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When Is The Best Time To Walk The Overland Track?

Warwick Sprawson is our guest blogger. He is the author of  Overland Track which is available for purchase in our bookshop. Here, he asks the question – “When is the best time to walk the Overland Track?”

The ‘best’ season for hiking Tasmania’s Overland Track is as personal as your scroggin mix. Some thrive on the cold and solitude of winter, others on the long days and bustling huts of summer. Each season has its pros and cons.

Summer
Summer is the most popular season to walk the track. Many wildflowers are in bloom, carpeting the plains in vivid colours. The days are long, providing more daylight hours in which to tackle the track’s interesting side routes – trails off the route’s main spine. The average maximum temperature is a relatively warm 16.3°C, with temperatures in the 30s not uncommon. Summer also has the least rain, about as half as much as winter.

Your best chance of a view is in Summer. View from Barn Bluff
Your best chance of a view is in Summer. View from Barn Bluff

The downside of hiking in summer is that the huts and campsites are often busy, although the booking system – which runs from 1 October to 31 May – ensures the track is never overrun. If you want to hike in summer make a reservation early; the track is often fully booked from December to late January. In peak season you have to walk the track from north to south (Cradle Valley to Lake St Clair).

Inside Kia Ora hut. Huts can get crowded in Summer
Inside Kia Ora hut. Huts can get crowded in Summer

Autumn
Autumn on the Overland is under-rated. Hikers can enjoy the spectacular golds and reds of the deciduous beech trees, usually at their best around Anzac Day. Apart from the Easter period, the track is less crowded than summer, and there can still be fairly good weather, especially in March. The first significant snow often falls in May (but snow can fall anytime on the Overland, even during the height of summer).

sign at Kia Ora Creek, April
sign at Kia Ora Creek, April
Deciduous beech
Deciduous beech
Autumn. Late afternoon near Pine Forest Moor
Autumn. Late afternoon near Pine Forest Moor

One of the best things about autumn hiking is the variety of fungi. You’ll see a huge range of shapes and sizes, the bright reds, oranges and yellows lighting up the dim rainforest.

Fungi near D'Alton falls
Fungi near D’Alton falls
Autumn fungi
Autumn fungi

Winter
Winter on the Overland is only for the hardcore. It snows frequently enough that the route can be hard to discern, especially in white-out conditions. Taking snow-shoes is advisable. The days get dark by 5pm, so there is less time to do sidetrips. Overnight temperatures can be as low as minus 9°C. Winter also has the most rain, making the track even wetter and muddier than usual.

Climbing the Acroppolis in snow. They had to turn back.
Climbing the Acroppolis in snow. They had to turn back.

On the other hand, in winter it’s likely that you’ll have the huts along the track to yourself, and be reasonably snug thanks to the coal or gas heater. You also have the freedom to walk the track in either direction and don’t have to pay the $200 Overland Track booking fee which is required during peak season. Winter also provides the occasional crisp, clear day which reveals the full majesty of the snowy landscape.

Spring
September and October are usually the windiest months, with the conditions becoming more stable in November.

Tasmanian Waratah
Tasmanian Waratah

Some flowers, such as the Tasmanian waratah, begin to flower in late spring. In September you can walk the track in either direction and save yourself the booking fee.

As you can see, every season has its advantages and disadvantages. So what’s your favourite season to hike? Why?

Warwick Sprawson’s Overland Track guide is available from the OSP bookshop for $19.95. The full-colour guidebook includes track notes, maps, flora, fauna, history and geology.

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Southern Gothic Vol2: Acropolis & Geryon

February 1983 and Chris Baxter, Miles Martin (UK), Dave Moss, Russ Clune (USA) and I spent a couple of weeks climbing at Mt Geryon and the Acropolis in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. It was one of those rare trips where everything came together like clockwork. Even the weather – notoriously fickle in Tasmania – turned into two solid weeks of unrelenting sunshine with hardly a sparrow’s fart to blemish the sky. It was as if the weather Gods had gone on holiday and left the world in a fair-weather limbo. Every day we kept expecting rain and snow so we raced around, keen as cut snakes to get as much climbing done as possible.

 

Mt Gould

I took this photo from the top of the Acropolis looking south to Mt Gould and the Guardians. An amazing part of the world.

Black waters lap the towers of stone,
blood squeezed from forest and high moor.
For this is a place where giants roam,
The Acropolis, Geryon and the Minotaur.

 

Home Sweet Home

The bivvy cave at the foot of Mt Geryon. This wild spot has long been used as a climbing base for the big adventure routes on the 350 metre-high East Face of Mt Geryon. It is also conveniently situated not far from the Acropolis North Face, our main objective.

 

Things of Stone and Wood

The original wooden plaques inside the cave, apparently carved by climbing legend Roland Pauligk (inventor of the RP) in February 1967.

 

Man with a Mission

Chris Baxter, our intrepid leader. This photo was taken at the top of Old Wave Heroes (21), which Chris and I had climbed early in the trip.

 

Black Man’s Country

We did a handful of new routes on the Acropolis North Face, the best of which were two single-pitch climbs called Astro Boy (24) and Black Man’s Country (25). The top photo, taken by Chris Baxter, shows me approaching the final hard moves on Black Man’s Country (25) during the first ascent. Dave Moss looks on. It probably wouldn’t rate as grade 25 these days but Russ and I both agreed at the time that it would have been graded 5.12a in Yosemite Valley. These days small cams and improved shoe design really helps on these thin sustained crack problems.

The other two photos show Russ Clune repeating Black Man’s Country (25) immediately after I led it. I’m on the belay and Russ is powering through the technical final moves. The top of the corner crack really narrows down and the leader is confined to thin finger-jamming and tips lay-backing with feet on little more than smears.

Russ is wearing a pair of EBs (we called them bubble boots). These babies had all the stickyness of ice-cream lids and with more toe room than a pair of clown shoes. In one of the photos you can see a wooden wedge belonging to the Gates of Eden (18M1). The wild position on the upper reaches of this superb wall are absolutely breathtaking.

 

Astro Boy

Russ Clune seconding me up the first ascent of Astro Boy (24). This incredible long jamming corner was my personal highlight of the trip. The climbing was sustained, clean and technically perfect. It reminded me of some of those long crack pitches in Yosemite Valley and was named in recognition of the big stemming Enduro Corner on Astroman.

 

The Gates of Eden

Russ Clune seconding the last crack pitch of Gates of Eden (18M1). You can see a couple of wooden wedges that had probably been used as direct aid during its first ascent many years previously. I remember clipping the old tatty cord and keeping on jamming. I can’t remember the grade of this last pitch but I suspect it must have been fairly straightforward (maybe only 18 or so).

 

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Southern Gothic Vol1: Acropolis & Geryon

In February 1983, Chris Baxter, Miles Martin, Dave Moss, Russ Clune and I spent a couple of weeks climbing at Mt Geryon and the Acropolis in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. I was 24 years-old at the time and the campaign to save the Franklin blockade was at its height. Upon arrival in Hobart, and with my rucksack on my back, I walked out of the airport terminal to be immediately approached by tall heavy-set man. He placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear “You wouldn’t be headin’ to the dam would ya?” I blinked. “I mean”, he continued, “you could get hurt down there and we wouldn’t want to see a young lad like you getting hurt now, would we?” It seemed that everyone arriving at the airport (and who vaguely looked like commo greenies) were getting a gentle reminder about what was best for their health when it came to fighting for the Franklin River. I concluded that a bunch of Hydro Electric Commission workers were earning a little overtime. Welcome to Tasmania.

 

Settling in

The bivvy cave at the foot of the East Face of Mt Geryon. Chris Baxter was the only one of our group who had visited this spot previously and made sure he arrived first to score the best spot. Unfortunately he was greeted by a wombat that had the audacity to have chosen his proposed bunk as its final resting place. Chris spent the next two hours tossing rotten wombat down the slopes while we did all the real work like collect drinking water and make dinner. Here Chris is firmly ensconced in his sleeping bag, the peace sign his way of forgiving us all for daring to covet his prized location. Russ Clune and Dave Moss look relaxed in the knowledge that despite the rough ground they at least had a roof of sorts over their heads. As for Miles and myself, well we didn’t fare so well, having to bivvy outside of the bivvy cave, directly below the 350m East Face of Mt Geryon and exposed to the constant threat of falling rocks.

 

Southern Gothic

The Acropolis North Face as seen from near the bivvy cave below the East Face of Geryon. It’s strange but over the years I always had, for some reason, thought of the Acropolis as much steeper and more impressive than it really was. Looking back now I realize that much of the central section of the wall is quite broken. Over the eight days we were at the bivvy cave I think we only managed five or six new climbs in the area. Two of them (Miles From Nowhere, 21 and Old Wave Heroes, 21) took full-length lines up the North Face.

 

Old Wave Heroes

Chris took this image of me leading one of the pitches about halfway up Old Wave Heroes (21). I remember getting a bit frustrated because Chris kept wanting to traverse out of the main line to easier ground. All I could see were these splitter cracks shooting skyward and nothing was going to tempt me away from them. Luckily I led most if not all of the pitches (my memory is a bit hazy). Overall the climbing was really good and much more interesting than I’d expected, especially the final few pitches which took a great line through the upper walls.

 

New Country For Old Men

I took this photo of Chris seconding one of the excellent middle pitches on Old Wave Heroes (21). It’s strange that Chris is not wearing his helmet as he normally wouldn’t climb without one. Considering the fairly serious nature of the Acropolis and its almost alpine nature I’m sure Chris must have forgotten it back at the bivvy cave.

 

Darkness Beckons

Just below the steep upper head-wall we reached a large belay ledge. I took this pic of Chris with the shadowed East Face of Mt Geryon lurking menacingly in the background. The whole place reminded me of the Dolomites in Italy, which I’d visited a couple of years earlier. By this stage Chris was climbing really well, the route was coming together nicely, the weather was perfect and we only had a single long pitch to go. One of the things I always loved about Chris was the enduring enthusiasm and excitement he had for climbing new routes. By the time we reached the top of the Acropolis the sun was low in the sky but Chris was a happy man indeed. But then again, he was going to be sleeping safely in the bivvy cave and I was going to be outside, wondering if I was going to live through the night.

 

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Tracey & Cams Excellent Sustainable Living Adventure

The marketplace

One of the great things that I love about the Sustainable Living Festival, which is held each year in February, is its ability to embrace all levels of the Sustainability tree. As with anything that requires people to rethink and change their mindset and lifestyles – it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to be thrown into the environmental deep end of renewable energy, coal seam gas controversies and energy targets and converse in a knowledgable way. Sure ,there are all of these things happening over the weekend via stalls, wandering petition hawkers and talks going on in various locations, all on the bigger picture. There is so much information available that your head could just explode by the end of it all. What I find great, is that besides the big picture events, is the plethora of little things that absolutely anyone can do, and understand and for much of it, are simple little changes that can lead people along towards the bigger picture. For those just starting their conscious journey into environmental sustainability, the lightheartedness and sometimes frivolity of it all, is the instant feel good factor that leaves you walking away thinking – “yes, I can make a difference by making a few little changes at a time

After our ride from Balwyn to Fed Square with a flat tyre just on the outskirts ( I took the opportunity for myself to have a little nana rest), it was perfect timing to then land in front of the pedal powered keg on wheels that is the Good Brew Company and indulge in a Magic Tea. Divine! A yummy mix of green tea, yerba mate, honey, water and lots of bubbles. What a fantastic pick-me-up. Cam and I shared one with every intention of then having another at the other end of the marketplace at their stand. I think possibly I gulped faster than he did and got the lion’s share of the bevvy.

edible weeds

Keen to pick up some more tips on more effective gardening – having recently made over 30 jars of jam and chutney from our way out west Mitre property’s, peach and nectarine crop – I have acquired the bug, and the joy that comes from feeding yourself from your own garden. Whilst certainly not in full stage permaculture mindset as yet, I am taking baby steps and hung around the VEG display area picking up some handy hints and things I can realistically implement in my own garden at present. I do so want some chooks but these will have to wait a little longer. I shall have to continue to get my chook fix at my next door neighbours. A highlight of my green garden experience though, would definitely be the Edible Weeds presentation. I have done a little research previously on this subject – having a huge array of weeds, especially on the house up at Mitre. Stinging nettles are well known for their edible and medicinal properties – I could probably supply half the Wimmera with tea from the amount that pops up there in the Springtime but I wanted to know what else is about. Doris Pozzi from Hello Little Weed gave an informative and very entertaining talk on easy to find weeds and even had samples to taste afterwards. Ok, so on my list of to-do’s – Melokeya and Egyptian dish-using mallow leaves, Dandelion pesto and I need to hunt down some Purslane – seriously yummy to just munch on. It’s a weed – but one that I don’t seem to have on my place. Not only does it taste great it contains one of the highly sought after Omega 3 Fatty Acids. I hear there is a great recipe for Cucumber/Purslane yoghurt salad. Looks like I’ll be joining the foragers hunting down all the goodies that are out there. Can you believe it? Over 20,000 edible plant species out there and we use only 20% of these to make up 90% of what we eat.

This is all about getting our heads out of the sand when it comes to what we are told we can eat. I’m sure they don’t all taste brilliant but with that kind of quantity available to us, I’m sure you can find something you like. And it’s free. And abundant. Wait till I tell my boys about the weed salad we’re having tonight! Whilst on the subject of food – after we had filled our stomachs to the brim with potato rosti, chutney and beetroot relish, we handed our plates over to the team of volunteers of Wash Against Waste What a brilliant initiative.

Wandering through the bike and treadlie market put together by BikeFest was a great opportunity to see the huge range of all things wheeled out there and to see those that are totally emeshed in their wheeled way of life and how it works on so many levels. Why, you can even have a smoothie whilst pedalling through the BikenBlend crew. I really wanted one but that huge potato rosti wasn’t allowing any more room.

Time was getting on and with a long ride back to Balwyn. Cam and I started our way back up to where we had parked the bikes. Not a quick trip – along the way we stopped to talk to various stallholders, chats with the Quit Coal campaign collective about the planned Bacchus Marsh open cut coal mine, a few more signatures and then planted our bums at the Tasmanian Land Conservancy where we acquired a living room sized piece of paradise for $3.00. Getting donations is not an easy thing to do when there are so many worthy projects to donate to, but I thought the

TLC had come up with an interesting and interactive way of gathering donations to help pay back the no interest loans they received from philanthropist organizations to purchase Tasmanian land to be protected forever. I chose a sofa with a view on the edge of Lake Ina. Cam obviously liked a view and (being near me) as he chose an adjoining sofa and living room. Very clever and very fun, we had a nice chat with the two volunteers manning the stalls and thought it a perfect way to round off our Sustainable Living Adventure.

If you have never been to the festival, mark it down in your diary for next year. A great festival, a wealth of information and to be oh so cliché about it – you do come away with a warm and fuzzy feeling. About the world. And about the people in it who care. I have another job at The Environmental Jobs Network where I share space with the guys and gals from the Sustainable Living Foundation and the hard work and passion that I see throughout the year is evident in the resulting festival.Go on. Make the effort – you know you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ben Lomond Guide update (3) As of 17/5/2013

ben lomond guide cover s_0001

Memory Of A Journey, the climbing guide to Ben Lomond, was published in November 2008. For those of you who already own the guide and have climbed at Ben Lomond, you will know that it is the premier crack climbing venue in Australia. The guidebook was comprehensive up until 2008, giving route descriptions and topo photographs to over 350 routes. The book is unique in that it also has 100 pages of memoirs by Robert McMahon, the main pioneer of new routes on the mountain. This is the most recent update.  It details 54 new routes done in the last 5 years and is indexed to the guidebook. Copies of the book are are available online from Open Spaces Publishing www.osp.com.au

Ben Lomond Guide Update 2013

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Curious Echidna

Thought I’d post this short echidna video. This was Karen’s first ever video using her tiny Canon Ixus 65 camera during a day walk at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. She was so new to the camera that she didn’t even know how to turn it off at the end! The result isn’t too bad though and shows how even without any experience you can shoot some pretty interesting stuff as long as you have the right subject. This echidna really didn’t care about us and Karen reckons he was showing off.

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The Overland Track (Tas)

Every now and then a new title comes out that really impresses me. The new walking guide, The Overland Track, by Warwick Sprawson is one of those guides. The cover indicates that this is a ‘complete guide to walking, flora, fauna and history’ and it doesn’t disappoint. The book comes in a very handy pocket-size format which is great because this is definitely a guide you want to be able to readily access. There are 188 pages with 50 pages dedicated to the walk itself. The trail is conveniently divided into seven days and all of the sidetrips (such as the climb up to Mt Ossa) are accurately described.

The rest of the book packs in plenty of valuable information about the flora and fauna, all lushly illustrated with dozens of colour photographs. There is also a well written section on history and geology. As a bonus, the guide also comes with an high-quality A3(ish) plasticised map which can be removed from the back of the guide.
The Overland Track is published by Red Dog and authored by Warwick Sprawson. Its RRP is $39.95. You’ll find it in all good bushwalking shops, some quality independent bookstores and it’s available now in our online bookshop: http://www.osp.com.au/shop

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Ben Lomond Guide update

Memory Of A Journey, the climbing guide to Ben Lomond, was published in November 2008. For those of you who already own the guide and have climbed at Ben Lomond, you will know that it is the premier crack climbing venue in Australia. For those having a look at this update out of curiosity or have never been to Ben Lomond, buy the guide, book yourself a trip for next summer and experience crack climbs of singularity and purity not found elsewhere in Australia. The guidebook was comprehensive up until 2008, giving route descriptions and topo photographs to over 350 routes. The book is unique in that it also has 100 pages of memoirs by Robert McMahon, the main pioneer of new routes on the mountain. Copies are available online from Open Spaces Publishing www.osp.com.au or from the author: bob@orielstudio.com.au for $44.95.

Here is the update PDF which should be very popular indeed.

BenLomondGuide_Update1singles