Hiking Forth Valley – Walls of Jerusalem (Day 3): Mount Pelion West

The next day I only used the top of my big backpack as daypack. I packed some water, snack and hardshell plus the map. You no longer can buy the detailed 1:25.000 maps printed, but you can buy a digital copy and then print it in Hobart in the maps shop. I did that, because I like the detailed maps. Once you need a map, then you need the details when you go hiking. I backtracked the Overland track for about 7.5 km. That is legal in that instance, as this is the official approach to Mount Pelion West. Most of the Overland track is anyway boardwalk, so it was basically straightforward and you can’t miss the Overland track. After about 3.5 km you reach Frog Flats and cross the (small) Forth river. It’s the lowest point of the Overland track. Afterwards it’s going slightly uphill again.

Mount Pelion West partly covered in clouds in the morning from Frog Flats

When the Overland track turns North you reach a nice bridge over another creek (with easy access to fill up your bottles). A few metres before there’s a big sign that (another) track is closed. As I found out later from a ranger, there were much more managed tracks in the National Park in the 1970’s, but due to shortage in funding and changing policies (volunteers seem to be no longer allowed to maintain tracks due to legal issues), there’re now all overgrown. This is one of them, but it’s not the access track to Mount Pelion West. The actually track junction is about 200m before the bridge (when you come from the south), just before another small creek which just runs cross the Overland track. I missed that turn-off completely. Just when I was in that area a hiking group with guide came towards me, and commented on me hiking in the wrong direction. That distracted me enough, from not seeing the turnoff. Additionally, the track was not in my detailed map and I didn’t put it in by hand. So having a detailed map is not always helpful.

As it was early and I knew roughly were I need to go I decided to follow some small tracks. It turned out that these were just animal tracks and just disappeared quickly. Nevertheless I knew roughly the direction, and then about 1-2h of bush bashing followed. First I followed that small creek which I mentioned earlier, but I thought I should not cross it. In between I had some open sections, before it turned dense again. Finally it opened up and I had a clear view to the mountain and also to the northern part of the Overland track with Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain.

Finally some clear view to the Mountain after an hour bush bashing
Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain are partly covered in clouds

Finally I found the track. But even if you stand 5m next to it, you wouldn’t see it because it’s hidden in the bush. I followed it through a wide gully to reach the ridge. Then on top of the ridge it was pure rock and still another hour of constant boulder hopping. Nothing too hard, but exhaustive after some time. The track on top is well marked with cairns, but sometimes you’ve two parallel cairn options. I mostly stuck to the northern part of the route, as I found it more fluent. Shortly before the summit I met 4 other hikers. They came up from the western side, as they pitched their tent on a saddle towards Mount Achilles next to a tarn (that must be actually close to the spring of the Forth river)…true Tassie bushwalkers. I thought damn it, I could have made a traverse of the whole mountain, if I knew that beforehand. But they had some gps track from fellow hikers, which they briefly followed. So nothing in the public domain, as Tassie hikers like to stick to themselves and not share anything…not that mainland people could dare to steal “their” tracks. One of the hikers told me, that this was his 4th (or so) attempt to reach Mount Pelion West and that it took him more than 40 years since his first attempt. So we definitely had luck with the weather.

Boulder hopping over the ridge of Mount Pelion West
The last two moves…
…and I finally can gain the (real) summit of Mount Pelion West

I had my lunch break on the summit as the weather cleared. The way back was the same, except that I now followed the official track all the down to the Overland track. It was surprisingly well maintained in the upper section. And then a bit steep before reaching the Overland track. And yes, there’s no sign at the Overland track for the turn off. So either you’ve a good map or a gps with you (Or just know where it is, I mean it’s obvious isn’t it 😉). In total it’s about 20km, and with the bush bashing in the morning, it was a full day of hiking which I really enjoyed.

Enjoying my lunch…
…with a breathtaking view from Cathedral mountain (far left), Mount Ossa (centre), and even Frenchmans Cap can be seen in the distance (right)
Stunning view also on the way down towards Mount Oakleigh (now you could see, why the real summit is to the north), were I’ve been the day before and Lake Ayr in the middle
That’s the actual turn off from the Overland track to Mount Pelion West (there are some marking tapes further up, but not at the junction)
Paddys Nut (left) and Mount Thetis seen from Frog Flats

Hiking Forth Valley – Walls of Jerusalem (Day 1&2): Forth Valley Track

At the 16th March 2021 I got my hiking gear ready for my first true multiday hike in Tasmania. The weather forecast looked promising for the next 7 days. So perfect conditions. I got a bit distracted in the morning and as such was just able to drive off after lunch. I thought that’s still plenty of time, but it actually took my longer to drive to Lemonthyme Power station, as I thought, due to all the winding roads from Forth township. At about 15:15 I made a quick photostop at Lemonthyme road down to the power station. What a perfect day. I could see Cradle mountain, Barn Bluff, and Mount Pelion West behind the end of the Forth Valley.

Lookout to Cradle Mountain (on the right), and Mount Pelion West behind the end of Forth Valley (centre left)

As it started to get already late, I decided to leave my car not at the power station, but look how far I can drive along the gravel road to safe some time. I thought I couldn’t be so complicated, and my paper map just started a few km after the power station, so I didn’t had a proper map with me. I made a wrong turn in the beginning and ended up at Pallawah road, which ends at and old bridge over the Forth river, which would be really unsafe to use. So, I back tracked and followed Patons road eventually. The gate for forestry was open, and I thought (in that moment), ok no problem then I can the gravel road further. After another 3km or so, there was a creek crossing. And with my low clearance Subaru Outback 4WD, I decided that’s were I leave my car. At 16:00 o’clock I finally started hiking. Having 20km infront of me, and with sunset at about 20:00 o’clock. No ideal conditions, I know, but at least now I should not miss the road any more.

At least that was true, the gravel road was easy to follow. I was walking quite with some pace due to the timely pressure. That’s not really conducive for the first day of a multiday hike. As your feet are not yet used to it, and your backpack is the heaviest with all the food inside. While I was walking, I thought about the location of my car. What if they close the gate within the next week? Then my car is trapped in there, without any mobile phone connection? Plus, I knew one of my tyres was still leaking. Would there be enough air inside, when I return? And if not, would my spare tyre be finally OK? That wasn’t a place were many people come by. So, I didn’t expect any other travellers helping me out. Well, I was able to put those thoughts away, and focused on my hike. There’s nothing I could about them now. And I will deal with the problems once I return, in one way or the other.

After 40min or so I reached a clearance from forestry operations. There were some 40ft sea containers and even a pickup truck parked next to it. It was Tuesday afternoon, but I couldn’t see anybody. From there I made a right turn and stayed at Patons road (now I had map coverage). At about 17:15 o’clock I reached the boundary of the Cradle mountain national park. The next two hours were just pushing up the Forth Valley. At about 20:15 o’clock. It was almost complete dark in the forest, I reached a small creek. I decided to pitch-up my tent there on the side of the road. At least it was flat and I had water. I didn’t expect anyone passing by in the night. And also no animal visitors, as typically nobody camps there.

Finally entering the national park
You barely see the Forth river along Patons Road, even if you hike up the Forth Valley

The next morning I continued along the track, and after maybe 1km I reached a bigger clearance next to another creek just before the former Wolfram mine. That would be actually a better camp spot, if I would’ve started a bit earlier. After the campsite there is the huge clearance of the former Wolfram mine. I made a stupid mistake and followed the well visible quad tracks. This only leads up the former mine site. You see old mine abandoned mine tunnels. But after a few turns the track just ends all of a sudden. I tried for a few metres to look for a track, but then decided I need to go down again to the big clearance. In total I lost one hour due to my detour. Eventually I found the start of the Forth Valley Track, which was on the opposite end of the big clearance. Surprisingly the Forth Valley Track was cleared just recently. I still could see the saw dust on the forest floor, and it was well marked. It was just a beauty to follow it underneath Mount Oakleigh. I expected much worse conditions, but already popped out at Old Pelion Hut after about 4h, including a lunch break in between. The Forth Valley Track is actually the original access track to Old Pelion Hut, not the Overland track. I got wet feet while crossing Douglas Creek, as there is no longer a suspension bridge. Walking another 15min or so, I arrived at New Pelion Hut. If you come from side ends, you don’t need an Overland Track permit. New Pelion Hut is typically approach from Lees Paddocks Track or via the Arm River Track, as they’re shorter. As I didn’t had a permit, I also didn’t want to take away any space in the hut. But I guess due to Covid-19 a lot of people decided to sleep in their own tents anyway, so I had a place for two nights there.

And old sign (shortly after my first camp) shows the right direction…maybe that should’ve been a few km down the road
That’s a nice clearing for camping, close to the old Wolfram mine, you still can see old quad tracks
This track from the big mine clearance just leads up the former Wolfram mine and is a dead end…
…you’ll see several remnants from the former mining activity though
Back on (Forth Valley) track. Freshly cleared windfall (in March 2021). The track narrows soon, and is no longer accessible by quads.
The sun kisses you through the forest canopy below Mount Oakleigh
Mount Pelion West seen shortly before crossing Douglas Creek
New Pelion Hut is finally insight
Old Pelion Hut is really small, and should be only used in emergency

As I arrived at early afternoon, and the weather was still good, I decided to make a detour on top of Mount Oakleigh. It’s actually quite easy to get up. But interestingly the real summit is much further north, as you might’ve been guessed. I still had great views from the “fake” summits though. I could see all the way from Mount Ossa to Cradle Mountain. I returned to Pelion Hut just before a stunning sunset. New Pelion Hut was my first real hut in Tasmania where I stayed, but I still think it’s the most beautiful location for a hut. It’s no longer the newest, but the views from the veranda are just stunning.

Stunning views to Lake Ayr and Mount Ossa in the middle, up from New Pelion Hut
That’s the “major” fake summit…
…still impressive view across the Forth Valley, where I came up from in the morning, to Mount Pelion West
The eagle flies above Forth Valley
Finally reached the summit of Mount Oakleigh with a view back over the Forth Valley (that section was actually the most remote of the whole multiday hike)
Coming back to Pelion Hut…
…to enjoy a beautiful sunset to Mount Pelion West.
GPX track (of the whole seven day hike)

Mount Montgomery

The next day we drove to the MTB tracks car park in Penguin in the afternoon. We walked up Mount Montgomery, which took us maybe 40min or so. First we followed a creek quite gently, before it got a bit steeper on the way up. On the top there’s a nice lookout and bench where Kristy and I enjoyed the view down to Ulverstone. In the distance you could see Turners beach next to the Forth river. And in the far distance even the outskirts of Devonport with the Mersey Bluff lighthouse were clearly visible.

Lookout from Mount Montgomery to the North-West coast of Tasmania

The Nut and Cape Grim

Mid March 2021 Kristy and I did a day tour to Stanley from Ulverstone (Australia’s most homophobic town – and a place of big protests in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as Tasmania imposed the harshest penalties in the Western world for homosexual activity until 1997…isn’t it a wonderful place to be). So we walked up the stairs onto the Nut (munatrik). The cable car wasn’t operating, but for the few metres we also wouldn’t have spend any money. The Nut is a former volcanic plug and the famous landmark of the area. It has several lookouts along the circuit trail on top. To the East you might spot Rocky Cape (pinmatik) and Table Cape above Wynyard.

View from the Nut to Stanley

We continued our drive further to the Northwest, and drove through Smithton. Smithton was the terminus of the Far Western Railway line, but the tracks are lifted all the way to Wiltshire. Comedian Hannah Gadsby grew up as lesbian in Smithton and processed her experiences in Nanette (watch on netflix).

Cape Grim is the northernmost point of Tasmania. It’s the side of a massacre were four workers of the Van Diemen’s Land Company (that’s Tasmania called in early days) killed about 30 Aborigines and pushed them over the cliff. The access to Cape Grim is restricted as it’s part of the private owned Woolnorth farm. You have to make bookings and pay to get onto a tour. Beside the site of a massacre it’s also the site of the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station. As there is no land east of Tasmania until the southern part of Argentina, the most westerly winds, provide a good sample of average worldwide air quality. We stopped a few kilometres before the Woolnorth farm and had a look at the Woolnorth windfarm, which also takes advantage of the roaring forties.

Woolnorth windfarm at the North-West Coast near Cape Grim…
…looks quite idyllic in the late afternoon sun.

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