I spent a fortnight climbing in Tasmania in February 2004, whilst waiting for Mt. Arapiles to cool down. It's a magnificent place and one of the world's most interesting rock climbing areas: what follows is a brief summary of the different crags we visited.
1) Freycinet Peninsula
Imagine Cornwall's West Penwith, add wallabies, and you're getting close. These granite sea cliffs on the island's east coast offer a great variety of single pitch trad routes, interspersed with harder bolted lines on the faces. These mostly start from large sea level ledges, accessed by easy scrambles.
Ben Sutton and Mike Raine on Light Fingered Madison (20), Freycinet Peninsula
The campground above Whitewater Wall is probably the one place in 'Tassie you’re likely to meet other climbers. It’s free and literally a one minute walk to the crag. However, the only facility is the long-drop toilet, so bring your own food and water. The track out to it is also strictly 4x4 and hire-car-only terrain. We ended up staying slightly longer than intended here after snapping our hire car key whilst parked 2 miles down the 4x4 only track, which took some explaining...
Tasmanian Dolerite (the predominant rock of the island) comes in every size and shape, from the quintessential city crag of Cataract Gorge, to bolt clipping at Mt.Brown and Hillwood and the soaring cracks of Ben Lomond and Mt. Wellington. Plus of course the world famous sea stacks in Fortescue Bay, such as the Totem Pole.
2) Cataract Gorge
Ten minutes walk from the centre of Launceston, with a range of short cracks and bolted arêtes, is a perfect evening venue. No trip to Launceston would be complete without a visit to the Army Surplus store in town, a veritable Aladdin’s cave selling every camping essential (and non-essential) imaginable.
3) Mount Wellington (The Organ Pipes)
Hobart is dominated by Mount Wellington (The Organ Pipes). This impressive columnar dolerite crag gives multi-pitch outings of all grades. The broken nature of the rock means the crack climbing is quite varied and not pure jamming (which is nice). A smaller subsidiary crag is the Lost World, with a great selection of single pitch cracks and some bolted lines. Unfortunately the guide is out of print, but there are some topos available online.
4) Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond in NE 'Tassie is an amazing mountain crag with soaring 200m pure crack lines (almost as good as Fairhead!). Currently it seems to be out of fashion, mainly due to the harsh mountain environment, archaic style of climbing, and lack of a comprehensive guide. However, some of the buttresses are described in Craglets and we had an awesome day climbing Rajah (E2 5b,5b,5b) on Robins buttress. A word of warning: the cracks are very parallel and multiples of the appropriately sized camming device make life much more fun!
Mike Raine on a new route (21), Parrot Shelf Cliffs, Mt. Brown
5) Mount Brown
The atmospheric sea cliffs of Mount Brown, located on the Tasman Peninsula, offer a mixture of trad and sport climbing. The main crags all lie a half hour walk from the car park. The Parrot Shelf cliffs offer short trad lines, scrambling round the corner leads you to the Paradiso. This awe inspiring steep and juggy cliff offers a sea of shiny bolts to play on, if you’re fit enough.
6) South West
We didn’t climb in the south west, but there are big wall adventures to be had on Frenchmans Cap and Federation Peak, new routing on the Sentinels and sport climbing at Adamsfield, with Tassie’s hardest routes courtesy of Sam Edwards
7) Hillwood Volcano
nother columnar dolerite crag near Launceston which is a world away from the long crack routes of Ben Lomond down the road. Single pitch sport climbing with a 5min walk in makes for a perfect ‘post-Lomond’ day. Here the columns have been twisted in different directions with no cracks in sight, leading to unique routes such as one wall made up of dinner plate sized hexagonal holds.
Access is slightly delicate currently, you can find the guide in a plastic tub under a boulder at the crag!
Tassie isn’t famous for its bouldering, but it’s worth stopping at Oatlands if you’re driving from Launceston to Hobart, like slopers and are feeling strong.
Campbell Town just north of Oatlands caters for both extremes of the culinary world. On one side of the road you have Zeps, serving great coffee and panini’s. Across the road is the ultimate cholesterol busting eatery, sweets, cakes, pizzas, deep fried chips, burgers, mars bars, etc. It’s worth sitting outside Zeps and observing the clientele!
In summary, there is a huge range of climbing, from fantastic sport climbing and trad cragging, to the sea stacks, multi pitch mountain cracks and then the mountain big walls. This, coupled with amazing scenery, fascinating wildlife and friendly locals means 'Tassie has to be included in any Australasian climbing itinerary.
The best overall guide is Craglets, now on version six. There are also local guides to the Launceston area and to the Organ Pipes (out of print).
Robert (Bob) McMahon and Gerry Narkowicz are currently writing a guide for Ben Lomond and Hillwood - which may have emerged by the time you visit.
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