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Frenchmans Cap

Posted on 25 Jan 2024 | 2 comments

Frenchmans Cap is considered one of Tasmania’s challenging multi-day hikes. It is 1446m high and most say it got its name from resembling a Frenchman’s Cap from a distance. It is visible from the Lyell Highway and even from the west coast on a good day. Convicts used it as a beacon when trying to escape from the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station. It is located in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the 500m south-eastern side is Tasmania’s tallest vertical cliff face.

  • days hiked: 3
  • km walked: 47.4
  • hours walked: 25.5
  • new birds spotted: 5
    • pink robin
    • beautiful firetail
    • scrubtit
    • yellow-throated honeyeater
    • strong-billed honeyeater

It used to be a 4-7 day hike, but now it is possible to hike it in 3-5 days as Dick Smith poured in a lot of money to upgrade the track (and one of the huts). This upgrade means the first day now crosses the moorlands mostly on boardwalks. This used to be knee or even waist deep mud and was known as the Sodden Loddon’s, which started after crossing the river Lodden. Most people now plan 4-5 days, we decided to try in 3.

We arrived on a sunny afternoon in the carpark and opened up the rooftopbox to access all our hiking gear. Jon started sorting the hiking gear and Jude began baking. A few days ago we had already made our first hummus batch in Lara (we usually make about 1.2kg every fortnight or so) and it worked perfectly. This time Jude was planning to use the oven for the first time and make a fresh batch of muesli bars as we had run out.

Jude making muesli bars in the new oven – it worked really well

And it worked almost perfectly. We’ve decided to get rid of the new baking ‘tin’ when we get home as the floppy bottom of the silicon tray doesn’t really work. And it took a lot longer than normal to bake them, possibly the 200 degrees it says it can do is a slight exaggeration? But, we have a new batch of muesli bars and they taste great, as always.

Click on the links below to jump to a specific day:

Day 1 – carpark to Lake Tahune hut (20.5km in 10.5 hours)

map day 1 – carpark to Lake Tahune hut

In the morning it was pretty chilly but clear, and after our usual breakfast we donned our packs and started down the easy trail through stunning country. First major point of interest was the Franklin River and the bridge across. That’s when we realised we really should have brought the little camera as well so we can both take pictures when and where we want. Jon ran back whilst Jude went off for a bush toilet stop after cleaning her boots to stop the spread of dieback.

Jon and Jude at the start of the hike

Jude on the bridge across the Franklin River

On we went. Cleared paths, boardwalks over muddy sections, whole stretches of raised path, and steps up and over the first hill (Mt Mullens) all made for good progress. We enjoyed our first views of Frenchmans Cap from the top and discovered we had forgotten to pack the food from the fridge…. We were too far in to go back, so when we found a shady spot to eat our lunch we just had crackers and peanut butter. No cheese or sundried tomatoes. Oops. And that night we decided to eat our spare meal instead of having our planned meal of pasta, pesto and pine-nuts without the pesto….

raised paths mean the first section of the track is very easy walking

Jude on Mt Mullens, you can see Frenchmans Cap in the distance

Jon eating some of the newly baked muesli bars

Jon crossing the river Lodden

Jude taking pictures of birds

one of the new birds – a beautiful firetail, very aptly named

this would have been rather muddy if there wouldn’t have been boardwalks

moss grows everywhere and there is a lot of variety

a cute southern snow skink

We reached Vera Hut at 2pm. At this point we had come across 3 couples hiking out. None of them had managed to get to the top of Frenchmans Cap as the weather had been too bad. They hadn’t even seen the mountain, even after spending an additional day at Lake Tahune Hut right underneath the summit.

We pressed on. It was only another 5.5km to Tahune Hut, but we knew it would take us approximately 4-5 hours to get there. The last section starts easy enough along the lake, although there are many tree roots and some impressive log-ladders to cross. Once at the end of the lake the climb up the Barron Pass starts and that’s when the pace slows to a crawl.

it’s mostly flat along Lake Vera, but with quite a few smaller obstacles making it slower than the first section to Lake Vera

Jon on an old section of boardwalks

Jude on one of the log-ladders – very impressively made

Jude on the way to the top of Barron Pass

We enjoyed the climb and chatted with lots of people coming down. A group of 12 hikers from Victoria were on their way down to Lake Vera hut, split up into little groups, as well as a father and young son team. They were all happy campers as they had gone to the summit that morning and had clear views all around them.

From the top of the Barron Pass we had amazing views across the lakes and further along we saw Frenchmans Cap again too. We weren’t at the hut yet though. It was still another 2 hours before we got there. We surprised the 7 people plus ranger Rosie who were all cooking dinner when we dropped in.

Jon and Jude on top of Barron Pass with fantastic views in every direction

Jon on the way to Lake Tahune hut from Barron Pass

the dead king billy pines create a hauntingly beautiful scene

For some reason they had left the only room in the hut empty, so we decided to not pitch our tent, but sleep in the hut instead. There was even a door we could close so we had our own private room. We dumped all our gear and quickly went to Lake Tahune for a swim. It was so cold, but very rewarding and with a beautiful background – the towering cliffs of Frenchmans Cap in all its glory in the full sunshine. Stunning. We rinsed the sweat off and came out tingling with pins and needles from the cold. But as soon as we put our sleeping gear on we felt warm. Not much later we enjoyed our hot meal, chatted and went to bed. It had been a long day for us.

Jude taking a very cold dip in Lake Tahune with Frenchmans Cap in the background

views from the helicopter platform in the evening

Day 2 – Lake Tahune hut to the top of Frenchmans Cap (6.4km return in 3 hours) and return to Lake Vera hut (5.5km in 5 hours)

map day 2 – Lake Tahune hut to summit Frenchmans Cap and to Lake Vera hut

In the morning it was dry but cloudy and we couldn’t see Frenchmans Cap. We deiced to hike up to the top anyway. David and Gabriel wanted to join us, so we walked up together. It was a wind-still day, perfect for a summit day, but unfortunately the clouds didn’t lift so we had no views. Back at the hut we had an early lunch (more crackers and peanut butter) before starting the hike back down to Vera Hut. We took our time, enjoying the walk, but had to put our rain gear on. It kept raining on and off, but mostly it was dry. We reached Vera Hut and pitched our tent on one of the platforms before cooking dinner. The rest of the evening we spent chatting to people outside, looking for birds and relaxing outside the tent when it wasn’t raining. It was an early night for us, we were tired and the rain started again.

Jude in one of the bunks in the hut

Jon making breakfast on the morning of the summit walk

the view of Lake Tahune hut and the lake from halfway up Frenchmans Cap

Jon, Gabriel and David hiking to the top of Frenchmans Cap

Jude hiking to the top of Frenchmans Cap

Jon and Jude at the top of Frenchmans Cap – no view unfortunately

Jon hiking down from the top of Frenchmans Cap

there are still some pretty flowers on the trail

Day 3 – Lake Vera hut to carpark (15km in 7 hours)

day 3 – Lake Vera hut to carpark

We had another stunning day for the hike out after some rain over breakfast. It was only 6 hours or so back to the car, so we took it very slowly, soaking up the landscapes of this stunning part of Tasmania. We stopped often and had long chats with people hiking in. Lunch was on boardwalks in the Sodden Lodden moorlands, no points for guessing what we had.

making a cuppa in the rain at Lake Vera hut

breakfast at Lake Vera hut in the rain

Jon needed to go…

the Sodden Loddons are not completely without mud now

lunch with a view

the track builders have been quite creative on this track

that’s what happens if you forget to bring the food from the fridge….

Back at Lara in the carpark we changed into our swimming togs and made the unpleasant discovery it had rained inside the palace. We dried the hard surfaces and put the cushions outside in the sun. We went back to the Franklin River and went for our well-deserved swim with a cold beer.

a well-deserved beer in the Franklin River after the hike

a refreshing swim in the Franklin River after completing the hike

We were just having cuppas when we had to quickly repack everything and drive Jim to the nearest town as he was having a very bad asthma attack. He had gone up the mountain with a chest infection and it had not paid off. Unfortunately we left one of our cushions on the top of the roof (where it was drying), so Jude will have to make a new one when we get back to Esk as we couldn’t find it when we drove back to Queenstown the next day in the hope to see it somewhere by the side of the road. Someone had already picked it up. But, on the slow, early morning drive we did see this awesome creature bumbling along the roadside.

a spotted-tailed quoll early in the morning on the road to Queenstown as we are looking for the lost cushion

(all our hiking times include time taken for lunch, photos and chats with other hikers)

2 Comments

  1. D’as ‘n serieuze inspanning geweest, maar ogenschijnlijk wel mooi! Goed bezig.

    • Dankjewel 😘 ja het is een hele mooie omgeving. Zeer de moeite waard!

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