King William Traverse and Denison Descent

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King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sun 29 Dec, 2013 11:42 am

Hi guys, some may have seen the news reports about a recent helicopter rescue of two rafters on the Gordon River, embarrassingly I was a member of that party. Myself and a good mate John were on a packrafting trip which included traversing the King William Range then descending down to the Denison River where we would raft to Heritage Landing on the Gordon. All up a trip of approximately 115kms and a planned 10 days. On a personal note this was a special trip for me, it was our first extended packrafting trip since I was the main instigator for my friends and I buying packrafts over 2 years ago and I've also been pestering my friends to try more adventurous trips for some time. So when the opportunity arose and I had one mate agree it’s safe to say I was pretty excited about the trip. I spent many hours planning the trip, examining the route in Google Earth and telling anyone within earshot of this amazing trip I had planned. So for it to end in a helicopter ride it's been a hard pill to swallow. Neither one of us were physically injured so to set off the epirb was a difficult decision and one we thought about long and hard. With hindsight it's a decision we don't regret but one we are still embarrassed about. With the trip ending the way it did I had hoped that we could sneak back home like nothing had happened however I believe if I was prepared to write a trip report if the trip was a success I still should now with it ending the way it did. So this is my trip report of the King William traverse and Denison descent.

Day One:
Originally the plan was for a half day up on to the north half of the range with the first half of the day organising food and gear. Leaving the King William divide for the second day. However due to me flying in late the night before from work in Queensland we changed plans so that the whole next day we organized gear and the following day we would try to get as far along the range as possible. So with 10 days’ worth of gear and food organized and our packs weighing around the 30kg mark we were off at 5am from Devonport for an 8am drop off at the Lyell highway. Setting off in misty overcast weather we soon hit the wind and rain as we made it to the summit of KW1 approximately two hours after setting off. With high winds and no views there wasn't any thought of walking across to Mount Milligan and Pitt so we proceeded in good time across the plateau towards the divide. We never really thought it would possible to climb up out of the divide on the same day but with our early start it was something we didn't want to rule out. By lunch time the weather was still miserable so we scoffed down some sandwiches before the decent in to the divide. The scrub was relatively light and relishing being out of the wind we made it down to the bottom of the valley by 2pm. Our route had us entering the button grass plains on the western end of the valley with our planned route out of the valley via Slatters Peak. With no views of the south western side of the valley to spot an alternative climb we were left with the trudge east thru the bottom of the button grass valley. With easy dry going early we decided to cross the valley early and then continue along the southern edge of the scrub till a campsite or the location of the start of the climb out was found. We soon came to regret this decision as the plains turned in to a swamp which resulted in wading knee deep water thru the plains with the occasional sneaky hole where we sank to waist deep water. At this stage we were too far thru to turn back and continued thru wishing we had stayed on the slightly higher northern side. As the valley narrowed and we got closer to creek our decision to cross early was vindicated as the creek was not crossable due to high water from all the rain. Pleased to be on the south side of the creek and being exhausted from the trudge through the plains any thought of climbing out of the valley was soon abandoned and by 4pm the tent was setup and a pre dinner nap had commenced. After dinner I soon discovered that I had somehow put a large puncture in my sleeping mat and without being able to find the leak a cold uncomfortable night lay ahead.

Day two:
The next morning we were greeted with similar weather as we started the steep climb up Slatters Peak. With little visibility to look for alternate routes and concern about getting caught in cliff lines near a lower entry to the plateau we made a bee line for the summit of Slatters Peak. Carrying packs over Slatters made for slow going but fortunately the wind dropped as we got higher and while there was a lot of cloud around, glimpses of nearby peaks were had as we reached the small saddle between the two summits for an early lunch. The Walls of Jerusalem and Mt Ida were prominent to the north while we had glimpses thru the cloud to Frenchmans Cap, Mt Gell and the Eldon Range to the west. Pretty pleased that the climbing was over the rest of the afternoon involved enjoyable waking across the plateau to the summit of KW2 when once again the wind and rain started and all visibility dropped as we hoped to find a somewhat sheltered campsite further along the range. With the eastern side of the range dropping away steeply to glaciated faces or rock scree any hope of finding a sheltered campsite faded away. With our best option being to hide on the eastern side of a rock two thirds the height of our tent. Using our two life jackets as a make shift sleeping mat and the wind blowing a gale a loud uncomfortable night lay ahead.

Day Three:
The section from KW3 to the river was the big unknown for us, originally the plan was to camp as close as possible to KW3 the night prior leaving a full day to get as far down the decent as possible with one spare day in case the vegetation made it particularly slow going. Due to leaving a day later it meant we were half a day behind schedule meaning a lunch time summit of KW3 and a day and a half to make it to the river.
Waking to more of the same weather only with more rain and less visibility we continued further along the range towards KW3. It was hard to keep the motivation up in this weather and the thought of descending off the range in the afternoon and trying to find a suitable camp site in the bush was not helping morale. So when we found a nice sheltered campsite 500m from KW3 summit it didn’t take much discussion before the tent was setup at around 1pm. With no break in the weather during the afternoon there was no leaving the comfort of my sleeping bag and life jackets for me. Leaving one day to make the river to keep on schedule.

Day Four:
The day that consumed the most thought during planning, the relative unknown, would the scrub be ugly, nice or indifferent? It was only 6.5kms as the crow flies from summit to river so surely it couldn’t take that long. We woke to the only blue skies we had for the trip, so with a cheeky Facebook update we were away by 8am and of course as we neared the summit of KW3 the clouds returned to wish us well. Leaving the range it was disappointing to make it across such a nice and what I’m lead to believe is a scenic range with barely a glimpse across its glaciated spine. We didn’t have long to contemplate this though as the alpine scrub created a final farewell as we left the range. Fortunately this didn’t last too long as we were able to start making good time in Tea tree and Myrtle forest. The plan was to descend southwest until we intersected the main creek and then walk down the creek as we hoped it would offer some relief from the scrub. Once we battled thru the first band of Horizontal to a tributary of the main creek we soon realized this would not be possible as the water level was high enough to prohibit walking the creek centre line. We continue across slope staying high above the creek with relatively easy going only coming across Horizontal as we crossed creek valleys. We were lucky enough to stumble across a family of Lyre birds which I was surprised to see had continued their species advancement thru the south west forests. Concerned with our pace and worried we would have to try and find a whole in the scrub big enough for a tent we had a quick lunch not even halfway between the summit and some Buttongrass patches visible in the aerial imagery. We followed the ridge as it turned to towards the west, walking on the north facing slope the scrub relented as we kept a contour well above the creek below. Then as we reached the top of the ridge beautiful open walking amongst giant Eucalypts lifted the spirits. As quick as the spirits were lifted they sank as we turned off the crest of the ridge to encounter what from the outside appeared to be an impenetrable wall of Horizontal intertwined with Cutting grass for good measure. A lot of swearing followed as we fought thru thinking that we were making no headway and dreading the thought of a night in this stuff and just as quick as is started it finished as we broke thru to the Buttongrass plain at around 5pm. Grateful to be free we enjoyed open walking again and reached the river a little after 7pm. Where I was able to but my sleeping mat in the river to identify the leak and fix it as after today the relative luxury of dry life jackets wouldn’t be available.

Day Five:
Finally rafting! Time to make some real progress and get thru the kilometers… Within half an hour we came across a gigantic log jam where we had to deflate the rafts and walk thru the bush to get past. Still we were confident that this had to be quicker than the walking and we must have travelled a few kilometers by the time we stopped for a break at 10.30. We were then rather shocked and nervous to then find when we checked the GPS that in the last 2 hours we had only travelled 1km as the crow flies. All the log jams were taking their time and by lunch time we had found that in 4 hours we had made it 3kms. This part of the river was quite narrow and with a dense Myrtle Forest on its banks not many views were had of the mountains than line the valley. Innes High Rocky was spotted but Diamond Peak remained elusive. Luckily the log jams started to ease or became easier to cross and by 6pm we had travelled approximately 10kms as the crow flies far less the planned 20 but we were moving all the same. The day was topped off by magnificent weather and finally being able to sleep on a fully inflated sleeping mat.

Day Six:
With the comfort of an inflated mat it was a rather lazy morning and we weren’t on the water until 9am. By 10am the first Huon Pine was spotted and from that point on they were a constant companion along the river, often being the dominant species of the forest. Paddling on the flat water gave time for a lot of contemplation and to be grateful for past conservationists such as Olegas Truchanas who fought for the protection of this beautiful tree and amazing rivers which banks it line. Views to nearby mountains became more common as we were in a valley wedged between the Spires and the Prince of Wales Range. Often if we looked behind we could see Mount Humboldt only to turn around to see the peaks of the Spires, we were simply spoilt for choice. By lunch time we came across a small rock garden for our first small taste of rapids. Soon afterwards we passed the traditional entry point for rafters on the Denison and by 4pm we were well in amongst the Truchanas Huon Pine Reserve. Realizing we had made such good time on the river we had time to push on thru Marriott’s Gorge and make the camp site at Roslyn’s Pool. Marriott’s Gorge is spectacular, a narrow cut for the river to run between the southern end of the Prince of Wales Range and the Hamilton Range. Then we were among the rapids, the first set we came across I should have portaged however my pride and overconfidence told me to run. So once John had portaged it and was waiting at the bottom to collect anything I could not keep hold of, I gave it a go and surprise surprise I went for a swim. Everything was ok though as there was a nice pool to get back in. The next set of rapids we came to were smaller and portaging them would have been difficult so we ran these. I still had my spray deck off due to all the portages from log jams higher up on the river, so with my limited skill I ended up being swamped and having another spill while John with his spray deck on ran it with ease. After this I was feeling sorry for myself and with little confidence left portaged quite a few of challenging rapids of the gorge. As the gorge finished I was left dejected originally having grand visions of rafting most of the rapids of the gorge, to come away with two swims I was down. Then we entered Freedom Gates, what used to be known as Denison Split, the last hoorah of Marriott’s Gorge. With the gorge dropping away in the background the river cuts straight thru the final hill of the Hamilton Range leaving a fin of rock high above the river. The river is calmer here too and this is where it dawned on me, I’m not a white water rafter, I wasn’t here to run all rapids of the gorges, I was here for the Tasmanian wilderness and that was epitomized there in Freedom Gates. I find it hard to describe the majesty of Freedom Gates, for me it is the most beautiful place I have been fortunate enough to visit in our beautiful state. As we made our way thru Freedom Gates we entered Roslyn’s Pool were we were able to find a campsite with a few signs of previous rafting groups. This was day 6 and until then the only signs of humans we had come across were Lake King William, Lyre birds, a few Huon Pine stumps and a few pruned branches at Roslyn Pool.

Day Seven
Roslyn’s Pool to Mykonos in one day.
Having made such good time the day before we thought today would be relatively relaxing. Denison Gorge by lunch time and then once on the Gordon conveyor the junction of the Franklin wouldn’t take long for an early finish for the day. With a relaxed morning we had more time to think about the bigger things in life, why doesn’t John eat porridge for breakfast every morning? Why do only songs from the 90s that I don’t like get stuck in my head? So with Destiny’s Child telling me that they were survivors the day began. The flat water paddling to the start of Denison Gorge took longer than first envisaged. We made it to the junction of the Maxwell River for morning smoko. The Maxwell, at the junction of the Denison, looking a similar to size to the Denison where we started two days prior. Not long after that we were in the Denison Gorge, where I found the rapids more enjoyable than in Marriott’s, running a number of them and only portaging where logs in the rapids may pose a problem. Then we came across the large boulder sieve which is a definite portage, we deflated the rafts for this portage however it was still hard work in the heat of the day. With a late lunch at the end of the gorge at 2pm we then set off on the home straight of the Gordon.

In my eyes the trip was done, we had done the hard yards. The walking was finished the Denison descended. Don’t get me wrong I was aware that the Gordon was a big intimidating river when water is released from the Hydro Scheme. And intimidating is definitely the correct word for that river, unlike on Google Earth where you can see river beds and islands the Gordon was bank to bank big water. Near the junction with the Denison there aren’t any large wave trains but the whirlpools and eddies that seem to form out of now where try to eat your raft which make it hard work. Then as the hills close in you enter a small gorge where the large wave trains start. Early on John fell out of his raft and with the large under tow of the current his paddle was ripped out of his hand and did not resurface. Fortunately he soon made it in to an eddy where he was able to make it to shore. With one paddle down we weren’t sure how to continue, whether I tow John knowing full well that he would more than likely fall out on the way down as he had no way of controlling the boat, in the end we decided to split my paddle so we had half a paddle each. It wasn’t long after reentering the river when John went in again and this time the rapids didn’t relent for a long time. We estimate that John travelled for about 1km down the river amongst the wave trains before there was a calm section where I could use an eddy to tow him to shore. It was a tough situation to watch I could see him holding on to the boat but I knew if I tried to help him when in the wave trains I would have ended up in the water too which would have made getting back to shore a lot more difficult. John said the undertow of the river was immense, he had the buoyance of a wetsuit and a life jacket and had a raft to hold on to yet the pull was so strong he struggled to keep is head above water. We were now both on the edge of the river wondering what to do. As I hadn’t experience what it was like with the current I suggested trying to continue on knowing that there would be further swims. While John knowing what the swims were like knew he couldn’t handle another. It was tough, I tried to avoid eye contact by continually scanning the river hoping that johns paddle would miraculously appear. We knew when a group of rafters were coming down the Franklin and also when the yacht would be at St Johns Falls and we knew we wouldn’t make it in time to catch them. So this meant walking out to Heritage Landing which we also knew we wouldn’t make before running past our expected due home date when our families would raise the alarm. Then we asked each other can we set off the epirb? But we are not injured, we aren’t in immediate danger, surely we can’t? Then we thought if we get back on that river without a paddle then there is a high possibility that one of us would drown. So we discussed ridiculous situations to make the setting off the eprib seem more acceptable, the most popular were puncturing the rafts beyond repair or one of us punching the other in the ribs hoping to break one or two. This was OK in my mind as I still had my paddle and as I don’t get sick leave from work I felt I had the moral high ground when it came time to decide who was doing the punching.

So then after an hour or so of umming and ahhing at 5pm we decided to bite the bullet and set off the epirb. Then there was panic packing and organising of gear worried that the helicopter will be over the hill any moment. We were really concerned that we would have to leave our gear behind so I put on every bit of clothing I owned and said goodbye to the rest of my gear and tried to hide my sadness from John. Then about three hours later as it was starting to get dark and John doubted whether the epirb was actually working we saw a plane fly overhead. The plane continued to do gridlines over our location for some time, we used our head torch to gain attention and apparently that was quite visible from the plane. Then like a scene from Apocalypse Now with the plane crossing over head the helicopter thundered in to the valley from the east. It didn’t take long until it was hovering above us and we were being told to get rid of our bags, thinking this was the end John ran them up to above the high water mark. When the rescuer descended he gave John a sling to attach to the bags so while he scrambled back after the bags as I was lifted up. The only harness I had was a sling that went under my arms which I had to hold on to, it was terrifying. However the rescue crew knew what they were doing and soon afterwards I was safely in the helicopter with John and our bags not far behind with me overheating in all my clothing. Feeling embarrassed and sorry for ourselves we didn’t want to get out our cameras while in the helicopter however it was an amazingly scenic flight back to Hobart with a short stop in Strathgordon for fuel.

It wasn’t until we were back in phone range that the enormity of the situation and the stress we had put over families thru became evident. My fiancé was so worried she was physically sick and my mum had started to cancel Christmas. With the epirb there is no way to communicate that we are not injured, so with our families thinking one of us had drowned it was extremely tough time for them. When the epirb went off its original coordinates where 3kms away from the river in the bush and then half an hour later it updated so that we were in the river. The emergency services needed to contact our families to work out what our plan was, my Dad was able to provide them with a Google Earth file that I had created which showed our route and itinerary. By 10pm we had landed at Hobart Airport, with little more than our names and addresses recorded we were able to go and still wearing our boots, gaiters and life jackets we picked up a souvlaki from a famous Hobart Institution.
Looking back, it was a great trip. I’m bitterly disappointed it ended the way it did but I don’t regret setting off the epirb in that situation. The walk along the King William Range even in that weather was still enjoyable, views would have been nice but we managed to keep spirits up even carrying those loads in that weather. The Denison was amazing, wild and untouched, a river stuck between two amazing mountain ranges. While only a handful of people have ever been on this route the continual thought of ‘we are probably the first people to see this’ was great. We learnt so much about river paddling on the Denison. Then we came unstuck so close to the end. My tax contribution for the last financial year would now be void! Would I have changed anything? Probably not, I’ve thought about this a lot and I don’t think I would. I suppose we could have carried an extra paddle but then what other extra stuff should we carry? Where does that stop? I regret the stress I have put my family thru and hope I never do that again but I’m trying not to let this hiccup stop me from trying similar trips again in the future. I would love to have another crack at it tomorrow but I’ll just have to wait and I hope I can convince John on another trip.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Mechanic-AL » Sun 29 Dec, 2013 10:16 pm

Gday Frenchie
sounds like quite an adventure you''ve been on! It would be too easy to pass judgement from the safety of my armchair wether you punched the epirb a bit early .But I would be interested to know if you got any feedback from the guys in the chopper regarding the decisions you made. Was there any follow up interview/disscussion or did they just plonk you back in civilization and wave bye bye??
"What went ye out into the wilderness to see?
A reed shaken in the wind"?
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby stepbystep » Mon 30 Dec, 2013 1:57 pm

Nice report mate. thanks for having the guts to post it. Pity you had so many things go against you. The Denison is a magic river. Those Huon Pine forests are something to behold and you've got me wanting to visit places like Freedom's Gates.

I don't question you hitting the button, seemed you had no choice. Only you'd know if you were out of your depth and shouldn't have been there at all...

Either way I'm sure you've taken a lot out of it and will be better equipped next time. If your fiance lets there be next time!!!
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby baeurabasher » Mon 30 Dec, 2013 2:22 pm

A brave report. Well done.

The only negative thing i would say is when dealing with rivers, you really need to be flexible enough to allow as many rest days as possible. You seemed to be behind your schedule quite easily.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Nuts » Mon 30 Dec, 2013 2:39 pm

Up the creek without paddle= Lol..
Nah, iv'e seen people flown out with much less thought process. Good to see you had the trip in the bag at least!
Good reading, good report, well done.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Lizzy » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 7:34 am

Glad you both are safe & well. Enjoyed the report.
Cheers
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby tigercat » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 8:16 am

Bottom line: both of you, and emergency personnel are all safe and well.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby tibboh » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 9:49 am

A great and honest report. As mentioned above the main thing is all survived to raft another day.
Sometimes the greatest lessons are learned when you make the biggest mistakes. I'm pretty sure that knowing the outcome you wouldn't do everything the same? There are probably some lessons here for prospective packrafters on this forum also........practice makes perfect, especially before such a trip.....you can't raft without a paddle, etc etc.
On a lighter note, do have any photos to show us from this adventure?
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Mark_O » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 12:48 pm

Well done on writing and posting your report! Thanks for your willingness to share your valuable experience with others and the lessons learnt. Despite the ending I think it was obviously an amazing trip and regardless an excellent achievement and one that the two of you should be proud of rather than embarrassed by. I can certainly understand your drive to complete the trip, your personal dilemma at the time, as well as your feelings post-trip. As a whitewater kayaker and packrafter I know how dangerous capsizing in those river conditions can be - well done on making a very difficult and painful decision. Your telling of this experience will undoubtedly educate and better prepare others including myself and who knows, may even save someone else's life. Thanks
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Strider » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 1:10 pm

Glad to hear you're both home safely and absolutely agree you did the right thing not taking on further unecessary risk. This is exactly what PLBs are for.

I am curious though - was the lost paddle tethered to the raft?
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Mark_O » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 1:13 pm

Hi Strider. In a whitewater setting it is a big no-no to tether paddles to craft due to entanglement potential. This is quite different to sea kayaking where you sometimes tether depending on the situation. Many people have died in whitewater from having ropes wrapped around their bodies and a submerged tree/strainer.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Scottyk » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 6:39 pm

Frenchy, good report and honesty. No one can tell you if you did the right thing because they weren't there.
Could have carried a spare paddle, but you can't carry spare everything. The only other thought I had was to make one but maybe that's easy to say sitting in from of the computer at home.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Strider » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 7:07 pm

Mark_O wrote:Hi Strider. In a whitewater setting it is a big no-no to tether paddles to craft due to entanglement potential. This is quite different to sea kayaking where you sometimes tether depending on the situation. Many people have died in whitewater from having ropes wrapped around their bodies and a submerged tree/strainer.

Makes very good sense. Thanks for the explanation :)
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Strider » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 7:11 pm

Scottyk wrote:Could have carried a spare paddle, but you can't carry spare everything.

Spot on - if they lost a raft and kept the paddle I'm sure no one would suggest carrying a spare raft!

I guess the only redundancy that could be planned into such a trip is additional food that would allow a long, slow walk out. But even then, as Frenchy mentioned, someone would be looking for you by that time and it might even impede rescue efforts due to going off the planned course.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby baeurabasher » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 5:30 am

Strider wrote:
I guess the only redundancy that could be planned into such a trip is additional food that would allow a long, slow walk out.



Which could take months in that country....
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Strider » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 6:29 am

Nice selective quoting there mate.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby baeurabasher » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 7:21 am

Strider wrote:Nice selective quoting there mate.


????

It was the only part of the comment i was interested in.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Strider » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 2:18 pm

Sorry mate. Yes it would certainly take a long time!
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby daznkez » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 2:42 pm

Glad to hear you made it out okay. One thing I did think was were you both safe and could you feasibly set up camp for the remaining days of your food supply? If you were overdue rescue party would have been notified by your relatives. Based on the conditions you described they would assume you were stuck on the river but safe as no epirb was activated.( May have been some relief to family member?). At the end of the day it sounds like an epic adventure where all the right safety measures were taken and everyone made it home safely to continue on the next adventure. Looking forward to the trip report. Kez
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby north-north-west » Wed 01 Jan, 2014 4:28 pm

This seems to be a recurring theme: the errors aren't made at the time, but during the planning, with insufficient allowance made for delays.
Of course, it's easy to say that in hindsight, but it does make me grateful that I've never had to worry much about anyone else worrying about me.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby Walk_fat boy_walk » Thu 02 Jan, 2014 1:17 pm

Great report (echo the call for photos!).

I always carry a PLB but this report makes me think more about the utility of a SPOT - ie. having the ability to convey a message of "I'm safe, but..." if needed. Could be used in conjunction with a PLB. Expensive though.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby jmac » Fri 03 Jan, 2014 10:59 pm

Many thanks to Frenchy for sharing this report with the forum, allowing us all to learn from it.

The Gordon River below the Denison River junction is truly a monster when in full Hydro-release flow up into the trees, which can happen in any weather, at any time of the year. I've paddled it like that a couple of times and I remember a set of big standing waves that I described at the time as being over 100m wide and more than a kilometre long... and I don't think I was exaggerating. And the massive whirlpools seethe up from nowhere and try to suck your little boat down into the murky depths. I remember my packrafting companion Matt having a surprising and somewhat scary swim when one of these malevolent whirlpools tried to suck him and his boat down. He emerged shaken, and stirred; perhaps he should be renamed Martini. I wouldn't want to tackle the big water of the Gordon without a paddle.

In response to the questions posed to Frenchy and his companion, I offer the following thoughts:

1) Should they have allowed extra time in their schedule to sit out a crisis?

The nature of these combined mountain+river trips is that they are so physically challenging that building in the extra time and food for rest days becomes counter-productive. These trips can generally only just be achieved with current technology and loads. Remember that every extra day requires an extra 800+ grams of food. I was impressed that Frenchy managed to keep his starting load down to 30kg. That is incredibly difficult to do when you add full boating gear to a full wilderness pack for a ten day trip. On the other hand, once the crisis has arisen, it would be excellent to have the luxury of extra days to deal with the situation. Other than returning to the water safely, extra days would not have helped the two as they were so remote from overland self-extraction.

2) Should they have carried an extra paddle?

No, I don't believe so. As mentioned above, the loads on these trips are so difficult to carry in tough terrain, that weight and size of pack is critical. For wild river paddling where access is easy, such as the Franklin River, having a spare breakdown paddle is the norm, but not when you have to carry the thing over a scrubby mountain range to get to the river! In my early days of remote river paddling there were no experts around from whom to learn, but we figured out very early on that you should never let go of your paddle unless in dire necessity. There is no point in sceond-guessing John's loss of his paddle during his tumultuous ordeal, I am certain that he would desperately love to still be in possession of it. I do wonder whether improvisation with a bush pole might have been an option worth trying had they decided to stay put and give themselves the time to attempt the fabrication of one. I accept however that he had been too shaken by his near-drowning to consider this a feasible or safe option.

3) Should they have carried/used more informative communications equipment?

I too commend them on carrying and using the EPIRB device they possessed. I personally am very interested to learn more about the options currently available and emerging. Two-way comms such as Mark O. carried on his coastal epic are obviously the most desirable, and I think it will be great when this becomes the norm for all, in terms of availability and affordability.

Thanks very much to Frenchy and Mark for sharing their ordeals, and to all other contributors. A very interesting read.

Cheers, JMac
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sat 04 Jan, 2014 8:25 am

In relation to the time allowance I think we had the right amount of time. It may have been lost in my writing style but we were actually ahead of schedule when things turned bad. I had allowed alot of spare time at different parts of the trip. We had made it to the river on schedule as we were able to make up time on the descent to the river. When on the river i had broken the days up to approx equal lengths so on the slow going of the first river day we were behind but we made up so much time on the second day and third mornings that we were a day ahead. Trouble struck on Thurs afternoon, we would have made it out to Heritage landing by Sat lunch, we were scheduled to make it by Sun lunch and if we werent on the boat on Monday lunch thats when the family were going to hit the alarm. In that terrain and vegetation we would have struggled to make the junction of the Franklin by Monday.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sat 04 Jan, 2014 8:56 am

Here are some photos, unfortunately I left the SLR at home to save weight so none of them are great quality
The summit of Slatters Peak looking towards KW2
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Second day views

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Only blue skies on the range

King William 3 and the Denison river valley from our campsite
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King William 3 Panorama

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Waterfall on descent to river

This was our first major logjam. We deflated the boats for this and walked thru the bush, we became alot more confident with log jams and usally found a way over them rather than bush bashing
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Mother of all log jams
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sat 04 Jan, 2014 9:02 am

The next big log jam we came across we climbed over
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Another big log jam

These are the kind of glimpses we had of the POWS and Spires
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Prince of Wales range

Lots of Huon Pines
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Truchanas Huon Pine Reserve 1

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Truchanas Huon Pine Reserve 2

The start of the gorge sneaks up on you, one minute your relaxing in the Huon Pine reserve and then around the corner the gorge starts
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Start of Marriots Gorge
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sat 04 Jan, 2014 9:06 am

Looking back up river to Freedom Gates from Roslyns Pool. The Hamilton range which forms the southern side of Marriotts Gorge can be seen in the background
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Roslyns Pool

In the Dension Gorge there is a big strainer rapid which must be portaged this is the start
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Looking back at the end of strainer rapid and the end of the Denison Gorge
P1030084resiZed.jpg
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby biggbird » Sun 05 Jan, 2014 1:56 pm

Awesome to see some photos Frenchy, and have to agree with the others, good on you for your honesty.

I was curious as to whether there were ever any thoughts of turning back on account of all the rain that the area had received? Having just come back along McKay's Track from the WAs with all the creeks up after a single night of rain, I can only imagine the Gordon must have been a much scarier proposition after a few days worth!
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby frenchy_84 » Sun 05 Jan, 2014 2:07 pm

biggbird wrote:I was curious as to whether there were ever any thoughts of turning back on account of all the rain that the area had received? Having just come back along McKay's Track from the WAs with all the creeks up after a single night of rain, I can only imagine the Gordon must have been a much scarier proposition after a few days worth!


The flow of the Gordon is more down to the Hydro release than the rain, looking at the Hydro gauges it seems that the water level rises and then falls pretty soon after rain events. When we were on the range we were a little concerned about river flows particularly after seeing the creeks on the descent but we knew that if the water was to high on the Denison we could exit out via the Hamilton Range before the first gorge. However after having bad weather along the range as soon as we left the range it was three days of perfect hot weather. The water level for the Denison was perfect, when we were at Roslyns Pool you could see a line in the sand about 300mm higher than the current water level where the water had been recently.
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby tigercat » Sun 05 Jan, 2014 2:22 pm

Great photos, thanks for posting
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Re: King William Traverse and Denison Descent

Postby DarrenM » Sun 05 Jan, 2014 2:36 pm

Good read mate, thanks for posting. I've lost a paddle in a gorge before and luckily for me it popped up an hour later. I had already started looking for suitable branches to make something.

I understand anything you might construct needs to actually produce some power when you need it to though. Trying to make eddies in high volume is critical and with a makeshift paddle.....very difficult. Glad you guys made it out safe.

I'll now consider taking a lightweight spare when I get around to the Franklin.
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