Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Walk Number 27 .......Mt Fortescue 15/1/2012

The beginning of another new year is upon us....2012, wow!!  When I was a kid the year 2012 brought up images of flying saucers, living on other planets and everything done by robots....well obviously that hasn't eventuated (must have been well before my time!) but one thing that is assured is that we can still hike to magnificent places!  Today's trek is a visit to Mt 8 hour walk, which includes refreshment & photo breaks. 

The Mount Fortescue walk is over one of the more recently established tracks on the Peninsula and takes in the previously unaccessed coastline of Fortescue Bay.  The walk traverses a wide variety of country including rugged clifftops, rainforest and the summit of Mt Fortescue which rises to 490 metres almost directly from the sea.....what more could you ask for??

Accessing the track is as per all other walks originating at Fortescue Bay.  Once at the camping grounds follow the sign indicating the Cape Hauy track and you are on your way. After a fairly arduous hours walk a sign marked "Mount Fortescue" pointing to the right is reached.  Follow the track marked with orange pointers up the rocky spur to the south.  A short climb through stunted Eucalypts emerges onto the clifftops at Monument Lookout.  There is a sheer drop of 200 metres with no protective barriers, so take care.  The urge to creep close to the edge is tantalising as the views from this spot are incredible.  Hippolyte Rock and Cape Hauy beckon in the Northeast and Munro Bight  and Cape Pillar evident in the south.  The Tasman Island Lighthouse is just visible above the Cape.

The track follows the cliffs for a short distance, passing several other viewpoints before descending slightly to cross the head of a small valley where the vegetation is low coastal heath with some stunted Eucalypts.  

This low vegetation allows the first clear view of your destination, Mount Fortescue, rising out of the sea to the southwest, and also, by turning north, the tops of Tatnell Hill and Clemes Peak....both of which have already been conquered!

The track eventually returns to the coastline and there are some spectacular rock formations below, including a sea cave and a natural arch where the sea has carved a tunnel through the base of the 200 metre cliff.....really this is just so magnificent, these scenes always leave me breathless!

The track climbs to a point of 230 metres above sea level, and I've got to tell you, I felt every metre of it!  While the track is easy to follow and pretty well maintained the constant up up is really a deal prepared for a good cardio workout!  Both Jane & I used walking poles and I really suggest if you don't have any make the investment....really worth it.

The track now descends into the Mill Creek catchment....a very welcome relief from the uphill ascent.  From here on the forest is of differing types and having left the dry sclerophyll and coastal heath behind, you now enter the first of the areas of wet forest.  There are Tea-tree, Banksia and the endemic Grass Tree with some quite large Stringybarks growing in the valley.

The route now climbs quite steeply, again!  It emerges onto a lookout some 300 metres above sea level where there are views to Maria Island through a saddle in the hills to the north.  From here the track re-enters the forest and climbs up the northeast spur of Mount Fortescue, where the forest becomes wetter with increasing altitude, and there is the occasional sample of rainforest species to give you a taste of things to come.

The track climbs (again!) almost to the top of the spur before descending a little onto the eastern slopes and into an area of remnant rainforest.  This is one of the best examples of rainforest on the Peninsula with large Myrtles and Sassafras making up the canopy.

The track eventually emerges from the rainforest and rejoins the ridge which is followed south through wet sclerophyll forest to the summit of Mt Fortescue.  While the summit is forest clad there is a small rocky outcrop where you can see across Cape Pillar to Tasman Island and down onto the rugged shoreline of Munro Bight.

Return to Fortescue Bay via the same route.

Next destination is Arthurs Peak.....what better way to spend Australia Day than climbing a mountain!!

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