Perrins Bluff is the taller and more remote of two distinct rocky outcrops that occupy the southern end of the steep ridgeline shared with Mt. Achilles. The elevated saddle between the two provides ideal access to both Abels so naturally we were keen to do both on the same day!
Distance: Approximately 8.5km from the saddle between Mt. Achilles and Perrins Bluff, to the summit and back to camp at Leonards Tarn.
Time taken: About 5 hrs in total (saddle to summit, to saddle, to camp).
Difficulty: The Abels lists Perrins Bluff as ‘hard’ due to the remoteness, need for overnight camping and access into Leonards Tarn itself, and we agree wholeheartedly. Despite the seemingly short distance to the summit from the Achilles-Perrins saddle, the mostly exposed route to the summit itself is surprisingly tough, with a substantial amount of scree and scrub to clamber over a long climb.
Type of track: A bit of a pad from Leonards Tarn up to the base of Mt. Achilles (if you can find it), then a mostly cairned route up to Perrins Bluff itself. Be aware of numerous false pads and misleading cairns!
Access from: Achilles-Perrins saddle, approximately 1km west of Leonards Tarn.
Our ascent up Mt. Achilles earlier in the morning had taken rather longer than anticipated, so we wasted no time getting our fast-tiring bodies down onto the interconnecting saddle between it and Perrins Bluff. This broad, lowly vegetated expanse was a short but welcome reprieve under our feet as we passed a series of disappointingly shallow tarns; we knew this would be our only potential resupply point before returning to camp, and we’d likely need it.
From here, notes in The Abels suggested following a pad through light eucalypt scrub until more open ground is found along the western side of the ridgeline. We soon found a very well worn pad which, as promised, lead straight into tallish eucalypt – and then straight into wall of scorparia! After a good 15 minutes of pushing through, trying to pick up the pad, we gave up, backtracked, went uphill about 50m, found another pad and… found the exact same impenetrable mess!
Another backtrack and climb 100m or so up the slope and Tracey’s eagle eyes spied a distant cairn. Tracey has an uncanny but very useful talent of spotting cairns miles in the distance! Buoyed, we made a bee line for it and soon came over another pad – not nearly as well worn as the dead-end routes further down the hill, ironically – which lead the way to the cairn.
Long story short, the correct approach from the small tarns is quite high up on the right hand (western) side of the ridge, where the rock line meets the scrub. Head in this direction, punctuated by the largish rocky mass shown in the image below, and you’ll soon find the pad that will bring the first of the cairns into view. All this was painstakingly obvious on our return journey, of course!
From here we finally got our momentum going again. While the cairns are widely spaced and sometimes hard to make out in the distance (unless of course you are Tracey), they did make picking the best path through the mess of boulders and knee-to-waist high scrub a lot easier.
The taller eucalypt forest to the west soon dropped away as steady progress was made up the ridge at an angle, resulting in a continuous but manageable climb. Initially hidden by the girth of the northern bluff, the summit proper soon revealed itself towards the south. The route alternated between small sections of scree in between lowish scrub. By now the sun was high over us and the heat, over either terrain, was really starting to bite.
After about a kilometre, the flattened, grassy saddle between the northern and southern ends of Perrins Bluff was reached. The Abels notes the need to ‘cross over’ the ridgeline from the western to eastern side towards the summit to avoid unnecessary scrambling over high rocks – note that this is not that section! A series of cairns continued to lead us up the western side of the ridge, which was now much rockier and steeper as we climbed the southern ‘bluff’.
The climb soon levelled out into alpine heath as another flatted section of the ridgeline is reached. It was this point we figured it was finally time to cross over onto the eastern side of the ridge; the rock outcrops leading up to the summit – to be avoided – resembled a triceratops’s back!
With the summit now only a few hundred metres away according to our GPSs, the final stretch proved less easy than expected. The well-trodden and cairn’d route we’d be following for the past two hours suddenly disappeared. The summit itself wasn’t visible from our position, so we dropped a little height to avoid the worst of the larger boulders immediately in front of us, and slowly picked our way through the scrub, rock and a few drainage channels until we came more or less alongside the indicated summit point, as shown on my Garmin, then made our way up back onto the ridge.
After a steepish climb onto the ridgeline the (small!) summit cairn came into view. Finally! After about two-and-a-half hours from the Achilles-Perrins saddle, we’d made it to the top of Perrins Bluff. Another Abel bagged!
Conditions were rather pleasant at the summit, so while time was still against us in terms of any chance of still doing Mt. Thetis, we took a decent break to recover, refuel and soak in the expansive views around us. With steep slopes all around, Perrins Bluff provides wonderful and more unique vistas of the surrounding mountain groups for miles around, including the ‘back side’ of Mt. Ossa. Bright blue summer skies made for incredible visibility, and I could make out the distinctive profile of Frenchmans Cap, as one example, some 45km to the south west. “Mountains for days” Tracey whispered. She was absolutely right; with a pair of binoculars you could probably spy upon well over half the mountains in Tasmania from this point.
For the return trip we simply retraced our route back to the saddle between Mt. Achilles and the northern end of Perrins Bluff. We were really starting to tire from the relentless heat but made faster progress back, not least due to dropping elevation… though it was a surprise to realise how undulating the route is in either direction.
About halfway back we came across a group of four younger hikers on their way to Perrins Bluff. They too had followed the false leads off the saddle and struggled with the scorparia in the eucalypt forest, but had somehow managed to push through a section until coming out the other side. We’d end up doing part of the trek out of Leonards Tarn with these guys the morning after.
Despite taking nearly 5L of water between us from Leonards Tarn we were down to our last dregs as we came back onto the saddle. Not knowing to what extent we would improve on our frustratingly slow trip over the base of Mt. Achilles, we really did need to refill from the tarns before making our final decent back down to. Normally non-running water like this should be avoided or at least boiled, but without any other options and minimal risk of contamination, we we took our fill – it was warm but still wet – and marched on.
The Abels had mentioned relatively easy and clear walking from the base of Mt. Achilles to the saddle, which we hadn’t exactly found on the earlier in the day. Tracey picked up on a faint pad leading eastwards from the saddle tarns which promptly brought us into the luminously green and clear grassed sections we’d spied from elevated positions previously. The path through the increasing tuffs of scorparia wasn’t immediately clear and after about 400m of quick progress we soon found ourselves under stunted beech, trying to figure out the next move.
Using our recorded GPS ascent route as a guide however we were able to push through a mere 50m or so and find our way onto the first of the scree-falls. Dropping back down to the scree-scrub line again made for much easier walking.
We covered about 300m around the base of Mt. Achilles until – unbelievably – Tracey spotted a cairn! And then – a pad! Somehow we’d missed this rather navigable path through the worst of the scorparia and other head high bush that had caught us just dozens of metres further south on the way up. Sigh.
The remaining couple of hundred metres disappeared quickly underfoot and we soon found ourselves deposited neatly right at the southern end of Leonards Tarn, where our now-thoroughly worn pad terminated with an equally obvious stump. (The Leonards Tarn Walker Registration book is also located here, albeit half-hidden under a small tree.)
After a brief chat with a trio of walkers who were making camp, having just come in from Mt. Pelion West (impressive!), we continued on around the tarn to our tent – and promptly called it a day. It was about 3pm, still a lot of light left in the day, but we were both absolutely beat and Mt. Thetis was, supposedly, the longest and potentially most navigationally challenging of the three summits. Laying down under the shade of glorious deciduous beech, we made the ultimately wise decision to take a long, lazy evening to rest up and make a call regarding staying an extra day in the morning.
In the end heat exhaustion and the fire danger prompted us to cut short our trip, and we walked out of Leonards Tarn the following morning.