Distance: 42 miles (68 km)
Time: 5 days
- Note: The time needed to do this hike can vary dramatically depending on the conditions, as well as the fitness and experience of the hiker. As a general reference, John Chapman, in his South West Tasmania guidebook, suggests between 14 and 18 days. Personally, I think this may be a little conservative. I would say between 11 and 14 days would be standard given average levels of fitness, experience and a mixed bag with the weather.
Start / Finish:
- Farmhouse Creek Trailhead
- Scotts Peak Dam
- December to March
Maps / Info:
- TASMAP 1:25,000 (6 maps) – Burgess, Bobs, Federation, Crossing, Razorback, Glovers
- TASMAP 1:100,000 Old River & Huon. Both these sheets are useful for overview purposes, however, when the weather turns nasty, you will be glad you are carrying the 1:25,000 maps.
- Note: As of May, 2015, TASMAP have made it’s topographic maps available for digital download (A$2 each)
- John Chapman’s South West Tasmania includes maps and trekking notes. Now in its 5th edition (2008).
Trip Report & Photos:
Last month (March, 2015) I re-visited one of my favourite hiking destinations, Southwest Tasmania. The idea was to traverse the region from mountains to coast, combining the rugged Arthur Range with 112 miles (180 km) of virgin coastline south of Strahan.
Unfortunately things didn’t work out as planned. A combination of a huge storm front and a family commitment back in Queensland (QLD), meant that the time I had originally allotted for the trip was not going to be sufficient (Editor’s Note: I went back and completed the full traverse of Southwest Tasmania in 2016. Click here for details).
Consequently, I made the decision to do an abbreviated version of the journey in the form of traversing the Arthur Range (i.e. a combination of the Eastern & Western Arthurs subranges). I was joined by my friend and brother-in-law, Jonno, who was making his first backcountry trip to Tasmania.
Our journey began at the Farmhouse Creek trailhead, located southwest of the town of Geeveston. From there we would trek approximately 42 miles (68 km) over the next four or five days to our finishing point at Scotts Peak Dam. The weather forecast for the week didn’t look great, however, we remained cautiously (foolishly?) optimistic.
Hiking in southwest Tasmania is always a meteorological roll of the dice; even in February and March which traditionally offer the best opportunity for fine conditions.
On this occasion it turned out the prognosticators were correct. During the course of the traverse, approximately 80% of our hiking was done in rain, high winds, fog and temperatures that hovered just above freezing.
When these sort of conditions are encountered, the #1 priority becomes safety. Objective decision making and core temperature management are key. This especially holds true in places such as the Arthur Range, where a good percentage of the hiking is done on open ridges exposed to the full brunt of the Roaring Forties.
The inclement weather combined with overgrown vegetation, knee-high mud and steep/slippery rock surfaces, meant that the going was occasionally dangerous and invariably slow. That being said, despite the challenging conditions the jokes kept flying backwards and forwards, and the mood throughout the trip was a positive one.
When we were afforded a respite from the elements, the views were spectacular. Sublime sunsets, jagged quartzite peaks, hanging valleys and glacier-carved lakes were amongst the highlights.
Altogether the trip was an enjoyable one. Yes, it could have been better weather-wise; but such is the nature of hiking in southwest Tasmania.
Sometimes you luck out and are afforded an extended stretch of fine conditions and glorious vistas. Other times you will be pounded “from go to woe” and all you will see is horizontal rain, cloud and the brim of your baseball cap pulled all the way down over your forehead.
In such circumstances, the best you can do is simply shrug your shoulders, have a wry chuckle and get on with things. One of those glass half full deals.
On a related side note, treks such as the Arthur Traverse have long struck me as an ideal opportunity by which to discover whether or not you are a “fair” or “foul” weather hiker. Consider the following; when the sun is shining for days on end, temps are in the 70’s (low 20’s celsius) and you are surrounded by beautiful scenery, who wouldn’t love backpacking? On the other hand, how many of these same folks finish a hike in driving wind, rain and freezing temperatures (assuming they have both the gear and the skills to do so safely), and come out the other side feeling positive and eager for more? Chances are if you can answer the latter question in the affirmative, you may well be a “backcountry lifer.”