Category Archives: Bushwalking

A bushwalker’s lament – organising a walk in Tasmania

Ah, the frustrations of being a solo hiker and trying to organise a bushwalk in Tasmania.

As much as I love Tassie, it still drives me nuts how difficult and expensive it is if you want to do some solo hiking in some of the less well known (ie not over run by tourists) wilderness areas.

Getting to the start of trails in areas like the South-West is impossible without a car. There’s no public transport or regular bushwalker service during the summer “on” season. Your only options are hiring a car or getting a lift from somewhere.

Hiring a car seems like a waste though as the car will be left parked for however long you’re going to be walking for. There are some bushwalker tour companies but they only service the popular walks – like the Overland Track.

I had thought I could catch a bus from Hobart south to a small town called Geeveston and then try one of the taxi services in the area. This is what I did when I did my Precipitous Bluff walk – bus to Geeveston, lift to the start of the track, lift from my finish at Cockle Creek back to Geeveston, bus back to Hobart.

But when I called to enquire I learned the taxi service (sole driver) I used had retired and there was just one other left based in another nearby town – Huonville.

After a bit of Googling, the Parks Tasmania website listed a bloke who provided transport for walkers but when I called him he said he’d also stopped doing it. But he referred me to Par Avion, a tour company that flies tourists and walkers to Melaleuca, an airstrip and popular starting/finishing point for walks in the South-West.

Par Avion gave me the names and numbers of two people who offer transport to walkers (Dallas – 0429 168 905 and Jemma – 0447 250 979). I called them in November and their diaries were already starting to fill up with bushwalker trips. So I guess I’m not the only one in this situation.

Unfortunately, because I’m hiking solo, I have to cover the whole cost of the lift – which is more than the cost of my flights to Tassie. Thankfully, I’m in the fortunate position to be able to afford this. But wow, it’s a hefty hit.

Anyway, hopefully the weather gods will be kind to me and the walk will be worth it.

 

 

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Federation Peak

I am in awe of the climbers and film makers who have made a movie about scaling Federation Peak in Tasmania during the wettest winter on record.

Some friends and I did it in summer and it was hard. For these guys to do it in winter, in the wet, is incredible.

Federation Peak is regarded by many as Australia’s hardest hike. Just getting to the base of the peak is a very tough slog and then climbing up the tower to the top via the usual route is basically rock climbing without ropes. People have fallen and died.

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The conditions the guys making the movie faced look atrocious. And they were going up a scary looking route called The Blade. I can imagine the thought “why are we doing this!?” must have gone through their heads many times.

When we did it about seven years ago we had some pretty off weather too. It rained constantly as we clawed and crawled our way up Moss Ridge. Moss Ridge is basically a short cut to get to Federation. But it’s also a steep, densely forested tangle of fallen trees and roots that made it feel like we were scrambling through a jungle gym – with heavy packs.

It was cold and rainy when we got to the Becherviase Plateau, at the base of the peak, and we hurriedly threw up the tent and dived in to get dry and warm. We were tent bound all the next day because of the weather until it finally started clearing in the evening. The next day it dawned blue sky and still – perfect conditions to climb.

Only two of us went up as our other friend stayed at the camp (he was afraid of heights!). We met a group going up who’d come from a different direction and tagged along with them. The climb is a grippy scramble edging along and up a rock wall. There’s a tricky (and scary) section where you clamber over a ledge and you’re dangling in empty air. We were lucky that coming down we encountered another group who were on the way up and had set up ropes on this section which we shared to get over. The exposure on the rock is incredible, with a sheer drop hundreds of metres down to Lake Geeves.

Anyway, we made it safely back to camp and the feeling of relief and achievement was incredible. We spent the rest of the day lounging around in the sun, drying stuff out and getting organised to head back out.

The next day the weather started to come in again and we realised how lucky we were to have that one day of sunshine to climb Federation.

When did gear get so expensive?

As much as I love shopping for outdoorsy stuff, I am always surprised by how expensive it can be.

I went looking for new hiking boots the other day. I’m planning on doing a multi-day walk in south west Tasmania early next year and needed new boots after my old Scarpas finally gave up after years of wear. They’d served me well and it was sad dropping them into a Geeveston bin after I’d finished my last big walk – Precipitous Bluff.

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New boots!

My new boots are full leather Asolo TPS 535s. They’re tough and sturdy, which is what you need when walking in Tasmania. But the cost! $389. And these weren’t the most expensive available (the Gore-Tex version were $469).  I suppose you do get what you pay for and, hopefully, a premium price equates to a premium product. Especially if it’s something you’ll be relying on to get into and out of a wilderness area safely.

But it makes me wonder if the cost of hiking gear discourages people from taking up camping and hiking. Especially when starting out. Tents are hundreds of dollars, sleeping bags are hundreds of dollars, backpacks are hundreds of dollars. But I suppose you buy this stuff once and it should last you a long time. (A good example of that is my tent. It’s the only one I’ve ever bought and it’s lasted me … I forget how many years … many.) And I guess you can always hire or buy second hand.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. You don’t always NEED to buy the latest and shiniest gear for walking. And I suppose a lot depends on the kind of hiking you’ll do. You don’t need much if you’re only doing day walks in fine weather, as opposed to multi-day hikes in remote and rough terrain.

Maybe I’m just getting old and want to complain about how expensive everything is these days. First world problems.

Anyway, I should just be grateful that I’m in the fortunate position to be able to buy the occasional expensive item so I should just shut up and enjoy it.  And start breaking in these new boots.

Major Mitchell Plateau hike

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I did the Major Mitchell Plateau three day circuit walk in the Grampians National Park recently.

A three hour drive west of Melbourne, The Grampians have been a destination I’ve been wanting to visit for a while.

An unexpected week off from work gave me the opportunity to throw on the backpack and see somewhere new. After more than a year since my last overnight hike (a new baby don’t give you much opportunity for camping) I wondered whether I still knew what to do.

I started out at Sheep Hills Carpark and quickly fell into the steady rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other.

The track was obvious and rose steadily to Mt William. Unfortunately the day I set out was grey and rainy and the views of bush and surrounding mountain ranges were intermittent.

The final climb along the road to the top of Mt William was steep and hard on the feet. There was no reward at the summit as it was completely clouded in. It was cold and windy so I didn’t bother spending much time up there and set out for the First Wannon campsite.

The track got rougher but was still easy to follow. It descended steeply into Boundary Gap and then climbed just as steeply again up and onto the plateau. There was a bit of careful rock scrambling near the top which I wasn’t ready for. After about five hours of hiking up and down through the rain I was feeling pretty shagged and keen to set up camp and get dry and warm.

It was a nice campsite with a drop toilet and a small creek running through it.

Day two for the walk across the plateau dawned much nicer, with puffy white clouds and plenty of blue sky. This was the day I got all the views across the Grampians and the surrounding farmland below.

It made enduring the weather of the day before worthwhile.

The walk off the plateau is steep, followed by a long steady descent to Jimmy Creek Campground.

Again, I was pretty happy to get to the campsite so I could relax, even though it meant leaving behind the feeling of being remote and away from everything.

The third day back to the car was pretty boring – an undulating fire trail with little in the way of views.

Back at the car I headed to Halls Gap, the tourist town in the middle of the Grampians, where I stayed at one of the caravan parks for the night before heading home. I liked Halls Gap; a pleasant spot where you could base yourself for day walks around the area.

Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle return walk

For a great day walk with ups and downs to stretch the legs, about an hour out of Melbourne, the walk from Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle and back in the Yarra Ranges is well worth a look.

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Starting at the Fernshaw picnic ground beside the Watts River just outside Healesville on the way to Marysville, the track is well trodden and easy to follow. Although in some places large trees have come down across it after what must have been a massive blow so there’s a bit of scrambling required to get over them and through tangles of smashed limbs and branches.

The first part of the walk is pretty flat and winds through tree ferns and tall, straight mountain ash. You can hear the river somewhere amongst the trees. You then climb up and down a couple of steep, forested ridges to reach Dom Dom Saddle, another nice picnic area on the way to Marysville.

At about 20km long, the walk is a decent one for some huffing and puffing exercise and time out among the trees.

And we made it back to the car in time to stop off at Tarra Warra winery for some wine tasting on the way home. That’s one of the best bits about walking in the Yarra Ranges, the cellar doors to visit in the Yarra Valley on the way home.

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse video

About this time last year I went for a walk with a friend to stay at the Wilsons Promontory lighthouse keeper cottages. I wrote about it here.

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It was one of the nicest walks I’ve done. The cottages are an amazing place to stay. I’ve finally gotten around to sorting out a video I made walking around the cottages.

 

 

A day walk on Paul Range

This is a short day walk I did a couple of months ago. I came across its description on the where2walk website. Its main attraction for me was that it was in the Yarra Valley, only about an hour drive from home in Melbourne and littered with wineries to visit on the way home.

The walk was okay. Nice views of the valley. It was all on fire trails and dirt roads which isn’t really much fun because you can’t really feel like you’re in the bush when you’re walking along a road. Being passed by some motorbike riders and 4 wheel drives doesn’t help. But at least I was out of the city and amongst some trees. It wasn’t a great walk but the exercise was nice.

And of course stopping at a couple of cellar doors on the way home. The first one was Yarrawood. They have a nice cafe there and the best Devonshire tea I’ve ever had. Huge scones and very generous with the jam and cream.

Pure deliciousness

Pure indulgent deliciousness

I also tried Long Gully Estate. A great little cellar door hidden up a small valley up a narrow dirt road.