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Saturday, April 13, 2013

     The Western Arthur's Range in Southwest Tasmania is one of the most dramatic mountain chains not only in the island state but in whole Australia. It offers an unforgettable climb over rugged skyline of exciting rocky quartzite crags and countless dark glacier lakes. It'll lead you through some of the most spectacular glaciated scenery you'll ever see. The whole range contains 22 major peaks and 30 lakes in almost continuous series of steep ascents and descents on sheer cliffs and in precipitous gullies. It's spectacular, it's dangerous, it's as remote as it gets. It can turn to hell or the most exciting hiking adventure in your life. One way or another it'll be an experience never forgotten.
  1. Track: Although reasonably easy to follow, the track is very rugged, incredibly steep and extremely weather dependent. Completing the whole traverse includes wading through more than 30km of knee-deep muddy buttongrass plains characteristic for the whole Southwest Tasmania and tackling about 6000 metres of total climbs and descents which requires good amount of pack hauling and rock climbing skills. Once beyond Lake Oberon it's almost impossible to get off the range since the track penetrates into the roughest part of the whole traverse. There's  been very little work done on the track and absolutely no signs of civilization apart from a few tent platforms and a short boardwalk on the way to Junction Creek. 
  2. Weather: The best time to visit Western Arthurs are the months from late spring to early autumn (November-March). However violent storms and heavy snowfall is common even during summer months and you should be prepared for very cold and wet weather any time of the year. Western Arthur's Range is known for attracting the worst weather in the Southwest and even in summer it either rains or snows every second day, or the range is shrouded in a thick cloud with visibility down to zero. In average, one in four days is clear and offers spectacular views of Southwest Tasmania in all directions. Always check the latest weather forecast for Scott's Peak Dam as well as Melaleuca. You should always have reasonable weather before proceeding beyond Lake Oberon since the track penetrates into the roughest part of the whole traverse and it is very difficult to get off the range.
  3. AccessWestern Arthur's Range Traverse is a circuit route that starts and finishes at Scott's Peak Dam (4 hours drive from Hobart) near the southern end of Lake Pedder deep in the heart of Southwest National park. Depending on the weather conditions and your experience level you can either opt for return walk to Lake Cygnus or Lake Oberon (3-5 days), traverse the range via Moraine A-K (7-9 days), or try to do the full traverse (10-11 days). It is also possible to access the range from the eastern end (from Cracroft Crossing on the Huon and Arthur Plains Track, or from the Pass Creek) as well as from the southern ridges, this should be however only attempted by the most experiences parties.
  4. Campsites: Camping areas on top of the Western Arthur's Range are limited, small, simple and very exposed to the weather and muddy underfoot. In between the recommended campsites, there are very few emergency 1-2 tent sites on open moors or under the cliffs which are extremely exposed to the weather and can be dangerous during storms or high winds. Timber platforms were built at Lake Cygnus and Lake Oberon. Recommended campsites are Huon campground at Scott's Peak Dam, Junction Creek (3-4 hours from Scott's Peak Dam), Moraine A Camp (1.5 hours from Junction Creek), Lake Cygnus (4 hours from Moraine A Camp), Lake Oberon (1.5 hours from Square Lake), High Moor (7-9 hours from Lake Oberon), Haven Lake (6-8 hours from High Moor), Lake Vesta (1-2 hours from Haven Lake), Lake Rosanne (7-8 hours from Lake Vesta) and Cracroft Crossing. Emergency campsites only can be found at open moor at the top of Moraine A, Square Lake, Mt Capricorn, Lake Sirona, Lake Juno and Promontory Lake.
  5. Water and food: Most of the time there should be reliable supply of the fresh rainwater on the entire range. Although streams and lakes provide a reliable water source at campsites, you should always carry enough water for a day because water can be hard to find during crossing some of the ridges. At most places the water is considered safe for drinking, but it is still advisable to treat it. Also, try to drink water from the streams rather than lakes. The success of your traverse basically depends on how efficiently you can carry your 25kg backpack during the steepest ascents and descents. Investing into a good food dryer and dehydrating all your meals will not only reduce your backpack by at least 10kg, but will provide you at the end of the tough day with priceless nutritious homemade meals.
  6. GearIt is essential to have a good 4 season tent, good quality waterproof and windproof jacket, warm sleeping bag, sleeping mat, thermal top & leggings, an extra jumper, warm hat, gloves, sunhat and sunscreen, map, water bottle, water filter and gas stove, 20m rope, large strong plastic bag to waterproof the inside of your pack, gaiters and worn-in boots. Always wear long sleeves for protection from the sharp vegetation overgrowing the narrow trail.
  7. Fires: Open fires are not allowed and fuel Stove Only Area has been declared over the whole Western Arthur's Range due to the sensitive alpine vegetation. Carry 1-2 gas canisters per person.

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