Ben Lomond Traverse

In the evening of 12th March 2021 I arrived at the campground in Rossarden. Rossarden is a former mining town. But since the mine closed decades ago, most of the houses have been dismantled only a few bogans are occupying the area south of Ben Lomond. I could have easily free camped somewhere there, but I left my car for 1-2 days, and I felt better, if I could park it in the designated car park.

Early morning fog in Rossarden

I had an early start shortly after sunrise. It was a bit chilly in the morning, and there was even some morning fog. But once it disappeared the day was going to be a beautiful sunny late summer day. I walked along the road up to Storys Creek. There is only one house left with permanent residents. Along the way you can see all the remnants of the former mining activity. After Storys Creek I followed a gravel road which quickly turned into a hiking track. The way up above the Scree to Denison Crag is well marked. From the saddle shortly before reaching the high plateau you can see Tranquil Tarn. Once on top I left the track which goes to Denison Crag and turned right. The track is no longer that obvious. You basically walk through calf to knee high shrub. It’s not too bad, and I had good visibility. From time to time you see old moss covered cairns. It’s a slow walk though.

After passing the tree line there are nice views to the North
Tranquil Tarn from above the scree field

After I turned north, I passed Lake Youl in the distance. You are constantly hopping over small creeks, and it’s sometimes muddy. After a few more kilometres you can see the first wooden stakes for marking the backcountry ski track in winter. I was following them and crossed a wide valley underneath Ossian’s Throne. From there you go up and find more stacks along the way, which I followed until a big junction. There I turned left. The way is clear, but in summer time hard work, as you constantly hopping over puddles. Once reaching another junction, I again turned right, and arrived at the Ben Lomond ski resort. This looks quite desperate in summer. From the base it’s only a shot walk to the summit. I finally reached the second highest summit of Tasmania.

Lake Youl on the plateau
Crossing that wide valley below Ossian’s Throne
The ski resort at Ben Lomond looks a bit run down…I can’t imagine to spend any money here to have a few hundred metre of slope, which you slide down in just a few minutes. But I think it’s the only one in Tasmania
All the huts in Ben Lomond are basically private owned and only open during ski season, as far I could figure
Finally reached Legges Tor…
…the summit of Ben Lomond

The way down is much better marked with wooden stakes. I passed and old mountain hut from a local ski club, which needs urgent renovation. It really looked run down. The hiking track to Carr Villa hut is much more frequently used. The air was quite smokey on the way down due to controlled burns in the vicinity. That lead to a colourful pink sunset later on. The private Carr Villa hut was also closed. From there I carried on along the gravel road to the Ben Lomond campground, which was an easy walk. Only another couple was camping in their car. So basically I had free choice for pitching up my tent.

One of the old huts, which needs urgent repairs
The north side of Ben Lomond was quite hazy at that day

In the morning the other camper gave me a lift down to Upper Blessington, which saved me walking along a gravel road for 10km or so. In the morning there were not many (well none) cars up Ben Lomond. I waited for several hours in the morning at the junction in Upper Blessington, but it’s already a bit remote and not a single car drove towards Mathinna. Then before midday I changed my strategy, and a local old lady gave me a lift in her ute to the outskirts of Launceston. From there I got a lift along the highway from a local bloke just to the service station in Perth. I was quite happy, because getting a lift on a busy road isn’t that easy. Another lady saw me being dropped off, and immediately offered me a lift. She said it was the first time in 20 years, she gave someone a lift. That was just perfect. She dropped me off at the junction to Fingal after Conara. And from there it didn’t take me long until I got another lift to Avoca. I thought it might be hard from here. But after waiting less than 1h or so, a local tradie from Rossarden offered me a final lift. We had a nice chat about the surrounding areas while driving the way up. And as such, I was back at my car in the afternoon after getting 6 lifts in a row, much quicker than I thought. From Rossarden I drove the other way down to Fingal and from there via Mathinna to Upper Blessington, and passed the junction in late afternoon, where I was just waiting for quite some time in the morning. Surprisingly, there were quite some cars driving the opposite way on the gravel road towards Mathinna in the late afternoon.

View of Ben Lomond from Upper Blessington

GPX track

Rysavy Ridge

After we relocated the day before to O’Neills campground in Gowrie Park at the base of Mount Roland (yes Rysavy Ridge is on that mountain, I made a picture of at my first day in Tassie more than 7 weeks earlier), we agreed to have an early start. So, at the 6th of March 2021 we got up at 5:00 o’clock. The plan was to have a quick breakfast and then start early with the approach, as it’s an about 2h walk from the car park to the base of the ridge. The night was quite chilly and we had some hoarfrost in the morning. The first question of Will was: Do you want to have a real coffee? Hmm…sure, why not 🤦‍♂️. That means: Measuring 15g of coffee beans on the scale, grinding them, prepare the AeroPress, put on the kettle, heat the water to 85°C temperature – monitored with a thermometer, and then press the freshly brewed coffee into the cup. I mean, that’s how we make real coffee right 😜. As the toilets didn’t work on the campground we needed to make a 30min detour via Sheffield as Will needed to take care of his internal pressure. At 7:00 o’clock we were finally at the car park. Ready to start walking…actually not too bad.

Beautiful morning, just after sunrise, and the firefighter helicopters just started flying…well, surprise, surprise

The approach trail is via a private property, but we gained permission to cross it. We just needed to sign into the guestbook. After about 2h we arrived at the base of the mountain. We got the gear ready and then had a bit of a discussion were to start. I said straight away, but Will run into a gully. Then we did some boulder moves and anyway gained the ridge. Will was still in his approach shoes, and as he didn’t want to downclimb he them into the other gully…great idea. I had my climbing shoes with me, but as they’re super aggressive I actually climbed the whole day in my boots. Rysavy ridge is a 12, and contrary to other Tassie climbs it’s not sandbagged. In that instance the grade conversion table works, and it’s an UIAA IV. It’s a long route of 400m and if you climb all on safety gear then it takes a while. Plus we had double ropes with us, which makes perfectly sense for multipitch trad climbing. But sometimes you’ve walking pitches through shrub, and dragging them all the way is really hard. We constantly swapped leads, and Will was now always happy with my gear placement. After about 4h we had our lunch break at a bit of wider ledge. The weather was gorgeous. It couldn’t have been a better climbing day. At about 17:00 o’clock we reached the top, and two other climbers followed us briefly behind. They were a bit more efficient in their rope handling, and thus about 2h faster than we.

Will at our lunch break. Halfway along the ridge line
The final part of the ridge is the most spectacular, but easy to walk on
Me enjoying my rest on top of the pinnacle
Will and I having a good time after our climb…
…on top of Rysavy Ridge, with the normal hiking path to the top of Mount Roland in the background.

We had a nice conversation on the top. Enjoyed the view to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff before we started abseiling into the dirty gully. The gully is too steep to walk down, but not steep enough to have the rope freely flowing. Thus, rope got tangled frequently in the bush. We decided to abseil together, and take advantage of our multiple ropes. There was always old tad available for the anchors. That went all well until the 5th or 6th pitch. Then their rope got stuck, while they tried to pull it down. They didn’t get it free. We were already one abseil lower. Hence, Will climbed up, while I was belaying him on toprope. Now I was stuck there. They tried to pull it down with their weight, but it didn’t work. The lightest person then needed to prusik all the way up. Not a nice feeling, if you know the rope is only stuck on a single knot. But in the end, this was exactly was happened. Could happen to anyone. In the end it took us 3h down instead of 2h and it was already dawn when we were back at the bottom. Now, we needed to find Will’s boots quickly before it went completely dark. Walking down with the rest of the light of the day. We finally arrived at 21:00 o’clock at the car park. What a glorious day. That was my best climb in Tasmania!

What a stunning view…with Cradle mountain and Barn Bluff in the background
The smoke of the controlled bush fires is clearly visible towards Cethana
That’s the gully we need to abseil into…not a nice lookout

The next day we slept in. There was a local polo games competition. This just happened to be on the other side of the fence. We had a bit of a hangover after our epic day and then decided to watch a few games. After more than 7 weeks of more or less travelling together (were we had very good times), it was time to say goodbye. Will headed to Hobart to pickup Jon before they went to Flinders Island, and I went to the pub in Sheffield…

“No Will in sight!!” I received this message from Jon the evening they had to drive to Bridport to catch the ferry to Flinders island. I know that place well. That’s the camp kitchen in Kingston, with the open fire on the right…clearly occupied by Will and his equipment. And no…it doesn’t surprise me at all, I guess he got distracted 😂. (in the end they made it)

Climbing in Freycinet

After having late breakfast and coffee (needless to say I guess 😋), Jon decided he wanted to hitchhike to Fingal. As it was late anyway, Will agreed to drive Jon to Bicheno, and on the way out he dropped me so I could climb Mt Amos in the meantime. Despite the fact that it was by the time already 18:00 o’clock or so, Jon got a direct lift to Fingal, all along the east coast. On the way back Will picked me up again.

I had an easy hike up Mount Amos, one of the many granite mountains in Freycinet National Park. The weather was great, so I had a 360° view. After some time on the top, I walked back so I can be on time for my pickup.

Mount Amos lookout to Freycinet NP
Coles Bay infront and the northern part of the east coast towards Bicheno
The trig point was actually at the next summit a few hundred metres apart
Interesting note what impact dead branches actually have for the wildlife…maybe to be remembered, when you pick up a stick for your own convenience the next time

The next day we finally got some climbing done at Whitewater Wall. Will taught me again a bit of gear placement, and I was even able to lead a 13 or so. I’m not certain, but I think we did again one of his favourite off-width cracks.

On the 5th the weather wasn’t great again. So, we decided to move camp again, and drive to Gowrie Park at the base of Mount Roland. We didn’t too bad. I drove off a bit earlier than Will at early afternoon, but then needed to wait for him in Westbury, as I couldn’t pay in cash for my fuel (and my credit card didn’t work). So I had a short look around town, and since they build the bypass road most of the business for the local retailers is gone, and the main street appeared a bit dead and lonely, but still lovely. The rest of the time I waited in my car. So it was already dark when we arrived, but not that crazy late, as we opted for an early start the next day. Will spotted a bush fire in the distance, and as he was still on Optus I needed to make a call with my Telstra Sim card. The operator said, that’s a controlled burn and we shouldn’t be worried…well we told them, that this doesn’t look like controlled. And they admitted that they didn’t had anyone on the ground to check. Well then…

Drive to Freycinet

I mean you can imagine, that after returning at midnight, that our first coffee wasn’t that early. The weather turned bad again, but the forecast for Freycinet further north was actually not that bed. So eventually, we decided to move camp. We helped Will to pack all his gear into his car. But eventually I took Jon in my car, as Will was still a bit distracted by “sorting things out” (Will is basically always busy with “sorting things out”). We drove off (very) late afternoon, and made a bit of a short detour on the peninsula and visited the Lime Bay Coal Mines. This is a former convict site (there are plenty in Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land, as Tassie was know in the past. But as nobody wants to be associated with those times, they better changed the name – not that it would’ve changed anything in the British invasion at all). As so many convict sites, they are nowadays lamenting about the hardship the convict faced. Well, it’s not my fault that your monarch decided to externalise the sentence term outside his small British island, and put badly educated, and cruel officers in charge for its supervision. So stop whinging about the hardship of white British people. You better admit all those genocides which were committed in the name of the British crown. Basically “Australian history” always starts in 1788 (or shortly afterwards), even though the area was inhabited for thousands of years prior to the British occupation. Anyway, in this particular case this peninsula was perfect to control obstreperous convicts, as it only had a small isthmus to the rest of the island. Some tried to escape by swimming, but that didn’t go well. Some drowned, some got caught.

Some ruins from stone buildings at Lime Bay Coal Mines
The cells for convicts
Clear water at the site of the former jetty
One of the former shafts to access the underground coal mine collapsed
Nature takes back step-by-step the former stone buildings

After leaving the Peninsula, we took the Wielangta Road as shortcut to Orford. The road was muddy due to the recent rain, corrugated, and had some deep washouts in parts…definitely nothing for speeding. We could see Maria island just to the east, but sunset was already way before Swansea. We reached Coles Bay in the evening and made our way to Whitewater Wall campsite. We didn’t had any mobile reception there. We arrived in the dark at about 22:00 and it was bloody windy, when I prepared some dinner in the storm. The last message from Will was, that he just drove back to Sorell to get some Super98 fuel for his Forester…and groceries of course. Will eventually arrived way after midnight, as we should discover the next morning.

Along Wielangta Rd in the evening

Fortescue Bay

At the end of February 2021 and after fixing my car (I even needed to replace my spark plugs, as they started to misfire on Bruny island), I finally left Hobart after about a month. I had an early coffee stop in Sorell and got some last groceries before I drove to Port Arthur where I met with Will and Jon. It was raining quite a bit, and none of us was up to pay hefty entrance fees for the convict site, which is now a tourist attraction. Jon complained about Will, as he destroyed his brand new JetBoil stove, which he never used before, by reversing his car 🙈. So in the end we decided to setup camp at Fortescue Bay and wait for better weather. As it was raining we didn’t camp at the official camp spots, but occupied partly the shelter with our camp kitchen. I slept anyway in my car, and the ranger couldn’t be bothered.

As the weather cleared the next day, we drove to Remarkable Cave car park in Safety Cove. We approached a sport climbing crag, but that meant walking almost all the way towards Mount Brown (well good planning – at least we found the crag). I can’t recall what we climbed there. But we would’ve done a few routes, as it was already dusk once we retreated back to the camp…late dinner included.

Remarkable Cave and…
…the approach to Mount Brown

The next day we started walking to The Moai…at midday. After about 2h of approach (Again, I wasn’t planning it, and hence not aware of the lengthy approaches here) we finally reached the abseiling point down to The Moai. Just when another party came towards us, and wasn’t sure why we would start now…well, now I know why they were dazed and confused 🤔. So after abseiling the two pitches, Will and I were at the bottom at about quarter past four. But Will didn’t want to start climbing until one of his other friends (who is a stronger climber) arrived, so he could lead a harder route…well nice plan for the morning, maybe not for the late afternoon (perfect organisation, if you’ve to manage 6 people and consider all their individual wishes). Thus, I waited for at least another hour or so. They abandoned the 24 graded route, and opted for a 20. I think we only did the first pitch. Will succeeded eventually over the crux. And I second it with some swearing and collecting all the gear (as far as I can remember I did it clean). Seconding is not always easier in trad, in particular when you can’t get out the cam or the nut. But it’s typical always nicer to have a rope from the top. On the way down I collected some other gear from the abandoned route. Thus, at about 20:00 o’clock we were ready to climb the cliff up again at the fixed rope we left earlier. Jon and his friend went first. Then I let Will go, as he takes longer for walking back. And I was the last to be on the top of the cliff at about 21:30 o’clock, way after sunset. I coiled the rope and had a short break from the uphill climb. I caught up with Will much later just on the beach shortly before the campsite.

Fortescue Bay
Will is preparing the fixed rope to abseil…
…down to the Moai
My view, while I was waiting for the others “to sort things out”

We returned at midnight to camp…then we started preparing dinner. I think that was the night, when Will grabbed a naughty possum by its tail and threw it into the ocean. That happens to naughty possums when they try to steal our food from the kitchen. And yes, thanks to that scientific experiment, we could prove that possums can also swim in salt water and clearly find their back ashore 😜.

At least we had a nice view to The Candlestick and Totem Pole (two other popular climbing monoliths – the middle ones, partly covered)