|The "Kombiroo" packed and ready for our great Australian adventure|
The Prelude: Family, Flu and Fuel Pumps
Welcome to the largest blog post known to man kind. Why? Well apparently Tasmania is in a time warp and wireless internet does not exist!! Hence the delay. So lets rewind here, sit down somewhere comfortable, and maybe grab a cuppa or a glass of wine for this one. But let me assure you, there is an amazing story to be told.
Our trip started in Melbourne. We spent a couple weeks visiting Kyles massive extended family here. I got knocked down with a horrible flu bug and was bed sick for a week, it took me a solid 2 1/2 weeks to recover from this actually. Kyles cousin Richie offered us his 1973 VW Kombi for our entire trip here in Australia, and all that was wrong with it was a leaky fuel pump. So we stayed a little longer, fixed her up nice and we aptly named her the "Kombiroo".
Melbourne was nice despite spending most of my time there in bed. I did get to see some cool birds, did some wine tasting and spent some nice time with Kyles lovely family that was generous enough to fly us out here.
|Polly wanted a cracker|
The second the Kombiroo was fixed, and I was healthy enough to at least travel, we hit the road. If you haven't heard however, most of Australia has been on fire. It is their summer here right now and a record breaking year for heat to boot. So without hesitation, we set off to Tasmania where it is much cooler!
TASMANIA here we come!!!!!!!
Part 1: First Stop Hillwood
After an overnight ferry to Devonport, Tasmania, we set out for a climbing area called Hillwood that is just a hop skip from Launceston. It had some cool looking rock, all sport climbing, but in all honesty... dont bother going there. MUCH better places to see. IMO.
|First stop: Hillwood... a rather disapointing beginning.|
|Hillwood offered some cool rock formations however, and here a Tassie local dances up a pleasant route on the Checkerboard wall.|
Part 2: The Flee to the Freycinet Peninsula
We've been hearing for years about how breathtaking Tasmania is with its wild and serene lanscapes. It is crazy, half of the island is protected National Parks. We fled Hillwood as fast as you can say it, in search of the sea cliffs and epic adventure climbing that Tasmania is known for.
|First glimpse of Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park|
First day in Freycinet and we were sold. The rumours were true... Granite sea cliffs as far as the eye can see, Wallaby's bouncing around everywhere, small port towns, friendly people, endless empty sand beaches and free camping everywhere! Paradise.
|Our Wallaby buddy pays his daily visit|
|Boing, boing, boing|
|Beautiful granite cracks in an incredible setting|
The climbing was a pretty burly warm up though, especially considering I have come to learn that I have a mild case of "Aquaphobia". Funny considering that I've spent most of my life on lakes and whitewater rivers. The ocean is different however, its unpredictable, bigger, scarier. We quickly learned that you need to time your climbs with the swells, and the tide. Not all of the climbing was too close for comfort though, a lot of the cliffs had large granite platforms at the base for belaying. The climbing was full on. Splitter granite cracks and techy faces, flaring/tricky gear placements and solid old school grades. We figured out pretty quickly that Tasmania was not known for "vacation grading". But the style was very rewarding and the cliffs were empty.
|Chilling after shitting my pants on my first 24 of the trip.|
The free camping here is a huge highlight! You can technically pull over anywhere for 24 hours in Tasmania, it is the law. Every night we enjoyed camping by beaches, forests and cliff tops. It's amazing.
|The Kombiroo really liked the free camping at Friendly Beaches|
|Another empty Tassie beach|
After getting our fill of splitter granite, we scoped out the local sport climbing at the Star Factory. A hefty 1 1/2 hour approach takes you up about 100m above sea level to a beautiful and exposed 30-40m granite cliff, stacked with hard sport climbing.
|Views from the approach to Star Factory|
|Will, a Hobart local, cruising a world class 23 at the Star Factory|
The climbing was amazing, crazy technical, slick and bouldery; the routes are guaranteed to make you work hard for your ticks. And such an epic setting. It was quite hot here in January and the locals that we've met said that it comes into season in March and you can actually climb here through the winter.
|The Star Factory offers amazingly exposed 30m granite sport climbing, 100m above the sea.|
|Star Factory vistas|
Part 3: The Tasman Peninsula
Now this is where the trip got really good. The first day we pulled into the Maingon Bay Lookout, I was jawdropped by a full panoramic view of the incredible sea cliffs, dolorite towers, the famous Cape Raoul and a wild crashing sea. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. We camped at this lookout for several days, so this heart warming view became what I woke up to each morning. We fell asleep every night to the waves crashing like bombs around us, like an ocean relaxation tune. It was actually great training to get over this "aquaphobia" I have.
|First Glimpse of Cape Raoul|
|The Kombiroo's favourite resting place, Maingon Bay lookout|
On the peninsula, we checked out three amazing spots...
From the lookout, you follow a beautiful hike along the sea, past a cool blowhole, sand dunes and along the cliffs edge. We arrived at the top of Paradiso and had no idea how to get down. The swells below were angry, and crashing uncomfortably close to the cliff. We rappelled down (but later found out that there is a 5th class decent as well) and were so terrified from the sea that we protected ourselves with gear to just belay. I battled panic attacks but knew I needed to push through this anxiety if I had any hope in hell of climbing the sea stacks that we came to Tasmania to do.
|Oooh ya, overhanging sport routes baby!! Paradiso=YUM|
|Waves crashing like bombs at the base of Paradiso|
|Jack, a cool Arapalies climbing guide takes a try on Offender of Faith 24|
|Paradiso lives up to its name. 35m overhanging dolerite sport routes, right beside the ocean.|
|Slightly too close for comfort|
|Liz, a Hobart local crushes the dynamic Thunder Birds Are Go 24|
|Kyle and Ben, the peanut gallery as Jack plays in the unpredictable surf wave of Maingon Bay Lookout. Moments earlier a tourist walks over and says "Some people are just fucking idiots".|
|The Remarkable Cave, just 5 minutes from the Maingon Lookout|
|Mr. Pelican takes a break on the dock.|
|Kookabura sits in the old gum tree|
|Beautiful black swans|
|A contender for the most beautiful beach in the world and not a single person on it. Crescent Bay is just a 10 minute walk from Paradiso.|
2) The Totem Pole
This incredible piece of rock is the main reason that we came to Tasmania. It is a 70m dolerite spire that jets straight out of the ocean. Great white sharks swim around below you, dolphins jump in the distance, and this magestic formation somehow still stands. The Totem Pole defines adventure rock climbing. To access it, you need to abseil down, swing over and clip in (sounds easy enough, IT ISN'T!). To get off, you need to set up a Tyrolean traverse back to land. Climbing it is no easy task either, the daunting sea is so close that you can get thrashed by waves and the route itself is a solid, technical and mentally testing 5.12b mixed route, both pitches.
|Climbing out of the sea on pitch 1 of the Totem Pole|
|Kyle dances up to join me a the perfect belay ledge|
It would of been nice to of prepared better for this route, not just a week and a half into our trip. But you cant be picky with the Tote. We had a window of opportunity that we needed to take; the swells were finally low, the rain had subsided, weather was warm, winds were blowing from the right direction. Another big bonus was that we had two German climbers that would join us for that day and hence capture this mind blowing route on camera. Luck was on my side though and I was very happy to of overcome my aquaphobia in time for this climb!
|Starting up pitch 2, heart rate at about 180|
It was a day I will never forget and a climb that has to rank among one of the most amazing routes in the world.
|The surreal second pitch of the Totem Pole|
|Another party plays on the 27 variant pitch, notice the Tyrolian set up for the return.|
|Scratch the Totem Pole off the life list|
|Now to get back over to the land.... ummm, this tyrolean thing works right?|
3) Cape Raoul
After staring at Cape Raoul in the distance for over a week, Kyle and I waited for a window to try this epic "multi-pitch" adventure. I don't even know if there is any other climb in the world that can compare to this route. Cape Raoul has been reffered to as "the end of the world" as these dolerite spires shoot straight out into the ocean on one of the most southern tips of Tasmania, pretty much the end/bottom of the world. A combination of 5hrs of hiking, abseiling, ascending, 5.10 trad climbing and 5.11a/b sport climbing takes you to the most amazing view I could even try to imagine. Sitting on top of a 40m spire, you see nothing but ocean around you, and right below you is a seal colony that has lived at the tip of Cape Raoul for over 25 years. It is unbelievble and a close second, if not a winner to the climbing itself. You can camp for 5 dollars a night right near the carpark, and it is here that a really cool guy named Andy lives off the land and offers his beautiful property with swimming holes, veggie gardens, chickens, a sauna and nice bathrooms for such a small fee. http://www.raoulbayretreat.com.au/index.htm
|Main objective is to reach the Pole Dancer, a bolted 22. However there are several other stops/options along the way.|
|SO much potential, SO incredibly epic|
|Kyle crusies the money pitch, Jihad, the 2 pitch approach to the top of the Wedding Cake formation|
|On top of the world, at the end of the world|
|This seal colony has inhabited Cape Raoul for over 25 years. Really wishing I had a better lens!|
|Pole Dancer and the Pillars of Hercules in the distance.|
Cape Raoul was an epic adventure, and was actually my favourite route on the Tasman Peninsula. The climbing was really good and varied, and the seal colony was so unbelievable to see. This is a MUST DO day.
Part 4: Mount Wellington and the best arete I will ever climb.
Just an hour and a half from the peninsula is the city of Hobart (aka. Slowbart). It is the largest city in Tasmania and a really cool place to see. People are really down to earth, the city is beautifully spread out along hilly terrain, all surrounding the ocean. The best part of all is that just 20 minutes from the city center, Mount Wellington resides with hundreds of multi pitch cracks and massive sport aretes and faces.
|Hobart at sunset|
I unfortunately didn't get many pictures here, as there was yet again barely anyone around at the crag. The picture in my mind will last forever though, as it was here that I climbed one of the best routes that I have ever been on.
|A shitty picture that cant begin to do a justice for the size and exposure of these 50m aretes.|
After Midnight (24) is a 50m bolted arete that all locals and guide books rave about. It lived up to the hype and more. Perfect rock, thought provoking sequences, beautiful movement, a bold style and after 50 meters of perfect arete climbing, you finish on a flat belay ledge for two. It feels like you are sitting in the sky with huge views of Hobart below you.
I will never forget this incredible climb!
|Hobart from the top of After Midnight, a contender for the best arete in the world.|
Part 5: Fires, Fish and Farewells
Epic finales, and a trip that just kept getting better and better. We climbed ourselves into an actual oblivion, dancing on the fine line of injured/overclimbed. There was no better time to kick our feet up at the beach and stuff our faces with fish and chips!
|Typical Tasmanian humour|
|Best fish and chips ever at the Donnalley Fish Market. The Kombiroo approves.|
It was sad however to drive through the devastating bushfires on the Peninsula. Just a week before we arrived in Tasmania, several towns and too many forests were wiped out by a massive forest fire caused by unseasonably hot and windy weather.
|The bushfires impact on Dunalley was devastating to say the least.|
Our last night we headed for the beach to enjoy one more night of ocean side views and the sound of waves putting us to sleep. Heaven.
|One more beach sleep at Nine Mile Beach. Yet again, all to ourselves!|
Now back to the main land and on to new adventures! Crossing our fingers for cooler weather!
** I hope to post a "Taste of Tasmania" video with footage from our stay on the island, stay tuned.
*** Check out below where I've compiled a list of Ten Tasmania Tips, key beta if you are planning a trip to Tasmania.
|Where will the Kombiroo park next? ...... Arapiles..... Grampians????|
Ten Tasmania Tips:
Tasmania is an incredible climbing destination if you are in search of adventurous rock climbing and beautiful vistas. The slow pace of the island is refreshing and the climbing is sure to take your breath away. A huge bonus is there is rock climbing for all abilities, TONS of moderates to be climbed and lots of hard stuff/projects to please the hard men/women. It is also in season during January/February, which is convenient for us Canadians.
1) Get a van
2) Camp for free anywhere essentially
3) Don't get suckered into buying the Tasmanian guidebook. Download a free, updated and better one from www.thesarvo.com They also have a great IPhone app.
4) There are places we didn't get to, but from our experience and what we've heard from locals, the must stop areas are: Freycinet, Tasman Peninsula (Paradiso, all of the ocean spires, Mount Brown), Mt. Wellington, and Ben Lommund.
5) Expect to not find WiFi anywhere except major city public libraries.
6) Pay attention to the swells and winds
7) Get to know locals, they know the good routes and great beta!
8) Bring binoculars
9) Wear and hat and sunscreen ALWAYS. Tasmania is right below a huge hole in the Ozone.
10) If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.