Leech Attack on Ben Nevis

It was a cold misty morning when a group of us decided to drive up to summit Ben Nevis. The “road” where the trailhead starts can scarcely be called that. More like an overgrown logging track that is just wide enough for a 4WD vehicle. There’s not even a real place to pull off, so if another party would come in they’d likely block you in.

Just as we’re approaching the trailhead our friend who organized the trip casually mentions that this area is in fact known to have “some” leeches. Yay. But I’m told they only come out when it’s misty and wet -- great…

15 minutes in to the hike my ankles start itching. Weird, but i’ll keep walking. 10 minutes later they are really itching. I look down (I shouldn’t have looked down), there are at least a dozen leeches on each ankle. I frantically start ripping them off (the itching increases by factor of 10). I’m told not to stop as more will just get on me. Sound advice as the ground is literally MOVING with leeches. Holy. Shit. The “good” news is that if we walk fast and get out of the forest there will be no leeches on the rocky top. I walk fast.

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We break through the forest line and everyone stops to remove the leeches the second we get onto the rocks and we continue the misty march to the top. There are no views but walking through the mist above the tree-line has its own eerie beauty which I quite enjoy. When we reach the top we take off our shoes, ring out our wet socks and remove a few leech stragglers.

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We hang out at the top hoping for a break in the clouds but one never comes. As the mist comes and goes we get views below us and it’s surprising how high we climbed from the tree-line. Heading back down the mist get thicker and it takes a second to locate the saddle we climbed up on. Once we find our trail it’s every person for themselves as we race through the leech infested forest.

I’ve never been so happy to see the car.

If you dare to go:

Meander Falls & Split Rock Circuit

Ringing in the New Year by… surprise… hiking! Tassie is really great for day hikes and there are a lot of them within an hour or two of Launceston where our family lives.

Today we are heading to the Western Tiers to do the Meander Falls and Split Rock Circuit.

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The first part of the trail to Meander Falls follows the Meander River up to the falls. The tread is rocky but easy to follow. As we went up the trees started to thin and we got peeks of the falls in the distance.

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At the base of the falls there is a small pool, which if it was warmer would be nice for a swim/soak. The falls themselves are quite dramatic and much larger than I had anticipated. Cool.

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The map indicates that the trail continues up to the top of the tier behind the falls but there isn’t any evidence of the track. We tried in a few places to locate the trail but with no luck. If you were determined it would be doable to get up to the top but it would be slow going as it is very steep here.

To head back via the Split Rock trail we headed down the trail we came up about ⅓ of a mile. There is a sign at the trail junction (somehow we missed it on the way up). The faint trail heads over the river which is easy to rock hop across but recent rains could change that so keep that in mind.

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After crossing the river the trail heads up a scree slope. Cairns can help guide you but it’s fairly easy to see where to go (aim for the saddle at the top of the scree). There are great views from the saddle. We chose not to scramble up Meander Crag but it could make for a quick side trip.

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Heading down the other side through a smaller scree field we were able to follow the cairns and pick up the trail as it entered the forest. The forest is much more lush on this side and we passed numerous small cascades and falls along the way down.

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Make sure you take the longer more winding trail vs the “main” Split Rock trail to see these. The trails rejoin shortly after the falls and eventually the aptly named Split Rock is reached. The trail became less steep as we got closer to the car.

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A really nice walk with a little of everything: Dry(ish) forest, falls, scree scrambling, long views and rainforest.

If you go:

Cradle Mountain Summit

I’ve wanted to summit Cradle Mt for the last 8 years (ever since my in-laws moved to Tasmania) but every time we visit it’s either 1. Winter or 2. Storming. Finally this time around we have a good weather window.

It’s peak season so we had to take the shuttle in. The good news is that this allowed us to start and end from different trailheads.

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We got dropped off at the Ronny Creek trailhead and started walking on the Overland Track (sidenote: someday I want to do the full overland track, 51 miles to Lake St Clair to the south). It’s late December but it was a chilly start as the trail steadily climbed up to Marion’s Lookout. At one point I saw a snake on the trail, probably deadly, this country is horrifying.

From there the trail heads to Kitchen Hut and shortly after we turned onto to the Summit Track. All of these trails are very well travelled and heavily used. After some steep climbing the trail turns into scrambling for the rest of the way to the top. We had a blast on this part and some sections are fairly challenging. There is a main route most hikers take but at points it becomes a bit of a choose your own adventure -- awesome!

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The views from the top are stunning, much of Tassie can be seen, mountains in every direction.

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The way down is nitpicky. Scrambling down, IMO, is much freakier than going up. I wouldn’t want to be going down this in rain let alone ice or snow.

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We headed back via Kitchen Hut and Marion’s Lookout and then took the Wombat Track back to Dove Lake to grab the shuttle back to the park entrance. If you have the time I’d recommended taking Face Track at Kitchen Hut to the Lake Rodway Track and out that way. Overall it’s longer but you get to stay high for the views for more of the hike.

Endless Summer - An Aussie Road Trip

One of the biggest perks of being married to an Australian is, you guessed it, having a great excuse to visit Australia. This time around given my work schedule and K writing up her thesis we’re setting off for over a month.

We spent the first few days in Melbourne and then headed off on a meandering road trip (our favorite kind) through the mountains and along the coast to Sydney.

As we drove north through the Yarra ranges we stumbled upon Cathedral Ranges State Park. I’m certainly happy we did: a great park with hiking, camping and backpacking options. We decided to head up Ned’s Gully to Ned’s Peak. About 5.5 miles round trip and Ned wasn’t messing around, his gully is pretty steep. I love when you get many different microclimates on a trail and this one did not disappoint. A thick fern forest in the gully, rock scrambling and dry eucalyptus forest in the middle and a view at the top. We didn’t have time to take the trail all the way up to Cathedral Peak and Razorback Ridge but that looked like some rock-hopping fun to be had.

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The next day we drove to Kosciuszko National Park to summit Mt. Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia at 7,310ft. I wasn’t expecting a hard hike but I wasn’t expecting it to be this easy. The trail is an old road, very flat and graded the whole way to the top. The views at the top were spectacular. Open alpine peaks with views in every direction.

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We camped just down the road from the trailhead and it was a clear, crisp night and the stars, which are normally phenomenal in Australia, were even more stunning than normal.

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For the next three days we poked up the coast towards Sydney. Lots of little places to camp along the many beaches. Australia, you know how to make a good beach.

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