Saturday, 2 September 2017

Mt Thetis

30th August - 1st September

Mt Thetis

Day 1
I had grand aspirations of doing the Pelion West Traverse, and when a few days of good weather presented itself I was off. However, as will become apparent, I only got as far as the beautiful Mt Thetis.

With the Maggs Road open all the way to the Arm River carpark, I started walking up the Arm river track at about 1:00pm. The track has had some more work on it over the last few months, and is now more or less as clear as it was before the major flooding event in winter 2016. As always it was a beautiful walk, winding up through Eucalyptus dominated forest into alpine moors of low Coral Ferns, Scoparia, and Snow Gum. Walking in I could hear the sound of helicopters, which proved to be doing provisioning to the Tas Walking Co. huts, and they were a constant over the next three days. As the track descends the flank of Mt Oakleigh through some beautiful rainforest, intermittent snowfall made for a magical experience. Once I reached the far end of Lake Ayr it wasn't long to the Pelion Plains Hut where I would spend the night. A pleasant 3 hours of walking in total. The hut was busy that night, as the TasTAFE guiding students were all at Pelion for the evening (2 groups of 10, one heading north, one south).

Would you look at the size of them Pepperberries!

Mt Pillinger looking lovely.

Gorgeous ancient rainforest.

Pelion East's little bump.

Helicopters dwarfed by Mt Ossa.

A moody Mt Oakleigh.

Day 2
Breakfast was had by 7:00am, and after slowly packing and yacking to some others, I was off at 8:00am sharp. I planned to get to the saddle between Mt Achilles and Perrins Bluff that evening, having gone over Mt Thetis first, so I was happy for the early start. 15 minutes after leaving the hut, walking north along the Overland I got to the point where I should turn south off the track and follow the roughly taped route onto the broad moor around Snarers Hut Creek. Easy going through some lovely forest before I broke out onto the vast shoulder of Coral Fern and Scoparia. The walking here was delightful and the fine weather offered amazing views of my destination, as well as Mt Ossa looming overhead. A few bands of thicker Snow Gum forest had to be pushed through before I reached the saddle between Mt Ossa and Paddys Nut, some of which I used my snowshoes for easier going. I was beneath Paddys Nut by 10:30am, looking up at Mt Thetis. The snow levels weren't as thick as I would have hoped, but I charged onward. I changed out my snowshoes for microspikes as they offered better traction going up the slope of Mt Thetis. Eventually I reached the top of the narrow ridge that offers the least steep access to the summit. By then it was 11:30am, (I was disgruntled with my pace) and the snow conditions had deteriorated considerably in the warming day. Especially with my pack on it was very sketchy going. There are a lot of big holes in Dolorite scree, and they aren't obvious when covered in snow. I knew it could be an issue for Pelion West, but I was already struggling. It was then that I decided it wouldn't be safe for me to continue, as I was sinking into some pretty deep holes. I knew I wouldn't be able to get to where I wanted that night, so I chucked on a day pack and slowly headed for the top. Even with 18kgs less, I was still sinking a lot, but I eventually made it to the summit. Some huge drifts of snow, shaped by the wind were the foreground to an amazing view. It was stunning, and silent. A Wedgetail Eagle swooped over-head, so close I could almost touch it. I spent 45 minutes on top, relishing being on a mountain again.

I then slowly made my way back down to my pack, and then descended the ridge. The going on my way back to Pelion Plains was very tiring and slow in the slushy snow, but at the end of a long day, I was happy I chose the safer option.

The way forward.

Pelion West framed.

Looking towards Paddys Nut in front of Mt Thetis. Mt Achilles to the right.

Frozen flow.

Too much snow for it to handle.

I ate a mandarin next to this Pencil Pine.

Pelion East keeps a watchful eye on me.

Approaching the summit.


The small summit cairn.

Pelion West, the monolith.

The sun sets beyond Barn Bluff.

Day 3 
I headed out back to my car, a beautiful walk on the Arm River Track as usual, but uneventful. I believe it took me 2.5 hours to get out.

29 left.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Gear Review: Tasgear Off Track Gaiters

Hello lovers of mountains!

It's been a little while since I've been out bagging Abels. There has been a few attempts, but they were thwarted by Tasmanian winter being a little bit unhelpful. I'm keenly awaiting a time where there'll be a few days of consecutive good weather to get back into the hills. In the mean time I thought I might have a go at writing some reviews and thoughts on the gear that I use. So, without further ado, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

I am lucky to have a career in the mountains, too - on a recent Tas Walking Co trip.

For many years I have been using Sea to Summit Quagmire Gaiters; a solid bit of kit. But my last few pairs just haven't cut the mustard, and it when my last pair died I was in a bind. It was then that I stumbled upon a boutique gaiter manufacturer based in Launceston, Northern Tasmania. Tasgear.

Now, before I go on I should talk a bit about gaiters, what are they and why do I wear them? Gaiters are those funky looking tubes that attach to my boots, and in the middle of summer when I'm wearing shorts they give me one of the best tan-lines around. I use them for a variety of reasons. They help keep grass seeds, sticks, rocks etc from getting into my boots, they add an extra barrier between water and mud getting places I'd rather it didn't, and they're super helpful in scrub for preventing scratches from vegetation and rocks. They're also a great defense against snake bite (although this is the only thing I've never had to used them for).

So when I was in need of some new gaiters, I was very excited to find out about a local brand, that claimed to be perfectly suited to Tasmanian bushwalking. Tasgear make two types of gaiters, the Lightweight, and the Off Track. After having a yack to the owner of the business, Scott, I was blown away when he offered me a pair of Off Track to product test! Free gear, yippee! After a good bit of use, I can now say that they will be the only gaiters I ever use... So long as he keeps making them.

They are made of a tough Australian canvas upper, with 2 layers of 1000D (denier) nylon on the lower section of the gaiter. The materials provide comfort when worn, but also an amazing amount of durability. The nylon section is extremely abrasion resistant, and after all the abuse I've given them, they still show little sign of wear. The stirrup adhesion points are tucked away neatly and made of aluminium right here in Tasmania (although, I don't actually use a stirrup). The hook at the front of the gaiter is a super tough one, that would be a struggle to bend. It is also situated under the Velcro, whereas a lot of other brands put it on top of the Velcro strip. Having it under makes it a lot easier to hook onto your boot lace, a well thought out concept. The pop stud at the bottom of the Velcro strip is really tough. It can sometimes be a struggle to pop it open when you want to take them off, but I've never had them open up on me while walking - unlike every other gaiter I've ever owned. And one last feature I love is the buckle and semi-elasticated top strap. This makes it easy to adjust around your calf, but also comfortable and never tight feeling. The clip buckle itself is small, but also a tough little thing that even if it breaks would be an easy fix. Anything that is in a particularly susceptible area is triple stitched for longevity. So, as you can tell, they're pretty tough gaiters. But are they any good?

Functionally I can't find anything to suggest to improve them. When I compare them to previous gaiters I've owned, all the issues I've had with them are fixed in these Tasgear beasts. And I guess that's obvious, as they're made by a Tasmanian Bushwalker. I guess they might be a bit heavy for some people (a bit over 300gms for a pair), but that's nothing that worries me, especially when they're so strong and well made. Am I bias because I got a pair to demo and test? Maybe. Maybe not. I was fully prepared to buy them, I mean, they're no more expensive than other gaiters. They're currently going for $95. They have an unconditional 2 year warranty period, I'll see what mine are like in two years, but I would happily buy them if they aren't fixable.

And the last thing to note is that these are made by a passionate bloke, in this garage, in Launceston. I would much rather support this budding business that is making high quality gear than the alternative. Also, they look sexy as hell ;)

A well built gaiter.

That buckle is on a semi-elasticated webbing, good comfort and fit.

Tasgear Off Track Gaiters.

Detail of the press stud and the lace hook.

30 left.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Loddon Bluff

15th - 16th May 2017

Loddon Bluff

Day 1
After a month of not Abeling, it was time to get back into the hills! I have had one previous attempt at Loddon Bluff (it was going to be my 1st Abel in 2015), but poor weather turned us around beneath Mt Roland Cross. And this was the 4th time that Shelly and I had put the dates aside to set out on this mission, with the previous 3 being cancelled due to bad weather; this is Tasmania! It was worth the wait though, as it exceeded both our expectations!

We met at Derwent Bridge at 8am (we were headed in different directions post walk, hence separate cars), piled all the gear into one car and drove the 20 minutes towards Queenstown to our starting point. This is where my previous attempt proved handy, as I knew of a semi taped route. Just beyond Squires Creek we found the piece of pink marker tape on the side of the road and parked near it. Scrub gear on and we headed enthusiastically into the rainforest. After the first piece of tape, we didn't see any more, but it was just a matter of heading straight down towards the Surprise River some 400m away. Half an hour after leaving the car we had crossed the river with minimal fuss and were headed for the ridge of Eucryphila Lead; our access to the Loddon Range. Steady uphill took us through magnificent stands of Man Ferns, with smaller Mother Shield ferns beneath, and scattered fungi all around. It was about here that we picked up the taped route again, although we didn't necessarily depend upon it, as the ridge was easy enough to stick on. The tape acted as our occasional reassuring friend, with both of us yelling 'Tape!' when we spotted some. Once we had gained a few hundred metres in elevation we entered Myrtle and unsurprisingly, Leatherwood (Eucryphila) dominated forest. It was steady going for a few hours, but around 11:30am we had emerged into the scrub line, and had a view to the leading ridge of Mt Roland Cross.

We had to push through some more scrub in order to get to the clearer alpine area on the main ridge of the Loddon Range, but this wasn't too bad, and the nearer we got to our goal, the more pad-like the going became. Eventually we ended up on a reasonable pad, marked by odd bits of tape and occasional cairns. A smidge after midday we were sitting on Mt Roland Cross, looking along the range to where we were heading; not a bad place to stop for lunch! From our lunch spot we could spy Needle Rock Tarn, nestled beneath the main ridge, and confirmed that it would be our camp spot. We headed along the range, negotiating a few rocky knolls and a few scrubby patches. A little over an hour after lunch we reached a saddle between a knoll and Church Peak where we opted to leave our packs. This would be an ideal place to come back to before dropping down to the tarn, only a few hundred metres away. We shoved some gear into day-packs and kept going along the range. At 2:30pm we arrived at the summit of Loddon Bluff! Treated to a great view, although the valleys and hills to the south were hidden from view with large clouds gathering. We spent a pleasant 30 minutes on top in the calm weather before re-tracing our steps back to the packs. We had one deviation on the way back to look at the Needle Rock beneath Church Peak. We had camp set up by the tarn at about 5pm. A very satisfying day was had by both of us, and we were stocked to have finally climbed Loddon! I was asleep by 7pm.

Of course that's the start of a walk!


A sweet colony. Couldn't I.D with my fungi-flip...

A very Jurassic lookin' environment. 

Stocked to nearly be out of the scrub! King Williams in the backgroud.

Looking along the Loddon Range from Mt Roland Cross.

Church Peak.

On the summit of Loddon! Looking back to where we've come.

Day 2
We awoke with the morning light and started to venture out of our tents at around 7am. The clear sky had left everything frozen, but the view was gorgeous. All the valleys to the north were filled with thick fog and the peaks were standing tall above it. When the sun started to throw colour on the fog it was a sight to behold. We had breaky, packed up, and were walking by 8:20am. More or less re-tracing our steps from the previous day, we stopped occasionally to ooh and aaah over the fine views. When we were back on Eucryphila Lead we made good pace, and we arrived back at the car at 1pm. Back to Derwent Bridge for a good feed at the Hungry Wombat.

It's great to be back in the hills!

The fog filled valleys, delightful.

Morning frost on Needle Rock Tarn.

Morning light; yet to thaw the tents.

Some kind of mycena?

Again, maybe a kind of mycena. Very sweet little things. I love Autumn.

30 left.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Things are looking up...

This is only going to be a short update on the progress of my Abel climbing, but it is a very important one!

As you may well know, I have been feeling the pressure over the last few months on trying to complete the Abels in the time frame I set myself. At first I thought the main reason was I was falling out of love with solo walking because I'd been doing so much of it, and felt like I wasn't bushwalking for the real reasons I love it. I began to tee up people to head bush with in order to keep to my schedule, but that still left me feeling strange. Until I sat down to really reflected on why I am doing this.

As silly as it sounds, it was never about peak bagging. Ever since I was small I always saw the Abels as a list of amazing adventures to go on, not so much as a list of peaks I need to bag. And with the desired deadline (June 16th) fast approaching, things are getting tighter. That results in me feeling like I am being more of a peak-bagger, and less of a bushwalker walking for the love of it.

For this simple reason of "Peak Bagery-ness" I have decided to add some more time to my challenge so I can appreciate it more. I climbed my first Abel of this challenge on the 26th of November 2015. I will strive to have them climbed before 26th of November 2017. Two years to summit the Abels is still something I will be very happy to have done, but it also allows me to enjoy the last part of this journey infinitely more. I was anxious to make this decision before, as I felt like it might make me regretful for not pushing though it. The factor that made me made this choice so easy now is figuring out exactly what the root issue was.

So, I'll still be climbing mountains and I'll still be writing about them. I would like to thank everyone who has been so supportive!

Things are looking up!

31 left.


Mt Hobhouse

14th - 15th April 2017

Mt Hobhouse

Day 1
With kayaks in tow, Chevi and I headed for the southern end of Lake King William. We arrived at Guelph Basin by 9:30am and organised the kayaks for our trip. We were in the water a bit after 10:00am and started following the eastern shoreline. There was a considerable wind up causing white caps on the lake, but with the kayaks laden with gear we felt very solid and powered through. About 1km into the paddle we veered away from the shore and headed straight for a point of land on the southern side of the basin (approximately 2kms away). The clouds were sitting thick and low on the King William Range, but Mt Hobhouse had sun shining on it and promised of a good day. After we pulled the kayaks ashore the daypack was filled with our gear for the day and we set off between the fill level and water-line; easy walking.

A short time of that pleasant walking was had before we found an open Buttongrass field to head into on the right direction to the ridge that leads up to the summit. The Buttongrass was quite large, and actually made for harder walking than usual (we both took several falls). Whenever we could we headed for the isolated patches of Eucalyptus forest, which had surprisingly open under-story and abundant bird life. We had a quick lunch in one of these, and kept linking up patches of similar forest until we reached an open forest dominated by Myrtle at the bottom of the ridge. This was marked on the map, along with the next feature we found, an old survey road from hydro times gone by. The overgrown road provided some easy walking for a few hundred metres and it was here that we picked up a taped route. We followed the tape as it shot away from the road into rainforest and up the crest of the ridge-line. As we gained altitude the track became more and more obvious and it was very appreciated as we headed through a thick band of Bauera and Tea-Tree just below the rocky outcrop leading to the summit. Once the final steep push had been made atop the outcrop, it was easy walking for 500m to the summit which we gained at 2:15pm (3 hours of walking). We had quite nice views, especially to the north and east, but the views west and south to the King Williams, Prince of Wales, Spires, and the Denison were hampered completely by low thick cloud.

After some summit time we headed back the way we came, only differing our route for a more straight forward approach to the lake when we reached the buttongrass flats. This cut some time and it was just over 2 hours for the descent. Once we were back at the kayaks we had a bit over an hour of daylight to set up camp on the edge of the forest. A lovely evening was spent playing cards by lantern light.

Pulling ashore at First Bay.

Drift wood and mountain tops.

Pandani in the forest.

Buttongrass stompin'!

A beautifully tied piece of tape.

Getting high!

The rocky outcrop leading to the summit.

Looking north to Lake King William from the summit.

Day 2

The original plan had been to head up Slatters Peak and Mt King William II, but the range was firmly in the cloud as we woke and began packing up camp. By the time we had the kayaks packed, nothing had changed, and considering that the previous day they had been in cloud all day we formed a decision. The weather and a painful hip (sustained from the Buttongrass stomping) lead us to opt for a long paddle on the lake, and then heading back to the car. We paddled through the Guelph Narrows and looked at a little island in the main body of water that is Lake King William. Then on our way back to the car, we looked at an old fisherman's shack on the lakes edge. Once back at the car we headed to Lake St Clair for a coffee and then sussed out the recently completed Wall in the Wilderness.

31 left.


Friday, 7 April 2017

Mt La Perouse

3rd - 4th April 2017

Mt La Perouse

Day 1
With high hopes for completing the Southern Ranges with beautiful weather, I set off on the walk in the far south of Tasmania after the 4.5 hour drive to the start of the track. The Beginning of the track up Moonlight Ridge follows an old train line to a quarry site near Mystery Cave. There was plenty of signs of old building sites, peppered with old bits of iron, boots, and glass jars. By 9:30am I left the quarry behind and was walking up the track, gaining elevation steadily and listening to the cries of many Lyrebirds. The track headed through wet Eucalyptus forest, with a base of Lime Stone, studded with small caves and interesting features. After a few hours I poked out on the broad, somewhat flat, ridge near Bullfrog Tarns. The area around me had been burnt out a few seasons ago, and the going from there was easy. It was at this point that the first views of the range came into focus, and it looked wonderful.

Another hour of steady going and I was sitting underneath the crest of Hill 1 for lunch. Some wonderfully made track took me along the south-west facing ridge for the next few hours, passing Hill 2, 3, and 4, before finally delivering me to the splendid camping at Pigsty Ponds. As I was coming through one of the scrubbier areas around Hill 2, I broke one of my boots pretty dramatically... I had plenty of time to sit around camp, having arrived just after 2:00pm. I had a swim, brewed a coffee and read as the sun began to slowly go down. Unfortunately, I was also having those recent feelings of anxiety as I went to sleep.

A bygone era.

The ground looked quite beautiful.

Heading up the ridge.

A fire-swept landscape.


Looking along the Hills towards the Southern Ranges.

Mt La Perouse.

My home.

Day 2
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. But still was struggling with my head space. I packed up and moved out by 7:00am, and within 15 minutes I was at the junction to Mt La Perouse. From here I headed up, which only took about 40 minutes. The summit was spectacularly flat, having not lost its sandstone cap from glaciation like so many of our Dolorite peaks. I walked to the eastern side of the summit and looked down at the amazing Swallows Nest Lakes, and then took shelter from the brisk morning wind behind the huge summit cairn. From here, due to my emotional issues and my (now even more) broken boot, I decided to turn around. I do hugely regret this move, but it felt right at the time.

I headed back down Moonlight Ridge to my car.

Morning over Pigsty Ponds.

La Perouse.

The wind is powerful. Natures topiary.

The iconic summit cairn. Looking to Pindars Peak... Another time.

32 left.