When it comes to recommending activities for visitors to Tasmania, the Three Capes walk has quickly risen to be in my top five list. Well, for affluent hikers anyway. At roughly $495 for a three night walk, it is out of the price range of most of my friends. Not that the experience is bad value for $495, its just that $495 is a lot of money.
It is worth pointing out that the creation of the track has led to some areas of the Tasman Peninsula, while not completely blocked, harder to get to. There is a possible argument that restrictions have been put in place to stop the spread of Phytophtora. If that’s the case, they are it is not made clear.
If you are willing to put up with the restrictions, there are upsides. Thanks to fee payers, the trail is now one of the most sculpted and well maintained tracks in Tasmania. Possibly Australia. The new huts also provide a reliable and conveniently spaced source of fresh water. While I was there, the hut staff were more than happy for us to fill our water bottles. Hopefully this stays true.
What budget campers can do:
One of the hardest parts of doing this hike was just finding information online. I really get the feeling that Parks have not gone out of their way to provide information on self directed walks, just plenty of links to the paid experience.
So where can you stay? There is one campsite on the peninsula, Wughalee Falls. You do not need to book, and can camp for the cost of a normal Parks Tasmania pass! Wughalee Falls campsite is roughly dead centre of the Peninsula and provides a great base for exploring. Sure, it could have done with a view, or a reliable water source, or not be 300m down a valley, but otherwise It’s pretty nice. Hikers can also stay at Fortescue bay, which is a small extra cost. But great if you need an extra night or have to camp for an early start in the morning.
There are two main restrictions. Hikers are not permitted to travel west to see the first hut, Surveyors. Hikers are also asked not to travel
South down the coast from Cape Hauy without a 22lr ammo for safety purpose. These are not over-restrictive restrictive and basically dictate that walkers head south to Cape
Pillar and then North to Cape Hauy.
I feel I should make special mention of the spectacular huts. While I was pleasantly surprised by my first sighting, I quickly realised that I was looking at the toilet block. The real hut was 50 meters away round a corner of the track.
The complete Package. Attempt at own risk!
It is also possible to do the complete walk while adhering to the one way traffic rule. After you take the turnoff for Fortescue Bay take a right toward Stinking Bay. The last hundred or so metres will be walking or 4WD only. From there you are free to continue to walk from the very start of the track as per paid walkers. Please note I have not done this myself. I’ve and come by this knowledge second hand. But let me know if it worked out for you!
Trips can often descend into arguments and petty finger pointing. So it was refreshing that this years Cockails on the Castle started with the finger pointing. After driving down a dirt road that seemed to go on forever we finally emerged at a disturbingly familiar T junction. It was not the first time we had seen this intersection. We had driven in a complete circle. The finger pointing started.
While we had set out relatively early, our day was quickly evaporating in faff. We were in no particular hurry as surely-we thought-we would reach the top of the Castle by Sunset. We had all day, how could we not? I was particularly keen to get everyone to the top with plenty of time try a photo I had in the back of my mind. It did require that I bring excessive and heavy camera equipment.
The hike to the top of the Castle is not particularly hard, but the temperature, humidity and lack of wind took a toll. Sweat flowed, water supplies dwindled and progress slowed. We held hope for a waterfall halfway up but found it to be more of a frustrating joke. Water fell in drips that were cooling but not nearly enough to fill a water bottle.
Fortune was with us half an hour later when we found a stream with water cool enough to leave condensation on the outside of our water bottles. A glorious find!
All this was still costing us time, however. Not being up the top when the sunset happened was starting to be a possibility. Emerging at the scrambling section, we started along the ridge-line and finally spotted our final destination. The sun was entering the golden hour. Down the direction we came, the slower group who had split apart hours ago could be seen. And heard as it turns out. Mel’s voice carried with crystal clarity across the still humid air “CAN YOU SEND SOMEONE DOWN TO HELP WITH BAGS?”
No one in my group said anything.
Mel, concluding that we must not be able to hear them repeated.”CAN… YOU… SEND… SOMEONE… DOWN…TO… HELP… WITH… BAGS?”
It turned out that some were having a hard time with the humidity. In the end Ivan and I hustled down to help while the others shuttled our backpacks to the top. It was now getting to be a serious race against time to get this damn sunset shot. While there was talk about the slower group camping down on the track, everyone in the end made it up. And it would have been a shame to miss out anyone in the group shot.
Something to remember for those going on future Castle trips, however: Once you get to the top of the castle, you’re not finished. There was still some of the most serious bush bashing to go. There are few things harder to bear for a photographer than watching the light disappear. But it was happening.
There is goes.
The yellow light gave way to pink that lit the cliff-lines around the castle. But as this was happening, everyone seemed to stall. Exhaustion from the days hike, the need for a stiff drink, getting dressed in party cloths or just confusion combined to created the ultimate faff party. A faff party right on the finish line! By the time everyone was in front of the camera the sky had faded to a dirty blue. Failure!…
So why does the final photo have an orange sky? Do you really want to know? Sometimes its better not to know, so if you don’t then don’t scroll down!
Look away now, there is no going back!
Waiting for final Faffers
Faff over, but so is sunset
Photoshop to the rescue!
Castle top shenanigans.
The great think about camping out is that you are able to get two bites of the apple. Camping next to the cliff I was able to set up for a dawn time-lapse. The final results were less than professional but I guess I am a little out of practice.
Thanks to Ivan for taking my favorite photo of the trip of my camping site.
A 3:00 am alpine start is hard. I really didn’t think anything would make that right. But sitting on top of The Sentinel for lunch did. While I didn’t ask, I’m pretty sure that it made all the work Alex put into organizing the trip alright as well.
What made skiing the Sentinel memorable was being able to ski such a well-defined stand alone peak literally top to bottom. From our lunch spot on the pinnacle we skied down past the tree level through increasingly thick shrubs finally stopping in the valley at a fast flowing creek.
A week of preparation and more than a day of touring used in two minutes of downhill exhilaration.
The 17th annual winter feast will be remembered as a ski trip. Because if it was not a ski trip I and a good portion of the participants walked 10km in ski boots and with skis strapped to their backpacks.
As we drove into the trailhead, none of the snow that fell the previous weekend was left on the ground. There was a fair amount of optimism over the predicted 40cm of new snow overnight. So, many of us optimistically carried our skies the 5km into the hut with the hope that we would wake up Sunday to a thick blanket fresh, white powdery snow to ski out on.
As well as being a ski trip the Midwinter Feast was a chance for everyone to breakout their favorite back-country dish to enjoy a pot luck style banquet. So at least the food and company was great.
After seven years of living in Canada it was nice to get out to the ice once more. Strangely enough despite living in a frozen continent I never really learnt how to properly use crampons and ice axes. This is something that I have really enjoyed about the ANU Mountaineering club. The exchange of skills between members. While I have been able to take members for the first whitewater experience during the weekend those same members were able to show me the finer points of mountaineering gear. Like how to stop slides and stop from tripping over with crampons in the first place.