Climbing Mount Wellington

There is one constant in the city of Hobart and that is the mountain, Mount Wellington. It casts a watchful eye over the capital of Tasmania while providing a focal point for anyone looking to catch their bearings in the city. The mountain never looks the same day by day and indeed minute by minute the light completely changes the mood and atmosphere of kunanyi, the native Aboriginal name for Mount Wellington.

At 1,269 meters it’s by no means an alpine giant but it’s certainly high enough to provide spectacular views and a healthy dose of heaving breathing on your way to the summit. For those less adventurous there’s a paved tarmac right all the way to the top, a short 20-30 minute drive from downtown Hobart and for those looking for a challenge there are numerous hiking and walking trails dotted throughout the mountain and the greater Mount Wellington park area.

Very few major cities of the world can boast of having a mountain playground on their doorstep and Mount Wellington is certainly one of the finest examples. We first scaled it last Winter with our friends who drove us up to the summit to witness a magical Winter wonderland.

Our second experience of the Mountain was a rather haphazardly organised ascent which saw us make it as far as The Springs before having to admit defeat and return to the comfort of Fern Tree. A few weeks ago I enjoyed my first foot ascent of the mountain and it was a fantastic experience…….until my hiking boot bought the farm shortly before I began my descent. Thankfully a lovely family from Western Australia kindly gave me a lift back to Fern Tree, the small town at the foothills of the mountain from where most ascents begin.

Most recently, my Belgian friend and I climbed up once more as a bit of a going away event as he leaves Tasmania in a few days. We had formulated a plan to climb the mountain wearing suits but time constraints left it an uphill struggle, if you’ll excuse the pun. I’d still love to organise an event in the future to climb Mount Wellington in suits and hopefully get a charity on board in the process.

The views from the top are something I’ll never tire off and provide views over a surprisingly large swathe of Tasmania. You can see the top of Maria Island on the East Coast as well as the Tasman Peninsula. There’s great views of Bruny Island and the expansive views out over the South Western Wilderness area are just so inviting. Every time I go up there I just want to keep going onwards into the wild.

So, how do you go about getting to the top without a car? Well you could cycle up (tough going) but then enjoy a relaxing blast back down Pinnacle Road to the bottom. For many, hiking up is the best way to experience the mountain and I’m inclined to agree. Most ascents begin at Fern Tree as I’ve mentioned and you can easily get there from the city by taking the bus from Hobart City Stop N at Franklin Square. See the Metro Tasmania website for more information on public transport to Fern Tree.

Upon disembarking from the bus I usually head straight for Fern Tree Glade and begin the climb up through the humid (yet often cold) lower slopes, past thick ferns that seem like something straight out of Jurassic Park. The Fern Tree track continues up a series of steps before intersecting with Radfords Track. From here you’ll want to continue up that track towards The Springs. If it’s all becoming a little tough you can stop for a coffee at Bentwood who are often parked up at the Springs offering caffeine hits to keep you going. You can also spend some time playing with Pepper, they’re beautiful doggy who loves lazing about in front of the coffee trailer.

Once you’ve caught your breath and recharged your batteries, it’s time to continue on up and from here you have to make a decision. You can go up the Zig-Zag track, which is the most direct route to the summit (and one I’ve yet to take!) or you can go the scenic route up the Organ Pipes track which runs along the base of the Organ Pipes, Mount Wellington’s most eye-popping feature, a wall of vertical rock favoured by rock climbers who can often be seen scaling its sheer heights.

The next stop on the journey (on the Organ Pipes Track) is the Chalet, a former health spa that was destroyed by the horrifying wildfires that swept across the slopes in 1967 and threatened Hobart itself. From here the route gets a little disappointing for the more adventurous types, as you have to walk up the tarmac Pinnacle Road for a little while before rejoining the off road trail on the Panorama Track.

This is probably my favourite part of the hike as it meanders through the last vestments of the tree line. As you climb ever higher the canopy of the trees gets closer and closer until finally, you break free and enter the uppermost regions of Mount Wellington. The trees that have been gradually shrinking in height, suddenly give way to the alpine scrub and exposed rock prevalent at the summit.

There’s still plenty of life up here though with numerous species of higher altitude and (very) hardy plant species clinging on between the rocks and boulders. The Panorama Track rejoins with the Pinnacle Road and you have to scale the last few hundred feet on the road.

At the summit you can climb all the way to the official “top” of the mountain and climb up the little promontory that marks the summit. There’s a metal structure here where you can take your triumphant selfie before turning around and taking in the view. And boy, what a view it is!

Congratulations, you’ve scaled Mount Wellington and can now bask in your accomplishments. After walking around the summit and checking out the spectacular views from the viewing platforms above the Organ Pipes you could begin your descent on either Zig Zag or retracing your steps back down towards the Organ Pipes track. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never walked back down! Okay the first time (the aforementioned shoe incident) I didn’t have much of a choice. On our most recent climb, I had made plans to meet some photographers over at Rosny to shoot the sunset and so had to catch the last bus from Fern Tree. Alas after a late start we could only have made that if we sprinted back down the mountain (which some people actually do). So we had to settle for a hitch-hike back to the city and were lucky enough to catch a ride from a lovely Polish couple who were visiting the state.

I’ve climbed Mount Wellington twice now and you know what? I can’t freaking wait to do it again!

So you’ve read my thoughts on climbing this majestic mountain, now I’d like to share some photos that will hopefully serve as inspiration to scale Mount Wellington yourself. They’re taken from some of the different experiences I’ve had on the mountain, each one different but always an immense pleasure.

This is a view of the Mountain along the route that the bus to Fern Tree takes.

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The Fern Tree Glade track is your first experience of Mount Wellington and what a place to start climbing!

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The ancient ferns on the mountain’s foothills are a beautiful sight in the early stages of the climb.

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The main tracks are well signposted and offer the hiker useful information on the trail ahead.

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This shot is from a little practice run I had with some new wireless flash triggers. I wanted to simulate the setting sun and created this little scene along the Fern Glade track.

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This tree stump is one of the iconic waypoints along the Fern Glade Track and is a timely reminder of the devastation caused by the 1967 wildfires.

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There are a number of wooden bridges and walkways that take you over small springs running down the mountain’s lower slopes.

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The Fern Glade track is well maintained with rock steps along much of the route.

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Radford’s Track is a shared use trail that leads up the Springs, the first pit stop on the way to the summit.

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Pepper, the Bentwood mascot and one of the cutest little doggies you’ll ever see.

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Meg Spillane runs the Bentwood Coffee trailer with her husband Chris at the Springs. It’s a welcome respite after the somewhat challenging climb up from Fern Tree.

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Just up from the Springs there’s some really nice views of the Organ Pipes and the upper slopes of the mountain.

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All along the Organ Pipes track there’s a myriad of wild plants and flowers to experience.
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As you continue along the Organ Pipes track, the true scale of the rockface appears above the treeline.

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The majesty of the Organ Pipes is a definite highlight of the climb.

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I really like how the trail is easily visible and yet maintains a natural look that blends in the with the surrounding mountainside.

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After clearing the organ pipes themselves you’ll come to an exposed rocky area where you might be lucky enough to see one of these colourful spiders or unlucky enough to come across a formidable Jack Jumper ant.

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A rock climber braves the sheer cliff face of the Organ Pipes.

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Just off the main trail, there’s some fun boulder filled areas that lead up to the base of the Organ Pipes whereby you can enjoy these spectacular views.
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On the way to the summit, teasing glimpses of the breathtaking scenery beyond appear along the trail.

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The Organ Pipes trail is well marked while maintaining a natural/in the wilderness feel.

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In addition to spiders and ants, you’re also highly likely to see plenty of Skinks, although they quickly dart for cover if you get too close.

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If you’re really lucky, you might just spot an Echidna at the side of Pinnacle Road, rummaging for insects in the undergrowth.

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It’s a little disappointing having to rejoin the road for part of the ascent, unless of course you take the Zig Zag track to the top.

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Always keep your eyes peeled for the local fauna along the trail.

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I love this beautiful scene on the Panorama Track as you near the summit. The wildflowers paint a magical carpet amongst the ever shortening treeline.

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You’ll come across this group of reddish rocks near the end of the Panorama Tracks. They offer great views and photo opportunities if you climb atop them.

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And there it is, the grand vista offered at the summit of Mount Wellington. I will NEVER tire of this view, it really is phenomenal!
For more information on Mount Wellington and the expansive areas surrounding it, check out the Wellington Park website.


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