Prince of Wales Traverse

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Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:46 am

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Sunset from the middle of the Range


I hope you enjoy the following photos and the short story. There will be twelve subsequent posts containing a bit of text and a few photos from each day of the trip.

The Prince of Wales Range is a remote area and a great adventure awaits those who embark on this traverse but may I suggest that you think twice before considering it. Unsure about going? Then don't. Not convinced that you want to spend two weeks with someone. Then don't. This is a brutal walk and you are going to suffer. Even in good weather it is hard going and you soon learn that you don't go anywhere fast on this Range. I was fortunate to go with four really good, strong walkers that I've known for several years but the last few days, when we dropped off the Range and struggled along the Denison River, had all of us a bit grumpy at one point or another. The slog up over the Hamilton Range at the end of the trip in wet and cold conditions, when we were soaked through from crossing the Denison River, was a lesson in endurance and in stark contrast to sitting in the sun only days earlier. Yes, we could have stopped and camped on that last day but the Chalet at Strathgordon has a nice warm fire, real food, and a bar.... there was never really any choice but to push on. A sense of humour? Yes, you'll need that, especially when you're stuck in head high scrub and going nowhere. There’s also a sense of isolation, it struck me in the middle of the Range when I realised that to walk out in any direction would take four or five days.

A special thanks to my companions: Az, ILUVSWTAS, stepbystep & Stu. And to Doogs who made sure we all made the starting line.

Please note, that beyond these notes and whatever else you can find on the internet or elsewhere, you are on your own.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:46 am

Day 1 - Jane River Track

This walk started on the Lyell Highway just beyond Mt Arrowsmith, as the road flattens out after crossing the Franklin River, and finished at the Gordon Dam near Strathgordon. The first day saw us walk about 25kms along the Jane River Track to an old mining hut in overcast conditions. This track is not used very frequently and is a bit overgrown in places. It’s a relatively flat track, apart from going over Margaret Pass, and originally provided access for gold mining. And no, I didn't find any gold nuggets.

We crossed three major rivers: the Franklin, the Loddon, and Erebus Creek. Only the smallest of these rivers, the Loddon, has a (just) usable bridge. The bridges over the other two rivers were swept away long ago.

I've had a few questions about how much gear I took for the two weeks: at the start of the walk my pack weighed about 23 kg (without water) and this included 7.5 kg of food. The Range has a reputation for being dry and I had a total water carrying capacity of 7 litres, but these water bags were all empty for the first day.

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Crossing the Franklin


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The bridge over the Loddon River


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Slightly overgrown bit of the Jane River Track


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The old mining hut, home for the first night
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:46 am

Day 2 - Algonkian

The second day saw us leave the old mining hut and continue along the Jane River Track for another kilometre or so before turning east and heading for a major ridge leading up to Mt Algonkian. For the next ten days we were on our own and off track. Our navigation on leaving the track could have been better as it quickly became apparent that the ridge we wanted to be on was about 500m from where we were! It was also slow going and quite scrubby with only a small stretch of open forest to enjoy just after lunch. Our progress was much slower than expected. Late in the afternoon we reached a small creek, which was the first water we had come across since leaving the hut, and everyone was quite happy to stop and set up the tents. Climbing the “Gonk” as we had started to call Mt Algonkian could wait another day.

After covering 25 kms the first day we did about 5 kms on the second day but which was harder?

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Off track and in some scrub


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A brief glimpse of the Prince of Wales Range


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Camping in the forest
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:47 am

Day 3 - Observation

The third day started with another hour of mixed forest and light scrub before we burst out onto low alpine heath near the summit of Mt Algonkian where we were greeted by amazing views and blue skies. However, looking across the broad and scrubby saddle leading to Observation Peak and where we hoped to camp, it was clearly going to be another long, hard day. We had lunch near the low point of the saddle and by late afternoon we reached the top of Observation Pk. A search for water and a campsite started and we were lucky to find some small tarns, or should they be called large puddles, a bit further along the ridge. Today we had walked about 7 kms.

To add to the fun we started having some issues with our gear. One of my boots had a small hole at the front that had to be stitched using a curved needle and nylon rope; and two of the others had broken tent poles. It rained a little that night and there was a lot of lightning out to the west and to the south.

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Near the Summit of Algonkian. Frenchmans Cap in the background


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Descending into the saddle leading to Observation Peak


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Lunch in the saddle


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Tomorrow’s walking towards Diamond Peak looks nice and open
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:47 am

Day 4 - Approaching Diamond Peak


The fourth day started out with nice walking along open ridges and the occasional scrub filled gully but as the clouds disappeared it got hotter and hotter. There was also no water anywhere. Early in the afternoon we came across an area on the ridge with a series of water filled yabbie holes and the occasional puddle. After a bit of a break to admire the view and what lay ahead, we decided that this would make a fine spot to camp and lie around in the sun. Today we had travelled about 5kms.

This was the day that the big fires in the south east, near National Park, and in the south west started. It was very hot and there was a very strong westerly blowing. In the late afternoon there were huge smoke plumes visible to our south and to our east.

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On a boulder in the middle of head high scrub


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Diamond Peak


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Enjoying the sunset
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:48 am

Day 5 - Diamond Peak

This turned out to be the best day of the walk. It was another hot day and, as we expected from the terrain, there was virtually no water. More ridge walking through waist high scrub was followed by much higher scrub when we were forced off the ridge to bypass some cliffs. We eventually regained the ridgeline near to Diamond Pk and gratefully dropped our packs for some lunch. Looking around, we were in a scrub filled saddle without any real camp sites and we could find only one yabbie hole with any water.

Deciding to worry about water and where to camp after climbing Diamond Peak we scrambled about twenty metres up a cliff to get on the ridge leading out to the peak and found a lovely flat and open spot to camp as well as two more yabbie holes with water - Paradise! It was also quite easy to find the way up Diamond Peak as it overhangs on three sides.

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Early morning mist clearing from Diamond Peak


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Nice ridge walking


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but those cliffs are in the way


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More entertainment


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Diamond Peak
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:48 am

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Looking across to the Spires



Day 6 - The Ridge of Pain

Another hot and sunny day that turned out to be the hardest day of the trip. The next bit of broken ridgeline certainly looked challenging and part way along there was a huge chasm that forced us off the ridge and under the cliffs into some very thick and high scrub. It was late afternoon before we regained the ridge after a hard struggle and a scramble up a cliff. Shortly afterwards, and a little higher up, we were fortunate to find a rock pool with water in it. Then we came across a nice open saddle with more water and decided enough was enough and this would do far a campsite.

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One of many much needed breaks


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Looking back towards Diamond Peak


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We had a frisbee


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Mt Humboldt and the setting sun
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:49 am

Day 7 - Mid Range

We were underway early on what turned out to be another long and very hot day. There was a very steep descent down a cliff face early in the morning and we found another rock pool with water in it. The going continued to be very hard over rocky ridges and scrub filled saddles. As with most of the days on the range we only managed to travel 4 to 5 kms in a straight line and we were all starting to appreciate why this range has a reputation for being so hard. Unlike other walks in the state you don’t make up time on the Prince of Wales Range you just keep losing it. In the late afternoon we were all quite tired and more than happy to set up camp under a rocky outcrop despite having to do a bit of “gardening” to clear sites for the tents.

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Looking south to Mt Humboldt


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Scrubby ridges, scrubbier saddles


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Looks like the weather might be changing


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These tent sites needed a bit of clearing
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:49 am

Day 8 - Princes Peak

Once again we were underway early. The good news was that the walking was much easier with little or no scrub. The bad news was that a south westerly change was coming and it was probably only a matter of time before it rained. In fact, it started raining as we headed up Princes Peak, which is the first of the major peaks on the southern end of the range. The temperature had dropped, the wind was picking up, and as we stood on the summit the rain got very heavy. The way ahead seemed to be along an open ridge and, not relishing the idea of an afternoon route finding in heavy wind driven rain, we dropped back down off Princes Peak to a sheltered saddle, which we had just passed, and set up the tents to wait out the worst of the storm.

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A south westerly change cometh


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Approaching Princes Peak just before the weather broke
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:49 am

Day 9 - Humboldt

Snow!! It was hard to believe that in January, and after the heat of the past week, that we woke to find snow on our tents. By mid morning the weather seemed to be improving and, although it was still misty with only an occasional clearing, we were underway late in the morning. Picking up the exposed ridge from yesterday we entered some amazing terrain. Very steep rocky towers forced us to carefully pick our way out to Mt Humboldt. We then tried to continue onto the Southern Bluff but couldn’t find a way off the cliffs. The poor visibility and the rain, which had started falling, made it too dangerous so we retreated back to Mt Humboldt and dropped off the range towards the Denison River. The descent was an entertaining but exhausting mix of very steep slopes, scrub filled gullies and flat terraces. It was almost dark by the time we reached the Denison and that was our camp for the night. Thankfully it was only ten kilometres in a straight line to the gorge and where we planned to cross the Denison and start our traverse of the Hamilton Range but little did we know…

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Snow! High on Princes Peak


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Descending under some rocky towers


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The summit of Humboldt is somewhere out there
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:50 am

Day 10 - Denison

We were underway a little late after the previous day's adventure and were hoping to reach the crossing point on the Denison River near the gorge about ten kilometres away in a straight line. We followed the river for most of the time with only a couple of detours over hills when the river meandered around in a large loop or two. Initially the going was reasonable and it almost seemed like there was a light pad created by other parties and we hoped this might improve as we got closer to the gorge. How wrong we were. The pad disappeared and the going got a lot rougher with intermittent stretches of horizontal scrub, fallen trees, some nice stretches of ferns, the occasional open forest, and the odd cliff plunging into the river that had to be bypassed. We even walked down the river when possible and considered crossing to the other side but it didn't really look much better. It turned into a long hard day with everyone taking turns at the front for fifteen minute stretches and we covered only half of the distance to the gorge, whoops, more tomorrow.

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Looking back up the Denison River to where we dropped off the Range


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Lunch close by the Denison River


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At least we found a nice spot to camp
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:51 am

Day 11 - River "walking"

A close contender for the hardest day of the trip. We were underway early and hoped, once again, to reach the crossing point on the Denison River near the gorge. This was now only five kilometres away in a straight line. Once again we failed. The going along the river was even harder with only one nice stretch of open forest, and in that we came across an old piners hut. We occasionally got to walk along the banks of the river or on rocky stretches out of the water, but never for long. It had also been raining for the past couple of days and it looked like the river was rising. Should we have crossed it earlier? Should we cross now? Decisions! After about ten hours walking, and still about one kilometre short of the crossing point, we gave up and camped.

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Remains of the Piner’s hut (Morrisons?) by the Denison River


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The Denison River
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Sun 12 May, 2013 8:51 am

Day 12 - Gordon Dam

Another early start with more struggling through what had become the customary mix of horizontal scrub and other botanical bits and pieces. Someone once referred to horizontal scrub as nature’s gym and they weren’t wrong. At long last we reached the crossing point on the Denison and, through the drizzle, surveyed a surprisingly wide expanse of fast flowing water. After unsuccessfully trying to find a better spot to cross we linked arms for stability and headed out into water that was knee deep, then waist deep, then chest deep. It was a struggle and a GoPro video of our efforts would surely have been an instant hit. Thankfully we all made it to the other side and, despite being wet through and cold, we headed on. After eventually finding the light pad that rafters use to reach the Denison River we started heading up and over the Hamilton Range. It was another long day and the light was fading when five wet, cold and exhausted walkers finally reached the Gordon Dam. We were lucky to get a lift to Strathgordon to pick up our transport and arrived in time to get a meal at the reopened Chalet and a drink or two at the bar where we started reminiscing about how easy it had been.

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Olegas Bluff and the valleys we had spent two and a half days in


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Lake Gordon, a welcome sight
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Sun 12 May, 2013 10:23 am

Fantastic report MJD. Brings back all the emotions we experienced. 5 months later the pain has erased enough for me to say I "think" i'd go back!
Such a good trip with the best blokes you could want for such an epic trip.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Davo1 » Sun 12 May, 2013 10:41 am

Great read and terrific photos.
Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby stepbystep » Sun 12 May, 2013 2:38 pm

*sigh*

Nice write up mate, when I gather my thoughts I'll add some bits and pieces.

Good times :)
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Nuts » Sun 12 May, 2013 2:59 pm

'Unlike other walks in the state you don’t make up time on the Prince of Wales Range you just keep losing it. ' haha

good report, well done 8)
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Azza » Sun 12 May, 2013 6:03 pm

ILUVSWTAS wrote:Fantastic report MJD. Brings back all the emotions we experienced. 5 months later the pain has erased enough for me to say I "think" i'd go back!
Such a good trip with the best blokes you could want for such an epic trip.


I'll second that...

Well we've got some unfinished business to attend to....

Olegas....
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby stu » Sun 12 May, 2013 6:09 pm

Yeah, thanks very much for the memories MJ...ditto on adding some additional pics in time.
I'd certainly consider a return to the Humboldt region for further exploration in kinder weather.
Not sure I'd want to repeat the Gonk tho :-/
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby tibboh » Sun 12 May, 2013 6:44 pm

Thanks for a great report and photos.
I think I'll leave this one for when I am fitter or have lost part of my sanity! You're report sure portrayed the difficulty of this range quite well. It must have scarred you quite a bit as it has taken you 5 months to post :D
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby hikingoz » Sun 12 May, 2013 7:14 pm

What a great trip! And photos too. Thanks for the report.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Nick S » Sun 12 May, 2013 9:06 pm

Great read and photos. thanks for the write up MJD
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Beeper » Sun 12 May, 2013 9:22 pm

Thanks for the great report, it brought back memories of my trip in the late 80's
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby Lynda Moir » Mon 13 May, 2013 1:41 pm

Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby DaveNoble » Mon 13 May, 2013 10:19 pm

Good report and photos! For us, going in via Algonkian was a lot easier than on our first trip (KW's and Spires), and the hardest part of the traverse (by far) is the last bit south from Southern Bluff (Yop Yop). Also - getting off Southern Bluff was tricky.....

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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Tue 14 May, 2013 7:32 am

DaveNoble wrote:Good report and photos! For us, going in via Algonkian was a lot easier than on our first trip (KW's and Spires), and the hardest part of the traverse (by far) is the last bit south from Southern Bluff (Yop Yop). Also - getting off Southern Bluff was tricky.....

Dave



Yes Dave we'd heard this part was the trickiest, so when the mist came in and we hit the first chasm after Humboldt, the decision to drop to the river took less than 2minutes.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby north-north-west » Tue 14 May, 2013 7:16 pm

ILUVSWTAS wrote:Fantastic report MJD. Brings back all the emotions we experienced. 5 months later the pain has erased enough for me to say I "think" i'd go back!

*snigger*
Those points are still beckoning, eh?

Amazing country. Beautiful photos. Good job I'm too sensible(maybe)(I hope) to even consider getting near that range.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby MJD » Tue 14 May, 2013 8:57 pm

Thanks everyone. It certainly was an epic trip. Five months later and the pictures still evoke a lot of memories. And trying to keep up with the youngsters was a challenge despite putting a lot of work into my fitness. Would I go back? Yes, probably, maybe. Off track, virtually no pads, no rubbish, no one else for the entire trip - what else could you ask for. Not much, well perhaps another day of good weather. The biggest disappointment was being forced off the Range at Humboldt but standing on top of the second followed by a third large vertical drop in poor weather really left us without much choice.

There is unfinished business, Olegas Bluff, and that looks pretty ugly by itself.

Dave Noble's trip reports certainly provided a lot of inspiration for our adventure and are highly recommended if not compulsory reading.
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby stepbystep » Wed 15 May, 2013 2:36 pm

MJD wrote:Dave Noble's trip reports certainly provided a lot of inspiration for our adventure and are highly recommended if not compulsory reading.


Indeed, along with his predecessors Dave's reports and photo's provided much inspiration and I reflected often on the trials and tribulations of early explorers, bushwalkers and the aboriginal people of Tasmania. A place this remote gives space in the head for a special kind of thinking.

Other than the physical challenges this range certainly provided a far greater mental challenge and I had a dark day but the good humour and perspective of this group helped me through. It can not be underestimated how important water security is :shock: On day 7 I ran low on water and couldn't find enough late in the day to be comfortable for the night. I think I poked my tube down 50 dry yabby holes and didn't have the energy to backtrack to the last reliable water.

Would I go back? Yes, but I'd probably just visit the mid range area and I'd love to explore the Southern Bluff area in good weather. I was keen to look for Olegas' bottle! It would take an extremely compelling argument to go in via 'The Gonk' again... so I think Diamond Peak will be a 'oncer' for me!
The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders ~ Edward Abbey
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Re: Prince of Wales Traverse

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Wed 15 May, 2013 8:20 pm

stepbystep wrote:so I think Diamond Peak will be a 'oncer' for me!


Know what you mean, but that's a pretty sad thought huh?
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