Abel #1; 1617m
Summiting Tasmania’s highest mountain had been on my mind for a very long time, but the thought of getting there and then not caring about climbing any others was a slight concern. However, after experiencing some of the wide variety and variable difficulty of other mountains in Tasmania, this was unlikely to be the case. We had decided to do it in style, and walk in-and-out in a day from the Arm River Track. A number of online sources stated that it would take around the 12 hour mark, so we were keen to get an early start and be back on the road to Hobart before too late.
We arrived at the carpark at 9:30pm the night before and were surprised to see a number of cars parked there given the weather had been pretty average over the last few days. After a quick check of daypacks and food, alarms were set for 5:30 and a restless night ensued.
We were on the track by 6:20am and made our way up the zigzag track to the western rim of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair NP. We reached Lake Price in 50 minutes, slightly wet from the dew covered bushes that were encroaching on the track. In an attempt to reduce weight and increase comfort we had opted not to wear gaiters and only pack the bare minimum, not including my tripod, which I had instantly regretted when we arrived at the lake. The next 15 minutes were spent taking a number of photos of the lake and Mt Pillinger. From here the track descends into open myrtle forests, before crossing a small creek and onto clear marshland. Another small tarn is passed before heading south, down into the forest and towards Lake Ayr. The registration box can be found near the start of Lake Ayr and it also indicates the hard to see intersection with the Lees Paddocks Track.
It was then onto New Pelion Hut where we had a quick snack and avoided the hoards of miserable looking people (this might have been due to the rain the previous day or the fact that they had to sleep in a hut with 40 or so other people). We had arrived there in just under 3 hours and were making pretty good time, even with the extended stop at Lake Price. The walk up to Pelion Gap consisted of overtaking large groups of people and Emily taking a slip on a tree root. Fancy new steps, similar to the grippy plastic stuff that we saw on the way to Vera Hut, had been installed on the first part of the ascent to Mt Doris and made for quick climbing. The track then contours the southern side of Mt Doris on some very nice rock work that weaves around cushion plants and scoparia, before dropping down into a saddle before the first rock scramble. Unfortunately we were following a couple in front of us, and hadn’t paid attention to the ski poles marking the way; this meant that we went straight up the chute and had to a climb up a fairly exposed section of rock instead of the somewhat less airy route on the right hand side.
The track then dips again slightly, before the last little climb to the plateau and on to the mass of boulders that is the true highpoint. Hail had started to fall as we reached The Pools of Icarus and we sought shelter from the wind on a large rock on the northern side of the boulders, looking towards Cradle Mountain and Mt Oakleigh. After a bite to eat and losing half my chocolate bar down a deep crevasse between the boulders, we made our way back down towards New Pelion Hut. About 15 minutes before reaching the hut we made a quick detour to check out a track that leads down to Douglas Creek beside the track. We were delighted to find a couple of very nice little waterfalls that were flowing quickly, and again made me regret not having a tripod. From here we basically walked straight out, with only a couple of short stops to get a snack or stretch the legs. We were happy to have made it back in just over 11 hours and for the most part, in pretty good condition except for a sore knee and a bit of sun burn.
All up: 39.2kms in 11 hours and 9 minutes with 1660m ascent.
Start of the track to Lake Price – 50 min, 3.2kms
Lake Price to New Pelion Hut – 1 hour and 55 minutes, 8.8kms
New Pelion Hut to Pelion Gap – 1 hour, 4.4kms
Pelion Gap to Ossa summit – 1 hour 15 minutes, 2.8kms
Ossa summit to carpark – 5 hours and 18 minutes 19.5kms
Getting there: Access to the Arm River Track is off the Mersey Forest Road. Follow the Mersey Forest Road past the dam and continue until the road becomes dirt. Shortly after, take a right up Arm River Road and continue for 3kms past the old Arm River Outdoor Education Centre. The road then forks and you need to turn left onto Maggs Road as the bridge on Arm River Road is down. Follow Maggs Road for 13kms until you reach a pile of dirt. Take a left again and follow this road for about 1km to the carpark.