Archive for the ‘Tasmania’ Category

Snowing in Scotland?

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Homeward bound from mid-Pacific. Reports suggest everyone is experiencing some good early winter conditions in Scotland. The dog-walking team have been out at Calluna. Prices for this up-coming winter at West Coast Mountain Guides have been held at last years levels. The same applies to the accommodation, so get on the ‘blower’ to Nick March and book up for some winter fun. Nick and Spike having been looking after the bookings whilst I have been away on holiday with Sue. Nick March, Spike Sellers and Bruce Poll will form the back-bone of staffing for 2011. Thanks guys.

Tasmanian Sailing

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

It may not be mountains or terra-firma, but sailing provides a great way to see the land from a different angle. One mountain guide I know says of sailing that…”Sailing is the closest he can get to real adventure without walking up a hill”…If your knees are stuffed, sitting on a boat can be very theraputic!

We chartered a small yacht over four days and cruised the sheltered islands south west of Hobart. Always a tidy little harbour to anchor in, unlike outside of Bruney Island, which is more open to the ocean.

Tassie Top Tips

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

We visited in the southern hemisphere springtime, during November and experienced a mix of weather similar to a UK summer. Arriving at Hobart Airport we rented a vehicle from Rent for Less Don’t bother taking the excess mileage option as you will struggle to travel more than 200km per day overall. The extra insurance to cover walloping a Wallaby is essential I’d say. Road-kill is evident all over Tasmania and a Wallaby or Wombat can put a big dent in your vehicle and pocket. Distances between locations are not too great and it’s possible to travel from the Bass Straits in the north to Hobart in the south in one day of relaxing travel.

A very good campsite or reasonably cheap self-cater cabin can be found very close to the Airport. Check out Big 4. They have self-catering cabins and a campsite next to the Hobart Airport Hotel. Book in at hotel reception. This spot has free parking and is close to the city. The city has loads of outdoor shops if you want to buy simple cooking pots for camping. Just take a gas stove head in your luggage. We also packed a light tent, thermarest and sleeping bag. There are also plenty of Backpackers Hostels at slightly higher prices than home. The exchange rate was against us this year and we found most items more expensive, although reasonably cheap (UK prices) beer and wine can be found at the bottle stores.

All of the National Parks offer camping between $13 to $28 per tent per night. Some offer cabins and powered sites if you are considering renting a campvan.

I’ve visited New Zealand and consider Tasmania very similar for activities but without the snowy, glaciated mountains. The rock climbing in Tasmania is better and more extensive and the coastal paddling opportunities rival anywhere in the world. The east coast has miles of isolated sandy stretches, whilst the west is rugged, serious and exposed to the might of the ‘Roaring Forties’. We also chartered a yacht over four nights and sailed south-west of Hobart, sheltered from the full might of the southern ocean by Bruney Island. Hobart is also a neat ‘little’ city to visit, with a fine waterfront. Drive up Mt Wellington to get an idea of the wonderful location of the city. If you fancy a good work-out, hire a bike and peddle!

When you need a rest from outdoor fun, I’d recommend visiting Strahan and Port Arthur to catch up on the appalling convict history (transportation) inflicted on this part of Australia by Britain around the early 1800’s. Not only did Britain practice slavery under the name of convict settlement, but we also ended thousands of years of first nation (Aboriginal) tribal communities in very short order. Not happy kicking the locals out, the rest of the world, especially Britain then embarked on mass de-forestation of species unique to Tasmania, such as the Huon Pine. A very slow growing tree (1mm per year), some examples can be traced back to years BC and are estimated at 5000 years of age. Nothing seems to change, as the world population and greed for materials to feed that growth continues. Our flight to Hawaii awaits

Anyone out there needing some help planning a trip; please feel free to call me. More pictures to follow.

Totem Pole and Tasman Peninsula

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The Tasman Peninsula, east of and close to the capital, Hobart is worth a visit. No matter if you are looking for simple walks along a gloriously rugged coastline, relaxing on a sandy beach or rock climbing, this is the place to visit.

For rock climbers the area holds what must be one of the big global ‘ticks’ for those of you climbing in the higher grades (6a E5). The Totem Pole is a fantastic pencil of rock and just getting to the base of this isolated sea stack is a big, serious chore, not to be underestimated.

The much larger stac (The Candlestick) only a few metres east of the Totem Pole is a more amenable grade of around HVS 5a, but has more problems of approach. To gain the foot of the route, follow guidebook instructions into the chasm, as for the Totem Pole. The guide states…”Abseil 60m to the ledge opposite the Totem Pole and the Candlestick, where there are a couple of bolts. Attach a rope to the bolts and make your friend swim across the 10m to a ledge on the Candlestick, dragging the rope to rig a tyrolean traverse for the rest of the party to use”….

Clearly a calm sea and a good mate are required for the above manoeuvre! Consider however the antics of the initial exploration of these rugged and inaccessible structures of rock. From the guidebook…”The Candlestick was first climbed in 1966 by Reg Williams, John Moore and Allan Kellar, with help from many friends from the Tasmanian CC. It was one of the most bizarre ascents in the history of Australian mountaineering. They managed to rig a 120m tyrolean traverse (flying fox) between Mitre Rock and the mainland, then slide across and touch down on the Candlestick, halfway across the chasm. Members of the CCT swam across the chasm and climbed Mitre Rock. Various methods were tried to get a rope from the mainland to the island. The team pinned their hopes on a hunting bow and arrow, but tests failed to achieve the required distance. They then tried to fly a rope across the gap using a kite, but this was also unsuccessful. Eventually they floated 150m of nylon rope across using helium balloons, and crash landed it on Mitre Rock. At one stage the rope got snagged on a tree and Allan Kellar was trying to shoot the tree in half with a rifle to free the rope. Reg Williams, John Moore and Allan Kellar then slid across the ropes suspended 150m above the water, to a ledge and climbed the last 25m of the Candlestick to the summit. The first ascent from sea level was achieved in 1971”….Clearly a resourceful lot these guys!! The guidebook is a selected best routes guide by Gerry Narkowicz, available in stores in Australia, ISBN 0 9578179 67 or email: sumcmaho@vision.net.au . This is the book to obtain for visiting climbers.

Sue and I walked the two hours out to Cape Hauy from Fortescue Bay just to get a good look at the climb. The trek is worth taking time over in order to record on camera the magnificence of this coastline and experience the wonderful plant life. Getting a good photo of the Totem Pole does require some ‘off-road’ scrambling and a head for heights!

Tasmania National Parks have a basic campsite at the sandy Fortescue Bay, with toilets and showers. Closer to Port Arthur you will find a higher class of campsite with free WiFi, camp kitchen and Sky TV for watching Champion’s League games. Whatever floats your boat folks!

Day Six. Ferry to Lake Clair Visitor Centre

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Narcissus Hut has a direct radio link to the ferry company and booking can be made the evening before, but better in advance a few weeks. The ferry connects with the Tassielink Coach; however beware, that the coach does not connect on a Wednesday! Alternatively a further days trek along the shoreline leads in four to six hours, on to the Visitor Centre and another overnight. Being Tuesday we opted for the ferry.

The north end of Lake St Clair is very peaceful and we were fortunate enough to spot a Platypus, albeit not too close in the middle of the creek. Our short but memorable trip into a very wild part of Tasmania was now over. Thanks to Tasmanian National Parks Service, we had been able to visit some otherwise fairly impenetrable wild land. We met a lady and her husband out for a short 2 km walk. They were obviously not rufty-tufty mountaineers, but had been able to experience wild country thanks to a simple board walk. They were mesmerised by the peaceful beauty of the place. They had caused no damage and took away lasting memories of a great land, managed sensibly for all to experience.
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Day Five. Kia Ora Hut to Lake Clair (Narcissus Hut)

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Wet clothing and footwear were marginally drier than previously as we set off on our pen-ultimate day. One unfortunate German trekker succumbed to the slippery tree routes and broke her right fore-arm attempting to prevent a fall on the track. Thankfully our travelling GP produced a splint from whittled Gum Tree and she completed the final 18 Kms in some comfort, aided by anti-inflammatory drugs.

This day turned out to be very enjoyable, moving along wooded and dry moraines, with limited tree roots and plenty of board-walk underfoot to ease the way. Much of the route was gently down-hill and we had opted to catch a ferry the next day on Lake St Clair, so, this was essentially the last day of effort. Our destination was Narcissus Hut with plenty of Coal nuggets provided by the Park Service, for warming and drying clothes and aching muscles. Here we were fortunate enough to spy our first Platypus drifting by the ferry jetty.

Day four on Mount Ossa

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

At 1617 metres Mt Ossa is the highest peak in Tasmania and some old winter snow remained on various aspects. The peak forms a side trip of three hours return enroute to Kia Ora Hut. In total the whole excursion is around six or seven hours, with some simple scrambling thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately we met some distinctly ‘Scottish’, poor, wet weather on this day and saw very little of the mountain. Our night with twelve other dripping refuges in the Kia Ora Hut only slightly dried our gear for the next day, even though we had a good coal fire blazing.

On the ascent we had joined forces with Dave, a GP from Oswestry. Unfortunately his rucsac was broken into be a marauding Black Currawong. These birds are well known for their dexterity in opening rucsac zips to steal food. On many of the side trips it is possible to leave heavy rucsacs behind to save effort. However, care is required not to expose rucsac zips. A good remedy is to carry a simple light-weight, waterproof rucsac cover to hide zip entrances.

Day Three, Mt Oakleigh

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

One of the best aspects of a trip such as this is the people you meet. A group of Aussies who had completed the trip previously suggested spending another day at the New Pelion Hut and taking a side trip to Mt Oakleigh before moving on. As we were experiencing very good and settled weather this made a lot of sense and proved to be a great day out.

The pinnacles of Mt Oakleigh had been dominating the skyline on day two, as we tramped towards the New Pelion Hut, so a chance to view them and the steep northern escarpment up close, is to be recommended and we were not disappointed. A warm, windless day of photographs on a quiet and remote high plateau was our reward.

On our return, Bruce and I had a quick dip in a stream, only to be infested with leeches. That night, Bruce stayed outside to get some softer ground for sleeping, rather than the hard wooden bunks. He only lasted thirty minutes before leeches sent him scurrying back indoors!

Day Two. Waterfall Valley Hut to New Pelion Hut.

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

This is a long day, which could be split at Windermere Hut, close by a beautiful lake of the same name. Quite a few of the days can be shortened if you are happy to spend more time in the park and carry more food. No restrictions are placed on trekkers in respect of which huts they use, other than the weight of your packs! We took about ten hours on this section and that included plenty of ‘brew’ stops and photo opportunities.

As a Temperate Rain Forest the land is clad with a variety of contrasting plants from the towering Eucalypts to the carpeting Cushion Plants. Voyaging over this area is made possible with a variety of foot path constructions, including board-walks (my favourite), moraine materials, split tree trunks, stepping stones or in places nothing at all, where it can become very boggy!

Large areas of Button Grass are present and in these places the nomadic Aborigines would have burned trees and undergrowth to encourage new growth, which in turn presented a diet for foraging animals that the tribes used as a food source. Travelling over the Button Grass moors is made possible these days by well constructed board walks, without which trekking is both difficult and damaging to plants and trekkers. The final couple of hours before the New Pelion Hut is characterised by my least favourite footing of slippery tree roots, boggy holes and lichen-covered rocks.

The Tasmania Overland Track, Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair

Friday, November 12th, 2010

My wife, Sue and an old friend, Bruce Davies are just back from a six-day ‘tramp’ on the 74km Overland Track in the Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair National Park. As with the majority of global National Parks, a fee is paid in order to use the huts and part of that fee goes towards maintaining good footpaths, toilets and other walker’s facilities, whilst still balancing the management of the natural environment. On the Overland Trek, the fee is payable only between November and April, during the busy peak season. If only the UK agencies could follow this example, a good size chunk of tax-payers cash would be sliced from the budget of Scottish Natural Heritage, for example.

We caught the Tassielink coach from Hobart to Cradle Mountain, via an overnight stop in Launceston. The road trip arrives at the start of the walk, early afternoon, so you’ll need to get your act together if you wish to climb Cradle Mtn that day and move on to another hut. Book the coach in advance online. It’s also essential to book onto the walk well in advance with Tasmania National Parks, as numbers are limited in order to avoid overcrowding at the huts. We did not carry a tent, opting to move as light as possible but camping platforms are available near to all of the huts and composting toilets. The Park Service provides a shuttle bus to Dove Lake, where the trek starts, after you have signed in.

Bruce and I had a ‘Grand Plan’ to traverse the Cradle Mtn skyline, including Hanson’s Peak and Little Horn. This idea was crushed by heavy sacs, a lack of time and the off-track ‘bush’, which is virtually impossible to penetrate. We did ascend all of the summits, but only with sections of detour in between. The skyline is possible with lighter day sacs and an early start, but be prepared for some exploratory ‘bush-whacking’, unlike any you will find in the UK! We found no information on the skyline traverse; indeed we were told that recording anything other than the standard routes is not encouraged. A similar notion has been suggested in the past for Scotland. Thirty years ago a small group of climbers recommended that climbs north-west of the Great Glen should not be written down, leaving that large area for all time as true exploration.

Sue had continued on to Waterfall Valley Hut and we joined her there as dusk fell with light rain in the air. All of the huts are basic, providing wooden sleeping benches, cooking areas, gas or coal-fired stoves, rain-water tanks and composting toilets. Trampers need to carry their own sleeping bag and thermarest, plus cooking stove and food and toilet paper. You are advised to boil the water before drinking, but we did not bother and it was fine. Bruce treks a lot in New Zealand, where he lives and says the water is always okay to drink. It’s up to you really.

More stories and pictures to follow shortly if this slow MacDonalds connection allows:)