The founder of the Paddy Pallin stores, Frank Austin ‘Paddy’ Pallin, (1900-1991), was well know for his love of the bush and for his support of exploration, adventure and conservation in Australia. In 1958 he initiated a trip to the little walked Federation Peak in Tasmania with the well know Tasmania bushwalker Jack Thwaites. Pictures recovered from the two week expedition and diary notes from Jack give us an amazing insight into the rigours of this trip, illustrating just how far lightweight and high tech hiking gear has come since the inception of Paddymade Industries, now know as Paddy Pallin stores, in 1930.

‘Paddy, an ex- RAAF serviceman, looking pleased to be arriving at Lake Pedder to start the trek, after waiting several days for a gap in the famously unpredictable South West Tasma

‘Paddy, an ex- RAAF serviceman, looking pleased to be arriving at Lake Pedder to start the trek, after waiting several days for a gap in the famously unpredictable South West Tasmanian weather to join his expedition party

At the time of the Federation Peak trip the 58 year old Paddy was a well know advocate of a life lived outdoors and a highly respected outdoorsman. He had begun his outdoor career in London in the 1920’s spending most every weekend biking, hiking and camping, he was also a member of the Scouts. In 1926, looking for adventure, he immigrated to Australia again he spent all his leisure time in the Bush. He also joined adventure organisations such as the Scouts and the newly minted Sydney Bush Walkers Club (since 1927). Through his activities and contacts he identified a need for specialised lightweight walking gear, and legend has it that he was already building and selling his own designs when he lost his job in 1930. A need for employment galvanised him to start his own outdoor equipment business in a room in his Lindfield house, Sydney. It is from these humble beginnings that he became well know as the supplier of rugged and lightweight basics required for serious hikers in Australia throughout the 30’s 40’s and 50’s; namely groundsheets, tents, sleeping bags, and rucksacks.

‘Vic, Paddy and Jock packed and ready to begin the trek. Note the lace up fabric gaiters, Akubra hats and the compact top loading A frame packs

‘Vic, Paddy and Jock packed and ready to begin the trek. Note the lace up fabric gaiters, Akubra hats and the compact top loading A frame packs

Indeed it is just this combination of the basics items required to keep one dry and warm at night, and fed during the day that filled the packs the men took on their expedition to Mt Federation. Heavy extras such as sleeping mats and tent inners were forgone to keep the overall pack weight down. And food and fuel drops (plane drops) had been made in the months leading up to the expedition so that heavy canned goods did not need to be carried, modern must haves such as Freeze dried food was not to become an essential until it was first marketed in 1968.

Paddy stepping onto the Port Davey track, Mt Anne in the background

With light and comfortable canvas A frame packs, the men made fast work of the Port Davey track and experienced a sunny, beautiful first day, just after lunch Jack writes ‘ Mt Anne Range a wonderful sight’ and later ‘a very wonderful evening with sunset effects on the Arthurs, Mt Anne, Picton etc.’ However, night time did not carry the same wonders, without tent inners and the benefits of mosquito netting hikers in the 1950’s were easy prey for insects; ‘The mosquitoes gave us a bad time in the tents and we all found it hard to sleep’


Stopping for lunch on the way to Strike Creek

Sleep deprivation did not deter them though, and they continued on to reach Strike Creek the following day, with a ‘memorable sunset over the Western Arthurs’.


Paddy and Vic on the Arthurs Plains

On day 3 they moved on to reach Pass creek by morning and collect their first air drop of supplies. By day 4 they slashed a path up to Stuart’s saddle named for the 23 year old hiker John Stuart from Melbourne who had passed away there from hypothermia just two years earlier. As Jack puts it route finding was another challenge of the time when maps were less detailed and GPS non existent, and they went ‘off beam’ after the saddle and had to make due with a rough camp site that night. The next day (5) they found there way out through ‘good fortune ’ and moved on to Goon Moor and another food drop, in fact the Moor was named for their friend the pilot Roy Goon who flew the De Havilland Dragon from which they dropped their food supplies for this trip. They camp at lower Goon Moor, bad weather forcing them to stay there another day (6). Between showers ‘Paddy got up and lit a fire and made two billies of Bournville, which was most enjoyable’


Approaching Pass Creek. Vic Batchelor, Paddy Pallin and Jock Turner with the Climbing ridge to Federation with the Dial in the Foreground

By day 7 they were able to push on and through to Four Peaks ‘looming eerily out of the mist’, Jack writes ‘driving rain made it a cold job’ and ‘a cold wind sapped our body warmth too quickly for us to restore it easily’ That night was as difficult as many others due to yet another modern hiking essential missing from the men’s packs; in 1958 the available ground mats of the day were heavy and unnecessary items, so these were not an option for hikers. This meant that every night at camp, the men had to chop down Scoparia branches to lift them off the often sodden ground and to make a mattress for their bed.  This was a particularly arduous task at the end of a day spent slashing trail or picking out an exposed climbing route.  As Jack writes at the Four Peaks camp ‘It was rather a miserable business trying to cook, set up camp and cut scoparia bedding, but by dark we were able to get under the canvas and out of the cold rain’

Day 8 rest day to dry belongings and conserve strength

Federation Peak in the distance from the Western Arthurs. Photo Dave Casey

Federation Peak in the distance from the Western Arthurs. Photo Dave Casey

Day 9 They reach Hanging lake and collect another food drop to fill their packs. Their camp at Bechervaise Plateau leaves many insights into the great developments in modern tents, from the days of the practical but basic canvas ridge tent;  They ‘looked round for a sheltered campsite for our two tents, but found the ground very wet everywhere. Finally we tucked them in on the northern edge of the plateau into little openings in the scrub. Cut some scoparia for bedding and Vic cut myrtle tent poles.’ Than night the ‘rain ceaselessly poured down’ and they feared the wind would rip the pegs from the sodden ground and ‘leave us roofless’

Day 10.  ‘A depressing scene’ but Jack says an occasional thinning of cloud ‘raises our hopes of a fine day at last’. They press on to climb Federation, they climb most of it in wet conditions, but sadly are finally thwarted by the weather and cannot complete the final 200 feet of the climb. They reluctantly retreat and after descending the chimney spent and interesting and exciting hour or so in exploring the upper reaches of the Terrace, and photographing the remarkable spires of the surrounding ribs of the peak. They take great interest in the Alpine flora. After a final look over the western edge of the Terrace to the Four Peaks, the Needles, the Gables and the Dial they descend to camp.

The final 4 days of their trek are arduous thanks to the required cutting and clearing of the path, mosquito plagues at night and mist hiding the route by day, but the men return tired, but heartened by their adventure and the marvels they have seen in this pristine wilderness.

Paddy was later to describe this trip to Federation as ‘the most arduous, memorable and enjoyable trip I have ever had the good luck to do*’


Paddy looking ‘never truly lost’


  • Jack Thwaits diary, Simon Kleinig 2008 *
  • Melissa Harper, ‘Pallin, Frank Austin (Paddy) (1900-1991)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
  • Pictures from Jack Thwaites collection at the Archives Office of Tasmania

About The Author

Gaby Arundel is a seasoned traveller and recreational adventurer. Settled for the time being with a young family of her own, she has been a long term member of the Paddy Pallin family. She currently works in Paddy’s Marketing Team.

One Response

  1. Pru

    What a fun bit of history and a reminder that you need to experience some hardship to find the joy of the trail.


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