days of the walk, as it involves a lot of off-track walking, in some sensitive areas (and hence would be against forum rules, although it’s debatable as the route is well described on both Tasmap maps and in well known books). However, the weather was very good for the last two days. We managed to walk a 9 hour day on the second last day in order to make sure we got out OK on the last day. We knew both days would be tough, with a lot of scrub-bashing.

We avoided Mary Creek Plains (which the route passes through according to the 1:25,000 maps), and instead followed the route marked on the 1:100000 map which passes to the east of the plains. There were a few patches of scrub which were incredibly difficult to get through, but we eventually got most of the way along the ridge before Flat Bluff, and decided we’d better find somewhere to camp. Thankfully there were a few small patches of grass just a bit further on. One was just big enough and flat enough for the tent.

We saw no creeks, lakes, pools or other such water sources for the entire two days north of the Franklin. We sucked water out of yabbie holes using my yabbie straw. We found a group of yabbie holes near the camp site which had enough water to get a mug into, so we were able to collect enough to cook and clean with.

The final walk bit of the walk involved more scrub bashing from the Franklin Dam bulldozer exploration tracks to the Lyell Highway. We couldn’t see a thing through the scrub the entire way down the hill, and were getting concerned that we could be heading slightly in the wrong direction by the time we got to the bottom. We eventually came to a fairly open spot and could see that we were very near the bottom, but we couldn’t see the road, or even a gap in the trees where the road should have been. o-oh!

We decided to wait to listen for cars, since we’d heard some on the way down. Eventually one came past, and it was clear from the sound that it was only a few metres in front of us that it went past. So we continued on, and by some complete fluke (or perhaps by genius of instinctive navigation) we came out onto the road EXACTLY at the ‘Victoria Pass’ sign.

Yay!

A quick wash in the Collingwood River on the way to meat pies and pints at the Derwent River pub and then home.

Phew!

A really tough couple of days resulting in scratches all over my arms and knees, and my T-shirt being ripped to shreds in the scrub, but well worth it.

Many thanks again to Nik and marty for permission to post this great track report and pictures. Remember to check out Bushwalk Tasmania.

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