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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Frenchmans Cap Hike - Day 2 - Tahune Hut and the Summit

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Today we were headed for Tahune Hut. I managed to get ready quickly and swept out the hut while Gaye was packing.
It wasn't much fun putting on wet boots and socks, but at least they were no longer muddy, after I washed them in the river.
The track started out heading through the rainforest beside Lake Vera. The lake was amazingly smooth like a mirror, and the reflections were quite beautiful.

Soon the track headed up from the lake climbing fairly steeply through the rainforest. It was very pretty, but everything was wet, including the rocks and tree roots which were very slippery underfoot.
The climb was quite long, but eventually we came to the top which was Barron Pass. The views were awesome. The cliffs either side of Barron Pass towered above us and were quite pretty, and in the distance was Frenchmans Cap. Below in the valley were three or four pretty lakes. Behind us we could hardly see Lake Vera, since the reflections of the surrounding forest were so clear, that it just looked like part of the forest.

The track then dropped slightly, and followed a ridge toward Artichoke valley, then climbed steeply out of the valley. After a brief flat section we descended toward Tahune hut, with Frenchmans Cap now dominating the skyline.

We had lunch at Tahune Hut, then packed small daypacks for the climb to the summit. The climb was very steep with stairs to start with, then flattened out a bit near the North Col.
The track to the summit then became very steep, requiring climbing with hands and feet up chimneys and rock slopes. It was a little difficult, but not too dangerous. Toward the top, we could tell we were getting near, as the wind increased.

The summit presented truly awesome views 360° for many many kilometres. We could see lakes near Queenstown, and Macquarie Harbour, and a huge area of wild mountains stretching into the distance and disappearing into the haze on the horizon.
The summit was very windy, and had a trig-point, and a rock windbreak for a tent on it. It was covered with rocks and small patches of mosses and other flat plants. On one side, it sloped gently away, and on the other there was a very very high cliff (~300m), only a few metres from the campsite. The valley floor was almost 900m below us. The climb had taken about 80 minutes.
We spent a some time on the summit taking in the view, but after a while, we got a bit cold, due to the wind, and decided to head back down. The descent took about an hour, and soon we were making dinner and looking at the awesome sunset on the mountains.
The night was amazingly mild, despite being clear.

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