Bender & Xing

Abel Adventures

Turrana Bluff

The morning after our chilly but successful summit of Mersey Crag, we set our sights on its cousin across the valley – Turrana Bluff. The only question was: how best to get up atop its towering ridgeline?

Date: 8th December 2019 – Summit: 1454m

The view from the summit cairn of Turrana Bluff, looking west towards a decidedly snow-capped Mt Pelion West, Mt Ossa and the Du Cane Range. In the first week of summer, no less.

Distance: Approximate 10km return from our campsite in the Little Fisher River valley.
Time taken: About 5 hrs, including breaks.
Difficulty: Untracked and unmarked once off the Little Fisher River track, but otherwise reasonably simple off track walking through low vegetation, rock outcrops and tarns. Would need to be considered carefully in bad weather and limited visibility though, with extreme care taken near the cliffline.
Type of track: Unmarked from Little Fisher River track.
Access from: Southern saddle of the Little Fisher River valley. Refer to our Mersey Crag post for details on the route from Dublin Road via Rinadeena Falls.

The morning sun breaking over the mass of Turrana Bluff’s cliffline to illuminate that of Mersey Crag’s opposite.

After variable conditions throughout most of the day before, it was reassuring to wake to clear and bright conditions the next day. While the nearby notch of talus almost directly to our east seemed like such a shorter, more direct route to the summit of Turrana, it was seriously steep and potentially quite dangerous to climb. Having bashed down through similar looking scrub the day before we didn’t relish the thought of trying to go up through it either, so the night before we’d settled to take the longer, less steep path more trodden instead. Thus we wasted no time getting downing breakfast and coffee before filling up our day packs and heading south once more to the top of the valley saddle – marked with a very visible cairn – where we’d previously left the track to access the ridgeline to Mersey Crag.

This talus-strewn notch (photographed the evening before) looked so much more approachable on ListMap. Serious doubts about the safety of such steep rock – and the thick band of scrub between it and us to reach it – had us reject this route the evening before and settle on taking the ‘usual’ approach from the south.
Heading south along the Little Fisher River track towards the saddle, where the southern ridgelines of Turrana Bluff and Mersey Crag meet.
The valley saddle cairn, with Bender eyeing the high point of Turrana Bluff in the distance.

The Abels Vol. 1 mentioned something of a caired route up the initial southern ridgeline of Turrana Bluff – if coming up from Long Tarns – so we continued a few hundred metres further south along the track before breaking east over higher ground in a hope to intersect it. After 15-20 minutes of fruitless weaving through otherwise very pretty tarns lined with Pencil pines, we gave up and headed north, with the rising cliff line of Turrana in our sights. On the return trip we’d not make the same mistake, and instead take a more direct route back to the valley saddle.

Crossing through some bands of Pencil pine as we climbed onto the southern end of the Turrana ridgeline.
One of the numerous tarns that dot this area. Looking north to the Turrana ridgeline.
Picking our way through low vegetation and rock as we slowly gained elevation.

Once properly up on the ridgeline it was simply a matter of picking out the easiest route over or around the rock outcrops and patches of denser shoulder-height scrub that dotted the terrain ahead to our north. Using both the now-visible cliffline as a rough guide – and my InReach to make sure we didn’t stray too far off our bearing – we made our way over a seemingly endless number of rises and valleys, usually puncuated with either a tarn or small creek. The worst of the taller scrub was easily avoided with some judicious rock hopping.

While the sun had bailed early on us the previous day, it was now beaming down on us with proper vengeance, so we made the most of a flat area perched above the large, cliff-lined tarn we came across for a short morning tea.

Making our way through the undulations of rock and every variety of Tasmanian alpine flora.
Choose your own path. Turrana Bluff itself can just be made out at the top-right of this image.
This was definitely a cairn, though it had no friends nearby and thus signified little, other that we were where we were, and someone had been here before! Close enough…
Possibly one of the prettiest tarns I’ve ever seen.
Another view of the tarn, just to drive home my point.

After climbing up above the said tarn, the terrain evened out noticeably, with less undulations, more broken boulders and the taller scrub reduced to low alpine heath. It was here we also got a top-down view of the notch we’d originally considered. As tempting as it was, Xing quickly scuttled any ideas about doing another ‘direct descent’ down the rather huge and potentially unstable boulders on our return journey. Probably for the best ๐Ÿ˜‰

Less undulating terrain with low health and more talus as we passed 1300m in elevation.
A cheeky snow-capped summit of Mt. Pelion West peers out over the northern ridgeline of Mersey Crag and Clumner Bluff.
The top of the ‘notch’ with our tent just visible towards the top-right. Looked far more dicey in person than it does in this photo, especially just past the drop-off.

The last 600m of relatively flat and barren ground to the summit was covered quickly, as amazing views over towards Cradle Mountain and the Pelion Group opened up to our west. An unseasonal – though hardly rare – early summer blizzard had pounded the northern end of the Overland Track, including Cradle Mountain with gale force winds and a metre of snow, resulting in three walkers bailed up in Kitchen Hut with hypothermia until they could be rescued.

Their plight, though barely 30km west of our position, seemed a world away though as we came onto the generally-accepted ‘true highest point’ of Turrana Bluff – the ‘chock stone’ in warm sun and a gentle breeze. Walking out onto the very narrow and highly exposed chock stone isn’t recommended without a harness and rock climbing gear, so we bravely straddled the adjacent stone on our stomachs and reached out to put a single finger on it to consider it ‘bagged’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mersey Crag set against the Overland Track’s cast of mountains, all of which appear to be still in ‘winter mode’.
The ‘summits’ of Turrana Bluff. Despite the lump of rocks further north appearing higher in this photo, the lichen capped extension – the ‘chock stone’ – above the cairn in the left-foreground is said to be the highest point.
The view over the chock stone to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff.
No lack of steep cliffs around the top of the bluff.
Bender’s rapidly deteriorating Lowa Tibet GTXs failing to spoil a fantastic lunchtime view!

With both time and the weather on our side for the first time in many months, we took the opportunity to enjoy a proper summit lunch and refuel for not only the return trip to our tent, but also our return journey back to the car on Dublin Road.

For our return journey we simply retraced our steps back along the ridgeline until we drew close to the saddle cairn at the bottom end of the valley, before picking a minor creek to follow down directly to it. This resulted in a short amount of pushing our way through some taller scrub but saved a good half-kilometre of extra walking further south than necessary.

Dropping down off the ridgeline early to connect up with the Little Fisher River track.
Pushing through some minor scrub to reach the valley saddle.

Eventually the Little Fisher River track came into sight and we wasted no time walking back down into the valley to drop our tent, load up our big packs and get back out to Dublin Road. While our now-very tired bodies struggled under heavy packs for the first few kilometres back down to Rinadeena Falls, once on the old vehicle track and aided by walking poles, we were able to dispense with the remaining distance quickly and without drama.

We came across this little fella on our walk back out of the Little Fisher River track.
Route taken to Mersey Crag and Turrana Bluff via the Little Fisher River track.

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