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Tasmanian adventures

Phil Box
2:48:57 PM
ROCK, ROCK, ROCK, those are the scariest words any belayer ever wants to avoid hearing.

I`m looking up after hearing those dreaded words and I can see momentarily a block heading towards me looming larger and larger with every nanoseconds passing.

As most climbing adventures start out someone had an idea that they would like to head out to somewhere they have never been before. Neil Monteith called for expressions of interest in a Tasmanian climbing road trip. At first we were to head to an island in Bass Strait but due to problems arranging a suitable boat to take us out there we would have to settle for visiting various crags around the east coast of Tasmania.

Lee Skidmore and I, Phil Box, flew into Launceston airport and picked up the hire 4wd with which we proceeded into town to await the arrival of two more of our cohorts Jono and Kent. Neil Monteith and Kathy Dicker would also meet us when they dropped Neils dad off for his Brisbane flight.

Lee and I had no conception of how cold it would be in Tasmania after all was it not Summer now. Leaving Brisbanes 35c heat and near 100 percent humidity we got a rude shock stepping out of the plane into the cool dry air of northern Tasmania.

Whilst waiting to meet up with the others we decided to try our hand at finding the local crag right in the centre of Launceston. There is a rather prominent gorge that splits a mountain right there beside the CBD. The gorges name is Cataract Gorge and we snaked our way up the hill to find ourselves at Duck Reach. Ambling down into the bottom of the gorge we hit one route and then not realising that we were now on daylight saving time we rushed off back to the airport only to find the we now had an hour to kill.

We all eventually met up with each other and so we organised ourselves into a supermarket trip to stock up with some vital food supplies.

Neil was to be our guide for the trip as he had been to Tasmania once before. We followed him out to the Hillwood Volcano. Hillwood Volcano climbing area is the remnants of a long ago extinct volcano. There are a lot of single pitch sport routes on the tessellated patterned walls of this amazing area. The lava has cooled to form geodesic patterns on the rock that are perfect for steep crimpy climbing.

A quite curious feature of this area is the fact that the guide book is kept in a plastic box underneath a rock, this is done to ensure that the area is not too widely advertised. I do believe that in the near future this is going to change as an online guide is in the works and access issues have been sorted out. Many many of the routes are described as “The best at Hillwood” so this was a recurring theme for the rest of the trip, as we encountered new areas and got on classic routes at completely separate crags we would declare that this particular route was “The best at Hillwood”.

After spending the rest of the day at Hillwood and half of the next day there as well we motored off in convoy to our next destination which was Ben Lomond. The Ben is quite high at over 1,500 metres and this is where we experienced the coldest weather for the trip. We had all of out limited Queensland tropical cool weather gear on and we still froze. I`m afraid that coming from the subtropics we simply are not prepared for cold weather.

Ben Lomond is famous for its 2 and 3 pitch soaring crack lines. We were not disappointed as we gazed up on the marching diorite columns. Lee and I chose a grade 18 crack which we got to the top of the first pitch before descending for the night but Neil and co. forged on and up to top out on their chosen crack. We did not want to face the 40 minute boulder hopping session in front of us in the dark.

The next day while we waited for the day to warm up we drove up to the ski village at the summit. I was awe struck by the road carving its serpentine way up through an incredibly steep scree slope. When we got to the ski village we could imagine that we were in far off Baffin Island at some Inuit village. The low coarse heath and heather was quite arctic in nature couple with the weathered buildings and having seen Neils Baffin Island slides one could almost imagine that the deserted village could come alive with natives returning from a Polar Bear hunt.

Half of the reason for heading up there was to show me snow for the first time. All we ended up seeing was some white shade cloth that would have to double as snow. Lee threw himself down on the shade cloth and proceeded to try to make a snow angel. While we were tooling around up at the top of the ancient rickety ski lifts I just had to check out the winching mechanism for tensioning the lift cables.

Back down the what seemed like a third world winding road we geared up to do the 40 minute boulder hop mission. Lee and I jugged back up to our high point and Lee took over the sharp end to dispatch his 30 metre pitch. I was handed the rack to top out on the supposed 15 metre pitch only to need to continue up for around 40 metres. The quality of the rock on Ben Lomond is superb with awesome friction. The crack climbing is different from that which I have encountered at Frog Buttress inasmuch as they are not straight splitters. The certainly split straight up and down but when you place your hand within the crack one finds that the crack wends its way to form a sinuous crack that is perfect for hand jamming and the offwidth sections tend to be much easier than a perfect splitter crack.

Sadly our time on Ben Lomond was drawing to a close and we carefully abseiled off the top and cautiously pulled the ropes to avoid the fate of another party who had left a rope draped all over the cliff. I would be very afraid of losing ropes here in a high wind, a much better option here would be to walk off.

Our next stop would be Coles Bay which boasts some outstanding hard granite sea cliffs. This location has easy trad and hard sport so there is something for most climbers. The surging ocean heaves itself up on the low rock platforms to threaten the belayer on some of the climbs. I received a drenching more than once on one climb whilst belaying Lee. The cold Southern Ocean makes for a very uncomfortable belay when it surges up around ones knees and splashes up ones back right the way up to lick ones helmet. Of course this is the state that I found myself in when I had to second this climb, from memory it was an 18 and I climbed it clean with saturated shoes and white mud for a chalk ball.

Neil took me around to rap in to do a 2 pitch crack climb that was just fantastic. Neil led the first pitch and quickly handed the lead over to me when he noticed that the top pitch was offwidth for half its height. Before heading up the top pitch we set up a top rope on a 23 which Neil worked the moves on and he got clean on lead the next day when we came back with the other guys.

Whilst at Coles Bay Marten Blumen joined us and I`m expecting to see some awesome photography from him.

We all trudged down to The Hazards which are a chain of weathered granite domes. Route finding was a little problematic at first and Neil was the first amongst our number to launch up a climb. From all the pathetic whimpering we heard coming down from him while he was on what should have been a straight forward easy climb we all decided to go exploring some other area. Neil backed off and went searching for an area called The Underworld.

The Underworld is a sea level cave that was formed by waves crashing up into the bowels of the earth. The cave is fully 60 feet deep and there are a couple of routes that climb up and around the mouth of this cave. Neil proceeded to fall up this improbable line on the right. We were fortunate that in all the days we were in Tasmania the swell of the ocean was slight. We may have had to have curtailed some of our climbing otherwise.

Whilst at Coles Bay the camp we set up was nightly raided by Beastor the gargantuan possum. This creature of the night would devour all the food scraps from Neils pot and any other food left out. Beastor annoyed me soooo much one night with his gnawing on some uncooked macaroni that I got out of bed and marched over to him and gave him a whack on the back and put the macaroni packet away.

This account simply cannot be considered to be complete without mentioning Neils cooking adventures. Neil was given the task of cooking up a huge noodle and vege meal in his great wooden handled wok. What he had forgotten was that the woks wooden handle spun on the shaft with the consequence that virtually the entire meal was up ended onto the ground. Neil shouted “this why I never cook, ever”. The rest of us were looking in every direction but the meal on the ground and I neglected to even get the episode on film, damn.

Kathy was an angel the entire trip, she has the patience of a saint dealing with all the admin. Nothing was too much trouble and I found out that she loves going for cold water swims, this is something that I can`t get my head around as I need to have the water around tepid tea temps before I can pluck up the courage to dip my toe in.

One of my first climbs at Coles Bay was an attempt on a grade 24 45 degree overhanging hand crack, I failed miserably trying to pull the lip on slopers but I had fun hanging around getting my pic taken hanging by all fours.

Our next destination was the Tasman Peninsular. The first cliff was to be The Paradiso. Here we met Steve Hawkshaw and his lovely wife Catherine. They were down from New South Wales on a climbing holiday.

First days walk was around 3 to 4 kilometres there and the same on the way back. The walk was spectacular through low heath and banksias which closed in around ones waist and threatened at times to impede ones progress. The soft sand hills made for some slow going at times. We broke out of this onto the wave washed rocks where the salt spray had killed off all vegetation for a hundred feet above sea level. Around half of the journey was across this moon scape of weathered rocks and the wave worn apron which descended down into the waters edge.

One could observe where the power of the Southern Ocean sweeps its mighty rollers up to dash their force onto the land. Only the toughest of rocks withstand the constant onslaught of mother natures worst. The Southern Ocean encircles the Earth and the roaring forties fearsome winds whip the ocean up into stupendous swells which ultimately crash into Tasmanias rugged coastline. I would love to see some of these great swells come ashore. Even with the calm conditions we encountered the long slow swell would gather momentum and hurl itself into sea level grottoes and fountains of spray would erupt into the air near where we were belaying.

Some of the climbs at the Paradiso started off from wave swept platforms and one would have to gingerley step across to get oneself established on a climb before the next surf pounded in.

There are some way steep hard climbs busting up through the overhanging black salt encrusted diorite. I scampered up a 21 and a 17 before being offered a chance to get caned on a steep 23. I think I`ll just take pics for a while.

At this stage of the trip I was becoming familiar with Jon and Kent and we all started to mix the climbing partnerships up so that someone was always on the sharp end. I love the social aspect of a climbing road trip. One really gets to know the other guys. I really did appreciate Jonos humour and even Kents occasional spack attack. Neil as always was entertaining the whole time with his good nature. I can`t say a bad word about any one person.

The next day which was the Friday after new years day it was decided to spend another day out at the Paradiso. Lee and I set off across the sand hills and heath after the rest of the guys but soon lost sight of them, we found out later that we had gotten mixed signals and the rest of them went to the Parrot Shelf cliffs whereas we went direct to the Paradiso.

Lee warmed up on the slabby 17 and I decided to repeat it wearing my sandshoes. My turn to lead something so Lee put me on something he considered to be near my limit, a steep overhung grade 21 sport route 30 metres long. This route was not in the guide book as it was pretty much a brand new route evidence of which was the tick marks at some of the u bolts. I must confess that I struggled but did eventually gain the onsight. The black diorite was spalling in places with chips flying off here and there. The rock was also a little slimy which was the result of much salt encrusting the faces of every feature.

The warning signs were there as Lee had to continually duck and weave these flying spalling chips. I should have been more aware to the danger signs of us being on a new route. I thought that I was belaying sufficiently away from the fall line but when Lee on lead displaced the rock with his foot after starting to crank hard through a crux the inexorability of gravity took over and the ultimate meeting of rock and body was inevitable. Lees desperate shouts alerted me sufficiently such that I could twist enough so that no hard bits of my body would get smashed.

The rock slammed into my ribs breaking 2 or possibly 3 of them. As it hit me I immediately became concerned about my kidney, later the doctor would dismiss that concern and alert me to the much more serious possibility of a spleen haemorrhage.

I can distinctly remember crying out in pain as the rock hit me however I questioned Lee who was climbing and Jono who was standing right beside me and they have no recollection. At any rate the rock laid me out on the ground but I did not lose consciousness and kept a hand on the belay end of the rope.

Lee called down that Jono should immediately assume the belay duties. I had the presence of mind to assist in the safe transfer of this duty and after that was effected I crawled over to the UHF radio and called up Neil, he was just around the corner anyway. Ouch much pain in the side. I did a thorough triage on myself checking all my vitals and when Lee got back down to the ground after completing the tick I got him the listen to my chest to see whether he could hear any bubbling. I was concerned about the possibility of a punctured lung from the broken ribs. I then got him to look into my eyes to check for the correct dilation of pupils. I tried to keep myself calm and those around me as well. I felt all around my backbone but only encountered pain at my broken ribs, I gave my kidneys and other vitals a good poking too.

The rock appears to not have hit square on and there is evidence in the scratches that it did indeed scrape across me in its tangential interrupted flight. On its way down across my body it gave one last whack on my hip bone and that may have been cushioned somewhat by my harness.

Each and every person climbing with me that day was deeply concerned with my well being and I could have called upon them to perform any task to effect my rescue, indeed if this rock had of been 4 inches towards my spine or my head I may not even be typing this report today. This account may well have been a sequal to Pritchards caved in head from the Totem Pole.

Even though I had any and every resource at my disposal of which I am eternally grateful I determined that I would like to try to make my own way out under my own steam. I had many offers of accompaniement but I wanted the guys and girls to continue to have their fun and for me to push my limits of self rescue. This is definitely not something that I would recommend anyone else do and of course if my vital signs had of exhibited anything out of the ordinary there is no way that I would have attempted to this. Fortunately we had 4 UHF radios with us so I arranged for Lee to check with me ever half an hour or so.

The first problem I encountered was that I had to climb a 6 or 7 foot high rock step, Marty was with me up till then so we called for assistance and with 3 or 4 other bodies I was soon up and over that. I left them all behind and with an ungainly gait I ambled off. I worked out that if I kept myself in balance the pain would not hit me like a knife. I had to make my way up a steep sand blow and that was a mission with me taking short steps that would slide almost down to where I came from.

It took me a couple of hours to make my painful way back to the vehicle but as it was a reasonably popular tourist track being that it was a holiday I passed a few people and told them my story in the hope that if anything happened and I collapsed then they would find me on their way back from their lookout spot. I was confident that nothing of the sort would happen but it is nice to have sufficient back up plans. Of course the sensible and responsible thing to would have been to take someone with me thus ensuring that we did not transfer our responsibilities towards my injured person upon someone else.

I had to wait for an hour or so for the guys to get back to the vehicle so I tried to lay down on the back seat, big mistake, much pain getting down to an awkward position then when I tried to get comfortable I was wracked with pain. I then tried to get up which was even worse. My arms and legs were flailing about trying to get a comfortable purchase, I must have looked like an octopus out of water, I eventually a hand jam underneath the front passenger seats head rest combined with a sloper edge on the back seat to pull myself up. I reckoned that it was better to just take the pain and walk around in the car park.

I`d like to suggest that all the walking I did may have helped keep me from stiffening up. There`s nothing like blood flow for healing, of course the disclaimer to that is that if one had an internal bleed then one should not be moved. If there was an internal bleed then a lot of blood could be pumped out of the vascular system and into the abdominal cavity. The symptoms of that is nausea, pain and bloating.

Back at camp where we had set up at a campground that boasted coin in the slot showers I cleaned myself up and Lee and I headed the 70ks into Sorrel to the medical centre for a check up. The doctor who examined me related that one of his best mates was one of the guys who had died on Mt. Cook a few days before. He was certainly sympathetic and familiar with climbing related injuries. As I stated his greatest concern was for an internal bleed of the spleen. The Spleen is an extremely vascular organ meaning that there are an enormous amount of blood vessels contained therein and rupturing this organ is a very serious thing. The other thing that can happen apparently is that the organ itself can be bruised and can set up a bleed within the organ. Either way this is something that you don`t want to happen.

Where the rock hit me in the side at the base of my ribs is the classic spot for a spleen injury. The doc poked and prodded and so did I and it was decided that it was unlikely that my spleen had been injured such that it would bleed. I do believe that I got off very lightly.


Phil Box
2:59:15 PM
I spent an uncomfortable night in camp and not wanting to be left behind decided to try to make it out to the Moai. This formation is a stand alone pillar of rock similar to the Totem Pole. The Moai is somewhere around 25 to 30 metres high and stands outside the northern peninsular of Fortescue Bay on the Tasman Peninsular. The Moais big brother the Totem Pole stands hidden behind the Candlestick on the southern peninsular on Fortescue Bay.

I ambled the 5 or so kilometres out the rap chains that lead down to the rock shelf that the Moai stands on. I never even considered that I would be fit enough to rap in so did not even attempt that task. I set myself up at the top and took a bunch of pics and video of the guys and girls having fun. When I got sick of hanging around I sauntered back from whence I came taking lots of background shots. It is not often that one takes the time to marvel at all the little things and some not so little. I checked out some great forest giants that had been blown down in some recent Antarctic icy blast. I also marvelled at the grove of ancient tree ferns. I saw the bones of an old ship that had been scuttled in the bay to form a breakwater.

I listened to the birdsong and gaped at the Banksias flowering. I set up a self portrait on the swinging bridge. I`d highly recommend someday everyone slowing down and not hurrying to the crag, you`d be surprised what you`ll see along the way.

The next day was home day and we got ourselves, Lee Marty and myself, into Hobart where we took the car through a carwash hoping to disguise the scratches that Lee managed to get on the car from a 4wd adventure gone slightly wrong. It didn`t do anything and how could one disguise a stone chip in the windscreen. Lee handed the keys over at the counter at the airport and they weren`t overly concerned , all they wanted was the keys on time.

We got to the check in counter with heaps of time to spare and I asked for the window seat once again, I love the window seat, I pretty much sit glued to the view out the window. The flight home was rough and I could see the wings flapping like some great prehistoric bird but hey I was having a ball.

Wouldn`t you know it when we got back to Brisbane we encountered a tropical downpour and the typical humidity of Queenslands capital. Oh yes I still haven`t told the missus about my injury, she isn`t back from her holiday down on the coast at Surfers Paradise. Oh man am I gunna cop it when she finds out, nah only kidding, she would rather not know about stuff like this over the phone. She`ll hug me and I`ll go ouch and then she`ll ask what I`ve done to myself and then she`ll have an excuse to baby me, damn, I think I should go back climbing, nah, it`s all good.

Thanks for an awesome time Lee, Neil, Cathy, Jono, Kent, Marty, Steve and Catherine. Thanks to all of you guys for being concerneed for my welfare.

Pics to come.

5:24:47 PM
sounds awesome Phil, & its certainly good to hear you're ok. Can't wait for the pic's. No more scary monsters please...

Phil Box
5:58:33 PM
Oh yeah, I just remembered, the most memorable climbing sound effect of the trip was Kent quacking like a duck as he was trying to pull off a mantle move on a 23 sport climb at Coles Bay. He went for it about 5 times unfortunately I only had the digyvid on him for 4 of those times and the last time he tried he pulled it off. I wish I had of gotten Kents spack attack on the Moai and Neils wok meal in the dirt.

James it`s gunna take me days to sort through the pics.

Phil Box
10:07:55 AM
Pics are now available for viewing.

11:52:25 AM
those are awesome pics phil. well done!

12:00:54 PM
Thanks for the trip report Phil. Awesome pictures too...

2:35:12 PM
Hmm did I run into you guys at a supermarket in Launceston?
Think I didn't recognise Neil as he is a whole lot more hairier now than he used to be. ;)

Phil Box
3:27:43 PM
Well I did talk to one climber and nodded at his mate at the checkout. Lee was with me but Neil wasn`t inside for long as he had most of his supplies for the trip already organised. So yeah it was more than likely us that was in the supermarket in Launceston.

9:31:11 PM
Yes, we ran into you. I (Lee) was talking to you while Neil was ripping items from the shelf.

9:35:10 AM
Some pics from Tassie...

My fav areas from best to worst would be...

Paradiso (Steep sport on AMAZING rock)
Coles Bay (the Arapiles of Tassie)
Ben Lommond (location location location!)
Hillwood (lots of sport)
Cataract Gorge (bolted grit!)
Fingal (just like Tibro)
Mt Wellington (nightmare jungle access)
Adamsfield (a field of pain)
Oatlands (horrible location - poxy rock)
9:36:29 AM
dead link

9:42:37 AM
should work now

11:04:59 AM
Fantastic shots Neil! I think you've outdone yourself with a few of those. Jono looks like he could rip the cliffs apart bare handed, and has the facial expressions to match. And the seascape shots! That one of Phil on Whitewater Wall - wow. Certainly congrats also needs to go to who ever took the pic of you Tyrolean traversing to the Moai. Looks like Kent's boldness on steep terrian is running strong too. What a trip!

Phil Box
11:47:00 AM
Martys pics are here as well
It was Martys pic of the tyrolean traverse.

1:10:18 PM
Well I just looked up the word "Tyrolean" cause although many people know what it is, its bandied about a lot, not many people can spell it and even less (like me) know where it comes from:

I figured it was named after William J. Tyrol of 32 Kessells Lane in Sussex who was well know for regular (and very daring) clothesline crossings of his front yard to fetch his mail, and in the process avoided the vicious Miniature Schnauzer owned by the woman next door in number 34... but I was wrong, says:

"Ty·rol or Ti·rol

A region of the eastern Alps in western Austria and northern Italy. Inhabited in ancient times by Celtic peoples, the Tyrol constantly passed back and forth, in whole or in part, between Austria and Italy in the 1800s. Its present division dates from the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919. The Tyrolean Alps are a popular tourist area."

Phil Box
2:27:07 PM
So lemme get this straight. Once upon a time there were these alps that were variously owned at one time or another by Austria or Italy. The Italians and the Hungarians set up this huge tyrolean traverse and used to pass the alps back and forth between Italy and Austria. The last time this setup was accomplished was in 1919 with the help of some saint from Germany.

I woulda liked to have seen the anchors for this setup. But what do I know these people have been passing the alps back and forth for ages so they must have worked something out eh. ;))

5:08:14 PM
That seems like a pretty fair reading of it Phil.

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