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Western Arthurs traverse

Posted on 19 Mar 2024 | 4 comments

The Arthur Range is located in the southwest of Tasmania, its traditional name is Loinnekumme. There is an eastern and a western section, both popular hiking destinations. The eastern section contains Federation Peak, the highest mountain in the range. But we were interested in the western section which has stunning glacial lakes and can be done in 6 days from Alpha moraine to Kappa moraine. The weather on the Arthur Range is very unpredictable and can be extreme, with snow and hail occurring regularly in summer, and we were carrying additional food in case we would have to wait for the weather to improve, as certain sections of the range are incredibly exposed and become dangerous in inclement weather.

The Western Arthurs traverse is considered to be one of the most challenging multi-day hikes in Tasmania. It is classed as grade 5 and the Parks website warns the challenges of this hike should not be underestimated and should only be completed by walkers with significant experience in remote, alpine conditions. We had attempted this walk before, 10 years ago, but didn’t finish it. Our only hike we ever started but didn’t finish, so we were keen to try again and finish this time.

the map of the Western Arthurs with our route in black and campsite locations marked in red triangles. The approximate shortcut is the grey dotted line. We hiked west to east (anti-clockwise) starting from the top and returning there again, making this a lollipop walk.

the map of the Western Arthurs with our route in black and campsite locations marked in red triangles. The approximate shortcut is the grey dotted line. We hiked west to east (anti-clockwise) starting from the top and returning there again, making this a lollipop walk.

  • days hiked: 6
  • day 1 – carpark to Alpha Moraine campsite (12.6km – 6.5hrs)
  • day 2 – Alpha Moraine to Lake Oberon (8.5km – 10hrs)
  • day 3 – Lake Oberon to High Moor (7.7km – 8.5hrs)
  • day 4 – High Moor to Haven Lake (5.6km – 9hrs)
  • day 5 – Haven Lake to McKays track campsite (9.2km – 8hrs)
  • day 6 – McKays track to carpark (14.8km – 5.5hrs)
  • km walked: 58.4
  • hours walked: 47.5
  • new birds spotted: 2
    • ground parrot
    • striated fieldwren

As we were spending 10 weeks in Tasmania we had the luxury of waiting for a good weather window this time, and found one starting on a Tuesday, so on Monday (after hiking in the Hartz Mountains with Mark and Floss) we drove to Hobart for some final fresh food shopping.  We wanted to drive all the way to Lake Pedder that evening, but it was getting dark and there were too many cute animals on the road. We popped into Mt Field NP in the dark and went to bed after watching an eastern quoll dart around Lara.

Early the next morning we drove the remaining few hours and got everything out to pack into our backpacks. It still meant we didn’t leave the carpark until 11am. The first section to Junction Creek was quite muddy in places, but also had small sections of boardwalk. We had a quick lunch at a small creek in the forest not long after we started and then walked into the Junction Creek campsite where we arrived around 15.30. We didn’t really linger too long as we still had a long way to go. Just before the track junction with the Port Davey track Jude spotted a ground parrot. It turned out there were two. How lucky! A little later we walked past the Alpha Moraine campsite, it was 17.30 and after some debate we decided to stay here for the night. We didn’t want to start the hike up to the range this late.

preparing food for the western arthurs traverse - this is our breakfast

preparing food for the western arthurs traverse – this is our breakfast

Jon cuts out the track notes for the western arthurs fom the old book

Jon cuts out the track notes for the western arthurs fom the old book

from the carpark to junction creek there is plenty of mud and the going is slow

from the carpark to junction creek there is plenty of mud and the going is slow

there are also plenty of little streams to cross, some easier than others, this one has a natural bridge

there are also plenty of little streams to cross, some easier than others, this one has a natural bridge

we spot a pair of ground parrots on the trail, how lucky!

we spot a pair of ground parrots on the trail, how lucky!

our first night with the new tent at the base of Alpha moraine

our first night with the new tent at the base of Alpha moraine

It was a lovely spot, near a creek. We didn’t realise it at first, but we had dropped the little camera. By the time we realised, a couple had already walked past us on their way to Junction Creek. Jon ran after them and luckily they had found it. We enjoyed our first camp dinner and went to sleep when it was still dry. It rained overnight, but the next morning it was dry when we packed up. It was a long day. We decided to hike all the way from Alpha Moraine campsite to Lake Oberon. It was a beautiful sunny day and we wanted to make the most of the good weather.

Jon hiking up Alpha moraine, you can see the track across the plains in the distance

Jon hiking up Alpha moraine, you can see the track across the plains in the distance

we spot another new bird - striated fieldwren this time

we spot another new bird – striated fieldwren this time

Jude hiking up Alpha moraine

Jude hiking up Alpha moraine

can you spot Jon? it gives you a better sense of the enormous scale of the landscape

can you spot Jon? it gives you a better sense of the enormous scale of the landscape

Jude nearly at the top of Alpha moraine after an approximately 800m climb

Jude nearly at the top of Alpha moraine after an approximately 800m climb

Jon on the plateau, this was easy hiking

Jon on the plateau, this was easy hiking

We passed Lake Fortuna where we had camped last time before turning around, and soon after we reached Lake Cygnus. Jude hiked down to get some more water and use the toilet before having lunch back at that track junction. It was 2pm by the time we left and we reached the first tricky bit of the western Arthur’s around 6pm. To reach Lake Oberon you need to down-climb a steep section of rock. It feels quite exposed when you have a big heavy backpack on, but we managed without any trouble.

can you spot Jude walking down to get water and use the toilet at Lake Cygnus?

can you spot Jude walking down to get water and use the toilet at Lake Cygnus?

it's not all easy hiking on the top of the ridge

it’s not all easy hiking on the top of the ridge

Jude starting the down-climbing towards Lake Oberon campsite

Jude starting the down-climbing towards Lake Oberon campsite

this is Jon coming down towards Lake Oberon, it is pretty tricky with a big pack if you can't see where you need to place your next foot

this is Jon coming down towards Lake Oberon, it is pretty tricky with a big pack if you can’t see where you need to place your next foot

On arrival at the campsite we checked the four tent platforms, but they were all full because a group of 8 guys had brought 8 tents…. We decided to camp on the beach next to the lake and went for a quick dip. It was a fantastic camp site and we met Nick, Rosie, Sarah and Declan here.

Jude going for a quick swim in Lake Oberon

Jude going for a quick swim in Lake Oberon

our campsite at Lake Oberon, because all the tent platforms were full we ended up in the most perfect spot

our campsite at Lake Oberon, because all the tent platforms were full we ended up in the most perfect spot

setting sun on Lake Oberon, stunning location

setting sun on Lake Oberon, stunning location

The next morning was another sunny day, perfect for the hike from Lake Oberon to High Moor, we were rewarded with many stunning vistas. Nick set off first, then us, and Rosie, Sara and Declan next. Luckily for us the group of 8 had decided to stay a full day at Lake Oberon. The views were absolutely amazing on this sunny day, we were really enjoying the hiking. We caught up with Nick as he was looking for a way up a short scrambling section. We were just looking at a steep cliff, when he called out to us. And as we walked away from the cliff Jude spotted the small cairn, indicating the route, and we continued hiking together. We passed the packs up through a narrow gap in a boulder field, and then lost the track again. We went around the bottom of a rocky outcrop, only to find Rosie, Sara and Declan popping up over the top as we were climbing back up.

Jude hiking towards High Moor, the route becomes a lot harder and more dangerous after leaving the campsite at Lake Oberon

Jude hiking towards High Moor, the route becomes a lot harder and more dangerous after leaving the campsite at Lake Oberon

Jon with Lake Oberon in the background

Jon with Lake Oberon in the background

Jon climbing up a particularly steep and tricky section

Jon climbing up a particularly steep and tricky section

Jude going up a section towards High Moor

Jude going up a section towards High Moor

Just above this location we pass our packs through a narrow gap in the rocks

Just above this location we pass our packs through a narrow gap in the rocks

Jon lowering his pack down so he can down-climb without the weight on his back

Jon lowering his pack down so he can down-climb without the weight on his back

Lake Oberon - simply stunning

Lake Oberon – simply stunning

Jude and Nick climbing down

Jude and Nick climbing down

Jon and Jude with Lake Oberon in the background

Jon and Jude with Lake Oberon in the background

Jude and Nick on the way to the large saddle

Jude and Nick on the way to the large saddle

We reached a large saddle around midday, which made it a perfect lunch spot. Nick doesn’t eat lunch when he hikes, so he carried on. We sat down, took our boots off and prepared lunch. We were just tucking into our rye bread with cheese, avocado and sundried tomatoes when Rosie, Sara and Declan reached the saddle. They also had lunch there. After nearly an hour of relaxing it was time to put the boots back on. It was relatively easy hiking from here until we reached High Moor.

Jon and Jude enjoying a luxurious lunch

Jon and Jude enjoying a luxurious lunch

Jon and Jude with Lake Uranus in the background

Jon and Jude with Lake Uranus in the background

Jon in the Western Arthurs

Jon in the Western Arthurs

Jon coming down a steep section

Jon coming down a steep section

Jude down-climbing a steep but easy section

Jude down-climbing a steep but easy section

Jude in the Western Arthurs

Jude in the Western Arthurs

We all pitched our tents on the stunning platforms and were all having pre-dinner snacks and drinks when another couple arrived. Sara and Rosie moved their tent to make space for the late arrivals. The 6 of us ate our dinner together and shared stories until it was time to go to bed. As soon as we had all zipped up our tents, the broad-toothed rats were running around looking for food. Declan already had his backpack-pocket chewed by some animals at Lake Cygnus even though his pack was hanging up, so we all emerged from our tents again. We created a web of ropes and hung up all our food bags and rubbish, out of reach of the broad-toothed rats.

camp at High Moor was very social

camp at High Moor was very social

our setup to stop the native and very cute broad-toothed rats getting to our food

our setup to stop the native and very cute broad-toothed rats getting to our food

Clouds had come in as the sun set, but after going to bed they all cleared again, so Jude put on some warm clothes again and took the camera out for some star shots. The sky was magical as there is practically no light pollution.

our tent and the night sky at High Moor

our tent and the night sky at High Moor

the milky way at High Moor

the milky way at High Moor

The next morning it was still dry when we packed up and started the hike to Haven Lake. But around 10am the rain started, gently most of the time, but occasionally a bit more serious. There were a couple of rock slabs that were not fun to cross in the rain with strong gusts of wind trying to blow you off. Initially we had all walked together, but around midday we stopped for a quick lunch. The others continued as they didn’t want to have lunch in the rain. Around 3pm it cleared up and we finally had some views of the incredible peaks and tarns that surrounded us.

 

Jude going down a small chasm on the way from High Moor to Haven Lake

Jude going down a small chasm on the way from High Moor to Haven Lake

there is plenty of grip but it still feels sketchy when you are wearing a big backpack

there is plenty of grip but it still feels sketchy when you are wearing a big backpack

Jude on the trail from High Moor to Haven Lake, it feels more exposed here

Jude on the trail from High Moor to Haven Lake, it feels more exposed here

we bump into Rosie, Declan and Sarah again and go down tilted chasm together

we bump into Rosie, Declan and Sarah again and go down tilted chasm together

when it is wet everything feels a bit more slippery

when it is wet everything feels a bit more slippery

we are getting some views later in the day

we are getting some views later in the day

We had nearly reached Haven Lake when we arrived at a steep cliff. We had to get down it, but didn’t really see how. There wasn’t really anything to stand on in the chimney. We saw the others on the plains beneath us and asked them for advice. Declan came back up to help out. We decided to drop our packs here with the rope and then down-climb without packs. We felt that was a good choice. Not much later we walked into our next campsite and pitched our tent on the last available platform. We hung up some of our wet gear and had dinner in the sunshine. We went to bed early that night.

Declan came back to help us find a route down this chimney section close to Haven Lake

Declan came back to help us find a route down this chimney section close to Haven Lake

by the time we reached the campsite at Haven Lake it was bright and sunny again

by the time we reached the campsite at Haven Lake it was bright and sunny again

From Haven Lake the hike starts with a climb out. Followed by some steep descents, including a rather damp chasm down to Lake Sorona. We decide to get the rope out again. Jude down-climbed and Jon then drops the packs. It made us feel a lot safer not having to carry our big backpacks on the steep drop. There were more steep sections after climbing to the top of Mt Scorpio, many quite easy for people with long legs. Jon dropped down easily of one of them and then supported Jude down so she didn’t have to jump in a sketchy, exposed area.

Jon in the Western Arthurs with views towards the Eastern Arthurs

Jon in the Western Arthurs with views towards the Eastern Arthurs

there are a few more tricky bits with some serious down-climbing on the way from Haven Lake to Kappa moraine

there are a few more tricky bits with some serious down-climbing on the way from Haven Lake to Kappa moraine

Soon enough we reached the junction of the track from where you can continue the western Arthurs, but we were heading down Kappa moraine. We had a quick bite to eat and waited for the others to arrive. We could see them coming down. We all hiked down Kappa moraine together until we reached the area from where you can take a shortcut to McKay’s track. Nick had done the research and told us about it. We liked the idea of shaving off about 4km of hiking on McKay’s track back to Junction Creek.

kappa moraine, we are heading down that way

kappa moraine, we are heading down that way

Sarah, Rosie, Declan, Nick, Jude and Jon at the junction of kappa moraine

Sarah, Rosie, Declan, Nick, Jude and Jon at the junction of kappa moraine

At the bottom of the Kappa moraine we stopped for a relaxed lunch. We ate our last bit of cheese, avocado and sundried tomatoes. From now on it would be just peanut butter. Some sections of the shortcut were not very well-defined, but we made good progress and soon reached McKay’s track. This was easy track walking, mostly flat, mixed with a few creek crossings. At one of the creek crossings there were some campsites. Rosie, Sara and Declan decided to stay there and enjoy a dip in the creek. We continued with Nick, but after 5 minutes decided to turn around and head back to the campsite. We weren’t in a hurry, it was already 4pm and we liked the idea of a dip in the creek. Nick continued as he needed to be at the start of his next hike in 2 days.

Sarah, Rosie, Declan, Nick and Jon coming down kappa moraine on the shortcut to McKays track, we had lunch a little later

Sarah, Rosie, Declan, Nick and Jon coming down kappa moraine on the shortcut to McKays track, we had lunch a little later

Nick, Jude, Declan, Rosie and Sarah on the shortcut, there is no marked trail here and we find our own route towards McKays track. You can see the Western Arthurs in the background

Nick, Jude, Declan, Rosie and Sarah on the shortcut, there is no marked trail here and we find our own route towards McKays track. You can see the Western Arthurs in the background

we decide to camp early as we weren't in a hurry and go for a swim in the creek that surrounded the small campsite

we decide to camp early as we weren’t in a hurry and go for a swim in the creek that surrounded the small campsite

We enjoyed a relaxed evening, ate our last meal on the track and celebrated with the last butterscotch apples, amaretto and chocolate. The next day we all had an easy hike to Junction Creek and even spotted another two ground parrots, we were incredibly lucky. At Junction Creek we ate a quick lunch before tackling the last section we had already done on the first day. The track had been drying for a few days though and was a lot easier to walk. A lot of the bogs we could now walk straight through and at 15.30 we emerged into the carpark. We all de-registered in the book. Rosie, Sara and Declan dumped their packs in their car and headed straight out for a swim in the lake and the drive back to Hobart.

Jude on the hike out on McKays track

Jude on the hike out on McKays track

Jude crossing the logs at Junction creek campsite

Jude crossing the logs at Junction creek campsite

Jon and Jude with the Western Arthurs in the background - we did it!

Jon and Jude with the Western Arthurs in the background – we did it!

We dumped our backpacks in the palace and drove the 2 minutes to the campsite next door. It appeared all sites were occupied, but luckily we spotted an empty one that needed to be accessed up a little rock wall. Easy for Lara. We celebrated finishing the hike with a cold Matso’s ginger beer, so good. The rest of the afternoon and evening we cleaned up, put everything away and had dinner by the campfire. Amazingly there are fire pits in every campsite here and they even provide firewood. A dream ending to a stunning hike. Hard work at times, but very rewarding.

Jude relaxing with a cold Matso's ginger beer at the Huon campsite where you are allowed to have a fire. Perfect ending to a perfect hike!

Jude relaxing with a cold Matso’s ginger beer at the Huon campsite where you are allowed to have a fire. Perfect ending to a perfect hike!

the next day we relax, do some chores including lots of laundry so everything can dry

the next day we relax, do some chores including lots of laundry so everything can dry

Food

All our breakfasts are the same. We have homemade muesli with dried fruit (175gr each) with some milk powder (220gr total) and tea (50gr total). Day 2 and day 3 of the hike we used a fresh banana (approx. 150gr each).

    • day 1
      • lunch – rye bread (2 pieces each – 55gr per slice) with peanut butter (267gr total – about half full)
      • starter – carrots (2 each – approx 80gr per carrot) with hummus (homemade, dehydrated bag 70gr)
      • dinner – chickpea curry (145gr) with couscous (80gr)
      • dessert – fresh cherries (approx. 400gr)
    • day 2
      • lunch – rye bread with cheese (approx 200gr for the trip) and sundried tomatoes (157gr total)
      • starter – carrots with hummus
      • dinner – pumpkin risotto (240gr)
    • day 3
      • lunch – rye bread with avocado (approx 250gr for the trip), cheese and sundried tomatoes with iced tea
      • starter – olives (157gr)
      • dinner – sweet potato and spinach curry (70gr) with couscous (100gr)
      • dessert – butterscotch apples (140gr), amaretto and chocolate with a cuppa hot chocolate (14gr per sachet) and a taste of freeze-dried chocolate ice-cream
    • day 4
      • lunch – rye bread with peanut butter (it’s raining)
      • dinner – vegetarian laksa curry (from Strive – 200gr) with lemon iced tea (14gr per sachet)
      • dessert – amaretto (173gr for 125ml) and chocolate (185gr total)
    • day 5
      • lunch – rye bread with avocado, cheese and sundried tomatoes
      • starter – cup of vegetable stock (10gr per stock cube, serves 2)
      • dinner – black bean and sweet potato stew (180gr) with couscous (80gr)
      • dessert – butterscotch apples, cuppa hot chocolate, amaretto and chocolate
    • day 6
      • lunch – rye bread with peanut butter

snacks

We carried a variety of snacks: a breakfast cake (440gr), 8 mini snickers bars (15gr each), 4 crispy apples slices (180gr), homemade scroggin (1220gr), stroopwafels (136gr for 4), 10 hoomemade muesli bars (290gr), snakes for Jon (2 bags 230gr each), lollies for Jude (250gr), digestives (250gr)

spare dinner – Ainsley couscous with cashews and salmon (220gr)

the toilets at every campsite are all the same, they are flown out when full

the toilets at every campsite are all the same, they are flown out when full

 

4 Comments

  1. Wow. Really enjoyed all the photos. Very challenging, and beautiful walk. You both look happy.

    • thanks Eugenie! We’re very happy and we loved the walk, glad you enjoyed the piccies!

  2. Awesome guys. Love reading about your hiking adventures. We are about to start our next thruhike in the US soon and can’t get enough to read about others who love hiking too.
    Best wishes and hope to meet you one day in person.

    • awesome! which one is your next thru hike? one day we will!!! enjoy the next hike!

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