Tuesday, 4 Aug 2020

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania.

How to grow Dick
The Labyrinth
- A man with a seven-inch (18 cm) penis may proudly compare his organ to the average man’s five to six inches (12-15 cm) but be intimidated when learning another wields an eight-inch (20 cm) rod.

The Labyrinth. Explore and escape the Labyrinth on a hike into the heart of glaciated mountain country. Some Overland Track hikers extend their journey by detouring to Pine Valley Hut to scale The Acropolis (a challenging climb) and explore The Labyrinth at its foot, but the three-night hike described here is another way of tackling them.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 1

The Labyrinth. The conical Minotaur dominates the Lake St Clair view from the Gap.

Walk:

30km out-and-back

Time required:

3 days

Best time:

Mild, clear weather (snow bound in winter)

Grade:

Moderate

Environment:

Lakes, tarns, rainforest, eucalypt forest, glacial valleys, alpine plains, dolerite mountains, wildflowers

Best map:

This one

Toilets:

Flush toilets at Lake St Clair Visitor Centre; composting toilets at Narcissus Hut and Pine Valley Hut.

Food:

Café and restaurant food and drinks are available from the café within the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre; head to Derwent Bridge, on the main road outside the park, for a burger at the Hungry Wombat café.

Tips:

The Labyrinth. Track markings beyond Pine Valley are limited and within the Labyrinth proper there are only occasional cairns. You should be comfortable following unsigned tracks to do this walk safely. At a push, Pine Valley Hut can accommodate 24 friendly people. Hut space cannot be booked, however, and can fill fast.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 2

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. When Surveyor General George Frankland gave several Lake St Clair landmarks names from Greek mythology in the 1830s – because of their ‘classical beauty’ – other cartographers and hikers who followed took up the theme. The result is a landscape and national park dotted with monikers such as Hyperion (the Titan god of heavenly light), Eros (the god of sexual attraction) and Ossa (the female personification of rumour).

The Labyrinth of legend was an elaborate maze-like structure designed by the artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete to confine the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull monster, who was ultimately killed by Athenian hero Theseus. The Labyrinth in the southern folds of Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is a network of alpine lakes, ice-carved plains and dolerite peaks. The major menace here is the weather.

DAY 1: 9.5km (3–4 hours)

The Labyrinth. Your adventure through the Labyrinth begins with a ferry ride (must be booked) up Lake St Clair to Narcissus Hut from the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre at Cynthia Bay, two-hours’ drive from Hobart via the Lyell Hwy (A10). Known by the Aboriginal people of Big River Country as leeawuleena (sleeping water) and the deepest lake in Australia, Lake St Clair was formed by the convergence of three glaciers into a colossus of ice and rock that gouged a U-shaped valley. During the half-hour journey you learn about the forests and mountains – table-topped, pointed and crenelated – among which you will soon be walking; and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a platypus.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 3

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. The Traveller Range, along the lake’s east shore, marks the boundary between Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair and Walls of Jerusalem national parks (see for Walls of Jerusalem walk). Mount Olympus rears up on your left. From the ferry landing below this imposing dolerite rampart, boardwalk and leaf-littered track lead through boggy heathland and eucalypt forest to Narcissus Hut, the gathering place for most hikers coming off the Overland Track. Even if you don’t need to go, check out the view of Mt Olympus from the toilet here.

A weathered wooden sign beside a handsome old gum tree directs you straight on, along the Narcissus River, on the Overland Track, through open eucalypt forest with an understory of mountain-berry shrubs and Tasmanian waratahs. The track offers views downstream to Olympus and upstream to mossy banks and soaring gum trees before pulling away from the water. The Labyrinth. Boardwalk crosses a swampy flat to cabbage gum woodland – note the very different foliage on the understory she-oaks, silver banksias and mountain needlebush – through which you walk to a one-person suspension bridge.

The Labyrinth. Across the Narcissus, the track continues through button-grass moor patched with coral fern where you get a good look at extraordinary peaks. You’ll feel the temperature drop as the track skirts and then snakes through beech rainforest inhabited by some substantial trees and the stumps of more. Back in eucalypt forest, about 2km into the walk, you’ll pass a huge gum-topped stringybark (see point 1 on map) with a collar of thick, fibrous bark and bulbous roots reaching across the track and up into bush pea and berry scrub. As you walk through smooth-barked, striped cabbage gums a kilometre on, The Acropolis rises to your left, some of its dolerite columns like figures on the ridge; you may even see snowdrifts.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 4

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. Continue north on an undulating track, crossing creeks (one on a log cross-scored for more secure footing) among Tasmanian waratahs, some seven metres tall, to a track junction marked with a wooden sign, 4.5km into the walk. Turn left off the Overland Track towards Pine Valley, passing a couple of fallen cabbage gums whose root balls reveal that there’s only a shallow layer of soil over the rock here. Soon after you’ll cross the Narcissus on another one-person suspension bridge.

The walk to Pine Valley Hut climbs slightly over much of its length but you’ll hardly notice until you tread it downhill back to Narcissus Hut on Day Three! The Labyrinth. Through alpine heath myrtles, whose summer flowers are like dustings of snow, and across a button-grass moor you reach a sturdy footbridge over Cephissus Creek; hikers used to cross the caramel-coloured water via the old scored fallen tree to the left and you could too. Continue through beautiful creek-side woodland with wobbly wire-meshed half-logs fording some boggy sections, with eucalypts, scoparia and pandani (some five metres tall) (see point 2 on map) crafting a fabulously textured wall between you and the water. Eagle-eyed hikers might spot orchids beside the track.

The Labyrinth. Having crossed back over Cephissus, the track becomes more rooted as you follow the creek valley. Rough track and boardwalk lead through giant pandani, celery top pines and a flotilla of variegated sassafras trunks into beautiful cool temperate rainforest. This is a shadow-filled world of mossy roots and fallen trees, myrtle beech and alpine yellow gums; the older tan bark of these magnificent eucalypts peels to reveal vivid-yellow, skin-smooth bark beneath. Mud reminds you that this is high-rainfall country and through-tree glimpses remind you that the focus of this walk is mountains not forest!

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 5

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. Having crossed Cephissus one more time (see point 3 on map), the track hugs the creek’s curvaceous mossed banks to a wooden sign directing you 30m uphill to Pine Valley Hut (and tent platforms) in the shelter of myrtle beech, King Billy pines and pandani. Within the hut there’s a walker registration book that should be completed by all visitors, day and overnight.

DAY 2: 10.7km return (5–7 hours)

A sign just metres behind and north of Pine Valley Hut warns of fall risks on The Acropolis and The Labyrinth’s unmarked tracks and alpine environment. Infrequent small cairns are the only route markers through the Labyrinth and it’s easy to become disorientated, particularly in poor weather, so you must be well-prepared and experienced to explore it safely. Adventurers who proceed further along the track shortly reach a lichen-laced wooden sign pointing straight on for The Acropolis and left for The Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth. Turn left and cross a creek, following a track marked with orange arrows through lush rainforest, past a massive gum-topped stringybark and another toppled tree colonised by moss and lichen. The track climbs slowly and then turns sharply up a gully and you’ve got rocks and an uneven lattice of pencil pine roots underfoot as you work across the side of a hill.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 6

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. About 800m from the hut, the track turns hard right and climbs a rocky creek bed (see point 4 on map). About 30m up, and short of the top, look for a cairn and an arrow pointing left, and a post with an arrow a few metres into the stunted beech forest. Step up and walk on, climbing slowly through tangled roots up the lower south-east slope of the (hidden) Parthenon, another Lake St Clair mountain name with Greek connections.

The track flattens out and works clockwise around the Parthenon – a huge edifice beside and above you – through hardier, scrubbier forest of waratahs, berry bushes, striped gums, beech and needlebush, with flat-topped Mt Olympus and Lake St Clair showing themselves to your left. About one kilometre from the creek bed the track climbs steeply up uneven natural rock steps for about 250m to a gap; enjoy the southerly view of the lake and encircling mountains from the small foot-worn patch near the top, because you’ll lose this perspective for the next few hours. The conical peak to the south, on the Du Cane Range, is the Minotaur – you can’t have a Labyrinth without one!

The Labyrinth. The Gap (1160m) is almost crowded with waratah blooms in spring, their red flowers like beacons among the green foliage and against the grey rock and blue sky. Through that colourful show you emerge in the front row of a dress circle giving you an unrestricted view of the Parthenon on your right, Mt Geryon’s finger-like summit on the horizon ahead, and rock tiers spiked with stags (dead trees) stepping down to the Murchison Valley off to the left, best in morning light.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 7

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. Occasional cairns mark your route north along the Parthenon’s west face, past tarns and fabulous pencil pines (alive and dead) and striped, twisted snow peppermints. This is the easiest section of today’s walk, despite the rock slabs and stepping stones and slight climb to the north, but taking photographs will probably keep your speed down.

A kilometre from the gap, the ground drops away, delivering an eye-level view of The Acropolis to your right and the labyrinth of boulders, lakes and pencil pines over which the mighty bluff stands sentinel. For a shorter walk you could return to the hut from here. Otherwise, if the weather allows, clamber down this very rocky slope to the Labyrinth plateau, and follow cairns through a warren of pencil pines and slabs of dolerite splattered with lichen to the Lookout track junction at Cyane Lake’s north-east corner. The Labyrinth.

The rocks at the water’s edge to the left of you here, provide a lovely spot for less energetic party members to soak up the raw scenery while others climb to the Lookout, or for everyone to take a break and refuel before making the detour. Tucked in beside these rocks are bonsaied fagus with easily recognisable crinkle-cut leaves. The Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 8

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. A reasonably steep detour of about 1.4km to the top of an unnamed peak in the Du Cane Range, the Lookout (1219m) (see point 5 on map) offers another angle on this severely beautiful plateau and elevated lake field. From the junction, the track winds east through alpine scrub before rounding a cluster of handsome rocks and starting seriously uphill, past a splendid pencil pine stag silhouetted against The Acropolis. The 360° view from the top takes in The Acropolis, Mt Geryon, the lakes strung across the plateau, the conical Minotaur, the Parthenon, and, just visible to the left of the Parthenon, Lake St Clair.

Back down from the Lookout, you could turn back for the hut, but it is recommended that you walk on to Lake Elysia (named after the heavenly fields of Elysia in Greek mythology). A footpad (with no markers or cairns) heads west from the Lookout junction along Lake Cyane’s north shore, navigating roots and rock slabs and bogs (get your boots wet rather than damage more plants) beside gently lapping water. The footpad continues along Lake Ophion before veering right, cairns guiding you on a serpentine cross-country route to Lake Elysia. (Note the tightness of the curled ends of the pandani as you walk through here.) Lake Elysia is the largest of the three mountains here and the most spectacular, with mighty Mt Geryon and The Acropolis as its backdrop. The Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth. Amazing Tasmania. - photo 9

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth. Boulders on the shore are ideal spots to contemplate the millions of years of geological craftsmanship that fashioned the mountains through which you’ve walked today – or just to dry off after a dip in the lake! From Elysia retrace your steps to Pine Valley Hut, enjoying the different play of light on this remarkable part of Tasmania.

DAY 3: 9.5km (3 hours)

The Labyrinth. Retrace your walk from Day 1 in reverse. On reaching Narcissus Hut, ring the ferry on the radio to let them know you have arrived for your boat.

“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball 

 

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