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Pegasus in June 1949 published the following account of the ascent written by John Bechervaise.

Federation Peak, Tasmania 1949  Bill Elliott, Fred Elliott, Alan Rogers.

Federation Peak, Tasmania 1949
Bill Elliott, Fred Elliott, Alan Rogers.


Mountaineering, in any part of the world, is accompanied by its own regional difficulties and delights. In South-Western Tasmania, clean cut glacial-scored rock peaks, of gleaming quartz and quartzite schists, rise from valleys and ridges cloaked with the densest conceivable scrub, through which days or weeks must be spent cutting a route before the actual summits may be attempted.

The last major virgin mountain in the heart of this scarcely explored territory was, until recently, Federation Peak, named from a distanceby T. B. Moore in 1901. Eighteen days were spent by the Geelong College Exploration Society on their recent successful attempt.

Only since an aerial survey was made in 1947 were practicable routes for reaching the Mountain established. Several parties of Tasmanian and mainland mountaineers followed up the information so gained and discovered that between the stretches of almost impenetrable jungle, existed reaches of more open buttongrass plain. These leads, marshy and supporting innumerable tussocks of tough rushes up to four feet in height, provide the key to a successful approach.

Great credit is due to those members of the Hobart Walking Club who repeatedly attempted to climb Federation Peak; who clarified so many vital issues. One party, who even essayed the final pyramid, were repulsed only a few hundred feet from the summit. As in the case of even the world's greatest mountain, success is gained by 'climbing on the shoulders' of previous expeditions.

Weather, in South-west Tasmania, plays a part as much to be taken into account as vegetation and terrain. Blizzards of sleet and even snow can occur at any season, whilst, for days at a time, even in mid-Summer, the ranges are obscured with dense mist and rain. Following the Huon River for roughly twenty miles beyond the road-end at Judbury, the Picton, a tributary from the South, is reached. Here, the Geelong College party experienced its first difficulty and had to wait 48 hours for the flood waters to abate. Several attempts were made to swim or ford the torrent, and a raft was built, before it was possible to secure a rope link across the stream. Fort Davey track once continued along the Huon, but some long stretches of this old route have reverted to scrub and would take complete re-cutting, a labor of months. The notorious 'horizontal" scrub, interwoven with a dozen hardly less tangled growths, effectively blocks progress a few miles beyond the Picton. 'Horizontal'(Anodopetalum biglandulosum Cunn.) is the infamous material which, in 'favorable' locations, forms such an impediment that progress is made arboreally, over 20 or 30 feet above the ground, rather than through the impossible gloom beneath.

A bypass, taking two days, was therefore made over the Mount Picton massif, first up button-grass through Blake's 'opening', then over steep rocks and through primordial beech forest, mossed and unvisited by sunlight, to the snowgrass and barren ridges of this great mountain. A prominent spur runs, in a long day's sweep, down to the Craycroft River, another stream flowing into the Huon. Here the party experienced blizzard conditions and with some relief reached lower levels, where a base-camp was established under Messrs J.Firth and I. Dunlop.

The purpose of this reserve of personnel, which had already given yeoman service in the transport of food, ropes and other equipment, was to provide a well-established centre from which the forward and climbing parties couldbe absent for a week and return to adequate succor in emergency. All went according to plan, and the base-camp party spent a most profitable and enjoyable week. Natural history collections were made, a semi-permanent bark shelter built, excursions amongst the foothills of the Arthur Range undertaken and fine swimming pools on the Craycroft exploited.

The forward parties, in bitter weather, moved slowly up the Craycroft Valley, experiencing desolate camps in the button-grass. Eventually, near the great gorge of the 'Craycroft, a stiff ridge, heavily forested, gave access to the West Craycroft and provided the first close views of the goal, cloud-wreathed and uninviting. It was at this stage that the fickle weather played fair and, for three vital days, glorious Summer weather prevailed. However, the final
odds are heavily stacked against travellers. Unimaginably dense bush on the steep ridges extends to their limit, all contestants. Native pear, horizontal, cutting-grass, fagus, bauera, with a dozen other species provide a three dimensional tangle which, in places, will yield only to axe and blade. Even so, the bush
closes up behind one and there is left scarcely a sign of toil. At times rising vertically, when only the boots of the man ahead were visible, at others dropping down sheer depths where the vegetation yielded useful support, the party spent two further days before reaching the small, beautiful plateau at the foot of the cliffs. Throughout this period, the only water available was squeezed from moss. No camps, in the ordinary sense, can be established under these conditions but, as with former parties, refuge was found in the lee of enormous rocks.

The plateau, in good weather, is perfect bliss. Grand prospects of fantastic peaks and misted valleys cover practically the whole of the Southwest of the island, even yielding vistas of the sea, 30 or 40 miles distant. There is permanent water, good wood and smooth snowgrass, soft as velvet. Above, in two major flights, separated by a rock terrace, rises the final thousand feet of the mountain.

Next day the climb was made. For 500 feet there is steep scrambling. Then, on the terrace, the rock face is reached. Three possible routes presented themselves, all sheer. Using orthodox rock-climbing technique, a 'chimney' (or wide crack) on the South-east face was successfully negotiated. The safety of the party, at one important stage, was assured by a small chock-stone firmly wedged into a deep crevice. Between 250 and 300 feet of rock eventually give way to more broken terrain and the summit was attained by way of a rugged gulch which falls 2000 feet sheer to Lake Geeves.

A cairn was built by the climbers, Messrs F. and W. Elliott, A. Rogers and. J. Bechervaise, and the forward party - D. B. Lawler, J. Varley
and W. Huffam - on the plateau, far below, received the news of success.

Ascent and descent, with time on the summit, took nine hours. Return to the base camp was a little faster than the outward journey mainly because the party climbed down through a steep gully, filled with "horizontal," rather than cut a return track on the ridge, where all the vegetation had been thrust upward on the ascent.

Some day this area of Tasmania will become one of the finest mountaineering centres, especially for rock climbing, in the Southern hemisphere. It possesses grandeur and beauty equal to much abroad. In formation, it differs from every other part of the continent, providing in rich measure the jagged skyline and sky reflecting lakes so foreign to the ancient rounded hills of the mainland. It is a floral garden with innumerable species of shrub and smaller plant in fragrant blossom throughout a long season. The beautiful black lily (hewardia), gay everlastings, several daisies and the great, golden blandfordia bells all grow profusely amongst the rocks. It is to be regretted that fires have swept into much of the lower virgin forest land and, unless prompt steps are taken against distant sources of carelessness or worse, much will be irretrievably lost.

That unfound rumours regarding the danger and inadvisability of the enterprise were circulated before the expedition is regrettable. However, these have been corrected and the relations between the splendid Hobart mountaineering fraternity and ourselves are firm and friendly.

Boys who participated, other than those already mentioned, included J. F. Macdonald, P. Fleming, P. Negri, J. M. Buntine, J. G. Coles, A. Creed and J. M. Neale. There was no illness and no untoward incident to mar a long and arduous, but thoroughly enjoyable journey.

J.M.B. (with acknowledgement to the 'Geelong Advertiser')

Participants were:

Base Camp
A J Firth - staff
I Dunlop

Support Party:
John Mckenzie Buntine - OGC
John Guthrie Coles (1931-1996) - OGC
Alan Murray Creed (1933-2008) - OGC
Peter George Fleming - OGC
John Farquhar Macdonald (1931-2002) - OGC
John Maxwell Neale - OGC
Peter John Negri - OGC

Forward Party:
Donald Blair Lawler - OGC
William Henry Huffam - OGC
John Edward Varley - OGC

Frederick Winton Elliott (1928-2018) - OGC and staff
William Charles Elliott (1927-1996) - OGC
Alan John Rogers (1926-2013) - OGC
John Mayston Bechervaise (1910-1998) - staff

Sources: Pegasus June 1949 pp 18-23.
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