Date: 23 February – 10 March 2013
I first visited Tasmania in 2008 with Maree. We spent a week touring in a campervan and we loved the place. I’ve been wanting to get back there ever since and this year I’ll be lucky enough to get down there twice. The first trip was with Tom and we spent two weeks walking and climbing at Ben Lomond, Freycinet Peninsula and Mt. Field.
Note: As usual be sure to click on the photos to see the full resolution version. They come out a bit blurry when reduced in size.
Note 2: This is a fairly extended trip report so it might be best to grab a coffee first. 😉
After booking the flights late last year I spent hours pouring over climbing guides and forums trying to figure out the best places for us to visit. We wanted to climb in places unique to the area compared to S.E. Qld, so the obvious choices were sea cliffs and big crack climbs. Therefore Ben Lomond would be our first destination.
|Bullfighter Buttress & Frews Flutes at Ben Lomond|
After flying into Launceston we filled our little Hyundai Getz hire car to the brim with around 70kg of climbing and camping gear and food and headed straight to “The Ben”. Unfortunately the Tassy weather was already upon us and on our arrival at Carr Villa we were greeted with an amazing view of at least 20 metres. Nevertheless we set up shop in the climbers hut and hoped for better weather the next day.
|Carr Villa and the view|
Someone was listening…
|View from the same spot the next day|
The first thing we learnt, which would become a bit of a recurring theme for the trip, was that Tasmanian climbers don’t shy away from a difficult approach. The boulder field that you have to cross to get to virtually any of the crags at The Ben is like something from another world. Endless massive boulders which on their own would have made an exciting day walk, but with 15 – 20kg of gear on our backs became a bit of a chore.
|View towards Snake Buttress and The Pavillion|
The climbing at the other end didn’t dissapoint though. We hopped on an 18 at Bullfighter buttress and were immediately humiliated by the off hand to fist cracks with virtually no face features for relief. We had read about what to expect, but it’s a whole other thing when actually faced with it. I’m sure our persistence with early morning crack climbing practise at Frog Buttress trying to avoid the heat in the weeks leading up to the trip helped but it didn’t really feel like it at the time.
Once arriving at the top we were then faced with the walk back down the decent gully followed by the walk back to the car across the boulders. We slept well that night.
|Getting ready for the walk back|
The next day we were faced with poor weather again. Optimistically we loaded up and walked back across the boulders only for the rain to start up as soon as we got to the base of the cliffs. We took the opportunity to head up the gully to the plateau and walk back across this to the summit track. Another theme for the trip was to try and keep reminding ourselves that despite the climbing access being hard, or the rain preventing us from climbing that we were still in an amazing place with stunning views and unique plants and wildlife all around us.
|Heading up the decent gully in the rain|
|Cushion plants on the plateau|
|Navigation was made difficult by the cloud|
That afternoon, on the advice of our support crew (Maree), we decided to pack up and head for the sunny Freycinet Peninsular.
I agonised about what shelter to take with me and at one point had the tent packed as well as the hammock. In the end I decided on just the hammock. A few times I regretted the decision. Particularly the night we arrived at Freycinet after dark in the pouring rain and were trying to find a site that was unoccupied and had two suitable trees. Overall though, it was all worth it for the comfort.
I had bought a new 9.5′ x 10′ Silnylon tarp from BearPaw Wilderness Designs a few weeks before leaving and I was very happy with it for the entire trip. No where near as light as my cuben tarp but I wasn’t as worried about punctures or damage from reefing on the guy lines when the wind picked up. This was another downside to the hammock as the tarp made more noise during the couple of nights we had of strong wind making sleeping a bit more difficult.
|Our campsite at Richardsons Beach|
We decided to head to this small crag as our first taste of the climbing in the area as it had a good range of grades and apparently was only 20 minutes access. After having some issues following the “track” we arrived after around 90 minutes of bush bashing. It then started raining… Luckily it passed quickly and we were able to get on a couple of short cracks, both with fairly exciting starts.
|Getting ready to climb|
The area was already reminding us of Girraween, except for the beautiful beaches as a backdrop.
|Looking towards Gracelands|
|View towards Coles Bay from Gracelands|
Hazards Main Wall & White Water Wall
We had high hopes for The Hazards Main wall. Slabby granite similar to Girraween but bigger. This is what we found, but in similar style to Girraween the routes we found were fairly sparsely protected plus the access to the base of the climbs was fairly precarious in places. Being unfamiliar with the area we decided to move on to the coastal crags which we hoped would be a bit more user friendly.
|Hazards Main Wall|
The road into Bluestone Bay was the best way to access most of the coastal crags such as White Water Wall and I had read that it was ok to drive in a two wheel drive so on we went. It wasn’t too bad and took around 15 minutes in the Getz with only a few minor scrapes underneath. Once at the campsite the climbing was all within a short walks distance which was a nice change.
The climbing here was spectacular with beautifully featured granite in an amazing setting. We did a few routes over a couple of days with the highlight being After the Goldrush. A three pitch 19 featuring stunning cracks, great belays and some crazy horizontal crack moves on the middle pitch. This was one of the highlights of the trip.
The Rest Day
After a week of climbing and walking with big packs we decided to have a day off and do a nice leisurely bushwalk on one of the tracks. We intended to do the Wineglass Bay track but in the end decided to avoid the crowds and head up Mt. Amos. After half an hour of solid up hill we were wondering how much of a rest day this was actally going to be. The views were good though.
|Coles Bay from the Mt. Amos track|
Eventually we made it to the summit and were rewarded with 360 degree views.
|Wineglass Bay & Coles Bay from Mt. Amos Summit|
After lazing around taking photos and having some lunch we decided to try heading down the South-Western side of the mountain to meet the Wineglass Bay track. I figured there must be some sort of a track down this way as the Skyline traverse follows that path roughly. The route started off ok with nice open slabs, but it wasn’t long until we found ourselves in dense scrub trying to pick our way between the drop offs and starting to regret the decision.
After 3 or 4 hours of scrub bashing and negotiating steep granite slabs we eventually made it down to the track. Not exactly how we envisaged the day turning out, but another good adventure anyway.
On the Move Again
After another great day at Gracelands where we did some more crack climbs and couple of brilliant face routes (most notable was Tom’s onsight of the grade 24 Dead Can’t Dance) we decided to make the move back to Ben Lomond via Launceston for a laundry and resupply stop. We wanted to take advantage of the good, albeit fairly hot, weather and get on one of the big multipitch routes on Frews Flutes.
This time round we set up camp in the campground.
|Ben Lomond Camp Ground|
Barbe Di Vendetta
This is the name of what would end up being our only other climb to get done at The Ben. The guide describes it as “the most sympathetic to those with an aversion to marathon jam pitches” and is graded 17. It is an 80m climb done in three pitches. Sounded perfect for our first big climb there so we were up early the next day and off back across the boulder field.
|Matching the guide to the cliffs|
We eventually found the start of the climb and made a few decisions that would come back to haunt us. The first was to underestimate the heat and exposure to the sun. We did take water up with us but not enough. The second was to not take up any footwear apart from our climbing shoes.
The climb itself was stunning. The first pitch started with a nearly 20m, wide hand crack before a couple of ledges with tight hand and finger cracks above them prior to reaching the belay. By the time I reached the ledge I was exhausted and parched from the relentless sun hitting the North facing cliff. Ever patient, Tom waited (also without shade) for me to set up a belay and call for him to follow with the water. I already new that water was going to be an issue but we were determined not to bail and add to the large collection of deteriorating slings already on the cliff.
Tom didn’t waste any time seconding and quickly set himself up for leading the second pitch: another gorgeous crack, this time heading up a corner starting as perfect hands before expanding to fists with some decent bridging features on the arete to the left. Above the next ledge the crack fizzled out a bit but the sympathetic face features began appearing to create a thoroughly enjoyable 10 metres of climbing. The final few metres involved an airy move out past the arete to some loose holds used to reach the next large belay ledge. Definitely exciting.
After consuming as little of our dwindling water supply as I could I then followed on to lead the last pitch. Not the standout by far, but still a great 15m or so of twin cracks and nice face holds to help when it got too wide. Above this the rock started to get very crumbly and decent protection was hard to find. The route to the top was also tricky to find and lack of gear and bad rope drag forced me to set up another belay and for Tom to lead another short pitch; more time in the sun.
By the time we both got to the top we were exhausted, thirsty and the sun still wouldn’t let up. We needed a break but knew that we still had to get back to our packs in bare feet. There was no way I could keep my climbing shoes on any longer as some of my toes were already going numb. We slowly picked our way through spikey bushes and grass until we eventually reached the top of the descent gully. Despite this being our third time down the gully everything was harder without shoes. The sun was finally getting lower and giving us some relief, however this also meant that we were running out of time to get back to the car in the light.
|View past Frews Flutes|
As we reached about one third of the way down I started to head up the ridge that separated the gully from Frews Flutes. The guide mentioned this as an alternate way of getting back to the start of these climbs. Tom tried to pick a better path through the rocks, but by the time he hit a dead end I was 30m up the hill. At this point we decided to just split up and meet back at the packs (third poor decision for the day). After dodging more spikes and some loose scree I eventually made it back to the packs where I sucked down half of our remaining water and sat to wait for Tom.
10 minutes went by with no sign of him below. Looking at the sun quickly heading closer to the horizon I decided at this point to pack up both our bags and head for the bottom of the decent gully to hopefully find Tom along the way. Progress was slow with the two packs, but it was heaven to have boots on again.
By the time I reached the base of the decent gully Tom was still nowhere to be seen and the light was nearly completely gone. I called out for him and to my surprise he responded from the top of a 50m cliff at the end of the ridge that separated the gully from Frews Flutes. I could just make out his white helmet in the dim light. In his haste to get back to the packs and under a haze of exhaustion and thirst Tom had tried to bypass the gully and take a short cut across the ridge. His retreat had become more difficult the more he persisted by climbing small sections of cliff as he went.
Luckily the wind was low and we were able to communicate fairly well. I was able to stop him from attempting the rather futile abseil he was about to make on a single 60m doubled over rope. I started up the gully with torches, his shoes and the remaining water, meanwhile he was able to traverse around the cliffs to a point where the gully rising below made the abseil much shorter and more direct. Eventually he was back on deck and we both heaved a sigh of relief.
There was no point rushing at this point as it was well and truly dark and we had no more water. So we slowly made our way back to the bags at the bottom of the gully, packed up the gear and set off across the boulders to the car. We eventually reached the car at around 10:30, roughly 14 hours after we set off and after a quick dinner of tuna on bread rolls back at the tents we were very ready for bed.
After the adventures of the previous day we decided that there was no way we were climbing the next day and my state of mind (and the lack of skin left on my forearms) wasn’t really up to any more climbs at The Ben in general for the trip. Given that we had 4 more days before I had to head home we decided to head back to Launceston and reassess.
We decided to move to Mt. Field N.P. for a more relaxing end to the trip. The website said that the campsite was in Australian Geographic’s top 100 in the country which sounded promising. Sure enough it did have hot showers, flushing toilets and even washing machines, but this meant that the place was packed with caravans and motor homes and the tent sites didn’t have much privacy.
The walking made up for it though. We did the Tall Trees/Russell Falls track for starters. The massive Swamp Gums were a site to behold.
|Massive Swamp Gum|
|Sun Rays through the trees|
The next day we did the Mt. Field West walk with a return via Tarn Shelf. This made for a very long walk and was a more exhausting day than we originally planned. It was well worth it though and we took in a lot of the park in only a couple of days.
|Looking across to the end of the Tarn Shelf Circuit|
|Grasses, Moss and Cushion Plants next to a spring|
|Tarns on the summit plateau of Mt. Field West|
|Looking back towards K-Col on the way to Tarn Shelf|