12 Feb Basecamper Hayley Talbots Solo Adventure in The Western Arthurs
A Guest Post by Joes Basecamp adventurer Hayley Talbot, as she goes on a mission and traverses the Western Arthurs solo
The Western Arthurs in the south western wilds of Tasmania has one hell of a reputation, and she didn’t disappoint. She’s a small range at only 15km long, but with 22 glaciated peaks, towering cliffs, over 30 hanging lakes, and volatile Antarctic winds she packs a solid punch, and is generally regarded among the initiated to be the most spectacular, and most dangerous traverse in Australia. Most people who attempt the traverse are turned back for the weather, as some parts of the range are entirely exposed with no escape off if you get caught, but don’t let this put you off. The Arthurs are completely beyond realm, and whether you complete the traverse or not, one thing’s for sure, you’ll be in for an epic adventure with some of the most spectacular scenery in the country only a hop from the mainland. I spoke to as many people as I could in the lead up and before I left Tasmania, to suss out what I was in for. Since I was heading out alone, I prepared, I read up, I called people, I took advice from people who knew what they were talking about, I had the right equipment, I made sure I knew how to take care of myself out there, I set off, and this was my damn face. Did I mention 22 peaks and over 30 hanging lakes? Full traverse or no traverse- I had to try!!!!!
I was grateful for my trusty Storm Break tent from The North Face. I’d been watching the weather around the Arthurs for the preceding few months (which was all but pointless given it is virtually a climate unto itself, with no real discernible consistency!). Familiarity had lead me to believe that 40, 50 & 60km/hr winds were pretty commonplace, and my mind (amateurishly) began to make its peace with what that would actually entail in person. I needn’t have worried about those speeds as it were, on my first night it was blowing 113km/hr! Bloody great tent!
It’s difficult to describe the ascent up Moraine A. It’s beauty is overcoming, especially if you’re climbing alone. It elicits pause, peace, gratitude, and introspection, which are just a few of the reasons us outdoor folk throw ourselves into the wilds the way we do. It’s challenging, probably more than you’d expect at times, but if you focus on the task at hand when it’s time to focus, and deeply and openly appreciate where you are when its time to rest, the powerful beauty of the Western Arthurs will become you.
And when you reach the top of the range prepare for a spellbinding. Undulating moors of ancient mosses and mountain flowers like you’ve never seen before, hanging mirror lakes, and 360 degree views of spectacular, rugged, otherworldly beauty abound to the horizon in every direction.
And you never know who’ll you’ll run into! Out in the middle of the roaring wind and the glorious wilds of Tasmania I made a great new friend….Wes Whittle; a fellow Joe’s Basecamper! What were the chances! (On reflection Joe’s Basecamp tends to attract the mad ones training for such adventures and seeing as though we were both out on the range alone, no wonder we had Joe in common!). In the end the weather closed in on us and we had to get off the range a day early before it really moved in and we got caught. Wes was welcome company on the long, very muddy trek back and we ended up driving back to Hobart together (owe you big time Wes!) and we’ve stayed in touch!
I can’t recommend the Western Arthurs more highly. Whether you go for the full traverse or just get out there and up the range, the journey is well worth it, and doesn’t have nearly the amount of foot traffic as the Overland Track. I highly recommend getting down there before it really explodes in popularity and national parks have to start capping entry! Here are a few helpful tips if you’re planning to go….
When you arrive in Hobart go and see Andrew and Alison at the Tasmanian Map Centre. Not only can they sell you the exact map of the entire traverse, but they can hire you a Spot Gen Tracker, which I highly recommend particularly if you’re heading out alone. For a $150 deposit (which you get back at the end) and only $10 a day, the tracker pings your location to an online map every 10 minutes so that loved ones can track you and follow where you are while you’re off the grid. You can send an OK text message to them, call for local assistance if you need it, or the full tilt SOS message if you need rescuing. I linked my husband’s phone to the device, as well as Andrew and Alison at the Map Centre so they could keep an eye on where I was in case I needed a hand.
Don’t wing your transport out to the Western Arthurs, organise it in advance. It’s 2.5hrs from Hobart so you can’t uber or cab it and buses don’t really run out there. Lock it in before you leave or you’ll either waste days or pay top dollar. Tasmanian Wilderness Experiences came to my rescue. Give Graham Maclean a call (and tell him Hayley said hi!). You can pay $100 each way to catch the bus out with TWE, and be sure to arrange pick up before you leave as you won’t have phone reception to call from the range. Or organise a hire car with Europcar in town (not from the aiport) well in advance and you can get a good deal (roughly only $180 for 5 days so you can leave your car in the car park at Scotts Peak Dam and leave as you please when you return from your hike).
Download Avenza maps. They’re PDF maps that save to your phone and ping your position by satellite on the map so you can’t get lost. You’ll need ‘Crossing’, ‘Razorback’ and ‘Glovers’ maps. The track is generally quite good but it’s possible to wander off in parts. Eliminate the chance. But don’t forget to take a spare phone battery or a solaroll and charge cable to charge your phone! Always take the map and compass as back up.
Know the weather ahead of you so you can plan according contingencies. The Western Arthurs is not just any bushwalk, in fact in many parts it’s an honest climb (pack 15m of climbing rope in case you’re more comfortable dropping your pack, climbing, and then hauling it up or down to you). A basic knowledge of survival and the ability to tune into your body, especially if you head out alone, is prudent. Understanding how to manage your core body temperature in swinging conditions, be aware of hydration, and how to properly layer your apparel. Being a warm climate girl I several times found myself overcompensating with my apparel in the conditions, sweating, and then getting cold from the wind chill.
John Chapman’s Guide Book “South West Tasmania” has become hot property and is tricky to get your hands on but is THE leading reference on the range. You can find it in libraries, or come August 2017 the updated edition will be available for purchase.
Because the Western Arthurs are situated in a wilderness area it is a strictly no fire area. You’ll need a fuel stove to cook your food. Remember to buy your fuel and any other necessities in Hobart before you leave for the range! The good news is there’s plenty of water out on the range so you don’t have to try and carry several days worth on you. A water bottle with a filter is a handy safeguard for illness from drinking rain water (but plenty of people don’t bother filtering, it is pristine wilderness country after all!).
Hayley Talbot is a mother, writer, and integrated marketing strategist with a background in corporate law and a mean passion for adventure and the endless ways it unites and challenges us to push beyond ourselves.
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The Mighty Clarence Expedition Trailer : https://vimeo.com/171497808
She would love to hear from anyone inspired by her adventures and take on life and womanhood.