Broad Stream to Lagoon Saddle and Return via Mangos Creek

Lagoon Saddle Shelter • By kiwirich. Licence: C.


I’ve met various members of the Mangos family over the years and told them about Mangos Creek in the Craigieburn Forest Park. I’ve told them that I planned to explore the creek one day. It got added to my list of tramps I want to do and finally the ideal conditions arrived.


As a bushcraft instructor, I’ve often assisted on above the bushline courses held on the Black Range. We have a similar format over the years, starting with a tramp up Broad Stream towards dusk, with the students keeping an eye out for suitable campsites for our group of up to 20 people or so. In the morning, we travel up the eastern branch but the other branch has a track, maintained by Gerry McSweeney’s Wilderness Lodge. This track leads to Harper Saddle which communicates with the upper Harper and I was keen to check it out.


I also wanted to stay at the West Harper hut, which is old and a bit rundown with an open fireplace. Lastly, of course I wanted to travel back via one of the 3 tributaries of Mangos Creek. There was talk of returning via the highest saddle (1565m) but this would lead me to a section of Broad Creek I have travelled on 3 times already so we opted to return via a more interesting route. This was over a lower saddle at 1358m followed by a sidle at the same altitude to cross a saddle on a spur and then a short descent from the head of another tributary of Broad Stream to a triangular plateau on the forested spur where the track we’d come up the day before runs into.

Lagoon Saddle hut in the Snow • By kiwirich. Licence: C.


First of all, we had to park the car somewhere safe. We used the trail head by Cora Lynn station where the Cass/Lagoon circuit starts. Then we had to get to Broad Stream. We weren’t keen to do a 2.7km section of going back to the main road, then down it to Broad Stream then up that when instead we could walk across a 500m wide paddock so we took the shorter cross country option directly to where Broad Stream narrows. We dropped down to the stream from the paddock using a track created for the guests of the Wilderness Lodge.


We travelled up Broad Stream to the confluence of the 2 tributaries. In the year since I’d been there the Wilderness people had marked and formed the track further with stone borders, cairns, signage and steps and handrails. It was attractively done. It is possible to travel this entire route and keep your feet dry if you are a competent boulder hopper. On the way, I pointed out the lush soft mossy camping sites that no one notices when we run our course!


We were soon at my red line i.e. previously untraveled terrain. We hopped across the creek and travelled up a very pleasant tributary, including a cheval slither uphill on a greasy log for Frank who wished to keep his feet dry. My sandal tread was sufficient for me to walk the log but his trekking shoes are bad news. Eventually the track began to travel up the spur but we didn’t notice it leading off from the river bed until we realized we’d run out of orange triangles.

Bealey Hut • By matthew.


It was very well marked with just an occasional small obstruction of fallen branches to maneuver around. At an open sunny grassy clearing we stopped to bask in the sunshine while we drank from the stream there and enjoyed a snack. Immediately on resuming our uphill travel, we realized we’d once again mislaid the track. Scouting a couple of meters away from where we’d sat; I found a toppled marker and re-implanted it in the soft bog. I think people are grabbing it as a support as they emerge into the clearing.


We continued, very occasionally having to scout around for markers. At one point the track which went to the edge of the terrace, had been blocked off with branches as a sign not to continue but there was no alternative marked so I found a fallen triangle and attempted to position it in a guiding position in the preferred direction. Overall, it was a very good and enjoyable track. We passed through an enticing open section close to the edge of the terrace with soft vegetation, ideal for camping. Someone else had thought so as there was a fire ring.


Now it was time to leave the terrace and drop down to the open creek bed. This was marked up to a point then we needed to decide which of the two routes now available would lead us to the saddle. We chose the one on the true right and on gaining that saddle realized the other one would have taken us to the slightly lower saddle but it was only a matter of a hundred meters of horizontal distance. Around here we noted the occasional small tarn as a source of water for those who wish to camp here. We paused and it was now around 5.30pm which means we’d taken just under 3 hours to get to the saddle from the car.

West Harper Hut • By matthew.


I changed into my long johns and we snacked once again, taking in the novel direction of views to familiar landmarks. We decided it would be more comfortable and less travel to stay at the Lagoon Saddle A-frame shelter. Descent into the head of the stream draining into the Harper River was straightforward with a mixture of fine scree leads, tussock and small scrub. After a while of traveling below the bushline, Frank talked about sidling out of the stream to gain the track leading up to Lagoon Saddle from where it crossed the stream. He’d initiated this gambit when doing a CTC trip over the saddle quite a few years before. It had saved them unnecessary height gain. However I didn’t fancy a sidle through steep beech regen. In retrospect, it would have been a smart move as once we’d met up with the track, we needed to climb up 100m as well as having already done an unnecessary descent of the stream of  500m distance. Looking at the map, it would have been better to have begun a sidle out where the forest came down to the stream on the true right but the stream travel was OK.


We hit the track, climbed up towards the saddle and arrived at the shelter at 7.10pm. Alas, there were no mattresses, only a narrow bench for seating so we opted to pitch our fly under nearby beech trees on level clear ground at the forest edge. There is another suitable tent site nearby under the trees and a site at the rear of the shelter in the open. Frank fancied this but I prefer to camp under the canopy as it is warmer and I only had my 3 season sleeping bag – a Macpac Sanctuary 500 Light. We elected to cook in the shelter though as it was warmer than outside. It used to be really cozy with a pot belly but those days are long gone.


The next day we were up after 8am and away before 10am as there is always a bit of cleaning and tidying to be done when you stay at a hut so near to a road end with the resultant “front country trampers”. We took out a bit of trash but left the wine bottles for the DoC people who fly in to inspect the hut or some decent person who is going downhill. I eliminated a fire ring as there was another nearby and stored the gathered firewood under the hut to keep dry. We travelled down the creek past a junction that is poorly marked which occasionally results in trampers continuing up Long Creek instead of to Lagoon Saddle. There was a Czech couple going up the river. They asked if we’d managed to keep our feet dry: we had and so had they. They had stayed at the West Harper hut the previous night and said it had 2 mattresses.


After nearly 1½ hours from when we’d left the shelter, we arrived at Mangos Creek and stopped out of the wind for a snack. We were on the red line again. Travel was pleasant and varied. We halted for lunch at a 90 degree bend under eroded bluffs just past where the first tributary leads off at 12.15pm in the sun with our backs resting against a big flat boulder. Our tributary was not long after this. It was narrow, bouldery and well vegetated but easy travelling. A further split had us deciding to take the true left option although the contours indicated this was steeper. It was large consolidated scree and was dry as the water had percolated through the scree.


On this trip we’d lugged our ice axes and plastic climbing boots in case of hard snow. The only patch we encountered was soft and satisfactory for our lighter footwear. A 10m traverse across this led to the gentle sustained gradient of a tussocked saddle until we were back in the Broad Stream catchment. There were faint animal trails. We sidled across staying at altitude towards our second saddle. Frank who is faster than I in this type of terrain soon left me behind. I dropped into a stream en route, expecting him to be there enjoying a drink but he was out of sight. I climbed out via a steep dry, mossy face which gave good footing and continued to the second saddle, switching on my UHF radio in case he wanted to make contact.


He wasn’t at the second saddle but I saw him below, sidling above the Broad Stream tributary so I dropped down and began sidling too utilizing celmisia leads through the tussock and scree for descent to easier travelling which avoided a scrub band. Eventually he stopped but so did I to chop out a pine seedling which took a bit of time to do with my ice axe so he carried on. He was waiting for me at the forest edge. Here I took my turn in front which led us to a flat clearing with classic deer wallows. I followed a strong deer trail along a handrail of a slight rise which eventually met the track in the attractive clearing where we’d noted the fire ring the day before.


We descended the track, stopped again at the sunny open grassy clearing for water and snacks and reached the car park by almost 5pm. It was satisfying and enjoyable to have finally completed the circuit I’d wanted to do for a few years now. I’m looking forward to telling the Mangos family I’ve traveled in the eponymous creek. I’ve looked at the map and decided on my next circuit option via other tributaries of Broad Stream and Mangos Creek.