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Mt Ossa

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Climbing Mount Ossa

Tasmania


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StateMountainHeight (metres)
New South Wales Mount Kosciuszko2228
Victoria Mount Bogong1986
Australian Capital TerritoryBimberi Peak1913
QueenslandBartle Frere1622
Tasmania Mount Ossa1617
Northern Territory Mount Zeil1531
South Australia Mount Woodroffe1435
Western Australia Mount Meharry1253

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Climbing Facts

State Tasmania
Highest Peak Mount Ossa
Elevation 1617m (5305 feet)
First climbed 1830s?
Vertical Elevation Pelion Gap
Arm River Track carpark
491m
~897m
Total Distance Arm River carpark to New Pelion Hut
New Pelion Hut to Pelion Gap
Pelion Gap to Summit
11km
4.5km
2.5km
Estimated hiking time Arm River carpark to New Pelion Hut
New Pelion Hut to Pelion Gap
Pelion Gap to Summit
4.5 hours
1 hours
1.5 hour
Difficulty Medium  
Required Maps Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park
Date climbed June 2008

Tasmania

Tasmania - Mount Ossa

| About Mount Ossa |

Boy oh boy! How awesome is this walk!?! This has certainly been the most impressive of the State8 so far climbed. Unlike the first four peaks climbed, many resembling little more than big hills and not mountains, Mt Ossa is truly a mountain.

Located about halfway along the Overland Track (arguably Australia's most reknowned wilderness walk), this climb could (rather should) be combined as part of the Overland walk, making this an epic 5+ day hike through some of the most beautiful wilderness in Australia.

We on otherhand, had only one goal in mind, climbing Tasmania's highest peak. Hence, via the Arm River Track, climbing Ossa can be completed in two days, or if you really push it, one day.

| Ossa via Arm River Track |

It seems few outside the Apple Isle realise that you can actually enter and exit the Overland Track halfway through the trail. So to all the Tasmanians reading this I apologise. However, the Arm River Track provides a really good, short, convenient way to experience the splendour of the Overland Track without commiting to the five day or more conventional trail.

Getting to the starting point is reasonably easy. From the town of Mole Creek follow the signs toward Cradle Mountain. We drove five hours from Hobart tha morning. Take the Forest Road south torward the Walls of Jerusalem and Lake Rowallan. After taking the turn-off toward the Outdoor Centre, the Arm Road turns into a dirt road, before taking the final turn-off to the actual carpark (730 metres). About 500 metres down the road a small turning circle marks the end of the road and the start of the walk. This isn't immediately obvious, although lucky for us there were a few cars already here, so we knew we were in the right place. From memory there is steel bar across the track and a small creek you cross almost immediately after. Looking at our maps there really aren't any other tracks up the mountain, so if you reach the carpark with a track heading off into the bush, you're probably in the right place.

So we were ready to go. A final team photo, a few checks of our gear and we were off. Less than a kilometre into the hike you you start to climb. This initial ascent essentially brings you from the base of the mountain up onto the plateau which is the Cradle Mountain Lake St Claire National Park. Although this upward section only takes about 45 minutes, it is pretty steep and (excluding the actual climb up Ossa) the steepest part of the entire walk. So once you get to the top, you know the worst is over (940 metres). The next few kilometres are pretty awesome (infact the entire walk is pretty awesome) as the track passes through typical Australian bush, old growth forests, a few swamp like tundra/marshland and even an Indiana Jones river crossing (although the bridge is only a few metre across).

The view of Mount Pillinger, a rocky peak jutting out of the forest, is quickly replaced by Reedy Lake, both of which provided ample opportunity for photos. The next major checkpoint is Lake Ayr, the 5-6km walk taking us about 3 hours. We had left the carpark at 1pm and I thought we would have plenty of time to reach our planned destination, New Pelion Hut. As it turned out, by the time we reach the tranquil Lake Ayr, it was already 4pm and the sun was well on the way down. The track follows the lake with Mount Oakleigh in the background, another steep and ragged peak.

As the last rays of sun finally dipped behind the mountain, we finally broke out through the light forest onto a grassy plain. One final river crossing, this time over another steel suspension bridge and 45 minutes after having first sighted Lake Aye, New Pelion Hut finally came into view. But it wasn't other hikers who greated us, but rather a small mob of Tasmanian Pademelons. They were so tame, we were able to walk within a few metres of them and I had to hold myself from trying to pat one. Not sure a Pademelon bite was what I needed right now. During the night we also enjoyed the company of numerous Bushy Tailed Possums and even a Quoll (the first I've seen).

Anyway, we finally reach New Pelion Hut at about 4.45pm, meaning the walk here had taken us about 3.75 hours. Not bad I guess. We were all pretty exhausted but to glad to have made it this far. It seems alot of other hikers also felt the same way. Despite being June and cold, almost every bed was ended up being occupied. I'm guess this means about 30-40 people. The hut really was pretty fantastic. There are pit toilets, big water tanks, tables, bunk beds, even a gas heater. I had been a little weary about not bringing a tent along, but realised it really wasn't required (although I'm sure in summer when these huts completely fill up, having a tent just in case would be kind of handy). Nevertheless, we quickly bunked down, ate a hot meal and then were asleep. We were planning an early start the next morning to give us plently of time to get back to the car.

At 6.50am in the morning we were up. I'm not quite sure why we needed to get up so damn early. I only need about 5 minutes to get ready, however I soon realised that my travelling companions required a little longer. It wasn't until just after 8am that we actually left the hut. Breakfast, packing away stuff, eating, checking, re-checking, fussing and I don't what else seemed to take forever. But at least we were off.

There were only three of us going to the summit, the girls having decided that the warmth of the hut and a sleep-in was more appealing. Given the cracking pace we now set, I was beginning to wonder whether we were trying to enjoy ourselves or win a race. We had read somewhere that it should take somewhere between 1 to 1.5 hours to reach Pelion Gap (the turn-off to Ossa). Angus and Aaron my hiking buddies, powered out ahead of me, and I was left to bring up the rear. Sheesh, did these guys move fast. Within ten minutes of walking I had lost of sight of them and now, no longer trying to keep up, I slowed down and enjoyed my surroundings. Walking through this misty forest, with mosses and lichens covering every available space, I honestly felt like I was in the Black Forest of some other Northern Hemisphere country. This landscape was so completely different to anywhere I'd seen in Australia. Yet again (and not the last time) I was blown away by the scenary. As I approached Pelian Gap, having walked clear of the forest and completely blanketed in fog, I noticed numerous frozen puddles on the track, indicating that last night had dropped below zero. Just on an hour we reach the signpost at Pelian Gap (1113 metres), meaning we really had been moving quickly (about 4.5 kilometres in an hour).

Another quick rest, resetting my altimetre watch and we turned off to the right and into the fog. At this stage we couldn't see anything. Everything was a complete white-out. I quietly hoped that the approaching day would clear the mist, but this didn't seem to be the case. But we were to experience something even better. As we slowly climbed higher up the mountain we could just start making out some of the surrounding peaks and then all of a sudden a small peak rose up on our right. Mount Doris meant we were already halfway through our climb, although it was only to become steeper. As we passed the western side of Dorris, Ossa finally came into view. And what a site. Although the actual summit is behind this first and imposing mountain, Ossa (or at least the front face) is an awesome site. A jagged spire of rock juts up into the sky. No sooner were we presented with this first awesome glimpse of our goal than the fog rolled in and the peak dissappeared again. But with renewed vigour we powered on.

The final climb up Ossa is the steepest part of the entire walk. I almost wondered just where the path would lead us, so rocky was the path before us. However, with each step higher the fog and clouds became thinner until finally we were actually above the clouds altogether. And the view before is perhaps one of the greatest wilderness views I've yet enjoyed (did I say this was an awesome walk?). As far as we could see, an ocean of cloud was broken only by the occassional peak breaking through the clouds. Like islands in the vast sea, each peak was a view unto itself. The most spectacular was also the closest. Mount Pelion East directly to the East rises up through the clouds like a giant nipple. We were now stopping every few minutes to enjoy this awesome view. Completely alone and now climbing in the sun, we slowly made our way up through the clouds. A final spur running along the front-face before stopping at a cascade of boulders and rocks. If there was any part of the walk I wouldn't want to do in the snow, this would be it. While we could clearly follow the path, it was still steep and a slip on ice would result in a long slide down with rocks halting your fall. The final boulder scramble would also be extremely difficult if covered in snow and ice and again great care would need to be taken to avoid a few nasty spills. Finally after a few hand over hand climbs and we were on top of the saddle. Unfortunately this isn't the summit, which is still a few hundred metres away. We dropped back down the other side of the saddle before climbing the final steep section and up onto the summit proper. Here there is quite a large flat section, which although pretty lumpy, I'm sure would provide a good camping spot. And then another 100 metres up the slope and we had reached the highest point in Tasmania.

Of course, we then had to find the biggest (highest) boulder and climb it as well. This I certainly wouldn't do in snow, but a few shakey moments and one by one we were standing on the highest boulder, on the highest mountain in Tasmania. The view was awesome, the accomplishment was awesome, darn-it we were all just feeling pretty darn pleased with ourselves. It had taken us about 1.5 hours to get here.

Here we stopped for some lunch, took a few more photos and we were off again. I won't spend too much time recounting a journey home, needless to say it took us almost as long to get back to the car as it didn't getting up here, despite most of our return trip being downhill. However, a few pretty serious blisters on a few of my buddies feet slowed us down a little and we finally got back to the car about 6pm, well and truly dark. Infact the final kilometre or so was navigated by headlamp.

But we'd done. We'd climbed Ossa and boy oh boy, was it an awesome walk.

The final breakdown of hours was roughly as follows:

Arm River Carpark to New Pelion Hut: 4.75 hours
New Pelion Hut to Pelian Gap: 1 hours
Pelian Gap to Summit: 2 hours
Summit back to New Pelian Hut: 2 hours
Pelian Hut back to carpark: 3.5 hours


| The Weather |

Being June, I'd fully expected Ossa to be cold, really cold. I lugged up down jackets, beanies, thermals to the hut and back. Whilst we didn't really need them (the hut was warm and once walking we warmed up quickly), I'd do the same if were doing this walk again. The Overland Track is often skied during winter, with severe weather often setting in for days. Therefore during the winter months assume it will be cold and expect snow. During summer, well I've heard it can get hot. Real hot, like 30C+ during the day. But again, being about as far south as you can get in Australia, even during summer cold fronts can quickly move in and temperatures plummit.

Team Photo
On this adventure: Aaron, Angus, Jacqui, Tiana and Roland

| Watch the Climb on YouTube |

Sorry, no sound in Part 1. YouTube pulled the soundtrack.

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