Thursday, December 1, 2011

An afternoon on Mt Oakleigh's summit

After a month of working on the Overland Track I finally got my chance. I had a fit group of guests with adventure in their hearts, and clear skies with no threat of mist, rain or snow.

Across a golden expanse of button grass we could see the spires of Mt Oakleigh, our destination. Although not the tallest mountain in Tasmania, the views from the edge are spectacular. The world drops away into the Forth Valley, and all around are the slumbering giant shapes of familiar mountain peaks - Mt Pelion West, Mt Achilles, Mt Ossa and Mt Pelion East. The achievement of reaching the summit is also felt in every aching muscle that had to battle the crotch-deep mud puddles and steep climb through ancient rain forest. 

Climbing the last few steps to the edge of the mountain, peering over the edge and looking at the spires reaching out from the valley, I had only one thought: "wow, wow, wow."

Mt Pelion West, Mt Achilles and Mt Thetes (right to left):

View across Pelion plains towards Mt Ossa:

Sitting on the edge of the world:

The mountain glowing in the late afternoon light:

Our "trail" - a swampy gash through the button grass plains:

Stuck in the mud:

Mt Oakleigh is a day trip from Pelion Hut, located half way on the Overland Track. It is an 8km return trip, and takes an average walker about 5 hours. Consideration should be given to how much rain the track has received, as this can exacerbate the mud on the track.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The beast that is Mt Roland

Driving out toward the Cradle Mountain National Park, one cannot help but plaster the face against the car window and stare at the imposing, weathered face of Mount Roland and the Triple Tops range. The mountain range lies east of Sheffield (Tasmania), and area that strikes a startling resemblance to the gentle hills of England (think idyllic scenes of dairy farms, little lambs, fluoro green grass on acid, berry farms and small towns with historic pubs). 

My interest was piqued after reading about an 19.7km epic race across the tops of Mt Claude, Mt Vandyke and Mt Roland, a race blasting knee caps into oblivion with the final 1000m descent down Mt Roland.  I was lucky enough to be enjoying the company of a visiting friend from Canada: a BC Parks Ranger, sailor, ski mountaineer and sometimes-runner. Sightseeing with Ranger Mark would be the perfect excuse to go check out the gnarly ascent/descent up the side of Mt Roland!

The view from Claude Road towards Mt Roland:

We accessed the start of the trail from the end of Kings Road (off Claude Road):

The well-marked track up to the summit didn't mess around - it was straight to business and straight up. A lot of the uphill trail was not runable, but rather required bouldering, scrambling and power hiking:

Views start to appear towards the rolling "England-esque" green hills of Sheffield and beyond:

A flat section of running before more climbing. The trail here was very muddy, poorly drained and overgrown in some areas:

Open alpine running:

Sometimes trail running is NOT about running:

The views on the alpine plateau are pretty stunning:

Ranger Mark doing his thing (running):

Mount Roland summit (1234m):

Trail junction - from here you can continue across the tops of Mt Vandyke and Mt Claude towards Olivers Road:

More information on the Kentish Triple Tops Race here.

The top of the world (Mount Ossa Summit)

The day started with an hour trail run on the Overland Track (my office for the next 6 months), returning to see this sunrise (below).

One of the huts we stay in, glowing in the morning sun:

The plan for the rest of the day was to tackle the summit of Mount Ossa (1617m), the tallest peak in Tasmania (the world?), a jagged collection of dolerite collumns that resemble gnarly, ancient fingers reaching into the sky. I would be hiking up with 2 guests and a 20kg pack on my back - nice way to build up some leg strength and confound other hikers..."you know you can leave your pack at the bottom" weathered bushmen would tell me, shaking their heads at my unpracticality. "I'm carrying safety gear" I tell them.
The views from the top on a clear day are superb - 1/3 of the state lies before you, pure wilderness with nothing man-made in sight.

The view from the false summit towards Mount Pelion East:

Climbing mountains is fun, but hard work!

Looking down the Mount Ossa trail towards Mount Pelion East (affectionately called "The Nipple") and beyond:

Taking a break on the summit of Mount Ossa:

Looking south (across Pine Stone Valley) towards the Ducane Range:

As we arrive back in the valley the weather sets in and grey, ominous clouds gather around Mount Ossa's summit. A perfect finish to a day spent in the clouds on top of the world.
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Job Satisfaction on the Overland Track

My first month working as a guide on the Overland Track (a trail running North-south through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Parks) has seen 12 different weather conditions: sunshine, cloud cover, fog, mist, rain, hail, sleet, blizzards, snow, howling winds, thunder storms, regular storms. In all of these conditions, I couldn't help smiling.

Coming from living on the west coast of Canada for 2 years, I was looking for wilderness, mountains and a training ground for running. Here in Tasmania, I think I have found it. A typical day involves waking up for a pre-work workout (thanks to my wonderful coach and friend Jen Segger), preparing breakfast for our guests, and then setting out on a 6 hour day of walking and exploring the beautiful nature of the park, climbing a mountain or two, swimming in sub-10 degree weather, building wonderful relationships with our guests, dinner and sleep (often outside under the brilliant southern stars).

Life, surrounded by so much untouched beauty, is uncomplicated!

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