This trip almost didn’t happen. We’d been umming and uhhing all week, watching the weather forecast and praying for a miraculous change from the soggy prediction that was being made. When you’re hoping to climb Tasmania’s highest mountain, you kinda want to have a view. Hannah pushed us onward in the end and we decided to give it a shot, a summit is still a summit, even if you can’t see a thing.
Cue 5am alarm Friday morning, hazily gathering all the gear and loading into Hannah’s car. The drive up was quite familiar as it’s pretty much the same route that we took up to Walls of Jerusalem the other week. We of course had the obligatory stop at Banjos in Campbell Town where I had an embarassing/amusing moment on my way out.
Thinking nobody was looking, I hoisted my cup of coffee triumphantly as I walked back to the car. Suddenly from behind me came a confused voice…. “Does that make it taste better doing that?” I turned around to see a tradie hoisting his loaf of bread over his head and continuing “…..I’ll give it a go”. 😊
The rest of the journey passed rather uneventfully, even the usually intense truck game™ was a sedate affair on the public holiday Friday. What’s the truck game™ you ask? The premise is simple, you see a truck on the road, you shout “truck”, you get a point. The winner is the one with the most points at the end of the journey. It’s the “I Spy With My Little Eye” for the 21st Century 🙂
We arrived at the Arm River track car park and quickly put on our packs and hit the trail……before losing it and returning back to the start where I realised I’d left Odin (my new camera, more on that in a later post) on top of Hannah’s car. We returned back into the forest and realised the little creek we’d seen was the actual trail. A quick dash across it and we were on to dry…ish land on the other side.
The Arm River track takes you into New Pelion Hut which is one of the key pit stops on the World famous Overland Track. Thousands of people do this 6-7 day epic each year and it contains some of Tasmania’s most iconic spots, including Mount Ossa, the highest mountain in Tasmania and our primary target for the Easter weekend. The other two planned pins in the map were Mount Pelion East and Mount Oakleigh. We got our first view of the latter as we neared New Pelion Hut at the edge of Lake Ayr, its distinctive columns are instantly recognisable.
We arrived at New Pelion Hut in good spirits and quickly found a couple of bunks, put our beds together and got comfortable. Having a solid roof over your head and a nice big space to relax in is a luxury like no other and one I, for some reason hadn’t even thought about before we set off. Having spent three nights there, it was so good to have that added comfort. We didn’t have to worry about getting in and out of a soggy tent or possums having a go at our food (although they certainly weren’t shy about sniffing around the hut!).
Settling down for our first night in the hut, I was content and relaxed and……..SNOOOORRRRRRRRE!!!!!! SNNNNNNNOOOOORRRRRRRRRRE!!!!!! SNNNNNOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRE!!!! Oh my F***ing God, please MAKE IT STOP!!!! Sleeping in a tent may not be such a bad idea after all! *Ear Plugs have been added to your shopping cart*
The next morning after about….ooooooh five minutes sleep, we set off for Pelion Gap, the junction between Mount Ossa and Mount Pelion East. Gemma and Hannah did the Overland Track last year and were thwarted by the weather in their attempt to summit Ossa. That memory had weighed heavily on the decision whether to attempt this trip or not and as we reached the start of the Mount Ossa track, clouds were lurking ominously over the summit and Pelion East was hidden also. We set off, hoping the clouds would lift as the day wore on. Lift they did! Gemma and Hannah’s excitement as we neared the point they turned around the last time was infectious. No roaring wind and horizontal rain to push them back this time, we pressed onwards through the imposing twin peaked gateway to the top and climbed up some fun, mildly sketchy parts until everything levelled out and we were there, the top of Tasmania. What a feeling! What a wonderful moment for Gemma and Hannah.
Despite the elation of making it to the top, there was the overhanging sadness for Jim, Gemma’s retired colleague who had been with Gemma and Hannah at their first attempt and was again pushed back himself just a few weeks ago after joining us for the Walls of Jerusalem trip. If anyone deserves to be atop this mountain, it’s Jim.
We had a quick snack on the summit, took the obligatory summit selfie and made the descent back to Pelion Gap, realising on the way that we had taken a wrong turn and the climb to the top should have actually been easier than we thought. Oops! 🙂 Arriving back at the platform, we stopped for lunch and a chat before moving onwards to the next summit, Pelion East. Yup, two mountains in one day, bring…it….on.
The early sections of the track up Pelion East were rather muddy indeed and it was comforting to see the materials in place for track works similar to the sturdy steel boardwalk recently added to Ossa’s lower flanks. It’s an easy jaunt to the base of the main summit and a couple of hiker’s we’d chatted with at the hut the night before kindly shared some pointers on how to get to the top. If you look at the first photo below, you can see that it’s not a gentle stroll to the very top.
We ventured around to the northern sides and eventually found a route to the top that seemed manageable. Boom, another Abel done (number 14 for me) and just in time too as the clouds quickly descended as we stood on the rocky summit chatting with another chap who had missed the view on Ossa and was going to miss this one too. We quickly descended, having heard the ominous din of the Westpac Rescue chopper nearby. It was a stark reminder that this isn’t an environment to be taken lightly. Realising we were done for the day, Gemma decided to have a bit of fun and walked straight through one of the mud puddles, not realising just how deep it was! See the video below for that hilarious moment 🙂
We’d had an awesome second day of the trip and the fears of rain had been vanquished by the mostly great weather we’d been gifted. We made our way back to base at New Pelion Hut via a beautiful waterfall that doesn’t seem to have a name.
Another day done and we hit the hay early after Hannah kicked our arses at cards again. The following day was set to be summit number three, Mount Oakleigh. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed that when it’s Gemma, Hannah and myself going on adventures, we get amazing weather. We’d been starting to think we’re blessed and will ALWAYS get great weather for our hikes. That luck was to run out for Oakleigh, albeit not by much. Sure, the sun wasn’t splitting the stones and the view wasn’t exactly worth writing about but that’s only a tiny part of the joy of hiking. It’s the journey not the destination and of course the company that makes an adventure and despite the overcast day, I think Oakleigh was a highlight of the trip.
The forest on the way up is simply gorgeous and so wild and gnarly. There’s a beautiful Pandani grove that you climb straight through, some fun rock hopping near those distinctive spires and then the actual summit itself is found further North along a fun stream carved trail. Out of the three climbs, I think Oakleigh was perhaps my favourite as a package, Ossa for the climbing elements and Pelion East for the view. Each has their own distinctive traits and that’s what I love about climbing mountains, each one has its own character and personality and those will change daily depending on the conditions. Thankfully they were all welcoming during our visit and for that I am eternally grateful.
A wee video diary of our Easter Weekend Adventure atop Tasmania including Gemma’s muddy mishap 🙂