Arguably the most remote Abel in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, the Mountains of Jupiter is an extended, elevated range of tarn-pocketed boulders that extends between Lake Artemis and Traveller’s Rest Lake. The northern high point is within a comfortable walking distance of Junction Lake, which can be accessed from either the Moses Creek or Junction Lake tracks. The March long weekend was the perfect opportunity to spend a few days seeking out our last remaining Abels in this area.
Date: 7th March 2020 – Summit: 1320m (some sources say 1325m)
Distance: 24km return from Chapter Lake
Time taken: A little under 11 hrs total, including breaks.
Difficulty: The Abels rates this one as ‘hard’, ostensibly due to the remoteness of the summit and the general need to camp out at least one night. While certainly possible to do in a very long day walk from Mersey Forest Road along the Moses Creek Track, setting out from an overnight camp at Chapter Lake (as we did) makes for a more manageable day out. Alternatively, camping at Junction Lake would make for a even shorter trip. As both the Moses Creek and Lake Artemis tracks are formal and reasonably well marked, with only a short off-track scramble to the summit and plenty of options for cover should the weather turn foul, we rate Mountains of Jupiter as more ‘medium-hard’ for suitably experienced walkers.
Type of track: Both the Moses Creek and Lake Artemis tracks are formal tracks, with cairns and ruben tape and (in the case of Moses Creek track) reflective markers along a usually very obvious pad. The Mayfield Flats section between Cloister Lagoon and Junction Lake does get a little vague in sections, however the route follows the creek bed and shouldn’t present much issue. A number of cairned routes from the Lake Artemis track up to the summit help negotiate the way around some small cliffs.
Access from: Moses Creek Track. Alternatively, the Junction Lake Track can be used.
The previous evening we walked into Chapter Lake from the end of Mersey Forest Road.
Despite the pounding water from Grail Fails nearby, we enjoyed a refreshingly sound sleep overnight at our Chapter Lake campsite. The first alarm at 6:30am was duly ignored and it wasn’t until well past 7am we eventually dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags. It wasn’t until 8:30am that we finally set off for our Abel of the day – pretty lazy by our usual standards.
We retraced our steps in the dark the previous evening back about 50m up the steep, Deciduous beech-lined hillside to the junction with the Moses Creek Track. The fork, marked by a quaint wooden “Junction Lake” sign, then meandered in a south-sou-easterly direction past a number of minor tarns south of Chapter Lake.
We found the track here well marked and easy to discern as it undulated along the eastern wall of the valley. Of note was how regularly the vegetation changed, alternating between rocky snow gums, dense scrub and beautiful beech rainforest literally every 5-10 mins. This along with the cool overcast conditions made for very pleasant walking, and we made fast progress – slowed only by my incessant photo taking 😉
A little over 2km in, we dropped down into the valley, walking through coral fern marsh. We found the track quite boggy in sections, not surprising as the area received something like 80mm of rain only a few days earlier. Here the track followed the creek line, crossing a couple of times through thicker scrub, where the track was reduced to a rocky conduit, full of exposed roots.
About 45 mins later we arrived in the open grassland at the northern end of Cloister Lagoon. The track continued around the eastern edge of the Lagoon, again alternating between sparse snow gums and dark, beech forest. The pad remained clear and easy enough to follow, with plenty of rock and mud to keep things interesting.
Another kilometre further south and we came around the southern edge of the Lagoon, again into a damp marsh of coral fern and occasional patches of waist-high scorparia. The Abels made mention that our well marked track would from here on in become more vague in parts, as the creek is followed down to Junction Lake.
This proved to be very much the case in a few sections, namely an area of open myrtle forest on the western side of the creek, where it was easy to lose the faint pad under fallen trees. Another area further south we found a false cairned lead, higher on the western side of the creek bank, with a pad that soon petered out, ostensibly to avoid an area of thicker brush around the creek, which ironically on the return trip proved to be actually easy enough to follow.
The route through to Junction Lake follows a very obvious and mostly open creek bed and while the pad itself occasionally disappears – and cairns/ribbons are more intermittent than what was seen north of Cloister Lagoon – the creek itself is easy enough to follow, and you’d be hard pressed to wander badly off track. The top of Mountains of Jupiter itself soon appeared directly due south, also providing a bearing to follow.
After some 8km, the route opened up to a broader plain of coral fern as Junction Lake is approached. Passing the open camping area where the Moses Creek and Junction Lake Tracks join, we continued on through to the Junction Lake Hut, a small but surprisingly neat and clean structure, well protected from the elements. Here we had a short snack to recharge and survey the crossing point of the Mersey River, which lies just down the embankment behind the hut.
The Good Book mentioned a line of rocks across said river, where it was possible to cross without wetting one’s feet, with a fallen tree trunk to assist. Predictably after the recent rain, the rocks were completely submerged, and the tree itself was barely above the water line.
Conveniently, another ‘mass’ of fallen trees was situated about 5m further upstream offered a Plan B, that while rather awkward, we managed to cross safely with the help of our walking sticks and remain dry.
On the southern bank of the Mersey, it took a few moments to rejoin with the Lake Artemis Track – look out for a small cairn placed on top of a fallen tree about 10m up the embankment, in line with the ‘other’ crossing point and a series of pink ribbon markers coming up from the shore.
We found the Lake Artemis Track skinny and somewhat overgrown, but otherwise well marked with numerous cairns throughout, making for easy navigation. The initial 500m or so meander through a pleasant myrtle gully complete with a small creek crossing, before rising steeply up and around a series of solid granite outcrops.
We then crossed a short section of flattish open marsh before the rocky track entered mostly denser scrub across the northern face of the mountain itself. This section of track – roughly 1.5km long – was quite rocky with plenty of fallen timber and steep natural rock steps to negotiate. The track gained elevation steadily; with the mist now burning off to reveal actual sunlight for the first time this morning, we were definitely working up a sweat.
Along the way we made our first human contact in nearly 24 hrs, a lone Belgian hiker who was returning from the summit of Mountains of Jupiter earlier. He confirmed the anxiously awaited turn-off point for the climb to the summit was a mere 200m away, and would be ‘very obvious’.
Sure enough, the point at which The Abels instructs to leave the Lake Artemis Track was indeed obvious, marked with a decent sized cairn and an impressive single pandani. Lake Artemis itself, as described, was just visible in the distance to the west.
We began the final 700m-odd push up the northern slope in a roughly south-easterly direction, following a series of cairns placed on exposed rocks. At times a visible pad could be made out of the waist-height boronia and other sub-alpine understory. In other places, we just pushed through without issue.
We noted multiple parallel cairns in a few areas, placed 20-40m apart. It would appear there are at least two “routes” up the side of the mountain. Most of the scrub is freely navigable, though, with only a few taller cliff sections that would prove a dead end as such.
As altitude was gained, we made our way over several slabs of steep, solid granite. In the dry these made for simplified progress upwards, but would require more care in the wet – something to consider if the weather isn’t on your side.
As we neared the top of the slope, the tree line of stunted snow gums gave way to some awesome views to the west and north. From Mt. Gould, right through the Du Cane and Ossa group, the Pelion Group through to Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain could now be seen. Further east, Mt. Rogoona loomed nearby. Most of Lake Artemis could now be seen below. We had blue skies and higher cloud – things were looking good for a great summit view!
Eventually the climb leveled out, and we adjusted course south towards where our GPSs indicated the actual summit. We crossed a brief valley over low heath and the outlet to a small tarn before climbing up a steep massif of mostly solid rock. Approximately 5hrs and 30mins after leaving camp – and literally 1 minute under our proposed 2pm turn-around time – the small and rather uninspired summit cairn popped into view, and a few short steps later, was under our hands. Abel #66 in the bag!
To the south, the elevated expanse of the Mountains of Jupiter range appears as an undulating mass of boulders and alpine heath accented with tarns and pencil pines. Moving towards the south-west, Mt. Ida sticks out abruptly behind nearby Lake Payanna, with the King William range further off in the distance.
Looking around to the west, the full cast of mountains that follow the length of the Overland Track can be seen, from Mt. Othrys in the south through to Cradle Mountain to the north, the latter partially blocked by Cathedral Mountain and Twin Spires – our target for the next day.
Moving further around the north and north-east, Mt. Roland could be seen way off in the distance, alongside the unmistakable bullnose shape of Mt. Rogoona. Clumner Bluff could be seen behind it, with King David’s Peak, Solomons Throne, Mt. Jerusalem and Ironstone Mountain rounding out the horizon.
With such an expansive panorama all around and uncommonly warm and still conditions at the top, we could have happily enjoyed an hour or more soaking in the views. We were however all too aware that the day was getting away from us, and we had another 5hrs+ back to camp. Not wanting a repeat of the previous day’s walking in darkness either, we instead quickly downed some food and began our descent.
We found another set of cairns further north of the summit which we followed, thinking it might be a more direct route than the round-about course we’d ascended on. As it turned out these cairns petered out about half way down the northern slope and we ended up tracking east to rejoin our original route. As it usually does, gravity assisted the descent and we were back on the Lake Artemis Track in a little over half the time taken to ascent (40 mins versus a solid hour).
We retraced our steps back to Junction Lake, where a large party of hikers were setting up camp for the evening. Over a hasty lunch we learned the group were from a Melbourne walking club, and were a week into a two-week long traverse of the Walls of Jerusalem NP, from the northern end of the Clumner Bluff range, through to the Never Never and Lake St. Clair. Impressive!
Our return journey north from Junction Lake to Chapter Lake was the reverse of the morning’s trek, with no drama other than one unfortunate incident. About a kilometre north of Junction Lake, while pushing through some higher scrub along the Mayfield Flats, Tracey managed to step on a European wasp’s nest, and was promptly stung multiple times around her right knee. Later on we’d count no less than seven stings!
Not only was this an excruciatingly painful and unlucky accident for Trace to endure, but more critically, highlighted a glaring deficiency in our first aid preparations. Neither of our kits offered much help beyond basic painkillers, snake bandages, PLB’s, anti-inflammatories and alcohol wipes. About the only relief on offer was rubbing the affected area with orange peel in our rubbish bag. Surprisingly enough, this did work a little.
For some reason, the Stingose usually in my kit was AWOL – I must have removed it when I pared down my kit of a trail race the previous month in New Zealand. Oopsy – lesson learned! Check your first aid kit every time, and don’t skimp. Suffice to say the first thing we did when we got back to civilisation was to pick up a box of antihistamines, and organise a script for an Epipen. While most people to seem focus their attention on snakes, statistically speaking, ant bites and bee/wasp stings cause many, many more medical emergencies and – sadly – deaths due to anaphylaxis. In our experience, you’re also more likely to come across them walking in the bush too. (On return to civilization and a visit to her GP not only did we learn that her leg was 9cm more swollen than the other as a result of the bites but that being bitten numerous times like that in a localised area can cause swelling which can lead to blood clots. Who would have thought wasps could be worse than a snake!)
With the evening now upon us and light fading rapidly, Tracey bravely limped on, and just past 7pm we arrived back at our tent, with just enough light left for a much needed wash down and to cook up dinner before the air chilled for the night. Even without the insect incident, it had been a long and rather tough day, and we wasted no time getting to bed to rest up before tackling Twin Spires in the morning…