The Wild Mersey

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The Wild Mersey

Postby walkinTas » Fri 02 Jan, 2009 4:58 pm

Dec 27th - Dec 31st 2008

The mighty Mersey River is born in the button grass swamp at the southwest end of Lake Meston at an altitude of just over one kilometre (1018m). Mt. Rogoona towers to the north, Convent Hill is due west and the Mts of Jupiter are to the southwest. Here gentle alpine brooks are born to wind their way through the low alpine scrub and button grass, merging into one west-ward bound stream that finds its way into tiny Lake Youd, about 1.4 kilometres from Lake Meston. From Lake Youd the young river flows a further 1.3 kilometres west to Junction Lake. The Moses Creek and Junction Lake Tracks (which take one to the Walls of Jerusalem track) meet here. Another track heads down the Never-Never to the Overland Track and a small track heads up to Lake Artemis and Lake Eros. Lees Creek flows down from Lake Artemis to Junction Lake.

My plan was to follow the Mersey, as best I could, as it made its way to Lake Rowallan. My first day would be via Moses Creek track past Chapter Lake and Grail falls to Junction Lake. Day two would take me down the Never-Never to the Overland Track. Day three would be a day for photographing falls and making my way to Kia Ora. Day four via Kia Ora Falls to Lees Paddock and home on Day 5.

As it leaves Junction Lake the Mersey falls over Clarke Falls into the Never-Never valley and continues its westward journey behind Cathedral Mountain. Mountain streams continue to join the Mersey. One, flowing off Cathedral Mountain, forms the Feather Falls. This stream joins the Mersey about 1.4 kilometres below Clark Falls. About 2.8 kilometres below Clarke Falls and still heading west, the Mersey drops again over McCoy Falls. A further 1.5 kilometres on it is joined by Campfire Creek which flows down from Du Cane Cap. Here the Du Cane Range forces the Mersey to turn northwest and it flows for 3 kilometres between Falling Mountain and Cathedral Mountain. As it does so it tumbles over Hartnett Falls, Ferguson Falls, D’Alton Falls and Boulder Falls in a short distance of 1.3 kilometres. Just after Boulder Falls a stream flowing off Cathedral Mountain joins the Mersey falling over the spectacular Cathedral Falls. Each of these falls are only a short side trip from the Overland track.

As it leaves the Boulder Falls the Mersey has already fallen 200 metres. A kilometre downstream it begins to turn north around Cathedral Mountain. Du Cane hut sits on the Overland Track only a short distance away, but at an elevation 250 metres above the river. About 3.5 kilometres below Boulder Falls the river is joined by Kia Ora Creek. The creek runs down off the Du Cane Range from Lake McFarlane, in the shadow of Mount Ossa, past the Kia Ora hut on the overland track, tumbling over the Kia Ora Falls and then descending two hundred metres into the valley. There is a small unnamed fall in the Mersey just above the junction with Kia Ora Creek.

A little over a kilometre further downstream the Mersey is joined by another creek (unsure of name) which flows down from Mt. Ossa across Pinestone Valley. Now the Mersey turns slightly to the east winding roughly north-northeast down to Lees Paddocks. It passes under the Twin Spires, Bishop Peak, Curate Bluff, Vicar Bluff and Deans Peak which are all high points along the edge of the Cathedral Plateau. Just before of Lees Paddock, 3.5 kilometres from Kia Ora Creek, the river is joined by Wadleys Creek, flowing down from Mt. Pelion. The Reg Wadley Memorial Hut sits in the paddocks above the junction. Another 2.1 kilometres downstream the river is joined by Ladder Creek. The small creek descends 250 metres (elevation) into the river valley over a couple of waterfalls. Ladder Falls is worth a quick visit and is only a short walk from Lee Hut.

A kilometre from Ladder creek the river is joined by Wurragarra Creek which flows down off the February Plains between Mt. Oakleigh and Mt. Pillinger. The Arm River track crosses the Wurragarra just after Lake Price. The Lees Paddock track crosses the Wurragarra via a foot bridge not far from where it joins the Mersey. Here Mt. Pillinger forces the river to turn east around Deans Bluff and past Premier Peak. It continues 4 kilometres to the amazing whirlpool of Oxley Falls and then another 600 metres to Lewis Falls. The Lees Paddock track runs parallel to the river, and Pine Hut sits on the edge of the river 1.4 kilometres below Lewis Falls. Lees Paddock track crosses the Mersey via a suspension bridge and ends another 800 metres on at the Mersey River Road.

At Pine Hut, the Mersey again begins to turn to the north and 2 kilometres downstream it begins to swell out into the man made Hydro dam of Lake Rowallan. The wild Mersey ends. The Dam wall for Lake Rowallan is 13 kilometres from Pine Hut and almost directly north. On the western side of the lake, Howell Bluff overlooks the southern end of the lake, and Clumner Bluff the northern end. The track to the Walls of Jerusalem begins between these two Bluffs.

The walk went pretty much to plan. The first day I spent a long time at Grail Falls and slept at the end of Cloister Lagoon near a patch of Pencil Pine. The second day it started raining. I walked to Junction Lake, filled out the log book and climb down to the bottom of Clarke Falls. I climbed down to the bottom of McCoy falls, forded the Mersey and slept at Hartnett Falls. The track through the Never-Never was better than expected. The last 600 meters from Campfire creek to Hartnett Falls was a very unpleasant, snake infested, black mud endurance. Day three I photographed Hartnett Falls, walked onto Ferguson and D'Alton and then went looking for Boulder Falls. This track is not maintained, slippery in the rain, hazardously close to the cliff edge at times, covered in fallen trees and finishes abruptly at a tall drop. Looking across the river you see Cathedral Falls. These falls are on a side stream that joins the Mersey, not in the Mersey itself. I looked in vain for a way down to Boulder Falls, an although there were a couple of possibilities, they didn't look overly safe for a lone walker. I had a late afternoon dinner at Du Cane Hut, and I slept this night on a wooden platform near Kia Ora Hut (never again). Day four I headed down to the private tour huts not far from Kia Ora Hut, and then due west across the button grass in search of Kia Ora Falls. I soon picked up the creek and a little bit further on I could hear the falls. Kia Ora Falls start with a couple of sizable cascades and then the big drop. The climb down to the two small drops was very fast - a twenty metre slide on my búm. The climb out with my full pack was much slower. I skirted around some thick bush to get below the falls and then climbed into the bottom of the falls with a bit more grace and composure this time.

The drizzle and at times heavy rain had hardly relented since I'd left Cloister Lagoon. After climbing out of the falls I cast around in a circle looking for any sign of a track before beginning a bush bash towards Lee's Paddocks. I came across impassable patches of Sassafras, tangled piles of fallen tress and dense bush which I had to skirt around. The going was tough. Finally I picked up a track that took me to the creek that comes down from Pinestone Valley. With all the rain this was a swollen torrent. I walked up and down looking for a crossing. Finally I found a fallen log that hardly looked like it would hold my weight. I found an seven foot stick to help balance me and stepped gingerly onto the log. I poked my stick in the creek and the first five feet disappeared into the water. On the second try with a ten foot stick I ever so slowly crossed the creek. The climbs into and out of the falls, the bush bash and the creek crossing had all wasted way too much time. It was seven and I figured I was a fair way from Wadleys Hut. And now I couldn't find the bl--dy track either. More bush bashing and button grass swap crossing for an hour and then finally a bit of open ground on the edge of some tea tree. I was very wet and very tired and very cold, so I pitch the tent, put on my dry clothes and crawled into the sleeping bag.

In the morning Cathedral, Twin Spires and Bishops were dusted with snow. I put the dry clothes away in their plastic bag, dressed in a light shirt, thermals and water proof outers, packed up and headed to Lee's. Ten minutes later I picked up the track. An hour later I had breakfast at Reg Wadley Memorial Hut. I hadn't eaten since Du Cane Hut. Last night's dinner just wouldn't go down and the brackish water had made me feel ill. Despite the knowledge of the long trudge ahead, I was very very happy with my current location. Because of the rain and swollen rivers, the Kia Ora Falls bit had been hard, but the whole walk had been spectacular.

Edit: I posted a few photos in the Gallery. The never ending rain, wet lens and poor light made photography pretty hard after day 1.
Last edited by walkinTas on Sat 03 Jan, 2009 1:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby flyfisher » Fri 02 Jan, 2009 9:02 pm

Thats a great write up WT. In a couple of weeks I am following pretty much in your footsteps so that added even a bit more interest.
Thanks for sharing. :D Looking foreward to the pics.

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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby corvus » Fri 02 Jan, 2009 10:08 pm

WT great post just a wee bit concerned you did it solo,I know its not the SW or the WA but as you indicated not exactly easy and if anything went wrong :( ,four of us are doing a similar walk in a couple of weeks however we will use Hartnett's track from near Kia Ora hut down to Lees and spend our last night at Wadleys Creek.
Look forward to you Pics.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby walkinTas » Sat 03 Jan, 2009 1:44 am

Yes Corvus, walking alone is dangerous no matter where you go. It occurred to me on the way down from Kia Ora that if anything happened I'd be very hard to find. I plan to buy a new PLB before I do this sort of thing again :wink: I didn't know you guys were planning this walk.

The Pinestone Valley Creek was very hard to cross after rain. I don't know how far up to Kia Ora falls this track goes, because I was well over half way down before I found it. I was probably between the track and the creek all the time. Kia Ora Creek would have been impossible to cross with the amount of water coming down.

Anyway, good luck, and please take your GPS. I'd love to know exact where the track is. :)
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby corvus » Sat 03 Jan, 2009 12:25 pm

Will do WT and Hartnett's track does not follow Kia Ora creek it sticks closer to the Mersey ,Pinestone creek can be interesting as is Kia Ora after rain :)
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby crazyone » Tue 06 Jan, 2009 9:35 pm

Great post wt, im insanely jealous and must follow the path u took by the sounds of it. I love mayfield flats/junction area you speak of and would love to follow the mersey down from kia ora. grat work, keep it up!
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby walkinTas » Thu 08 Jan, 2009 8:12 pm

crazyone wrote:im insanely jealous and must follow the path u took by the sounds of it.
If you get the chance you should go. :) Rowallan to Kia Ora was straight forward bushwalking. The only insane bit was from Kia Ora to Lee's Paddocks. After the bwt strollers have been (Jan 16) they might be able to give you some better track notes.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby corvus » Thu 08 Jan, 2009 8:41 pm

The BWT Strollers GPS expert will have full track notes and stuff for this walk so stay tuned :)
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby tastrekker » Wed 14 Jan, 2009 10:54 pm

Many thanks, Walkintas, for your essay on The Wild Mersey. I love it. This is an area that is very special to me and I've walked in the valley many many times since I was a wipper snapper.

My favourite trip was a winter descent. A mate and I walked into the Walls of Jerusalem one afternoon via Trappers Hut, spending the first night at Dixons Kingdom. On the second day, we passed Lakes Ball and Adelaide then stayed at Dick Reid's Lake Meston Hut to the sound of creeks swollen by recent heavy showers roaring down the sides of the valley around us.

I'm interested to hear you say the Mersey is born in the swamp SW of Lake Meston. Have you ever been to the source? Sadly I have not but I keep thinking I should. Lake Meston appears to be formed by a 'dam' of boulders which have blocked the valley and the Mersey River seems to appear at the foot of the 'dam wall.' I believe the water that forms the Mersey's source must drain Lake Meston and run under ground for a few hundred metres. One of these days, I will wander the southern end of Meston to see whether there is any noticeable outlet. Perhaps one of the fishing folks who post to this forum have already done so.

Anyway, back to the trip...
From Meston, we snacked at Junction Lake Hut (also by Dick Reid) and followed the Never Never, marvelling at the waterfalls and frequently having to climb away from the grassy plains to avoid the river which by this stage was well beyond its banks. Clark, Feather and McCoy Falls were spectacular but this meant we had no chance of approaching any of the normal crossing points above Hartnett Falls. Instead, we continued through the open mossy understory which made easy walking down to the natural rock bridge between Fergusson and D'Alton Falls. It is a little exposed but with care, it's a great spot where the river can be crossed no matter how flooded it is.

From the falls, we climbed to the Overland Track and followed it past DuCane Hut to where our final challenge of this long day was the crossing of Kia Ora Creek. It was nicely flooded well over the Overland Track Bridge so only the high part of the bridge where it clings to the boulder was above the water level.

On day four, we went to the private hut and crossed the button grass plain in front to look at the 'real' Kia Ora Falls. On a previous trip, I had horrified my parents-in-law-to-be when I took them to a strongly flowing Kia Ora Falls as a side trip from a Lees Paddocks walk. Being well and trully in show-off mode, I crawled along the ledge behind the crashing wall of water. To them it seemed like an eternity before I appeared safely on the other side only to have to repeat the exercise on the way back.

From the Falls, we followed the creek downstream to the point where the blazed track crosses the creek, and followed the blazes down to the Mersey to the point where the 1:25,000 map is quite incorrect. The blazes emerge from the scrub at a point where the map shows Pinestone Creek flowing in at a distinctive bend in the River. There is certainly no creek at this bend. We passed through an annoying patch of ti tree scrub where a maze of indistinct tracks need to be negotiated before reaching the true location of Pinestone Creek. This was quite tricky to cross so we used a safety rope. This was a good thing as the crossing which is normally below knee deep was well above our waists.

At Wadley's Hut, we dried out over lunch before scooting up the Reedy Lake and Arm River Tracks to meet our lift home who had almost given up on us just as darkness was descending.

There has been plenty of discussion about the big falls of Lewis and Oxley but I haven't read any discussion about the section of river below Pine Hut Plain. Approx 500m north along the Mersey Forest Road from the start of the Lees Paddocks Track is a section where the road is very close the the river. Horizontally, that is. The river is almost 100 metres below road level at the foot of a spectacular ampitheatre of cliffs. There used to be a "Danger Cliffs" and a rather out-of-place-looking "No Standing" sign but I think these have long gone. It is well worth a look from the road and I would also recommend the short scrub bash to the river from the West Rowallan Track a little north of Pine Hut Plain. This rugged section of the river is its last hurrah before being impeded at Lake Rowallan and then unceremoniously dumped into the Forth River valley by the Parangana Dam.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby walkinTas » Thu 15 Jan, 2009 12:11 am

tastrekker wrote:Many thanks, Walkintas, for your essay on The Wild Mersey. I love it.
You're welcome.
tastrekker wrote:I'm interested to hear you say the Mersey is born in the swamp SW of Lake Meston. Have you ever been to the source? Sadly I have not but I keep thinking I should. Lake Meston appears to be formed by a 'dam' of boulders which have blocked the valley and the Mersey River seems to appear at the foot of the 'dam wall.' I believe the water that forms the Mersey's source must drain Lake Meston and run under ground for a few hundred metres. One of these days, I will wander the southern end of Meston to see whether there is any noticeable outlet. Perhaps one of the fishing folks who post to this forum have already done so.
I changed my day two plans and walked the Never-Never on day two. The original plans had been to camp two nights and Junction Lake and visit Mt. Rogoona and Lake Meston to confirm the source of the Mersey. The maps show Lake Adelaide at 1055m connects to Lake Louisa (847 m) and Lake Meston (1018 m). Lake Louisa flows into Juno Creek. Since Adelaide is higher than the other two lakes I presume Adelaide flows into both Louisa and Meston. So where does Meston drain? I think you are correct and would love to confirm it sometime. None of my maps show the Mersey flowing from Meston but the lake must drain somewhere. Reading Johnw's report I wish I had walked up to Meston and seen all the Scoparia in flower.

From Meston to Lee's, your trip was similar to mine, but you obviously make more ground in a day than I do (most people do! I'm very slow). I crossed the Mersey a short walk below McCoy falls. My day four was suppose to be the same as yours at least as far as the paddocks, but I ended up and hour short of the RWM hut. When I couldn't find the track up at the Falls, I tried to follow Kia Ora Crk down to the Mersey because there is suppose to be a small fall in the Mersey just above the union. The scrub and terrain beat me. I only found the track half way to Pinestone Creek after skirting around some impassable Sassafras. I wasted and hour looking for a crossing and consider myself lucky to have found one. Must have been scary in Winter. Then I walked on towards the paddocks without a track and camped 10 minutes off the track and hour from RWM hut. Lucky I had skipped day two and had a 'spare' day, so I was still home on day five as originally intended and no search & rescue.

I skipped Feather Falls coming down the Never-Never but actually I had much more time than I thought (are they worth the visit?) I was at Hartnett falls by mid afternoon. I also missed out on Horeb and Meribah falls on the way up the Moses Track. I'll do these as a day walk sometime soon with a much lighter pack. Have you been to Boulder Falls and Cathedral Falls? I have lots of reasons to go back to Lee's as well. Still haven't been to Lewis falls, but I know exactly where the track is, and I want to investigate the Ladder River above the first set of falls. Also sounds like the last few kilometers of river from Pine Hut to the Dam are worth a careful visit.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby tastrekker » Thu 15 Jan, 2009 10:38 pm

walkinTas wrote:I presume Adelaide flows into both Louisa and Meston

When I first walked past both Adelaide and Meston, I was quite excited about working out the source of the Mersey. I have never seen Adelaide flow south and the main outlet is the one that flows down to Lake Louisa. However, the area directly south of Adelaide is very flat and I wouldn't be surprised if a flooded Lake Adelaide could spill over into the streams that flow south to Meston.

There is an obvious stream that gradually gets bigger as you walk towards Meston and I took photos of this, expecting it to be the most likely candidate as the uppermost reaches of the Mersey. However, the last side stream which enters from the east 500m before reaching Lake Meston was far bigger than the stream I had been following. Upon checking the map, I discovered the stream from the east zig zags its way through 5km in distance from a tarn just west of Lake Toorah's southern end, down through 4 other sizeable tarns then finally into Meston. I reckon this zig-zagging stream should get the guernsey of being the true upper Mersey River and the tarn west of Lake Toorah is the source.

walkinTas wrote:I wish I had walked up to Meston and seen all the Scoparia in flower.

I had a ripper 'scoparia walk' two weeks ago to Mount Maurice near Ringarooma in the North East. The waratah on that walk was also spectacular.

walkinTas wrote:I skipped Feather Falls coming down the Never-Never... (are they worth the visit?)

I have not actually climbed close to Feather Falls. I'm just talking about viewing it from the valley below. Even when there's not much water about, they stand out because they plunge off the Cathedral plateau in a manner similar to Meander Falls on the Western Tiers, Minnow Falls on Mount Roland and Witham Falls on Mt Tyndall (you don't even need to slow much below 100kph on the Anthony Road to view that last one - one for the non-bushwalkers out there!). Am I off on a tangent? Sorry.

walkinTas wrote:I also missed out on Horeb and Meribah falls on the way up the Moses Track.

Have you seen my post about the Moses Creek waterfalls on my blog?

walkinTas wrote:Have you been to Boulder Falls and Cathedral Falls?

Yes, I have walked down to view Cathedral Falls and, like most people, I have peered into the gorge below without seeing anything that looked like it would be worth calling Boulder Falls.
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Re: The Wild Mersey

Postby walkinTas » Thu 15 Jan, 2009 11:10 pm

tastrekker wrote:...I reckon this zig-zagging stream should get the guernsey of being the true upper Mersey River and the tarn west of Lake Toorah is the source.
It certainly demands a trip and some more investigation. I can see myself camping near Meston between Christmas and New Year.

tastrekker wrote:Have you seen my post about the Moses Creek waterfalls on my blog?
Yes. It was part of the reason I skipped the falls. After reading your report and studying the terrain I didn't like the idea of carrying my full pack up that valley. I originally planned to walk up to Chapter Lake, dump my pack and then walk back down and do a loop via the two falls. I wasted a bit too much time at Grail falls. At one in the afternoon it was either Horeb/Meribah and camp at Chapter Lake or press on to Junction Lake. I figured I could do the falls as a day trip when I had a lighter pack.

tastrekker wrote:Yes, I have walked down to view Cathedral Falls and, like most people, I have peered into the gorge below without seeing anything that looked like it would be worth calling Boulder Falls.
It looks very picturesque down at the base of Cathedral falls. I suspect Boulder Falls is in the Mersey as it bends towards Cathedral Falls. I'll climb down sometime when I have some company.
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