Tuesday, 14 June 2011

More Ben Lomond


Robert Staszewski engaged in the debilitating marathon off-hand jamming of 35mm Dream grade 20 (5.10c) on Frews Flutes, Northern Escarpment.

I love this sort of climbing - sparsely protected bridging, or 'stemming' as they say in the USA. I took this photo of Norm Selby following the first pitch on the first ascent of Ulster grade 19 (5.10b) on Tranquil Tower, Denison Crag on the Southern Escarpment.

Adam Donghue on Powerdive Eliminate grade 22 (5.11a) on Robin's Buttress, Northern Escarpment.

Barbe de Vendetta at grade 17 (5.9) is the easiest climb on Frews Flutes on the Northern Escarpment. Picture is Gerry Narkowicz leading and Hans Mohler belaying (or meditating).

Bill Chilvers taking a 'rest' while seconding Powerdive Eliminate grade 22 (5.11a) on Frews Fluites, Northern Escarpment. 

A rare photo of me climbing taken by Pete Steane. The climb is the classic  Bloodrunner grade 21 (5.10d) at Pavement Bluff on the Eastern Escarpment.

The wild time of summer days and first ascents at Pavement Bluff. Taken by Bruce Cameron I am seated atop the cliff after completing some horror off-width.

Early days on Heathcliffe on the Northern Escarpment. Here is Ben Maddison boldly high-stepping on the exquisite Burma Shave. Some may doubt the authenticity of the seemingly undergrade of 18 (5.10a) but we aways believed in giving good value for the grade on the Ben.

Painting of Last Of The Independents Ridge on Frews Flutes, Northern Escarpment by Robert McMahon aka Bob McMahon. Oil on linen 1500 x 1557

The snows of yesteryear on the Northern Escarment. From l to r the cliffs are Tenant Buttress, Wuthering Heights, Snake Buttress and the Pavilion.

Team photo taken by Susie McMahon at the base of Heimdall Crag at Africa on the South Western Escarpment. From l to r Pete Steane, Bob McMahon and Mick Ling prior to the first ascent of the immortal Ruwenzori. 

The mighty 210m high Ruwenzori grade 20 (5.10c). Arguably this is the best climb I ever put up on Ben Lomond.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Memory Of A Journey - Rock Climbing On Ben Lomond

This is the latest book by myself and co-author Gerry Narkowicz. We have written 4 climbing books together. I have soloed a further 2 books on rock climbing in Tasmania as well as a book of adventures around the world entitled Hollow Lands and Hilly Lands. 

Memory Of A Journey is not only a rock climbing guide, it is also a chronicle of over 3 decades of exploration, discovery and first ascents on the vertical columnar walls of dolerite that rim this vast plateau in north-east Tasmania.

When I look back I am frightened by how much time and energy went into the useless passion of climbing on Ben Lomond. All those summer days on the roof of Tasmania,  high up in the domain of the wedge-tailed eagle, struggling towards some sort of transcendence.

It is for me a very personal book. I was in at the beginning of the great adventure that took up so much of my life. I was involved in more than two thirds of the first ascents. The second half of the book details my memory of that journey in words and photographs. 

The climbing is special and so is the landscape. No-one leaves the place unaffected by the rare power of the high plateau, especially if the climber ventures away from the easily accessed Northern Escarpment and wanders down the broad wind-washed, sun-washed glacial valleys of the upland, along the shores of the high lakes of Baker and Youl to the bastions of Africa (Heimdall and Asgard crags), the plummet measured columns of Pavement Bluff trapping the sun on the eastern rim, or to the darker labyrinthine towers and faces of Denison Crag and Stacks Bluff in the south.

I do hope you enjoy this selection of images from the book. There will be more to come.

Dawn at Denison Crag on the Southern Escarpment

Gerry Narkowicz on the second ascent of the marathon jamming classic Howitzer grade 22 (5.11a) at Pavement Bluff on the Eastern Escarpment.

Here is one of the greatest climbs we ever put up, the immortal Road To Ballyshannon, grade 22 (5.11a), at Pavement Bluff on the Eastern Escarpment. 

Matt Spring on the classic Rigaudon, grade 20 (5.10c), at Frews Flutes on the Northern Escarpment.

Garn Cooper on the moderate ramble of Panzer Breakout grade 19 (5.10b) at Pavement Bluff on the Eastern Escarpment.


La Fiamma Pinnacle at Denison Crag, Southern Escarpment. This photograph, like so many you see here taken in the crystalline light of the Tasmanian highlands, always reminds me of how wrong my painting teacher was when he said that there were no hard edges in nature.

Like a tsunami of blood, dawn comes to Youl's Tarn on the roof of Tasmania, the source of the Nile. Yes, Tasmania has a Nile River.

Brent Oldinger from the USA, bridging the immortal C.E.W. Bean grade 23 (5.11b) at Anzac Cove on Ragged Jack, a semi-detached mountain off the north-west of the plateau. I did the first ascent in 1984 and it is still a ham string and groin stretching test piece.

NOTE: I have used the Australian climb grades with the USA equivalent in parenthesis. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Granite Shore

While Tasmania may look tiny compared to the big island of Australia, be prepared to be surprised by its size and complexity. 

Just what length is the coastline of Tasmania? I set out to answer that question a few years ago by walking around the whole shoreline of the island. I planned to write a book about the adventure.

So far I have walked (and climbed) 1350 kilometres and I am not yet half way around the island. I realized very early on, while negotiating the rugged granite sea cliffs of the Freycinet Peninsula, where the great adventure began, just how inadequate one book would be to do justice to a subject that is, in the fractal sense, infinite.

So here are a few images from the projected first volume, the working title of which is The Granite Shore, encompassing the northern half of the east coast. 

That section of coast is composed largely of white and pink granites intruded during the Devonian. Stunning rocky headlands, interspersed with sweeping white sandy beeches, is the guise adopted by this earthly paradise.

The granite doesn't end with the main island of Tasmania. Great lumps of the rock are scattered across the 300 kilometres of sun-smashed, wind-tormented Bass Strait that separates Tasmania from the big island to the north. 

I will include some of those islands in this book as well.


Great Oyster Bay from Hazards Beach, Freycinet Peninsula

The Sea Level Traverse of The Hazards, a 6k long climb that begins at Wineglass Bay and finishes at Sleepy Bay

Sunset at Bryans Beach Freycinet Peninsula

Diana's Basin

Red Rock Point on the east coast of Flinders Island. Babel Island is in the distance.

Trousers Point, Flinders Island

Sunset at The Docks, Flinders Island

The Far North West Coast

The far north-west tip of Tasmania is a world apart. Characterized by vast tidal sand flats and an archipelago of islands, the stunning landscape is dominated by the sky and the sea. Beyond this last tip of Tasmania, where the land reluctantly gives up dominion to the sea in a scattering of islands, there is nothing but trackless ocean to the west, until one bumps into the coast of Patagonia. 

I love the liberating unpeopled space of this landscape, the sensation of being on another planet when the sun rises over Robbins Passage or sets over Trefoil Island. The utter flatness of the landscape allows the sky to dominate and to come to earth as reflections in the tidal pools.

Sunrise: Robbins Passage

                                                              Sunrise: Robbins Passage

Sunrise: Robbins Passage

                                                              Sunrise: Robbins Passage

                                                      Western shore of Walker Island

                                  Dawn on the western shore of Walker Island

Sunset over Trefoil Island. Note the black swan in the spotlight.


I have had a whole life of wonderful adventure in this magic place called Tasmania. Now, I have decided to share these experiences with this online record of places and doings.