Friday, December 22, 2017

Ben Lomond – Another peak unbagged



Ben Lomond in our sights


It’s a pity that Ben Lomond National Park is a bit off the beaten track, especially coming from Hobart – about 224.2 Km. Couldn't help thinking while wending my way over backroads from Evandale  that, given the traditional rivalry between Launceston and Hobart,  this was some kind of Launcestonian plot to keep those pesky southerners out.  

 Even after you manage to find your way to Upper Blessington, there are still 12 kilometres of unmade road to negotiate before you reach the park entrance. That done, you will find yourself in one of the most stunning and geologically fascinating landscapes in Tasmania, with its escarpments rising abruptly from the surrounding farmlands like the ramparts of  a vast mediaeval castle. Colonel Legge, who surveyed it in 1906 -09  regarded "(The)  Ben Lomond Plateau as the most remarkable physiographical feature in the State..."

Small Waratahs line the lower reaches of the track
 At the time, Ben Lomond was thought to be the highest peak in Tasmania, but  re -measurement in 1911-12 using theodolites, rather than more primitive instruments, showed its highest point to be 1572m, making it the second highest peak in Tasmania, after Mt. Ossa (1617m). However, despite most of Tasmania’s mountains being in the west of the state, 6 of the 15 peaks over 1500m are located here.  Indeed,  Parks and Wildlife say most of the Ben Lomond Plateau is above 1300 metres and about 14 Km. long and 6 Km. wide.

Skirting boulder fields on the way to the Big Opening
 
The walk starts at Carr Villa,*  a few kilometres above the campground which boasts not one but two flushing toilets. Only two or three other cars were in evidence there and we also met two mountain climbers at the start of the track. From there the trail goes steadily uphill over rocks and low growing shrubs – some waratah (not quite as brilliant as those in the Hartz, but nevertheless beautiful to see), mountain pepper, orange and yellow scoparia, yellow flowering pineapple grass and several types of white flowering shrubs. These continue all through ‘The Plains of Heaven,’ a wide swathe cut by a glacier, no doubt so named by the skiers who used to trek up here on horseback until the road was built in the 1930s. 

*Carr Villa is ironically named after a cemetery in Launceston as it was regarded as "the last resting place."

In The Plains of Heaven


Small tarns and Cushion Plants near the  ridgeline

 After what seemed like a very long climb, the track levelled off and took us past a couple of chalets. The track to Legges Tor — the highest point, starts here.  As with Hartz Peak, this is only a short sharp detour of around 20 to 30 minutes, but as with Hartz Peak, my legs were already threatening to give way at any moment and I feared that even that bit of extra mileage might do me in.  With neither of us expected back until late the next day, we promised ourselves we would do it in the morning and continued on our way.


An older chalet below Legges Tor Track

I was delighted to see the road far below us and hastened down to meet it. Only another few kilometres I thought, and then we would be back at our campsite having cups of tea. This was not true. A look at the map showed that we had another 12.5 kilometres to go, and that was just to get back to the car. The sign saying that the walk was 4 hours return had obviously been made by the same folk who thought that getting to Adamson's  Falls and back should only take two hours.
View from the top of  the road


By the time we reached the road I was just plodding, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. The road itself – Jacob’s Ladder as it’s called, is perfectly spectacular having been blasted out of sheer rock on either side. As it snakes its way down there are views over other peaks, much of the Midlands, the North East and even Flinders Island. It must be one of the most exciting drives in Australia – better than Queenstown's 99, better than the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, especially when spiced up with a touch of ice or snow. 

Jacob's Ladder


Rocky sentinels overlook the one lane road. Some don't look very stable

... but the views are almost to die for
 See the scenery, the jagged, jumbled rocks and the hairpins here:





Looking up
 
As I sagged in a heap near the gate at the bottom of the main bends, my friend  valiantly offered to walk the remaining five kilometres or so to get the car.

He hadn’t been gone long when along came a car driven by the lovely Kate who owns a chalet in these parts. She stopped to ask if I was OK and kindly gave me a lift. She also picked up my friend who, though a good way down the road, was also looking a bit worse for wear. Nothing more was said, but I suspect we were both rather relieved that the morning dawned with light drizzle, getting us off the hook with respect to Legges Tor. Thanks very much for the ride Kate. We hope you have a lovely Christmas! And thanks to R for being so chivalrous.

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