Ascent of Mount Ossa on 2015-01-16

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Pål Bjørstad
Date:Friday, January 16, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Ossa
    Elevation:5305 ft / 1616 m

Ascent Trip Report

A longish hike with a hardish summit scramble, which for various reasons became a bit of an epic...

We visit this peak after our New Zealand trip, after Tapuae-o-Uenuku and Mount Herbert. An early flight into Sydney should have given us time to catch our connection to Launceston. Unfortunately a very slow passport queue (UK citizens can use the epassport queue but Norway cannot) meant we had to rebook for the 3.45pm flight (JetStar allowed this at no additional charge). During the long wait we make forward arrangements in Tasmania for camping gas, a late supermarket and an online National Park Pass.

We arrive in Launceston at 5.45pm, instead of the intended midday. Baggage and rental car (4x4 from Europcar just in case the Arm River Road is in poor condition - it isn't) promptly located, we drive into town to locate the butane canister Petter has bought by phone from Paddy Pallins and arranged for them to hide for us to find after hours! Then to Coles supermarket (open til 2200); I get onto the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service website and buy a Holiday Pass ($60).

An hour after landing, we're on our way to the trailhead. Initially following Devonport signs we turn off at Deloraine, driving through Mole Creek. The road turns south towards Rowallan Lake. Just after it crosses a creek and becomes gravel, we turn R onto Maggs Rd. We soon reach a sign saying Arm River Road is closed so we keep L. This road continues as a reasonable gravel surface; eventually a sharp L turn leads to the small parking area (S41.79078 E146.15527, 723m).

My preference would have been to day-hike the peak starting early next morning (doable in 12hr or less) but the decision is made to hike in this evening with camping gear (strictly a tent is a Parks requirement here; as things turned out, we needed our sleeping bags).

Arriving a little after 8pm we reorganise packs and are hiking by 9pm. The Arm River Track starts by crossing big log then follows a stream a short way before reaching drier terrain. It's dark in under an hour but the trail is pretty easy to follow by head torch, although a bit rough and wet in places. Streams are all bridged: the first bridge is a large fallen tree which heralds a 150m steep rocky ascent. The turning to Mt Pillinger is passed (S41.79718 E146.13934, main trail keeps R, a few metres before the Park boundary sign). The trail levels off at around 1000m, descends a little and crosses the Lake Price inflow. The second half of the trail is mostly boardwalk, making for fast progress. The N end of the Mt Pillinger trail loop comes in from L at S41.80236 E146.11772. This peak is prominent on S side of main trail. Shortly afterwards, a metal bridge crosses Wurragarra Creek: note the main trail forks R a few metres before it. We pass Lake Ayr, then just before the hut we fork L to cross a long steel suspension bridge (R fork goes to Mt Oakleigh, which is the pinnacled peak dominating the view from the hut). We arrive at New Pelion Hut (S41.82946 E146.04636, 959m) just after midnight, in 3h10 for the 11.8km. We sleep on the verandah which I've read is fairly standard practice. The camping area (wooden platforms) is a little further along the main trail as we discover later.

Next morning we cook our oatmeal in the hut then set off at 7.30. Hiking up past the toilet block we pass through the tent area, keeping straight on where the Overland Track comes in from the R. The trail up to Pelion Gap is mostly boardwalk but some is pretty old and it's quite muddy in places.

Pelion Gap (S41.86397 E146.05806, 1130m) has a couple of wooden platforms: if for camping, today wouldn't be a good day for it - windy and becoming quite wet. We put on extra clothing and take the R turn signposted for Mt Ossa.

The Ossa trail is well defined, with orange-flagged posts, initially boggy in places and quite steep, then skirting L of Mt Doris. The wind and rain are pretty unpleasant. We're in the lee of Ossa for a while on an easy trail, then across a boulder field (stable and clean, not slippery, well marked) then the well marked trail climbs steeply up a gully with YDS 3 scrambling. In the vile conditions we take the next gully L which is a little more exciting than necessary! At the top we rejoin the marked trail and are soon at the summit area, which involves a fair bit of blocky scrambling.

The summit block is quite small. Approaching from the north, its L face is vertical: the 8m summit climb takes its front R corner, involving a strenuous slab then an easy exposed arete with good holds. On a fine dry day it would be easier; today in wind and rain it's unpleasant but not hard. Pål scrambles up first and establishes himself on the tiny summit. I scramble up next, GPS the summit (S41.87071 E146.03292) then quickly scramble back down out of the wind. Petter wisely calls for a rope then bags the summit.

Our ascent from the hut took 1h05 to Pelion Gap,then 1h30 to the summit. GPS distance 7.2km. We head down after about 45 mins, in sheeting rain and increasing wind. Near Pelion Gap, Petter makes a small slip on the easy trail, seemingly nothing, but it becomes apparent that he has damaged his achilles tendon, a partial tear but making some movements very painful.

A straightforward 5hr descent and motel night drying out clothing ... is set to become a slow painful struggle. We descend to the Pelion New Hut in pouring rain at half our normal speed and spend the night here. I've read that the hut is reserved for Overland Track users but there is no notice to this effect and there seems to be room for everyone. It would be a vile night in a tent; especially as Petter needs to rest his tendon in the hope it will be a little better for tomorrow's expected 6-7 hour descent, at half speed potentially a little tight for our 6pm flight. Missing our second JetStar flight as well would be bad indeed!

Plenty more rain and wind overnight. It's dry when we leave the hut at 06.30, with some sun and heavy showers. It's good to see the scenery we missed on the way up: colourful bog crossed easily thanks to the boardwalk; sparse forest; a few lakes. The pace is quite leisurely due to Petter's injury but we back at the trailhead in 4hrs. The trail has had plenty of standing water: the stream just before the trailhead is in spate, ensuring we finish with boots full of water - in pouring rain! Just a single leech to report, on my wrist - maybe it was too wet for them!

Our time in Tas has been quite a contrast from our remarkably rainless time on New Zealand's South Island. The trip has yielded 9 ultra-prominent peaks, all very different, in all a very satisfying trip. This evening we return to Sydney then I fly home to the UK while Petter and Pål fly to Chile for a few more ultras before returning to Norway.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3589 ft / 1092 m
    Extra Gain:328 ft / 99 m
    Round-Trip Distance:23.6 mi / 38 km
    Route:Arm River / Pelion Gap
    Trailhead:Arm River trailhead  2372 ft / 722 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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