Louisa River to Little Deadmans Bay
South Coast Track
The Hike - Day Three on the South Coast Track and this was the big one, literally. When you mention the SCT to hikers that know about the track, the discussion usually mentions the Ironbounds day. It's a simple day in concept, leave camp around sea level to hike 900m vertically before climbing back down to sea level. In reality this is a challenge for most people, especially with a fully loaded backpack but this is what you sign up for on the South Coast Track. Even though it's listed as around 12km in the John Chapman guidebook that we were referencing for this trip, I found his measurements to be on the short side. I cleaned up my GPS recording from my Garmin watch (not terribly accurate to start with) to remove all the times I had stopped and wandered about, and I still had this day at 15.4km.
Nevertheless, this day is not about distance travelled but metres climbed and descended. With our first couple of days taking longer than we had expected, and not knowing if the weather forecast had changed to become a warm day, we decided an early start was in order. Donovan is an early riser anyway, while Bronwyn and myself tend to dawdle quite a bit when it comes to getting up and packing. With all that considered, it was reasonable that we set off just after 7:30am, excited to be tackling the mighty Ironbound Range and what is arguably the most physical day of the week. Finally getting going, leaving camp would have been a nightmare if we hadn't already done a scouting mission the previous afternoon. I wasn't expecting the campsites on the SCT to be as large as they were, and to be honest, I thought we would only see a handful of people the whole trip. Given almost every campsite was full to the brim, it was nice that there was space for peak season, so hikers didn't have to setup in questionable areas.
For those playing along at home, follow the orange markers to the toilet block and then take a left to continue through the forest (sorry for the vagueness). Confident we were on the right path, filming began for the day and so the first section was a bit stop-start. This suited me just fine as I could photograph the greenery surrounding us and really savour this bit before the constant uphill of the Ironbounds arrived. Getting glimpses of the Louisa River every now and then, the real joy through here was the moss and dampness of the forest that had not been much of a feature over the first two days. The thicker vegetation that is supported by the Louisa River sadly doesn't last too long but it's long enough that you can really enjoy a slow meander through. The exit onto buttongrass plains leading to the base of the Ironbounds is really abrupt and it was exciting to see the challenge ahead after it being a distant presence for the first couple of days.
Stepping out onto the boardwalk, the cloudy morning provided ideal conditions for the climb, with the slopes still being visible but the harshness of the summer sun lessened. Taking many photos of the climb ahead, the first part was easy to trace thanks to the track being a string of spaghetti leading up the hill but after that I had trouble seeing where we would head. It would be obvious when you're up there, so for now I had fun enjoying the relatively flat walk through the plains. Spotting many wildflowers along the edge of the boardwalk, along with several Forked Sundew, this would be a day of many photos (I took over 1000 and edited up close to 300). It was hard not to take a lot of photos and one of the more impressive views of the day was looking back at where we had come from as the combination of the forests surrounding the Louisa River and the peak of Mount Louisa made for a pretty special scene. Reminding me of some photos I took from Lake Pedder on a previous Taswegin trip, this would be the best lighting of the whole day.
Eventually you do have to start ascending and this will involve lots of stairs. Thankfully they aren't uniform like the experience you'll get on Bluff Knoll so it doesn't feel like a death march for most of the time. This first section is one of the steepest, with gradients averaging about 25%, so keep that in mind if you're reading this before you head out there. I stopped to sunscreen up for the morning and had a bit of catching up to do, so was working harder than I should have given how many vertical metres we had to cover today. It didn't take long to catch up to Bronwyn and Donovan and it soon became clear that this wasn't going to be a quick hike. While it was decided that to a degree we were going to be doing the "hike your own hike" thing with regards to pace, we'd all eventually meet up every now and then for some of Donovan's filming. On the climbs it is different as pace varies wildly and catching up isn't as easy. Bronwyn was consistently behind both myself and Donovan, even taking into account stopping for photos and filming.