The morning after our chilly but successful summit of Mersey Crag, we set our sights on its cousin across the valley – Turrana Bluff. The only question was: how best to get up atop its towering ridgeline?
Date: 8th December 2019 – Summit: 1454m
Distance: Approximate 10km return from our campsite in the Little Fisher River valley.
Time taken: About 5 hrs, including breaks.
Difficulty: Untracked and unmarked once off the Little Fisher River track, but otherwise reasonably simple off track walking through low vegetation, rock outcrops and tarns. Would need to be considered carefully in bad weather and limited visibility though, with extreme care taken near the cliffline.
Type of track: Unmarked from Little Fisher River track.
Access from: Southern saddle of the Little Fisher River valley. Refer to our Mersey Crag post for details on the route from Dublin Road via Rinadeena Falls.
After variable conditions throughout most of the day before, it was reassuring to wake to clear and bright conditions the next day. While the nearby notch of talus almost directly to our east seemed like such a shorter, more direct route to the summit of Turrana, it was seriously steep and potentially quite dangerous to climb. Having bashed down through similar looking scrub the day before we didn’t relish the thought of trying to go up through it either, so the night before we’d settled to take the longer, less steep path more trodden instead. Thus we wasted no time getting downing breakfast and coffee before filling up our day packs and heading south once more to the top of the valley saddle – marked with a very visible cairn – where we’d previously left the track to access the ridgeline to Mersey Crag.
The Abels Vol. 1 mentioned something of a caired route up the initial southern ridgeline of Turrana Bluff – if coming up from Long Tarns – so we continued a few hundred metres further south along the track before breaking east over higher ground in a hope to intersect it. After 15-20 minutes of fruitless weaving through otherwise very pretty tarns lined with Pencil pines, we gave up and headed north, with the rising cliff line of Turrana in our sights. On the return trip we’d not make the same mistake, and instead take a more direct route back to the valley saddle.
Once properly up on the ridgeline it was simply a matter of picking out the easiest route over or around the rock outcrops and patches of denser shoulder-height scrub that dotted the terrain ahead to our north. Using both the now-visible cliffline as a rough guide – and my InReach to make sure we didn’t stray too far off our bearing – we made our way over a seemingly endless number of rises and valleys, usually puncuated with either a tarn or small creek. The worst of the taller scrub was easily avoided with some judicious rock hopping.
While the sun had bailed early on us the previous day, it was now beaming down on us with proper vengeance, so we made the most of a flat area perched above the large, cliff-lined tarn we came across for a short morning tea.
After climbing up above the said tarn, the terrain evened out noticeably, with less undulations, more broken boulders and the taller scrub reduced to low alpine heath. It was here we also got a top-down view of the notch we’d originally considered. As tempting as it was, Xing quickly scuttled any ideas about doing another ‘direct descent’ down the rather huge and potentially unstable boulders on our return journey. Probably for the best 😉
The last 600m of relatively flat and barren ground to the summit was covered quickly, as amazing views over towards Cradle Mountain and the Pelion Group opened up to our west. An unseasonal – though hardly rare – early summer blizzard had pounded the northern end of the Overland Track, including Cradle Mountain with gale force winds and a metre of snow, resulting in three walkers bailed up in Kitchen Hut with hypothermia until they could be rescued.
Their plight, though barely 30km west of our position, seemed a world away though as we came onto the generally-accepted ‘true highest point’ of Turrana Bluff – the ‘chock stone’ in warm sun and a gentle breeze. Walking out onto the very narrow and highly exposed chock stone isn’t recommended without a harness and rock climbing gear, so we bravely straddled the adjacent stone on our stomachs and reached out to put a single finger on it to consider it ‘bagged’ 😉
With both time and the weather on our side for the first time in many months, we took the opportunity to enjoy a proper summit lunch and refuel for not only the return trip to our tent, but also our return journey back to the car on Dublin Road.
For our return journey we simply retraced our steps back along the ridgeline until we drew close to the saddle cairn at the bottom end of the valley, before picking a minor creek to follow down directly to it. This resulted in a short amount of pushing our way through some taller scrub but saved a good half-kilometre of extra walking further south than necessary.
Eventually the Little Fisher River track came into sight and we wasted no time walking back down into the valley to drop our tent, load up our big packs and get back out to Dublin Road. While our now-very tired bodies struggled under heavy packs for the first few kilometres back down to Rinadeena Falls, once on the old vehicle track and aided by walking poles, we were able to dispense with the remaining distance quickly and without drama.