Walls of Jerusalem – hike to Dixons Hut

The hardened track to Dixons Kingdom and Mt Jerusalem provides relatively easy access to¬†Tasmania’s most remote alpine National Park, with spectacular scenery and the option of climbing a number of peaks along the track.

I’d originally planned Walls of Jerusalem as an overnight walk. It’s been on my To Do list for a while, waiting for an opportunity when I have a few days in Tasmania. But the weather forecast is for miserable weather, including snow, and I’m getting soft in my old age ūüôā So rather than giving up completely, I’ve done a day walk to Meander Falls on the previous day, and am undertaking the Walls of Jerusalem hike as a day trip.

Staying at the nearest accommodation at Mole Creek, I make an early start to reach the Walls of Jerusalem (Lake Rowallan) car park just after 7am. I sit in the car for ten minutes as it starts to sleet. Eventually I figure I may well get going, and I start the climb up from the carpark, past the walker registration booth and up to Trappers Hut.

The sleet turns into snow as I gain altitude, and some of it stays on the ground. It’s cold but the constant climb keeps my warm enough.

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By the time I reach Trappers Hut, about 2.3km into the walk, there’s a light cover of snow on the ground. Trappers Hut was one of the basic huts used by animal trappers in the 1940s, and was rebuilt in 1990 using the original design. While not suitable for an overmight stay, I enjoy a brief nap away from the wind and snow before resuming my hike.

I’ve now completed most of the ascent; just after the hut there’s an alternative track to the Walls via Lake Adelaide and Lake Ball. I had intended to come back via this route (not a marked track), but decide not to with the wet and overcast weather. Continuing straight ahead on the main track, I soon reach the plateau and have the first views of the Walls of Jerusalem in the distance (Kings David Peak is directly ahead).

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There’s now a long walk across the plateau, through a number of picturesque pools and lakes. The track, mostly well-marked and easy to follow, traverses Solomons Jewels – the largest of the lakes. Even with the gloomy weather, this is one of the most scenic and pleasant sections of the walk!

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After the lakes the track crosses the valley formed by the Wild Dog Creek, before reaching the Wild Dog Creek campsite. There are a number of timber camping platforms here which are are fairly private, although I’d recommend continuing further before setting up camp if you are overnighting.

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The track rises again after the campsite up through Herods Gate: to the north-east is Mount Ophel (1,335m asl) and thundering past the track is the swollen Wild Dog Creek. I meet a couple of hikers who look far better equipped than me, and warm to expect deep snow ahead.

To the left of the track is Lake Salome…

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…to the right is King David Peak (1,499m asl) which forms part of the West Wall.

The peaks forming the Walls of Jeruasalem are in all directions, surrounding Lake Salome and the valley I’m walking through like a an enormous amphitheatre.

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There’s also a lot more snow, and at times the track (still mostly boardwalk) is submerged between a foot or more of snow.

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Despite the snow – and limited visibility – once I reach Damascus Gate (the saddle between the Solomons Throne and the Temple) I attempt a couple of side-trips to the peaks along the main track. To the west is Solomons Throne – at 1,469m elevation it’s slightly higher than Mount Jerusalem – and is the highest point in the area that has a marked walking trail. I set off across the snow and up the slope towards the rocky summit.

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At first it’s not too difficult, although about half-way up I put on my micro-spikes to help with traction on the mostly hard-packed snow. It gets more challenging as the track reaches the rock face, and the accumulated and softer snow reaches depths of over a metre.

Where the track enters a narrow and steep gully up to the peak, I give up… even with crampons there’s a risk of either slipping through the snow onto submerged rocks, or sliding down the sleep slope back to the bottom…!

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I admire the views from my vantage point half-way up Solomons Throne – on the opposite side of the valley is The Temple.

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Having returned to the main track after my aborted ascent of Solomons Throne, I decide to try and reach the top of The Temple. At 1,446m asl the peak is only about 20m lower in elevation than¬†Solomons Throne, but it looks like there’s a lot less snow on top. The rocky path is a lot easier to follow, with just a few patches of snow covering the route.

Although while this time I reach the summit**, it’s a somewhat pyrrhic victory as I really can’t see anything from the top! Looking back across the valley at Solomons Throne it’s shrouded by cloud. You can see how the narrow gulleys and southern flank of the mountain are deep in snow. (** Technically I don’t quite reach the summit – my GPS says I’m at 1,425m when I turn around, but I don’t see the point of continuing when visibility is so limited.)

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Back on the main track, I continue to Dixons Kingdom Hut. The trail descends slightly along the lower slopes of The Temple, through a large forest of Pencil Pines (some of the trees are estimated to be up to a thousand years old). There’s snow across most of the path, and I’m glad that there are footprints marking the route, as there’s no natural landmarks to follow.

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Dixons Kingdom Hut lies in a clearing at the edge of the Pencil Pine forest. The small hut, originally built as a base for cattle grazing, provides some shelter but is not intended to be used for accommodation. Tent camping is permitted in this area, and would have been my destination if doing an overnight walk.

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This is my destination for today: I would have had time to climb Mt Jerusalem, but while the weather is improving slightly it’s still very overcast. After a short break and a chat to two hikers who are warming up inside the hut, I head back.

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Towards the end of the walk the skies are clearing. I’m glad I’ve managed to finally do this walk, and in some ways the snow and cloud enhance the alpine landscape. But I feel I’ll have to come back, on a day when the sky is clear and there are views from the many peaks along the track.

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Location Start at Lake Rowallan car park, accessed via Mersey Forest Road from Sheffield / Mole Creek. Last section of road is gravel but 2WD is fine.
Distance 22km return as walked (add 4km if summiting Mt Jerusalem)
Grade Moderate. Total elevation gain of ~1000m. Well-constructed track.
Season/s Sep/Oct – April unless equipped for snow conditions. Check weather forecast before commencing walk and always be prepared for changing conditions!
Maps
  • TASMAP Walls of Jerusalem NP (1:25,000)
GPS Route Routie¬†GPS trail –¬†view route and export to KML format.
Resources
  • Parks & Wildlife Service “Walls of Jerusalem Fact Sheet
  • “Day Walks Tasmania” by John & Monica Chapman (p.137)
Map-Walls-of-Jerusalem
Map showing Walls of Jerusalem track. Source: TasTrails

Stokkvikskaret

A muddy walk along Lake √Ögvatnet, with chains to assist on the steeper parts. The trail goes over Stokkvikskaret Pass to Stokkvikvatnet, and finally onto Stokkvika village.

According to my trusty guidebook, this is a popular Lofoten Islands walk on a (mostly) good track… maybe we¬†were there at the wrong time of year: I’d describe it more as long sections of deep mud connected by a vague path. We saw no-one on the track. Although it was still an enjoyable afternoon.

The hike is near the village of Å, at the very southern end of the Lofoten archipelago and a 20min drive from our accommodation in Reine. Leaving our car at the almost-empty carpark we quickly find the fish drying racks, although there are no fish at this time of year (the racks would be full in March/April). The path is already soggy here as we walk through the drying racks and head towards the lake (Ågvatnet), trying to avoid the worst puddles.

 

The track is not always well-marked, but as it follows the lake we can’t really go wrong.¬†It’s very muddy and it doesn’t take long before we give up trying to avoid the mud, and just walk through it. There’s a few moments where I think the mud may have claimed one of Luke’s shoes that is sucked from his foot, but we manage to recover it!

There’s also a few sections¬†where chains are used to¬†help traverse steep sections, which is good fun.

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It’s pretty slow going. After¬†about an hour we pass a small hut that’s by the shore of Lake √Ögvatnet, and on the opposite side¬†we see a few fisherman’s huts. After another half an ¬†hour the end of the lake is in sight, but¬†it’s getting late in the day and Luke¬†has had enough mud.

The track continues further along the lake and then climbs up to the Stokkvikskaret Pass (and onto the town of Stokkvika on the other side of the ridge).¬†There’s also some¬†low mist, so the view from the ridge wouldn’t be great. We call it a day, and head back along the lake.

Despite the¬†mist, the setting sun glows behind Lake √Ögvatnet and the surrounding mountains as we squelch our way back to the car…

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Location Near large carpark in the village of √Ö (southern end of Lofoten archipelago, at the end of E10 highway). Look for fish drying racks.
Distance Approx 7km return (to Stokkvikskaret Pass)
Grade Moderate. 4oom ascent to Stokkvikskaret Pass
Season/s Summer/Autumn
Map  Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
Resources ‚ÄúExplore Lofoten‚ÄĚ (book) by Kristin Folsland Olsen (p.158)
One of the Top 10 Lofoten Islands hike on Switchback travel

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Sommarsetvatnet hike

Sommarsetvatnet hike is an (unexpectedly) delightful hike¬†that ascends from the fjord at Sommerset up to an alpine lake that’s surrounded by mountain peaks

I didn’t have particularly high expectations of this hike…¬†I was staying nearby at Garsnes¬†Brygge, and looking for a hike I could do in the morning before our visit to the Polar Park in the afternoon. I’d asked the helpful staff at Garsnes Brygge the previous evening whether there were any local hiking paths, and I got¬†a mixed response, from “a short walk to a lake” to “it’s a steep walk that will take 4-5 hours”. Both descriptions, as it turns out, being somewhat correct…

The Sommarsetvatnet hiking trail starts on Route 152, a one kilometre walk along the road¬†from my¬†accommodation at Garsnes Brygges (or 3km from¬†where Route 152 meets¬†National Highway 84). There’s a sign marking the start of the¬†trail, which is encouraging as I don’t have any map or¬†information on the walk, other than the description(s) I was given the previous evening.

I set off up a rough farm road, which ascends through the forest for about a kilometre, before it becomes a narrow foot trail. After about three kilometres, I reach a small ridge from where there are views back towards the fjord (Sagfjorden) where the walk started. The path ascends a bit more steeply, with the forest becoming more open.

Soon I’m above the tree line, and in a more alpine environment. Walking through¬†grasses and low heath, taller peaks in the distance become visible – Elveskardtindan (1243m) and Hogfjellet (1235m). I think it’s these ones… please correct me if I’m wrong!

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A few more minutes walking, and a waterfall appears on the right, fed by the lake (Sommarsetvatnet) above, that I can’t yet see.

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Another ten minutes and I reach Sommarsetvatnet, a small lake surrounded by taller mountains.

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The trail¬†follows the lake for a few hundred metres before it stops. There is a peak (Lifjellet) above the eastern side of the lake – the side that I’m on – which promises¬†a better view of the area. And a ridge to the north-east that might provide views back to the fjord… It’s¬†steep but easy walking and scrambling up the¬†slope from the lake.

The views are inspiring despite the the overcast conditions, and get better as I scramble up the scree and grassy slope from 520m.

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I don’t quite reach the Lifjellet summit at 982m due to time constraints, although I couldn’t see a trig point or any discernible peak. The highest point I get to is 932m,¬†with the view improving as I climb – I can see all the way from Sommarsetvatnet¬†and across Sagfjorden to the peaks on the other side of the fjord.

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I slowly scramble back down to re-join the path near the end of the lake, and take the same trail back down. To the lake and back is about 9km; with the off-track hiking up to the Lifjellet peak the total distance covered is 12.5km. Considering my low expectations, it turned out to be a fantastic walk.

Location Near Sommarset on Route 152. Turn onto Route 152 from National Highway 84 and continue 3km. Nearest major town is¬†Sj√łvegan.
If you are coming from the E6, turn right by Brandvoll and follow the road to Sj√łvegan. At the first intersection after the Salangen Church, a left, and follow signs towards “Salangen Helserehab” and “Elvelund”. Follow this road, Highway 84, for a few minutes until you come to “Laberg”. When you see the sign toward Garsnes Brygge, turn right and follow the road.
Distance 12.5km round-trip with 880m ascent. Allow 4-5 hours.
Grade Moderate. Some off-track walking to reach Lifjellet summit
Season/s June-October
Map Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Nil. If staying at Garsnes Brygge, staff can provide some info.
Photos Google Photos album
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Map of Sommarsetvatnet route and elevation of hike

Barn Bluff circuit

A less-busy alternative to Cradle Mountain, with equally impressive views and a slightly harder scramble to the top.

Having climbed Cradle Mountain a few times,¬†Barn Bluff looked like a good alternative for a day-trip. It’s Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak, and looks like a barn… This is my second attempt;¬†I’d tried just over a year ago and¬†was thwarted by the¬†weather. (Despite having wet-weather gear, I wasn’t equipped to deal with driving sleet and turned back at Kitchen Hut.)

Today starts ominously overcast. I¬†start pretty early as I’ve got an evening flight out of Launceston. I’m staying nearby, at the¬†Cradle Mountain Highlanders cottages just outside the park (I prefer to stay at the very¬†basic Waldheim Cabins which are inside the park, but none were available). So it’s a short drive to the start of the track at Ronny Creek, and I¬†set off at 6:30am.

The walk to Barn Bluff starts on the Overland Track at Ronny Creek, although it would be just as feasible to commence from the Dove Lake car park. There’s a raised timber boardwalk for the first section across the grassland and then a well-constructed track with stone steps, so it’s easy walking, even though I’m¬†climbing fairly steeply up past Crater Lake and onto Crater Peak lookout.

After 3.6km the track reaches an exposed and often windy plateau¬†and from here it’s fairly flat, sometimes on boardwalk and sometimes on gravel. The morning is still very misty,¬†which brings out the autumn colours in the¬†deciduous beech, or fagus.

After 5.8km I pass Kitchen Hut (where I gave up last time) and shortly after that the turn-off to the Face Track, as I continue down the Overland Track. Another 3km of walking and I reach the well-marked junction, where I turn right (off the Overland Track) and down Barn Bluff Track.

As I peer into the mist, I question whether I should continue… but press on regardless. Miracles may happen. The weather does change very quickly, even though all I’ve seen for the last three hours is different¬†shades of misty grey.

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It does feel rather miraculous when, half an hour later Barn Bluff materializes out of the mist, with blue sky behind it. From the foot of the mountain the path to the summit is very steep as it makes it way up and over large boulders and scree, marked by a series of cairns that are not always obvious. The route heads up the middle of the rocky peak, following a steep valley, and then follows the ridge up to the summit. As I climb, Cradle Mountain pokes its head up though the clouds, in the distance.

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From the top,¬†Cradle Mountain is (partly) visible¬†to the north, and Lake Will is below, looking to the south-east. It’s an impressive view.

It’s taken me three and half hours to cover the 12.5km up the summit, reaching it around 10am, so I’ve still got most of the day ahead. After half an hour, I start the descent. It’s still misty as I retrace my steps along the ridge on the Barn Bluff track. I’m now seeing a few more people, who are coming up the track.

The mist lifts a little Рand a few walkers have said the Lake Rodway track is clearer. So, 800m after the Barn Bluff track joins the Overland Track, I veer right onto the Lake Rodway Track.

This is a rougher track than the Overland Track, and it descends steeply down to Lake Rodway and Flynns Tarn and then ascends up to the Twisted Lakes. This is a very photogenic area; unfortunately the early afternoon light is not ideal.

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Twisted Lakes, with Cradle Mountain behind

I continue up the Lake Rodway Track towards Hansons Peak, with Cradle Mountain now behind me.

Soon Dove Lake is in sight again as I swing around the east side of Hanson Peak, with Cradle Mountain to my left and the Dove Lake car park on the right.

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The track now descends fairly steeply, until it joins the Dove Lake Circuit track shortly before the car park.

From here the walk is almost over –¬†I skirt around the car park, and walk the final three kilometres back to Ronny Creek car park via the Cradle¬†Valley Boardwalk. It’s been a very enjoyable day, despite the overcast start, and it feels good to have made it to the top of Barn Bluff 13 months after my first¬†attempt.

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Location Ronny Creek car park near the end of Dove Lake Road.
Cradle Mountain National Park is about 2.5 hours from Launceston, via Sheffield or Mole Creek.
Distance 27.5km circuit as walked. 24km return to Barn Bluff (shortest route)
Grade Moderate. 1125m total ascent.
Season/s All year round; may be challenging/difficult in winter
Map TasMap “Cradle Mountain Day Walks‚ÄĚ
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Photos Google Photos gallery
Resources Day Walks Tasmania (book) has track notes for this walk
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Map of Cradle Valley (day walks) with Barn Bluff hiking route

Kitchen Hut, Cradle Mountain

A planned hike to Barn Bluff is thwarted by bad weather, and becomes a misty walk to Kitchen Hut!

Arriving late the previous evening in Cradle Mountain, I’ve booked one of the¬†basic Waldheim Cabins which are inside the park so I can get an early start the following morning. The¬†evening is clear, and while taking some night shots from Lake Dove, I capture the faint glow of the Aurora¬†Australis (southern lights) – the only time I’ve seen them in Tasmania.

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Unfortunately, the next morning is very overcast and misty, as I set off very early by torch-light from the Ronny Creek car park. Shortly after the Overland Track boardwalk ends and I veer right onto the Horse Track, I follow a wombat who leads the way up the Overland Track, seemingly unaware of my presence (or just preferring to stick to the well-made track).

By the¬†time I reach the plateau, there’s a combination of sleet and rain (not¬†exactly sure which, but it’s both painful when it hits your face and very cold).¬†I reach Kitchen Hut, where I take shelter and warm up a little, while I consider my options… It’s now getting light, but visibility is very limited and there’s not much chance of a view fro Barn Bluff (or Cradle Mountain, which I can’t even see from the hut).

I head back, this time taking the Overland Track.

It remains misty, with limited visibility. I can just see the other side of Lake Dove from Marion’s Lookout, below.

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Descending to Crater Lake, I pass the old boat shed.

Crater Falls is more impressive than usual though from the overnight rain. It’s only a 5m drop, but surrounded by moss and lichen as it cascades down next to the path.

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Photo stops aside, it’s a quick descent to the car and breakfast at Cradle Mountain lodge! It’s¬†been a short three-hour walk (including half an hour¬†trying to warm up in Kitchens Hut) and¬†I’m back at Ronny Creek by 9am.¬†dsc00659

[Just over a year later, I’m more successful in my¬†attempt, and reach Barn Bluff¬†on a day that starts almost as overcast, but clears up in time!]

Location Ronny Creek car park near the end of Dove Lake Road.
Cradle Mountain National Park is about 2.5 hours from Launceston, via Sheffield or Mole Creek.
Distance Approx 11.5km
Grade Easy. ~400m total ascent.
Season/s All year round; may be challenging/difficult in winter
Map TasMap ‚ÄúCradle Mountain Day Walks‚ÄĚ
Resources Day Walks Tasmania (book) has track notes for this walk

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