Of course we weren’t the first and won’t be the last to walk up Mt Donaldson. It was a complete treat when I discovered a poem written by Philip Harrington and published on the Bob Brown Foundation website here with a stunning photo of an upper portion of the track.
My feet were not carrying me well so I insisted Jeanette summit the mountain on her own. Her video records part of her climb experience.
Half an hour later I heard the sound of ecstatic “Cooee” calls coming from the top. My friend was exhilarated by her achievement especially after waiting for a small venomous olive brown tiger snake, which had been warming itself on the track, to slither away. Extraordinary 360 degree views kept her eyes wide open in wonder and those to the north and west coasts of Tasmania were particularly breathtaking.
The top and it’s trig point were marked.
The view from the top is recorded in this video.
The silica mining quarries can be seen below as gashes in the forests.
Meanwhile I waited beside the track admiring the lower level views.
Climbing Mt Donaldson was a fabulous experience. A superb way to begin to appreciate the massive scope of the Tarkine. Jeanette and I could not stop taking photos on this trek – despite the fact that you are only seeing a small percentage of those photos here I hope they inspire you to consider walking up Mt Donaldson. It will be well worth the trip.
The majority of the climb up Mt Donaldson crosses exposed ground with ankle high vegetation growing beside a stony track that winds around the lower slopes of the mountain. With the openness comes sensational views across thousands of hectares of Tarkine landscape.
The initial thrill is spotting the Pieman River to the south way below the mountain. The higher we went the more glimpses we saw.
This video gives some idea of the sweep of the landscape.
From the top of the mountain only a little of the Pieman River remains visible because lower hills block viewing .
The first section of the walk is almost flat with the slightest of uphill inclination – for me this is the best! The track is edged by myrtles and laurels and other native plants. I loved this deliciously pleasant experience of walking on the smooth track and through these forests; it was one which put a Mona Lisa smile on my face.
Perfectly formed fungi attracted our attention along the way.
Gradually the path narrowed and began to wind around the contours of the lower slopes of the mountain. Its surface became less regular and some stony irregularities meant a certain amount of vigilance was required as each step was made.
Occasionally we emerged a little from the forest and could see more of the landscape.
Gradually the height of the vegetation reduced as the elevation increased and we could see further afield towards never ending overlapping and extending hills.
After our unexpected and interesting diversion to the silica mine, we returned to the main road (Waratah/Corinna Road) and continued westward until we turned north onto the gravel surfaced Norfolk Road (C249). Our intention was to walk up Mt Donaldson (437 metres) so we needed to find the starting point near the actual Savage River (as distinct from the township of Savage River and the Savage River mine located elsewhere).
Perhaps 10 kilometres later, we reached the bridge over the gently flowing River.
Before heading off for the walk, I wandered over to the bridge. Not a ripple marked the surface of the water. Only the soft fresh clean sounds of the bush and some water movement in the distance reached my ears. The sort of experience that took my breath away and reminded me how privileged I was to be here and able to see this.
On the northern side of the bridge a small parking area beneath trees marked a starting point for the walk to the top of Mt Donaldson. We parked next to another vehicle and I made the assumption people were already on the climb. On this basis, I wrote in the dust of our car’s back window ‘Hope you enjoyed your walk’. It was most amusing to read their message at the end of our walk: ‘Ride or Die’ with a smiling face emoji. This referred to their preferred mode of travel.
On our walk up the mountain, and before we were out of the bush into the exposed upper reaches of the mountain (which means we did not have visuals of what was ahead and around each winding corner of that part of the track), suddenly we heard voices approaching fast. I stepped aside as down raced a quartet of mountain bikers shrieking cheeky hellos. Whoosh, and they were gone. We could not imagine they rode up and forever we puzzled over how they got their bikes up the mountain; carrying them up would have been so tedious. But maybe that is what happened and the thrill of speeding down was an adequate reward for the effort.
The forest surrounding the car park was grand but open with little undergrowth remaining, where it edged this part of the Savage River.
Not far along the dirt road towards Corinna, the misty fogs disappeared and the landscape appeared. Sensory overload. So much to see and marvel at. From exposed hills and rocky outcrops with highland grasses eventually we travelled into dense forests.
We were on the lookout for a right hand turn northwards into Norfolk Road (on Google maps) or the Western Explorer Road as it is designated by Tasmanian agencies. We were not sure if this would be signposted adequately. Care was taken but we turned into an incorrect road well before our desired turn off – which we later found was signposted correctly.
This was a short road which arrived at a quarry for white rock. Quartz like rock was everywhere. Fields of white under a cloudy sky is how I remember that vista. Locally known as the Corinna Mines the name on the entrance sign is Tasmanian Advanced Minerals (http://tasam.com.au/).
Websites refer to it by older names such as the Corinna Silica Mine (Cominex mine). One website provides the following information:
“This mine, just north of Corinna, produces silica flour, a very fine grained and very pure form of quartz, in high demand for glass making etc. The silica flour is a residual deposit formed by prolonged leaching of siliceous (siliceous rocks are sedimentary rocks that have silica as the principal constituent) Precambrian (from the earliest period of the earth’s history) dolostones. There are occasional blocks of vein quartz in the silica flour, sometimes smoky and with almost bipyramidal crystals. There are a number of separate deposits in a small area.”
If you want further information, perhaps reading Mineral Resources Tasmania’s 1993 report about drilling around Corinna will be of value. The Apple Isle Prospector website summarised the situation “There are two mines in the Corinna area today: The Grange Resources Savage River iron ore mine, and the Cominex silica mine (red hashing in the picture to the right).”
Obviously this silica mine has played a significant role in the recent social and industrial history of this part of the Tarkine. A 1995 Mining Resources Tasmania report explains “possible uses for the silica sand were recognised by H. Nolan in the early 1980s.” The report continued, “The silica flour is 99.9% or more of SiO2 and is suitable for the manufacture of optical fibre, high quality lens glass, silicon chips and lead crystal.” Silica is valuable so I have no doubt the mine will continue operation. An ABC News story reveals a new use in their article Tasmanian silica demand increasing as smartphone screens go ultra HD.
Later that day, when we climbed Mt Donaldson, we looked across to the bald patches in the landscape produced by this mine.
An Incendiary event you won’t want to miss. This was the subject line in an important email I received from the Bob Brown Foundation, an organisation which advocates for the preservation of the Tarkine.
This week, Tasmania’s super exciting annual Dark MOFO experience begins, and the Foundation is staging a special exhibition on the fringe of this festival; an exhibition featuring projected art and sounds of the burning of Tasmania’s forests.
INCENDIARY opens at the Waterside Pavilion which is conveniently located on Hobart’s waterfront between Dark Park (Evans St/Macquarie Point) and the Winter Feast (Princes Wharf 1/Salamanca). The official opening occurs on Wednesday 7 June at 5 pm, and continues each night from 5 – 10 pm, between the 7th to 12th June.
The email reminded me that “the wild and scenic beauty of Tasmania, including its magnificent ancient forests, is what attracts visitors to our island. Yet Tasmania’s government continues to clear vast tracts of forests, firebombing what remains every autumn. We are just coming out of the recent ‘burning season’ when more than 3500 hectares of logged forests were incinerated.”
The email concludes with a prompt: “So whether you are a local or flying in from the mainland to explore the dark delights of this unique festival, rug up, step out and get fired up.”