Join me for a deep dive into rock climbing in Tasmania, where we cover the biggest routes over 300m.
I first came across the concept of big walls in the 2017 film, The Dawn Wall, where Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson climbed the 1000m route up El Captain, in Yosemite National park. It was an incredible feat, and probably the best documentary I have ever seen. Whilst I cannot appreciate the immensity of the challenge that Tommy and Kevin undertook, I am still in awe of the project. Then in 2018, Free Solo came out featuring Alex Holland’s 2017 free climb of El Captain. This film had me on the edge of my seat while Alex tackled the boulder problem which had given him trouble in his training.
Watching these great films sparked my curiosity. I had so many questions. Where are the big walls closer to home, deep in the wilderness of Tasmania? I’ve done my fair share of hiking and have stood on top of Mt Tyndall and Frenchman cap, with 300m+ drops below. Had these cliffs been climbed? What was the biggest and scariest of these epic walls, and is there still a wall out there that remains undiscovered? So, I started to do some digging.
Legend of The Unclimbable Cliff
I soon came across Adam Donoghue’s article on the legend of the unclimbable cliff from the 90s. Adam speaks of this cliff which he likens to the walls of Yosemite; and at the time it was supposedly the “the last great unclimbed cliff in Tassie”. Pretty cool that this was only around 25 years ago. After this I dove into Thesarvo’s files and went through every single documented rock climb in Tasmania. Thesarvo is a community ran collection of Tasmania’s climbing routes and has 5,487 of them documented (yeah, I counted). Thank you to everyone that has contributed to this great community resource which made this article possible and helped relieve my curiosity about the Tasmanian big walls and epic climbs over 300m.
Remote Gear For Rock Climbing In Tasmania
You might be wondering why a site about hiking gear is writing about rock climbing in Tasmania. After all, rock climbing and bushwalking are two different activities. Well, aside from the fact that we love all things Tassie, a lot of these walls are really remote and require you to spend multiple nights in the bush. For some of these walls, there are hut facilities nearby, but spots are never guaranteed and it’s highly recommended that you bring a tent. Given that bushwalkers are weight sensitive, it’s even more important when you are lugging a few extra kilos of climbing equipment.
So, if you are after a high performance tent that you can rest your knackered body in at the end of the day, then you’re in the right place. Outdoor Gear Comparison compares over 400 tents from both big brands and small. You can filter and compare products by weight, seasons, sleeping capacity, length, width, height and price. We are the number 1 tool available for you to do research on hiking tents and make sure that you get great bang for your buck. After a long day hanging onto a huge slab of rock, you deserve to have a nice shelter for the night.
The 12 Big Walls
Let’s get to it. I’ve ranked each wall based on a number of factors; route length, remoteness and the number of 300m+ climbs. Some of the lower ranking walls have other routes under 300m that should still satisfy your urge to hang off a cliff by just your fingers. In fact, there are dozens of 200m+ routes across Tassie, and thousands under 200m, so there is something for everyone. However, out of the 5,487 routes in Tassie only 43 are 300m or longer in length, and there are only 7 that are 400m or longer.
12. Cathedral Mountain
Rising over the Mersey River, 2km east of the Overland track sits Cathedral Mountain. A popular destination for hikers camping at Chalice lake in the Walls of Jerusalem National park, Cathedral Mountain offers only one solid route first climbed in 1975 by John Chapman and Joe Friend.
First mentioned in 2004 by Winter, and climbed in the same year by Aaron Kristiansen and Simon Wedsel, Global Warming features multiple 50m pitches and a 100m stretch. The DuCane range can be found to the west of the Overland track, and is best accessed through the Pine Valley track. Du Cane is one of the best places to go rock climbing in Tasmania and its other faces will feature a little later on this list.
If the weather is coming down like cats and dogs across the alpine areas, it might be best to head east to the picturesque Freycinet peninsula. Freycinet is home to plenty of bouldering and smaller wall climbing, but also has two 300m+ routes. If you want something more challenging, there is the Griphon route coming in at 280m and grade 19 . The Hazards are a coastal area near the famous Wineglass bay and are one of the most popular places to go rock climbing in Tasmania for the locals. Unlike much of Tasmania’s dolerite climbing, the Hazards offer a change with granite rock lining the coast.
If you are after a more accessible wall within a few hours drive if Hobart, the Sentinel Range is only a short walk from Gordon River Rd in Tasmania’s south west and does not require overnight camping equipment. This quartzite wall offers views of the stunning Lake Gordon and two epic climbs over 300m. Accomodation is available nearby in Maydena, a popular mountain biking town, or at the Pedder Wilderness Lodge down the road.
Up next we have Procyon peak. Housed part way along the incredibly beautiful and notoriously tough Western Arthur Range, this peak is sure to please both your inner climber and walker. We’re convinced that it’s home to a dragon’s den, but the good news is it’s definitely home to an epic 300m+ climb. Bring your sword.
Meet PB, the king of the far south. A huge slab of dolerite rock that rises out of the ground near the famous (and muddy) South Coast Track. They say it’s so cold that far south that you can see Antarctica from the summit. The 300m+ route was only recorded in 2012 by Lachlan and Ross Taylor, and was considered “the easiest line up the main face of the mountain.” If grade 18 doesn’t tickle your pickle, you can head for Precipitous Arête which is a 265m grade 23 route.
Situated in Tasmania’s north-west near the town of Sheffield, Mt Roland features conglomerate rock and our first 400m+ route. This is one of the best places to go rock climbing in north-west Tasmania. This climb is also easily accessible as there is a road at the base of the mountain. It’s described as “A true mountaineering route of classic proportions, with tremendous rock scenery and an awesome atmosphere. Among the best of it’s grade in the state.” Tony Mckenny did a great write up on a 2017 revisit to Rysavy Ridge.
The Tyndall Range sat untouched on my hiking list for way too long, and it was an incredible place to visit when I eventually got around to it. Located on Tasmania’s wet and wild west coast, the Tyndall Range is a sensitive alpine plateau that has a bivvy cave and big wall sitting above Lake Huntley. Deeper Water is the highest grade of any route on this list at 27. Not much is known about its companion ‘Office Hours’, for which the pitch details have not been made available.
Before we get to the top 3, I thought I would drop in the popular Cape Pillar. Cape Pillar is one of the best coastal climbing areas in south east Tasmania. You might have heard of the nearby Candlestick or Totem Pole; both famous pillars which protrude out of the ocean. Cape Pillar is one cape on the Tasman Peninsula which is a climbers paradise with Mt Brown, Cape Raoul and Fortescue bay situated nearby. Whilst the area hosts many impressive and highly regarded climbs, Cape Pillar is the only wall to host 300m+ routes.
Federation peak is possibly Tasmania’s most epic mountain. For most bushwalkers, it is the pinnacle of achievement and the most notorious climb in the country.
In 2018, film makers and local legends Simon Bischoff and Andy Szollosi paired up with Mark Savage to take on Federation Peak’s Blade Ridge in winter, the first ascent of its kind. This is an epic film and for just six bucks I highly recommend watching it to get a grasp of how wild rock climbing in Tasmania can be.
“What? The Frenchman only made second place?”, you ask. Yeah, this one surprised me as well, but its average big wall clocked in at 374m, and first place’s average was 399m. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely nothing short of epic with a capital E. In fact, I would say that epic is too short of a word to truly emphasise the beauty of this wall. Instead, let’s go with stupendous.
This stupendous wall made entirely of quartzite is like nothing else in Tassie. It serves as a landmark from most of the summits across Tassie. If we had a mini Yosemite, this would be it. If you come down on a climbing trip and don’t climb the Frenchman, can you even say that you climbed in Tassie at all? Most likely not. This is one of my favourite mountains in Tasmania, you can read more abut my first trip here.
Accommodation is available at the newly built Tahune Hut (thanks Dick) and surrounding tent platforms, however bookings are now required for Frenchman’s cap and climbers are allowed an additional two days stay longer than bushwalkers. You still need to bring a shelter as a place in the huts is not guaranteed and the walkers on the track change their plans according to the forecast so that they can obtain a summit. Sometimes walkers push past Vera Hut on night 1 and make the long slug up Barron Pass which is not recommended unless you have a lot of fitness and enough daylight. The stupendous beauty of this area is not fully realised until you reach the summit of Barron Pass and in clear conditions can admire the surrounding area.
If you plan on going rock climbing in Tasmania and can only make it to one of the walls on this list, this would be my pick.
There are a whopping 9 climbs over 300m on this big wall. Chockstone have produced a great PDF on these routes. The Plum Line is the highest grade 400m+ wall at grade 26, coming in just behind the grade 27 305m route on the Tyndall Range.
The Frenchman is deserving of a few photos, so here's some of our favourites:
And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve got you covered. Quench your thirst with this epic (and free, hell yeah) short film following a bunch of guys with questionable sanity who decide to climb The Lorax and base jump off the top. Go make some popcorn. THE LORAX PROJECT from Mission Control Collective on Vimeo.
Bonus: Philps Peak
Just across the valley from Frenchmans Cap lies the longest route in the Thesarvo library. There isn’t a lot of recent information on this 500m grade 12 climb, with the first ascent being done by M. Douglas, J. Fairhall and A. Keller on Christmas day, December 1967. The Crag.com has cited the 1990 rock guide by Stephen Bunton for this route, so that may have some additional information.
Coming in first place as the biggest of the Tassie big walls, Mt. Geyron’s eastern face has more 400m+ climbs than any other wall. Situated in Pine Valley at the end of the Overland Track, north of Lake St. Clair, you can catch the ferry or walk to Narcissus hut and walk the additional 3-4 hours to the Pine Valley hut. From there more walking is required to get to the bivvy cave known as “Heim” that is directly under the east face and can accomodate 3 people with a water source available 100m away.
Pine Valley is a spectacular area to explore full of huge pine trees, and if weather prohibits climbing you may still be able to venture onto the summit of the Acropolis via the bushwalking route or head into the Labyrinth and take a geez at Lake Elysia. Bookings are required if you are staying at Pine Valley hut and can be made by calling the Lake St. Clair visitor centre. Bookings are also required for the ferry which needs a minimum number of walkers to run.
There are references to routes dating as far back as 1961 however some of these routes have only been climbed a few times, which is typical for rock climbing in Tasmania. Poor weather is common in this area and multiple trips may be required to get the necessary conditions. However if you are lucky enough to visit Geyron in great weather you will have your pick of big wall routes and epic climbs over 300m.
I hope this article has been both informative and an interesting read. It sure was a cool rabbit hole to go down and I can say I have satisfied my own curiosity. Obviously all of the routes listed here should only be climbed by experienced climbers with the appropriate gear. Several people have died climbing some of these mountains and walls so prepare accordingly. Many of these walls are in alpine regions which can experience snow and heavy rain even in Summer, so ensure that you have the necessary warm and waterproof gear to be comfortable and safe. Detailed information on the routes is available on Thesarvo (links in the tables) and on additional links listed throughout the article.
Thanks for reading! Zac
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