Walls of won­der

One of the world’s most famed bush­walk­ing lo­cales of­fers an ex­pe­ri­ence of bib­li­cal pro­por­tions that starts with a three hour drive from Launce­s­ton.

Australian Geographic - - Contents - STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN WALKER

The Walls of Jerusalem NP of­fers heav­enly hik­ing

TASMANIA’S WALLS of Jerusalem National Park is among the world’ s most over qual­i­fied World Her­itage sites. It’s one of the main prop­er­ties pro­tected within the Tasmania Wilder­ness World Her­itage Area, which en­com­passes 15,800 sq.km – about 20 per cent of the state – and in­cludes the Cra­dle Moun­tain–Lake St Clair, Franklin–Gor­don Wild Rivers, South­west and Hartz Moun­tain national parks, as well as the Adams­field and Cen­tral Plateau con­ser­va­tion ar­eas.

Nat­u­ral high­lights of the 518sq.km Walls of Jerusalem NP in­clude glacial-carved val­leys, an­cient pen­cil pine forests, alpine lakes and do­lerite peaks, all of which of­fer stun­ning land­scape photography op­por­tu­ni­ties. The park is most famed as a bush­walk­ing des­ti­na­tion, of­fer­ing walks that range from day-long and overnight to a six-day (or longer) cir­cuit that ex­plores the park from north to south and back again. This va­ri­ety means the park of­fers some­thing suited to all skill and fit­ness lev­els–the perfect lo­ca­tion for tak­ing that next booted step in a new walk­ing ca­reer, while of­fer­ing chal­lenges for ex­pe­ri­enced walk­ers. The walk­ing sea­son runs from about Septem­ber to May.

The Walls’ north­ern ac­cess area is roughly three hours drive south-west of Launce­s­ton, pass­ing through Delo­raine (a chance to grab last-minute sup­plies) and then Mole Creek, be­fore reach­ing the turn-off from Mersey For­est Road to Fish River car park. Then, after sign­ing the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice walker regis­tra­tion book, the real ad­ven­ture be­gins.

THE LONG WAY ROUND

To ap­pre­ci­ate the won­der of the Walls, a six-day cir­cuit of the park is a must, al­beit only for ex­pe­ri­enced walk­ers. Ide­ally, you’ll have com­pleted other full-pack, multi-day treks and be com­fort­able car­ry­ing food and a day’s wa­ter (there are am­ple chances to ref ill), plus all your gear (see “Pack­ing It In”, op­po­site). You’ll need to think in terms of time rather than dis­tance, due to the ter­rain en­coun­tered along this cir­cuit and its side-trips.

The park’s tracks are easy to fol­low and mostly sign­posted. But you should still be adept at ba­sic nav­i­ga­tion and carry to­po­graphic pa­per maps of the park, and a com­pass and emer­gency bea­con. GPS de­vices are fan­tas­tic but can fail or run out of power, so should not be your sole nav­i­ga­tion aid. If you take one, re­mem­ber spare bat­ter­ies. All this might sound daunt­ing, but ex­pe­ri­enced walk­ers will al­ways pack this equip­ment. With proper prepa­ra­tion and the es­sen­tial gear you can fo­cus on why you’re there: to en­joy one of Aus­tralia’s pre­mier multi-day bush­walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

The Walls cir­cuit is a far-from-sub­tle in­tro­duc­tion to the park’s land­scapes. The ini­tial as­cent be­gins straight from the Fish River car park; fol­low­ing the rock-strewn track up­wards im­merses you im­me­di­ately in dense for­est, with tow­er­ing eu­ca­lypts and lush tree ferns lin­ing the track. You’ll as­cend 500m to the park’s bound­ary line, just above the f irst of the area’s his­toric huts. Trap­pers Hut was, as the name sug­gests, ini­tially used by trap­pers, and later bush­walk­ers (al­though, as for all huts in the park, you are now only al­lowed to stay in it in an emer­gency). Even al­low­ing for the as­cent’s steep­ness, the f irst sec­tion is crack­ing good fun, and hints at what lies ahead dur­ing the next six days as you ex­plore this wild place.

ABOVE IT ALL

Once you reach the park bound­ary you’ll come to the junc­tion of the Walls of Jerusalem and Junc­tion Lake tracks. This point is where you start and fin­ish the cir­cuit it­self. You can opt to go south on Junc­tion Lake Track and com­plete the cir­cuit an­ti­clock­wise, but we rec­om­mend turn­ing south-east onto the Walls of Jerusalem Track first. This is be­cause you want your in­tro­duc­tion to the park’s many nat­u­ral high­lights to hap­pen on the first day.

You will now be at an el­e­va­tion of about 900m and soon move out of the dense tim­ber onto the Cen­tral Plateau and the first of the cir­cuit’ s many high­lights–Solom ons Jew­els.Th isis a flat area dot­ted with small alpine lakes bor­dered by na­tive pine trees – and the sec­ond (after the park ti­tle it­self ) of what will be­come reg­u­lar en­coun­ters with the park’s unique nam­ing con­ven­tion.

The park’s name is thanks to 19th-cen­tury sur­veyor James Scott, and in the 1920s Launce­s­ton so­lic­i­tor Reg Hall con­tin­ued the bib­li­cal theme. Land­marks have been as­signed such ti­tles as Zion Gate, King Davids Peak, Herods Gate, Wail­ing Wall, Pool (and Vale) of Bethesda, Lake Salome and The Tem­ple – all epic names but seem­ingly ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause this is a truly epic land­scape.

The tra­verse of Solomons Jew­els is straight­for­ward and fol­lowed by a short as­cent to Wild Dog Creek camp­site, perched at the base of King Davids Peak, which at 1499m is Tasmania’s 10th high­est. The camp­site has raised tent plat­forms to pro­tect frag­ile veg­e­ta­tion be­low, and there’s a self-com­post­ing toi­let about 50m fur­ther up.

There is also wa­ter here, but boil it be­fore drink­ing. It’s a three- to four-hour jour­ney from Fish River car

THE VIEWS – ES­PE­CIALLY OF THE MYR­IAD LAKES TO THE EAST – ARE OUT­STAND­ING.

park and the pris­tine Pool of Bethesda. It’s a fur­ther 1.5-hour tra­verse be­fore as­cend­ing Da­m­as­cus Gate and reach­ing the trail­head of two side-trips – an as­cent of Solomons Throne, at the junc­tion of the West Wall and the Wail­ing Wall, and The Tem­ple, to the east.

We rec­om­mend Solomons Throne. Scram­bling up a scree f ield then climb­ing through a square-edged notch cut out of the West Wall soon sees you at the sum­mit of Solomons Throne, with 360-de­gree views across the park. Take in the Great Pine Tier and Bernes Val­ley to the south-east, Mount Jerusalem to the east, Chi­na­mans Plains to the south and Lake Ade­laide to the south-west. Re­turn to the Da­m­as­cus Gate junc­tion and con­tinue south-east to your next camp at Dixons King­dom Hut. This is reached after an hour of walk­ing along an un­du­lat­ing track that takes you through an emer­ald-green won­der­land of lush grass and na­tive pine trees be­fore en­ter­ing a clear­ing be­side the hut.

Dixons King­dom Hut is where the track to 1459m Mount Jerusalem is ac­cessed. This steady as­cent is about an hour (one-way), and takes you over plenty of the rocks and boul­ders syn­ony­mous with the park, past alpine tarns and over false sum­mits be­fore you reach the cairn mark­ing the true sum­mit. The views – es­pe­cially of the myr­iad lakes to the east – are out­stand­ing.

THE END GAME

The cir­cuit loops south then east, then south again dur­ing the next two days. The walk south-west through Jaffa Vale from Dixons King­dom Hut is bril­liant, with the chance to spot wal­la­bies and birdlife

hid­ing in but­ton­grass moor­lands, be­fore you turn east and fol­low Lake Ball’s shore­line, pass­ing the hut with the same name. You join Junc­tion Lake Track at the head of Lake Ade­laide and can camp here or turn south to fol­low Lake Ade­laide’s east­ern shore to a camp­site half­way down. This is rec­om­mended be­cause it brings you closer to the next day’s ob­jec­tive: camp­ing at Lake Me­ston and as­cend­ing 1350m Mt Ra­goona.

To reach Lake Me­ston and camp at the head of the lake from here is a two-hour walk across Ade­laide Plain, one of the world’s best ex­am­ples of a glacial val­ley. Ac­cess­ing the Mt Ra­goona as­cent is via a side­track near Lake Me­ston Hut, mid­way along the lake’s western side. The three-hour re­turn trip from the hut is awe­some fun, ne­go­ti­at­ing scrubby, then rocky ter­rain to Mt Ra­goona plateau. This is dot­ted with boul­ders and alpine tarns for the last hour to the sum­mit and views of Cra­dle Moun­tain and the rugged ram­parts of the Western Arthur Range.

From Lake Me­ston camp­site it’s a full day to f inal camp at Stretcher Lake. Back­track north along Junc­tion Lake Track, past Lake Ade­laide and then through more val­leys to Stretcher Lake, which is ac­cessed via a 15-minute side-track. A short walk around the lake be­fore sit­ting back to en­joy the sun­set makes a bril­liant last night.

It’s a three-hour walk from the last night’s camp to the car park. Re­join Junc­tion Lake Track, fol­low it to Trap­pers Hut and de­scend to Fish River car park. Time it right and you’ll be en­joy­ing lunch and a cel­e­bra­tory bev­er­age at the Mole Creek Ho­tel. Not a bad way to fin­ish six days in Walls of Jerusalem NP.

Take a break at the top of Solomons Throne and check out the in­cred­i­ble views across the south-west sec­tion of the Walls of Jerusalem NP.

Lake Me­ston Hut sits on the western shore of the lake bear­ing the same name. A track from here leads to the sum­mit of Mt Ra­goona.

This walk in the val­ley be­low Wild Dog Creek camp­site takes you past some pretty alpine tarns.

This scram­bling as­cent to Solomons Throne is a must-do 15-minute side­trip ac­cessed via a track off Walls of Jerusalem Track, at Da­m­as­cus Gate.

It’s worth mak­ing the most of an early morn­ing alpine start to cross through Herods Gate, about 10 min­utes walk from the Wild Dog Creek camp­site.

The set­ting sun lights up pretty Stretcher Lake on the last evening of the cir­cuit – a fan­tas­tic sign-off after six days in this spec­tac­u­lar pris­tine land­scape.

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